December 14, 2012

santa is a party clown

Being Aunt Meggie is one of the very most prized roles in my life up to this point. I love when I get to spend time with the little preshy-pies, and also I love quoting things they say and writing blog posts about them. I quote them a lot because regardless of our significant age difference, they are for sure smarter than me. I'm sure of it because they are constantly saying things that make my internal dialogue go something like this: I knew that. Right? I did, didn't I? Surely... I must have... They say things that are so funny and profound all at once that it's hard to fully wrap my mind around it. Given their track record, I wasn't that surprised last year when Timmy [age 7, then] said to Amie, about Christmas, the following:

So, is Santa like a clown for Jesus' birthday?

I mean, really. These kids. They're like  tiny theologians.

I feel sure there have been days during this very season where I spent more time trying to come up with a Christmas list than thinking about Jesus. I'm embarrassed about it, but it's the truth. And that's what my tender-hearted, brilliant little nephew was getting at when he said that to my sister. 

Jesus is what's important, right? 
Santa is fun but Jesus is the big deal, right? 
Isn't this party is really for Jesus?

Whether he knew it or not, with that little question, Timmy hit a pretty hard theological nerve, at least for me. Because I think no matter how good we are, no matter how much we love Jesus and how well we evangelize and how many seminary degrees we have - yes, even for us - there may come a moment where we're so caught up with the clown that we forget about the real reason for the party. There are moments when things that are not the point take the spotlight over the real reason we're celebrating. When our focus goes to gifts that are shiny and tangible over the ones that actually mean something.

Clowns aren't bad. They can be fun, I guess,  if you're into that kind of thing, and so long as they're not starring in a horror movie. But if you're at a birthday party, you don't fawn over the entertainment, do you? You don't tell the clown how much you love it, right, how glad you are it was born? Unless of course it's a clown's birthday; but let's forget that as an option or my whole analogy is shot. My point is this: Christmas is fun. So much fun. I love it, and I intend to continue enjoying the many perks of the yuletide season. But instead of spending the holiday season focused on frivolous entertainment - on Santa Claus and Christmas lists, the plethora of ABC Family Christmas movies available on Netflix, Skinny Peppermint Mochas, and the Mariah Carey Christmas album - I hope that we can all [myself perhaps the very most] heed Timmy's warning and not lose sight of what we're celebrating.

Because this party is really for Jesus.

December 10, 2012

for just in case you get nervous

Today I went to see a guy I know. He's an older guy, and something you should know about him is he's a giver. He loves to give people things. He doesn't have a lot, not much at all - but what he has, he gives. I've seen him give away anything from wristwatches to cigarettes to an entire platter of chicken, once. One thing he particularly likes to try to give me is VHS tapes. He's got a plethora, apparently, and I can't tell you the number of times he's tried to convince me to go buy a VCR so that he can give me videos. He'd very much like to be my own personal Blockbuster. Videos for days.

Today I did something for him, something that he could not do for himself, and afterwards he wanted to thank me. After going through the whole VCR debate once more for good measure, he hoisted himself up from where he was perched on his walker and went to a drawer under the the shelf where the infamous videos are haphazardly stored. From the drawer he pulled out a small plastic bag of what I know to be his favorite candy, and from that he drew a generous handful and motioned for me to hold out my hands. Here, he said. I resisted, said no thanks, said I'd rather he keep them, tried all my usual refusal tricks, but he would not take no for an answer, not this time. After some back-and-forth about how no, I was not refusing because I thought he was trying to poison me, he said:  just put 'em in your pocket. For just in case you get nervous. What that even means, I'm not sure. I suppose there'd be no way of knowing. Either way, what choice did I have?

I filled my pocket with Root Beer Barrels.
For just in case I get nervous.

I don't have a really significant reason for telling this story, other than I wanted to tell it - it was just one of those nice moments we get to enjoy sometimes, if we're paying close enough attention. I was presented with a sacrificial kind of generosity, one of the rarer kinds, and one I wouldn't have expected to experience in the form of a Root Beer Barrel, if we're being honest. It was only a handful of candy, yes, but it was his handful of candy. It was all he had to give, and he was so, so happy to have given it. I think that's kind of a beautiful thing.

Maybe it sounds like a strange thing to take note of, and maybe it is, a little. All I know is, today was a good day, and whether I wanted them or not, I've got a pocket full of Root Beer Barrels to prove it. And for whatever reason, I just think that's great.

December 4, 2012

fine or not fine, here goes nothing

The other day I was sitting at my desk with my office door open and one of my coworkers walked by. I heard him, noticed him, I think I even turned around and maybe even waved. Once he passed by the door, though, he almost immediately turned back - he came in, sat down across from me, and looked at me with what appeared to be extreme concern.

Ok, he said, what's wrong? 
I said, confused, nothing's wrong. I'm fine. I was. Why do you ask?
Dead serious, he said, when I started down the hall I was singing a song and you didn't pick it up when I walked by your office. I was worried. 

Being in a profession with so many intuitive people is annoying sometimes, I won't lie to you, because hiding is essentially impossible. It's not far from the truth to say that he knew something was wrong before I did. After all, he was right. I hadn't even noticed he was singing - and that really isn't like me. So I thought about it. I thought I was fine, but was I fine? If not, then why? Why am I all of a sudden not doing things that I love and are important to me?

On a completely separate and unrelated note, you may or may not have noticed that it has been over a month since I wrote anything at all. So. 

It wasn't a choice I made, really, to not write - I guess I just didn't feel like it. Even now, sitting here, it's kind of hard. I wish I knew why. I wish it wasn't hard. I wish I was picking up on songs being sung in my hallway, but I'm not. I wish I felt like sitting down to write, but I just don't. 

A few days after my friend said that about the singing, I was in the car listening to Christmas music. One of my favorite Mariah jams came on and about halfway through it I drew my awareness to the fact that not only was I not singing, I had my jaw clenched so tight I had to make a conscious, physical effort to unclench it. What happened next was this: I started the song over, unclenched my jaw, and I made myself sing. It was incredible. Despite my best efforts to remain cranky, and despite the fact that I did not in any way feel like singing, I just felt so much better. 

Tonight, similarly, I am sitting in a coffee shop, drinking chai tea, listening to good songs, and writing a blog post. It's not the best one I've ever written, but it doesn't have to be. Much like the Mariah phenomenon, just being here is the point. Unclenching my proverbial jaw, so to speak, and putting something on paper. I still don't feel like it. But thankfully I know that feelings aren't facts, so I don't have to listen to them always. So tonight, for a change of pace from the recent past, I'm not.

There are probably a few reasons I feel less-than-fine. I should probably unpack that a little more at some point, but not tonight. For now, tonight, this is enough. Fine or not fine, I'm going to do the things I love to do but currently don't so much feel like doing until maybe soon I feel like doing them again.

Not to mention, we are currently within the confines of the one month a year it is socially appropriate for me to listen to Mariah Carey's Christmas album all day every day, and I don't intend to waste one more day of that precious allotment with any more cranky.

So Happy December, everyone. Here's to Mariah Carey, Christmastime, and feeling finer every day.

November 9, 2012

the right kind of home

Today I am going to San Antonio. Today I also realized it's been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything. In light of those two realities, I was brought back to this post I wrote the last time I went to San Antonio, and now I am reposting it because it rings true even still. In so many ways. So here you go.

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 lazy or we're settling or 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 I know my house will smell like pumpkin for almost the entirety of Autumn. I like the ease and comfort of sitting over coffee with someone who knows me, and who I know back. And I like it that when I step off the plane in San Antonio and feel the nasty humidity blow through the jetway, it sends me right back to the years I spent here. I take a deep breath of wet air and I am walking home from the Kappa house on a Friday night. I am heading to the Murch study lounge to write a paper on the role of the femme fatale in Hitchcock films (best paper ever) and laugh with my friends all night long. I am walking to Marble Slab on the Riverwalk with a bunch of high school kids. I am at the Taco C drive through with The Power Six at midnight, drinking Bella Sera in a papasan couch, cheering for the Spurs, and getting thrown into the Trinity fountain on my birthday.

Let me be clear: I genuinely 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 do in Zumba class. 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 over time, when a person became familiar, they were rated as more attractive than they were initially, when they were unfamiliar. Their appearance hadn't necessarily changed, but [psychologically speaking] knowing their face made the subject perceive them as better looking, somehow. I remember thinking that's kind of beautiful. Knowing a person makes them more attractive to us. Intimacy breeds desirability. Familiarity has an effect on us.

I don't think it's a trick our brains are playing on us. I think it's not that we're settling or getting too comfortable or being lazy. I think it's because we were designed for knowing and being known, so the connection between knowing and liking is in our wiring. I think it's because familiarity makes us feel at 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.

October 25, 2012

a small price to pay

There's a thing I do, sometimes, when I get bored or tired or burned out on normal life; when I need a minute to rest, to get away, to not worry about things I worry about. For a little while, I pretend I'm not me. I put on a little show, in fact, and it goes like this:

I go to a coffee shop like the one I'm in now, I order something soy, I find somewhere to sit. I'm quite picky about my placement - I try to make that unspokenly clear to other patrons watching me choose. I find a place that will suit me, I sit there. I've worn something I like, usually, and made sure my hair is pretty good that day. For some reason that's important. Sometimes I wear glasses, but they're not real glasses. I'm telling you this because I trust you won't judge me. I trust that some days you wish you could pretend to be someone else, too. And if it's as simple as donning a $10 pair of fake glasses, I mean, can you blame me?

Anyway, I sit. I have great posture, maybe prop my leg up on the chair opposite me sometimes. I open my MacBook, plug in my headphones and choose something cool to listen to. The Avett Brothers today, I think. It's important that I wouldn't mind if someone knew I was listening to it, should they ask, though I know they won't. I drink my soy whatever and I tilt my head thoughtfully, as I am doing now. I look discerningly at my laptop screen as though to let onlookers know I am carefully choosing my words, which I am, but I want it to be apparent. I do this sort of consciously, actually, as though I think I have an audience, but I promise I know I don't. I know I am only performing for one person, and that person is me. Because I am being someone different today. Nobody here has any idea, how could they, so I guess I want to make sure I know it.

As I sit and sip and tilt, I write. Because in this scene I am a writer. A writer who spends my nights at coffee shops and writes things that are important and meaningful and poignant, who wears glasses, sometimes, whose hair is good on all days, not just this one, who is thoughtful, chooses words carefully. Here I am not a person who's job it is to worry about other people's problems, here I am not a person who has sadness, or grief, and if I am, I am the kind who knows exactly what to do with it. Here I am not the kind of person who cares what other people think. Here, in fact, I am sort of demure and glamorous, mysterious, in whatever kind of way someone wearing a hoodie can be. Here I am the kind of person who doesn't wear my heart on my sleeve, I am someone people wonder about instead of just knowing because I probably already told them. Because, I remind myself, head tilting, here tonight, I am not me.

Eventually, though, I will get sleepy; because I am a person whose job it is to worry about other people's problems, who cares what other people think, who wears my heart on my sleeve, and those things can be tiring. I will stay a little longer, even then, but eventually I snap my laptop shut, take one more swig of soy and pack up my things. It's time to be me again. Maybe just slightly more like the girl in the coffee shop than before, just from the practice, but mostly still just me.

That might sound depressing to you. At first it did to me, too, but I think instead it's actually kind of hopeful. Because I like to think that even though I am me, even though I am set in a lot of ways, I am not stuck. I am me. But the girl from the coffee shop is also just me, in the end, aside from the glasses which I already admitted aren't real. I am a writer. A writer who is also a lot of other things too, things that can be tiring, but who can sit in a coffee shop with a pair of fake glasses on and forget about all that other stuff for a little bit.

Maybe that's what life is, in the end, maybe growing up just means being what you are and practicing the things you'd like to be more of until one day maybe you are those things too. Maybe one day I'll discover I'm a little bit glamorous. Even slightly mysterious. Maybe one day I'll realize I care a little less about what other people think and even though I'll probably always worry about other people's problems, I'll always have coffee shops and fake glasses to fall back on when I need a break, and that's enough to keep me going. Yes. Hope. That's what that is. And as dumb as I felt buying those stupid hipster glasses, I'd say it was $10 well spent. A small price to pay [and by "price" I mean both the $10 and the pride I had to sacrifice to own fake glasses, no matter how cute they are] for an evening of rest and hope every now and then.

October 19, 2012

do the next right thing

Children are very concerned with justice, I've noticed. Or maybe not so much justice as they just always want to be absolutely sure that whatever is happening at any given moment is 100% fair. If he got a cupcake, I should too, and it better be exactly the same size and flavor with the precise same amount of frosting on top please. And if she got 6.75 minutes on the swing at recess then SO SHOULD I IT'S ONLY FAIR. Playgrounds are a veritable court of law. At some point though, we stopped talking about it. We stopped claiming things weren't fair or telling people they should do something because it's only fair. But I thought about it recently and I'm not sure we really did stop. I think we stopped saying those exact words; we realized at the very least it made us sound immature and kind of petty, as grownup people, to say those things. So usually we don't. But did we stop worrying things may or may not be unfair? I think we absolutely did not.

The thing about fairness, I think, is that worrying about it isn't terribly productive. On a given day there are any number of facts about my life I can't change. I am 27 years old. I've made countless choices in those 27 years, some good and some not so. I will tell you from experience that I could spend entire days going through all of those poor choices one by one, regretting them and wishing them to be different, but my past remains a fact. While I can move forward, I can't go back and change any of it because whether I like it or not, it happened. I can spend even more days thinking about the things that weren't my choice, hard or life-altering things that happened to me, and I can think about how those things aren't fair. They may very well not be. My point is, I could sit and dwell on how things aren't fair for some serious amounts of time. How there are things I can't change and how much I hate that. But, to recap, it's not a terribly productive strategy. Because after the days of dwelling, everything remains just as it was before I started. The alternative to that - and I thank the good Lord there is one - is to accept those things as true, if unfortunate, and then [this is the important part] decide what to do moving forward.  I think I can accept what is true about my past while refusing to accept it as my future.

It's really easy to get stuck there - in thinking life sucks and believing the unchangeable truths about our lives are too much to overcome. And you know what? It really does suck. A lot of it really isn't fair. It's easy to feel like we are trapped by our circumstances with no way out, but if only for my own survival's sake, I need to believe that's not true. And when I stop and think about it, I have to wonder if the only circumstance trapping me anywhere isn't the one where I decide I'm trapped and live the rest of my life as if it's true.

When you're faced with a past that is riddled with mistakes and poor choices and missteps, when you're forced to look at the facts of your life and you don't always like what you see, or when you've just screwed up for the hundred millionth time and it seems like you'll be screwing up forever - in those moments, all you can do is the next right thing. Sure, you could sit in your bed or office or car for another 3 hours being mad at yourself, mad at the circumstances, frustrated with your whole life, and maybe you need to for a minute. Get it out of your system. Pitch a little fit. But then you have to get out of bed, accept the facts as they are, take a deep breath, and do the next right thing.

I think on paper this concept can sound really negative and traumatizing, but acceptance is freeing in a way you maybe wouldn't think it'd be. Take it from me - someone who spent a lot of years wishing a lot of facts weren't true. The minute I stopped wishing for something different and asked myself instead what I could do differently, even if it wasn't terribly fair, everything changed. Some days I still feel trapped. Those days are less productive, but sometimes I think I need them just to prove to myself that I don't. And after they are over, I get up and I do the next right thing. The lovely thing about the next right thing is it's always an option. It might look different every time, but even if you've just done 37 wrong things, even then - it's never too late to do the next right thing.

[A moment of honesty - I wrote this yesterday. I believed it with every fiber of my being until I read over it this morning and I found I was less convinced. I'd started spiralling down through a litany of my wrongs, of the wasted years and days and hours wishing that things were different. Even though I am as we speak living the next right thing, I felt inexplicably terrible. Hopeless. Sad and full of regret for the years wasted, and the the unfairness of it all. And then, for what seemed like no reason at all, a little something popped into my head. I remembered a verse I wrote down once from the book of Joel - Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart. I remember feeling the comfort of those first words, as though the Lord knew my litany and even still, even now [even though these facts of your life are true,] return to me. I read on, just because, and I read and re-read 100 times to let the beauty of this next part really sink in. Further down chapter 2 of Joel, the Lord makes a promise.

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.

Is that not just the very best kind of unfairness?]

Accept the facts, take a deep breath, do the next right thing. It's never - not ever - too late.

October 7, 2012

an invitation to not be a liar

Once upon a time, I was a big fat liar.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase where I lied kind of a lot. My favorite thing to lie about was school. We refer to this time in my life as "the hiatus," wherein I went from pretty highly ranked in my class to literally just never turning in my Algebra 2 homework. When people ask me why this happened, I'm never sure what to say. I think I worked really hard and took school really seriously and one day I looked around and realized that there were people who didn't do that. And they were fine. I wondered what it would be like to not work hard too, soooo I didn't. I was not, however, ready to deal with the consequences of that. I wanted to try not trying, but I didn't want anyone to actually know I was doing it. So, I lied. I lied a lot. I lied very specifically and strategically so as to keep anyone from knowing what I wasn't doing. I delayed the inevitable, deluding myself that I would be able to figure it out by the time any real consequence came along.

Imagine, then, when mid-semester parent-teacher conferences come around and my parents come in to learn that their star student is not doing so hot. Upon hearing how drastically my grades had fallen, I'm told they were immediately worried about my psychiatric wellbeing, that I'd fallen into a deep depression or gotten into drugs or didn't have any friends. Until Mrs. Thiel looked my mom in the face and said, oh no, I think Megan's feeling just fine. She's just not turning in her homework. Ever. Oops. It wasn't a pretty time in my household, that much I can tell you for certain.

There were other things, too, things I didn't want to face, so I lied. The situations were different but every time I lied it was because I was afraid. I was afraid of being a big screw up who didn't do things right enough or well enough, and I couldn't handle the thought of that, so I made up something I thought was acceptable to myself and everyone else. I thought it would be enough, the pretty life I crafted for everyone to look at, but all it really did was make me a whole new kind of afraid. I was afraid of the consequences of an action, so I lied to delay them. But what I didn't realize was that my fear of getting caught for the lies delaying my consequences was FAR greater than my fear of the actual consequences themselves. It was miserable. I lived my days as a liar constantly in fear that my jig was about to be up, that I was about to be caught. I was constantly calculating and reconfiguring for when the curtain was drawn and I would have to come clean. It was an anxiety I couldn't handle. I'm just not cut out for secrets.

I screw up a lot. I don't do a lot of things right. But I don't lie anymore. Sometimes I decide I don't feel like working hard and I have to face the music. Sometimes people aren't ready for the mess, and they won't stick around, and that part sucks a lot. But any day of the week I will choose being seen for the messy, broken screw up I am over living with the constant fear of being caught in the lie of trying to make things look pretty. Because I meet people all the time whose lives, to look at them, are carefully crafted and artfully worded and beautifully sculpted into something that is pretty to look at. I even feel envious, sometimes, because I am a lot of interesting colors maybe, but I'm a mess. But then I remember that those pretty store-front window li[v]es are flowery, but flimsy. It only goes so far. Once I go even one step inside I see you've got a bunch of junk much like mine. Having been a liar myself, I wonder how long you've worried about being caught. I wonder how long you secretly hoped and prayed you would be. That someone would uncover your big fat lie so you could stop living in fear of it happening.

I understand the appeal of lying, of pretending, of putting on a show to cover up what's really going on if what's really going on isn't pretty all the time, but it nearly swallowed me whole, way back when. Maybe it'll delay your consequences for a while, but the part where you wait to get caught isn't worth it. Or, heaven forbid, you never get caught and live the remainder of your days alone in a tangled lace of secrets and lies. Here's something else I know about lying: it doesn't make the right kinds of people like you more. It's off-putting and unattractive and as well as you think you're hiding it, you're probably not doing quite as well as you think. I'm not shaming you - which is I know what you think will happen if you stop lying -  I'm inviting you. Inviting you to join the rest of us losers and screw ups and enjoy your life. Relax. It won't be easy, I'll never pretend that's true. But it'll be better. Because you'll never for one more day live in the fear that you're about to be caught. You'll be you, broken like the rest of us and facing music on the reg, but you'll be at peace more days than not, and that's something.

Don't be a liar. Tell the truth and face the music and quit living in fear. It'll be really terrible at first and you'll curse the day you ever read this blog, but then you'll survive it and relax and realize I'm right. I'm a recovering liar and you could be too. Join us in the mess. You'll fit right in.

September 28, 2012

a lady eating soup

[A re-post. Because she is on my mind today.]

I am sitting in a big comfy chair in the corner, happily bouncing my feet to the bluegrass pouring from my headphones, indulging myself in 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.

[also, this.]

September 20, 2012

not one single part

Not long ago on a Sunday, like a lot of Sundays, I was at the Well. The first woman I met with was a regular, and we know each other well. She has been unemployed for a very long time, and it seems her request is always the same - always, we pray for her to find a job. So that particular day she presented me with the same request, the same problem, and I felt so frustrated for her. I felt frustrated for all of us, for the things we struggle with for so long and the problems that, in spite of what seem to be our best efforts, never let up. Few things in this life irk me more than that kind of redundancy. I felt mad and discouraged, and I reflected that to her. But she looked at me, almost surprised, and said she was fine. Things were good. She really couldn't complain, because, she said to me, there's not one single part of my whole life that Jesus doesn't fill.

I want to have that cross-stitched on a pillow or tattooed on my forehead or something. Because I complain a lot. I'd like very much not to struggle with the same things week after week, day after day. There are a lot of things about my life I think could be better and many I wish would just go away entirely. I get discouraged and frustrated and even a little bitter, sometimes. And maybe thats fair, to an extent. But this delightful lady, who lives in the same broken world I do, struggles just like me, I think she has it right. We will always be in need, in some way or another. We will always struggle. Some of us with the same things for a long time, apparently, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but thank goodness for it. Because if nothing else it will keep pointing us back to this:

There's not one single part of my whole life that Jesus doesn't fill. And it's enough. Plenty, even.

September 13, 2012

everybody needs an audience

Here's something about me: I'm kind of a talker. As evidenced simply by the fact that I do this right here, where the basic premise is I write things and expect you to read them, you probably shouldn't be surprised. I was the kid who came home from school every single day -basically from elementary school on - and recounted moment by moment the ENTIRE day for my mother. I'm speaking literally. I remember when I went to college how surprising it was to realize no one cared to hear me recount every event in my day. I thought my roommate would, but she spent most of her energy yelling at me for waking her up, day and night. I swear all that girl did was sleep. And yell at me about it. But whatever, point is, she didn't much care what I was doing. Since that time I've had a few roommates who enjoyed a good debrief after a long day [Alli pie, I'm looking at you] and I've appreciated them ever so much. Because, to recap, I like to talk. And in order for a talker to get the full satisfaction of talking, someone has to be listening.

What I'm telling you, essentially, is this: I require an audience. For survival. I feel sure it's on the hierarchy of needs somewhere.

I'm a lucky little chatter in that throughout my lifetime, I've always had an audience. Even if they were only pretending, someone has always listened to me talk. About My Little Ponies and playgrounds, braces and boys and bff drama and even now about boring grown up stuff like saving for retirement and crock pots. So, yknow, I keep talking. I've always been this way, and probably more so than most; but I think I'm not entirely alone in it. Not everyone would openly admit they want a constant, captive audience [it's fine, I'm secure enough to stand alone in it] - but everyone needs one sometimes.

I can't imagine a world where no one cared about listening to me, is my point, but all the time I meet people whose worlds look like that. People who didn't have a mom who listened to them talk about their day, not a friend or a roommate who cared to hear about how they were doing. I don't know if it's because it's such an important thing to me that I am so sensitive to this, but it breaks my heart pretty much on the daily. Yes, sure, maybe there are worse things. But take away the theatrics and hyperbole [which, sorry, I can't help but bring to the table] - and process for a moment the reality that there are people in this world who consistently feel invisible. Like they are unworthy of an audience. Like their story is completely and totally un-captivating. Few things make me sadder than that.

Once I had a kid referred to me for therapy and the first time I tried to meet with her she refused to talk. I mean she flat out would not sit in a room with me and say words. She was tough - cool and unemotional and a little mean, honestly, which she clearly wanted to make sure I knew right off the bat. I remember feeling defeated as she turned back into her classroom. But then she turned to me, eyes ready to roll, and told me that maybe if next time I brought her "Cheetos or something," she would consider talking to me. Now, I had met with lots of kids who were more interested in getting out of class and the possibility of counselor candy than actually wanting real help, so I knew it was a long shot that this would actually be productive. But something in the way she asked, a glimmer of timidity shining through her nastiness, made me wonder. So the next week, same time, I showed up at her classroom. She followed me back into my office, arms crossed, loaded for bear, and I handed her a bag of Cheetos. She took them, and she sunk slowly into a chair. She opened the bag and she didn't look at me for a long time but she said I'd gotten the good kind. I wish I could do justice in words to the way she transformed right in front of me, with that stupid bag of Cheetos in her hands, but all I can tell you for certain is that girl needed an audience. She was aching to tell her story. She just needed Cheetos to do it.

I think the Cheetos were a test. To see if I'd listen. To see if I thought she was worth the trouble. To see if I'd show up again. To see if I could handle her, if I was really in, before she shared. I think they also served as a buffer for her. It would have gone against everything in her carefully crafted adolescent persona to just accept counseling. Cheetos made it ok for her. Cheetos were a safety net, something to look at instead of me while she unfolded her life for someone she barely knew. I have no idea where or how that girl is today, if it made even a lick of a difference in the longrun, but I know that for the low price of a bag of Cheetos, I got to hear a story I'm not sure had been told before. People need space. And the thing is, whether you're a therapist or not, we all have the opportunity every single day to make that space for someone. They won't need it every day. They may not take you up on it when it's offered. I think that girl desperately wanted an invitation and completely lacked the awareness of how to accept it when it was offered, which was where the Cheetos came in. And she made me wonder how many people I dismiss as demanding or mean who are just that same way; hoping for the space but clueless about what to do in it. I don't know that everyone you meet will be as easy as Cheetos, but I just think the availability of space, the knowledge that if we need it, it's there, is a necessity. It's how we are. Create it in your life and watch people thrive in it. Maybe you already do, and maybe you're great at it. But if you talk a lot, like me, just make sure you're paying attention to the times when you need to shut your mouth and be the audience. You might be the only one they get that day, so you'd better be a good one. A captive one.

And on the days when you're tired, when the last thing you want to do is be the audience, remember you're not just listening. Without saying anything at all, not one single solitary word, you're communicating to another person that you see them. That they're worthy of your time and maybe even a bag of Cheetos. They will hear from you, maybe for the first time ever, that their story is captivating.

I promise you it'll be worth the $0.99 every time.

September 6, 2012

an inescapable reality of my very existence

Summer is a unique time of year in that it pretty much always seems transient. And even now, when I don't get even a semblance of a summer break, the summer brings out in me an attitude of transience, of general whatever-ness. I stay out too late and feel footloose and fancy free because, yknow, it's summer. In the winter I would never do these things, heavens no, but in the summer anything is fair game. I can sit on porches and rooftops til all hours, or go to an Iron Maiden concert and a midnight Grease singalong in the same week, should I see fit. No matter that in terms of the logistics of my life, nothing is different in the summer that should merit such shenanigans. That's neither here nor there. Not where summer is concerned.

This summer has felt excessively transitional though, which we all know makes me uncomfortable, and I haven't been able to quite put my finger on it. I moved at the beginning of it - oh and then I moved again at the end of it, so that's pretty major I suppose. But even beyond that, things have felt more changey than I like. Then the other day someone started talking about being in a season of pruning. [They used words like good, if I remember correctly. Healthy, or something stupid like that.] Anyway, there's actually no getting around that this is what's happening. Hearing it only defined what I already knew. Only here's the thing about that - I don't remember ever signing off on it. I don't actually have any real interest in being pruned at this point in my life, in fact, and as such, I would very much like to call off the shears and promptly put an end to this nonsense. I just moved into my fourth house in a year. Now's not really a good time for me.

It's not that I can't see the long-term benefit of a season of pruning, because I can. I know stuff. I read what John said about pruning and I get that no real change is going to happen without it. I can even recognize that the parts being cut aren't bearing any fruit, but that doesn't make the cut not sting. It doesn't make it less scary to be naked and branchless while I wait for new stuff to grow all up on me. Knowing it's for the best doesn't make it ache less when it seems like every time I turn around I'm watching pieces of me fall to the ground. I'm an attacher. I get attached to people and places and seasons and when they are pruned from me, for better or worse, and whether it's rational or not, it feels sort of devastating for a while. I know change is a process, I know grief and hard things are a part of it and I know it's good and healthy, if stupid. Doesn't mean I want it to happen to me. I know the parts being pruned from me are dead and ugly and fruitless. Doesn't mean I won't miss them when they go. They're my dead and ugly and fruitless parts, thankyouverymuch, and aren't they better than nothing at all?

I think the tricky thing about pruning is that the timing is always right and never good. So I went back, fairly cranky about the whole deal, to consult John about this. I wanted to see if I could figure out a course of action for myself. Maybe I even hoped I could find some kind of a loophole out of it. But instead I discovered that in the midst of my pity party, I managed to forget some pretty basic botany. You see, I am not some kind of magical, free-floating branch. I am part of the vine. Though I am sometimes nakeder than I'd like, I am never disconnected. I read: apart from me you can do nothing. I feel shame for just long enough to recognize it, which is when I feel hope sidle in gracefully, knowingly, to take it's place.

I am not free-floating. I attach because I was first attached. I love because I was first loved. And I will continue to love, to attach, to bear fruit in those loves and attachments, in new ones and maybe even old ones that can yet be salvaged, if I can manage to remember one thing. Jesus says, as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now [finally, instructions!] remain in my love. 

It doesn't say I lost it and I better go scurry to get it back. It doesn't say shame on you, which is what I default to when I screw up. It doesn't say I better figure my mess out, or pull myself up by my bootstraps. I half expect it to tell me that I'd better get to work in the aftermath of my epic fail to try and grow something worthy of the vine. But no. All Jesus says is remain in my love. Remain. Which is literally defined as continuing to exist. 

What this communicates to me is that even when I do it all wrong, God's love for me remains. It will continue to sustain me through cuts and aches and devastation, because it's just a thing that is. An inescapable reality of my very existence. And in the midst of what seems to be perpetual transition, there's nothing at all transitional about that.

August 30, 2012

sorry I'm not sorry

If you have been reading my blog for longer than about six minutes, you will know already that I harp on being free a whole lot. And truth. And vulnerability and love and liking what you like and such. Sue me. I love talking about freedom.

I used to babysit for a little girl who wore the poofiest, sparkliest dresses I have ever seen in my life every. single. day. She was four and loved poof so much that when she got in trouble, her punishment would be to wear pants to preschool. It may sound excessive, her love of glitz and glam, and honestly it may be a little. But I feel like if the kid loves feeling like a princess, why shouldn't she wear tulle every single day? That's what I love about little kids. They're just who they are. They don't have a choice in the matter, really, because they haven't yet learned what shame is or what it means to be socially acceptable. Children bring themselves without apology and without disclaimers and regardless of consequences. And sure, as adults sometimes it's probably for the best that we have a censor for our thoughts and know that tulle is not appropriate for all occasions, but even still, I think there is something to be learned about freedom from the little nuggets.

I used to think freedom was something you had to work for. I'd think, "one day, when I get free..." and then dream wistfully about all the things I would do. But one day I realized something fabulous - freedom isn't something I have to get, it's something I have to accept. I'm already free and that has nothing at all to do with me. My little epiphany opened up a lot of opportunities that I didn't have before, and for someone who spent quite a little stitch of time pretty caught up in what everyone else thought, this last couple years figuring this out has been pretty fun. From having the courage to say hard or vulnerable things to just believing I could be a person who wears red lipstick and does Zumba all the time, it's been interesting to say the least. And thankfully along the way I have had people in my life who are also free. Who encourage me in my freedom even when it looks like dying my hair blue for a minute or getting a tattoo or singing excessive amounts of karaoke or wearing electric blue shoes and doing the running-man all the time. We are learning how to live freely together and it is a wonderful thing. We're living free and taking everybody with us.

This is what, I've recently decided, I am most drawn to in a person - I like people who are unapologetic. Free. What I'm attracted to, what draws me in, what makes me want to spend moments and hours and days together, is that you are what you are and you make no apology for that. I don't mean unapologetic as in people who don't apologize for being jerks, or spilling beer down your back in a bar, or who say mean things and then get all, "what, I'm just being honest!" on you. Not them. Those people are not who I am drawn to. Those people I want to punch in the neck a little bit.

I'm drawn to people who sing loudly and snort when they laugh and have messy lives. I'm also drawn to people who are quiet, who don't say much, who are so sweet it makes my teeth hurt. The thing that I find attractive isn't what they're like or not like. Not that they are loud or fun or exciting or cool or whatever else. Not that they're nice or good looking or extra-smart [though, those are what you might call perks]. No, it's not those things that make me want to be around you and soak you in. It's that you are whatever things you are, honestly and genuinely and real-ly, and you are unapologetic about it. I'm talking about saying hard truths and doing the right thing and being who you were made to me, unflinchingly. It's really hard, I'll give you that, but it's absolutely not impossible. You'll do some weird stuff not everyone will like and your hairdresser might get mad when she has to spend hours trying to get the blue out, but it'll be more than worth it.

The most beautiful kind of person I can think of is the kind who is free. The kind who lives freely, like a princess in a full tulle skirt on a Tuesday. It's not that you'll never have a bad hair day or be cranky or get insecure, because those things are absolutely going to happen. But unless you're being a jerk, don't apologize for yourself. You already are what people who are worth your time are going to love you for. So go be you. Remember that shame is a big fat lie. Accept your freedom and live in it.

Take everybody with you.

August 22, 2012

take a deep breath

I have stated before, as a professional, that sometimes people need help that isn't. So it should come as no surprise to you that one of my very favorite therapeutic techniques is not something I learned in school, but rather something my mom taught me when I was just a wee tot. And that, my friends, is taking a deep breath.

Often I will sit with a client who is upset and I will stop the proverbial presses until they agree take deep breaths with me. They'll refuse, or say they can't, and much like my mother did with me when I fell into hysterics on the reg, I wait. I take deep breaths and wait for them to join me. Like magic, they're breathing. It's working. For the moment at least, panic has passed. All thanks to a simple deep breath. It's very effective. I highly suggest it.

I know from experience it's effectiveness because you see, when I stress, I don't breathe. Literally. It's as if I believe things are so fragile even the tiniest gust of wind from within me could make it all come crashing down. If I can just hold it in another second, I think, I will still be in control. In my scariest and most fragile moments I will often find myself physically struggling for air, trying desperately, pitifully to remain in control, unsure of the last time I allowed myself a breath.

Recently I had a not-breathing kind of meltdown while I was at church. In an attempt to not make a scene, I tracked down a friend I knew would be able to handle me, and I calmed down, with her help. She [recognizing that I wasn't] told me to breathe, and I did a little, just enough so I could go back to work at The Well. I took a deep breath and held it, so as to regain control, confirm my composure, and try to keep the whole thing from crashing down again.

Almost immediately when I walked into the other room, this darling little nugget of a girl ran to greet me. I scooped her up, and as she sometimes does when I don't see her for a while, she began to reminisce on our relationship. I like this about her. It's like she remembers she loves me, but a few weeks have passed, so she has to remind herself why. I like it because she's cute and it's fun to listen to her process, but also because as the list of memories she is compiling gets longer, her hugs get tighter and her face gets brighter and it's just about the best and most affirming gift I ever could get.

As she played with my necklace, thoughtfully, she recounted the Valentine she made just for me, the craft box I gave her and what she made with the stuff inside it, her birthday party, how fun it had been, dinner at my house that one time. And then, as if she'd just uncovered the best treasure she could imagine, she pointed to the exact spot on the couch where once, many months ago, she had sobbed, and where together we had taken deep breaths. She said as she pointed, you taught me how to exhale! It caught me a little off guard but I said yes, that was me, and she threw her arms around my neck. Thank you for teaching me, she said in a tiny voice. Now I can do it even when you're not there!

I don't want to get caught up in semantics, but I feel confident I never used the word exhale with a 5 year old. That was her word. And in that moment, holding all my breath in, her word made all the difference. It was like something in Violet's tender little soul knew there was something I'd forgotten, something she needed to teach me right back.

So I exhaled. It took about the rest of the day to do it, but I did. I took a deep breath, exhaled, took another. That night I thought, when I wake up in the morning, I'll do it again. And again after that. I've been breathing ever since, in fact. Breathed my way into signing a lease on a new apartment and through tricky friend stuff and sadness and insecurity. In a couple weeks, I will breathe my way through yet another move. And I'll keep right on breathing after that, too.

Things may be fragile, but in my experience, holding one's breath isn't a very effective method of control. Because, you see, we require air. And I am so thankful, so very desperately grateful, for the people who remind me to breathe. Who give me permission to to quit holding it in, to breathe all over them, and can handle it when I do. Who will sit with me, patiently, presses proverbially stopped, until I agree to exhale.

Because sometimes? Sometimes it's all you can do. Take a deep breath. Then take another.

July 30, 2012

the old days, as compared to days I just feel old

This weekend I ventured to the great state of Texas to watch one of my favorites marry one of her favorites. I love doing that. And I loved everything about the time I got to spend with the people I love so very dearly, who know me so well. It's such a gift, to be with them, to be known and to be loved and to step right back into my place with each of them effortlessly. So much is different and so little has changed, all at once.

It was just like old times, pretty much. Only there is one thing that is not like old times at all, and that, my dear old friends, is the bounce back. Before, "recovery" looked like a few hours laying in bed watching The OC, a couple of breakfast tacos and a giant Diet Coke, and I was good as new. Tonight [having partaken in both breakfast tacos and Diet Coke and several hours of TV on DVD], a full 2 days past the big event, I put my sunglasses on in the dark of night when I rolled up to a particularly bright stoplight. I won't even tell you how long it took me to figure out why I couldn't see very well.

But if you want to know the truth, I'd do it again. I'd stay up late getting noise violations from hotel staff like it's Sigma Beach 2006. I'd tell one more story about college Kristin, I'd have one more "no I love YOU more" chat in the bathroom, I'd ask Bobby to punch the top of one more Miller Lite. I'd even stay up another hour listening to boys try to convince people they're sober enough to drive to Whataburger and another half hour after that laughing at them as they conspired to steal the hotel golf cart when all else failed. I'd do it. Because it was delightful. And I may be just a shell of my former self today, but I'll be fine in another day or so and all that will matter then is that for one hot minute we were together and it was the same. And I have the Instagrams to prove it.

So since I'm really into making toasts nowadays, here's to the good old days I wouldn't change even on days I feel old, to my sweet pals, to beautiful Sandy and the unicorn with whom she is en route to Hawaii with as we speak, to laughing again about the accidental B&E, and to bouncing back. However long it may take.

And now, to quote Kristen Wiig via Kristin Anne Foster: 

July 27, 2012

unconventional sentiments

Today is my mom's birthday. And if you've ever for one second wondered "where I get it," or how I've come to be how and who I am - and I'm sure you have at least once - well, she is the answer to that question. See? 

Recently I was having a conversation with my family about families. I don't really remember what we said to prompt this discussion, but I do remember clearly when my mom said to us, in all complete sincere seriousness, "Really think about it though. Wouldn't you be sad if you'd had to grow up in a family where no one ever called you an idiot?"

You know what the sick thing is?
I think I genuinely would.

Even though we look good doing it, sometimes our little family can be a real hot mess. [I can say that because I'm part of it.] But we work. We make it. We're pretty great a lot of the time actually, and we're real fun, nobody would tell you otherwise. We keep us on our toes, that's for certain. And even though our terms of endearment are slightly less... conventional, if you will, at the end of the day we know that idiot is practically a pet name. I don't even like you is an affirmation of love. Miming the motion of a quick punch [one of Mom's trademark moves when I do or say something especially idiotic, and to be fair usually I'm making fun of her in some way/shape/form] gives me the same fuzzy feeling as a nice long hug. Don't worry though, you sensitive little souls, we do the other stuff too, the conventional love stuff. It's just not as funny to write about.

So here's to Mommie dearest, my mom, on this, the day of your birth. For always knowing the answers, for teaching me all of my not at all embarrassing dance moves, for passing on a healthy love for karaoke [and the spotlight in general, let's be honest], for always putting up with me when I was [past tense, obviously] awful, for being my perpetual audience, for being so kind as to provide me with just enough dysfunction to make me funny, and for teaching me everything I know, essentially. For all these things and so many more, I say here's to you.

The glue that holds us together even on days when we're not feeling particularly sticky. 
The constant answer to the ongoing question of why, when it comes to me anyway.
My funny, fashionable, groovy Mom.

Oh, and since I'm not there with you this weekend - and I know I've earned at least one mimed punch for this post - you'll have to give it to one of the other idiots in lieu of me. Sorry I'm not sorry, you guys.

July 19, 2012


I feel like Tuesdays are usually not great days. I don't know what it is, but mine tend to have people in them who like to yell. At me, mostly. Or extended trips to unpleasant places for work, like the county jail or the social security office. But it's not just Tuesdays. Sometimes it's Mondays. Or Fridays even, heaven forbid, that are unpleasant or yucky in some way. I don't love it when that happens. Call me crazy, but I am the kind of person who likes to have good days. The kinds where people don't yell at me and stuff.

There are a couple of things - tricks of the trade, if you will, if the trade is having bad days I guess - that can help on these days. I like to call these things game-changers. Often when I am having a bad day and something delightful happens, I will exclaim the word triumphantly [likely out loud and probably in public because talking to myself is apparently a thing I do now] as if to solidify that the game has, in fact, been changed. I'd say most of the time these things are out of my control, unexpected, like a surprise. But there are a few things that, if I am having a crap day, I know are within my power to call into the game.

Those things are, to list a few:
A diet root beer. Preferably in a bottle. Works every time.
Any kind of appointment involving my hair/nails.
Zumba, which for me falls on Tuesday, which is lucky because Tuesday is the pits.

The best kind of game-changer, though, is the kind you're not expecting. The kind where the day just kind of sucks and then something great happens out of the blue and, yknow, changes the game and stuff.

Realizing I parked in a 2 hour parking spot 4 hours after I parked there and not getting a ticket about it.
A really good parking spot at work. Parking in general tends to ruin my life, if you couldn't tell.
Getting to the left turn at Colfax & Colorado right when the arrow turns green.
Someone Instagramming a picture of me where I look really great.
Getting something really good in the mail, like a book I forgot I ordered on Amazon, a $5 bill from Gram, or a photograph of a young Art Bamford.
Good news, in general, tends to fall into this category.
Finding out my client's attorney is as attractive in person as he sounds on the phone.
Any kind of compliment where the gist is that I look really great.

One particular scenario stands out in my mind as the mother of all game-changers, and that is the tale of the time the firemen came to my rescue. Now gather round, and I will tell you of this magical day:

One morning not long ago, I was in a hurry. I got to work a few minutes later than I should have, I was rushed and hustling to get inside to deal with my day. The parking lot at my old office [we moved last week], you should know, was a complete disaster - and on this particular day I parked on the outskirts. Which means my car was blocking about 6 other cars in. Which means I would probably have to move my car in roughly 8.5 minutes when someone needed out. Business as usual, really. My hands were full of junk, so I locked my car from the inside, shut the door, and turned to walk into the building, only to be filled immediately with a sense of dreadful dread: I had locked my keys in my car.

I had to be in a meeting in 18 minutes. I was blocking enough people in that the chances were pretty good I'd need to move my car in the very near future in order to let someone out to do their job. I didn't even have the option to get my spare key from my house because my house key was, yknow, locked in my car. I ran inside and started frantically asking a bunch of problem-solving case managers what I should do. It was suggested to me that I walk over to the fire station, "bat my eyes a little" and see if they wouldn't help me. Having been waiting the entire year of my employment for an excuse to go to the fire station, which just so happened to be across the street, my stomach did a little somersault and I decided it was now or never. Out of time and options, I would have to go to the firemen for help.

So, I did. A nice looking gentleman standing outside told me to go wait by my car and they would be right over. And sure enough, moments later, over the horizon, like a beacon in the night - came not one, not two, not three, but FOUR firemen. Wielding all the necessary implements to avert my crisis. Four strapping young men coming to my rescue. Not usually one to play the damsel in distress card, in that moment as they approached, I decided to forget all about what I usually do, and I played it like. a. boss.

And as they approached - and my female coworkers, as though sensing the firemen's proximity to them, gathered to watch from the window - the panic and dismay I had been feeling was seamlessly replaced by peace and joy, and I exclaimed softly, triumphantly: game-changer!

No I didn't. I was way too busy swooning and batting my lashes and wishing I'd worn something cuter that day to say any actual words, thank goodness. But it would be a way better way to end this story if I had, right? Maybe next time. I do so wholeheartedly pray there is a next time.

July 8, 2012

fireworks keep falling on my head

[After a lovely, relaxing, sun-filled five days at the lake, I am showered, wearing legitimate clothing, and heading home. I can tell I've had enough lake time for now because the Kansas City airport is rocking a little and I'm pretty sure that's not real. Anyway I sat down after being harassed at airport security about the threatening electric toothbrush I was packing [see what I did there?] and realized it's been kind of a long while since I actually wrote anything. My b. I promise I'll post something new and exciting this week - it's just that with all the jet-setting, Red Rocks attending and Bachelorette watching, I suppose I've just been far too busy being glamorous to blog.

But here's a little something - revised for your enjoyment from July 4, 2011]

I love fireworks. The fourth of July is far from my favorite holiday [though it is the birthday of my sweet Nana B, and that I love], but a good fireworks show is easily one of my favorite things. I don't honestly have an explanation for why I love them so much, why there is so much nostalgia attached to these particular crackles of colored light. It's just one of those things, I guess. It just is.

I am something of a fireworks snob, admittedly, as I grew up watching fireworks the only way I think fireworks should ever be watched - from right smack in the middle of a lake. While I can appreciate a good show on dry land, it's nothing compared to the combined sensory experience of the boat rocking gently back and forth, water lapping against the sides, the Apollo 13 soundtrack playing on the stereo [trust me on that one], and the occasional obnoxious yet somehow endearing cheers of lake people. I remember I used to feel like it was a secret we had, like something not everyone could possibly know. I've watched fireworks from rooftop patios with perfect views, sitting on the tops of cars, with people I love. But every time, no matter how good, I can't help but think that when fireworks are done right, as you lie in the dark stillness, you should be just a little worried about debris hitting you in the face. That's how you can tell you're close enough; when fireworks keep falling on your head.

I remember sitting with my little nieces and nephews in my lap as they marveled at the "firecracks." Each time, I found myself wiping tears from my eyes as wonder explodes from their little mouths - because I can remember just as vividly watching the fireworks when I was that little, my mouth gaping in equal parts excitement and terror, mesmerized by the colors taking shape above me. Something about fireworks, to this day, makes me feel dreamy. I remember watching, thinking about what my life might be like, someday. I remember being a boy-crazy teenager and thinking about the romance that was sure to come, of the hands I would someday hold under that same glittery sky. I remember distinctly feeling inexplicable peace as I watched the firecracks, surrounded comfortably by my people, imagining how I would bring my someday people there, someday - how I would let them in on the secret, and take them to the place where the fireworks fall on your face.

And now here we are: someday is here with still more someday to come. Fireworks create a rare space in time where I can love and live the present and feel hope and excitement for someday all at once. Even still, after years and years of hearing the same noises and watching the same finales, I watch [my mouth gaping] in equal parts wonder at the loveliness of today and dreamy dreams of romance & somedays to come.

And also an ever-so-slight underlying fear that a firework might hit me in the face.

June 22, 2012

the tyranny of FOMO

I'm no good at bedtimes. I stay up too late and wake up just enough after when I should that I'll not be super late but also I definitely won't be on time. It's an annoying thing about me. And I get all, oh, it's fine, I'm a night owl! But really? My body likes sleep. Normal amounts of it even. If I stay up late doing something awesome, I can handle the consequences of that. But most of the time in retrospect I didn't do much of anything and I'm tired all the next day and it's really for no reason at all. It's just that when it comes to the end of a day, I panic. I think, I must write one more paragraph. Hang out for one more hour. Watch one more episode. Read one more chapter. Paint one more canvas. Write one more card. Clean my room, paint my nails, do some yoga, make a to-do list, book a flight, etc/so on/so forth until it's 1 AM, I have a full day ahead of me, and I'm not going to get nearly enough sleep to appease my poor, weary body. 

A while back this was defined for me clearly when I was with some friends and I made a comment about how I should leave now before I ended up staying for another 2 hours, as I am wont to do. One of the girls said knowingly, "Ahh yes. FOMO." At first I thought she was swearing at me, which was confusing, but then she explained: FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

I thought, No. Yes.
I don't have that. I absolutely do.
I'm just social and stuff. True, but also not.
It's fine. It for sure isn't.

FOMO is debilitating. And I'm not being dramatic for once, I think it's a genuinely terrible affliction to be afflicted with. It makes everything harder. Watch: What should I do on Friday? turns into What if I go dancing but I miss out on karaoke? and then What if I choose karaoke but then dancing ends up being way more fun? or better yet Should I go home for a weekend? becaaaaaaaause If I do, will I miss something in Denver? OR If I don't, will I miss something at home? horror of horrors What if the best thing ever to ever happen happens while I'm not present? and the grande finale WHAT IF I NEVER RECOVER FROM MISSING THIS ONE MOMENT/EVENT/TRIP/EVENING AT THE TAVERN? It's exhausting. I'm exhausted.

I'm going to be out of town essentially all but one weekend in July, and I was fine with that until I went through a whole slew of Facebook invites and realized I'll be missing kind of a lot of stuff. Per usual, panic ensued. See, I was the kid who never missed school if I was sick because I didn't want to miss being line leader or lunch table conversation or having gym class with the boy I had a crush on. I was the girl who didn't study abroad in college because I didn't want to miss beach weekends and Kappa parties. And while I like to think I'm getting more mature as I age, apparently this is a thing I'm still doing. I have somehow talked myself into believing that I need to be everywhere all the time or I won't be ok. That's ridiculous. Any way you slice it, I'm going to miss things. And what I have to learn now, at the ripe old age of 27, is that it's fine. I'm fine. My relationships are strong enough to survive me missing a party or two. And probably sometimes I'm going to decide to do one thing, then have some regret and wish I'd done the other. I'm going to feel left out every now and again. Especially if I'm not in the Party Pics, but whatever, that's fine too.

The real yucky part of this, for me, is acknowledging that I'm afraid. I'm social and extroverted, yeah. I like to keep busy, sure. But more than that, I am deeply and significantly fearful of missing out - to a degree that interferes with my actual functioning [in that I panic on the daily and sleep far less than I maybe should]. So far, though, living like this hasn't done anything but make me tired, and I'm over feeling panicky every time I have to make a decision. I realized today that liberating myself from the tyranny of FOMO may be as simple as learning to pay attention to what I actually want to be doing in a given moment instead of what I think I shouldn't miss. That's the trick of it. Oh, and I may or may not need to ask my new roommates to enforce my bedtime on school nights. I'm sure that won't be a weird conversation.

So I'm going to miss things. Lots of things, probably. And I'm going to occasionally have to choose sleep and self-care over socializing, which will be a hard thing for me. And if sometimes I want to stay up late and paint my nails or see a superhero movie for half price or read a good book, I can do that too. I'm a grown up and it's my call. And because I'm me, I'll probably still hang out an hour too long or stay up all night painting or read a chapter too many from time to time. But it won't be because I'm afraid not to. 

June 12, 2012

we're lake people

I don't like to stereotype, but I think you can pretty well categorize people by the kinds of vacations they go on. There are people who ski, who spend their spring breaks in Breckenridge and their Christmas bonuses on goggles and poles. There are people who spend long weekends at resorts in Mexico, who buy sarongs and wide brimmed hats and have jewels on their sandals. There are people who just want to park their mobile homes in your driveway for a few days on their way to Niagara falls. I hear there are even people who just like roadtrips, belting out Springsteen as they blaze down the highway, nothing but open road ahead of them. There are people who camp, hike, backpack and those people, well, they're tougher than me. People do all kinds of different things for pleasure. And sometimes we branch out, yknow, to broaden our horizons and whatnot, but for the most part people seem to gravitate back toward their own vacation kind. I am of an interesting breed myself, always have been and always will be --

I am lake people.

Lake people are a lovely kind of people to be, I think, and vary quite greatly in terms of their non-lake living. Some of us actually live on lakes, sure, others go for weekends, others once a summer, etc. We come from all different walks and places and lifestyles [mostly midwestern], but at the lake, we are the same. And while this does not go for all lake people, people who go to lakes are probably pretty average on weekdays. They probably go to a job and are productive members of society, most days, but when it's time to go to the lake? Things shift in a big, delightful, borderline trashy way. We transform. We become lake people.

Maybe you wear a suit every day to work, but the ones who are lake people can also wear a swimsuit and nothing but for a straight week and not flinch. No shoes, no shirt, sorry, that's a dealbreaker. Drinking during the day at home may be unheard of, but at the lake? If you're awake, I'd say it's fair game. Children get to be wilder and adults let looser and teenagers dream of the day they'll be allowed to go to party coves and take Sea-Doo rides with the boys from the boat next dock who they also plan on marrying, one day. Lake people don't worry about showering - on a day we're feeling particularly fancy we might bring some soap down to the dock. Lake people don't get upset when they accidentally have a cocktail too many in the afternoon and end up using the dog's brush on their hair. Lake people eat dinner at 10pm and still wake up early to ski before the rookies come out. Lake people have not a care in the world aside from when do the fireworks start and do you think we have enough bratwurst?

As you know I am a girl of many families, but one thing we all share is a common acceptance that we are lake people. It's something I get from both sides, and thank goodness for it. Since I live farther than is drivable to any of the lakes we frequent, I don't get to go as much, but I am always thankful for the ease with which I slink back into my easy breezy lake self. Give me a speed boat, a cooler full of cocktails, some jorts, and a bottle of sunscreen and I'll be happy for days. Add some smutty mags and a couple whips around the lake on a tube and I'll be downright giddy. Maybe I'll lake bathe [i.e. suds up/rinse off in the lake] once. Maybe I won't. It's fine. We're lake people. We can handle getting a little filmy for a few days.

I was lake people all weekend, in fact, but now I am back; wearing a dress and washing my hair, putting on makeup and being professional. But it doesn't mean I won't morph right back into the same kinda trashy, jorts-wearing, dog-brush-using, day-drinking, tubing-even-though-it-hurts-me, lake-loving fool when I get in sight of the water again. Give me a good fireworks show, maybe some sparklers, and color me delighted. We're lake people. We don't need much more than that.

[If you're curious about finding lake people outside of lakes, there are ways. They can often be spotted singing karaoke [this, in my experience, is a big tell], sitting in the Rockpile at Rockies games, purchasing tank tops at Walmart, hanging out in dive bars, wearing Corona t-shirts, talking about wakeboarding, and frequenting the frozen drink and encased meat sections of the grocery store.]

May 25, 2012

stupid little bird

My clients are known for having some interesting requests. And a couple days ago, I kid you not, I got a voicemail that said this: Hey Megan, I found this baby bird that must've fallen out of its nest - do you think you could look online for me at places we could take it? Thanks! See you tomorrow! Now, the thing of it is, I have approximately ten trillion things to do with this guy. We need to go to the Social Security office. We need to find him a place to live. We need to go to lots of meetings and appointments AND he lost his bus pass so I will have to cart him around myself until he gets a new one. That's a lot of stuff. So ask me if I really care to spend time looking online for bird sanctuaries. The answer is no. No I do not.

So sure enough, at our scheduled meeting time, in walks my client carrying a giant cardboard box.

Hey guy, I say. You've got a bird in that box, don't you? Affirmative.

Now, I don't really like birds. I like putting birds on things, but I don't so much want anything to do with an actual bird.  So mostly to appease him - because he is undeniably sweet and clearly very concerned with the health and safety of this little pipsqueak - I went up to my office and googled "found a baby bird Denver." Much to my surprise, through a series of weird phone calls (hard to hear, what with all the birds in the background), I found myself jotting down directions to the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center of Denver. That's a thing. And because my sweet client wasn't going to let go of that damn bird until I took him there, there is where we went. To Wild Bird Rehab. Which, to recap, is a real thing that exists.

As I drove, the little nugget sat in my client's palm, squawking and being generally bird-like, and I have to admit to you that I was feeling a little annoyed. This was adding more than an hour to an already long and generally unpleasant expedition to Social Security. All for a stupid little bird.

We arrived at the bird place and the bird people, rushing it to an incubator, applauded my client for keeping the little dude alive for those few days. He'd saved the little bird's life. It was a little adorable, how pleased he was, how relieved that the bird would get the care it needed, how he explained so earnestly that if you just make this little noise he'll open his mouth to eat - and since I'm not some kind of heartless fiend, I did begin to soften a little to the whole situation. Even Wild Bird Rehab. My client asked as we walked out - something of an afterthought - what kind of a bird was it that he'd saved? A sparrow, she said.

Sometimes the world is rough. Sometimes people look at us, at me probably, and say all of this trouble for stupid little you. When we've got so much more important things to worry about. But when I heard that woman's voice say that it was a sparrow he'd saved, my breath caught a little because an old hymn rang through me, clear as the squawk of that little bird in my client's palm:

He laid out a path for me that I may see - 
I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free
for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me

Even on that stupid little bird. You don't have to sing because you're happy, I don't know if you are. But at the very least (which if you ask me is maybe the very most) you can sing because you're free. I know you are that.