Flannel

The flannel is

the closest

thing to comfort me

still me and

hold me

gently.

The flannel only

knows me

the measured breath

the covered breast

the fears and

the dreams

are kept.

The flannel has

room for

more than just me;

no jealous lover

yet exists

for me.

The flannel wants

not part of

me, my life or being.

If I come

or go

still

the flannel is.

(9/16, rough draft only, without revision)

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Discipline and Disciple

My first thought is, “Oh my gosh, this is going to take so much discipline.”

To not worry.

To not pack the knapsack the the night before, not double-check the school website, not insist on writing that one last email before bed. To stick to the new diet when it feel so odd and seems to be so expensive. To go to bed with the sun when the to-do list isn’t done. To not panic when I see that class is half an hour earlier than I thought it was.

I apparently have a hair-trigger on panic right now. Everything seems like a crisis. I have to remind myself again and again, “God has a plan. God already knew that. There’s still plenty of time for God.

But my second thought is, “Wait, discipline?” I’ve felt for  a long time that it bodes very ill for my internal state when I catch myself thinking “I’VE worked so hard. . .” I’ve? “I’ve” means my head isn’t screwed on straight. It means I’m still thinking it all depends on me. What does discipline mean? At first blush, I thought it was just a fancier word for “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Come on; be disciplined! Do it!

But I wonder. The word “discipline” and “disciple” are so similar. They both have their root in being taught. I think that is the thing that I need to keep in strong focus. It’s not about what I’m learning, but who I’m learning it from. Going to bed earlier doesn’t do a thing to make me righteous. The act is in no way morally superior.

But to go to bed earlier, I have to trust that the things that weigh on me are smaller than God, and that God is more well pleased by my rest than by my anxiety. It’s not the act that matters. What matters is that it is an act of faith.

Lists

Everyone keeps making these lists, and it makes me feel left out, even though I think it’s stupid to make numerical lists about things that can’t be numerated–“5 ways to have a more joy-filled life” is a stupid thing to write. Sorry. I am all harsh and judgmental like that. I just think that implies a whole lot of knowledge that people don’t really have, and implies a cause-and-effect universe that we’d all like to figure out, but can’t, because, guess what? It doesn’t work that way, or everyone would be following those lists to a T and having awesome, joy-filled lives and no tummy fat, forever and ever amen. Seriously, it doesn’t work like that.

Anyway, lists. Because I’m horribly judgmental, every time I see a horribly executed list, I think to myself, “I could do better than that!” Then I think, “That would be stupid. I’m not allowed to be stupid.” Then I’m all like, “Who says I don’t get to be stupid? Who made the rule against stupid? I can be stupid if I want to be!” Then I realize the reason why a lot of us don’t be stupid a lot more often is because of the people watching, and we don’t mind being stupid, we mind being caught being stupid. If no body sees it, it didn’t happen, and you can enjoy it for what it is.

So here’s my stupid list. I think I’m going to call it, “Important Things That Men And Women Ought To Know About Each Other, But Probably Don’t” or “Relationship Advice From The Outside: I Know You’re Doing It Wrong, Even Though I’m Not Doing It” (this is more common than you think; didn’t C. S. Lewis write a book on marriage, even though he’d never been married? Guys writing books about kissing dating good-bye when they hadn’t yet figured the whole thing out and gotten married either? I’m, like, trending over here, not going out on a limb). Or something. Maybe when I get to the end of the list, I’ll come up with a really splendiferous title. I usually write first and come up with the title last, anyway.

Okay, now I’m really, really done with the preamble. Here we go:

Things Women Should Tell Men, but Probably Never Do:

  1. There will be tears. They cannot be avoided, they cannot be stopped, it isn’t your fault, and I don’t like them either. So there.  But there will be tears, and for women, it’s as natural and healthy as, like, going the bathroom. It’s not going to ever be something where it’s like “Man, I just really like crying,” but trying not to cry, trying to hold it all in–that’s going to cause some serious harm. I can’t not cry. I can hide it and I can be ashamed of it–but I’m pretty sure that almost nothing would make a woman feel more loved than to have a safe place to cry.  I’m sure you don’t like to see me cry, and I’m sure it makes you very uncomfortable, but there’s no way you can take care of me better than to make me feel like it’s okay to cry and that’s what your shoulder is there for. You can’t imagine how awesome that would be.
  2. “Help me” means “do it together,” because, actually, I’m lonely. I say, “Honey, come help me with the dishes.” And you’re all like, “Mm. Honey no like dishes. Dishes go away. Let’s–always eat off of paper plates, so we can throw them all away and NEVER do dishes!!” And then I’m all like crying, and you don’t understand. I had a problem, you found a solution–shouldn’t this be the happy-kissy part? Yeah, but you got confused on the grammar part. The important part was come help ME with the dishes, not come help me with the DISHES. If there were no dishes, I would want you to come help me with something else, because, basically, I’m feeling lonely and forgotten and unvalued, and I want you HERE, with ME, doing whatever I’m doing. It makes me feel like all is right with the world when we’re working together, like I’m safe and you care.
  3. I take it very seriously when you make fun of/look down on my emotions and/or emotional capacity. You’re strong and muscle-y and that’s your strength. My strength is my emotional capacity. If you trash that, I have nothing left. The flip side of this that you can give me such incredible encouragement and support when you say out loud when you notice the value of that emotional capacity. If you can tell me “You’re such a good friend to so-and-so” or “I like how you always seem to know how I’m feeling” or “I like how cheerful you are” or anything that says you see worth in how I am pouring out my heart and soul–that’s going to really balance out the times you can’t help but roll your eyes and say “Sometimes it IS about the nail, honey.” or “Stop taking it so personally!” or “you’re making this into a bigger issue than it should be.” Okay, yeah, sometimes; but if you never tell me the things you value about me feeling, feeling, feeling all the time, it basically makes me think you have no respect for me.
  4. My body does not work the way yours does. I don’t put on muscle as fast as you do; my metabolism will never burn as fast as yours, no matter how much I exercise. I will never be able to drop weight the way you can. It really is that hard for me to lift that thing. No, I do not know how to drive standard, and even if I do know how to drive standard, that doesn’t mean I understand the hand motions you’re making. Those raging hormones and biological clocks have been abused as excuses, but they’re really true and not funny at all. I think babies look cute the way you think food is a good idea when you’re hungry.
  5. It matters to me what things look like. You’re all like “What does it matter how it looks? That doesn’t change what really IS.” I know, I get it, but you’re still wrong. How things look can make me feel happy or not happy; why do you think I care so much about what color we paint the room? To you, a room is a room is a room. To me, it is a happy room, or a sad room, or an energetic room, or a calming room, or a room that reminds me of my Great-Grandma, or a million different other options. And the same is true about clothes, about the plates I serve food off of, and just about everything around me.
  6. I’m trying. And I know you’re trying. And I love you.

Things That Men Should Tell Women, But Probably Never Do:

  1. I have emotions, too. Just not the crying kinds. You handle emotions by talking or by crying, but I have one way of dealing with things: Fight or Flight. I’m either going to get really mad, or I’m going to hide from it. I might hide from it by watching sports non-stop, or playing computer games, or any number of things. But basically, I Hurt Inside = Fight or Flight. So I come home with all these bad emotions inside, and I go into flight trying to deal with my emotions, staring at the glowing screen. And then you’re all like, “Honey, you never help me with the housework,” “Honey, we never do anything together,” “Honey, are you even listening to me?” And I’m all like, Ugh. More bad feelings. More Fight or Flight. One time I heard this story–I don’t know if it’s true or not, but anyway–this woman felt like her husband had totally checked out on her, on their marriage, on living. No matter what she tried to do to get him to engage, he wouldn’t. Some guy told her, “Stop nagging him and start loving him, and he’ll come around.” So she stopped nagging him, and just gave him a kiss and told him she loved him, and five minutes later, he was upstairs helping her with the chores. I don’t offer any magic solutions, but if your dude is hurting and depressed, More Bad Feelings isn’t going to make him come around, and you might be able to help him better if you can realize the difference between I’m Lazy and I Hurt.
  2. Just tell me. Really. You’re trying too hard to be gentle and I can’t read between those lines. Just tell me. You’re all like, “Wow! The garbage can is really full!” and I’m like “Yep.” Then you’re all upset because I didn’t change the garbage, and I’m all like, “What the heck? I didn’t even know you wanted the garbage changed. Why didn’t you ask?” You thought that hinting about a full garbage can was good enough, but I am a man. I either (a) noted your observation, agreed it was correct, and promptly forgot about it, or (b) was thinking about how much fuller I’ve seen other garbage cans, or the time we stuffed Joey in a garbage can, or thinking about eating my breakfast, or even thinking about NOTHING AT ALL. Just say, “Honey, can you change the garbage can?” and I’ll be like, “Yep.” and we’ll both be happy. Say, “Honey, I want flowers on my birthday, and my birthday is next Friday.” Say, “Honey, I hate my stove and it makes want to cry every time I use it. Let’s get a new one” not, “don’t you think we should think about updating the kitchen?” Say, “You really hurt my feelings with that last comment,” don’t storm around the house for three days while I wonder what happened, and if it’s my fault or someone elses’. No hinting. Just say it. We’ll both be happier, I swear.
  3. Please understand what you are asking me to do. Sometimes you act like you’re asking for the moon in a handbasket, and it’s the easiest thing in the world. Other times, you ask me to move Mount Everest, and wonder why I’m giving you The Look. It might help if you tried to do it yourself first, or if you did it with me. But sometimes I think you really don’t understand the gift I’m giving you, and I feel like I’m your errand boy, not the love of your life. Give me advance notice; be honest if you really want it done before a certain time, and understand what this supposedly easy project entails. If you painted the house with me, you might understand why I put off painting the house for so long.
  4. Indecision is painful. I hate indecision. I get rid of it as fast as I can in my own life. Watching you go through indecision is like watching someone hurt. I would like to end your pain and give you a decision. You keep telling me that half the fun is trying to decide, but not for me. For me, I want answers. Don’t come to me when you want to talk about the relative merits about two different colors of pink. Go to your girl friends for that. Come to me when you want an answer, this one or that one, yes or no. I’ll give it to you in a hurry, but I’m not going to talk about this decision and re-visit it ad nauseam.
  5. Just because I’m not saying anything doesn’t meant I’m not listening or that I don’t care. You talk all the time, and I listen. I don’t talk. If you want an answer to a question or want to know what I think, ask me directly. But don’t think that just because I’m quiet it means that I’m ignoring you. I just don’t have as much to say.
  6. I’m trying. And I know you’re trying. And I love you.