February 23, 2011

I need an adult

Because I love to preface...
The following story has been slightly hyperbolized for dramatic effect. (operative word = slightly.
Mostly I thought it would be funny to see the following chain of events on paper. 

We've talked before, you and I, about how I am a highly irrational human. I have come to the conclusion that this irrationality is perhaps at the root of another of my flaws as well - (two, I know, you wouldn't know it to look at me) - I am indecisive. I hate making decisions. I'm terrible. I know that I'm a grown up and I'm supposed to be able to do things like decide what to eat for dinner or what movie to rent from Redbox, but some days it is just not that simple, you know? Recently we were invited to go to this swanky grown-up martini fundraiser, and we decided to get all dolled up and go. I felt great about it. Until the day arrived, of course, and I found myself on the brink of hysteria because it was already 4:00 pm and I still had approximately 287 decisions to make.

What should I wear? Should I go get something new? No. I don't have any money because I'm a nanny. Great, now I am stressed about my career path AND I have to decide what to wear. There's this dress - buuuut I wore this dress the last time I was trying to pass for a grown up. What if someone notices that on every grown up occasion I wear the same thing? (That's not a lie. I actually thought that. Upsetting on multiple levels.) Maybe if I style it differently? I could belt it. There's this skirt - no definitely not that skirt. Back to the first dress again. Maybe I can just do my hair differently? GOODNESS, my HAIR! Curly or straight? Curly. Natural curly or curling iron curly? What time is it? OH THE HUMANITY!

THEN (yes, it gets better. worse? better.) I get in the car with my dear, darling, wonderful friend. My friend who is a kindred spirit in general irrationality - which is both awesomely validating and double-trouble all at once. This is, I think, an accurate depiction of how the ride to the event went:

- I think I'm wearing too much eye makeup. Does it look trashy?
- No, of course not it looks great but do you think I shouldn't have worn nylons? Do people wear nylons? It's just that tights looked funny... Maybe I should take them off. Do you think I should take them off?
- No, they look great, you look perfect. Is it ok that I'm wearing a shrug? Maybe I shouldn't wear it. Do I look like a grandma? I look like an old lady don't I?
- No! Wearing a cardigan is totally acceptable. You look great. [We arrive.] Now get out real quick and look at my legs. Should I keep these nylons on? I really don't love these shoes...
- Should we wear our coats inside? It's not THAT cold, but do you think there will be a coat check? What if there's not and we have to carry it around? It looks like those people are wearing coats. Ok, let's wear coats.

Then as we walked in my friend slipped on the ice and onto her be-hind. It was the last straw. It was at this point I thought to myself, I need an adult. We needed one. Someone to step in and tell us to shut up, because really, we are smart, normal girls who know how to dress ourselves and attend functions. We just forgot for a minute.

You can laugh, it's ok, because the whole thing was ridiculous. To be fair, most days we get dressed all by ourselves like we've been doing since we were toddlers and go out and have a lovely time without spiraling into the pit of despair because we don't know if we're wearing an appropriate nail polish color. But we were just ever so slightly out of our comfort zone, and we panicked a little. At least we can laugh about it now. And since I know you are on pins and needles... you can wear a shrug, people do wear nylons, and there was, in fact, a coat rack.

Despite it's deceitful appearance, it seems to me that being a grown up isn't about not being scared so much as it's about doing stuff even when you're uncomfortable and unsure, indecisive and irrational. Learning with every heroic foray into grown-up-ish activities that yes, in fact, you can do it. The adult is in there, somewhere, and I bet with practice I'll start to hear said adult interject a well-placed "shut up" every now and then. Maybe one day I will walk into a fancy party and realize halfway through that I got there with grace and ease. One day...

In the meantime, I feel pretty lucky to have at least one person who understands what it's like to become slightly deranged when I get a little insecure. The more I'm honest about it, the more other people are too, and the less alone we have to feel in the face of adversity. 

Yeah, adversity. Or, as the case may be, in the face of completely inconsequential daily choices.
Coat or no coat? We can do this!

February 14, 2011

a smattering of love-type things

I'm something of a rebel, and as such, I don't just love rules. And I feel like Valentines Day carries with it a lot of rules for how we're supposed to feel and behave. Speaking exclusively in sterotypes, boys are [as a rule] irritated in anticipation of the pressure of we-the-females' expectations. And girls, as a rule, have seen about eleven too many rom coms starring Ashton Kutcher and as such have irrational and unrealistic expectations for aforementioned don't-stand-a-chance dudes. Single people are supposed to wear black and call it 'Singles Awareness Day*' and make fun of people on dates and hate boys (or girls, as the case may be). Which in my experience really isn't that fun and Mondays are bad enough as it is, you know?

I have only ever bought one Valentines gift for a boy, and I'm proud to say that it was a Bryan McKnight CD when I was a freshman in high school. I stressed so much about what to get, but the aforementioned boy loved the song "Back at One" [repeat steps one through threeeee] and I decided this was the perfect way to tell him that after being together for a week and a half that my feelings for him were real. Looking back, the fact that he liked that awful song enough to warrant wanting the whole CD should have been a real sign of things to come, but alas, love is blind. Especially when you're 14.

Honestly, my favorite Valentines Day was senior year of college and it involved copious amounts of Bella Sera with assorted members of the Power 7 and sort of unintentionally sneaking into the neighbor's house when they weren't actually home. The Bella Sera was pretty business-as-usual but we saved breaking & entering for really special occasions. So top THAT, future Unicorns of my life. I dare you to try.

Speaking of Unicorns (when am I not?)... here is, as promised, a smattering of love-type things:

a favorite (possibly only but who's counting) lovey dovey blog post: remixed below, original here

[and if what calls itself a world should have the luck to hear such singing
everyone certainly would (my most beautiful darling) believe in nothing but love]

a favorite love song for your listening pleasure:

and lastly, mostly because I can't resist: a favorite super snarky valentine e-card:

And so, happy Valentines Day. May yours be filled with love-type things. And Unicorns. And the kind of joy that one can only find in cheap wine and accidentally kind of committing a misdemeanor. 

* Probably not a coincidence that the acronym for this is SAD. I'm just saying. 

remember that time I admitted to believing in Unicorns? [a valentine re-mix]

Having a blog is a little bit like writing an ongoing novel about myself. I write my life, that is true - but I am fully in control of what about my life I write. It is a great thing that I can be real and authentic and write truth... to the extent that I see fit on a given day. The truth is the truth, but I can spin it how I like. I get to choose. When it comes to my life on paper, I am the author, creator, editor, and mastermind. I can write something completely untrue if I want (I don't do that, for the record). I can write something and delete it if I don't like what I see. I'm in charge. I have control. And for your information, yes, the weather is lovely in delusionland.

In the life that I write, I try very hard not to write about the L bomb. Love.

I don't mean love as in a "love your neighbor" or "I like my new Sketchers, but I LOVE my Prada backpack" kind of way. I mean love... like, LOVE love. Romance love. The subject of every movie geared towards my demographic love. DOYOULIKEME check-yes-or-no love. It's not a subject I feel super comfortable positing my opinions on. On the one hand, to be a 25 year-old single girl writing about love feels stereotypical to me, and I genuinely never want to be described as predictable. But admittedly, I also secretly fear becoming that girl. I feel like you've probably met her - the one who talks about nothing but. It is possible, however, that my refusal to accept this topic has caused me to err on the side of never acknowledging it, which is a kind of predictability in itself. Foiled again! So here we are.

Against my will, the yucky love stuff (I will face kiss anyone who gets that reference) has been stalking me lately. Believe me, I fought it... but this past summer I was invited to 8 weddings. 8 save the dates, 8 invitations, 8 RSVP cards (typically late, because, I'm me), 2 pretty great bridesmaid's dresses, 1 maid of honor speech, many bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, plane tickets, road trips, and blisters (from excessive dancing in heels) later, way more of my friends' last names have changed on Facebook than I am comfortable with. (Seriously. I hardly know who anyone is anymore and it's very stressful.) I get that it's unavoidable at this stage of life, but still. I'm surrounded. And at some point, one must put on one's big girl pants and DEAL.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Unicorns.

Yes. Unicorns. Those mythically wondrous sparkly horse-like creatures with horns growing triumphantly from their majestic brows. Sunlight beaming from every inch of their lithe, irridescent bodies. Unicorns. The concept of the Unicorn is wonderful (don't argue, I won't listen) and magical but at the end of the day, we don't think they really exist. Which is why one day, when speaking of a friend's fiancĂ©, another friend and I dubbed this particular man a Unicorn. He was so great that we weren't sure he was real. It came up a few more times as other good guys showed up. Again, we thought, "is this real?!" Months have passed since we first coined this phrase, and one by one, Unicorns have continued to strut into the picture of our lives. Fascinating.

I can no longer pretend that Unicorns (the man kind, anyway) do not exist. The evidence is there, albeit sporadic, and I can ignore their existence no longer. I'm going to resist the urge to go all Nicholas Sparks on you - I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did. And I will add as a caveat that in the midst of all the wedded bliss I was privy to during the summer of oh-ten, I learned too that these things rarely look like we think they will. That the timing we have in our heads is never accurate. That there is the potential for a lot of heartbreak on the way there. And while I don't believe in "but even after all that they found each other and they lived happily ever after and nothing bad ever happened ever again because they were both beautiful and in LOVE" Disney fairytale crap-ola, I do believe in Unicorns. Which, if you know me, is a big deal for me to admit.

Since we (the females) first gazed longingly into the eyes of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in the shiny pages of Teen Beat and discovered what True Love really felt like at the tender age of 11, we have hoped (some of us more quietly than others) that Unicorns were real. I just want you to know, girls, that I'm starting to think it might be possible. You need not settle for horses that will kick you right in the teeth if you let yourself get close enough. (To be fair, I've always been a little a lot afraid of horses, so my opinion of them may be slightly exaggerated, but it's all in the name of the metaphor. Hang in there.) Quit hanging out with horses. Hold out for a Unicorn.

And boys - I'm not trying to be subtly hateful, so before you get your boxer briefs in a bunch, listen up. You, too, can (and probably will) be someone's Unicorn. Let me rephrase - you get to be someone's Unicorn. Yes. I've seen it happen too many times not to believe it's possible. We're waiting for you. I think I may already know some of you which is equally encouraging. Thank you for being so swell already. Thank you for acting Unicornly to me even though you aren't necessarily my Unicorn. Congratulations. You, well, you're the rarest of rare.

February 2, 2011

things that don't have faces

Kids are funny, and my nephew Timmy is one of the cleverest. I find that when he doesn't want to do something, he can usually come up with a pretty good reason that he can't. Once, another little boy wanted Timmy to play with a worm. Clay held up the worm and Timmy told him, regretfully, "oh, I can't. I'm not allowed to touch things that don't have faces."

Besides that this may very well be my favorite sentence of all time, what an interesting thought that is.
Things that don't have faces.

As an aside, it is cold. This morning when I got in my car, it was -13. Degrees. Fahrenheit. Given my personality it may not shock you to learn that I rarely check the weather. As such, I often leave the house wearing inappropriate footwear, and sometimes I walk out my back door in the morning and step into a winter wonderland when I didn't even know it was supposed to snow. But on Sunday at the food pantry I had so many people alert me to the weather that this time I knew it was coming. One of the things I get to do at The Well is pray with people, and we prayed a lot this Sunday about the impending temperature drop. We prayed for jobs to come through so that they could afford a motel room for a couple of days, things like that. A mere 48 hours later, yesterday, I walked out of the gym and the sweat in my hair froze. It was at that moment I started to really worry about those who wouldn't have a place to sleep when it was in the negative teens.

I haven't worried much about this in the past - I have to admit that. It's never bothered me to the extent that it did yesterday, anyway. And I felt like such a jerk, because it was the first day I worried about it, but it was far from the first time people had been homeless in subzero temperatures. I felt selfish and ignorant and hypocritical. But maybe it isn't that I was a soulless human being before yesterday (fingers crossed). Maybe it's just that this time when it struck me that people would be without homes in this disgusting cold, it didn't just look like a special on the evening news, it looked like people I hugged and laughed with not two days ago. It's not that I've never had compassion for people sleeping on the street, it's just that now, homelessness has faces.

It's sometimes hard to really understand things that are beyond the realm of our experience, because those things don't yet have faces for us. It's not that I don't care or don't see it before, it's just a different, more wholehearted kind of care and sight after. Giving pain a face makes it realer. And when something gets real for us, I don't think we need to be embarrassed because we didn't get it before. It doesn't mean we're heartless, just so very human, so very limited. And I think in getting it, however late we feel we are, we get to experience firsthand the character of God.

I didn't have much empathy for addiction until it had names and stories, until they were in my family, until I saw my own face in theirs. Maybe divorce is just a statistic until it happens to your best friend. If you come back from Africa and suddenly can't talk about anything but, it doesn't mean you're going through an Africa Phase or that your concern is a fad. It's that now, Africa has faces. Maybe you never felt the need to speak out against derogatory slurs until homosexuality was a friend you dearly loved and mentally handicapped was the sweet kid holding your hand tightly at Young Life camp. I didn't often think about cancer until it bulldozed my family, and now even hearing the word hurts. And I didn't pray much about people sleeping on the streets until sleeping on the streets had faces.

My stomach was in knots as I tried to pray over every name I could think of. But through the knots there was a whisper of truth: I didn't need to know their names because Jesus knows their faces. God knows each of our faces. We are all faces, names, stories, children, and the knots that I feel over the twenty or so names I know is nothing compared to the love, compassion, and pain that Jesus feels for us and with us. God is so big, and Jesus is so personal that the smallness of it can almost seem counterintuitive. The Creator of the universe knows your face and my face and the faces of everyone I just mentioned and then some. The very hairs on our heads are numbered. If even just one of us is lost, he knows it, and he comes looking.

Maybe this whole face thing is another part of why we're meant to be together, in community, doing life with one another and taking care of each other - so that we can catch a glimpse of the immensity of the  tenderness of God. When we feel the knots (that come, inevitably, with community), that's Jesus. It's a reminder that God is big enough to be powerful and small enough to be personal. What a lovely juxtaposition.

Let our hearts break for the things that break God's heart. Let us see faces.