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Posts Tagged ‘comparisons’

For those of you who are not Mad Men fanatics, this will take a bit of ‘splainin’.  Pete Campbell is an Account Executive/Partner at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price – a fictional 1960’s ad agency.  If you’ve watched all of the seasons of Mad Men, Pete’s slimy ways have probably made you feel uncomfortable or dirty at least once – possibly twice – an episode for the past four seasons.

Here’s the thing about Pete: Pete knows what he wants and he goes after it.  He doesn’t always take a path that you or I would prefer – he sometimes turns to manipulation or blackmail – but everything he does is because he wants to be The Ad Man.  The other thing to know about Pete is that he is an account executive (basically a client schmoozer) who fancies himself as a creative.  He is NOT a creative.

That all being said, here are my thoughts on Pete:

On Trying Too Hard: Pete wants to be an Ad Man. Desperately.  He “acquires” all of the things that he thinks he needs to portray the image (wife, apartment downtown, etc), he reads all of the “right” books, he does all of the networking.  But at the end of the day, he often just comes across as trying too hard.  It’s awkward to watch and difficult to like.  It conjures up at least a half dozen memories of stupid things I’ve done or witnessed other people doing.  I think about my first presentations when I worked in advertising or remember terrible sales pitches someone delivered to me.  I shudder at the memories. And I watch Pete and think, “Am I trying too hard? Am I making myself into a person I wish I could be or am I becoming a person that I am meant to be?”

On Taking Shortcuts: Pete regularly tries to find shortcuts, but his shortcuts always come at a much-too-high cost.  Sometimes it’s his own integrity that takes a hit, and sometimes he even jeopardizes family relationships for the sake of authenticating his place in the ad world.  I’m all for taking risks, but the things he’s willing to risk sometimes seem too great considering what he is hoping to accomplish.  How often do I sacrifice a long-term item for a short-term goal?  What are my trade-offs?

On Being Authentic: Pete says a lot of crap to get what he wants and hides a lot of things he does.  There are a lot of things Pete sweeps under the rug, including affairs and a baby with another woman.  Watching his character operate, the amount of baggage he’s carrying around is almost palpable.  It’s like he’s teetering, on the verge of falling over under the baggage’s oppressive weight.  And yet, if you asked him, he’d probably ask, “Baggage?  What baggage?”

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framing

I had some posters in college that I bought at hole-in-the-wall poster store on Belmont near the El stop.  We liked to go in this store to just poke around and find funny or interesting artwork or kitschy posters.  It was the kind of store where they let you sift through their posters for hours and never bothered you about it.  Just a few shops west of the poster store is the locally (perhaps nationally?) famous restaurant Ann Sathers (yuummmmy cinnamon rolls!) and across the street is Igor’s Dungeon (tawdry sex and drug paraphernalia).  While I was in school, I bought 4 posters from this poster store.  The posters were Romeo and Juliet, Jack Vettriano’s the Singing Butler, the VJ Day Kiss and another with a couple hugging at the train station.  These pictures hung frame-less on the walls of my apartments in college for several years before I moved home after graduation.

When I was moving home, Mom asked me if I had any artwork that I might want framed.  I hesitated when she asked and had to think about it before I remembered these four posters – I guess I hadn’t thought much about framing the posters.  I mean, they were the posters that I sticky-tacked up to the wall in my college apartment.  They were the posters that were part of a bigger wall-collage of sorority paddles and random pictures with friends and inspirational quotes.  I had never thought about these posters as art, but when my mom asked me if I had any artwork, I thought, “yeah, I guess I do!”

My mom does an excellent job decorating, but I was still surprised at what an awesome job she did picking out frames for the posters.  While I would have done something more ordinary (and well, lets’ be real – plain) – she picked out these gorgeous ornate frames.  The pictures that I looked at for years on my apartment wall looked COMPLETELY different in the frames she picked out.  They went from being college dorm-room blah to grown-up chic in less than five minutes.  I smile whenever I look at them because they reminded me of something very important:

How an image is framed changes how you see that image.  We talk about this concept in our culture a lot using phrases like “Perception is reality” and “Attitude is everything.”  The way the pictures were framed changed how I interacted with the pictures, where I place them in my current home and how others saw them.  Artists play with this concept by taking ordinary objects and “framing” those objects differently so that the ordinary objects are perceived as art.

I talked in my previous post about the different themes running through my life right now and that definition is one of those themes.  When I think about how I am defined, I realize that the context is just as important as the content.  I am well aware that the same word in different contexts can mean so many different things.  The question, “Why?” can be insulting, intriguing, lamenting, fatiguing and energizing, all dependent on how the question is asked.

I have a lot of different contexts that I exist in.  Sure, I am a wife and a family member and a friend and a coworker, but what kind of person do I want to be in each of these contexts?  I mean, yes, there are things that will be consistent in each area – I am a Christian in all of these areas.  But what kind of wife, family member, friend and worker do I want to be?  And how do I feel about how each of these categories is shaping up?

I like to say “yes” to everything.  It has been an epic battle for me to say “no” more often.  I think when I was younger, it was probably wise to say yes to a lot of things so that I could have a wider experience, but perhaps it is time to become more selective, picking the projects and paths that are of more interest to me.

I lamented the other day that there was nothing that I am passionate about.  I feel that have spent so much time trying lots of different things that I never really specialized in one area.  Today I was thinking on this topic a little bit more and a few patterns of behavior are emerging that give me a few clues about more dominant personality/skill areas that I could work on.

So yeah.  I know I started rambling, but I guess in a nutshell: I’ve got a lot to work on.  And I will probably write more on this because I feel like I didn’t say everything I wanted to.  But it is late and if I don’t go to sleep my context tomorrow will be viewed through sleep deprived eyes…

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The other day I was driving along, thinking about our fertility situation.  And I realized  that the hardest part of the journey has been the comparisons.

Medical Comparisons – I often find myself thinking of friends I’ve known going through  infertility.  We talk and we compare notes and often I will say, “Hmm, I am worse off because I didn’t get that positive result on that hormone test like Betsy, but I am better off because I ovulated unlike Suzi.”

***

Situational Comparisons –Sometimes Frank and I will say, “Why is it that we can’t get pregnant but XYZ high school student got pregnant thinking about sex??”

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Comparisons as Comfort –I have experienced this, and I have seen it in action.  It happens a lot when people miscarry – well-meaning friends say, “Well, I know a couple who lost their 2 year old.  At least you didn’t lose a real baby.”  To someone who is pregnant, that child is a real baby and they are experiencing real grief.

Even still, I found myself thinking the other day, “Well, at least it’s not like I’ve gotten pregnant and lost the baby.  I should feel better that at least I just haven’t been able to get pregnant.”  It didn’t make me feel better, by the way.  It still hurts.

***

Comparisons as Advice -Or others will try to make us feel better and say, “Our friends Lynn and Gary were in the same exact situation, but then they adopted/stopped trying/did something else, and it worked! And now they have 5 kids!”

***

I find myself experiencing, thinking or witnessing a lot of these comparisons. I was trying to turn my own attitude around the other day by telling myself, “It’s not like losing a child or a baby.”  But it didn’t help because I still felt loss –  losing the hope for a child or a baby that month.

Everyone has their own problems and issues.  Sure, having babies is difficult for us.  But there are so many other ways in which God has blessed us.  Others might say, “at least you have jobs”  — and they are right.  There are so many positive things going for us.  I rejoice to God in those things and I give thanks to God for those things.

Even though it is so tempting to compare myself and our situation to others, I have to fight it daily because there is no peace in the comparison.  How can there be?  I am not Suzi or Betsy or anyone else.  God has given Frank and I our path of life because He knows us more intimately and more profoundly than anyone else.  He knows how many hairs are on my head (and Frank’s too), He knows all the days of my life.  He knew what today would be like before I did.  In so many ways, He has graciously prepared this season of our life for us by putting people in our lives that have been down this road, have felt this heartache and have glorified God in the process.  What a kind and loving God He is!

Most of my closest friends “get” where I am at and are truly encouraging and comforting and amazing.  But on several occassions, I have had to bite my tongue and listen to people say things that they clearly haven’t thought through.  I find that I actually have a lot of compassion for those people .  It has to be hard to be in their shoes, looking at me and not knowing what to say.  I totally get that.  As someone who regularly sticks her foot in her mouth (and I have HUGE feet), I often say the wrong thing.  And going through this, I feel like I am more qualified to provide a few pieces of advice to anyone wondering what to say to someone like me.

Listen.  Really, really listen.  Grieve with your friend.  Ask questions.  The ability to not get pregnant is difficult and every month that we are not pregnant feels like a loss.  Only it’s not a visable hurt – it’s a quiet hurt.    Don’t cut your friend out of activities or events because children will be there.  Your friend(s) will politely decline if it’s too much for them or they have other plans.  At least give them the option.

And please, don’t tell them “at least you can adopt or foster.”  It’s such a personal decision and it is not a “fix” for not being able to have biological children.  Adoption is a fantastic route for starting or expanding a family, especially if you are at a place where your heart is open to it.  But you wouldn’t say to someone who lost their spouse, “Well, there are other fish in the sea.”

And hey, I totally know that 99.9% of people mean well.  If you see someone hurting, then you try to tell them things to help them feel better.   But sometimes part of healing is hurting.  And that is ok.

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