Saturday, February 15, 2014

What's On Your Lawn?

Every time I jog by this one house in my neighborhood there is something on their lawn.
Today, there was a big yellow plastic pair of binoculars--some kind of kid's toy. Maybe Alice in Wonderland or Dora the Explorer? Sometimes there will be a bike or a ball. Other days, lawn equipment - a stray shovel, gardening glove or bag of mulch. I can tell they have young kids and like to garden, but I can also tell they are disorganized, in a hurry, or forgetful, not messy though, because their yard is never a mess--there's just always one thing left out from the day before. I jog early in the morning, so whatever it is, it has sat out on the lawn overnight. I imagine the family gets up in the morning and settles in around the kitchen table. Mom looks out the window and shouts over the Cheerios at the appropriate person:
"Dylan! Go out front and get your bike off the lawn!"
"Honey! You left the rake out!"
"Crystal! Someone is going to steal that doll if you keep leaving her out there like that!"
Or maybe mom just sighs and goes out to get whatever has been left for dead and drags it back to its appropriate spot inside the house or garage. In my experience, moms do a lot of sighing and dragging. God bless them.
I have come to expect something on their lawn every morning when I run by this house. Hmmmm....What'll they leave out today? When I saw the over-sized yellow binoculars this morning, I had to smile. They really looked funny just sitting out there in the middle of the green expanse--like a movie prop left behind or a piece of space junk fallen from the sky. I am sure I am not the only one who notices that these folks can't seem to get that last item into the garage before the sun goes down. I bet they're known for it. And it got me thinking...
What am I known for?
I guess I could ask, but would people really tell me the truth? The good, the bad and the ugly? Maybe, but probably not. They might say the good, but they would probably leave out the bad and try to put some lipstick on the ugly. Nobody wants to hurt anyone else's feelings.
So I wonder, what AM I known for? What have people come to expect when they are around me? When they listen to me? How about you? What are you known for? At work? In your family? In your neighborhood?

Are you the lady who drives too fast in the complex? 
The man with the perpetual scowl? 
The busy executive? 
The firefighter who grills a mean burger on the 4th? 
The overbearing mom?
The soccer coach who HAS to win? 
The religious rule follower? 
The co-worker who's always late? 
The dedicated volunteer? 
The boss who cares? 
A good listener? 
The "If it ain't one thing it's another" stress ball?
Sports obsessed? 
Pay-check collector? 
Hot head? 
Helping hand?

I was at the grocery store yesterday and everywhere I went inside the store, I seemed to bump into this same lady. The same moment I went to pick out bananas, she went to pick out bananas. When I turned down the vegetable aisle, boom, there she was. We both wanted avocados. Then organic carrots. Finally, it got so awkward, I said with a smile, "I promise I am not following you!" I laughed nervously. "You're probably thinking why is this lady always where I want to be?" She smiled back and said, "No, no, not at all--don't worry about it. I am not one of those kinds of people.You're fine." This started up a great conversation about the prices and selection of produce at this particular store, juicing, jogging, organic apples and then a friendly parting, at least, until we both ended up in the cereal aisle reaching for the same box of Kashi. Then it got ugly.
You really ARE following me, aren't you? She said with raised eyebrows. Her eyes went dark.
Yup. I said without blinking and without taking my hand off the last box of Kashi.
She tightened her grip on the box. I tightened mine.
Then with a growl we both pulled until there was Kashi Kibble all over aisle 7.
Luckily, it never happened that way. We were both friendly and courteous all the way to the register, where, of course, we ended up in the same checkout line.
I don't want you to think I am following you.
In other words, what do you think of me? 
We worry about that don't we? It is ingrained in human nature to worry about what others think of us.Worry doesn't help, but what about concern? I am concerned that my image may be this, so therefore I am going to do that or say this. I don't want you to think I am a supermarket stalker, so I am going to make a funny comment about it. I'll put that out there, so you'll think this of me.
Some people put things on their lawns intentionally. They set up birdbaths, plant roses, post American flags, political signs, sports team paraphernalia, and unfortunately, some even park rusty classic cars. They want you to know what they like, who they're voting for, what team they cheer on and how proud they are to be a part of a certain group or organization. They tell you up front what to think of them before you walk up to their door to sell those overpriced, but delicious chocolate almond candy bars for your daughter's softball team.
What do I put out on my lawn? Nothing. I don't have one. I have a front porch because I live in a town home. (I am not complaining. For years I had a front lawn and I do not miss mowing, seeding, weeding, cleaning up after stray dogs or paying a gardener.)  But I am known for something, even without a front lawn.What is it I wonder?
I believe I may have the image of being busy. And I am. But does that tell people I am too busy for them? Sometimes I am sure it does. And that is not an image I am proud of. What can I do to change it?  Slow down. Prioritize. Cut out the things from my life that take my time away from what is truly important. I am not the type of person who sits around watching soap operas and old re-runs so I don't have a lot of time to cut, but I am sure I can find something. And I am sure that I can do my best not to make people feel like they are only a speed bump in the road of my life. Or an interruption. I don't want them to "drive by" my house and see a sign on my lawn that says "Come back later." (Unless of course they are sales people. I swear, if the Kirby vacuum people show up at my door ONE MORE TIME!!)
Might be worth it this week to ask around and see what's on my lawn. See what the neighbors are talking about. What the co-workers say when I am not around. What kind of impression I give to friends and family based on what I put out there--the way talk and act toward them on a daily basis.
Maybe I'll get the truth and they'll point out what's on my lawn. Or maybe I'll just have to go out there and find the gnome myself.

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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