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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Omphaloskeptics Don't Wear Overalls

When my nephew was a toddler and had to make a decision, his hand would race to his navel and he'd start digging. He couldn't decide between waffles or pancakes, mommy or daddy, chocolate or vanilla...or strawberry. And he couldn't wear overalls, because the stress of being unable to reach his navel was unbearable. After the decision was made, he still couldn't relax. Second guessing and over-thinking is natural for some people. My nephew is a classic maximizer*. Even after making his choice, he still worries that he could have done better.

In a lot of ways, my sister-in-law V. is like a sister to me. We don't have the same parents, but we do have the same parents-in-law (if it's taking you a second to figure that out: our husbands are brothers.) Sometimes, I think we're married to the same guy, because our very minor complaints about our nearly perfect husbands are so similar. One think we've noticed about our in-laws, including our husbands, is that they're all belly button diggers. It's become so ingrained that I realized the other day that I use that phrase a lot and no one but V. has any idea what I'm talking about. Allow me to explain.

Belly button diggin' is closely related to navel gazing. It's just more agonizing and less productive. The navel gazer can produce entire works of art about him or herself (or, um, a whole blog.) The Belly Button Digger (BBD) agonizes endlessly to no avail. When I was pregnant with our third child, I decided that we absolutely had to go to Disney World, within weeks. I am not a Belly Button Digger. As soon as the thought entered my head, I was sure it had to happen. And it had to happen fast because, if history repeated itself, I would be on bedrest soon enough. The big boys were the perfect ages to enjoy Disney World and a baby would postpone the trip indefinitely. So I told my husband I was booking the trip and the Belly Button Digging began.

"I don't know...Disney World? I'd rather go to Europe."

Like that's going to happen, you Belly Button Digger.

"I don't know if I can miss five days of work."

Hello? Cell phone? No one will miss you.

"Maybe it's too expensive."


Imagine him saying all of those things with an excruciating look of pain on his face. One would think I had asked him to choose between walking the plank or Russian Roulette, not a trip to Disney World or...not. Because I had no time for Belly Button Digging, I told him I was making the reservation and, while I would be happy for him to come, I would be equally happy taking my mother, who the boys adore. And he started anew.

"But they'd never forgive me."

They'd be far more focused on, I don't know, DISNEY WORLD than you, dear.

"I owe it to them to go."

There will be no martyrs at Disney World!

"Your mom doesn't want to go."

Does, too.

I made the reservation and told him to let me know. In the end, he went, strictly forbidden by me to make any negative remarks or ugly faces before, during or after the trip. I made him buckle up his overalls and enjoy himself, which he did.

My husband has been browbeaten out of much of his Belly Button Diggin', but others are not so lucky. And BBD's can miss out because they spend too much time thinking. It's a particularly agonizing form of procrastination. You can't decide if you want to go out Friday night, so you don't get a babysitter. But you have children, so of course you want to go out Friday night, which you finally know for sure on Friday afternoon at five o'clock, when all the babysitters are taken or on their way to Happy Hour. V. and I realized long ago that it was pointless to ask our BBD husbands on Wednesday if we should get a sitter for the weekend. They always said no and they always whined on Friday that they wished we had gotten one.

I suppose that I could do a little bit more belly button digging; I do tend to make rash decisions. I was whining to my sister today about how I'm not stupid, but not in possession of any kind of useful intelligence. She claimed that I'm plenty smart and I've made choices about what to do with my life. The truth hurts, but I guess she's right**. I do tend to choose the easiest path, not the most advanced or even the most interesting. But at least most days I'm content; some days I'm even wildly happy, like when we went to Disney World or when I got my lucky jeans. And even if I had a big, fancy life, wouldn't I still be unhappy sometimes? And wouldn't I have to work a lot harder? And not go to Yoga as often?

In the end, I think balance in a family is good. Let's say your wife is jumping on the bed with an empty Margarita glass, yelling, "Do it! Do it! Do it!" in reference to quitting your job. A little contemplation is probably a good thing. If my husband was as impulsive as I am, we'd live in a house that needed a lot more renovating than we could afford, because we'd have twelve children. And tattoos. And if I was more like him, we'd only have one child and we'd be driving the same car we had when we got married. I like to think that my impulsiveness has given him the courage to go farther with his career and do other cool stuff, like go to Disney World. And the kids never would have gotten those faux hawks. I could be wrong but, frankly, I'm just not going to think about it too much.

So, next time you want to do something like steal plants from the park in the middle of the night to plant in your yard and your friend says, "I don't know...," feel free to say, "Quitcher dang belly button diggin' and git in the car! Yer drivin'! Whooooooo!"

Namasté, y'all.

* If you followed that link and read about the quiz, you may find it interesting to know that I scored 17 and my husband scored in the 70's. Fun.

** Well, sort of. It's hard to explain how having three children limits you. And how you desperately love the children and wouldn't change a thing. And how you had no idea from one year to the next what you might want five years down the line. A little belly button diggin' might have left my options open, but I wouldn't have as many children and my children crack me up, which is pretty much all I want out of life. Except...oops, I came pretty close to Belly Button Diggin' right there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a 30 married to a 66. We both lied a bit.