November 27, 2011

I like scarves because they make my neck feel safe

I feel like by now almost everyone in my life already knows this little factoid - and thus tortures me with it on the daily - and for the rest of you, well, now you'll know too. I have a highly irrational issue with people touching my neck. I HATE IT. I will judo karate chop you right in the jugular if you come near it. I really don't know why, and yes, there are some exceptions to the rule. But generally, I am programmed to flinch as though you've thrown a grenade at my face the minute you reach for that vulnerable area between my face and my bod. Which, come to think of it, probably explains why I own like 37 scarves; they make my neck feel safe. And I like feeling safe in a wide variety of fashionable colors, apparently.

Over the holiday, I got a facial for the first time. I walked back to the tranquil room, ready to get my relaxation on, and I lay down as instructed and waited for my facialist to re-enter when I realized something alarming. She was going to be all up in my neck space. I panicked a little, but I thought, it's fine. I can totally handle this. I could not. It was a nightmare. Constant neck touching. I flinched as she touched me the first time, then the second, third, fourth, until she said very sweetly in her heavily accented voice, "You're goink to chave to get over this, sveetie. I'm goink to be touching your neck the chwhole time." Perfect.

I realized suddenly that my shoulders were literally up my my ears and I was white-knuckling the sides of the table like my life depended on it. I was embarrassed by my inability to lock it up and thus, determined - and I did it. Slowly but surely. I made myself put my shoulders back down and unclench the table. I reacted a little less every time she reached down, until finally, I relaxed. And ohhhh, how relaxed I was. It was a positively blissful hour of time. My discomfort at the outset aside, that hour of perilous neck-touching put me in a state of peacefulness unlike I'd experienced before.

So of course it got me thinking, you know as everything does, about vulnerability. I keep looking for a study that states something like, JUST KIDDING! You don't need to be vulnerable to be happy. Go ahead and hide under scarves forever. But the more I look for that, the more lessons I learn that are exactly the opposite; that everything worth having requires some degree of vulnerability on my part. Much like you can't get the full effect of a facial without letting somebody touch your neck [no matter how much it makes you want to scream], you can't really connect or be known if you're not exposed a little. It just can't happen.

Touching is the most tangible form of connection there is, I think, and thus serves as a pretty stellar metaphor here. And this experience taught me something that's probably kind of an important extension to all my other lessons about being vulnerable. Metaphorically speaking, the places I don't want to be touched are probably where I need it the very most. There's something really beautiful about letting it happen, too, I can tell you that from experience. It was horribly unpleasant, because for that window of time I was at risk of strangulation and other such neck-specific foul play, but in the end, letting go of it made for an insanely delightful hour of self-care.

There will always be options to flee, or scream, or punch someone in the jugular when they get close to wherever your vulnerable place is. But you're gonna have to suck it up and let someone touch your neck if you want the best possible experience. And you're going to really hate it, right up until you realize that you don't.

November 23, 2011

on generations

Generations are fun because when you're the same generation as someone else, unless you grew up on different continents, you are probably going to have something in common. Probably, you who are reading this from my same generation, one of the following is true:

We both loved Shining Time Station [and as a result...]
We were both pretty convinced that jukeboxes only operated because puppet bands lived inside them
We both wished our pog collections contained slightly more impressive slammers
We're both going to get excited when "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" comes on the radio
We both wore half side ponies on the first day of school at least once
We owned Umbros. Or Sambas. Or both. And probably wore them together. Every day.

Anyway, I could go on, but unless you are a girl and were born in the mid-80's, you probably are bored by now. My point is that even though popular culture is sort of lame in a lot of ways, there is a commonness to it that is a little bit nice.

A while back I was talking to my friend Megan. We get confused a lot because we both spell our names the right way and both of our last names start with G. Anyway, once we were talking about our similar name and we discovered - much to our dismay and delight - that we share something else in common: we have the same namesake.

Both Megan G and I were named for the same slutty [sorry if that's crude, but I mean, she was] character, Meggie, from the same smutty novel, The Thorn Birds, which was published in 1977 and which both of our moms read and loved. And while it is alarming on several levels that I am named after a character who fell in love and had an affair with her priest, let's just bypass that detail and agree that it's funny and great that Megan and I have this oddly specific thing in common.

So, while our mom's can bond over their common love for some good old fashioned smut [I've got to be honest here - I read it too and loved it so much] Megan and I can bond over our mom's weird connection and over Fraggle Rock or having wanted to look like Kelly Kapowski at some point or another, I'm sure.

It's nothing terribly exciting or revolutionary.
But it's kind of fun, and that's something good too.

November 20, 2011

divine reminders

It was a hectic morning. With Thanksgiving coming up, the Well was crazy. And since I sort of thrive in chaos, I didn't hate it - it was kind of fun if a little exhausting. But by the time I got out of there, my entire self was moving a mile a minute. My brain was buzzing and I had pretty much forgotten all about stillness. Now, if you haven't read what I wrote about stillness on Wednesday, go do it real fast. We'll wait.

So I run out of the Well and remember that if I'm going to bake this afternoon, I'd better stop by the store and get some chocolate chips on my way home. To be perfectly candid, as I was leaving, I had a little sad moment. I don't know what it was - because I didn't even take a second to identify it before I was in full-swing go-mode and had successfully forgotten that there had even been sadness to begin with. Which is, to be clear, exactly the opposite of what I learned from the lady eating soup. She was but a distant memory as I walked into the store, still doing six things at once, still not in any way still

I grabbed some chocolate chips and some cuties clementines because they were the perfect shade of orange that you know they'll be delicious and I walked towards self-checkout, and you guys, I am not kidding you: there, right in front of me, shuffling through the store in the exact same jacket I wrote about on Wednesday, was the lady eating soup. She's perhaps been to the hairdresser since last we met but it was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, her.

After I registered who she was, I got very awkward and ducked back into the baking aisle and feigned interest in muffin mixes until she passed by. She was, of course, entirely oblivious to the absurd reality that someone I wrote about randomly in a Panera less than a week ago was now in front of me in a grocery store that was on a completely different side of town than said Panera. I mean, really? That's just plain crazy. 

I told my friend that story today and her response, I think, says it better than I could. After hearing about the lady eating soup and her valiant reappearance in my life today, she just looked at me and said:

"Stop it. Jesus!!"

My friend is right; it was. And the message I saw in the lady eating soup was to stop. So, I did. And I was sad a little, sure, but it's okay that I was sad because that's just what I was today I guess. And you can't be anything other than what you are, so that's that then. My big issue with stopping is that sometimes when you stop, when you're still, there are feelings to contend with. Which is in large part why I am opposed to being still in the first place. Which is I'm pretty sure why the lady who ate soup showed up in my day today. 

I wonder if she knows. I wonder if she has any idea that a chaotic twenty-something is getting seemingly divine reminders of stillness from her. I wonder if she feels a little tug and quietly knows, in her peaceful sort of way, that she made a difference in a life. I still really can't believe that I saw her again. It just seems like a lot of work, I guess; bringing that poor old woman all the way to the grocery store by my church, far away from the Panera where she eats soup, just to remind me to be still. But it's an important lesson, isn't it? So important that I needed to hear it twice in 4 days, apparently. 

I suppose I'd better listen. Mostly because if I'm faced with a third encounter with the lady eating soup, I'd have no choice but to talk to her. And we all know how awkward I can be.

November 16, 2011

a lady eating soup

I am sitting in a big comfy chair in the corner, happily bouncing my feet to the bluegrass pouring from my headphones, indulging myself with some adolescent literature. I look up for a second, only for a second, to see if they've refreshed the coffee yet, and I see you. You, a lady eating soup. You catch my eye.

There you sit, in a booth all alone, slurping soup in slow, deliberate spoonfuls. Daintily dipping your baguette, when the mood strikes. You don't speak. You don't have any company, today, as you eat soup in the afternoontime. You don't read a book or listen to music or even really look around much. You just eat soup. Legs folded neatly under the table, cups and bowls and utensils lined meticulously in front of you, napkin gently resting on your lap, you eat soup. You are still.

At first you make me sad. I think, oh, how sad, to eat alone. How upsetting, to have nothing to do while you eat your soup. But I realize upon further study that the sadness is mine - I don't think you are sad at all. The discomfort is my own, it must be, because I think you are content. I think you are peaceful and graceful and lovely in your Reebok sneakers and sky blue sweatshirt. Your hair is unruly and your eyes are soulful and your skin is wrinkled in ways that let me know you've lived and loved and laughed in your lifetime. Maybe even just today, right before you came here to eat soup. I wonder if that's what you're thinking of now. Or if you're thinking of anything at all.

And I think, I could learn something from you. I could stand a lesson in stillness, in contentment, in grace. I bet you play bridge with your friends and laugh until you cry, sometimes, but today you are just taking a moment to eat soup. By yourself. At 4:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday in an unseasonably warm November. And you seem to be just fine with that.

I watch as you don your jacket, probably the same one you've worn for years, gather up your things, and shuffle out of the place. I think a little thank you to you, the lady eating soup, and then I return my gaze to my book. My feet pick back up with the rhythm of bluegrass, and I sigh a little sigh and sink a little further into my big comfy chair in the corner.

Just ever so slightly stiller than before.

November 9, 2011

the thing about people

People are crazy. It's a fact. I'm not trying to be hateful or flippant, I'm just trying to put it out there, yknow, safe space and all. People, myself included, are generally pretty nuts. Which makes them an interesting sort of business to be in. As a professionally diagnosed extrovert and social butterfly, I love that I get to work with people for my job, and I really do heart relationships. I need them, I thrive on them, they are great. Sometimes, however, relationships with people are not fun. They are colorful and not in the good way. They are annoying and high maintenance and a lot of work, generally speaking. Some days, even though I am naturally bent in this social direction, I get tired. In my profession as well as my life I get tired of people, because being involved with people means that some days, I get yelled at. I get used. I get ignored. I feel swindled and stuff and that is no fun.


Some days, babies get born and you get to hold their little hands. Some days, people need a hug and you're who gets to give it. Some days little girls sit on your lap, pet your face, and tell you how nice you are. Some days parties get thrown and you get to bring the funfetti. Some days, you get to see people thrive and succeed and recover and it's so beautiful. Some days you are thanked and loved and valued and it's a gift unlike any other.

That's the thing about people. Maybe it doesn't make the days you get crapped on any easier in the moment. But in the longrun, I promise, the good stuff faaaaar outweighs the crap stuff. And that makes it more than worth it.

November 6, 2011

never too old to be new

Lately I have been feeling old. Not due to my age, so much, because I'm actually younger than most of my friends and spend the majority of my time trying to seem older than I am, where age is concerned. So not old-old, just sort of used up. Maybe a little lost. I don't know why really; it's not like anything is overtly wrong. There's just sort of an underlying feeling of yuck.

But this morning I woke up feeling new. I walked into church and someone said I looked wide awake, and I thought, yeah, daylight savings! I got an extra hour of sleep! But that wasn't it. Kenneth would probably tell you it's because I went to my first metal concert last night and now my life is forever changed. And be that as it may, that wasn't all it was either. I was wearing a new scarf, but new scarves [while delightful] don't usually have such a profound effect on my psyche. I had a great weekend - I saw so much live music, spent so much time with people I like, did crafts and laundry and took care of other life-necessities that having gone undone were causing me anxiety. But a good weekend and a little less anxiety still aren't enough to account for what I felt like this morning.

Then there was a baptism at church. And I always get real weepy when there are baptisms because it's just the best thing to hear someone talk about where they were and how Jesus saved their lives. There's nothing like a good story of redemption and recovery to tug at my heartstrings. They are a new creation - you can see it in their face and feel it in their joy. Having been doing this Christian business for some time now myself, I forget sometimes what it's like to feel that shiny newness. Which is silly, because it even says in the bible that because God is faithful, his compassions are new every morning. Regardless of time passed, I still need that grace. A lot, actually. Regardless of years under my belt, so to speak, I should still be living and telling stories of redemption and recovery. I am still new. Which is at once and the same time both significantly disconcerting and supremely comforting, if you really stop and think about it.

Isn't it the best when you get a perfect gift and it's a thing you didn't ask for? Something you maybe didn't even think to ask for in the first place? Well, sometimes, more often than I deserve, I get gifts I didn't ask for. Extravagant gifts. Gifts I didn't really even know I wanted. I just show up at church one Sunday, well-rested thanks to daylight savings, neck warm under a new red Target scarf, ears still ringing from heavy metal, and boom.

You're never too old to be new. And for that I am grateful.