Dancing to the Different Drum

EMU_0Once upon a time, I  ended up at Eastern Mennonite University, pursuing a Master’s Degree in conflict studies.

Conflict studies is exactly what it sounds like–you study all the ways we don’t get along, from war, to crime, to domestic violence, to bigotry, to bullying, to divorce, to… you name it. As a species, we’re  unique in nature for the scale upon which we kill our own kind, kill our mates, sacrifice our best and brightest to wars, and so on. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is not the smartest way to go on, so I thought I might learn a little more about the alternatives.

we have met the enemyI enjoyed my classes. One professor had pursued his PhD in South Africa as apartheid was dismantled, another worked with Basque separatists to avoid civil war in Spain. Another professor helped Columbians come up with sustainable alternatives to growing the coca plant, another developed peacebuilding strategies with the Department of Defense. These were saintly, interesting people, most of them full of hope and humor.

But one class in particular made me furious. This required course was called, “Disciplines for Sustaining the Peacemaker.”

They lost me at the word, “Disciplines.” To me, discipline is about force, about coercion and punishment. Of course, what was meant was “how to keep your balance when you’re dealing with upsetting stuff,” but the approach was for the professor to assign us angry-little-girlrequired practices–journaling, yoga (the sun salute, no less, which I do loathe), meditation, readings, exercise–which we were to attend to in the interests of self-care.

The idea was that by observing these practices, we’d somehow find the ones that would make us more resilient, wiser, sturdier, and better at our peacemaking. The reality was, by the end of the semester, the entire class of nice, well intended, tadpole peacemakers from all over the world was united in their willingness to beat the living peedywattles out of the professor and his grand ideas about spiritual and emotional fortification.

I got what I was supposed to get out of the class in that I ended up with a better understanding of how to look after myself. A large part of what sustains me is solitude. Unstructured time is also really necessary to my well being, preferably seven days a week of it, but I can limp along with four or five in the interests of getting my kid through college. I need humor, I need romance novels, I need companion animals and big, healthy trees. I like to journal, but I need my cats, I need those aromatic, hot, sweet cups of tea, and scented candles are important too.

connoisseurThese necessities were nowhere on the professor’s list (yoga, meditation, congregation, education), most of which either left me cold or made me cringe. I’m glad that prof has his list, but it was far more important that I learned my own.

In what area of life are you a nonconformist, a different drummer, the one who has to do it her way or not at all? How did you figure your way out?

To one commenter, I’ll send “The Connoisseur” from Wine Country Gift Baskets.

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85 comments on “Dancing to the Different Drum

  1. When I was in college, we were one a 4-1-4 schedule or J-term. We studied one subject for the month of Jan. I will say all four years were really great, but one year we had a guest come in for the month for the class I took on Conflict Resolution. We were actually helping him finish off his book. But was very interesting and have used several things I learned in my early career when I work at a University. I guess I’m a different drummer in raising my kids. I always did what felt right in my heart, instead of what might have been the norm. My youngest struggled through school due to several illnesses manifesting themselves all at the same time. At one point I actually had to home school him, while still working full time.

    • That sounds like a challenge, Sue, but I think children mostly benefit from parents listening to their hearts. In Victorian times, doctors were adamant that women should NOT follow their intuition, or the lore from other women, but listen only to the learned docs and their condescending, ignorant books. Children were not allowed protein, because it upset the digestion. A new baby was to be fed a wad of milk and flour to get the digestion going (within hours of birth), potty training should begin around one year, the learned men said.

      Fools. Moms knew better.

  2. Thank you, Grace. Yes, I march to the beat of a different drummer, in two important areas of my life.

    One is my writing. I must write my own way, regardless of what’s in demand. I write romances according to what I think is romantic. In many ways that’s at odds with what most readers, writers, and editors consider romantic. But I don’t think I’m alone. I believe there should be romances for readers who share my tastes.

    The other area of my life concerns something we’re not supposed to discuss on a romance blog. But I can’t answer your question if I don’t. It’s my religion. I live in a small town in the Bible Belt. What religion do I practice? I’m Buddhist. And have been for forty-two years.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Mary Anne, I’m often utterly flummoxed at the disconnect between what my publisher thinks readers want, and what readers clearly indicate they want. In my books, the scenes people email me about, the ones they bring up on blogs, are not the hot scenes. Many readers report skipping those–the biology’s the same in every one, right?

      The scenes people recall are familial. The duke giving his daughter away, three brothers talking about the transition to married life, sisters burying the hatchet. That’s what grabs the readers, and helps them see the protagonists at their most human, lovable and interesting.

      You write your story, your way, and the readers will find you who appreciate that work.

      And as for the Buddhism… my sister’s a Buddhist living in Georgia. She’s at least in a college town, but still… I’m sure she’s challenged from time to time by those around her. It’s your soul. Care for it however it suits you best.

  3. I think the thing that makes me different from my peers is that I like to be alone. I am my own best company. I don’t feel the need to be around others, to go out on the town every week night or even weekend for that matter. I love reading and sadly I do not personally know any other readers, except here online. I love silence. I can go days without turning on a tv, music or talking to another person. Now, I don’t get the pleasure of silence as often as I would choose to, I have two teenage sons and husband and they all are noisy beings!

    • Rhiannon, I have never, not ever, not once-t (as they say in Pennsylvania) hit the end of my appetite for solitude. The online connections help–they’re real without being invasive–but I’m with you. Smiling island, that’s me.

  4. Not sure if I’m really nonconformist in any way. I don’t journal, but I’ve been hearing a lot about transcendental meditation and would love to give it a try.

  5. The better question should be where DO I conform! My three closest fronds and I have never been much to follow the rules that popular society dictate. While we did make ourselves outcasts in school – you know how mean school girls are to those who don’t follow their rules – we always knew we were better off as individuals. But if the three of us, I’ve never felt need to fit in with them.

    As the ex of one of my girl friends once told said “they (my friends) march to the beat of a different drummer, but YOU (meaning ME!) are in a whole other band!”

    Needless to say I was quite flattered. That was probably one of the best compliments I’ve ever received!

    • You made me laugh, because yes, that’s the question the most interesting people should be asked! It also occurs to me that a wide streak of individuality is ALWAYS present in the most interesting heroes and heroines.

  6. I think even those who conform do so in a way that is unique to them. We all take parts of what we see in others / learned growing up and incorporate them into ourselves.

    I love being alone. I can read for days on end in my cozy little apartment. I don’t have TV or a stereo. I’m single – so being alone in really alone.

    But then … I need to be with people! Going to the theatre, a restaurant, a mall. I still do these things alone – but alone with other people! And that meets a need.

    And I need to connect to other people – usually through social media, email, texting and the occasional phone call.

    Ultimately, my different drum beats a solo pattern that incorporates others’ music when it seems right to do so.

    • Catherine, what a nice a balance you’ve found, so that solitude does not equate to loneliness. I haven’t been to a movie in quite a while, but you remind me that it’s fun, and plenty of people go on their own.

      Loki, here I come!

  7. I completely ignore the confines of dressing to please anyone other than myself. Shoes, I go for what is comfortable with no care for how they look.

  8. I, like Rhiannon Rowland also like being by myself. I could go for very long periods of time, not leaving my house. Thankfully or not so thankfully ( depending on how I am feeling that day) I have a great family who keeps me from being to much of a loner. I feel no need what so ever to change this about myself. It’s not like I feel uncomfortable around other people. I am perfectly fine when I am out and about, in fact usually have a great time. It’s just that I am the most content, when I am by myself. In fact, when I haven’t had a lot of time to myself, I tend to get a little grumpy. It’s just who I am.

    • Mary, I’m the same way. Even if I’ve had a good day in court–the cases are going well, the families making progress, opposing counsel on good behavior–by Friday, I do not want to hear another human voice. By Monday, I’d still rather stay home, but I’ve regained my balance, so off to work I go.

  9. Almost afraid to win this one! Have lost 20 lbs. and counting! Thanks for all you do for your fans, Grace! Love your books and characters. Feel like I know them all!

    • Donna, that is a tremendous accomplishment. Can I ask how you’re doing it?

      I’m a little frustrated with my weight. Since getting conscientious about the treadmill desk in December (2 miles a day, average), I’ve gained eight pounds that I did not need to gain.


      • Grace, the weight might have been an unwelcome gain, but I bet you’ve made some positive health improvements with the two miles of walking. And congratulation Donna, on your twenty pound plus weight loss!
        Grace, I have also had some success with weight loss in the past few years and I thought I would share a bit about my experience. One thing I have to share is that I don’t actually know how much I lost. I remember seeing a scale at the doctor’s office that said 237 lbs at one point, and before I stopped using my scale, I had been pretty consistent at 190 lbs. I did not weigh myself for the first two months of my serious exercise/eating change. After that, I weighed myself once a week until I realized that my attitudes and frustrations with the number on the scale were counterproductive. As to what I did to lose the weight- I started exercising regularly. I also cut out all foods that had eggs, wheat, soy, and milk in them. This was not actually an effort to lose weight but an effort to deal with allergies and recurrent sinus infections – four in one year! The final straw was the sinus infection that almost ruined my enjoyment of my sister’s destination wedding. That, and the fact that I was almost twice the size of my brother and sister in the family wedding pictures. My mom is allergic to the food products I mentioned, so I decided I’d go with her diet until I had time to finally get allergy tested. When I finally got tested, soy was the only food that I was allergic to, but by that point I’d noticed the positive weight and overall wellness of cutting out the others, so I stuck with it. I also started getting allergy shots for my extensive environmental allergies. It’s been almost a year and a half since I started making changes. I’ve found that I can add baked, sugary, or milky products back to my diet occasionally with only minor symptoms. I’ve also discovered that I have negative reactions to oats and peanut butter. The peanut butter reaction has been personally a little bit scary. It’s made it much easier to avoid my favorite candies. Reese’s peanut butter cups and Nutty Bars taste good, but I’m not willing to risk a severe allergic reaction for them. In many ways, my diet resembles a Gluten-free diet- except I try to avoid all of the processed, packaged “gluten-free” foods. I’m a money-poor high school teacher at this point, so with the medical supervision for the allergy shots, all of my diet and exercise changes are under my own supervision. If I had the option, I would consult with a nutritionist to help further refine my understanding of my own body’s food tolerances and intolerances, although finding a nutritionist willing to let me have the level of autonomy I need might be challenging. Good luck with your continued health efforts! It sounds like the walking is an ingrained habit now – sounds like you might be ready to make another small positive change.

      • Grace,
        After spending almost a year researching the issue, I lost two (!) sizes by cutting out grain – all grain, not just gluten grains. I actually lost too much weight, and eventually replaced the calories with raw fats. I’ve gained back a bit, not much, but I needed to.
        Good luck!
        P. S. Your weight gain could be muscle from the tread mill desk. Muscle weighs more than fat!

  10. I don’t know if I am a non-conformist… BUT I don’t care about high heels even though I am petite.. My parents keep on saying that I should wear heels but they aren’t comfy and I don’t like them…

    • I’ve heard two explanations for high heels. First, they put women closer to a height parallel with men, and second, the shape the lady’s calf so it’s more attractive… to men.

      Um, nope and nope. Destruction of my posture would require far more compelling motivations than that.

  11. I had to think about this as I hang around enough quirky people to think being different is actually normal! But probably the most obvious area where I differ from most folks I know — and I mean the most obvious to them, because I don’t think about it any more — is that I don’t own a TV or a vehicle. I ditched the TV years ago because I realized watching it actually made me more tired and indifferent than I wanted to be, and while I share a vehicle with my dad (who lives next door), I prefer to get out and walk about town whenever I can.

    Getting rid of both definitely relieved a lot of stress, helped me connect more to the world around me, and let me appreciate silence or natural sounds more.

    • People ask how I get so much writing done. First, I don’t–most of my published manuscripts were written before The Heir came out three years ago.

      Second, no TV. Not since college, and at the rate I’m going, not ever.

      I do love my truck, though. Love it. I’ve dreamed up many books while driving out to San Diego to see my parents.

      • I think that’s why I like your work so much. You wrote it without thinking about publishing. It seems more real to
        history then books written now that have to have a certain slant. Both your emotional and sexual writing are more human than current writing. Showing how Bart’s death impacted a family forever really made the series for me; my mother’s death in a car accident when I was 5 still exists for me, and changed my Dad’s life forever.

  12. I don’t really know if I could be called a nonconformist, but I am one who doesn’t stick to the norm so I guess it could be said. I get lost in books (not tv), enjoy nature to the fullest at any chance I get (not glue myself to electronics like most), speak my mind (truth may hurt), love my animals (as much as any family member), and enjoy the little things more than anything else. So maybe, I’m normal, maybe I’m not. But, regardless I’m me and I’ll enjoy it while I can. 🙂

    • Enjoy…. big word there. I’m cooking on a post about how joy leads you back to your true self when you’re lost, but we so often follow the sorrow trail instead.

      Good for you, Amy!

  13. I don’t know whether this is my only assumption but probably mostly people who like reading is more like being alone, enjoy time to reading then go out with friend even sometimes ofcourse we like to go out with family or friends and I feel comfort with being alone and can do what I want by myself 🙂

  14. I get up early each morning. I enjoy the peace and quiet. I work full time and have many responsibilities and I enjoy my time. I enjoy walking my corgis, reading and my coffee. This quiet time centers me and prepares me for the day. It took me awhile to figure out that I needed a ‘ time out’ in my busy life and I am grateful for it.
    On the weekends, my kitchen smells of home made bread, dog cookies , stew, candles and tea. In a time where take in and eating out is the norm, I love to cook and bake for my family. I enjoy sitting down to a nice cup of tea on weekend afternoons. That’s my weekend treat!

    Reading Lady Eve’s story this week and loving it.

    • I love that book too, Susan. It was complete in draft before I realized that I know somebody who got into her first incident of serious boy trouble at age sixteen, and it ended badly… I know her really, really well.

      The author’s always the last to know.

      I started writing by getting up at 4 am and having fun with Let’s Pretend. The brain is at its more creative then, for me, and it made me feel like I’d put first things first. The rest of the day was for the world, those writing hours were for me.

  15. I’m a bit of a nonconformist myself. I say “bit” because I’ve always wanted to be just a little bit different – but not so much that I’d be a “freak of nature.” Even during my teenage years when I wanted so badly to fit in, I was still aware of a desire to be an individual – to stand out a little on my own.

    I’m also a very solitary person. I’m the only one of my siblings who did not marry, and for most of my adult life I have lived alone.

    During the times I’ve had someone (roommate, companion, friend or relative) living with me, I found that if I didn’t have a certain amount of time alone, I became very cranky. I have never been afraid of solitude.

    Sometimes when I see so many people constantly on their cellphone, I find myself wondering if they are afraid of their own thoughts. Maybe it’s just me.

    I often joke that my obit will read “found at the bottom of her stairs surrounded by her dog and two cats.” And no one will ever know which one I tripped over. (smile)

    • Saw a FB post about somebody who’d found an upset kidlet wandering around Walmart. They found Mom, who was on her cell phone and hadn’t even realized Junior had strayed.

      One of my siblings sees all the cyber time as connecting, but most of the studies say it does the opposite–it takes away from our significant relationships and from our motivation to work on them.


      • I wonder if any studies about cyber-usage have looked at differences between introverts and extroverts? It seems to me that usage patterns and advantages/disadvantages might be different.

  16. Hi Grace!
    I love what you wrote! Here is my thought!
    I always fought for what I have now. Life has spoiled me but I had to work for it, nothing came down on me by enchantment. I found passions, like reading and making jewelry, which give me a sense of well filled and accomplishment. I’m kind of a rebel type so I have to force myself a little discipline. Life is beautiful and I think we should live it fully.

  17. Grace, by reading the other posts, I’d say you seem to have created a haven for loners who like to read. Thank you! It makes me feel almost “normal.” I’ve slowly discovered over the years that I am an introvert. Socializing and groups of people suck energy out of me – to recharge my battery, I need some alone time. Time with others works better if it is structured. I will function well at a movie, board game night, play, etc. Dinner is OK because at least you have the structure of the food. A cocktail happy hour – or any “party” where the main expectation is you talk – fills me with dread. And I think it’s the extrovert/introvert conflict that’s at the bottom of this. I’m surrounded by people who are recharging their batteries by making small talk with each other – so for them, the occasion is positive and energizing. It’s sucking energy out of me, with very little benefit. There’s a book called “Quiet” that I want to read- but nonfiction reading is more like work, even when I’m interested in the topic.
    Each week, I look forward to your blog. It serves as a trigger for self-reflection and has become a positive Sunday morning ritual for me.
    I also wanted to comment on electronic devices and the internet, as some of the other comments brought this up. I honestly don’t see the negatives in my life that many people report. I have been able to keep in contact with Navy friends and relatives who live at a distance. I’ve been able to find communities of people who share interests with me (books, the Navy, education, etc) that just aren’t available in my small rural community. And I don’t think my electronic connections are replacing my real connections. The reality of my life as a loner is that before the internet, I was often times lonely when surrounded by people. That part hasn’t changed much; what has changed is what happens when I am alone. I used to spend all of my alone time reading. That works while I’m actually reading, but when I have to stop reading, as I always do, I would feel lonelier than ever. With social media and the internet, I can interact without having to expand the kind of energy I would have to in person. And this helps alleviate those feelings of loneliness.
    I think that the internet also helps improve face-to-face interactions for me as well. It gives me conversation starters and points of commonality, so I don’t have to expend as much energy to improve relationships.
    I think the key is to control your electronic communication so you’re not always on. I have some natural limitations on my electronic connection. I don’t have a smart phone; mine is not even particularly text friendly. I do have a Kindle fire, but most of my social networking, personal e-mail, blog responding, etc. is done on my home computer. The school I work at has a no cell-phone policy and no social networking policy for students during the school day, and I try as much as possible to follow that policy. It seems to me that the real issue is in the “all or nothing” approach to electronic connection. It kind of comes back to moderation.
    Something else that’s come to the front of my mind this morning is how much of my introversion is actually a control issue, but I’m going to save that topic for another day.

    • Amy, I tend to come down where you do with social media. For me, it’s just right–I can be myself, but not feel overwhelmed by humans in my space. I can shut it down, expand or contract, my social media stream, and so what if much of it is casual? It’s casual in a way that doesn’t have that cocktail party chit-chat drudgery to it.

      My mom told me that she endured having to be a friendly hostess by finding the person in the room who seems most awkward and alone, and starting with them. She finds something to compliment them on–you’ve found the last quiet corner, what a pretty hand bag, anything–and then introduces them to the next quietest person. They surely did not teach this in law school, but they should have.

  18. I believe in my case it would be Blessings, with every position in employment I did something I loved, sometimes not knowing or having knowledge but willing to learn and knowing I would…it was a joy in being surrounded with flowers, gorgeous bridal gowns, etc…but, at the front I dealt with people and helping them find happiness. And I would not let family deter me otherwise, for to me that was a negative. The constant negativity I receive from my family for what I do with my life is drenching, so, I keep away and I am at peace with myself, to their puzzlement.

    • There’s family of origin, which can often be a blue print for how NOT to enjoy life and be yourself, and then there’s family of choice. A lot of people never find the strength to create the second, much less to protect themselves from the first.

      Hat’s off to you, Juanita!

  19. Oh, Grace, I do love a rebel. One doesn’t have to get out and riot to show that you don’t necessarily agree with a particular opinion. I was raised by a very quiet but mentally strong mother. My father passed away when I was a baby leaving my mother with 3 little children all under the age of 3. As she had a good education, she was able to get a job that kept us reasonably comfortable. Fast forward to when I married my professional husband whose job sent us to Paris for a number of years. My sister was horrified that I would even consider leaving the area where we grew up to move to a – gasp – foreign country! Other family members accepted our decision. After the Paris sojourn, we returned to our hometown to work until we retired. That’s when we decided to move to Florida as we love the warm weather. Again, my sister was horrified that we chose to move from our hometown. While I don’t consider myself a bra-burning type of rebel, I do not hesitate to express my honest opinion, albeit in a non-hurtful way.

    I enjoyed your story about the conflict studies that you took in college. I think that many times professors want their students to think and learn to form their own opinion so he/she might be quite pleased to know that you disagreed in some respects. However, there are those professors who want you to believe everything they are teaching you. For example, my mother used to tell me that she had an English literature professor in college who truly believed in fairies or the little people. So, she wrote all of her essays on fairies and aced the class. I think she told me this to try and keep the rebel in me from rising up too often. It worked to a certain extent but not totally! 😉

    Thank you for the lovely giveaway. You’re going to make someone very happy.

    • The interesting thing about that program was that we all came across the teachings of Paulo Friere, who wrote “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” His point was that students need to be empowered, not made to feel like ignorant baby birds who must rely on the all-knowing prof to instruct them into knowledge. Students have the ability to learn, they tend to know more than they’re given credit for (particularly in his setting, which was a country suffering from lingering colonialization), and inspiration is a far greater gift than any one body of facts.

      The guy who taught my class is no longer on the faculty at EMU.

  20. My older siblings are teachers. So I picked something else, Accounting. And started writing on the side, but never told the teachers. When I published my first book, they weren’t impressed, but their kids became my fans.

    • I’m sorry your family wasn’t impressed. I’m impressed! It’s more likely that you’ll get hit by lightning than land a book deal. If it’s any comfort, my dad told me he’s ashamed of my books… (My mom lit into him something fierce.)

  21. When I was very young and trying to find my own space in a well-populated household, I made a pact to live in the woods in a little cottage by myself. I would have a garden and my piano. I learned as I grew how to carve my own space without ever having my cottage. Now even older I can demand that space from those around me by simply going my own way. I have my children and grandchildren who recognize my need for alone time. But I think I give a lot to get that time where I can retreat to my cottage.

    • Thoreau lives in the cottage next door to yours, Cheryl. What few people recall about all his advocacy for the contemplative life of self-sufficiency is that he walked an entire half-mile to his mom’s back door most days and let her fix him lunch.

      Your approach–the cottage within–is the one that makes for most peaceful and pleasant household, I’m thinkin’.

  22. I’m pretty easy going & so was my Mom – we didn’t like to rick the boat. The first time I remember rocking the boat was when a led a rebellion in my fifth grade french class. The teacher was a bully and would berate students horribly and of coarse focus on those who showed a reaction. So one day I’d had enough and started answering ‘Je ne c’est pas’ to every one of his questions – and others picked it up & answered in the same way. I thought he was going to blow a gasket – his face got all red & his eyes bulged. He yelled so loud other teachers were looking in the door. And then his hour was over. My Mom got called to come in to school – she wasn’t happy having to do that. I told her what had been going on and she still said I shouldn’t have defied the teacher – until she met & had conversation with him. She said he was a jerk (that was pretty strong for my Mom). We got thru the rest of the year and then that teacher was gone. Apparently there had been a lot of complaints voiced after our mostly peaceful protest.

    That program in Conflict studies sounds fascinating – perhaps everyone should take a class in that no matter their major.

    • Diane, hats off to your 10 year old self, who I gather was not one of the teacher’s preferred victims, but who stood up for them. Well done. There’s a book idea in that story! What is it about fifth grade? The nun who started out teaching my fifth grade class was not suited to that calling (euphemism alert), and didn’t make it much past Christmas.

      Thank God.

      And yes, the EMU program is wonderful. I still use a lot of what I learned there, all over my life.

  23. What an awesome background. I don’t think I’d have wanted to leave college surrounded by so many experienced activists.

    I’ve been a non-conformist in the types of jobs I’ve held over the years, sales of cars, fences, burglar bars, pools, graduate students at the local business college, manufactured dessert mixes and now snowballs. I credit that to my father who felt that a woman should be no different than a man in what she can accomplish. Now the conflict resolution training would have come in handy…

    • They were peace and justice activists, Martie, which is peculiar paradox. From their frame of reference, when you have a just society, it will be a lot more peaceful. From my perspective… just according to whom, and where is one of these miracles that we can test that hypothesis?

  24. I say the one area I do pretty much my own thing is in the kitchen. If I find a recipe I like I usually try to cook it. Most of the time it turns out well. The only problem is most of the time it is usually something the kids won’t eat. My solution to the problem is to show them where I keep the PB&J.

    • My favorite authors tend not to be the blockbuster bestsellers (unless we count Mary Balogh?), and when I read the heavy hitters, I’m mostly left wondering what everybody else sees in them. Not always the case, but often.

  25. I was always such an obedient child. And the most obedient wife. Because I hate confrontation. There’s been a lot of it in my life. But I find that when I actually do what I want, I am so much happier. The problem is getting one without the other. So like you I need humor, I need romance novels, I need companion animals (and some family and friends).

    • Catslady, here are the steps to collaborate problem solving, which can make a discussion feel less like a confrontation:
      First, agree on a mutually acceptable definition of the problem. Example: It’s not that he leaves the seat up, it’s that you’re tired of sitting in potty water at 3 am.
      Second, gather as much info as you can about the problem. Most people at this point would rather start bellowing about how you should look/he should put the seat down. Don’t do that. Instead, figure out how many potties you have (I am being ridiculous), whether he leaves the seat up at work, whether you only have these rude awakenings at 3 am.
      Third, brainstorm options, and the more solutions, the more crazy, the better. You can move out, he can move out. You can install a urinal for him (who thought up this example?)…
      Four, choose a solution you can both live with on a trial basis (because all solutions lead to other problems, and have unintended consequences). You might decide to use separate bathrooms, he might agree to lid-down at night but not during the day, etc.
      It’s not an argument, it’s a problem-solving discussion.
      In theory.

  26. I’ve been an empty nester since shortly after my daughter married for the first time in ’99. When her ex left her I moved in with her and her girls as I have an income and she needed to be with them more than anything else. She did attend a local community college for a time but hasn’t finished yet. After she married the second time and moved out I was happy but when she came asking if they could stay for a while, their landlord wouldn’t fix the electrical problems and she was scared the place would catch on fire, I had the for about 7 months.
    It’s now just my cats and I and I love it, the only sound right now is the small heater in my bedroom and the occasional meow of the cat that’s in heat. I love being by myself and have preferred it more than living with someone. I think the thing about me that most people don’t understand is that I have absolutely no interest in dating or finding a husband. I’ve got a 5 CD player in the living room that ever once in a while I’ll flip it on so I can listen to the radio or some CD’s but that’s very seldom. I did listen to a Celtic Woman concert on YouTube last night while I was reading and sometimes I’ll listen to a “playlist” of songs by the gospel quartet The Inspirations but that’s about it. I guess you could say I live by that saying “Silence Is Golden”. I don’t own a TV and the last movie I saw in the theater was Hurt Locker and that was because my daughter treated me. I’d much rather read a book any day.
    Grace if by some chance I win that basket in your drawing please, if there’s wine in it, keep the wine as I don’t drink, that’s another way I don’t conform as many people do.

    • No wine, Molly, for the very reason you mention. I’m not a teetotaler, but neither do I drink worth mentioning. Family issues, and I’d rather spend those calories on chocolate.

  27. In truth everyone is a non-conformist. If they weren’t we would be called the Borg–or some equally technocratic appellation.

    The question is not so much how to celebrate non-confromity but how to protect individuality.

  28. From the time I was little, I have been ostracized in my own family, feeling like the stork dropped me off at the wrong house. I am completely different from them. I was the first to graduate high school, go to college and join the Army. I also go to church, don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or swear. My friends are my husband, my books and my crafts. I am very much an introvert and panic when I become the center of attention. Pa-rump-pa-pum-pum . . .

    • Cindy, Clarissa Estes calls you a misplaced zygote. You were raised by a life form that seems to have little in common with you. You move on from them, and find your own kind, and then… much better!

      I’m not a misplaced zygote, but I do realize that being far down in the birth order, I learned to be focused on everybody around me, rather than keep an eye on my internal world. Mapping that inner territory has taken a long time from me, and it’s still easy to lose sight of my inside realities.

  29. I don’t really consider myself a rebel, but I am not a conformist either. Not much irritates me more than being told what to do in a specific manner. I don’t like uniforms of any sort — it pains me to no end that I am now required to wear a specific polo shirt at work. The highest heels I wear are my cowboy boots. I’m also one of those people who absolutely has to have some downtime away from everyone.

    I was actually raised Mennonite and defied my mother’s wishes to attend Eastern Mennonite University or Goshen College. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at the time and couldn’t justify the out of state tuition.

    • Glenda, I’m the say way… not defiant, but skeptical. You say I’m supposed to park over there, well, I want to know why, and how come, what if…

      For me, this is a function of two things. First, nobody much showed me how to go on when I was young. I figured things out for myself, and that’s not an easy habit to break.

      Second, there are a lot of buffoons who’ve cornered a small area of authority, irrespective of their qualifications, and I will be darned if I’ll let those petty tyrants park me in.

      Issues, issues, ain’t we all got issues.

      I ended up at EMU not only through church affiliation, but also because there were at the time very few conflict master’s programs. There are a few more now, but because of its international flavor, the program at EMU is considered among the best.

  30. Grace,
    Ah the things one may need to ensure sanity… here are few things I need in order to be me…
    1- God and solitude – the ability to enjoy my own mind… but I am never really alone – I talk to God all the time… He is really my constant and truly inspiration… some may think I am crazy (well this is where I am totally a non-conformist) I talk to Him about everything… that includes the books I read… even the hot steamy scenes… yeah I have no problem being honest with Him… I tell Him jokes too… nothing is off limits…
    2- good friends… the ones that matter. the ones I do life with!
    3- I need my dog Diamond…she is so absolutely a joy…
    4 – chocolate is very important. I cant just eat as much as I want … so I enjoy to the fullest … some Godiva really makes me happy… sometimes you need to have someone to share that feeling and have an out of body experience… you just go “ooooooh this taste good”… but I have no problem eating alone!!!!
    5- good books, a good movie… lately I refuse to read or see any movie that does not have a happy ending…
    6- great coffee,good cup of mint tea, earl gray…
    7- I so need my roses… can’t wait for spring!love to look at them, take pictures, and simple walk around and enjoy them…
    8- I need to have a purpose… a goal… something to look foward to… right now is a new area in nursing… I just passed an exam and officially I am a Certified Foot Care Nurse…
    9- I need to laugh – some years ago I got a book of silly jokes and had so much fun with… I enjoy a good silly joke… puns… well I just love words so any play in words I enjoy… clean fun jokes…

    10- David Gandy… yeah… I have a crush on him and constantly google stalk him… can’t get over this crush… Thank God he is single… I simply like to look at him… 🙂

  31. “In what area of life are you a nonconformist, a different drummer…”

    I won’t give you the list, but suffice it to say, my nieces and nephews call me AW, short for Aunt Weird. But the things that you list in the paragraph about taking care of yourself apply to me. I would only add yoga and meditation. I need daily meditation like some people need their daily medication!

    • My sister’s a Buddhist, and one of the most together people I know. The benefits of regular meditation are hard to argue with–impossible to argue with, in fact. How could there be harm resulting from a quieted mind?

  32. Having read all the comments above, if I were asked to give an explanation of what women want, I would have to say “Intelligent solitude.” Which is SO not a different drum. That the corporate world of media and imagination hasn’t figured this out in the last half century tells me it possibly never will.

    Unless and until the vast majority of women start being verbal, literate and media savvy. For too long both men and women have defined themselves by what they saw in a mirror. Toss the blasted thing out the window!

    Some of the most heartbreakingly literate people I know–including a number of published writers–are physically average. As long as writers celebrate exquisite beauty, wealth, power and wit as the yardstick by which we measure everyone, we will continue to embrace solitude and the siren song of “a different drum.” What flipping other choice do we have?

    So if you really want to march to a different drummer–read a different drummer. An be a writer who writes as a different drummer.

    • Oh, we could swill much tea unpacking that very worthy comment, Lynn. Just this week I saw ANOTHER article about how women are in most English-speaking cultures the more well read, and yet, by an overwhelming majority, the literary criticism is done by men, and heavily slanted toward reviewing only books written by men.

      Makes you wonder who’s reading that criticism, and why.

      I think the literary establishment is afraid of romance and women’s fiction, in part because of the things you allude to: Beauty is not about looking the successful part, not for men, not for women. Beauty is about having the courage to love and be loved.

      In that state, life’s beauty abounds. We call this progression, from a fearful adherence to societal norms, to a brave advocacy of one’s humanity, the character arc, but I think a lot of people–many of them guys–call it scary, or at the very least, bewildering.

  33. Love that little girls picture.
    I would not call myself a non conformist. But I do follow my own heart and ideals.

  34. I grew up in Southwestern Colorado and had Mennonites for neighbors. They were wonderful people and great farmers.
    Your book sounds really wonderful.

  35. For most of my life I’ve been a follower so it is hard for me to say how I dance to a different drum…as I’ve gotten older I’ve stopped worrying what other people thought of me and have tried to make my own decisions rather than on what other people are doing or saying. I’m pretty independent and sorta do my own thing.

    • Age has certainly been a boon to me, Jackie. Sooner or later, the music ends, and then what do we look back on? A lot of Arthur Murray dancing by the numbers, or some delightful improv nobody will ever see or do again?

  36. I’ m a shy introvert….or at least I was growing up. It is not a comfortable skin to live in when your Dad is in the Air Force and you are moving to a new school ever two to four years. I would pretend I wasn’t shy, or terrified, or feeling the odd one out. I would smile and slowly, painfully the smiles would become more real and less forced. It did get easier. I was the good student and mediocre athlete. As an adult I challenge myself with doing Triathalons. Why not pick something so beyond what you feel you can do and then get there? It is a freeing thing, and something that belongs solely to me. As a wife and mother, it is important to maintain that self.

    On another note…. Finished David, and LOVED IT! I want to know what happens to poor Daniel Banks.
    He needs a happy ending. Thanks Grace.

    • My mom had to move a lot as kid growing up during the Depression. She said as an elderly adult, she can still feel that lump in her throat when the family would pull up stakes and move half way across the country, because “there’s work there for Daddy.” She made sure she married a guy who wasn’t a nomad, that worked out well for me, who will attach to a place more quickly than I will people.

      Glad you enjoyed David–he’s off to a good start in terms of reviews, but a bad start in terms of the print orders being delayed. I agree Daniel Banks needs and HEA. I have in mind for him one of Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters… the cranky one, I think.

  37. I’ve always been considered a bit different, because I had an unconventional upbringing. My parents were older and alcoholic and my brothers were 12 & 14 years older, so they were out of the house. I pretty much raised myself, surrounded by books and music.
    So, when I was traveling a lot for a previous job and spent about a third of my life away from my husband, it was no big thing. I was used to being by myself. I was never one to go out drinking, shopping or to parties for socializing. Being by myself, living in my own little world, was a great preparation for my writing. I can tell you are kind of the same way, in that you know your characters so intimately.
    Thanks for being unique!

    • Julee J, I also have two brothers thirteen years older than I am, and when I was married, my husband and I didn’t live together. What town did you say you grew up in? I’m thinking something in the water…

      But part of what drives my writing is growing up in a large family and observing my elders, and then missing my siblings as they left the nest, one right after another. My parents were relieved to see them go. Me, not so much.

  38. YOU Said in 2.1 ” Mary Anne, I’m often utterly flummoxed at the disconnect between what my publisher thinks readers want, and what readers clearly indicate they want. In my books, the scenes people email me about, the ones they bring up on blogs, are not the hot scenes. Many readers report skipping those–the biology’s the same in every one, right?

    The scenes people recall are familial.”””””

    Hi HO!!! Yes, Yes – Please keep writing this kind of interaction. I see that there is a readership that loves the long (LONG) sex stuff – Not me, and I get cranky when I have to skip 10 or 15 pages to get back to the good stuff….I accept that the current trend has all my fav authors heating up the sheets and long for the pendulum to go back to moderate sex.

    I just finished David and it was awesome (sans the sex), and I would like to see what happens to Daniel Banks also….

    • Georgie, in theory, if we’re writing them correctly, the hot scenes contribute to either character development or the dramatic arc. They’re about emotional intimacy, rather than just biology. We don’t always get it right.

      In a romance, there’s an implied third arc. Yes, the characters are growing and changing into better people; yes, somebody’s saving the ranch or thwarting the killer, but the third arc belongs to the relationship itself, to the romance.

      The craft workshops don’t teach us much about that arc, and it shows in the books. In a romance, by my lights, the main character IS the relationship, and if you can’t show it becoming more trusting, respectful and intimate, then you’ve failed to deliver on the promise to the readers. My gripe is that a lot of the romances that don’t include erotic intimacy don’t develop the emotional intimacy very convincingly either (for me).

  39. As the oldest sibling in a large family, I learned early on that there were certain rules that I needed to follow to the letter. As I got older I learned to bend some of those rules and to test others to fit my own life.
    As a young adult I learned still other ways to bend and otherwise contort rules and regulations to bet fit my needs.
    As an adult you really truly come to regard some rules and expectation as absolutely ridiculous and have no business in our lives.
    I have believe that I follow rules when not doing so affects others detrimentally the other rules, however, I interpret in my own style.
    Thanks for asking this question!