In sleep away camp, I learned a few cheers which were mostly birthed out of boredom. When the boys were playing basketball, we chanted, "Baskets, baskets, baskets, boys. You make the baskets; we’ll make the noise." It was our way of participating, of passing time and maybe garnering a bit of attention for ourselves. There was the side-out and rotate bit for volleyball. The n-i-c-e-t-r-y song whenever anyone faultered, and then, when we were in a slump, when the glare from the sun hurt and we had headaches from our ponytails, someone thought it was a good idea to start a round of "be aggressive."
Be aggressive. Be-E aggressive.
Be aggressive. Be-E aggressive. Wooh!
If anything, it taught me how to spell. Who knew "aggressive" had two g’s and two s’s? Many years later, I’m not trying for aggressive; I’m hoping for it’s brainy brunette sister: impressive. When it comes to impressive, I think it’s similar to how we handle love. There are some who’ll date for years without uttering the L word. Others so open, they fall into the idea of it monthly. I’d argue the latter bunch, the ones looking to live romantic comedy lives, are also readily impressed. It’s why we’re able to fall so quickly, making allowances, sometimes misdirecting our attention to focus on his accomplishments, so we can ultimately get our fix of adoration. With others, they’ll take their time. "It takes a lot to impress me," she’ll say raising an eyebrow. And maybe it’s true. But what does it really take? Is it an excuse, a protection, a barrier to keep from being wrong? Why does it take so much to impress these people? I believe there is a strong link between those who are easily impressed and those who fall so easily into love. And in turn, those who are rarely impressed are also rarely in love. I’m not sure one’s better than the other; though the latter does seem more sincere. Or maybe less self-aware.
I’ve been married to a surgeon. I can’t stand hospitals, the antiseptic smells, the delivery of news and food and meds. The charts, the scrubs, the name tag badges, the rolling laptops, the catheters and IV bags. Small dixie cups. Peering into rooms along a hallway, beds unmade, soiled sheets. I’m afraid to look. The carnations and Gerber Daisy’s in ugly vases. I don’t want to see people in gowns or imagine why they’re there. I hated meeting the Wasband there for lunch. As luck would have it, my next serious boyfriend was also a surgeon. They both, of course, impressed me in a mild roundabout way. I mean as much as anyone can be impressed by someone who saves lives. It’s kind of a no-brainer. As much as I detested anything medical, my appreciation for those who thrived from it did not increase. I didn’t ever think, "I don’t know how you do it," because I knew, quite simply, that we’re all built differently. You’d think I’d be most impressed by someone who could not only tackle what repelled me but could excel at it. But it’s not the way it works. We’re deeply impressed, I believe, by what we ourselves do already but wish we could do much better. So yes, is it impressive that he climbs mountains and plays second violin and also has a JDMBA, I guess, sure. But since I have no desire to do those things, it results in a shrug. Unless of course it demonstrates an impressive work ethic, something else I’d value–a character trait–than merely a list of accomplishments I myself have no desire to fulfill.
I’m deeply moved by those who do it better than I can. Writers, chefs, interior designers, and fashionista mothers impress me. Artists, photographers, teachers. Open-minded people with positive outlooks, people who’ve worked hard to get where they are. It seems it’s the same as "likeness leading to liking." We all think we’re pretty terrific. We all believe we’re above average. And being so, we tend to like in others what we like in ourselves. And if they do it even better, then we’re impressed. Yes, we can certainly have an appreciation for the talents of another, but we’re most impressed by that which we ourselves wish we could do. It’s not solely about the identity: author, poet, screenwriter, song writer; it’s about the depth of their talent and surprisingly less so about what it took for them to be there. I am impressed by talent, the kind you can’t really teach. The genius in it, the gift they’re able to expel from within, out there for the taking. Being their most authentic selves. I’m impressed by survivors even though I know it’s partly a human instinct. The choices they made, when it would have been easier, and they chose harder.
I impress myself sometimes, but very rarely. It only happens in the kitchen, when I cobble something spectacular together without a recipe. I’m only impressed, it seems, when I have very low expectations. And I guess some would hold that as an argument. "Those who love so easily must have low expectations; it’s why they’re so easily impressed." I love all the time, and love doing so, and I am easily impressed, but my expectations have never been low. It’s why I’ve suffered so many disappointments.
So for those not easily impressed, is it at all a matter of not striving for much in your own life? Or are you hard both on others and yourself? What impresses you?