You. List.

You can find out some astonishing things about yourself if you’re just willing to write the first thing that pops in your head.

I have spiral bound notebook after spiral bound notebook devoted to this task. The hard part is being honest. I always have plenty to say, but there is so very often much of the time I want to gloss over things, want to not say what I’m really thinking, or am suddenly caught in the paralyzing fear of: “What Happens If Someone Reads This? OMG.”

Recently, for whatever reason, I have been stumbling over a bunch of “Simplify Your Life! Live Meaningfully!” blog posts. They always leave me feeling annoyed. I think it’s because they give off a “3 simple trick to lose-tummy fat!” vibe. “We sat down, drew up our list of priorities, and our life got so, so much better!! 🙂 🙂  ❤ ❤ ❤ !!!”

Am I being mean? Sorry. I’m not trying to be mean. It’s just that I have a really hard time believing you can just draw up a list and re-haul your life.

We had wave after wave of sickness come through the house, and although I was graciously spared the worst of it, my body has clearly been working overtime to fend it off–levels of exhaustion that are no where near commensurate to the amount of effort expended. I was finally reduced to the point where I was overwhelmed by everything–everything. And what did I do?

I drew up a list.

When I get that panicky feeling of drowning under way too many things, I’ve found that some of it is psychological. I am intimidated by that which is not quantified. A few detailed to-do lists later, I feel like I have a better grasp on reality, and after I see a whole slew of things crossed off, I begin to think there may be hope. Once the emotional pressure passes, I find I go on my merry list-less way.

I was struggling with the to-do’s, yes. But also struggling with the idea of pretty much starting my life over again in 3 months–a life which I know will tempt me to burn out, and phenomenon I have gotten to know very well over the past 4 years, and guess what? I’m tired of it. There has got to be a better way, and yet I feel powerless to change things.

So, yes.

A list.

Without even consciously meaning to, I grabbed a piece of paper and started writing down things that, in the state of drowning, seemed very important to me. This clarification is very important, because when one feels to be in a very good place, one becomes less and less serious and more and more philosophical. The list that I would write when I felt like I was on  top of the world is drastically different from the list I would write in crucible. The high-and-mighty list would have a lot more to do with theory, and things that I intellectually believe to be good and important things. The down-and-out list is raw and visceral–those things I know at a gut level that I may not always be aware of but are always influencing who I am.

You can see why the down-and-out list is much more useful than the high-and-mighty list. If I were to make a high-and-mighty list (okay, I have–multiple times; hence my annoyance with “make a list and fix your life posts”), it would be unattainable. It would be all good-intentions-paving-paths-to-places-you-don’t-really-want-to-go. Also importantly, it would not really tell me anything about myself, which is what the whole exercise is supposed to be about. It would be, as my self-writings are often tempted into being, and explanation of who I think I should want to be. Very pious and completely useless. (I meant that to refer to the list, but it occurs to me it could probably apply to the person I think I’m supposed to be, too.)

Do you know what surprised me the most? The thing that my pencil blurted out first, before any other thing.

“Cleaning.”

I was so shocked, I nearly wanted to erase it and start again. Cleaning is so totally not the most important thing.

Right then and there, I wanted to start re-arranging my list, changing the presentation of myself on paper instead of reflecting who I really was. In all reality, that one item has helped me more than any of the other things I wrote down (so if you do feel like playing along, you might only have to write down one thing!).

I grew up with more brothers than you can guess, and I have watched too many struggling young moms apologizing for their houses. I have seen people fall so victim to the urge to clean that they can’t even enjoy life. And so many things are more important than cleaning! I take as my stance that “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” I protest my list. I protest it mightily.

But here’s the thing: it’s my list. Mine. I want to clean. Me. And what has me been doing? Shoving it aside because it “doesn’t really matter” and “other things are more important” and making myself miserable.

I don’t want to clean because it’s the only socially responsible thing to do. I don’t want to clean because I “ought” to. I don’t want to clean because I think I’m morally obliged to or because I’m afraid of what other people will think. I want to clean because I like to have things cleaned, the way I like to bring in flowers in jars, the way I like to have plans of action, the way I like to have things right at my fingertips. I want to clean, because I find sweeping floors and washing dishes to be calming and peaceful and almost meditative. Your hands are busy and mind is free to go, and afterwards everything is better.

So, yeah. I bumped “cleaning” up several notches of importance on my to-do lists, and I have been feeling happier ever since (2 days. Don’t go crazy). That’s not the point. The point is, it’s my list.

Too often my lists are full of things I think I should do, things I feel obliged to do, things I think are “good ideas”, ideology I cling to even though it has little relevance to who I am, things that I have accepted I should value even though I really don’t. Too often, the to-do lists I’m following aren’t mine.

I thought about this more while I swept the floor this morning. My modus operandi has been to first cram in the dutiful responsibilities–work, school and the like–and then if there is anything leftover, I might have a chance to be me with that. But I’m thinking that what I’m supposed to do is be me first, and whatever is leftover from that I can expend on work and school.

No, this is not a bid for wanton living. It is a bid for realizing that this is my life, and taking responsibility for that fact. If life is living me, I’m not owning up to the one obligation I really have: to be me. Everything I do should be subservient to the truth of who I am, not assuming expectations of others or even just mindlessly accepting burdens.

If I stop and think about the people I’ve admired, they weren’t the dutiful ones. They were the crazy, fearless ones. The ones who didn’t exactly live to break the rules. . .more like lived however they wanted because they weren’t aware there were rules. The ones who didn’t seem bound by the “I should’s” and instead lived the “I am’s”. The ones who weren’t worried about having life “just-so” because they always knew they were just about ready to embark on a new adventure anyway. (Admit it–“If you were going to move to China tomorrow, what would I take with me?” is the best piece of de-cluttering advice you’ve seen all week!)

Life should be an adventure. . .but all too often I get hung up on how to do it right. Is there a “right” way to have an adventure? Apparently, in the world according to me, yes. But I think I’m confused on the meaning of life. No, silly-billy. I might not have the adventure I thought I set out to have, but I can’t not have an adventure. What I have to do is dare to value myself more than the things imposed on me.

My resolution heading into graduate school may very well be to only get a 3.5 GPA. I’ve done the 4.0 out of stubborn insistence for far longer than I should have, and you know what? It isn’t really worth it. I just felt like that if I had to do school, I ought to do a good job at it. Now I’m looking a little wider, and if I have to be me, I’d better do a good job at it. And if that means not doing homework because I’m making tin-can lanterns, maybe that is actually the more valuable choice. Because you know what? I’ve wanted to make tin-can lanterns for a long, long time.

What do you want to do?

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Healthy Anger

It is not pretty to be skinny, and it is not healthy to be skinny, and I Am Not Kidding.

This is not a politically correct, self-acceptance, let’s all-feel-good post. This is a post written out of raw anger and heartache.

You know what they say–it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Well, trying having a couple of friends with anorexia, and then see you feel about the whole adjective “skinny”. What I feel is potent fury and impotent ability to do anything about it.

Anorexia kills people. Anorexia devastates bodies, digesting one’s own bones in a desperate attempt to keep functioning, hidden damage that is so easy to be in denial about.

Do you know what “healthy” is? Do you even know? It’s 20% body fat. It is one-fifth of a woman’s body being pure, straight-up FAT. That’s healthy. That’s good and right and true and beautiful and attractive and comfortable and guilt-free and perfect and exactly where it needs to be and what it is supposed to be. That’s if you’re fit: that’s if you exercise regularly and take good care of your body.

And if you’re average? If you aren’t a fitness-freak? 25%. One quarter of your body should be fat.

We’re not talking about “ideas of beauty”. We’re talking about biological functions. We’re talking about a body being able to sustain itself. A woman is not “fat” if her body is composed of 1/4 of fat tissue: a woman is healthy and normal.

How many women do you know who believe that? How many women do you know believe that their bodies need to be between 1/5 and 1/4 fat? How many women do you know who understand that they aren’t healthy if they don’t have enough fat?

I am angry when I see pictures of desperately underweight women on Facebook, being sent around in “health memes”–it is dangerous misinformation, a public health hazard. To me, it is also now a very personal issue–I see these faulty “health” messages as full of malicious intent. I want to chase people down and hold them accountable for the lies they’re spreading. I want to pound some sense into people until they abandon this physiologically disastrous impression of body composition.

I want to fix it.

And I can’t.

I can just sit and watch while my friends literally starve themselves in the name of “health”.

The Lady in the Mirror is NOT Lovely Tonight.

A while back I wrote about how sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself, and I startle myself by the thought that there’s some beauty about me. I wrote even then that I was writing about it because it was noteworthy, not because the Lady in the Mirror is always so gracious. Well, tonight I’m writing about the more common occurrence–those days that seem to stretch on, end-to-end-to-end, where you catch a glance of yourself, and all you can really do is wonder if there is even one redeemable shred of prettiness anywhere at all on the other side of the mirror.

Talk is cheap, and we all know that. We are inherently suspicious of peoples’ comments about our appearance, because they’re only being nice. Polite. It’s not that we expect people to literally turn away from us in revulsion, but we secretly suspect that, in their own minds where no one can hear them, their evaluation of our beauty is really, “Meh.”

“Meh,” is a terrible and and wonderful word. It’s wonderful, because it captures so many emotions in just three letters, and yet horrible in it’s terrible devastation. It’s the complete dismissal of being unworthy of comment. How was your lunch? “Meh.” Not even worth talking about, people. How’s that boyfriend working out? “Meh.” You don’t even care enough to get upset. There is utterly no hope. How’s the job? “Meh.” You go into work disengaged everyday, and you come home disengaged everyday. It’s a void of existence in your day.

We would almost just rather our specific crimes be listed, so we could weigh things out. You have pretty eyes, but your nose is a little odd. We could chose to hold on to the pretty eyes; but the “meh” takes it all in and swallows it. Polite people say you have pretty eyes (and don’t mention your nose), and the etiquette of the saying hangs in the air, and you leave it all behind. It means about as much as “meh.”

So we find ourselves in front of the mirror, giving ourselves side-long glances, or perhaps frank head-on appraisals. What’s there, on the other side of the mirror? Anything worth while? Anything to be valued?

And we all know those phrases. . .”It’s who you are, not what you look like!” Blah blah blah. You’re comparing apples to oranges. I’m not comparing who I’m like to who other people are like. These are two totally different things, and right now I’m considering what I look like! So stop changing the subject.

A lot of people start immediately blaming the media, and I don’t mean it doesn’t play a role. Of course it does. So does society. But I do believe that if we were all alone, and always had been, we would still have an idea of beauty and we would still be trying to measure ourselves against it. I think it’s part and parcel of being made in the image of God, and yet falling short of it.

And what I really don’t think is that this topic should be avoided or taboo. As soon as we get started talking about beauty, everyone jumps on “but that doesn’t really matter!” Well, maybe it does matter–not as much as some other things, sure. But when the conversation is shut down, it means we keep our private fears just that–private. We struggle with it alone, instead of talking about it.

Do we have to be beautiful? No, we don’t. We can live without being beautiful. But why is it such a universal experience to desire to be beautiful, and what are we to do with that desire? Squash it? Cater to it? Veneer it with religiosity? I’m not saying that I have all the answers; I’m saying that these are valid questions that deserve to be considered.

The Lady in the Mirror does not look pretty tonight. Does this just mean that I’m looking for affirmation and affection? Or does it really mean just what I said–she doesn’t look pretty, and this is about nothing more than a yearning for beauty, aside from any other thing. Don’t you think there is a yearning inside of every person for beauty, in one form or another? A yearning to be a part of that beauty?

Beauty is hard to define, though. We might want “it” but what is “it”? Sometimes we go looking for “it” in pictures and people and ideas, trying to wrap some words around it. It never does quite satisfy, though, does it? And even when we see it, and say, “Oh, beauty!” –we’re still left with that hole inside of us, because we can’t change the Lady in the Mirror. Not really.

I sometimes wonder why we’re allowed to yearn for things that we can’t have. If we can’t have them, why can’t we have our desire for them removed? Why can’t we “squash out” our insatiable longings? And if we have to live with them, how are we supposed to do that? How do we walk, side by side, with wanting the things we can never have or be?

I don’t really think the answer is to be satisfied with what you have. And I don’t think it’s to give up on your longings, or pretend they aren’t there. There is something that runs deeper and wider and richer than all of those longings put together that is very important and worthwhile. . .but we tend to only hear the harmony notes, not the fundamental one. But getting rid of the harmony notes is just a way of destroying the notes that help us find the fundamental one.

What is beauty and why do you want it? Those are good questions. And the longing you feel when you look in the mirror is valuable, too. It’s just not very obvious what it really means–an echo of something even more true.

Appropriate to what?

I had an academic interview  today.

I got as dressed up as I can, which is not much, and showed up.

All the other girls were so much more classy and sharp and professional in their appearance as I was.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge and observation, I was more confident, more enthusiastic, more able to present myself and my thoughts, and more passionate and committed to the field we were trying to study.

Always, always, always, this sticks in my craw and makes me think. Okay, so I wasn’t wearing some super-crisp jacket and quintessential pearls. So, sue me. Does it really matter?

People keep telling me over and over again that it really does. That first impressions are so important. That it reflects your professionalism.

Yes, I was neat. Yes, I was put together. No, I did not have a high-sheen polish. I was me, okay? Not a thin veneer plied on over who-knows-what. I was just me. I told them about the good and about the bad. I asked questions. I wore sensible, comfortable shoes, and I had cold hands.

I stand on this awkward place between two views: On one hand, I consider how one dresses to be almost an art form, or a communication form. You can tell people a lot by what you wear. On the other hand, I’m really mad that anyone would care more what my shoes looked like than how I looked them in the eye and answered their question.

Perhaps I’m not really so divided, after all. Perhaps what I do hold to first impressions, and I just want my first impressions to be truthful, not over done. The dozen of us were a wash of black and grey, except me. I wore green. Most girls wore tasteful, professional jewelery. I think my necklace probably was, but I know I was the only one who made hers the day before, because it amused her and it went with her outfit.

I want to be valued for who I am, and part of who I am is how I dress. I don’t want to leave you thinking, “My, what a sharp suit.” I want to leave you thinking, “My, she was engaging and passionate, and had some really good thoughts.” If all you remember is my clothes, than I’ve done a poor job dressing. What? you say. Doesn’t that mean you’ve dressed very well? No, because the point of clothes is to showcase the wearer. If the wearer is simply showcasing the clothes, than the cloths have failed–or rather, betrayed you. They stole the show and left you behind.

Did I dress appropriately? I suppose important experts could argue over it. But is that a relevant question? Did I do well at presenting myself to those that were interviewing me? I believe I did. Me, myself and I. You rather wish you were there to see it, don’t you? You’ve seen enough suits and pearls, and you know what they look like. . .

Gloves that don’t fit hinder you more than you know

Clothes that fit make you feel beautiful.

I think it’s because of the psychological boost that comes from meeting the implied standard: you are exactly as beautiful as this piece of clothing had hoped. YESS!!! It sounds silly, but really, I bet everyone would feel more beautiful and happy in clothes that fit.

Also? If you dress glamorously, the task you’re doing feels glamorous. I know everyone says “dress nice for yourself!” More practically, though, no one tells you to get dressed up to put away laundry in your own bedroom. Try it. Seriously! I have been breaking in some heels by wearing them when I do laundry, and suddenly laundry no longer seems mundane.

I am not really a glamor girl, but I do not care for the slovenly way I’ve been dressing. The sad thing is, I know why I dress the way that I do. It’s hard to dress glamorously when you’re living a slovenly way. I don’t dress nice, because I don’t have a nice desk to sit down at. I sit cross-legged in an easy chair, and balance my laptop between my knees. Doing that in a skirt? Not cool.

Since one of my goals for this year was to stop dressing so slovenly, I’m trying to figure out what stand in my way. A person will always take the path of least resistance; so the the most obvious thing is to get rid of the resistance so you fall the way you want to go anyway.

Part of it is restocking my closet. Part of it is making sure what is in there is both comfortable and interesting. But along that same vein, part of it is trying to figure out how to do what I’m already doing, better. Maybe the problem isn’t that the process isn’t elegant (laundry); maybe the problem is I need to change the process. Because who’s in charge, here? Are you living life, or is life living you?

Sometimes it is a question of the chicken and the egg. Try wearing a dress (I wore one my grandmother gave me from when she was a young woman–cotton, but classy!) and heels while doing the dishes, and watch your motions change. Or–concentrate on your posture, and see how your attitude changes. Or–give up on life, and watch your appearance go totally to crap.

The interesting thing to me is that these things are all inter-related. One does affect the other. You might not have control over one, but you might be able to use something else to “hack in” or “use the back door” and influence the other aspects. I could never try to tell you that if you dress well, your life will suddenly start to make sense. But I can tell you that dressing poorly certainly won’t make anything better either.

How much of a difference would it make? I don’t know; but I’d guess it depends on how consistent you were about it. Our surroundings influence us subtly, and we often don’t realize what a difference they’re making on us until we move into better situations.

Put on the dress fits, and see what a difference it makes!

 

 

Dresses and Dreams and who am I?

So one of my friends is getting married (friend, if you’re reading this, a disclaimer: your impending marriage has simply sparked further thoughts on my behalf, which is good and right. Don’t feel inclined to take anything personally or wonder what you said. This is a pretty general disclaimer, since I’m not really sure where this post is going yet. But I’d hate for you to over-analyze my wanderings, so–don’t. 🙂 ).  I didn’t squeal when I found out, which I’m pretty sure is the now-considered-norm reaction. I didn’t squeal, because (1) I saw it coming; it was pretty much a question of when, not if, and (2) it’s a relationship between two individuals, not a party. I mean, it’s about the marriage, not the wedding. It’s  not like, oh, I’m so glad you’re going to have a wedding, how long do you think before you ditch the guy? It’s like, oh, a marriage, and, incidentally, we’re going to celebrate it!

I expected the engagement. I didn’t really expect how I would feel with the wedding planning. Unsettled.

I’m good at planning. Actually, much to my annoyance, I have more than once woken up from a dream in which I am planning some gathering/event/celebration, and then couldn’t fall back to sleep because I had to finish ironing out the details. At this point, I don’t even really do much planning for a gathering of 30 people any sooner than the week before. So it’s not like I expected myself to have any odd feelings about talk of planning a gathering of, say, 90 people. 2-3 times bigger than what I typically pull together. No biggie.

But I did, especially when I saw her trying on wedding dresses, because suddenly I couldn’t put myself in her shoes. I have thought of myself at times as what I would be like as a wife or a mother, but I guess never really seriously thought of myself as a bride. In the abstract, I could totally put together my own wedding. In the reality of the moment of looking at wedding veils and talking about wedding colors, all I could think was I’d just elope.

Not for her. For me. I’d just be ridiculous in satin and sparkles. My nails are usually filled up with doughnut dough and potting soil; a glittering ring would never settle comfortably on my finger. All these gorgeous, statuesque dresses that I’d love to figure out how they constructed, and in reality? I want the tab that says “cotton dresses here.”

Venues and photographers and caterers–caterers? I confess to finding myself aghast at the idea of myself paying someone else to make food. How snobby, yes? I mean, my aunt even had Christmas catered this year; she just didn’t want the stress of it all and wanted to enjoy the people. Very reasonable and practical of her. But I don’t–you don’t understand–I’ve been cooking for 12 since before I was 12. I make vats and vats of food, regularly. Good food. Fantastic food. And for my wedding I’m supposed to pay someone else to cook it? I would imagine the feeling is similar to leaving your kids with a sitter for the first time, or something. I don’t have any kids, so I’m only guessing.

I can’t imagine. I really can’t. I can imagine “weddings” but I can’t really imagine “my wedding.”

The closest snatch I ever got was this fleeting glance of myself standing barefoot in the grass in a white cotton dress, serving homemade ice cream instead of a reception line, my groom at my side. But it was all fake, because there were lots of young kids running around in the sunlight, and all the kids I know are rapidly growing up. The guests weren’t real.

None of it was really real.

And if I were to get married right now, I probably would elope. No possible configuration of any of the elements is me. I didn’t see a single dress I wished I could just only try on. My idea of flowers is “whatever is blooming.” I couldn’t, I don’t think, feasibly host my extended family from both sides (cost, mostly, but also trying to imagine so many disparate people  together) , never mind his, so the guest list would be awkward at best, making eloping sound even better. No matter which way the list was cut, it would be a really awkward gathering. . .

I guess it made me feel a little sad. Like when you see people playing some game, and they make it look really fun–and you know that everyone would want you to come out and join them, but you know you’ll be awkward and ungainly and never have as much fun as they will. It’s fun to watch, but you can’t help but regret, just a little, that you’re only on the sidelines. I’m not saying that I’ll never get married, and I’m not even saying I’d never have a wedding. I guess it’s just the quiet realization that the princess lifestyle just doesn’t work for me, even for a day.

Maybe someday I’ll find out I’m wrong. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s okay, because what I said at the beginning is still true: it’s about a marriage, not a wedding.

Really Uncomfortable

I am really, seriously uncomfortable with some of the “fitness” stuff going around Facebook–“exposed ribs!” “Legs don’t touch!”

I’m sad–no, I’m horrified. I really am. Being able to count someones bones is properly a sign of malnourishment. Legs that don’t touch is a sign of being underweight. People are describing someone who is gaunt, starved, and in a very frail and unhealthy state–and calling it fitness.

I know there’s a skinny culture; I know there’s eating disorders; I’ve seen the terrifying models that look like abuse victims. But I guess it’s just recently that I’ve been seeing this marketed to the Jane Doe girl as healthy.

The heck it is.

It makes me angry, because it’s bad enough when you have these twisted, unrealistic ideas of what a person is supposed to look like–but when you start marketing something that’s literally an unhealthy destruction of the body–well, I’m okay with saying that should be a crime. It’s public endangerment.

We make up all these rules about how large a soda can be sold and where you can smoke–impingement on freedom in the name of health. But it’s perfectly okay to market self-destruction in the name of health?

We’re not measuring health on how much physical labor someone can do in a day. We’re not measuring health by the functioning of their internal organs. We’re not measuring health on strength, on speed, on agility, on endurance, on an ability to rejuvenate. No, health is being measured in numbers and in appearance. And what is the yard stick by which healthy appearance is measured?

Cancer patients, war prisoners, and drug addicts, apparently.

So Guess What?

My New Year’s resolution is to Look UnHealthy.

I want my legs to touch. I don’t want you to be able to count my bones. I don’t want to fit in a size “hiccup”, and I don’t have a magic number for the scale.

If you want a magic word for healthy and beautiful, try this one on for size: VIVACIOUS.

It’s very attractive.

(But it won’t catch on, because counting ribs is marketable and being ALIVE is not.)

We really aren’t that special

I have been reading “Grace for the good girl” by Emily Freeman. I normally flee from titles like that, but I’d been reading Emily’s blog, and she kept hitting tender places I didn’t know were tender. So I broke down and bought two of her books, even though their covers made me shy away.

Well, it’s been peculiar. She’s describing me more thoroughly than most of my friends can. And every time I think, well, no, that’s not really quite like me–she shifts focus ever so slightly, and everything is looking at me again. The chapter I just finished was on responsibility and weakness. I’ve always blamed my attitudes toward responsibility and weakness to being an older sister/daughter and having a lot of brothers, respectively. But Emily didn’t have the kind of family growing up that I did, so I guess, “Nothing has come upon you except what is common to man.”

I wasn’t really getting into her “responsibility” section, until she started talking about “the purse” mentality. Taking it upon yourself to stock your purse so that no matter who needs what, you’ve got it. Physically, and intangibly. Yes, and yes. The whole purse section hit home like she’d been watching my life played out like a movie. And then she says,

For all the times that I rush around, both physically and mentally, trying to fix and influence the people and circumstances around me, I simultaneously feel resentful that I am the one to manage it all. Why doesn’t anyone else fix this? Why do I have to be the one? Even though I was the one who wrote the job description and hired myself to fill the role, I want to both quit and fire myself.

Amen, sista.

I thought, from the cover, this was going to be a feel-good, every-thing’s-okay, light and fluffy kind of book. It’s actually kind of uncomfortable to be reading a book written, apparently, by someone sitting inside my head. I wasn’t really ready for it.  I wasn’t really ready for someone to nail every. single. weakness. I have.

Oh, and that’s another thing. “Weak,” she says, “Is not a four-letter bad word.” Honey, I have more brothers than you can probably count, and they’re like dogs that way. You don’t let them smell blood, or fear. “Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility is a lonely place to live,” she says. Ow. Yeah, it is, actually. I try so stupidly, ridiculously hard to pretend I’m strong and responsible,  and I’m disappointed when they fall for it. To turn her own words back on her–sure, I believe that “weak” is not a four-letter bad word. For you.

She’s making me think, and honestly? I didn’t expect that either. (Arrogance, much? Yes.) One of the things that she keeps turning over is that we really aren’t going to discover anything new about ourselves; we’re only ever going to really re-discover old things about ourselves. Things that we accidentally or on-purpose buried as we grew up, but are really still US, deep down inside.

It jarred loose something I hadn’t thought on for a while, but I realize is (still) true. I hate everyone looking at me. I hate being the center of attention. I hate people looking at me. Why? I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure it out.

But I remember my horror and mortification at loosing a baby tooth during a social gathering, utterly convinced that now everyone would be staring at me, and I just could bare that. People did wind up staring, since I was dying six kinds of deaths of complete embarrassment, but no one had the foggiest idea why I was upset.

I want to be hidden. I want to hide. I don’t want you to see me or notice me. When I find out you were watching and I didn’t know, I feel this odd sense of disquiet settle over me. I thought I was invisible. Even though I was talking animatedly and laughing.

I don’t want to wear bright colors, or flashy clothing, because that might attract your eye. I don’t want to tell you about any of the ways I might be different, because then you might see me. I’ve hidden my grades from my classmates for so long, I do it now without thinking about it. I referred to my solid, strong A for a final grade as “acceptable” to one of my professors, and he suggested that I at least meant “Acceptable.” I felt a big caught off balance. What did I mean by acceptable? I meant, I guess, that I was happy with my grade, but I wasn’t going to say how happy, because that would be drawing attention to myself. Sitting at the place of honor at a feast would be horrible, because then everyone would be looking at you. Stop looking at me!

Why? I don’t understand that part of it.

Everyone loses baby teeth, I get that. What’s the big deal? People wear bright clothing in the street all the time, and they aren’t followed by small mobs of people, just staring at them. Some people can confidently get good grades without being obnoxious about it.

I can’t say it’s because I want to fit in, because I like being different. I can’t say that–well, I guess  do want everyone to just like me, but what does that have to do with bright colors and baby teeth?

If I have consistently striven for any one thing over the years, it is to be quietly invaluable. I want to be that hidden gem, that maybe few know about–but, oh! What a gem. Those clever few can see what an incomparable, incredible human I am. But, only, you can’t tell me, because I wouldn’t believe you, but just make me feel very valuable.

What?

I confuse even myself. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Yet when I look back over the patterns in my life, I see the same things played out over and over. Do I want praise and recognition? Yes, of course. Kind of. After a fashion. I’ve repeatedly dodged recognition, down-played my accomplishments, sneakily helped people out, and generally felt barren, alone, and undervalued.

I do this even in my writing. One time I reviewed something on my Mom’s blog, as a guest post, and it kind of got spread around. I nearly died. I was so abashed and self-conscious. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way, but it does for me. Um, hello? What’s the point of writing stuff you’d like anyone to be able to read and enjoy if you’re just going to turn into a self-conscious freak the minute you start showing any signs of success?

I don’t know. Maybe by the time I get to the end of her book, I’ll stumble on some other insight as to what has been making me tick. I thought it was just because I was weird, but if I was that different, how could she be writing a book about me?

The Lady in the Mirror Looks Lovely Tonight

I’m not being narcissist. I’m mentioning it because it’s not so very often the case.  The Lady in the Mirror has looked a lot of things, ranging from utterly unremarkable, to stubborn, to ill-tempered, to flustered and worn out, to goofy, to unkempt and uncivilized–but, no, not so very often lovely.

I wonder why.

I wounder why I so often find myself unlovely. I wonder if I am changing, or my senses are. And sometimes, when I look in the mirror and see loveliness, I can’t help the thought that flashes across my mind. “What a waste.”

I don’t know; it would seem there would be someone else out there who could put it to better use, or someone who would have it admired more or displayed better. What is one supposed to do with loveliness?

I ignore it, mostly, myself–except for those fleeting glances while I wash my hands or brush my teeth. I suppose that’s part of why I feel oddly ill-suited for it. The pace of life doesn’t seem to leave me with a lot of time for contemplating my appearance, even if my mind will wander to it. But I can’t deny, either, the hidden story that we tell ourselves and hide too deeply to admit to nearly even ourselves–that we would like to imagine that someone is watching from a distance and admiring. That some day we’ll be discovered, in our ashes, or hat shop, or lowly secretary, or caring for the hurting, or whatever your fairytale has you doing, and that someone will see ourselves as much more wonderful than we see ourselves.