Monday, September 01, 2008

V is for Values

I've been butting heads lately with people who value hard work. By this I mean people who say, "I value hard work," which I would never say. If you asked me what I value, depending on the day, I might say compassion, or the happiness of my son and husband, or justice, or Jesus or hot buttered toast but I would never, never, never say hard work.

Which is weird, because I work really hard. Sometimes, like this month coming up, days and days and days in a row - so many days in a row, in fact, that I'm not even counting. (Remember last year at this time when I was whinging about working 10 days without a day off? That was so cute of me.....). And it's not like when I'm not working at the job I do for pay, I'm just sitting around sniffing roses and getting my toenails painted. When I'm not WORKING working, I actually work pretty hard, too.

So, why do I spend so much time doing something that I would never say I value?

I'm not sure I have an answer, but I've been thinking about consistency between what we say we value and what we really value because it turns out that the little baby IS Sarah Palin's after all, and not Bristol's as some have said, which we know because you just cant have a 4 month old and also be 6 months pregnant no matter HOW cold it gets in Alaska.

Even though everyone's saying hands-off the kids in the election (which truly is admirable), the truth is, we're not going to be able to let it go, are we? Because nothing reveals our naked hypocrisy, nothing magnifies both our best selves, and our worst failures more than the way we parent our children. Which is why, when it comes to people we're trying to figure out, it's hard to look away from their kids.

I've slapped E two memorable times, and once was in front of a neighbor in Seattle who sort of kept her distance after that. I didnt blame her. I mean, I kept wanting to say to her "I'm not the kind of person who would hit a child! Ever!" and that's certainly what I had always said and thought. But even if I'd said it, who would have believed me? The evidence was still out there - that pushed to the not-all-that-far limit of a flower pot deliberately overturned on a freshly mopped floor (the other time had to do with another mess involving a broken light bulb and an open diaper pail) - I became just for one second a person whose values I did not recognize.

Since then, I've gone to Values Plan B. I am no longer A Person Who Would Never Hit. I know her, she's that woman who developed Values Plan A, and she means well, but she cant always live up to herself. Instead, I'm now A Person Who Walks Away. Walks away fast sometimes. Into a room with a door that locks, preferrably. And then I wait and eventually, even though I dont ever turn into APWWNH again, I can at least remember what it was like to believe that about myself.

So if you say one of your values is "no birth control" but you live in a little town with a lovely teenage daughter who has nothing to do but drive around in cars with boy, and it's dark 20 hours out of the day....well, you gotta figure on a Values Plan B. Which is: keep the baby and get married and hope that sticks. But what I'd say to Bristol, if she ever asked is, if it doesnt work out, dont knock yourself over the head if you have to go to Values Plan C.

Rounding the corner here into my 40th year - a hard-working, minivan-driving, meat-eating, non-composting, soccer-watching, wife and mom (still justice- and Jesus- and butter toast-loving, too!) - there's less I know for certain than I used to about what I used to consider my most core values. And the older I get, the more suspicious I am of people who claim to have their values all laid out like clean first-day-of-school clothes in neat little rows. Especially when their lives are just as messy as the rest of ours.

How about you? What are your core values - what's Plan A? And do you make the grade or do you settle for Plan B sometimes?


otis said...

Junie, I always enjoy your blog, but some days you truly knock my socks off.

more cows than people said...

no time to answer your question right now. i just have to say that you put this so well. you really do rock.

Songbird said...

I was a person who would never get divorced...
sometimes the other person pushes you to Plan B! And C!

Magdalene6127 said...

This is so very good... thanks, Juniper.

kristin said...

Looking back on my life, at this "ripe old age", and seeing all the "plans" that I had to resort to (A,B,C,D and soforth)...all I can say that if it wasn't for the grace of God, and His forgiveness and mercy, I would consider myself a "failure" (especially by the world's standards)....but, that isn't the case...only because of Him.