The Stupid is Strong with this Week.

Calvin Hobbes suffering

February can kiss my ass.

There are times when it should be entirely justified to throw a temper tantrum despite being 34 1/2 years old. This week is one of them. So far:

~ Stomach bug that made me throw up, ending my 22-year streak of not puking. It happened shortly into the Super Bowl party/nephew’s birthday party, so I had to leave early, missing cake, football, and getting to play the game I bought him. It also meant that my boyfriend saw me covered in puke, and later, at home, in my oh-so-unsexy Cuddlduds pants and the Adidas t-shirt I have owned since my junior year in high school. I made him promise he would forget what I looked like that night. And this is just on the heels of a case of sinusitis and bronchitis.

~ I had to work last weekend, so that means no break in a really long time. I did stay home on Monday with my bad stomach, but sipping ginger ale and hoping to stay vertical doesn’t really count as a time to recoup.

~ Meddlesome witch tried to mess with my relationship. She didn’t succeed, but it was the same day as my puke fest. I went from stunned to anxious to angry in the course of a couple of hours. There are still moments when I want to respond, but I am going to be the bigger, better person.

~ Work has been frustrating. Really frustrating, but I can’t go into details. It’s sufficient to say that I am twitching by lunch, most days.

~ I was in an accident while driving the company bus on Tuesday. The roads were icy, and I came around a bend and down a hill and neither I or the other driver expected stopped cars at a green light. No tickets, the cop was nice and said that it was weather and whatever, but… still. Everyone was OK, but holy hell. I didn’t need that this week. Now, I’m nervous when I drive.

~ I’m adjusting to my boyfriend having moved to the city, an hour and a half from me. Thankfully, I still see him a lot, but it’s an adjustment.

~ My anxiety has been a roller coaster with everything going on. I had a panic attack after the accident on Tuesday. Most of the week has felt like I am swirling around another one, and it is a lot of work to keep it from happening.

~ My apartment needs to be tidied and I have zero motivation. I’ve left the laundry soap and hamper right where she can get to it, but my dog has yet to wash a single load. My pink Converse have been on the floor in front of the bookcase for too long, and I should have run the vacuum a couple days ago. No one really warns you that a byproduct of anxiety is leaving the clean dishes in the drain rack for days.

~ Insurance kicked me over to mail order medications, which is cheaper, but apparently they take for freaking ever, and I’m out of one and the new bottle isn’t here yet. I called to get a new prescription from the local pharmacy, but I can’t get it until tomorrow. More stress.

There are a few other things I can’t mention, but really, it has just been a long week. I haven’t had a vacation in 14 months. I’m tired and crabby, my whole body was thrown off by the start of my week. I want to haphazardly throw things, to stomp my feet and flail my arms and scream nonsensical things at the universe.

Part of my frustration is that I have come to a place where I want more – and I no longer feel like I am undeserving of more. For so many years, I was told that to want more was wrong. That it was selfish and sinful. I believed the leaders who told me that it was arrogant and presumptuous to feel like I had anything to offer. Modern American Christianity is full of this weird brand of self deprecation that teaches people to believe that they are “worthless without Christ,” and that has the dangerous byproduct (for myself and a lot of people I know) of believing that we don’t actually have a lot to offer the world. In a lot of cases I’ve seen, one’s self worth is then determined based on the feedback from others in the church who tell you whether or not you are checking all the right boxes. I don’t have time to unpack how demented that is right this minute.

It’s something I have had to unlearn. As I’ve walked away from Christianity (not from faith, or God, but the American bullshit machine that is a lot of the formal church), I’ve had to learn that I am worth more than what they think I am. It has been anything but easy, but I am finally to a place where I feel like I have things to offer. So I want more. I want to make a decent income, to not have to work two jobs, to have a job I enjoy, to live where I want to live, love who I want to love, surround myself with laughter and beauty and joy. I want to be the leading lady in my own life, to borrow a line from The Holiday.

This week has felt like a shitstorm of things designed to rock that new-ish, somewhat fragile self image. So this week can officially suck it.

Thankfully, tomorrow is the last day of my work week. I am going to pick up my dog after work and drive to the city for the weekend, where I get to spend almost three whole days with my boyfriend. I’m going to have a good time, kiss his face off, and eat more than I should. And then, on Monday, I am going to start a new week that is free of the colossal mess that is this week. And I’m going to work on more. Because I deserve it.

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Crazy Happy

A few weeks ago, I lay in bed with my head resting on my boyfriend’s chest, arm thrown across his torso, and we spoke in circles and tangents about a bunch of things, and at one point, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he wasn’t able to think of anything because he is in a place in life where he doesn’t really pine for objects. His desires are largely related to his comedy career. He paused, laughed, and said that the Mike of a few years ago would not recognize his present self.

I laughed and said that the old me wouldn’t recognize me, either. My own reflection would seem foreign.

Two years ago, I did not see myself in this town, job, apartment, or with him. I could not have fathomed it at all. I would not have anticipated the way my faith and religion would change. Maybe change isn’t the right word, but there isn’t another that seems to for either.

At no point in the first thirty-three years of my life did I see myself as happy, either. I was so certain that happiness – lasting happiness – was something that other people got to have. And then my life exploded and fell to pieces and floated back together in a completely different arrangement.

This kind of happiness is new, and sometimes scary. I am often terrified that it will vanish. That fear becomes anxiety, and a couple of times, I have found myself trying to explain it to him.

How do you explain anxieties to someone without sounding like you are crazy or messed up? I don’t really know, but I know this: his response has been breathtaking. It’s like someone gave him a cheat sheet that lets him in on how to listen, reassure, make me laugh, and redirect, all in the right amount and order, so that I come down off the panic ledge. It doesn’t take long, and I find myself back to normal – my new, happier normal.

Last week, my brain was pickled in hormones and it responded by making me feel like every minute was a swing between wanting to cry and rage. This is really unusual for me, even with hormones involved. For a week, my brain latched on to everything it could find as evidence that I wasn’t happy, that all the good things happening are ending, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I knew it wasn’t true, but knowing that doesn’t mean anything when anxiety is involved. It made me feel like I was going crazy.

And for a week, whether he knew he was doing it or not, he helped me hang on, believed in me when I didn’t, loved me even when I didn’t feel like myself. It’s no wonder I love him to pieces.

There are a few things going on in my life that make me feel like I am at the start of a new chapter. It’s exciting, terrifying, overwhelming and exhausting. That has meant some bumpy days, but good days, too. It’s a new chapter in this weird ass adventure that has become my life. He is farther into his adventure than I am, but we get to figure it out together. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Three Sevenths Yooper

It takes seven winters to make someone a Yooper, I was told. Seven full winters in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, during which massive blizzards and week after week of snow would set the stage for thousands of miles of driving on sandy, packed snow, up and down the Porcupine Mountains. Lake Superior is its northern border, and the vast beast rages while it brings more and more snow to the wooded grounds and the flannel clad people to the south of it.

When I read the brochures for Northern Michigan University, my alma mater, the amount of snow mentioned was unfathomable. 170 inches? Who knows what that looks like? I chalked it up to “a lot of snow” and sent in my application. I moved up north in June. The drive across M35, along the north edge of Lake Michigan, was lovely. The trees along interstate 41 were kind. It was a freakishly hot summer, so I got familiar with the beach that was a few blocks away.

Then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow. I wasn’t a stranger to snow, having lived in lower Michigan as a young child and then northern Illinois. It wasn’t like I was from Mobile, where a few flakes would surprise me. But there is something interminable about the snow in UP winters.

I am only 3/7 Yooper, since I only have three winters under my belt. However, the UP is where I learned to love snow. Snow in the UP has quite a few lessons to teach those lucky enough to live there. It teaches you a different shade of friendship and neighborhood, where you don’t hesitate when lending your snow brush to a neighbor whose own brush is trapped inside their frozen car.
It’s where I learned to like shoveling, both for the workout and the feeling of satisfaction I got after digging out the cars in the parking lot. Snow teaches you, over and over, that you are not the master of the universe. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves, building up our own importance, until the snow moves though, and there is no controlling it. The only way to work through the snow is to work with it, much like the other storms in life.

I love the first snow of the season, when the world I live in suddenly gets turned into a glittery globe of wonder. This week, most of the people I know here in northern Illinois were pretty worked up about the coming snow. When the forecast was three to five inches, people fretted. When it was increased to six to eight inches, people had palpitations. By Thursday, meteorologists were saying eight to ten inches, and you would think it was the coming apocalypse. That isn’t an unusual amount of snow for Northern Illinois, but enough that stores were busy selling rations.

I, on the other hand, could not wait. I needed a good snow storm. It was oxygen to my deprived soul.

It started snowing when I left work on Friday, and I picked up Chinese take out a few blocks from my apartment. I took the dog out and went inside where I ate too much kung pao chicken, read some Green Lantern comics, got my laundry done, and drank half a glass of chardonnay. I opened the blinds and watched the snow fall. That’s one of the best things about a good snow fall: you pretty much have to resign to it. It is nature’s way of forcing me to stop doing and start being.

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I slept deeply that night and woke to about eight inches of snow. I had breakfast, put my boots on, and headed out to go to Target. While I was clearing off my car, a couple teenagers were trying to clear the snow off of their car with a paper towel covering their hands. I lent them my snow brush. I cleared off my car as the snow kept falling, and I breathed in the smell of snow. It was beautiful and I was happy. So happy that I forgot about putting on makeup before I went about the rest of my day.

When I posted that picture on Facebook with a caption about being happy on the snow, my sister commented that I looked “so relaxed and happy.” I was. The rest of my day was awfully good, too: I made pumpkin cake bars and took them into the city, where I met up with Mike, we ate Italian take out in the hallway of the Irish American Heritage Center, then watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 with some friends before heading back home.

It was a really good day, and would have been regardless of the weather, but the snow took it to a new level.

By April, winter in the UP feels endless, relentless, and cabin fever is tough. When the last of the snow melts in June, people are thrilled to see muddy grass coming back to life. In Illinois, spring is rarely so desperate. In four months, I will probably be anxious for warmer, sunnier weather, but for now, I delight in the heavy white blanket that lays on the ground and weighs on the trees.

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Beautiful

Every so often, Postsecret publishes a secret that could be mine, and this week is one of those times. I didn’t have the above mentioned dream, but when I read it, I found myself thinking I get it. I’m never told I’m beautiful, so… I get it. 

I’ve written before that I rarely feel pretty. Feeling beautiful is almost a foreign thought.

I am occasionally told I “look nice” if I have dressed up and put on some makeup. My mother tells me I’m beautiful, but she’s my mother, so that doesn’t reach all that far.

I remember the first time I’d felt pretty in years. It was the day my baby cousin got married in 2013. I had a new dress that I loved, my makeup looked pretty good, and I was happy. It was still while I was at my heaviest, but I remember looking in the mirror and feeling pretty. I saw pictures and was amazed that I managed to look happy amidst the darkest months of my life. Even as I started losing weight and working on being happy, the pictures from that day reminded me of a turning point: I had the potential to be pretty.

Then, a few months ago, my father tried giving me a compliment, but in the process, I was devastated. I know that he was trying to encourage me by noticing the changes I’ve made, and the work I put into it. In doing so, he pulled up a picture to show me just how bad I used to be. It was a picture from that day, in that dress, smiling in that makeup. I know my dad loves me, and I know what he meant, but what it felt like was someone saying What you thought was beautiful is something to be ashamed of. I could barely respond to him. I know he didn’t mean it that way, but damn if that didn’t cut pretty deeply.

I don’t get told I’m pretty very often. Definitely don’t get told I’m beautiful.
But sometimes I like to feel like I might be.

Fat girl clothes are expensive. Pretty fat girl clothes cost a black market kidney. 

For most of my adult life, I have been poor, required to wear a uniform of some kind, or both. Especially when I was in seminary and ministry, the opportunities to be frilly and feminine were scarce. When I tried to take advantage of them, I got grief about it from people who didn’t seem to realize that their little jokes and comments about “who I was trying to impress” made me feel foolish for bothering to wear a skirt. So I did what I could: I bought pretty underwear and bras.

Standing in front of my dresser, deciding what I wanted to wear under my uniform was the only time I got to wear something that fit my mood. Lace? Satin? Polka dots? Snowflakes? No one saw them but me, but I felt just a little bit better knowing that there was something pretty there.

That habit hasn’t changed now that I can wear pretty much whatever I want. Wearing boring, plain, cotton underwear makes my day feel less spectacular. I could be wearing the prettiest dress I own, and if my undies are lame, I feel it. I’m willing to spend more on what I like, on what is better quality fabric, cut, etc., because when I wear it, I have a little more confidence. A little more oomph.

When I wear it, I feel like even if I’m not pretty, at least something I’m wearing is. So give me Calvin Kleins, bikinis with lace so delicate you hesitate to touch it, cottons so fine that they feel like magic.

Today, I read that the average person has just twenty-one pairs of underwear. I found this astounding because I own sixty if I own one. I commented to a group of people that I was shocked by this, and the conversation got ugly. I was mocked and laughed at for having so many pairs, and for spending money on something they see as unnecessary. I explained that pretty underwear changes my attitude a little and makes me feel pretty, but what they heard was that I thought they can’t be pretty in regular old Hanes (I didn’t mention them at all). I was told that the things that make them happy are more meaningful: a husband who helps out, kids who do what you want them to do, etc (I don’t have a husband or kids, so those aren’t even options). I tried explaining again, but that didn’t help. I was told it was petty and pointless, and that I needed to get over it. I don’t care what anyone else wears, but it stung to be mocked and told that what makes my day a little brighter is ridiculous. I was defensive and hurt as I cried most of the way home.

It’s so damned hard to feel pretty when you don’t fit the common description of pretty, and as much as I try to be above it, I want to be pretty. And not just wear pretty underwear, or a pretty dress, or manage to braid my hair in a way that impresses people… I want to be beautiful. I want to hear from someone other than my bff tell me that I’m gorgeous, but that has never happened, in 34 years. I want to turn a head for once – in a good way. I’m slowly starting to have more moments when I feel almost pretty. I’m getting there.

And Christ Almighty, if it takes a bit of overpriced lace from Macy’s to help get me there, I’ll go with it. Because chances are, my own voice looking at that scrap of lace is the only voice I’ll hear all day that associates me and beautiful in even the most indirect way.

Wait Gain

I’m just a few days shy of the anniversary of my resignation from The Salvation Army, a day that changed every itty bitty piece of my life. Last night, after pizza and a movie at my mom’s, she hurried out the door to give me something that I had forgotten in the move: my scale.

I didn’t really forget it. I was trying to, though. By the time I’d resigned, I’d lost about 82 pounds. Then, I had a year of nonstop change and uncertainty, and I plateaued in clothing sizes and gained a few pounds. For the last six weeks, since moving into my own place, I hadn’t weighed myself at all. And I ate a lot of food that wasn’t the best for me. Like hell was I going to step on a scale!

This morning, I couldn’t help it. I had to face the music. I stepped on the scale and in the last six weeks…. I gained a pound and a half. I was so happy!! Partly because I was certain it was going to be 10 pounds, but mostly because for the first time in maybe forever, I really didn’t care so much.

Since resigning, I’ve gained 14 pounds back. Not the best, but given the colossal changes I made in the last year, that is a huge victory. As a lifelong megafatty, it would have been so easy to wallow and eat everything and be back up to where I was.

I thought about all I’ve gained and lost in the last year, and I can’t help but think that this morning feels like a really big victory:

Lost:
– Some people I thought were friends
– My need for daily sleep aides / anxiety meds
– Guilt for “not measuring up” to TSA standards
– Fear of my bosses and pastors

Gained:
– 14 pounds
– Confidence
– Joy
– A handful of strangers who are my support, cheerleaders, and source for really inappropriate jokes (that’s you, LSKs!)
– My own car and apartment
– So much time with my family
– New friends
– A job I love
– A kickass boyfriend who makes most men look like chumps
– Better credit
– The ability to sleep at night
– So much faith in myself

I honestly don’t care at all about 14 pounds. Well, I do a little, but I know I can lose them and I don’t feel like my worth is at all tied to that number.

Each of the last three years has felt like the universe is trying to kick my butt. This year, I finally feel like I’m making progress in my fight back. A year is a super long time sometimes. But oh, the things you can gain in a year.

Gesicht/Geschichte

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you.
From “The Story” by Brandi Carlile

Did I need a new lipstick today? I argued myself into it. I have a handful of stains and colors in my purse but I didn’t have any that were the right color AND didn’t come off on the first kiss. Clearly, new lipstick was in order, and I had go to the store anyways. The color I bought, Maybelline’s 24-Hour Super Stay in #25, didn’t look as vampy at the drug store as it did when I got back to my office. I put it on anyways, and, like most scary lipsticks, I started to love it. I took a picture and sent it to my bff for approval. She signed off, and I killed a few more minutes by taking a few more.

Do you like your face?
It sounds strange, but lately, I’ve started to like my own face. I didn’t used to. It was too fat, my chin too pointy, my eyebrows too big, my nose rather unfortunate. I have always felt quite plain. In high school, my friends were compared to Keri Russell and Jennifer Love Hewitt, and I was told I looked like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In addition to the fact that I can’t function in the slightest without them, glasses have always been a kind of shield. Something that stood between me and everything else.

While driving home tonight, I realized that the German word for face is Gesicht and the word for story is Geschichte. Very nearly the same words. Brandi Carlile’s breakthrough song came to mind, and it felt differently. I’ve heard it how many zillions of times, and now, today, it makes sense in a new way. I can’t really articulate it yet, but somehow, it just resonates.

I look like my parents, and like my paternal grandmother. My nose is solidly from my dad’s side. My mouth from my mom’s. The freckles earned over the course of 35 summers. I have pretty much always liked my eyelashes and eyes. My face isn’t just a collection of shapes, it’s me. I’m only now, in my 30s, getting comfortable with it.

About a year ago, I wrote about how tired my eyes looked. So very worn down by stress, anxiety, and exhaustion that I looked old and weary, even on days when I tried to look pretty. Last week, I realized that my vision insurance now makes contacts an affordable option, and after a lifetime of Coke-bottle glasses, it’s strange to think that I won’t have glasses on my face.

At the risk of narcissism, a few of the pictures of me without the glasses I hide behind, wearing the lipstick that scares me, my vulnerable history:

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Without glasses; I don't have contacts yet, though.

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Silly

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No more tired eyes!

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No filter, just standing by the window. I really like my eyes in this one.

Sunday Night Spiral

For the last few weeks, I’ve had really good weekends, with the exception of Sunday nights. Sunday nights have been spirals of anxiety as I come down from the fun I had the rest of the weekend. Tonight, in an effort to cut that spiral shorter, I’m going to focus on what I am thankful for, in no order whatsoever:

– English muffins
– A really good pillow
– My dog, who loves me despite having been gone so much
– My job
– Having my own place again
– Red lipstick
– A few partial days with my brother
– Coffee and my programmable maker
– Halloween candy (especially KitKats)
– Old books
– Mike
– Quiet
– The lesser level of stress I have now
– Clean bedsheets

There are tons more, but now I’m getting sleepy and I better take advantage of that before my body decides it needs another English muffin. Good night, everyone. If I haven’t told you in a while, I love you.

Some highlights of the last few weeks:

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Me and Mike in the city

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Me and my little brother, whom I almost never see

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Darth Vader Cheaterpants, just after he won King of Tokyo

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With old, old friends at Lissa and Wayne's baby shower

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A day when I felt pretty, something that used to never happen

Three Little Birds

A few years ago now, I was driving my niece somewhere. Beats me what the destination was, but it was the drive that made it memorable. At some point, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds came on, and not being a particularly big Marley fan, I wouldn’t have turned it up, were it not for Sarahberry. The sweetness of her voice singing “don’t worry about a thing; every little thing is gonna be alright,” made me want to sing along. It turned a nothing moment into one I desperately tried to prolong.

Earlier this week, I was working on music trivia questions for work and I came across one for Bob Marley. The associating memory of my niece made me smile, so I opened a tab and found a stream of YouTube videos and listened while I worked. When Three Little Birds came on, I closed my eyes, smiled, and sang while I let the memory wash over me. A lot of life has been lived since that day, and I thought about how often it felt like I couldn’t make it anymore.

Last week, I talked to a former mentor, catching up on things. She was happy to hear that most of life is going well for me, or at least a lot better than it had for a few years. It feels strange to be on the other side of things, but I like it.

It was only three songs later in the playlist that I heard devastating news about a friend. A dear one, one who was unquestionably there for me during everything. Suddenly, the light hearted afternoon had betrayed me. I was stuck for words.

I got up and began my rounds of corralling people for the afternoon activity and as I walked up the stairs, I wanted to cry for my friend. “You have some explaining to do,” I arrogantly said to God as I stomped up the last few steps, knowing good and well that God doesn’t answer to me at all. God should have known that my friend doesn’t deserve this; I could have pointed God in the direction of a few people who are due for some retributive karma if I had known that this crapstorm was about to fall on someone.

I still don’t know what to say to my friend. I hate not being able to fix things. The line that keeps running through my head is what circled around me when my grandmother died: sometimes, the cruelest thing is that the world keeps spinning anyways.

Eventually, I think Marley is right. It has taken a long time to get to where I am, where more things feel right than wrong. The hard part is the “mean time,” when everything feels shattered and messy and irreparable. My friend was there for me, and all I can do is be there for my friend. Even if I don’t know how.

Brick by Brick

There are parts of the world that I am not dying to see, and art exhibits that bore me pretty quickly. One thing inhabits both of these lists: Egypt. Whenever I’m at the Art Institute with my sister, she could spend all day in the ancient Egypt collection while I quickly get to the point where my brain is screaming “oh look: another chipped clay pot, just like the last 700 you’ve seen.” My desire to visit Egypt is lessened quite a bit by its recent political climate, but I have to say, the biggest draw for me are the pyramids that showed up in the background of story books when I was a child.

They aren’t amazing because of what they look like, but because they are a testimony of greatness and power. Over decades and decades, thousands of nameless people slaved -literally- to turn crappy limestone into something great enough to house the holiest, most esteemed people of their society. One brick at a time, they carried and stacked. Each brick unimpressive on its own, like millions of tons of other limestone rocks all over the planet that go unnoticed every day.

A year ago, my life felt as barren, hot, and miserable as that desert must have been. I wanted out, but to imagine successful life on the outside was as insane as the ancient Egyptians dreaming up the first pyramid. I wasn’t the first, though. Thank God, I wasn’t the first. I had two in particular who were my own pyramids, Cory and Christin. Both had left and built their own pyramids, so I wasn’t as afraid to build mine.

How long would it take you to build your life if woke up tomorrow with no job, home, car, phone, insurance, credit, and only $374 to finance your move to another state? It’s a hell of a thing to envision, and even imagining it beforehand is nothing compared to living it.

No one, and no previous experience prepares you for building your pyramid. I wasn’t on my own – I had family and friends who have been an unquantifiable amount of help, but it’s both a solitary and community effort. Every tangible bit of building a pyramid is the result of the mental work that goes into it. Sometimes, the mental work involved was coming to the weary, humbling conclusion that I needed someone else to carry and place a brick for me.

And the only way to see any results is to just keep going.

Ten months and fourteen days ago, I packed everything I owned in a uHaul, unloaded it into my parents’ garage, and started over, covered in scars that still feel raw from time to time. I did a lot of pride-swallowing and took the exact job I swore I would never take after college and worked enough to buy a car. Stock up on some interview clothes. Pay for my coffee at Starbucks where I used their free WiFi to look for a job that I didn’t hate.

Slowly, bricks were laid, even when I wasn’t looking. Wounds healed, friendships unfolded, nightmares lessened and dreams took their place.

Today, I signed the lease on an apartment. A one bedroom apartment at the end of a street lined with old trees in a small town just outside of a university bubble. It feels like a very significant brick. It’s just a couple miles from where I live now, in a town that has managed to feel more like home in three months than anywhere has in a long, long time.

I’m going to move in over the next week, with the help of more friends and family. For the first time in three years, I’ll get to put my Christmas decorations up. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’ll have a space to invite friends into – until now, it seemed like I either had space or friends nearby, but rarely the two together.

My pyramid has a really long way to go, but today feels good. It feels like I get to finally believe that I wasn’t crazy to think about the possibility of life of the outside. Individually, the bricks laid in the last year aren’t much to brag about, but let me assure you: they were heavy, they were necessary, and they took a hell of a lot of effort. So when I look at these little silver keys in my hand, they are a lot more than just keys. They are big, gigantic bricks in my pyramid.

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Gigantic bricks disguised as tiny silver keys

Two Truths and A Lie

My mother wore a hoodie over her nightgown and a blanket around her waist as she shuffled her gym shoe- clad feet through the doors of the ER and plopped gracelessly into the chair next to the admitting nurse’s desk. I got in line behind the two girls who stood in front of me, chatting like it was study hall. We waited for a minute until the clerk got back to her desk – a very long minute as I stood there, watching my mother shiver and bounce in her seat.

“Who’s next?” The clerk asked.

“We were here first. I have a toothache,” said the girl on the right.

“O- are you? – are you all together?” The nurse gestured her hand towards all of us, eyeing my mother.

“No,” I said. As uncomfortable as a toothache can be, my mother needed help more quickly.

“What is she having trouble with?” She asked me.

“She’s diabetic and her blood sugar is tanking. She’s freezing and is having trouble breathing.” I said.

“I have a headache, too,” piped the girl with the toothache.

Are you kidding me? Please tell me you’re kidding. Are you seriously trying to insinuate that your toothache is more pressing than my mother’s present condition? If you are going to try to make my mother wait for treatment, let me talk to you outside. I’ll bust out your damned tooth, and it won’t hurt for too much longer…. I am not very kind when someone messes with my family.

The nurse motioned for me to come over by my mother and she ignored the girls at the counter. She took her blood sugar, got her name and birthday, and got her another nurse to get her right back into the room. The girls went back to chatting like nothing was wrong.

Once we were in the room, I messaged my bff, told her where I was, and about the girl with the toothache.

“Clearly she doesn’t understand how the ER works,” she said.*

Tonight ended up being another example in a very long list of examples this week of people who don’t seem to understand how a society should work. People who oppose gun regulations that would save lives because they feel it impinges on their personal rights. People who are in a stable financial situation who oppose liveable wages for others because it would make them feel less successful. A clerk who refuses to do her job because the legal, equal right to marry supposedly threatens her individual right to exercise her faith…. A young woman who begrudges the few minutes spent waiting while a retired grandmother is rushed into the hospital room first.

People have always been selfish, rotten, and egocentric. That’s certainly nothing new; this week just seem to be a spectacular display of that truth. People are so very concerned with themselves that they can’t see what is happening outside of their own heads.

It’s quite hard, in this moment, to remember the other, equally true statement: people are good, kind, and selfless. Friends of mine who prayed for my mom, the nurse who patiently rubbed my mom’s foot when it cramped up on her, the cashier who was sincere in his well wishes for her night.

People are rotten.
People are good.
Both of these are equally true.

I like to think that I am better at being good than being rotten. Sometimes, my good actions happen directly in opposition to my own heart and brain. I could be mad and mean and ornery at someone on the inside, but on the outside, I force myself to be kind and gracious. The actions feel like a lie. It’s not like it’s all the time or anything. But after days like this, weeks like these, I confess that I feel just as selfish and mean as others seem to be acting. I tell myself that not acting it out is better, that it is at least a step in a better direction. Is it? I’m not so sure. My faith tells me that it’s my heart that matters, and I’m not sure I understand my heart very much today.

Is it enough that my desire to show love, despite my own feelings, wins out (usually)? Or am I cutting myself too much slack?

*My mother is OK, by the way. It was a stress-induced drop in her blood sugar, which is now back where it should be and she is home, sleeping.