I Can’t Keep Up: The Confessions of a Comparison Addict

 

Comparisons

I was bursting to stand up on my chair at a work conference last year and shout across the room, “I CAN’T KEEP UP.”

I can’t keep up with the levels of (assumed) success and innovation and passion expressed here and the overwhelming idea of incorporating any of it into my work. I can’t keep up with the expected levels of impact.

I can’t keep up with the general visual appearance and presumed character of her and her and her and her and the endless sea of hers I hold myself up against. The inner dialogue of, she looks more put together, smarter, better….You can apply any adjective here that makes me one or a dozen more steps behind these strangers I know nothing about. It is an ongoing game against that old adversary, comparison, which can lead to the summation of self as less capable or less valuable. I had a friend tell me to knock it off once. They had observed me from a distance, sitting in my red plaid, looking at others and sizing myself up to be smaller than. My personal mental behavior was producing a public physical reaction: watch that one, consider my ranking, reach conclusion, put head down. I felt a certain relief in being realized. The same relief that comes from saying things out loud to expose them and let them go.

Our brains hold on to images longer than words and there are consequences to the way we interpret the fragmented glimpses in front of us and what we allow them to say about ourselves and our stories. It’s the images in media. It’s the image of strangers at a conference. It’s the image of a list I was never supposed to see. When the one that told me to knock it off placed my name next to another with a list of (non)attributes and a question mark.  A specific story was confirmed for me in the complicity of that list.

What a defeat it is to believe there is something inherently off about yourself. It can become your traveling companion, sometimes a nagging fly circling your body, or it can escalate into a whole self destructive system that limits what we believe we are capable of and what we think we can have; stunted by the inaccurate definitions that frame where we go and how we move along.

We live in a society of curated images and now, instead of comparing to the few girls in the class, we can compare across the country or globe. The whole world is lit up on a stage, or trying to light themselves up, and somehow convincing us to run and keep up with them. Our souls were created to worship and the misguided worship of the superficially admirable can break, is breaking, us. Consider the rate of anxiety, feelings of isolation and loneliness, despondent adolescents, dissatisfied adults. When our identity is found in followers and validation, or lack there of. I get concerned for the ones who’ve only ever known screens and believe them to be an accurate depiction of expectation and performance; scrolling to touch something real when what is on the other side is far from the full picture. Social media posts as a gentrified work towards “authenticity” in overdrive, an ironic rat race of editing images for the sake of discovering and presenting our  “true” selves. Social media can be a hyper-active search for stability and can perpetuate the myths of perfection and control.

But social media is, of course, also what we allow it to be. It is a great tool to share ideas, joys, and projects and it requires an awareness of our own boundaries, like relationships. I heard someone say recently that when we react to something we empower it.  If I am not careful, the scale of all the things I cannot keep up with seems enormous- the minimalist lifestyle, the maximist lifestyle, the health and wellness sphere…

Six years ago I regularly saw an integrated nutritionist. I was intrigued by the confirmation of what I’d always known, it’s all connected- the physical, mental and emotional. The body, designed by a big picture God who created the vast, intricate inter-workings, can be compromised by thoughts and emotions as much as it can be by food or outside stimuli. I was serious about finding alignment and I practiced what was suggested, eliminating this and supplementing that. The wellness industry has grown immensely since then and with it the visibility, even over saturation, of advocates making health feel contained to a fashionable bubble, luxury almost to the point of elitist. I can’t keep up with the perfectionists/purists. I know I learned good habits, but I am consistently reminded, or believe myself to be reminded, of all the ways I fall 100% short of the trends- powders and mushrooms and teas, ancient remedies and $20 grain-free cassava tortillas delivered on the backs of organic doves. Food and lifestyle choices as a status symbol of success and goodness is exacerbated now in pregnancy. There is worth derived from absolute diligence or adhering to the “rules.”  The way others practice wellness feels like an indicator of moral goodness and when I fail to meet their supposed expectations and my actual expectations, coupled with the constant attention on a body I’ve never tried to attract attention too, what’s produced is the companion of comparison-shame.

(I recognize that the morality part of it is my own filter. My husband once reminded me that I view irrelevant acts as moral choices, as good or bad, and that stunts me.  So when I don’t eat the same as that person I am bad and they are good. Do you remember that exercise in school when you would look at a handful of images and it would say, one of these is not like the other? I can often feel like the not.)

Do not create theology out of experience. -Melissa Helzer

I’ve never been one for January resolutions. Instead, at the beginning of the year I had more of a craving. I craved quiet, nourishment, and movement and to give myself the freedom to not do it all perfectly- without comparison.

Somehow we are already at the tail-end of the year. I feel the weight of a massive life-season shift happening and if ever a season called for quiet, it would be now. I am trying to find the discipline to “clear the mechanism” as Billy Chapel would say, to find enough silence to know how to move forward and eliminate the pressure of outside (invited) influence. To nurture without the pressure of perfect. How then do I do this when I have packed my mind with all the other; cannot find the space for the crowd of images? When I let myself get stuck by comparison or false definitions of self. I am tired of the stuck-ness that I can feel and that I see around me. The obstacles that get all the say and prevent the breakthrough. When we write our names next to all the others and fixate on the question marks.

I have certainly told myself a lot of stories in my interpretation of images and I’ve let others tell me stories as well. But what if I really held on to the images of a truth-telling God instead, rested in His expansive stillness and the visual narrative of being well taken care of and well equipped?

The truth is that I don’t have to keep up, I just have to keep going. Although old tendencies can appear in new seasons, I can refuse to sigh and put my head down. When looking without the lens of past, comparison, or assumption, there is poetry in the picture of here and now and what is ahead. Resolutions come in revolutions, miraculous and healing in their specificity.

“You will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is steadfast (that is, committed and focused on you-in both inclination and character), because he trusts and takes refuge in You (with hope and confindent expectation.) Trust (confidently) in the Lord forever (HE is your fortress, your shield, your banner.) Isaiah 26:3,4

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In the Mystery

I always listen to the song Heartbeats in the fall. It is the perfect accompaniment to chillier air. A time when americanos simply taste better, first thing, in a ceramic mug.

Fall is different here. The official day arrives on the calendar, 9/22 this year, but my internal schedule is thrown off. The heat is everlasting. I forget about Heartbeats. Americanos are good, but the heat of the coffee and the air don’t compliment one another as well. Changing leaves are scattered on trees few and far away.

I can be incredibly nostalgic, living in dreamy loops of a “time gone by.” These loops run according to seasons. Right now is missing opening a coffee shop in the chill, but without the threat of snow. It is cutoffs and sweaters, danskos and aprons. The change of shade for my lips, the promise of boots and striped shirts. I long for late afternoon trail rides or runs whether it be under the tracks and down along the river or up to the ridge around Horsetooth’s lower lake. I can see the yellow leaves, hear them crunch under my feet. I long for the emotion and the opportunity of true fall. The time of starting over at school. I think of early mornings warming up our sound on stage and orange pews. I think of, and miss, much more. (Nobody Knows started playing while I was typing. The sound of the Lumineers is enough to send someone like me, wrapped in the fabric of back then, right over the edge.)

Nostalgia, a step beyond missing, can be a dangerous deep dive, its wistful affection shines up hindsight to an inaccurate gleam.

Brene Brown says, “Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.”

So completely edited. I have been thinking a lot about the accuracy of both memory and personal reality lately. I hold so tightly to recall as an accurate account of massive moments and everyday details, that it troubles me to consider it may not be all the way correct. I’ve talked quite a bit about the vivid years, a time when I learned a lot and how ingrained that time is in my memory, but what if vivid doesn’t equate to one hundred percent accurate? Memories are subject to in-the-moment emotions and colored by after-the-fact ones as well.  If I relinquish the total rightness of my timeline, does rightness really matter if I still have the lesson? The trouble with tailoring is glossing the past and missing the present.

Here is a challenging consideration as well, this golden-hued nostalgia is a part of, or has in part, been tangled up with my identity, who I am and how I came to be. I don’t know if I am missing real seasonal transitions or the person I felt I was in them, assigning her to be a more free or better or whatever fill in the blank version. 

It seems the formation and assumption of identity has been a repeated theme in what I have listened to and read lately. It is others reflecting on how they were formed and what they believe about themselves. It is in watching how social media manipulates identity into clean-cut segmented lives, and the consequences of trying, as a complete person, to curate filtered, digestible, enviable, single-dimension forms of life-perfected. That influence challenges our understanding of self and what we wish ourselves to be. The hunt for and definition of identity and self is in podcasts and books and sermons and the relationships right in front of me. It could be my almost-English-majoring-self digging for theme or it could be God working in wholeness and repetition to uncover truths about correct formation of identity. Truly, truly.

There was a Judah Smith sermon about letting the Spirit of God lead us in all things as opposed to opting to run our own show, which as history concludes, personal and otherwise, doesn’t work so well. When we get led, we more clearly understand the opportunity of our daily clean slate, act out of the grace we’ve been given, make choices and move forward into what God has for us with confidence. That phrase of led by the spirit, can feel somewhat elusive or hard to catch and implement, but the trust in the reality of it leads us into maturity. God is not strong-arming us into formation, He has left us a gift by which our identity is established. The Passion Translation of Romans eight says,

The Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as He whispers, you are a beloved child.

The gift of the spirit reveals our place as child.

At what point do children start to question the authority of their parent? Or maybe their goodness, fairness, even love? When do we start to become upset at the imperfections of our parents or parent figures, and dismiss them because they are not supposed to be people, they are supposed to be our absolutely correct parents.  There are the parents that sacrifice and love and give and support with all their might and you glimpse God’s heart in their actions. There are the parents that abandon and abuse and condition one through trauma to believe that love is not is free. There is the cyclical type, when one is loved and hurt, abandoned and reclaimed, consistently. Based on the broad possibilities of childhood experiences and our personal realities, what a challenge it is to embrace the perfection of a Heavenly Father, let alone understand how to interact with it. The simplicity of God’s design gets so complicated in the filter of one’s experiences.

Along with experience and memory, identity is given to us in names. The names that come from others and the ones we’ve ascribed to ourselves become labels that establish our place, rightly or not, in the world. I have used many labels in my journey through childhood and into my thirties to make myself more internally and externally understandable. Some are constant, some have rotated in and out, added to and subtracted from over the years and the seasons. Girl, daughter, sister, good friend, smart, procrastinator, lacking follow through, diligent, intense, stubborn, shy, bad friend, big, queen of unrequited, wife, employee, volunteer, and so on. Yes I absolutely am some of these things, but how can I differentiate between adjective and true identity? How accurate are the terms steeped in my own perspective?

Babies develop their fingerprints in their 16th week of life in the womb. The seal of their identity; marked as an individual among billions. Prints etched into the skin like an invitation to be new and needed and effectual. I fight with what I might have been, as if now is concrete and there is no room for future variations of self, lost in the thought that I might have gone many other ways. I might have been a teacher, grad student, or if I applied myself, a writer, perhaps even in ministry. But those too are just terms, labels, iterations. My fingerprints would be the same had I engaged in those roles as they are in the roles I play now. They are the concrete. What purpose is etched into them and what are they drawing me too? Mights and maybe can still be made into actuals and imprints.

There is the small group we joined at the newish church we’ve been going to. Per usual, I was hesitant about the commitment and what it might mean going forward. It’s a group of about 10 couples with about 32 children between them and all but two are total strangers. We are reading The Daniel Dilemma. I am only half way through the first chapter, but the synopsis is understanding and living out our identity in our current culture. There is the issue of names, expectations, misunderstanding etc. To me, current culture is the constant demand to perform, to filter, and to form opinions on the spot about under cooked news. It is anxiety inducing, hard of hearing, and divisive with so much influence given to superficial pursuits and soap box stances. ( I’ll refrain from my Kardashian rant here and all of Twitter in general.) Understandably then, it is hard to live by values contrary to the stream of culture when we are wholly submerged in an all access, non-stop cycle of information and images and the discord all that noise can create, consciously and subconsciously; the challenge to form when what makes the impression may not be what’s true.

How do we, how do I, sit in my true identity and pursue my purpose, when I am oversaturated with expectations and consumed with the worry of fitting in? And here is where that sermon ended up, ask God what is next. 

There is an expectancy in asking what is next. There is surrender. There is an embracing of mystery and a relinquishing of what was old and good, or at least familiar and comfortable.  When God’s people were in the wilderness, their sustenance literally fell from the sky. This never before seen God provided item fell from the sky and was given the name manna. One interpretation of the scripture explains that they knew it was important without even knowing what it was. They were kept alive by the mystery of it all. 

Moving to God’s next will carve out the names that actually belong to me because I am living and breathing in the clarity of what He has.

God’s spirit touches our spirit to confirm who we really are. (Romans 8:15-17)

It may seem contradictory to say that my identity is formed in part by mystery. Expectancy is key to keeping the anxiety of the future at bay and embracing the purpose of the current day or the season. When I ask for what is next, I am not controlled by my need to control and I allow for the discovery of my purpose. My identity is grounded in the name of child. My understanding of that title grows as I move in the certainty of God as father and the mystery of what’s next. As on earth as it is in heaven, I do not become a fully formed person by rebelling. I don’t have to wander, I don’t even have to wonder. I could just ask, what’s next God, and live out of the inherent value of belonging. Can I take in the simplicity of being beloved and let that be the foundation?


There were the albums, Ruston Kelly’s Dying Star and Lauren Daigle’s Look Up Child.

One is grappling with past and the possibility for redemption in love and identity in all its stages and the other is claiming identity in personal imperfection and challenge. Extremely different, both good.

Then and Now Spotify playlist: Because Fall Deserves One


I write these things as a letter to myself. See, look at what you are learning. See your brain is more than worry and doubt and discomfort. See, keep seeing.

 

 

Carried Items

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(This will be a winding one.)

Some of the most intense experiences of my life have no social media trail, strange thing in this day and age. It is worrisome to think that we might be starting to treat undocumented experiences as less real or less true, as if because they are not publicly accessible, they are not personally significant.

This morning I woke up thinking about my twenties. That both vivid and blurred decade of accomplishment and pressure, freedom and choice and the looming expectation to figure.it.all.out.

I was unscathed by the statistical type of major occurrence. I was always safe and protected, but I didn’t always live bravely out of that security. It was (and still is) the ongoing work towards greater emotional dexterity, like dancing in a prairie-dog hole filled obstacle course, unassuming and potentially devastating. I graduated from college at 22, holding a degree but no picture of the next step. I moved permanently to my on again off again city, but moved about 10 times. I simultaneously begged for attention and hid in corners. I met best friends, maintained decades long friendships, regretfully let go of a few, and necessarily let go of a few. I met my spouse in my mid-twenties, but did not have a full conversation with him until a few years later. I was watching others and believing that they had it all figured out while I was the only one scrambling. I can be gullible in that way.

There is evidence that I didn’t try at much because I didn’t want my try to be public. I was stunted by the thought that I was just supposed to be good at things. Holding tight to a world view that 

if I had to work at it, it must not have been mine to do.

That is a world view terrified of rejection. It took a bit to recognize that there is very little, be it skills, talent, or anything that just appears and is sustained by 100% natural ability. We buy in, or at least I bought in, to the illusion of effortless. An illusion that still gets under my skin in an Instagram world. I am sure that even in the most gifted, there is an internal struggle to be more and do more. I know this to be true in many women. We are taught to hide the process that makes us what and who we are. The work we put in to be this thing we are shown to be. White-knuckling the myth of perfection potentially at the neglect of our intrinsic selves. That buzzword team we hear constantly now of natural and sustainable, cannot manifest itself without being intentionally nurtured.

There is also evidence that I tried too much in arenas I should have run from, over and over again blind and/or naive crossed into unnecessary and wounding.

A persistent theme of the decade felt to be the perpetual almost. Almost friends, almost a career, almost love, almost this or that. There is rejection in almost. It’s as if the heartbreaking no of almost inclined my trajectory, causing me to grit my teeth, clench my fists and either stand frozen or barrel forward. I spent time in contradictory states, manipulative or vulnerable, blind or wide-eyed, to maintain the perception of control. I don’t think I am alone in the reactions associated with either my real or perceived rejection. I would venture to say that such reactions are inspired by the reflexive need to keep a tight lid on our rattled interior worlds, afraid to let anything come out, unsure precisely what it could mean or produce. There are consequences to keeping our interior worlds bottled.  We don’t know what we are full of until we let it see the light of day via verbal exit.

I can feel the accumulation of good and grit from the decade. It seems while I was trying too little or too much, and perhaps occasionally, just the right amount, I was gathering little artifacts to carry with me, dirt or soil. The evidence of defining experiences that crafted me and my landscape. I argue that there is a significant difference between the two and that we all have excavated layers of both. The dirt is just that, dirt. It is messy and residual. The soil is rich and life-giving. To me its fresh, earthy smell contains a touch of metallic hose-water, the smell of planting season in our yard as a kid. That little touch makes it homey and hopeful. In the dirt are the things that did not go according to plan or preference, that almost and the residual shame. I carry the soil, the ground that sprouted life and gave foundation, promise and resolution.

There was a man named Naaman who dipped himself seven times in the Jordan river to be healed of leprosy. He came out of the water with fresh skin and asked if he could scoop up the earth on the banks to take with him; to be his transportable altar.

Altars, made of either stone, metal, brick, or earth, were places where ‘the divine and human worlds interacted’ and were places of exchange, communication, and influence.”

Naaman wanted the earth as a reminder of a divine interaction and marker of an irrevocable exchange. In his experience of disease and the isolation that disease innately provokes, he must have accumulated a grand amount of dirt, gritty and filling up his interior world. But the wonder of the new earth must have deeply altered his dirt-to-soil ratio, that by storing it and reconciling the experience of healing, particles of the soil infiltrated and changed it all.

The way a personal experience is reconciled makes marked differences, forming boundary lines or separate expanses. It becomes this and that, like the land from the sea or the above from below. In that parallel, expanses are neither good nor bad. I do not think the presence of dirt, the hard things that may be slower to work through, threatens the goodness of the soil. Dirt has the possibility of redemption. The addition of organic matter changes its makeup so that it becomes useful. The organic matter of Truth can be delivered to us in unexpected ways, like 7 dips in a river we’re hesitant to wade into.

Redemption is allowing good things to be a product of hard things.

Sometimes, I feel like I spent my twenties dunking myself in the river with motive to be otherwise, to get my version of clean, or get better, or get what I wanted. I was dunking superstitiously, trying to be this perfect thing in the form I assumed I was supposed to be. But despite my superstition of ritual and expectation, God was dunking me legitimately. Good things were happening in what I reduced to the perpetual almost and it was leaving me with goodness to carry.

When God separated the light from the dark, he was not made weary by their distinct difference or the overwhelming nature of darkness. Instead He gave both a governing light, the bright spots that light up the days, nights and seasons both temporal and eternal. The bright spots in the dirt reveal its possibility for transformation, how small and temporal it is. The presence of dirt is not threatening to or diminishing of the redemptive work of God. He is fully aware that our internal worlds may feel segmented and he meets us in a place of exchange to say, here is a moment of resolution, carry it with you. That Truth supersedes all experience and sustainability is won in its accumulation and nourishmentMake room to carry the eternal kind of earth.

My husband is in Colorado today. Before he left this morning I asked him to bring me back a jar of earth. My memento. The place of exchange, communication, and influence that got me here. This is the land, in all its layers, that I live from and expand upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What John Mayer Told Me

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I like John Mayer. His voice reminds me of high school and my best friends and the discovery of joy riding with the windows down at 17. It was the start of “adulthood” to the guitar intro of “Why Georgia.” He’s written some of my favorite breakup/ sad love songs, arguably my favorite genre of songs, and my husband and I’ve played the recent “In the Blood” over and over. The wordsmith’s gifts have also gotten him in trouble like anyone else, except that, by being famous and charismatic and public there is a higher percentage of the dumbest things said and done being laid bare in the media.

All of this to say, I follow him on instagram and I find him to be pretty entertaining. He brainstorms, he tells tales, he shares innovative snack ideas and pictures of his questionable footware. His recent multi-story of minds being blown after offering up a world changing idea was a real creative production. And sometimes he even supplies a piece of wisdom.

“The days of consensus are over. There will never again be a great big world that agrees on you… it’s an outmoded [attempt].”

The days of consensus are over. Outdated. We can no longer conceive consensus as possible and it is definitly not something to strive for, the world is simply too vocal for that.  What is instyle is the speed of production and the voracious consumption of headlines. I don’t need an article of outlined facts, I can be incensed by a mere heading. They say content is king, therefore opinion in limited characters, lacking in substance and often fact, rules. Have you noticed that a significant number of articles are composed of reactions. The news is, he tweeted and then she tweeted and then they tweeted #reactions. Over and over again. The story is what others think of the happening. And that does not even include the comment section. Which I admit can really suck me. I click “read more” and then am usually horrified by what I am reading more of.  I close it while shaking my head thinking about all the idiots, and worse, behind screens. Sensationalism is nothing new. Articles have always been written to intrigue or rile, (full disclosure: In my mind I keep picturing the play/movie/prophesy of the ruthless Kardashian’s Chicago) but never have the reactions been so accessible. There are so many avenues for folks to share their thoughts and strangely, it’s most often about what is making us all angry, or better than, or more right. A lot of it is incredibly unproductive. So much energy goes into getting the last word. So much energy goes into the false narrative of mutually exclusive

John Mayer’s post gives a bit of freedom to any creative.

“The way to happiness is to accept this. Find you audience, love them, play to them, but protect yourself from the certain injury of trying to bring the larger world to agreement. That pie is sliced in so many slivers now.”

I  am pretty low on the radar of any kind. I think my posts have been read by maybe 122 people. I don’t say that in a pitiful way, I say it to emphasize this point. I, who have limited impact, have been scared at times to write a definitive word for fear of rebuttal or worse, being misunderstood, of not having all my ducks in a row before I tell a story or before I add another opinion to the mile high hay stack. I have been intimidated by the idea of how I make them like me. Then wacky Mayer says to me, find your audience. Stop trying to win the world. It’s not going to happen. It reiterated what I’ve heard before, to tell the story, clack the keys to your hearts content on this gorgeous Sunday.

The fear of human opinion is incapacitating. The threat of having to keep up, to respond rapid fire is incapacitating. It is exhausting and a little bit soul crushing. Shauna Niequist wrote, “Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of the world.” She said it is countercultural to be rested, unafraid, and not panicked. And to that I say, phew. We don’t have to play along.  I cannot placate that demand of consensus.

Get free by giving up the mirage of absolute acceptance. What’s the plan or the seed in your hand? Drop it in the ground and change the nearby terrain. And, even if it doesn’t change much, at least the view in your sphere will be better than it was before.

Side note: Speaking of outmoded, think about his song 3×5. The literal interpretation of 3×5 anyway. Since now the majority of our view is dots making up things, pixel elements, on screens. Kind of sad when you read the beautiful description of actually developing a photograph, “an image made by a photo-chemical reaction which records the impression of light on a surface coated with silver atoms.” The impression of light.

The lesson of the song still stands.

(I am not 100% on how accurate my understanding of pictures and pixels is, so perhaps I’ll find a tweet to explain it to me.)

New Year, 2018

IMG_3291Our New Year’s Eve was a real bust. The accessories above were purchased after the fact (and at a super sale cost) to initiate a do over. We have to start better, I told myself. I try not to add “or we’re doomed.” I always put too much weight on step one.  I forget the follow up step should be/can be just as effective. Left foot stomp. Pivot in new direction; 2018 will not mirror the disconnect of the evening’s failures.

Less than a week later, I see the humor in its all over pathetic-ness. There was at least one serious sore throat and a potential one, one irrational meltdown, one round of the silent treatment, the saddest homemade soup ever created, and the strange urge to select to watch, within the thousands of options in our combined streaming services, Julie and Julia.

The more serious sore throat was mine, which is why we ended up staying in instead of joining family for the city wide celebration downtown.  Insert hand raising blonde emoji for the irrational meltdown. It was instigated by the flash-warning thought that I might be blowing what could possibly be our last New Year’s Eve without kids. Note the use of “might” and “possibly.” I don’t need set in stone to freak out. A true gift, I know. The silent treatment was him (sorry, babe) but I get it, the tone of the night had already been well established as rocky.  After two failed pho to go attempts, I announced I could easily make soup at home. I had chicken broth, a few leeks and a squash I had chopped four days earlier plus salt and pepper. He’d already had pizza, so I didn’t have to carry the weight of preparing dinner for two at time like this. Perhaps inspired by what I  thought was an inspired soup and the fact that I  was unchaperoned in my choice, I turned on Julie and Julia. The riveting film about the creation and use of, you guessed it, a cook book. Watching, I quickly realized my soup was lacking butter. And flavor.  I was later joined by my silent companion and together we took shifts napping our way into the New Year. At 12:15 I woke up to the end credits, roused my couch-neighbor, crawled to bed and grumbled, “Happy New Year.”

This is how I know my husband is a saint. I am sure any other cranky human with foiled New Year’s plans, could have really lost it at the sound of Meryl Streep/Julia Child’s high octave, exceptionally enthusiastic vocal styling.  It’s delightfully a lot when you know what’s coming and way over the top if you don’t.  He never made a comment. He did inquire about the name of the movie, so I am certain the intentionally silent portion of the evening had ended. He didn’t even leave the room. He stuck it out, albeit with the help of some sleep, but God bless him nonetheless.

New Year’s morning I woke up desperate to find an empty journal and record the start of 2018. A clean slate to remove the bad banner of the night before.  I told my husband that I needed to do something immediately to really let it soak in. When I asked how he was going to mark the day, he said, “I’ll just write the date sometime today, and then I’ll know it’s a new year.” Simple. Unburdened. It is a clear illustration of the differing ways we think. Mine, steeped in overarching meanings and rituals to make definitive moments, he in practicality and clarity, moments are because they already are. It is highly admirable.

These are the words that came to mind to mark New Year’s Day 2018.

Resolve|Reduce|Review|Rewrite|Reconvene

Somewhat out of order. I suppose review should have been first, but I realized long ago that I do not think linearly. Also somewhat repetitive, but I realized long ago that repetition is the key to learning. And I like resolve over resolution in terms of “to decide firmly to do something or not.”

Resolve- What will I hold tight too? What do I dismiss or dismantle or even absolutely destroy? What will I make this year, without the imposed pressure, but actively pursue  and create as loudly or as quietly as I need to, everyday to reinforce the resolve?

Reduce- What was too prominent in 2017, and however many years before that, that needs cut out this year? To reduce the clutter of mind/sound/atmosphere to make more room in my heart/mind/eye/life to see and hold the resolve?

Review- What was gained, lost, renewed, challenged in 2017? Where was the strength gained and the fissures found? Where do I start 2018, personally and professionally?

Rewrite-  It is not permanent. To write over to the bad patterns, habits, communication styles. Start fresh.

Reconvene-  What do I return to? Who do I return to? Where are the meeting places as husband and wife? My meeting place with God? Where is the substance coming from? To go back to the altars, or touch points, of movement, change, grace, reflection and be propelled forward.

and Ritual- What gets kept? What gets established?

I don’t have all of the answers to my questions lined up yet, but I feel confidant in their existence and of what they’ll lead me to.

In summation, do overs are possible (review, rewrite, reconvene, reduce) and fresh starts can happen on footstep number 2 and 3 and so on (resolve, resolute). The point is to keep moving. Oh, and refuse to hang up the banner of foreboding doom.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.”- Ecclesiastes 7:8

PS. 2018 has recovered. I have not made that soup again. And I think my husband liked the movie by the time we watched the slept-through ending again the next day. Although we did talk through most of it.

 

 

Who She Is

I made an over easy egg for breakfast today, as I do any morning I have time.

Just like grandma.

She likes hers so runny the whites still have a little jiggle. With it, she has a slice of toast with Earth Balance butter and local honey from a brown clay jar labeled honey and perpetually sticky. When I was young she drank coffee. C.O. In a heavy, cream colored mug with a cobalt blue Japanese print.  It seems like only a few years ago she switched to chamomile tea, but time is complex, a blink and an eternity, and it was actually more like 15 years.

But that is who she is. Long red finger nails, holding the mug with only a slight tremor when she presses her thumb on the top of the handle, sitting in a house coat in her plush orange rocking chair, feet crossed on the footstool, trading stories in the paper with my grandpa. Many of her stories not news at all, but playfully made up on the spot. Soon she’ll get up to do her chores, to talk to the plants.

That is who she is. Well loved dancing heels on the shoe rack in her closet below hot and baby pink, royal blue and vibrant red clothes.  Shoes saved from former Friday nights out at the Safari. I’ve seen the pictures. Remember their New Year’s Eve trips to Little America to polka to the sounds of their favorite band leader. She was glamorous. A forest green sequin dress in her closet and then in mine. A fur coat. Bell sleeves and tall boots in a photograph. I believe that was the dress she sewed herself, the arms too tight.

That is who she is. Homemade spaghetti sauce, fried chicken, white rolls, and applesauce made with real apples sliced and simmered with cinnamon and sugar, cottage cheese, a full cookie jar.  She is rows of canned peaches, pears, cherries, a spoonful of ice cream standing in the light of the freezer at night.

That is who she is. The rhythm of her bare feet back and forth on the concrete patio, rocking the swing back and forth. We sit in the afternoon, swinging and talking,  grandpa out working in the roses. We like it here in the shade. I am not a sun bunny, she says. Me either, Grandma. Grandma’s girl.

That is who she is. Pink curlers in black hair, faint scent of Skin So Soft, a tube of lipstick in the bathroom drawer, the kitchen drawer, the coat pocket, the purse. She chooses shades of deep pink, red.

How can you do it without a mirror, grandma?

Well, I know where my lips are.

She is not ready for the day until her earrings are in, bright gems like rubies or sapphires, or dangling delicate ones. It is Young and the Restless at 11am, a nail file by her blue rocking chair.

It is the same rhythm of her feet on the wooden deck of the cabin, or on the splintery wood on the swing in the yard. Come on, let’s go swing. 

This is where she tells the stories of her early life. An orphan,  a mother who died and a father who left and the chain of homes she lived in. The love and foundation of a woman named Mama Della, the hate of a woman in Texas and the subsequent lifelong disdain for cornbread, the eventual permanent home in eastern Colorado, making meals she didn’t know how to, a step brother named Pete,  an aunt name Maude, and Uncle John. There is the boy named Kenneth Dale, who passed by her classroom door one day, I am going to marry that one. She did. At 17. And then there was a war and a daughter and years apart. There was another daughter and a son, the family of her own.

Her stories often include the phrase, You know what thoughts do, teasing, like she was giving a cautionary tale. No, grandma, what do they do? We’d ask and she’d hold out and say, one day I’ll tell you.

Now thoughts are broken or completely lost. Transformation right in front of us.

There probably is no concrete answer. But I still hope that maybe one day we’ll find the anecdote scratched down on a piece of paper like the little notes she would leave for Grandpa to find. What thoughts do.

We know what’s deep down, etched in like fingerprints. Love and sacrifice, resilience and investment. To her belongs the sounds of Patsy Cline, the lid of the cookie jar, the smell of cinnamon Trident gum, the playful slap on grandpa’s arm when he teased her and she’d laugh, “Oh ho, Dale. It is not,” three kisses out the door, love you much, rummy, pit pats and tut-ens, the way she would wind into singing a song,  let’s dance.

That is who she is.

2016

 

Every year about this time, in the season of both retrospection and brand new,  I think about how madly and beautifully the world spins. I reflect on what’s happened and what those events or moments produce in us, how they shape us for the next one.  2016 was chalk full of major events on a personal and familial level, not to mention all that’s occurred on a global level. All of it produced a  broad spectrum of emotion. It’s been a year of intermingling, bliss and deep joy met thick trial, coexisting like laughter and tears. It’s in the crossfire of the spectrum that living gains depth. I know I’ve lived deeply this year. I know this also to be true for those closest to me. I’ve read the headlines, so I know this to be true for people I’ve never met. People who’ve experienced what I cannot imagine. I pray they’ve had peace scattered in the incomprehensible.

I’ve been looking over past posts and found a running theme of structure from rubble like redemption. Throughout is a vein of recognition that brokenness is merely a possibility, that imperfection is inevitable and that life still goes on. I wrote it, but how quick I am to forget it. I wait for the reminder to sink in, to permanently reside in my mind and in my heart. The list I’ve compiled of all that’s happened this year is further proof that God is resolving what I call incomplete and imperfect; a life being orchestrated goes on in redemption and possibility.

2016- Miracles and Mire

Engagement at the end of 2015.

The marathon of 50+ wedding dresses in two different states.

Venue hunting and planning, margaritas reduce the productivity of financial planning sessions.

Employment after 6 months of waiting.

New apartment, new furniture, new fridge full for the first time with groceries only belonging to me. Strange how big changes can be charted in the smallest of things.

A June visit from family, two parents and one nephew, we play at the beach.

Sonoma and Colorado in July, wine and paddle boarding respectively.

Bridal showers and rehearsal dress meltdowns (many other kind of meltdowns).

Wedding time brought people from across the country, my grandpa drove across states against a medical advice to make it. The generosity we experienced on every level was overwhelming.

Wedding day. Any day preceded by having dinner with all those who mean the most to you is going to be a good one. Any morning featuring your persons, good coffee, and soft pajamas will lead to a great day. Any day set aside to marry your best friend in a room draped in gold, pink, glitter and giant white flowers, where prayers are given and honest vows are said, is going to be a perfect. And it was, to the very end and a midnight drive thru run in a dress and tux. The only thing I wish I could’ve changed was the pace of time; gone in a blink.

New position at work,  a promotion of sorts, and the learning process begins again.

Husband in school and working also gets a promotion, weekends are for races.

We fight for time and weekends fill up so we conquer Disneyland on a Monday, my very first trip is deemed a success.

We experience a big surprise and then a big loss. Laughter and the tears show up. The man who said I do said I will: I will be excited about the unplanned nature of life, I will realistically look at what’s next, I will make you eat and let you sleep, I will make you feel safe.

A Christmas Day like we’ll never have again. It was simply the two of us and presents and breakfast over It’s a Wonderful Life, a walk and a trip to La La Land. It was one necklace in the shape of a heart to remember and one Chromebook so I could get back to typing words.

 

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote that it would be the year cynicism die.  2016 saw miracles.

Cynicism and miracles cannot coexist.

It was the year when silent prayers, “perhaps one day,” showed up. It was redemption and possibility, miraculous in nature and accomplishment. So on the last day of it, I reflect on its orchestration and resolve to remember. To take what I’ve learned into 2017 and to ready myself for a continued education in what it means to be faithful, kind, content and responsive.

Resolution:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5)