Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

This is what my Fourth of July has looked like so far:

I spent the last four hours painting my porch.  Four hours is two hours past the point at which you start to get a little sloppy, and three hours past the point at which you’re speckled with paint and mumbling, “Whose idea was THIS?” and then you remember, oh yes.  My idea.  It looks much better, though.  For an itty-bitty house, it has an impressive quantity of railings and columns.  I used my painting time to mull over a few things.

I’ve been on a bit of a rule-breaking trend lately.  Nothing nefarious or criminal; I am generally a rule follower (unless the rule in question is just plain stupid, then forget it).  I feel like I have a ridiculous amount of personal rules, though, and sometimes I get teased about that.  My personal rules broken since summer started are as follows:

  1. I wore shorts in public.  Short shorts.  I firmly believe that shorts are to be limited to actual participation in an athletic activity.  And that even then they are supremely unflattering, on everybody. I wore them anyway.
  2. I wore a tank top in public.  As my mother, Scarlett O’Hara, has always said, “Tank tops are for truckers.”  In her accent, it’s more like, “Taynk taaahps ahhh fah truckaahhs,” just so you have the full effect.
  3. I wore both of the above in public, with my hair up so I could not hide behind it. My hair has recently, and correctly, been labeled “all up in your business.” If I am feeling shy, I will tilt my head down and use it as camouflage and hope nobody will look at me.  (My hair has the added advantage of irritating my mother, who believes that At A Certain Age one should wear one’s hair short.  Apparently I am approaching that age.)
  4. Just to clarify, Rules 1-3 were all broken at the same event, which was dressing as Lara Croft for Kirby Derby.  It was during a week in which I really, really needed to channel someone else’s “badass,” because I could not find any of my own.
  5. I ate a banana pepper, which I have been picking off of my pizzas for years, because, ick.  It was unexpectedly good.  Of course, it was stuffed with three kinds of cheese, so how could it not be? A pleasant surprise nonetheless.
  6. I bought a yellow dress.  I have never ever bought a yellow item of clothing.  My sister, with dark brown eyes and peachy skin, looks fabulous in yellow, and everything else.  I, with blue eyes and fair skin, just look ill in yellow.  Except, in this dress, I do not.  I look fabulous.  Who knew?
  7. I skipped out of work and went to a 2:00 movie.  I used to be hardworking, and diligent, and hyper-responsible.  But not right now.  Right now, it is summer, and what summer demands is blockbuster movies in the afternoon heat with popcorn and a Cherry Coke.  My movie had something like twelve previews.  There was one about Motown, and one about a show choir, and one about North Carolina politics featuring Will Ferrell and Zack Galifinackis. There was one about a flash mob featuring a dance fight.  I love a dance fight.  That doesn’t even count the superhero movies.  I. Will. See. Them. All.
  8. I bought sky-high heels.  After two knee surgeries within three semesters back in grad school, sky-high heels make me very, very nervous.  My left knee is held together entirely by optimism. Tracy had a fantastic pair of wedges on the other night, and swore they were as easy to walk in as boots.  She’s totally right. I bought some.  They’re red, verging on pink.  They make me six feet tall.  The world looks kind of nice, four and a half inches higher.
  9. I tried on a maxi dress.  I can’t even talk about it.  I hate everything about maxi dresses.  That goes to show what a low mental state I achieved that day. It was only because of the gorgeous, gorgeous blue ombre fabric that I even looked at it twice.  And I tried it on with the intent of having it immediately shortened to a length that was not silly.  But still.  Shudder.

That’s kind of a lot of rules out the window, for a ten day span. And everything but the maxi dress turned out fine.  So what I’ve been thinking, painting my porch today, is that if I’ve been following a lot of rules for no particular reason, other than “I don’t think I’d like that” or “someone once told me I shouldn’t do that” or “it might be scary if I did this,” then which other rules should I throw out?  From which assumptions might I break free?  Which habits can go out the window?  That’s the “land of the free” part.  Having the great good fortune to live in America, I have to acknowledge that most of my oppressions are entirely my own doing.  Which means, I can un-do them.  I just need to see them for what they are.

“Home of the brave?”  It’s not easy to change things that haven’t been working.  It’s much, much harder when the things that need changing involve other people.  It’s infinitely harder when those other people are your family.  Saying “no” is hard.  Maintaining boundaries is hard.  Refusing to engage in other people’s dramas, when everyone really, really needs you to take a side, is a miserable place to be, but the mantra there is, “We are all on the same side.  That side is family.”  It’s been a difficult week.

Anyone else a middle child?

But being brave has nothing to do with being fearless.  Being brave, as I keep learning, is about being afraid, and doing what needs to be done anyway.  I’m practicing.  I’m getting better.

So.  Porch is painted.  Lovely summer rain in progress.  Delighted to be in this freshly-painted house, listening to records, and maintaining the peace in my little corner.  I’m also making peach pecan ice cream.  I’ve been saying for years I don’t really even like ice cream.

I bet I’ll find that I can break that rule, too.  Happy Fourth, y’all.  Here’s to freedom. And courage.

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