Which ice cream cone are you?

On a hot summer’s day about eight years ago, I had an epiphany.

To beat the heat, we had gone to Times Square in Causeway Bay to do some shopping with the kids. Just as we were about to leave we spotted an ice cream shop that sold trendy Japanese ice cream that staff transform into gigantic pyramids atop square sugar cones.  We just had to have some.

We were eagerly lapping our 6-inch-high pointed confections when my husband suddenly remembered that the meter where he had parked the car would soon run out. We quickly left the mall and, as usual, my husband and daughter steamed ahead while my son and I took our time.

We hadn’t gone far when my son stopped because his ice cream was dripping all over the cone, his hand, and down his arm and clothes.  I stopped to help him, while trying in vain to control my own melting cone.  It was quite a task holding shopping bags, stemming the tide of two ice cream cones, and at the same time fishing for tissue in my black hole of a purse.

Being more than I could handle, I called out to my husband and daughter:  “Wait!  I need your help!”

Hearing my cry, they turned in unison. The first thing that struck me was their twin display of perfectly groomed cones.  I was in awe. Perfectly licked with not a drip in sight, their cones looked almost like the plastic ones displayed at the ice cream shop!  How was that possible?

This is a 'cool' cone.

This is a ‘cool’ cone. Notice the perfectly polished nails!

Instead of running back to help (as I would have done), they stood there in shock with a look of horror on their faces.

Help!” I called again, then pleaded with my eyes, since I couldn’t keep yelling at them from across the plaza. I looked at my son and we burst out laughing at how out-of-control our cones were becoming.

This is a ‘bumbler’ cone!

That did it, I guess, for my ‘cool’ husband and daughter.  They turned and started walking away!

My son looked at me in confusion, and I reassured him, saying: “Oh, never mind them.  They just don’t know how to have fun.”

We finally got ourselves reasonably cleaned up and made our way to the car where my husband and daughter were seated in cool air-conditioned comfort, waiting for us patiently.

“Why didn’t you help us?” I asked, more bemused than upset.

“Mom, seriously? Did you see yourselves?” my daughter replied.

“Why?  What’s the problem?” I countered.

“You are both such, such….bumblers!” she said, her face contorted in disgust, as if this were a thing to be avoided at all costs. She then tucked her hair neatly behind one ear, crossed her ankles daintily, and quietly went back to reading a book she had bought earlier that day.  My husband gave me a similar look (and a smile) in the rear-view mirror as he started the car.

After a minute (since I’m never quick with the comebacks), I declared smartly: “Well, you guys are just too ‘cool’ and actually a bit boring!”

They didn’t deign to reply.

I looked at my son and we both shrugged.  “Bumblers forever,” I whispered conspiratorially.

He nodded and we both grinned, confident that while we may not have perfect ice cream cones, we are perfect in our own way!

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Listen with your eyes

This is something that just came to me today, but I’m sure it’s not an original thought.  Have you heard this before?  Let me know!

Wanna feel great instantly?

The next time someone wants to talk with you, listen with your eyes.

Ears are for hearing; eyes are for listening.

Stop reading; stop playing with my iPhone; stop working on the computer.  Look up and listen with your eyes.

It’s a great feeling.

Look up and listen with your eyes.

What? Me, worry?

I don’t think of myself as someone who worries a lot, but when it comes to what I think people think of me, I can be a basket case.

Yet contrary to what many people have told me — that this is because I lack self-confidence — I don’t think that’s true.  It’s not because I don’t have self-confidence, it’s because I genuinely care and want to make other people happy.  Is that a bad thing?

Well, it depends.

I think some people are just ‘born to make you happy’, as Britney Spears sang about.  They are the ‘givers’, the ‘sweet kids who would do anything for you’.

I’m like that; that is just who I am.

I need people.  And I want people to need me.  This is never going to change.

Barbara Streisand sang that ‘people who need people are the luckiest people in the world’.  If that’s true, why do so many people tell me that I’m gullible and naive and I have got to throw away my rose-colored glasses, grow up and live in the ‘real world’ (even though technically I’ve already grown up)?

Why don’t I hear more people saying: “Wow, you are so lucky!”

I get it — there are bad people out there — people who are immoral, hateful, ‘damaged’ themselves and just want company, or those who enjoy hurting other people (especially those whom they think are easy targets, like me).

I read a great quote once, something like:  “Just because you’re a vegetarian, doesn’t mean the bull won’t charge at you.”

But here’s the thing — I never said I didn’t want the bull to charge.  What most people don’t realize, I think, is that nice people can be a lot stronger than they let on.  We have morals; we have principles. Just because it may seem that we want to be friends with everyone, and we want everyone to like us, there’s a line we won’t cross.  We’re not stupid.

Unless, perhaps, our self-esteem has been broken by people close to us who are supposed to love us telling us that we’re dumb for being this way.

Parents, relatives and well-intentioned friends who, in trying to protect us, ultimately hurt us by cutting us down and saying that we’re gullible, naive and, well, stupid for trusting people and being ‘nice’.  Then telling us that we have to basically change who we are.

The sad thing is, because we need people to like us, all of those well-intentioned remarks can have the opposite effect.

Why?  Well, first of all, there is the ‘love hierarchy’, and parents are at the top. If we can’t get that, we go down a level to friends. If we can’t fill our love tanks* there, we go down even further, and further, until we find someone who will fill that basic need.  More often than not, we go farther off the rails.  Even if we know it’s wrong.  And we may never admit it to you — you’re the one who told us we’re basically stupid for being so nice.  Our need for love and approval may make us do things we don’t want to do.

When people tell me (or their kids or friends) to ‘grow up’ and realize the ‘world is a bad place’, I think to myself, “Why do WE have to change?

Why not tell us how lucky we are that we see the world for it’s possibilities and not its negativities?  Why not tell us how you wish you could be more like us, and most importantly, that you’ll be there for us when we do get charged by a bull – helping us to see how we can do better next time; choose better friends; help us see how they don’t matter, but you do?

Because from my point of view, it’s not ME who has to change — I mean, as  Natalie Portman said in Where the Heart Is: “we all have good and bad inside of us, and the good that’s the only thing worth living for”.

I’m living for the good. And I’m thankful that those closest to me understand and support that. Because I just don’t see how being more like the bad will make this world a better place.

*For more on filling up our ‘love tanks’, check out the ‘Love Language’ series of books by Dr. Gary Chapman.