Embracing Diversity

wedding pic 2I have never been known for following current trends, mostly because I am usually so hopelessly out of touch that I have no idea what the current trends even are.  But I have noticed that the term “diversity” is a popular one right now, as in “celebrate diversity,” “embrace diversity,” and similar slogans.  The gist of it is that diversity is a good thing, and that we need to let go of our natural tendency to want to associate mostly with those people who are just like us and start sharing our lives with people who are often very different from us.  And I have to say that this is one trend that I am right on top of, because I have been “living with diversity” for over thirty five years now….ever since the day that I married my husband.

Obviously, there many core values that my husband and I share:  we have the same morals, the same commitment to family, the same sense of humor and the same work ethic.  We also both like a clean house and are masters at the art of worrying.  But I am a minimalist who feels very uncomfortable around clutter, and have a strong compulsion to organize all my possessions.  My husband has many gifts, but the ability to organize his many possessions is not one of them.  My books are shelved according to their author; the money in my wallet is arranged in ascending value with all the bills facing the same way; my clothes are hung in my closet according to color and category.  My husband’s closet is hodgepodge of clothes, shoes, tools, store receipts and random knick knacks.  Once I even found a hammer in his underwear drawer.

I am a writer and avid reader, while my husband prefers to watch movies for entertainment.  He’s an athlete and a sports enthusiast who regularly follows all his favorite teams, and I can tell when a game is not going well because I can hear him yelling at the TV, even when I’m on a whole different floor of the house.  I enjoy going to a Cardinals game now and then, but otherwise, I find professional sports to be rather boring and have a hard time caring much which team wins.  (If any of the professional athletes were sharing their salaries with me, then I would care very much about whether or not they were having a successful season.)

We came from different states, different types of families, different religions, and we have very different strengths.  He’s a natural at numbers and all things financial, while I struggle with anything beyond the most basic math.  I am most comfortable expressing myself through the written word, whereas he sometimes asks for my help when he’s composing a simple business letter.  And yet we make it work.

IMG_0545I think the key to successfully “living with diversity” is understanding that we aren’t going to change each other.  I am no more going to convince my husband that he needs to keep his tools organized according to my standards than he is going to convince me that my spices don’t have to be arranged alphabetically on the spice rack.  (Because, of course, they do.)

I admit that deep down, I think I would prefer it if my husband would change a little so that he could be more like me.  But it doesn’t work that way.  If I want to stay in a close and loving relationship with him, I have to accept him just the way he is, and count on him doing the same thing for me.  And I think that’s what “embracing diversity” is really all about:  learning to let people be who they really are without trying to change them into becoming more like us.  It’s not always easy, but after thirty-five years of marriage, I can honestly say it is worth the effort.

Middle Age: The Perfect Excuse

Whenever I can’t lift something heavy or move as quickly as I used to, I blame my middle-aged body, and that’s probably accurate.  But when I trip on the stairs, knock over my water glass as I’m reaching for the salt shaker or take ten swings to sink a putt on a miniature golf course, I can’t honestly blame middle age.  The truth of the matter is, I’ve always been a bit of an un-athletic klutz.

While I was never the last kid picked when we were choosing teams at recess, I was also never one of the first kids selected.  I was usually added to a team when about half the kids had already been chosen, and that was mostly when I happened to be friends with the child doing the choosing.  The only time I excelled in gym class was when we were tumbling, and asked to do something the gym teacher called “knee walking,” which is exactly what it sounds like.  We knelt down, reached behind us to grab our feet and walked across the mat on our knees, putting all of our body weight directly on our kneecaps.  I stood out from the rest of the class because I was able, and willing, to knee walk right off the mat and across the entire wooden floor of the gym and back.  Obviously, I wasn’t the brightest kid in class, but I was definitely the one with the toughest knees.

In high school, I played volleyball my senior year only because it was a brand new sport at our school that very few other girls wanted to play, so they were desperate enough to ask me.  I steered well clear of track and basketball, and the thought of trying out for the pom-pom or cheerleading squads never even entered my mind.  I was just proud of myself for taking gym class all four years and never once flunking out.  In my twenties, I did have a short stint on a church-sponsored co-ed softball team, where I spent the entire season in right field, literally praying that no one hit the ball to me.  Although I did catch a fly ball, once.

But now that I’m middle aged, I’ve realized that I don’t have to admit to being a klutz anymore.  Never mind that I have never been athletic or coordinated:  I’m middle aged, and THAT’S the reason for any and all of my physical deficiencies.  It’s taken me over half my life, but I have finally come up with a believable excuse!  I just have to make sure I avoid everyone who knew me before I turned fifty…..