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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

My husband Sherman and I have worked to create an authentic life together—one where we don’t put our efforts toward impressing people based on outward appearances. We have chosen to spend our whole marriage in a funky neighborhood that has no covenants; we do not drive fancy vehicles; and, we have not pursued the material path in any way. We yam what we yam.

And for some people of the upwardly mobile educated kind, all that makes us a little suspect. What are two people who hold master’s degrees doing living in that ‘hood (seriously people, check the home values), why don’t we have more money for our kids’ educations, and where are the pictures from our European vacations?

Frankly, it’s a little too exhausting to spend much time with people who are chasing outside proof of their success—and, more than a little boring. I don’t care about the slight jumps in the property values or what so-and-so is doing to what home model in a sub-division. When did obtaining an education become simply a license for consumption? If that’s what education is about, then count me out.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I just want to spend time with real people who do things with their lives that are more than about what the neighbors are doing—and people who not only do not judge us for our 1976 Mobile Traveler RV but who also think it is pretty cool for what it allows us to do. And that’s almost as cool as going for a post-storm group run on a moonlit night followed by a post-run cooldown tailgate party of watermelon and chips and libations in the not-so-dark of one summer’s evening.

Oh, no, I don’t want to be around the cool kids at school—unless cool means cool in a geeky way that accepts what everyone has and does and is as part of living an authentic life, regardless of whether or not the “in” crowd would be impressed.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I’m pretty sure sophisticated isn’t an adjective much applied to me and my writing. Down-to-earth, irreverent, innovative, strange, revelatory, and traditional (and yet not) are just a few descriptions that might work. But I don’t even care to approach sophisticated on any level.

Sophisticated just sounds snobby to me at the same time it sounds a little too worried about what other people think.

I understand being worried about what others think, but there’s only so much of that worrying you can do before you and your work stop being authentic. That feels a little bit too much like junior high to me—and I didn’t really succeed at being anything but myself back then either.

Not sure if I’ve said it here before, but if so, I’ll say my opinion in my unsophisticated way again. Most of us suck at pretending to be what we are not.

One of the values I most wanted to teach my children is that they should try to be who they are, not who others want them to be. This seemed to be a surprisingly odd parenting value in my generation. From parents choosing the sports or activities their kids should do to picking their college majors and selecting their classes, many of my peers seem pretty set on deciding what or who their kids should be.

Maybe it’s because my first and only babies are twins. We parents like to think we’re so all-powerful about how our kids turn out, but I can promise you that my babies demonstrated very unique personalities and temperaments from week one. And that is freeing to realize. While the experts loved to say that an anxious mother (during pregnancy? after the birth?) led to a fussy baby, why did I only have one who screamed for hours at a time? Was I only stressed on one side of my body during the pregnancy? Where’s the logic in that?

My now grown kids to this day have chosen to accept some of the values I sought to teach them and rejected others—maybe on that premise that they are who they are or maybe just because they refuse to be told how to think or who knows why?

But I’m pretty certain my anti-sophisticated approach to life is one thing they’ve retained.

So no wonder my daughter is having some troubles reconciling her artistic vision with the one taught in her drawing program. You see, these kids who study the arts really need to research the philosophies of the programs where they plan to attend, but so often at 18 or 19 you’re busy thinking about the overall culture of a college. Unfortunately, she didn’t really read enough into how her university describes its approach and vision.

Guess what? The program’s aim is what? Producing artists who produce sophisticated works.

Unless she was truly a rebel, she stood little chance of even being drawn to that type of art, being raised in this house. We’re just folks here. We are who we are—which is, by the way, very intelligent and creative—but we are not into creating works to impress. We are more into creating a life where creativity is the norm and our processes and end products are about providing meaning but not an elevated meaning.

So she draws (incredibly) with common tools such as Sharpie markers and ballpoint pens. Her art veers more toward urban and street art than high form. But it’s good. And it’s hers.

And that’s a form of sophistication all in itself—knowing the art you want to produce and doing so despite what everyone else says you should be doing. After all, the word comes from sophia, the Greek for wisdom. To thine own self be true is really one of the wisest statements of all.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

You know how you get so wound up that the only thing you can do that will help is exercise? That’s how I was on Friday. Well, truth is first I went shopping, but shopping is like a quick sugar buzz—it makes you feel better briefly but then it drops you back where you were or lower. Even though I was looking for something to resolve a specific problem in my home, those bright retail lights and flashy displays offered no more than empty promises.

All I could do was try to run off some of my tension and, in return, maybe improve my cardiovascular function at the same time I might begin to feel calmer. I wish I could say that in general I get all Zen-like when I am running while upset and that soon I am thinking only about my breathing and the way my feet feel each time they touch the earth—but so far I haven’t reached that level of enlightenment. Yet despite my elevated level of irritation, I could really feel the benefits of a cool breeze and the shade from the bridges and trees and remember to keep dropping my shoulders whenever tension built.

No, my thoughts weren’t filled with sunshine and butterflies—and for the most part they really weren’t focused on my body either. My mind was definitely running faster than my feet—I had to work hard to keep my feet from going faster than they should. I was mindful enough to keep slowing myself down even though that crazy monkey mind of mine wanted to push the tempo.

What was—and still is—unsettling to me is a combination of recent happenings and how much of what surrounds those events conflicts with all I believe matters in life. As my feet touched the ground (yes—still trying hard to be all ChiRunning about it and not let my feet push off from the ground—a very difficult task for me, especially when upset), in my head I saw my abbreviated philosophy in writing, just like this: God, family, and kindness.

Everything else follows from there. Everything. These big problems we are experiencing are related to a clash of values. What we consider to be all is considered to be foolishness by some. This in itself is not a news flash, but it appears to be a major problem when you are linked closely to others who not only do not share your values but who also may actually mock them.

If you think I am weak because I value kindness, then you do not know how much strength I use to be kind to you when you are not being kind to me or mine. My values also say that part of being kind is completing my obligations to the best of my abilities and not leaving them to someone else. If that makes certain people think I am stupid—oh well. That I should continue to be kind and hard-working is not a question for me; however, you know the expression? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Just because I believe in kindness doesn’t mean I believe I am required to be a doormat. My memory is long and my eyes are open.

While I couldn’t run enough to run away from this situation, the run did solidify where I stand—even when I am moving.

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