Sunday, April 5, 2015

Still We Rise

For Christians, Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It is the holiday that defines the essence of Christianity, the cornerstone of the faith. It is meant to be joyous.

And yet.

Like all holidays, it is easily overtaken with memories and personal meaning. When I think of Easter (poor Christian that I admittedly am), I think of blowing bubbles on my Nana's porch on a foggy Sunday morning. I think of canatas and solos in the choir. I think of spending the afternoon with my friend Neha and her family. I think of the year that my family and I decided that steps should be taken, and I should move in with my grandfather (in the same house where I had once blown bubbles) who had a brain tumor.

And I think of the years after my marriage ended, when I had no marriage and no church and no faith and felt terribly and horribly alone.

Easter is meant to represent the love of a God who wants the best for His children. It is meant to be celebrated accordingly. 

But to me? It felt lonely. A celebration for people who had hope when I couldn't recognize it.

*****

Hope, by the way, is a strange creature. It's like a faithful dog. It doesn't leave you -- despite how you may banish it -- and will sneak back into the house, belly low to the ground, because it loves you and wants to be near you. I have (and this is just my experience) found that it comes back, determined and eager, long after there is any justification for its presence. Which is to say this: hope will find you when you no longer know if you can find it. It will nuzzle warmly against your heart and beg for a space in your life even at those moments when you have forgotten all about it.

You may not be able to find it in yourself to embrace it. You might be too tired or too anxious or too sad. Hope won't care. 

It will wait for you.

And it will be saying, "You are not ready for me. I get it. But when you are? I will be here and eager to hold you."

*****

The future -- and the present -- and the past, when it comes to it? They don't always resemble what we want them to. That is a fact.

But hope -- who snuggles up and doesn't let go -- reminds us that the best future is a result of outcomes and struggles and learning. It tells us that there is a reason. It tells us that where we have been and where we are will help us to arrive at a glorious and inspired future.

If we believe.

If we can trust.

*****
I am a terrible Christian by the standards of the church I grew up in. Divorced, painfully liberal, headstrong, determined, bossy, disobedient.

For all of that, I feel like I know this to be true: the message of Easter is one of hope. The notion that things can be terrible and seem hopeless -- because what's more terrible and hopeless than being betrayed by the ones you love and left for dead? -- and that despite that, despite everything, despite how bad it looks... You can survive. You can triumph.

You can have hope. 

The Christians say that this was God's gift: sacrifice with the hope of salvation.

I think that the gift is the idea that you can be as low as you can possibly be and yet still get up and face the promise of another day.

We can all be knocked down and hurt and defeated.

And still we rise. We all can rise. Every one of us.

That, to me, is the lesson of Easter. That hope and love are the most powerful forces in the world.

We rise.

We all can rise.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Letting Your Freak Flag Fly

I've had a Goodreads account for a while. I love the idea of telling people what I'm reading, talking about reading, sharing good books. 

You may have noticed that I said I love the idea.

My account has sat, untouched and unused, pretty much since the day I set it up.

Because there's this thing about my reading, and that thing is this:

It's not... Exactly ... Normal.

*****
I don't recall learning to read. I don't remember learning to walk, either, though, and of the two skills? I'm much better at the former, though I suspect that the latter would be improved if I didn't so often attempt it with my nose in a book.

The reality is this: I taught myself, somehow, and I did it before preschool. There has always been reading in my life. It is like air, water, and food, and just as necessary as other items on this list.

That is, perhaps, weird,  but it's not the WEIRD weird bit.

No, the WEIRD weird bit is the pace at which I read.

That's the part that makes me a freak.

*****
It's human nature to try to impose reason on things we don't understand. 

It's not super enjoyable when you are that which is not understood.

*****

"I don't think you're really reading. I think you're skimming." (Nope, I only do that with cookbooks. And math texts.)

"Did you take a speed reading course? You must have." (No.)

"Is this your thing? Like Rainman? Do you have Asperger's?" (I guess that's possible. It might explain some other things about me as well.)

"Could you NOT read ahead?" (spoken by every teacher ever and... I'm sorry, I had too much time and got bored so I kept going)

"You're a freak." 

"That's so weird."

"You're a freak."

*****

When someone says, " I wish I could do that," I think, no, you don't. Unless you like feeling like a freak. Unless you like being called one.

*****

How fast DO I read, is the question. I don't exactly know, so here's an anecdote:

I got home at 11:18 this morning.

At about noonish I decided to read Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. I stopped at one point and took a bath. I also called my mom and worked on a puzzle, so... Not nonstop reading.

It's 336 pages long.

I finished it about an hour ago.

*****

I'm obviously a little angsty about all of this. Which is why I never used Goodreads. I get enough grief about the reading thing from people who know me well and love me. I didn't want any more. I have enough wackiness in my life without inviting extra wackiness.

But The Fella uses it,  and I know I like to see what people are reading.

And. Speaking of The Fella? He appreciates that I love to read because he loves to read too, and makes me feel ... Not so weird about it. 

Like it's okay.

And if I devour books? He just says, "did you eat all of the words with your eyes?" And we laugh.

So maybe?  I can fly this freak flag. And if you're on Goodreads?  You should find me.

I can probably recommend a book or two.

To read at whatever pace you wish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sometimes, You Just Have To Realize

I was working on a difficult project that kept getting more daunting when it dawned on me: I was trying to reinvent the automobile? But what I needed was a boat. 

I stopped trying to perfect the car and changed the way I was thinking about the whole thing. I took the parts I could use and began rebuilding what I wanted and actually needed, instead of what I thought I was supposed to have.

You can accomplish amazing things if you are only able to let go of your preconceived notions. Embrace possibility and you can do what you thought was impossible.

If you need a boat? Don't build a car.

Trust me on this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Something There Is That Loves A Wall

I recently had the experience of someone telling me that I was thought of as mean, and not very approachable.

As you can probably imagine, this bothered me. It bothered me a lot. So of course, I did what I do: texted people for a second (and third, and fourth) opinion (which, by the way, resulted in a beloved friend sending me a cheese care package -- yes, Jess, cheese DOES make everything better!) and then went to Facebook to do some grousing and get some reassurance.

My friends -- who love me, and who are the best people in the world -- immediately let me know that the person who said this to me was off his rocker. Of course they did. They're my friends. At that moment, though, that was what I most needed to hear. I needed an affirmation that I am what I believe myself to be: a person who is kind. A person who is approachable.

They made me feel one hundred times better.

Still,  it's been on my mind.

*****

On Friday,  I had lunch with the person who said that I was being unkind and difficult. I should say now, to be perfectly clear, that this is a person who I really like and respect; this is probably a major reason as to why his words bothered me so much.

I was not prepared for the turn the conversation took.

"We have been through some difficult situations," he said. "You were frequently put in an impossible position. I think it has impacted you. I think that you sometimes react in ways that don't reflect who I know you are as a result. You're quicker to snap. You're slower to help."

The first time he said it to me, there was no framing. It was an offhand, and somewhat hurtful, comment. Framed like this, though? I had two realizations.

Realization one was this: this man is not trying to cut me down. He is concerned and is trying to help me. And he is right -- we have been through some situations that can best be described as scarring. I have also personally -- outside of his experience with me  -- been through some other, equally scarring things. 

Realization two was a bit more sobering, and that was this: it ws the truth. 

And that? Will have to change.

*****
I know some fundamental truths about myself. I know that I have literally given someone the shirt off my back. I know that I will not ever ignore someone in distress, whether it is a stranger or a friend. I have stopped to help at the scenes of accidents. I have held a stranger's hand while we waited for help. I have -- again, literally-- given up my home to assist someone else. I know that, fundamentally, I am kind. I know that, at the heart of things, I want to help others.

I also know that that has caused me some grief, and that as result, I may have put up some walls. I didn't realize I was doing it, necessarily -- I'm self aware,  but not THAT self aware -- but I can see them now. They're not super high, but they are indeed present.

They're also not working. They're not keeping other people out as much as they're isolating me. 

That's not protection from mistakes. 

That's punishment for having made them.

*****
Tearing down walls is painstaking, careful business. It turns out, though, that if you're lucky -- if you're really, really lucky -- people will be there to help you. One brick at a time. 

Until you're fully back in the sunlight, which is where you always belonged.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Be: A Challenge

Consider your legacy.

What will it be?

*****

Be amazing.

Be inspired and inspiring.

Be generous: with your time. With your love. With your kindness.

Be the kind of person other people look up to. Be the kind of friend you want to have.

Be brave. 

Be daring. 

Be open hearted and kind.

Be honest. 

Be careful with other people's feelings.

Be willing to do what's right instead of what's easy.

Be aware that mistakes are powerful tools for learning. Be willing to learn; be open to sharing what you have learned.

Be a dreamer. Be a person who chases your dreams. Be aware that the chase is sometimes more important than the catch.

Be courageous enough to love yourself. Be willing to look yourself in the eye and love every inch of you: your flaws, your faults, your blemishes as well as your virtues, your strengths, and your beauty.

Be able to say "I am stunning" and mean it.

Be aware that we are all here together, and that we need to love each other.

Be respectful. Even -- especially -- with those with whom you do not agree. 

Be understanding. 

Be one who listens with her mind wide open. 

Be bold enough to stand up for others. 

Be bold enough to stand up for yourself.

Be loving. 

Be yourself. Acknowledge that you are special.

Be able to see what's special about other people.

Be willing to challenge the status quo. Be a leader.

Be a light in the dark.

*****

Consider your legacy.

What will it be?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Randoms

I

"Of course I could tell which responses in the anonymous survey were yours. Do you think anyone else around here knows how to use a semicolon?"

II

"It's the Hair Fairy."

"What?"

"The Hair Fairy. She's a miserable wretch. She sees you thinking you look good, points her wand at you, and Boof! A six inch hair spouts out of your neck."

"That bitch!"

"I know, and her favorite time to attack is when you are nowhere near tweezers."

III

"Are you hugging someone? I'm getting my camera."

"I'm not an asshole! I hug other people! I just don't, you know, want them to hug ME, per say."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day

A friend of mine who, like me, was all "whatever, I don't need to get married" recently got engaged.

His reasons -- and they're good ones, I am sure -- are his own and have a lot to do with his love for his (exceptionally fabulous) significant other and, I think, the fact that he's never been married before.

Because of his newly pro-marriage platform, mutual friends want to know if I've changed my mind about marrying again.

I suppose it's a valid question. 

*****

I have come to realize that people who ask me about getting married again (and the ones who are actively rooting for that) aren't doing it to be super annoying or pesky. They're doing it because they love me and envision being married as a safe, happy, loved state of being.

I have also come to realize that the fact that I don't think of marriage as safe, or happy, or loving is about me and my experience. I know that my experience is not universal, and I am okay with it, but I also know that this is not something I want to explain to people who are pushing for me to marry again.

I've begun just smiling and nodding when people ask if I'll get married. "We'll see," I say with my mouth, while my brain says, "No, never, don't wanna don't make me!"

"We'll see."

It's an answer that makes people feel more secure. I'm willing to do that for them.

*****

I used to hate Valentine's Day, but I am changing my perspective. I think that love should be celebrated every day -- I feel strongly about that -- but I also think that doing it up on Valentine's Day is just sort of like putting a perfectly cut gemstone in a really nice setting. It doesn't change the quality of the stone. It just shows it off.

And maybe -- for some people -- marriage does the same thing. It doesn't change the quality of committment or love -- it just highlights it. It cradles it, somehow. It shows it off a bit.

I don't need to get married for my relationship to have that? But I get that some people need it and want it.

I might even eventually stop thinking about marriage as the most terrifying thing that  I could ever be persuaded to do. Maybe. I mean, hey, I changed my mind about Valentine's Day.

We'll see.