February 19th, 2020
The other night over dinner, we were having a conversation that led into how I uncomfortably deal with specific kinds of attention.
It’s something that I have thought about for years, but had never really put into words until now.
When I quit drinking in 2017, I quickly lost somewhere between twenty to thirty pounds. I’ve never been an especially overweight person, but when people would comment on my appearance (and still do), I understand that I give off the impression that I’m uncomfortable or, inexplicably, offended.
I’m neither, really. And this is how I really feel.
Imagine that you rebuilt your house. You finally admitted that it was falling apart, and you took the time and did the work to remake it from the ground up. You opened doors you hadn’t touched in decades, you put the things you didn’t need in boxes or threw them out completely, and you repainted the walls and framed the key memories that made you who you are. You secured your foundation, constructed new stairways and added floors over floors to what used to be.
You are very proud of this home. This place that you thought was going to be condemned.
A friend comes over to see. And she walks up to your house and she says something completely unexpected:
“What a nice lawn!”
You’re flabbergasted. You didn’t build this lawn. It’s just part of the house, and though you do water and take care of it, it’s the house that you put all your work into. You want people to see the house, your heart, this home.
I guess that’s what it feels like to me. And I realize now that it is — like I always tell everybody else — about expectations.
Some people are very proud of their lawns; there is something admirable and special in that, too. Growth of any kind embodies beauty. And if a person appreciates my lawn, then I, too, should see that for the courtesy and respect that represents.
Inevitably, my gratitude is often expressed with my most abundant currency: cold, crisp awkwardness.
I’m working on that.
But I hope this distillation helps. I hope it helps you explain how you just wish people could see your house. Or how you’re just a huge lawn nerd, and when you gush about the grass, it isn’t an oversight on someone’s home; it’s a celebration of their good soil and how proud you are of the abundance of beauty that grows around them.
Because, in the end, the only person who has to live there is you. And if you can be proud of the place you built, then who cares about how anybody appreciates the rest?