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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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Property Rights, or, For the Love of Rose

How old were you when your body became yours?

My last post was the result of trying to handle the overwhelming messages that society sends about my body (and the bodies of women everywhere), and the response was kind and encouraging, but also sad, as I read from so many other women who feel just like I do. Women may have the right to vote, own property, work outside the home, and do quite a few more things than previous generations experienced, but this week, I have been stymied by evidence that society hasn’t yet agreed that women have ownership of their own bodies and it is infuriating.

A few years ago, I had a fairly civil conversation with a friend about gender roles, with she championing the more traditional take on it. She married very young and had kids right away, fitting nicely into the traditional roles set out for her. I, as a single woman in her thirties, didn’t do either of those things. At one point, I asked her who was responsible for me: was it my father? As a college educated, professional adult, was my father still responsible for my actions? What about when he dies, does that responsibility transfer to my brother, who lived over a thousand miles away and to whom I rarely speak? She couldn’t tell me. We had known each other for over a decade, and she still did not seem to think that I am my own person, regardless of my marital status.

Less than two weeks ago, my heart broke as I listened to my teenaged cousin tell us that she feels obligated to return unwanted physical affection from guys because otherwise, she would be labeled as “unfriendly” in her peer group – a group that is entirely comprised of church friends and other students at her very conservative private school. Her “friends,” male and female, don’t seem to respect her boundaries, and for a few guys, it wasn’t until her older brother showed up and stepped in that they backed off. I find it mind boggling that in 2015, women have to have brothers step in because society doesn’t understand that her body belongs to her, and that she sets the boundaries for what she likes and dislikes.

image

A selfie with Rose

In July, I got to see my best friend and her children, whom I adore. They are just fantastic, each in their own way, but I have to tell you: Rose, aged 2 1/2, is my patronis. Since birth, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She refused to let almost anyone hold her. She has had a huge personality since day one, loud and fast talking and a ball buster of a kid. I don’t get to see her often because they live in Baltimore, so that morning, she was skeptical of me. The older kids were happy to get tickles and hugs, but Rose wasn’t interested. “No! I don’t like it!” she said as she ran away. Now, it wouldn’t have been impossible for me to cross the living room, pick her up, and hug her despite her protests. I’ve seen that happen with a lot of kids, but that’s because as adults, we don’t let kids set boundaries. To tell an aunt or uncle to keep their hands off is “disrespectful” or “rude,” so kids get told to do it anyways. Eventually, by the time lunch rolled around, she was comfortable with me and I snuck in a hug or two, tickled her til her sides hurt, and played hide and seek with her.

At what point do we own our own bodies? Surely Rose needs people to care for her, but does that mean that she doesn’t own her body? My cousin can’t vote or get a tattoo or sign a contract, but does that mean she doesn’t own her body? I’m single and in my mid-30s, so does that mean that my father is responsible for my body?

I watched a few hours of news today and it was full of examples where the ownership of people’s bodies seemed to somehow be up for debate: talk about a high profile rape case (one of the worst violations of a person’s agency), a popular talk show host advocating immigrants becoming “property of the state” and forced into “compelled labor,” debate over the representation of women of color in magazines, twisted presidential hopefuls who seem to think they have a stake in my uterus. I flipped through Facebook and read comments about the former Subway guy who pleaded guilty to child sex abuse charges and about the Duggar opinion that wives should never say no to sex, even when they don’t want it. At what point do we own our bodies?

There are a lot of messages about out bodies that we need to filter out, but probably the biggest message to ignore is the message that one’s body belongs to anyone but one’s own self. My body belongs to me, yours belongs to you. Maybe remembering that will help us be kinder to one another. I desperately hope that my cousin understands this and is willing to hold tight to it. I pray that Rose keeps her stubborn and boisterous personality because it will serve her well, even if it gives her parents gray hair.

Friends, for the love of me, my cousin, Rose, and everyone else, can we just agree that a person’s body belongs to that person? And then, maybe we will have a tiny shred of credibility when we call ourselves a civilized people.

Hot Lips

Twelve years ago, while in college, I worked in a clothing store as a second job, basically trading my time for clothes. One evening, I found myself staring at one of the customers. I couldn’t help it. She had lips that belonged on a pinup, the most perfect shade of blazing red that somehow managed to look classy and not at all whorish. I complimented her on it, and she thanked me, explaining that she worked on State Street in Chicago at a very high end makeup counter and their makeup “uniform” not only included all black clothing, but red lips and minimal makeup everywhere else. I told her that I could never wear red lipstick because it looks terrible on me, to which she replied it was about finding two things: the right shade, and the right attitude, because when you wear red lipstick like you should be wearing it, no one questions you.

I smiled and thought “uh, yeah, no. I will stick to my rose colored glosses and Cherry ChapStick.” Wearing red lipstick was as scary as wearing a tube top, an act that cannot be ignored. Just think about it: no one remembers what Jennifer Lopez wears on her lips, but Gwen Stefani’s red lips are legendary, even above her outstanding clothing.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m walking a balance beam between wanting to be invisible and wanting to be noticed. I don’t want people to zero in on my faults and imperfections, which I think are glaringly obvious and visible from the International Space Station. When my ankles are puffy and my hair is Fraggle-ish and I just messed up at work, I am desperate to glide under everyone’s radar. However, when my resume is lost in a sea of resumes, and everyone is hanging out without me, and I’m having a good boob day, it’s all I can do to not walk around saying “hey! What about me?!? I’m special, dammit!!”
A couple years ago, I went to a department store to buy Chanel nail polish. It seemed like a nonsensical thing to get, but I was in a pretty low spot and wanted something over the top pretty. When I got there, I was bummed to find that they didn’t carry Chanel cosmetics. So I wandered around and came across Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Stain.

You know that first time you drove your first car? Or maybe when you got those earrings for graduation? Or the first time you had pizza at Lou Malnati’s?

That was me, meeting YSL Glossy Stain No. 5.

Angels sang. Stars shone brighter. The smell of summer enveloped me.

I was afraid, though. It was a far darker pink than anything I’d worn before. I couldn’t put it down, so I handed my MasterCard and left with a teeny little black bag of happiness in my hand.

I loved wearing it. It was just so pretty, even if I was a little nervous about people noticing my mouth. It would mean that they would notice me, even in a small and passing way. I couldn’t be invisible anymore.

Last fall, I went to dinner with my bff, Brandon, and afterwards, I was in a really good mood, high on laughter and chips and salsa. I decided to stop and see if there was another shade of the same stain that I’d like since I was up for something new. No. 9 was perfect, except for the fact that it was exactly what I’d feared: intensely red, glossy magic.

I feared it and had to have it at the same time.

The first time I wore it, I nearly shook. I wasn’t a red lipstick kind of woman. Those women were assured, confident, beautiful. I was just me, sometimes shaky, shy, and definitely plain. One of the best lessons my choir director taught me is that “this, too, is part of acting. If you present yourself like you mean to be here, no one will say that you shouldn’t be.”

In that vein, it became war paint. When I wanted to feel strong, in command of my universe, the red lip stain was one of my best tokens. When I wanted to feel gorgeous and anything but plain, painting the color on my lips went a long way. I am a different woman when I wear red lip stain. I get a surprising number of compliments when I wear it.

I’ve picked up a few more shades from other brands since then. Today, I woke up to a horribly anxious brain. I spent the day watching The History Channel and napping before heading to my niece’s choir concert. When I got ready, I pulled out a tube of stain that I haven’t worn in months and with one swipe, I remembered that this is the most intense color I have, and this brand doesn’t wear off easily at all.

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The super intense color from earlier today.

Dang. I was already trying to fight through a scumbaggy brain and now here I was, with lips that are visible to the Mars Rover. Deciding to follow Max’s advice again, I took a selfie and stuck it on Facebook, declaring myself ready for the day. One of my friends commented on it, saying that I can pull off bright colors, but she looks silly when she tries. I found myself standing where that other woman stood twelve years ago, telling her to find the right shade and run with it.

Every woman can – and should – wear red lipstick, if not literally, then metaphorically. Find the courage to stand out. Draw attention to what you have to say. Even if you have to fake it, act like you are here on purpose.

Yves Saint Laurent changed my life. What will it take to change yours?

Time is a Thin Veil

Time is a thin veil
that hangs between me and
my memories,

but if I close my
eyes and hold my breath,
it is thinner.

The November ocean
numbs and foams around my
feet and the peach

sky sets slowly
while dolphins play in
distant waves.

Brown shag carpet
under my legs while I eat
lemon drops,

my grandmother’s voice
telling me stories that I’ll too
soon forget.

The scent on his skin
when he moved in closer,
taking my face

in his hands,
so familiar, exciting, and
heartbreaking.

If I just stop,
still, hold my breath and close
my eyes, I

am
so
nearly
there

again.

But my eyes
cannot stay shut, nor my ears
strain to hear

the voices and
sighs and train whistles of
time gone by.

Time is an
impermeable veil, with new
oceans to

wade, stories to
live, and lips to kiss, and
I can’t wait.

Blame

She is merciless
As she stomps throughout her day,
Shouting her frustrations and anger
At me, blaming me for everything
That has gone wrong and
Pointing out every failure.
The sorrow in Sudan? Because I
Do not care enough.
The election of corrupt people? All due
To my apathy.
The recently puffy nature of my damned ankles?
If I wasn’t so weak and lazy, they
Would be fine.
I try to reason with her, but I
Don’t know why I bother anymore.
No matter how often I remind her
Of my redeeming qualities, and the
Lack of control I have over
Things like traffic patterns and Ebola
Outbreaks, she only uses them as reasons
To find more fault. More blame.
I’ve tried everything.
But the bitch in the mirror just won’t shut up.

Double Starbucks

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a double Starbucks day, but today is one. In fact, today might be the first double Starbucks day I have had since I resigned from professional ministry. Last night, I worked until 11, and then had to be back at work at 6 a.m., which doesn’t sound all that awful until I factor in the half-hour drive each way, the fact that I am never actually out on time, and still had to eat dinner when I got home and shower when I got up, and, perhaps more significantly, my brain is more likely to misbehave when I’ve not slept well. My first cup was a venti dark roast I picked up on my way in to work. When I got to work, the place was full of customers. Men just standing there, talking about nothing and drinking their coffees. I think I may have grumbled a hello as I stalked through them to get to the office.

I did not feel very pastor-y today. I didn’t want to have to see or interact with people. I didn’t want to listen to anyone’s problems. And for the love of everything holy, I did not have it in me to be gracious to other crabby people.

As a pastor, I should have known better: people seem to know when I feel least pastor-y, and that’s when they demand it. 

My first shifter got a running start on pushing my buttons. She refuses to take on any responsibility, but wants to do all the management tasks that make her feel like she has authority. She has been in the store longer than anyone else, so she feels like she can do whatever she wants. She is forever telling me what she thinks I should be doing and is frequently disrespectful, particularly when she has an audience. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. when I was venting in my office, via my cell phone, to my sister.

I needed to be gracious in how I dealt with her. But oh my God, why today? Couldn’t she have waited until tomorrow to be in such a spectacularly awful mood?

I spent more than an hour trying to deal with a vendor whose delivery was every kind of messed up you can imagine: wrong products, wrong quantities, wrong prices. We scanned and counted and crossed things off of lists, and still, we got nowhere. There was no combination of things that got us to the right ending.

I needed to be patient. Of all the days to demand patience, today was hardly the best choice, but there we stood, reviewing stacks of Monster energy drinks and trying to sort out $3000 worth of beverages clogging up the hallway.

As a pastor, I should have known better: the universe knows when I can’t handle one more thing, and that’s when it throws its best curve balls. 

My two favorite people to work with are Carol and Abby.* Abby works at the sandwich counter in the store, is barely nineteen, with a pixie face and her dark hair up in twin pom poms that look like Minnie Mouse ears. Last night, we were talking about tattoos, and I told her that the verse written in Hebrew on my right wrist reminds me that no matter what is happening, God’s character is constant. She told me about her tattoos, from the matching bow tattoos she shares with an aunt to the flower on her arm “just because it’s pretty.” Her grandmother, Carol, works on my side of the store. She’s in her mid-fifties, with bottle-blonde hair, pink iridescent lipstick, and a voice that tells you that she has had a wild life. She’s shamelessly herself, chatty, funny, caring, loud, and has the ability to make people feel like they are the light of her world, just by being on the other side of the counter. She’s always talking about her dream of owning a food truck, making good, reasonable food for people in an environment where she can cook, hang out, and live the life she loves. Sometimes, despite the fact that I know she doesn’t have much of an income, she will make a bunch of food and bring dinner for everyone at work just to let us know she cares. I adore her. Last night, I got to work with both Abby and Carol, and it was really great.

When Carol came in today, she looked at me and said “Honey, you look so tired, and a little depressed. Hard day? is everything OK?” I said that I was pretty tired, and that it had been a hard day, but that I was otherwise OK. She asked about how things are going with a guy that I’ve been seeing, and I filled her in on the latest. She was, as usual, glad to hear that things are going well.

“I’ve had a hard day, too,” she finally said. “You know I went to that [lung] specialist today, and that asbestos disease that they talk about on TV? Well, I don’t have that, but it’s almost the same thing. My lungs are all folded up and full of shit and there’s no treatment or anything. I’m gonna get a second opinion, but if it’s this disease, I didn’t do nothing to cause it, but then it’s like, six months and I’m gone.” She wiped under her eye. “Don’t tell nobody. I’m not saying anything until I get a second opinion, and if I talk about it, I’m gonna cry again. So don’t tell nobody, OK?”

Regardless of the work polo I was wearing, I was immediately in “pastor mode” again. I listened, and told her that I wouldn’t talk about it with anyone in the store (given the fact that none of you know her/where I work and names are changed, I figure this isn’t violating her privacy). I was stunned. She has been in and out of emergency rooms for her breathing, and her condition was generally overlooked by the staff at the income-dependent medical clinic that she went to for far too long.

She’s too young. Too nice.
She doesn’t deserve it. I mean, how many people do you know who, when given a six-month sentence, go to work a few hours later and are first concerned about how their raggedy boss is doing?

I’m glad she feels like she can tell me these things. She’s part of my little unofficial mini flock, now that I am in a different kind of ministry. I doubt she thinks of me as her pastor, but she does think of me as a friend, and that’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.

As her friend, I’m devastated, heartbroken. I am so very angry that it is happening to her.

I’m helpless. My years of pastoring taught me well that I cannot fix anything. I can guide, love, teach, pray. but I cannot fix things, and that is the cruelest reality for pastors. Every pastor I know wants to fix things, and not one of us can. I’m reminded, again, by the verse on my arm that God didn’t change from one minute to the next. God is still God, diagnosis or not. No matter how hard that is to comprehend today.

So I do what I can do: I can love. Listen. Grieve. Pray. Be a friend. And drink this tea at Starbucks while I brainstorm how to do those things better.

*Names are changed.

Adventures in (Not) Dating

I’ve written about being fat, rape, resigning from my professional ministry career, my family, a broken heart, my anxiety disorder… and yet, this post seems really scary, and incredibly personal. Like the rest of those posts, though, the words demand to be written, and so I find myself sitting at the computer, asking the universe to be kind.

In high school, when everyone else was dating, I had a weird, intimate relationship with a guy for three and a half years, so I didn’t date anyone else. In college, I was working and taking too many credit hours, so I didn’t have time to date, though my insecurities and anxiety kept me under the radar most of the time anyways. Then, for years, I was in seminary and a full-time minister, and I don’t think that there is better man-repellent than being a fat, nerdy minister. A little more than a year ago, something weird started with someone, and after about a year, I found myself brokenhearted, stuck in Iowa where I knew no one outside of coworkers and clients, and I gave in to peer pressure from my dearest friends and decided to try online dating. It had worked for Ange and James, Jerry and Jessica, Brandon and Nick, so why shouldn’t I give it a shot? After all, it’s not like I was likely to meet men anywhere else in that tiny little town.

It has been two and a half months, and oh my God has it been everything I feared it would be.

First, there’s the weird job of setting up your own profile, trying to answer questions honestly, even if none of the options really fit, and even if you aren’t sure how to do it, you have to write something in a few hundred characters that will catch someone’s attention. I’m a whole person, not just a few pithy lines about how I like football, sparkles, and and thunderstorms. What if one word, or one line is included or excluded and that makes all the difference in my impression and I don’t know that? I’m supposed to put pictures, but since all my friends live forever away, all I have are recent selfies and old pictures from when I was much fatter. How many selfies can I post before I just look lonely and bored (no matter how lonely and bored I actually may be here in another town where the only people I know are my parents).

Then, there’s the even weirder job of sorting through others’ profiles. Do I have a height range? What about eye color or income? Excuse me, am I looking for a person or sorting through possible specs on an automobile? If I have no parameters, I look too desperate and have to sort through too many people who really don’t fit the bill. I’ve noticed I have weird trends, a “type” that I didn’t really think about before. I usually skip over blonds, and short men (anyone under 5’10”) seem to get a “meh” from me. I’m OK with men six or seven years older, but more than two years younger and I feel like Mrs. Robinson. Little things in their descriptions can make me cringe and are sometimes speedbumps that I have to think twice about (passed one up because he’s a Packers stakeholder: gag). I skipped one profile completely because he looks too much like a friend’s brother-in-law whom we all dislike. This guy might be perfectly delightful, but I could only think “eeeek! NOOOO!”

But beyond that, I hate, hate, hate the weird, fake, uncomfortable way that communication happens, or doesn’t happen, and how it makes me feel about myself. Online not-dating has been hell on my anxiety, complicated by my stupidly romantic heart. I am never comfortable making the first move. I do it because as much as it terrifies me, if I want something – or think I want something – I have to give it a shot, because otherwise, I will be haunted by what might have been. So I look through profile after profile, trying to figure out if it’s worth the risk, and I’ve decided to take the risk more often than I would have thought I would. And it has fallen flat every time. Most of the time, I’m ignored. Sometimes, I’ll have a few exchanges with a guy and then he just stops talking. Mid conversation, never says another word. Sometimes, it seems like less of a risk: there was one guy who stalked my profile for two weeks, “winked” at me, and then when I said hi, there was no response and he never looked at my profile again. Another guy looked over and over, liked every photo, favorited me, and then again, as soon as I said hi, he disappeared.

The few who have contacted me first have been worse: yesterday, a man messaged me to tell me he’d let me sleep with him since he’s bored with his fat, lazy-in-bed wife, as long as I drove to Wisconsin when his wife and kids are gone. Another guy, barely old enough to get a tattoo, said he’d get to the point: he wants an experienced woman to teach him. And there have been a few who are old enough not only to be my father, but my grandfather, too! GROSS.

Reading profiles has become kind of ridiculous, because they almost all say the same thing: they want a light-hearted, outgoing, skinny woman. Perhaps using slightly different language, but it’s a lot of the same thing. Sometimes, I read them and I can see how we’d get along in everything mentioned, except for that one little phrase that makes it clear that he only wants thin women. Even guys who are 75 pounds overweight themselves are only interested in thin women. sigh. I’m kind of in that in-between stage, where I’m the size of an average American woman, which means I’m not so very gigantic anymore, but I still am losing (seven more pounds lost this month!), with more hips than I like, but pretty decent boobs that balance it out. Average, though, is still fatter than they want. Even taking my weight out of it, I don’t fit into what they describe. I’m not light-hearted. I’m not outgoing. I’m funny, but not in a way that translates well into profile-writing. I am really smart, but to say so makes me sound arrogant. I’m a really loyal and honest friend, but that’s something that plays out in time, not in 45 seconds of reading. I think I’m a pretty good person, but then again, it’s not like anyone would advertise themselves as an asshole, you know?

So two and a half months later, I find myself in the same position. Well, not brokenhearted anymore, but still bored. It’s hard to be ignored all the time and not feel like there’s just something fundamentally unattractive about me. Some invisible force that stretches even into the internet. Poor BobbyJeff, Melissa, Brandon, and Ange have listened to me whine about it and have been kind enough to not tell me to shut up.

I keep saying that I am done with it, but since I have another few weeks on my subscription, I still check it. Every so often, I find myself talking to someone for a day or two, even though they always disappear. It’s a weird sort of masochism, I think, being a romantic. Because no matter how often I end up bummed out by being ignored, there is that little voice that says “but it worked for Ange… look at how happy Jerry is…” I suppose it’s the price I am paying for not being too jaded. The price to pay for hoping, however tenderly, that it’s possible that there’s someone who will see past my hips and inability to write my own catalog entry and see that I have pretty eyes, brilliant brain, and that eternally damned “great personality.”

Invention and Discovery

About a year and a half ago, I started a sort of new phase in life, though I didn’t really intend to. All I was trying to do is recover from the darkest season I’ve ever experienced. I adopted some new disciplines and tried to unlearn years of unhealthy habits. Some friendships ended and new ones started. I started losing weight, and right now, I’m about ten sizes smaller than I was a year ago.

Now, it seems like the decision to resign and start a totally new chapter was inevitable; the person I was becoming was increasingly incongruous with the role I played and the denomination I was in.

It’s hard to say, though, whether it has been a journey of invention or of discovery. On one hand, the new habits and ways of thinking make me feel like I am creating a Cindy that didn’t exist before, but then again, it also feels like this “new” Cindy is someone who has always been there but was afraid to exist. I always had opinions, I just kept them hidden for fear of punishment for disagreeing with people higher on the ladder. I always thought of myself as a good friend to others, but I didn’t have enough confidence to think that people would actually want to be friends with me.

I’m sure it’s some mixture of invention and discovery.

As I fill out all of these applications, send in resumes, talk to recruiters, and go on interviews, I am being asked questions I am not sure how to answer: What am I looking for? What do I require from an employer? Where do I see my career in X years? Good grief, I don’t know… Change was inevitable, but going from a construct in which all these questions are invalid to having to answer them over and over is a bigger shift than I thought it would be.

It’s a shift that is really from one extreme to the other. A year ago, the expected, socialized response to questions about my own career path was to assume that leadership would make the best decisions for me, and the highest measure of success was the extent of obedience and my willingness to invest myself entirely in the role and location in which they placed me. I could provide some kind of feedback, but ultimately, I, like others within the organization, were moved like chess pieces, and sometimes, it seems like some were sacrificed (or at least endangered) in the interest of protecting the king. The underlying response to people indicating that they had a particular view of how they wanted their career to progress was that the individual was prideful.

And now, here I am, having decided to make such a huge change in the interest of my own health and sanity, and I’m stunned by such basic questions as “what do I want?” How do I undo years of thinking that answers to that question are prideful and therefore wrong?

I know how the old Cindy would have responded. I kind of have an idea of how the present Cindy wants to respond. I’m just struggling with feeling like it’s OK to be so “selfish” or “prideful.” I have a hard time imagining what life will be like in a year – a year ago, I certainly didn’t think I’d be where I am today.

It’s uncertain and weird and scary, this process of inventing/discovering myself, and I’m sure I’m making mistakes along the way, but it’s where I am, for the moment anyways, and I’m starting to be less anxious in letting things unfold.

Five Man Electrical Band and Me

I’m not a superstitious person, for the most part. I don’t believe a lot of old wives tales or fear urban legends.

But I do think that sometimes, God has interesting ways of getting our attention, and today, it seems like from the minute I woke up until just a few minutes ago, I am seeing signs everywhere. Little random accidents that just don’t seem to be quite so random.

I woke up thinking about an old friend early this morning. Fell back asleep and he was in my dream, and then when I woke and looked at my phone, his Facebook post took up the whole screen. Then, all day long, for reasons I don’t understand, his name popped up on my phone over and over in a bunch of weird contexts, as well as hearing his name (well, first name) said on the radio. And while I was in the van, the song that reminds me of him was played, a song that hasn’t been on the radio in a while.

Probably as a result of the last eighteen months of ridiculous introspection and intentional efforts at self-improvement, I can’t seem to shake the feeling lately that there are barriers between me and who I want to be, and it has felt like I’m struggling to get out of a sweater that is three sizes too small. Confined and hemmed in, I can’t even move the way I need to in order to shed it, so instead, it’s a weird kind of wriggling to see if I can get it to a point that I can finally be free.

Today, though, there has been an endless series of comments, posts, and songs about change, new chapters, and risk. I’m not sure what to make of it, but the general consensus is to be bold and go with it. I’ve taken some risks lately, but this seemed to hint at a bigger one. I was about to dismiss the signs when I accidentally hit the wrong button on my iPod and suddenly a song from the animated movie Anastasia started to play: “Heart don’t fail me now. Courage don’t desert me; don’t turn back now that we’re here. People always say life is full of choices. No one ever mentions fear, or how the world can seem so vast, on this journey to the past…” I am certainly a far cry from an orphaned Russian princess, but it really does fit the rest of the day.

Not exactly a string of burning bushes, but noticed nonetheless.

I couldn’t help but hear the refrain from Five Man Electrical Band’s Signs running through my head: “Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?

Well, no, actually, I can’t. I don’t know what to do with this mess of things. I’m good at over thinking things. Really good at over thinking things. When I over think things, I tend to get my brain into trouble. So I decided that I would try to not over think them and respond with “Ok, God, I’m listening.” And wait to see how God answers.

That’s dangerous.

 

Cooking: A Love Poem in Photographs

1607014_10100839226300967_2783017495446474500_nHeld long and smooth
in my hand, firm flesh and
thin skin, examining the veins,
coaxing out the seeds that
spill everywhere;
it is most definitely the star
of the evening, but only because
I know what to do with it.
Red pepper, chopped.

I didn’t hesitate to pull1380128_10100839226340887_4180434938949517361_n
back layers and display
everything that had been hidden
and speculated about, thankful
that I found quality, strength,
yet with quick movements,
I turned that nerve into bits.
Onion, chopped.

 

10712904_10100839226405757_7087650198388075323_nI pushed through people
to get to you, grabbed brazenly
with my whole hand, and took
you straight home where you
were swiftly disassembled and
crushed, for my benefit;
my need is all that mattered.
Garlic, minced.

 

10482073_10100839226515537_1719495179856291131_nSudden heat and corresponding
sweat, a dissolution of individual
identities until there was just
fragrance surrounding me,
clouding my vision, almost
transcendent, lingering on my hands
long after I was through
with the handling.
Medium heat, until tender.

1528685_10100839226485597_3423709291077621631_nDrown everything in unexpected
spice and ease, tightly lidded so that
nothing escapes, not the heat, not
the sweat; relish the anticipation of
flavor, the melding of particulars
into that which is something entirely other,
more beautiful and lovely than then its parts.
Simmer 30 minutes, blend.

10269440_10100839367018967_5201095481048835091_n
In a whir of color and motion,
it’s about damn time, hotter than
expected as it burns my lips too
swiftly to keep it from scalding my
tongue, a welcome pain drenched in
pleasure, and my eyes close
and I sigh, satisfied.
Serve with caution.