On Sunday I sat aboard a riverboat, contemplating…
The projected forecast had turned grim and the riverboat had been an unplanned little adventure. It was cold and rainy while I was unfortunately dressed for the 70 degree sunshine which my weather app had predicted. There had been a whirlwind of days leading up to that slow-moving boat trip down the river. Family visits and dinners, physician visits and physical therapy appointments. New medications, a handful of work deadlines, and all of the other life bits of things that layer and weave about within the sometimes crazy.
The quiet moment was unsettlingly nice. Despite the monotonance recording of the boat announcer, I found my busy-speed senses taking in any (and every) thing in double time as the pace life literally slowed around me. I noticed the subtlety between the sweet children and the mischievous ones. I noticed the father and teen-daughter duo, each lost in their phones which confused me a bit. Why be there on that boat, in the rain and misery, at all? Why bother? With each captain’s urging to look left and we might see a deer, or look right for the rare sighting of a speed turtle, it reminded me more and more of those scenes in Jurrassic Park when the caravan look searching for a sighting, only to grow in disappointment. No deer. No speed turtles. About six ducks, the men… Apparently the women were home tending to the nests. Of course they were…
I felt heavy with sadness, really. Maybe it was due to the growing cloud coverage, but maybe it was just my increasing awareness of the disconnect that is everywhere. In the families lost in their own thing, and the couples who travel to do things together, in odd and uncomfortable silence. Every time I leave my home my attention is drawn by people doing life solo, and not in that independent way we claim as a goal. Also I am noticing when interaction happens, it is often unkind.
Several years ago we were in Phoenix for a long weekend. Sitting at a red light, with windows down, enjoying the winter warmth to which we weren’t accustomed, we heard a woman screaming at her husband across the intersection. The light seemed to last forever as she shoved her finger at his face, belittling him and growing so loud that she could have been in our car. It was so sad and I vowed to never be a Phoenix wife. That is how I remember her. I may get upset, but no matter how passionate (or valid) my anger may seem, I stop myself before Phoenix wife. In turn, when Chw is talking about particular friends or men he encounters, he will sometimes point out that their wife is a Phoenix wife. I think it is probably pretty easy to allow ourselves to decline (or escalate, depending on perspective) to that point and here is why…
I began to pick up on dialogue that others had around us, there in the lower level of that boat. Too hot. Too cold. Too crunchy. Too sweet. Too tight. Too slippery. (that one was me, we went up to the second deck and the rain made it a bit of a mess in my all-too-appropriate-flip flops.)
Such a negative little word, that too. With it comes much weight, which is ironic considering it’s definition. It is ugly and it is critical. It is implicative. It is often divisive. It is so many, many things, but almost always it is negative. It is not kind. Nothing genuinely life giving is every summed up with the word too. At it’s very nature, when spoken, it can seem competitive. Of course, as with most things, there are exceptions. But while anything is negatively alligned with too, beyond the standard I love you too and I miss you too’s, not many positive things are. My car is too old never had a season of my car is too new. Too old. Too young. Too dark. Too light. Too abbrassive. There is never too kind, too funny, too peaceful, too loving unless it is spoken in false modesty or with a sense of complaining.
Phoenix wife’s husband was a lot of too’s, and with each mention of the next too, she grew crueler and louder. Too mentality alarms me, suddenly.
I’m breaking up with too for a while. The thing is, I have been mulling it over since the boat ride on Sunday, and growing stronger in my feeling. Maybe one day I’ll try to bring too back, but today we need a break. Whenever my mind or heart resort to too prefaced things, it is a mindset I need to correct. To be a light, we have to be willing to be a light. We have to choose to breathe on that flame and make it brighter, without that breath, it just goes right out. That is what too does, for me. Plus, let’s be honest, too is just plain lazy. Too replaces real words with real descriptions. Too takes the effort and thoughtfulness of intention away and replaces it with a generic and coined response.
I love you.
I love you too.
Why? Why not follow it with an embrace? Or with a thank you, I really love and appreciate you. I really love when you/your _________! Isn’t love, at its core, a gift? Who wouldn’t rather hear that, anyway? And maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you find value in simplicity so too works for you. Awesome. For me, I am seeing so much negativity. When I have worked hard and poured my heart into something and the response is that it is too ______, I whither. My broken bits shift a little, and that isn’t good. When my mind wanders to too, (Michigan is too… Doing that seems too hard… Your voice is too loud) I am choosing to ignore the multitude of good and beautiful around me to hone in on the negative. Really, that is too bad.
When someone shares with me, I do not want it to be too vulnerable. When someone shows me something they’ve made, I do not want my gut reaction be that it is too-something. I want to be honest, but I want my honesty to grow from something genuine and kind. Something that considers them more than it considers me and my opinion. For me, I am seeing that too comes solely from a place of self. It is about me.
When my mind instinctually goes to too, I will try to shift it to something nurturing.