Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Tale of Two Selfies

 I am obsessed with these pictures.

The picture on the left is from 2004. I was 28 years old. We lived in Southern California, in a house just far enough from our friends to be lonely -- and way far from our families. My husband worked a lot -- and a good 60 minute commute away -- and I was home with our daughters -- two delayed 4 year olds and a 3-year-old. I was not doing well.

It was during this time that my friends started insisting that I see a counselor. Sitting on the stairs, shaking by 7am, was apparently not normal behavior. One of the first things my counselor tried to drum into my brain: "If you do not take care of YOU, there will be no YOU to take care of the people you care for most." I would go on to relearn that lesson over and over and over for years -- but I don't think re-learnt lessons are bad.  I think it might just mean that I'm stubborn.

I don't know what the number on the scale was -- we didn't own one.  But I wasn't happy with most of who I was.

The picture on the right is from two days ago. I'm 44 years old, though I continue to try to convince my children that I'm still 28. We live in Washington, in a well-lived-in house, closer -- if not close-- to our families. My husband still works too much sometimes, but is better about balance. I am still a probably-overly-involved mom, though at 20, 20, and 19, our daughters' needs are different, if not less taxing.

I have learned to embrace my natural curls, to apply make-up, and how to take a damn killer selfie.

But, mostly... I think that I just like me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Tender Times

There are certain times in my life that I hold in my memory with the utmost care and tenderness. They are precious beautiful times that I associate with golden periods of my life -- and mostly center around friendships from earlier times in my life that were grounded in youth and the process of maturing and faith and ministry.

One of these is time we spent in California -- especially the connections between the college we attended and the church that became our home. We were deeply rooted in that church, especially its youth ministry, and we built these deep wonderful friendships that I hold with such care in my heart and enjoyed these lovely groups of people who fed into us. In retrospect, I regret that I didn't appreciate this as much as I should have when I had it. I don't think I really understood then how rare it was, and I pined for a move to the NW so I could be closer to my family. I didn't realize that when God finally gave me what I asked for in that, I would always be searching for a copy of the family that I had when we were there. There is guilt that comes with that leaving that we did... Some of those friendships have crumbled, and sometimes I wonder if that was our fault.  If we'd stayed, would they have survived? Probably the answer is yes, they still would have deteriorated for the same reasons they did in reality.  Maybe not on the same timetable, but eventually. -- But I still hold the guilt anyway.

Another is the decade I was a WAH girl. We were women, young to a-little-less-young, who met and came together in the early days of the 2000s internet. Before Facebook, before Instagram, we had Yahoogroups. I was a very young mom, unsure of myself, opinionated anyway, both too strong and too weak of a personality at the same time.  God help you if you missed a day of messages because your inbox would be full to the brim. We loved each other and fought with each other and grew with each other and pushed each other. These, too, are friendships I hold with tenderness -- and with the knowledge that they know every piece of me.  The good things and the oh-so-ugly things. There is a comforting understanding in that, I suppose -- some of our friendships have survived, and some have not (I hold a tremendous amount of guilt and grief in this too -- probably more deserved)-- but even with that being true, I know that every single one of those women have been and continue to be a part of me -- and I wouldn't be who I am without them. I think about them, in some way, almost every day.

We built a ministry that sprung out of our friendships, and we found out yesterday that one of our girls had passed away. And it sort of feels like a piece of you passed with it, like the picture that was that time in our lives has fractured just a little bit more. And it leaves you broken in ways that are hard to explain, and I can only just grasp in my head -- and maybe you had to be part of it.

There will surely be more tender times in my life -- but it's hard for me imagine any that could come close.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Fandom: A Small Retrospective

 We were at a brewery a few weeks ago. There was this lady who clearly frequented regularly and felt like she thought that she owned the place. Not in a "you're in my seat" sort of way -- but more like "Let me tell you everything you didn't ask about and try to sell you on its glory." We found her to be annoying.

I think that I may have especially found her annoying because - well - I watched her and thought, "She would have really enjoyed being a Celtic Thunder fan." Maybe I saw a little bit of me in her.

Most of my 30s and a little bit of my 40s -- I was an Irish manband superfan. My friends knows this. I like to say that I just had my midlife crisis a little early.

In retrospect, it was a weird thing. At the time, I guess I knew that -- but it was also mostly a fun thing. As I look back, there are a lot of things I'm glad that I did -- some things I wish that I'd done differently -- and a few things that I wish I'd never done at all.

I enjoyed the music and loved the concerts -- but the marks that 10-year experience left on me lies mostly in people -- in the friendships and experiences that maybe only another fan can understand. Some of those rested in other fans, some in people within the business, some I only met tangentially but who filled important pieces in me.

Many of those people, I only talk to occasionally now -- some of them remain a beloved fixture. But we all shared a common experience, and they all fill a sweet scene in the friend tapestry of my life.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Fog bringeth Autumn

The fog lingers in the trees over the neighborhood swamp this morning, taking its time burning off before the summer day begins. It will burn off, but it's a reminder that a new season is making its way.

Spring was achingly hard this year. Summer as comfortable and lazy, as summer should be. What might Autumn have in store? What might I have in store for Autumn?

At WW, we provide a host of tools to help people with managing change. So many of them -- and the conversations we create -- center on the important of awareness. You can't change how you're eating if you don't know how you're eating. I think you can extrapolate that into so many places in your life.

I've always held the transition from Summer into Fall as a perfect time to reassess life and habits and intentions. Not really for any sweeping changes -- but little things tend to slide and slip in over the summer, and the new season and starting school year has always felt like a joyful opportunity to refocus on the things and people I value most. 

The fog has burned off now -- the morning clouds will follow. And as the late summer day lingers on, I'll be thinking about those things.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Things that Form You

 I think that, in order for this to really make sense, you have to know two things about me.

First, I think you need to know that I didn't grow up in the church. God was a choice I made as a teenager, but I attended a youth group where the other kids all felt like they had. -- Or at least that's how it seemed to me. One of the things they did was participate in the Bible Bowl at the North American Christian Convention. Those study sessions always secretly felt like I was batting from behind. I didn't know the Bible stories that they had all learned in Sunday school and VBS for years. I felt like I was trying to pass Trigonometry, while never letting on that I'd never learned multiplication.

I guess I just felt like I wasn't sure how to be a believer. So, like a child looking to her parents and teachers, I looked to the people who could be my mentors over the years about how I should be. What does being a Believer look like in real life? What does it look like in school? At work? As I got older, it became questions about how I should be a wife, how I should be a friend and a daughter and a sister and a mother. How does one balance being a Believer and a citizen? How does one take the teachings of Jesus and translate them into how I should vote, how I should work, how I should shop and drive and order McDonalds? All of those questions, and those mentors became really important to me. They were instrumental in the person I would become.

The second thing that I think you need to know is that I came of age during the Clinton era, and I think that's important. I couldn't tell you how I voted in his 2nd election -- but I can tell you what I remember. I have vague memories of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but I have even more vivid memories of the arguments that the believers in my life gave the most stringently. They all sounded a little different, but they more or less all boiled down to this: Character matters. It matters. And character matters in our national leaders even more. 

And that made biblical sense to me. James talks about the harsher judgments that come with being a teacher -- and it made sense to me that similar expectations would be extended to those in governmental power -- that we should strive to vote into power those of good character. That idea nestled in my heart and felt like something I could trust to be a guiding principle in my civic life. And it has been! Because even if we weren't necessarily on the same page in matters of policy, I felt I could trust that person to make wise decisions where wise decisions were needed.

And now we're here where we are.  If I'm really honest with you, I struggle. I struggle to understand why character suddenly doesn't matter anymore, and why that should no longer be the driving factor -- or even A factor. I struggle to understand why the ends suddenly justify the means if the ends are what I want. Even if the character is really really really really really bad.

I haven't really known how to talk about it until now. Maybe I still don't. I have felt this bitterness in my heart every time I've thought about it, but I couldn't ever quite find the words to describe why. But, I think I'm beginning to understand that bitterness. It isn't about policy or politics -- but perhaps much more about trust. It feels more like betrayal that hits me deep in my soul. Like all those mentors who I counted on to teach me how I should be... they didn't really believe what they said they did -- and it makes everything between then and now feel very hollow. I don't really see that I can do much about that -- it is just what it is.

Except this. Because I can't leave a blog like that. I am the same age NOW as some of those mentors were when I first started looking to them -- even older than some of them.  And I can take that seriously, and not give those who look to me reason to pause in disappointment years down the road because I didn't really believe what I told them I did.