April 25, 2011

it's all downhill from here

I have a lot of hair. It's not atypical for my half-pony to be the same thickness as other people's regular size pony. And right now it's really long too, so there is an especially large lot of it. After I take showers, if I put my hair in a ponytail, I swear to you it will stay wet for DAYS. Days. My hair's water retention is impressive. So when I was in high school, I realized that if I flipped my hair back and forth like 15 times it would shake some of the water out of it and make it easier to dry. I did it every morning.

If this song isn't already in your head from reading that, it should be:

Sorry I did that to you. But not that sorry.

Anyway, I haven't whipped my hair in I don't know how long. I don't know why I stopped, really, or why yesterday morning when my hair's water retention was at an all time high, I decided I should try it again. I'm going to call it sleep deprivation paired with I'm-running-late-what-will-make-this-process-go-faster desperation. So I flipped my head upside down - so far so good - flipped it back up, and promptly fell to the ground in a heap of crippling pain. I don't know if it's whiplash or I pulled a muscle or what but it was awful. All day I moved around with stiff neck. In church I had to do the whole body swivel during greeting time since every time I turned my neck it hurt so bad I thought I might throw up. I felt like Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles trying to function with that awkward neck brace.

She may very well be my favorite character in that movie. When she tries to use the drinking fountain and then wipes her mouth with the applique skirt on her sweatshirt, I DIE.

Apparently for me, 26 is the year of becoming old. Suddenly I can't do things I used to be able to do and I'm inflicting serious bodily harm by trying to do them. That's never happened to me before. I hate it.

Since I've been 26 I've also acquired [I don't know if you heard] a REAL GROWN UP JOB. Which I'm so excited about - but also I realize that my days of prolonged adolescence are coming to a rapid halt. Sure, no more cover letters, no more babies [at least not til I have my own], no more Hedge Funding, no more folding khakis... but also, no more sitting in coffee shops, no more going out on Monday nights just because I can, no more watching Mad Men while the baby sleeps, no more sleeping in, no more fun. I'm hoping it's not that extreme, but I really wouldn't know, I've never had one of these before. 

I guess I'm just flustered because no one told me it would happen so fast. One day I'm footloose and fancy free, flipping my hair and galavanting about, and the next thing I know I'm whole body swiveling and going to bed at 9 PM and I'm talking about my 401K. Or 403B. Or 402X. Or something. I have 2 weeks before I start my job in which to learn how to be a grownup. Or learn how to make it look like I am one. I don't think my new employer will appreciate it very much if they ask me a question and I ask to call my parents or yell in a panic, "I NEED AN ADULT!" If anyone feels they are especially proficient at adulthood, feel free to help a sista out.

Either way, I think my neck debacle has made one thing perfectly clear: it's all downhill from here.

April 22, 2011

something & Everything

One of the most comforting things I have ever heard came to me in a time where very little was comforting at all. I got this little email from a friend telling me this: that she had no idea what to say or do but, she told me, I didn't have to carry my sadness alone. She told me that there were people who loved me who would carry it with me. Words are my favorite for a lot of reasons. Where comfort is concerned, I think words almost always fall short. For once though, they sort of didn't.

In the book of Numbers, Moses is at the end of his rope because the Israelites need too much from him. He says to God, "I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you're going to treat me, put me to death right now - if I have found favor in your eyes - and do not let me face my own ruin."

[Moses just asked to die rather than deal. Can I just say I love that this is God's response:]

The Lord said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone." 

There is a lot of burden. I got a whole degree in counseling for that very reason and I still don't know how to handle it most days. But I read that and I think, yes. Let's bear one another's burdens. Not in a way that makes us all codependent messes with terrible boundaries, but in a way that's the way community should be. Not because I want something from you or because I want to control you or because I want to fix you, but because I love you. Because I have room right now for a little of your junk, so let me carry some for you. We won't ever do it perfectly, but that doesn't mean it's not something.

I think we are called to bear one another's burdens. When I stop to really think about that, when I remember and reflect on my friend's words, I am moved almost to tears at how beautiful that really is. But that verse in Galatians continues: "and in this way fulfill the law of Christ." Today is Good Friday. That passage in Numbers is not insignificant, I think, and Galatians either; in community, we emulate Jesus. But today we reflect and remember and weep because Jesus took all of our sin and suffering and burden to the cross. Not like us - not just a little. Not just when he remembered. Not just what he could handle. Not just for the people he liked best. It was hard and it hurt and it cost something. 

We don't have words extravagant enough to describe that. It's Everything.

April 18, 2011

getting the pause back

I have been babysitting ever since I was old enough to take the Babysitters Club Class at school. A real dream come true, then, after all the BSC books I'd read - it seemed the coolest thing to be at the age of 12 was a babysitter. At the present time [why yes, 14 years later, I am still at it] while I'm good with toddlers and pre-teens, it would seem that my specialty is babies. Word has apparently spread that there is a 26-year-old Seminary Grad with baby experience [magical words] who will still babysit. I would rather be pretty much anything other than a 26-year-old with a Masters degree who is still babysitting - so I'm not bragging - but I am in high demand. A hot commodity. What do you know.

At present, I nanny for this little tater tot who's about 11 months old. He can crawl at warp speed, he can pull himself up on just about anything, but now - I can see it in his eyes - he wants more than anything to  walk. Over and over, each time hoping for a different result, he pulls himself up to standing, precariously lets go of whatever it is he's pulled himself up on [9/10 times it's some apendage of mine] and stands. Foooooor about 2 seconds. Then he falls squarely onto his little diapered butt.

And a funny thing happens at this point: he looks to me. There is a small window of time - just a couple seconds - in which to decide if he is upset about this fall or not; if he's going to pitch a little fit or if he's going to move along as though nothing happened. I have a lot of power here, as his reaction will be likely be a direct response to my reaction. If I rush over and act like I'm going to call an ambulance, he will probably cry. If I laugh and make a funny face, he will likely shoot me a little two-tooth smile and keep on keepin' on. It would seem we were born with the pause. Without fail, with the majority of babies I know [unless they are legitimately hurt, which is another story entirely, before you go calling CPS on me] there is an event [in this case, the fall], there is a pause, and then there is a reaction.

Somewhere along the line, though, I think the process starts moving a lot faster, and the pause is lost. Now we are adults and it goes like this: we fall, we react. Simple. That little window of time where our moms or nannies are constantly watching us is over. So one day we pause, look up, and realize we have to decide on our own how to react. It's up to me. Am I fine? Am I hurt? Am I upset? Am I going to cry, scream, laugh, yell, throw my toys around in a fit of rage?

Most of the time, I don't pause anymore. Maybe some days are better than others, maybe my reactions on a good day are calm and peaceful and holy. Emphasis on the word maybe. Regardless, something bad happens and I react to it immediately, on instinct. So many times I catch myself, twenty minutes, three hours, four days later, finally pausing to reflect on my actions. And what good is the pause to me then?

This whole train of thought took me to Paul in Romans 7: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, and what I hate I do... For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Even though I have the desire to do what is good, and most days I do, my inclinations aren't always right. My habits are not always healthy. And as such, my reactions are not always fruitful or productive. I will always be a dirty sinner, as it were, so praying for the erasure of sin and the arrival of perfection seems a little silly. But in watching the munchkin process his little life, I've come to realize that what I can pray for is a pause - a moment to process. A moment to look up for guidance.

Chances are I won't ever get it perfectly right.
Getting the pause back might be a step in the right direction, though.

April 16, 2011

your real thank you note is in the mail

I don't need to tell you [again] how much I love birthdays. It goes without saying that birthday week is one of my favorite times of the year. This year was no exception. I am having a great birthday week.

Another thing I love about my life at present is that I am known. I am known to the very depths and core of my being and that, that is a simultaneously terrifying and beautiful thing. I believed for a while the lie that if people knew me, they wouldn't like what they saw. They would reject and point and laugh and leave. But this week as people I love loved me in birthday ways, I realized that that scary fear is no longer a fear. It's a reality. A lovely one, at that.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say:

a surprise over breakfast tacos; a pink & purple cake with cream cheese frosting; a statue of a hand making the rock out sign; going to see my favorite band with favorite people; handcrafted cards and other handcrafted items; a ticket to a high school musical; my favorite book, fancily bound; a [big-ass] book of crafts; an art-capade; the perfect StoryPeople print; relief for the dire straights that are my finances; a movie about Unicorns; THIS; words of affirmation all over my Facebook; and quality time with so many people I love so much.

Some of those things are basic, perhaps, but others of them are not necessarily what you would call normal. I don't know that all of you would like a statue of a hand for your home or a movie about Unicorns or to go see a high school play. Which is why I call that list - perfectly crafted to somehow meet my every need and desire - perfectly delicious proof of how I am known and loved.

I don't mean to sound braggy, but honestly, I feel a little braggy.

And to those of you who know me, who know my crazy and my ugly and my broken and who have stuck around to love me, you should know that you are by far my most prized gift. Even better than that video of the Unicorn puppet singing Michael Bolton. Which is saying something.

April 9, 2011

the right kind of home

New is exciting, and fun, and healthy, and necessary. Change can be good.

But I have to be honest, I like familiarity. And I think it gets a bad rap sometimes, like it's a lazy thing or it's about settling or we're getting "too familiar" - which means it's time for something else to take the place of said familiar. And in some instances, like I said, good. Great. It's not good to get bored or to settle or to be lazy. But sometimes I just like feeling familiar.

So I like it that I listen to The Cranberries Greatest Hits and instantly I'm transported to my senior year of high school and I'm in my '94 Ford Explorer and I'm late to softball practice. I like that the weird mural on the walls of the basement stairway of Wellspring makes me feel a surge of safety and community and welcome as soon as I turn the corner. I like that I know my house will smell like pumpkin for almost the entirety of autumn. And I like it that when I stepped off the plane last night in San Antonio and felt the nasty humidity blow through the jetway, it sent me right back to the years I spent here. I took a deep breath of wet air and I was walking home from the Kappa house on a Friday night. I was heading to the Murch study lounge to write a paper on the role of the femme fatale in Hitchcock films (best paper ever) and also laugh with my friends all night long. I was walking to Marble Slab on the Riverwalk with a bunch of high school kids. I was at the Taco C drive through with The Power Six at midnight, I was cheering for the Spurs [without fear of persecution, I might add], and I was getting thrown into the Trinity fountain on my birthday.

Let me be clear: I pretty much hate the weather here. I hate that I walked across the street this morning to get a cup of coffee and I got sweatier than I did in Zumba class on Wednesday night. I hate that when I'm here my hair becomes akin to a lion's mane the minute I step outside. This isn't one of those situations where I'm exaggerating for dramatic effect, either. Had I considered for even a moment the climate of San Antonio in my college choosing process, I probably never would have made it to Trinity University.

But I loved the four years I spent here. I love that wet air and lion hair and general sweatiness makes me feel, in a weird and sort of unpleasant way, like home.

I remember reading a study in my Social Psych class about familiarity and attractiveness. It showed [long story short] that when a person became familiar, they were rated as more attractive than they were initially, when they were unfamiliar. Their appearance hadn't changed, but [psychologically speaking] knowing their face made the subject perceive them as better looking, somehow. I remember thinking that that's kind of beautiful: that knowing a person makes them more attractive to us. Intimacy breeds desirability. Familiarity - for better or worse - has an effect on us.

I don't think it's a trick that our brains are playing on us. I think it's not about settling or getting too comfortable or being lazy. I think it's because we were designed for knowing and for being known, so the connection between knowing and liking is in our wiring. I think it's because familiarity makes us feel home. I didn't mean to love San Antonio, but San Antonio became home. I can't not love that.

New is exciting, and fun, and healthy, and necessary. Good.
But I think a case can be made that the right kind of home is all of those things too. And then some.