Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When Nothing Else Mattered

"Where have you taken him?" Her throat burned with the words, barely a whisper, after days of sobbing.Tears ran over swollen, red cheeks, blurring her vision as she wiped the snot running from her nose with her sleeve.
Not this. Not now. Not after everything.
She loved him desperately. Because he was the first man, maybe ever, who didn't look at her and see an object he might use.  If a man ever looked far enough North to meet her eyes, she saw disdain. She'd always thought the only alternative would be pity, but god, how wrong she'd been.
The first man who hadn't asked anything of her had won her heart.
And now they'd killed him.
Her chest ached, everything in her wishing bad things could be undone, but years of life made that impossible to believe. It wasn't the first time she'd seen life leave a body, but it was the harshest.  It still made her want to throw up.
Yet, Jesus did the impossible. He healed people all the time, and she wasn't sure why he hadn't healed himself. but he had a reason. He had to.
All those stories he told, all those mysterious things he said while looking so hard at them, like he was willing them to get it, well. She didn't get it, but obviously there was more going on than any of them could fathom.  All those stories ended with hope.
Still, all that had to wait. The heaving loss took up every thought, ached in every joint, weighted every breath.
Even if he was gone, she loved him. And she would see him buried with all the honor she could.  Part of her wished she'd saved that jar of perfume. But he'd been so delighted when she'd washed his feet,  she couldn't really let go of that memory. Still, it'd be nice to have that to go with the herbs she carried through dark streets. Most people would've told her not to go out before the sun came up. It was dangerous for a woman, especially with so many foreigners flooding town. And even though she made it to the graveyard, Roman soldiers weren't known for their high regard of Jewish women.
But none of that really registered. She had no more capacity.
Because he was gone.
Well, it didn't matter. Wherever they'd taken him, whatever they'd done, she'd give him a proper burial. She straightened, pushed the hair back from her face, and lifted stubborn eyes, ready to stand here all day if she had to until they told her why they'd moved the rock set to protect his grave, and what they'd done with his body.  "Where have you taken him?"

I went to a sunrise service on Easter this year. It was beautiful. Set at Red Rocks, with the sun rising over the city, it kind of had to be. But add to that music that ranged from wood flute to operatic to contemporary, encouraging, joyful words, and the breakfast picnic complete with mimosas we brought, and it was a truly memorable experience.

But equally memorable was the quiet, simple Stations of the Cross I visited on Good Friday.  No actors or talks, simple music, and silence.  They asked no one to speak, but handed out readings of scripture that follow the events of that heart-shredding night.  It breaks me every time, not from guilt but from the stunning idea that anyone, even Jesus, could find me lovable enough to choose to die for me.  And to remember the horrid, nerve-searing pain, and loneliness so utter that he called out asking why God had forsaken him...I hate that he had to go through it all.

I thought of Mary Magdalene on Good Friday. Jesus was in the tomb.  His disciples were holed up, terrified for their lives, that they could face the same torture Jesus did. And on top of that, after all his talk of eternal life, he'd died. Brutally. Was any of it true?

But Mary got out of bed after another sleepless night, gathered the herbs and ointments to anoint a corpse, woke up the herbalist and dealt with his vitriol to get the last few items on the list, then hiked out in the dark and cold to a graveyard.  She'd figure out how to move the stone guarding his tomb when she got there.  Because she loved Jesus in a way that went beyond his deity. She loved HIM. She didn't have answers the disciples lacked, and she may not have asked the questions yet, or ever. She didn't feel betrayed, she just felt the gaping loss of the dearest person she'd ever known.

And because of that love, she was the first to see the resurrected Jesus.  She was there, not out of faith, but out of love. And he loved that.  I think it was no accident that Jesus appeared first to Mary and the women. And while it speaks a lot against gender-based scales of spiritual importance, I don't think it was primarily for that reason.  I think it was because they were there. Because they loved him to bits, whether or not anything made sense, and he loved them right back.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bake Your Heart Out

In general, I'm not one for reality shows. Not because I'm too cultured, but because in an effort to engineer drama, they bring out the worst in people and I just don't enjoy that.  BUT I have found one I love. 

The competitors on The Great British Baking Show are all amateurs. They don't live together in a drama house, they go to work all week, see their families, and practice for the next weekend.  They don't fight over space in an overheated kitchen, they're in a tent set among rolling green hills and gamboling lambs. Really. And they don't have judges shredding them with harsh words, they have two hosts encouraging and sometimes helping them, and two judges giving direct, but not unkind feedback.  Even the music has no ominous bass. It's classical.

If you compare it to the setup for most reality shows, it sounds like a recipe (ha!) for failure. But the show has done well and I am addicted. It's fun to see normal people create extraordinary things...even if I question the British definition of dessert on a regular basis.

Week one, something happens.  Everyone cries. well, not the judges, but almost all, if not all, the competitors cry at some point.  It's interesting for two reasons. One, I didn't think British people did that, like, ever. Two, after seeing other reality shows, the comments or situations that spark tears don't seem that bad.  But when I step back and look at the situation, I get it.

These people are truly good at baking. They're probably the best of anyone they know. But now, everyone is good. It's intimidating. It makes you question if you're actually talented, or if you just thought you were.  And while you're intimidated, two famous experts point out the flaws in your work, which, again, is definitely a first. It feels like confirmation that you're an imposter. You aren't actually good at this, and you're embarrassed that your best isn't good enough. Add to that time limits, and camera people watching you, and I'm pretty sure anyone would shed a few tears.

The other thing about it is I don't look at these people and think, "Suck it up, sissy. You're too sensitive. Get over yourself." I feel for them in that moment, knowing what it's like to put your best foot forward and wonder if it's enough. 

After the first week, no one really cries again (unless they have an absolute disaster, or if they have to go home. And then everyone else cries too because they're going to miss the person.)  It's like, that initial cry is almost necessary to clear the glut of emotions the new, scary situation brings up, and after that, they're fine.

It makes me wonder if sometimes, when I'm working super hard to hold it together, to suck it up, sissy, and not be so sensitive, maybe I need to just have a good cry instead of tamping emotions that just continue to back up like a clogged drain.  And I don't even have to do it on national television, which is awesome because sister is not a pretty crier. But if I clear those emotions, maybe I'll be free to metaphorically bake dessert while lambs gambol around.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scaredy Cat Vs. The Big Bad Owner

Everything is different in the dark.

While that works on a metaphorical level, the literal meaning led to a little bit of havoc the other night. It started when I put a pan on the stove top to heat and then didn't get back to it in time. Smoke started to build up in the kitchen and crept ever closer to the smoke alarm. I turned off the heat and moved the pan, but it kept smoking. So I took it out back, reminding myself to shut the screen so the cats wouldn't get out. Which of course I forgot to do when I went back inside.

Moments later I heard a semi-panicked meow. Jellybean had taken a half dozen tentative steps and then decided he wasn't sure about this whole "outside in the dark" business.  I called him and he came happily back in for a handful of treats. He's really not a rebel.

Nilly on the other hand... Nilly saw me coming and hurried down the steps.  So, with the screen door now shut so JB wouldn't work up his courage and go outside, I went outside and tried to find a black cat in the dark, while using my most syrupy voice to tell her what a good girl she was (even if she was actually being a brat) all the while frantically praying Nilly would NOT jump the fence.

It didn't take too long to get her back up on the deck, because the dark really isn't that much fun--especially without a brother to pounce on. But once she was up there, she wouldn't let me catch her. She darted out of reach and into the shadows. I sat at the top of the stairs, so she couldn't get back to the yard, and waited. Several times she ran to the screen door to go back inside, but it was closed. I continued to sweet-talk and waited for her to finally come over.

It took longer than it should have. I mean, she wanted inside, and I wanted to take her inside. I've never picked her up and heaved her off a deck or out of the house, so why I was suddenly the boogie man I have no idea. But eventually I nabbed her, and by the time she laid off struggling, we were all back in the house where we belong enjoying cat treats. Well, two of us were. I had wine.

I wonder how often I dart away from God's hand because I want to go in the house...when he's just trying to pick me up and carry me inside for the human equivalent of cat treats.  I don't know. But next time I feel a nudge and I'm tempted to hide behind the grill until I figure out how to get past the screen door, I hope I'll be smarter than a cat and just come to Him already.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Feeling, Better

Last week someone came at me. Not like a bear or crazed dog, a person.  And not even physically--though I really should take a self defense class--but verbally.

I looked for angry photos and this emerged and it
was way too funny NOT to use. Plus, in the heat of
the moment, I'm probably about this sane.
If it had been my work life it still would've sucked, but I get paid to deal with the occasional butthead. But this was in my personal life, so no paycheck to comfort me.  With some distance between me and that moment, I can see it wasn't actually about me at all. It was about fear of change
mostly, and a little about wanting to be in charge, both of which I totally understand.

I've been reading Brene Brown in book club. We're on our second, Rising Strong.  Brene is a shame researcher, who discovered early on that people who are able to deal with that emotion are people who embrace vulnerability. She was as excited about that news as I am. (If you haven't watched her TED talk you totally should. It's fascinating, and also if you want to feel pretentious you can name-drop TED in conversation. Here is the link.)

One of the first steps is identifying what you're feeling, acknowledging that, and trying to get down to the root of it. Am I mad, or am I really sad but mad feels safer? Am I embarrassed, and if so, is it because I failed or because I feel like I've been successfully projecting perfection and that image just face-planted on the sidewalk?

The concept is simple, but the action is not. In that moment I got as far as "I'm feeling angry and defensive. My face is hot, my body tensed, and I want to lash out." Then I stopped processing and just got pissy.

It was a few days before I was like, "Ugh, I should probably try to live wholeheartedly. Bleh." And a few more days before I was like, "Fine, fine. I'll explore the emotion" (said with more snark than eagerness.) And a few more days still before I'm finally doing it. These are the questions we're to ask:

What is the story I'm making up in my head about what that person thinks, how they feel, what they're going to do, and why?
What are my emotions?
What is my body feeling?
What am I thinking?
What beliefs about myself and/or others are driving the story/emotions/feelings/thoughts above?
What am I doing with all of it?

See? Not a fun process, but it gets at what the root of those situations is so those lies, or insecurities, or fears can be faced, maybe with a few safe people, instead of stockpiling hurt that never goes away.

It's super not easy, especially when immersed in a torrent of emotion, but yeah, I'd say its worth it. Because to protect myself from hurt would require I insulate from the good emotions too. You can't deaden one without losing the other.

Though sometimes a glass of wine and a good book are way more fun.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

So Many Lessons, So Little Time

Nothing makes you realize you're not a natural decorator like deciding to remodel.  I tend toward ALL THE BRIGHT HAPPY COLORS!!!! But that tends to look like the Skittles factory exploded, and nobody wants to live in a decimated Skittles factory.

The adventure started yesterday when I went to look at flooring and promptly learned you do not match your floors to your cabinets. You go at least a shade or two darker. Yeah, news to the non-decorator.

Then I got home with a sample that was as light as possible while meeting this criteria and discovered that actually, the darker color does look nice against the cabinets. In fact, my how-light-can-I-go choice was maybe...too light?

Then I decided my ignorance was getting in my way--I mean, I still have to pick counters!--and went to the expert for some advice. Google. Where I learned that you want your cabinets to be a contrast to your floor and counters, and then have an accent color.

Okay, accent colors still seem a little advanced, but contrast I get. So then I started looking at all the colors of counters that exist. So. Many.  And realized I'm going to need advice on this too.

I'm willing to listen to the experts, or even the sales guys, and am confident I'll get a good result.

But I want it now.

And that's not how remodeling works. That's not really how anything involving contractors works.

So I'm in another lesson about patience, and realizing I haven't changed since I was a tyke waiting to open an Easter basket when every second took a millennia, and it felt like my very heart would pop if I didn't get to it soon.

All this to say, if before this process is complete, I start to seem a little crazed and/or have heart trouble, please give me an Easter basket.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Stuff That Happens In My Head, or, Coffee As An Antipsychotic

I got a little overzealous the other morning with the Keurig, and now it's out of order.

I know. Heartbreaking.

So I had to go back to the old school brewer, which doesn't see much action these days. As I waited for my caffeine to brew, the water-spout-thingy inside squeaked a few times.

Which naturally made me think of a mouse. And what would happen if a mouse got stuck inside my coffee pot.

I know. Horrible.

So then I had this almost irrepressible urge to double check that there wasn't, in fact, a mouse in my coffee pot. BUT, even before my first cuppa, I recognized this as nonsensical.


I finally convinced myself I didn't need to check because: the cats would have gotten the mouse before it made it to the coffee pot. And as sad as it would make me to see Mickey or Minnie drooping  from the jaws of either of my babies, or worse yet, left like the ickiest gift ever at my bedroom door, it would probably be a less painful death than the coffee pot.

This is why I need caffeine.

One dose of salted caramel flavored medium roast later, I'd finally put this maddening line of thought behind me, when...the refrigerator door squeaked.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Digging In

Plotting starts with determining the lie the character believes, and why. We all have those moments in our past that shape us, usually without our realizing it. You can tell because when you brush against their memories, they ache all over again. And if you try to say the words out loud to someone else, all that hurt/pain/shame wells up as fresh as a steaming pile of vomit.

I've recognized some of these in my life. Being told as a little girl I was too sensitive. being told on the playground I was so ugly.  And I've taken these out, handled them, and seen them for what they were. Flimsy tissue paper untruths. They don't hold up.

But what about the ones I've told myself? Told myself I'm ugly so I won't get arrogant. Told myself not only my true value, but my perceived worth by others, is dependent and inversely proportional on those five pounds I gained.  Told myself that if I were ever going to succeed it would have happened by now, and that in ten/twenty/thirty years I'm going to be that joke who never gave up on a dream that was out of reach. We talk about never giving up like its a good thing, but we only mean it if you someday reach your goal.

As deeply wounding and breaking as the lies others have told me can be, the lies in my own voice are so much worse. The willful ones, like believe you're ugly or you'll be vain, are based on deeper lies. Like you're fundamentally a bad person. You need shame to keep you from being an even worse person. If you acknowledge good in yourself, you'll lose perspective.

What bullshit.

Your worth is based on a handful of pounds. Anyone else CARES that you gain or lose a handful of pounds.  I don't care when other people do, but they're all more shallow than I am. I bring less to the table than anyone else, so these tiny flaws are all it will take to send others in search of better comrades.

So dumb, when I just look at it.  I'm not that much deeper than others, and I'm not that much less worthwhile than others.

It seems deep down I have trouble with properly valuing things.  Let's hope I never hold a garage sale.

But, looking at these, digging up the bullshit, tilling it, and then planting seeds of truth will lead to better things. Flowers that smell lovely. I'm not sure that analogy holds up, but you get what I'm trying to say. There's no way to ignore the lies into obsolescence.  They're there. They must be faced.

But they can be faced, and that's the hopeful part.  They can be pulled out and looked at. It's scary, and not something I'd look forward to like a trip to Cancun, but it can be done. And most of these when they face the cleansing waters of truth, are tissue paper lies. They dissolve a lot more easily than I expected after carrying them for so long.

Thank you, God, that the truth will set me free. Us free. Shower me with truth and give me the courage to examine the things I've let be truth for so long. Thank you for flowers and for this whole world, a giant analogy of your love and of hope. Let me be present today and see it.