Looking

You know what’s become taboo? Talking about what you find attractive. I mean, it’s still cool to be like “oo, he’s hot!” but if someone says, “Marry a well-groomed man” it’s all “Oh, grandma!” and “don’t judge a book by it’s cover!” You can’t go around talking about what you like or don’t like, because that’s all shallow and superficial and unaccepting and, well, not politically correct.

The thing about taboo subjects is that it tends to make us less honest. Not just with each other, but with ourselves. I’ll staunchly insist with the stuanch-est that I don’t care about the outside and that it’s only the inside that matters. . .and squash the thoughts–pretend I didn’t have them–about a guy who has nice forearms or a voice I love to listen to. Shallow! Superficial! The TRUTH I don’t want to admit.

I was thinking about this today–yeah, after noticing I kept sneaking glances at some guy oblivious to the world with his device-with-ear-attachments. One thought that came to me is that maybe it’s not so shallow as we’re often admonished.

I like to look at hands. Hands tell you so much. If a guy’s hands are all soft and smooth and weak looking, well, forget it. You have to know what a hard days work is like. You have not not be a stranger to the concept of labor. You know, it’s funny, but I can totally spot the difference in a heart-beat between a gym-rat and someone who came by it honest. There’s a difference between having a body and knowing how to use it, and you can see it just in the way a person sits, the way they carry themselves and the working balance between muscle groups.

I dismiss any guy with low-riding pants. If they aren’t mature enough to figure out how to dress themselves, I can’t say I find myself attracted. Same reason why I lean away from trendy-stylers–I’m looking for someone independent enough and strong minded enough that they aren’t being carried along or blatantly fighting for the sake of fighting. And whether male or female, I always find myself guarded around anyone too well polished. There’s a difference between carrying yourself well and being caught up in yourself–or horribly insecure about who you are.

We say we can’t judge a book by it’s cover, yet–well, the cover is there to reflect the contents. We are always looking for clues to someone’s character–their morals, their ethics, their values, their lifestyles. Some of those things are more attractive to us than others. (My grandma values the $$$, and finds the expensive looks veeeery attractive. I don’t, so . . .I don’t.)

I guess some people would read the paragraphs I wrote above, and be repulsed. How can she so casually judge another human being, when she knows nothing about them except they way they look?! Beyond rude! Bigoted monster!

But you know, the other thing I was thinking was that part of the reason why I squelch the (true) things that I find to be attractive is the fear or reciprocation. Yeah, I’ve heard women dreaming about some tall, handsome, rich dude with an Australian accent before. . .but which one of us thinks we’re the fulfillment  of longing, the picture of ideal, the one that someone has always dreamed about? If we can’t meet that standard–and we know we can’t–what right do we have hold one out for “what we want”? But pretending we “don’t want” is dishonest at best, and very damaging in the end. Those insidious expectations we pretended we never have, and are crushed when they aren’t met.

So while I was eating my hamburger and checking out the  hard-working, straight-shooting, good looking, not-paying-any-attention-to-me guy, I found myself wondering what sorts of things guys might be looking for. I know that’s as diverse as the individual, not whole group, and, loaded question though it may be–I’m really not talking about anatomical ratios. I look at hands because I think it tells me a lot about someone’s character. What might someone be looking to see in my hands? Shapes and sizes for the moment disregarded–deeper than that, beyond that, what is the question looking to be answered?

It may be an over generalization–why not? I’m in so deep already–but I think it’s pretty safe(ish) to say that we girls tend to be looking for signs of strength and reliability, someone who has the power to make us feel safe. That can take many forms–after all, some would say that money is a sign of strength and reliability and power, yet I find that totally unattractive. It doesn’t make me feel safe. So clearly I’m not trying to set up a standard of What Girls Should Look Like.

But I don’t think–maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that guys tend to look to girls to find an image of someone who is stronger than them (physically), a reliable rock for them to turn to, someone with power. Where’s the allure, then? What message is supposed to be engraven in the hands?

Is it really the equally cliche idea of nurturing, caring, gentleness? Because that would be sweet. I’m totally not changing my bone structure, but I excel at those care-taking kinds of things. I do that, day in and day out, and my body in response takes on the shape of it, the cover bearing witness to what is being driven from inside. I never look the way I want, the way I wish I did. But I can’t keep my body from betraying the fact that my hands know how to hold a baby, that my eyes are used to seeking out the people who are hurting, that the way I walk displays my work ethic.

But I guess we all run into our insecurities at some point. I may be confident of my character, but I am very unconfident that anyone is looking for that kind of character. I can run up my own quiet list of “things I look for in guys” but the list of “guys looking for what I think I have” is strangely much shorter, by my observation. Or imagination. Our imaginations can be quite the turn-coats, I think. You can imagine your dark-haired Australian, and I can imagine my cello player with marvelous hands–but can either one of us really imagine those guys being happy with us? They’d be moving on, finding someone more suitable to their level. Pixie-ninja landscaping artist, or something. Definitely some girl who’s got her act together, not this bribing-oneself-into-existence-with-mint-mocha-instant-coffee nonsense that I’ve got going on over here. Or some girl who’s a lot more fun to be around, playful and risk taking and seize-the-day-oh-yeah, not the tentative, shell-hiding, reserved girl sitting on this bench, namely me.

With the same brush that I paint what I think I want, I paint, too, what I think I’m not. I can’t help but think that in a large part, our admonishment to “not judge a book by it’s cover” is really a plea that someone, please, anyone could see past our insecurities to the parts of us that really matter. That someone could guess that there is more to use than can be blatantly stated in large print on the first page, and want to find out what that “more” is.

Some people have said that the most attractive thing is someone who doesn’t need anything–e.g., isn’t looking for someone else to make them whole. I can sort of see where that thought is coming from, but I don’t agree. Whether we ignore that part of ourselves or not, I think there is a part of us that is looking for That Which Would Make an Awesome Team. That which both complements what I am not–the “things that I want”–and sees beyond my lack (“what I think I’m not”) to what I really do have to offer. Being what I want without being able to look beyond my flaws really isn’t all that attractive; it’s intimidating and frightening. Being able to see what I have to offer without offering me anything in return isn’t attractive, either; it’s threatening and imposing and demeaning. Finding both at once really seems to be the only way.

. . .and nigh near impossible.

Lukewarm Seeking Isn’t Worth It

“God will take care of you!”

What the heck does that mean?

Seriously, what does it mean?

I know what I mean when I say “take care of”. Also, I know that my idea of “take care of” and, say, my mom’s idea of “take care of” are totally different, and my brothers–haha! Yeah. Definitely a different idea of “take care of”.

You don’t really stop to think about what “take care of” means, until you feel like you need someone to take care of you. And then all of a sudden, it becomes really, really important.

God will take care of me. Yeah, okay; now tell me how God views “take care of.” What, exactly, am I supposed to be trusting Him to do?

Pretty quickly, I get myself into an endless loop. God’s definition of “take care of” is obviously the ultimate definition, so He will definitely fulfill His promise to “take care of”.

And, yeah, this is like humanity’s longest standing dilemma. If God takes care of His people, than why does He let bad things happen to His people? The given answer is that His ways are higher than our ways (going back to the ultimate definition thing again). And I can kind of see that. Who doesn’t know of a little kid who is convinced we’re being cruel and horrible when we’re doing something for them that really is in their ultimate good? Like potty training. Seriously, I have seen kids crying over that, but it totally definitely really needs to be done.

But here’s the thing. I am in a physical body, with physical needs and physical perceptions. I perceive needs. (I say ‘perceive’ because again–yeah, I’ve been that kid and am that kid and will always be that kid.) Yet–if they are my perceptions, not necessarily reality, then I cannot always trust God to meet my perceived needs. What, then, can I trust God to take care of? My real needs! And what are my real needs? Well. . .I guess I find out when they get met, and anything that doesn’t get met must not have been a real need.

So when I, in this physical body with physical needs and physical perceptions, feel in need of being taken care of, what is my assurance? My suffering is all in my imagination? My God will always be right, so shut up and sit down and be grateful? He will definitely, totally be doing things that I can’t see or feel or be comforted by?

It doesn’t sound so very much like comfort or assurance, does it? Me, neither.

These are some things I do know: we’re called to seek and to ask and to test and to find. I’m totally supposed to be asking these questions. God does love me and nothing can separate me from that, not even varying definitions of care. I do believe that my Mom loves me and that my brothers love me, even though they have totally different ideas of what “care for” looks like.

And one other thing, too.

That God never separated “caring” and “suffering”.

To me, it seems like a no-brainer. If you care about something or someone, you don’t let it suffer and suffer. But right at the very core of everything, God loved His very own son more than anything else, and let Him suffer more than anything else.

That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. What worth is it to trust in being “cared for” and “provided for” when it seems those terms mean exactly diddly-squat?

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

As one of my brothers would say, what the fickle? This person is content, not because all needs have been met–he feels the hurt, feels the need, feels the want, feels the lack and the empty places–and has learned to be content in it all anyway.

So if being loved and being cared for has completely zero to do with being spared the dark and the hungry and the want and the hurt. . .

. . .than what is our trust and hope and assurance and comfort?

Some say, we don’t have it here. It’s only in the life after. Here, we’re just screwed.

I don’t believe that. He learned to be content, not grit his teeth and bear it. Gritting through it is the easy way out; being content and rejoicing through it is the hard thing, the beautiful thing, the true thing.

I am hitting a spot of raw need, unlike anything I have ever had to personally bump across before. When I’m in my car, I am finally alone enough that I can talk to God, and by talk, I don’t mean tea-and-crumpets. I mean, “what the frig are you doing?!” I let it all out on the 10 minutes down to my grandparents, and I let it all out on the way back.

The only response I heard was the refrain: trust Me.

Trust You to do WHAT?!

It’s like signing a contract without being allowed to read it. I guess that pretty much does describe “living by faith” and I’ve heard it said that faith grows by being tested and tried.

I am not sure that I could say that I have peace or contentment. I am agitated and fidgety. I wasn’t promised that the things that I feel and perceive as needs would be attended to, and I admit I continue to turn those holes over in my mind.

Is resignation faithful? There is a part of me that says, “Fine, okay, whatever. Trust You. Those are my marching orders; I go.” Is it maybe like the disobedient son who told his father, “Heck, no!” but then thought better of it and went anyway? Still not the right response, but better than staying put?

But it really grates on my human understanding of fairness. If I am doing what You want me to be doing, why aren’t You providing for what I need to do that? You brought down the walls of Jericho; yet for me, You’ll pelt me with pea-sized hail, just to see what my reaction is? It’s not fair.

Forgiveness of sins isn’t fair, either; you don’t want God to be fair. I know, I know, I know.

But don’t you see, my original question still hasn’t been answered: If I can’t trust God to meet my perceived needs, and I continue to feel and experience those needs–what the heck am I supposed to do? The desire is to go attend to them myself, since God can’t be bothered to address them–but I haven’t the resources. That’s rather the definition of ‘need’, you know. Pretend I haven’t got a care in the world, when–HELLO!!!–really I do? Flagellate myself that I’m unworthy to have my requests heard? That’s a tempting one, let me tell you, but no life in it.

Keep praying, because to be found not praying is a shame? Yes. Ask, seek, knock? Yes. Trust?

Trust what?

Where do you go to, my lovely?

There is a place between to-do lists and dreams where you wonder if it is possible to, literally, make your dreams come true.

The quaint answer is yes. But if you take a look at your to-do list–go ahead, I’ll wait–you’ll see there’s very little on it that has anything to do with dream making.

I mean, there is a good amount of truth to the saying (which I heard attributed to Lincoln) that after the age of forty, everyone is responsible for their own face. There is a certain amount of life-building that happens every day, and we can be either subconscious or slightly more conscious about it. But there is also a certain amount of truth that “luck and chance happen to us all” and that no amount of planning will get us a Pegasus.

Where we’re stuck is the in between.

How much power do we have over our lifestyle, and how much is dictated by what is necessary to pay the bills?

Sure, there are concrete examples of this conundrum. I have been frustrated for years by lack of space all to my own, to make my own; frustrated by hand-me-downs and clearance racks that don’t speak my language. I’m on the cusp of having my own space, and part of me leaps–finally! Me! My style! My choices! Not endless bending to others’. But in the back of my mind, there is sardonic laughter. Paying through the nose for the privileged of one’s own living spaces rarely leaves behind a fat wallet for classy quilted cowhide rugs and quirky chests of drawers, no matter how much one feels they embody their current stylistic muses.

There are people who posit the lack in hard currency is no real barrier, but invariably the make it up in the currency of minutes and hours. Which is grand. Only that, from what I’ve heard, pursuing a doctorate’s degree does not leave one’s pocket book of either sort pleasingly plump.

And now, my friends, we have tipped the dominoes. Upon completing grad school, one usually has quite a deficit of money, which can only be made up by extravagant expenditures in time. One can make up for the lack of time by spending more money, but then the debt will have to be repaid by spending more time earning money. Where does the madness end?

More specifically, when does the normal, average madness that people have come to expect transition into the extravagant madness of living your dreams? You see the problem. One cannot live their dreams by spending their whole life saying “later” and “soon” and “some day” and “hopefully” and “almost”. It would seem one must begin now. . .

. . .with no money and no job and no time. How do you resolutely live your dreams with no resources? Dream smaller? Compose larger debts? The spreadsheet isn’t balancing over here, and pithy ideologies don’t pay the creditors. I know I’m supposed always be true to myself and pursue my dreams and live my life today, et cetera and ad nauseam.

That’s fine. That’s grand.

How do I change my to-do list?

Does it even count if you have to put it on a to-do list? Like the obligatory kiss good-bye of the great-grandparents you rarely see? How much does duty and true heart-spring overlap? Does the driving intention fuel the dream, like the people who finally made it to the moon, or pervert the dream to a nightmare, like a woman who would do anything to become a mother–to the point she steals someone else’s child?

People say we must stop and recognize the beauty around us, but they are either very clever people with good imaginations or making up fun stuff to say. Let’s see. While I sat within four walls, blank and unmarked, I studied letters and numbers on a glowing screen, deaf by concentration. For an hour. And it was bad software, to boot–buggy and frustrating. What beauty do I mark down for those 60 passing minutes?

Am I grateful? Yes, I am grateful. I’m glad there were four walls and I wasn’t frost-bitten. I’m grateful my computer was still functioning, despite the fact that by rights it should have died of old age by now. I’m grateful for my instructor, who passionately wants us to learn. I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to delve into the preliminary understanding of chemistry, especially when I know that so many others are not even given to enter into the wonderful world of reading.

But was it beautiful?

No. It was butt-ugly.

It was in an ugly building, in an ugly environment, with technology that is over-used and often unpleasant especially in large doses, in a subject that I will likely never delve any further into, and it certainly had nothing I could see that related it to what I wanted to learn, my dreams, my personality and my desired lifestyle. It was work that had to be done, and I did it, crossing it off the ubiquitous to-do list, finding pleasure only in the finality of being done with it, thankyouverymuch.

That’s no way to live, the life-coach scolds. Enjoy every minute! Be engaged! Find the wonder!

Those are very pretty words, my dear, but what do you expect to be done differently? If I can’t put it on my list of things to do, how will it not get lost in the shuffle? And how do I thrive on things that must be done, but aren’t my dreams?

I don’t have all the answers, either, but I would like to know if people actually believe this stuff, or if it mostly winds up being things they mouth in their sleep as comforting thoughts of “the way it ought to be”. I want to hear the nitty-gritty from those who have walked off the trail, not the soft dreams of those watching.

Letters. . .

Dear God,

I have, literally, no idea what you are doing. Like, none. Every time I think maybe I understand what direction you’re headed, I find out I’m wrong.

Love,

Your Confused Daughter

Understanding is not the pre-requisite that many people seem to think it is.

Dear God,

People say it’s impossible to screw up your plan. Is that true? Because this seems pretty momentous to me, and if I’m totally messed up, I think the rest of my life will be, too.

Love,

The Cowardly Lion

Wait, you mean this life? This tiny, fleeting thing? That’s what you’re worried about?

Dear God,

Is it wrong to want to be able to enjoy life? It’s not that I’m scared of working hard; it’s just that I don’t want to be sad and miserable all the time. Is it okay to just have a good time?

Love,

A Recovering (hah!) Perfectionist

What’s stopping you?

Dear God,

Some people act like worrying about money is a really bad thing, but then other people act like keeping our “house” perfectly in order and controlled and planned is the only holy thing to do, because otherwise we’re being bad stewards. Am I being a bad steward if I don’t know how the money is going to work out?

Love,

I Didn’t Win the Lottery Yet

It’s all mine even if it doesn’t look like it’s all yours.

Dear God,

Am I throwing away my life by taking a chance on something I don’t understand, or would I be throwing away my life by staying safe?

Love,

I Don’t Want to Waste This Thing

None of my followers are safe in the world, but all of them are safe in me.

Dear God,

How am I supposed to follow you if I have no idea where you are?

Love,

Wandering

Keep looking.

Dear God,

Why don’t you have an email address? Because I keep checking my email looking for answers, and I’m not getting any.

Love,

Email for teh Win

Maybe you’re asking the wrong questions.

Dear God,

You know what? Some days I doubt my ability to even be a human. What am I doing here being a human if I can’t even do a reasonable job at that?

Love,

Feeling Defective

I made you a human. I define what a human even is.

Dear God,

I know you’re all-powerful and everything, but then how come we don’t see miracles all the time?

Love,

Waiting for the Explosion

Maybe you aren’t watching.

Dear God,

Everyone gives these very pat, trite little answers about you, and try to simplify you down to one concept or idea. They aren’t very satisfying, but I need answers.

Love,

Still Confused.

You do?

Dear God,

What if I screw up?

Love,

At the Precipice

I’ll save you.

Dear God,

Why don’t you save now?

Love,

Still Scared.

‘Now’ is a very interesting concept. . .

Dear God,

Can you at least tell me if I’m headed in the right direction?

Love,

Lost with a Really Crappy Map

You’re writing to me; so, yes.

Nowhere Else To Go

Somehow a plug was pulled inside of me last Thursday, and everything is draining out.

I want to go to bed, to sleep, but I’m too busy having nothing to say.

Everything is too much. Everything is taking too much. I want to fix it before I go to bed, so tomorrow will be better, but there’s nothing left to fix with.

It’s the kind of hole you want to patch with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, except that it’s too late for that, because I feel too empty to even stick anything in my mouth.

The rational part of me says, go to bed. You’re tired. You’ll feel better in the morning with some sleep.

I am tired. Tired of being responsible. Tired of trying. Tired of not understanding any of it.

I want to say like Elijah, “Take me now! I can’t do any of the things!” And He basically says, “Stop whining and get up. No one gave you permission to quit.” I go on, because the world goes on. But things stopped making sense awhile ago, if they ever did make sense.

Who do I think I am? What audacity to get out of bed every morning.

But there is nothing else to do, so I do it.

Go to bed.

And get up in the morning.