A Woman’s Imagination

13 07 2007

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“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” ~Jane Austen

I’d only been home for two days, but my answering machine was already cluttered with messages of “Call me back ASAP” from Jen. Since her voice sounded more like a giggly girl at a slumber party than someone in the middle of a crisis, I wrote “call Jen” on a sticky note and continued with my unpacking. I’d call her after I’d run a load of whites.

Apparently, she just couldn’t wait for me to dig my smelly socks out of the blue duffle bag and track down a bottle of bleach, because before the rinse cycle was underway, the phone rang. She asked a few pleasantries — if the airplane food was as gross as normal, and whether I’d enjoyed the conference — before cutting to the chase.

From Admiration to Love

“So,” said the enthusiastic voice on the other end of the line, “Tell me about him!”

I mentally flipped through files of friends and acquaintances trying to decipher who the elusive him was before finally just asking what on earth she was talking about.

“Oh,” she obviously thought I was being coy, “you know who I mean, Kelsey.”

I wondered if she’d confused my life with someone else’s, perhaps someone from one of those soap operas I pride myself on never watching, or maybe it was a side affect of a Pride and Prejudice overdose.  Who knows.

“There isn’t any guy to tell you about.” I said. The last him of any interest whatsoever had been a fellow I’d met briefly while at the conference, who I’d never mentioned to Jen because it wasn’t worth mentioning.  After all, we hadn’t even swapped MySpaces.

From Love to Matrimony

While gone, though, I’d briefly mentioned chatting with Conference Dude in a short email to Kathy.  Kathy told Beth, a mutual friend of ours, I was dating someone I’d only just met.  Beth then told Jen, who immediately took it from dating to matrimony.  By the time I got home and was attempting to do my laundry in peace, the story had grown so much, you’d have thought they’d drenched it with Miracle Grow.

It’s amazing how when several women with rapid imaginations enter the equation, something as mundane as, “I talked with an interesting guy over coffee,” can turn into, “I’m getting married this summer to someone I only just met and didn’t bother to tell you.”

Jen,  disappointed to discover there wasn’t going to be a summer wedding — or spring, fall or winter for that matter — said with a sigh, “Oh, and I was looking forward to the wedding.”  I laughed.  At moments like that, there isn’t much else you can do.

Thankfully, Jen hadn’t bought a gift yet; although, I guess a new toaster never hurt anyone.

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Forgiven, But Not Forgotten

18 04 2007

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Generally, when I think of forgiveness, I tend to think of the humbling relief that comes from being honestly forgiven after you’ve said something hurtful that you didn’t mean, or, at least, didn’t mean to say. But forgiving someone else can be a nice feeling, too, but it normally comes after a lot of not-so-nice feelings.

You know that person in the world who you’d rather eat a large helping of mud than have to talk to because they did something – either because they’re stupid or just downright mean — that ripped you into little bite sized bits? Well, I ran into my I’d-rather-eat-mud person yesterday.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I saw her, but we were both standing in the same line, so hiding or pretending I didn’t notice she was standing right beside me weren’t really options. And so, with an oversized amount of awkwardness and civility hanging in the air and swirling around our heads, we chatted briefly about pointless, frilly things that neither of us cared anything about – the weather, hair dye – and talked so vaguely about our lives you’d think we kept the smallest details as close to our hearts as a card shark keeps his hand. 

As our line came to an end, and we parted, I wished her well. And you know, I actually meant it. I honestly hope life turns out well for her. I still don’t trust her any farther than I can throw her, and I have no desire to go out for Starbucks with her, or to sit around a campfire singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows. She hurt me, but knowing I’d forgiven her — even though she’ll never know I have — made me feel like the last bitter string of our former friendship had been cut, and I was free.

Even though I can’t flip a switch and erase the unpleasant words that were said in the past from my mind, she no longer unconsciously has any control over me, because I’ve let it go; I’ve wished her well.

Forgiveness is very freeing.





Behind the Painted Smile

12 04 2007

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“I can’t let them know who I really am, Kelsey,” she said with pain in her voice, “Because they’d be so disappointed if they knew I wasn’t doing as well as they all think I am — if they knew I don’t have it all together.”

I tried pulling her out of the mental hole she’d fallen into; I said she was merely human, just like everyone else, so she wasn’t perfect, just like everyone else. But the topic was closed and she had no desire to be thrown anymore ropes.  She wanted to stay in her hole.

Like so many other people, this young girl had decided she couldn’t allow anyone to see the scared, broken, hurting person behind the mask.

Life: The Masquerade

We learn at a young age that life is a large and elaborate, 24/7 masquerade ball, and if you’re going to play the game, you have to hide your shortcomings, struggles, pain and imperfections behind a painted smile, just like everyone else does.

Unfortunately, while we watch the endless parade of smiling, confident faces stroll past us, we often forget we’re attending a masquerade ball, and that almost every face is completely hidden from view behind a bucket full of paint. Everyone else appears beautiful and put together, so we desperately cling to our own masks a little tighter, hoping no one will notice the confident, perfect grin we’re showcasing will smear the next time it rains.

It’s the domino affect in action, and it starts with just one person deciding to sport a mask. The people around them then analyzed their own wrinkled, pimply faces in the mirror and decide they’re falling short, so they invest in masks, as well. Before long, there isn’t a single person left who even remembers what it’s like to be transparent, honest and real.

Broken and Scary   

We’re told we’re suppose to be as normal and all-American as The Brady Bunch, but if people truly knew us, we’d all probably come closer to resembling The Addams Family – eccentric, dark, a little scary, and just downright weird.

People are hurting, grieving, living, and dying alone.

And the most heartbreaking part is there are others who are just as scary and broken as they are, but they’re also hiding behind a painted smile.  Just like everyone else.





Numb

10 04 2007

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You know the feeling you get when your foot falls asleep after  you’ve been sitting on it?  How it feels so numb you’re not even sure if you pulled out a fork and jabbed it a couple of time you’d notice? I feel like someone could jab me emotionally with a fork right now and I’d barely feel a thing. 

Another holiday’s come and gone. I felt too apathetic to do much more than glance at the date on the calendar. I’ve never particularly been a holiday enthusiast anyway, but all holidays – especially family holidays – have now become something to survive, to take a deep breath and get through, rather than something to look forward to and enjoy.

I smile on holidays and cheerfully wish people a happy whatever it is, but I feel too numb to honestly even care if every holiday was suddenly permanently deleted from the calendar, sucked into a black hole somewhere in the cosmos and gone forever.

I feel numb, frozen and apathetic. Like a zombie who somehow escaped out of the TV screen during “Shaun of the Dead” and is now feeling out of place here in Human World. I get out of bed, eat breakfast, brush my teeth a couple of times too many, and continue on with my day, but I’m only going through the motions. It’s like I’m stuck on a treadmill, running in place. I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t even know if I care.

I didn’t use to feel apathetic. For awhile I felt afraid; afraid to dream or plan, because everything had crumbed and fallen into ragged shards, and I was tired of bending over and sweeping them up off the ground again and again. I was afraid to reach out to people, too, because I learned even the nicest ones sometimes bite and it hurts when they do.  

But even though I’m no longer as frightened by the pain of broken dreams, plans and friendships — I expect them, the same way I expect summer to come after spring — I’m apathetic.  Maybe it’s because it doesn’t hurt as much to have something ripped out of your hands when you weren’t holding on to it tightly, when you didn’t really care. 

I want to feel passionate about something again, to feel more than just numb. I want to feel alive. I don’t feel sad, angry or afraid; I don’t feel much of anything. I just feel numb.





Santa in March?

28 03 2007

‘Tis the Season for flowers, spring allergies and seasonally ineffective street evangelists.  

I was plodding along, completely engrossed in my own thoughts, when a little, gray haired lady — her arms filled with grocery bags — flagged me down.   In a quite voice, she leaned in closer to me, and with big eyes and a somewhat crazed smile plastered on her face, she informed me there was something she needed to give me. 

As she rummaged around in her brown, winter coat, I half expected her to pull out a plastic fork, or an old gumball wrapper, or even, something to help me contact the aliens with.  But instead of ET’s home number, her hand emerged with two small cards – each about the size of a business card.  She handed them proudly over to me.  Cutesy Christian poems were printed on them in flowery fonts; nope, I wouldn’t be helping ET phone home today.     

“Santa Claus,” she said his name with all the inflections a good storyteller would use when the zombies had emerged and were now wreaking havoc on society, “leads straight to the mall which leads to bankruptcy and depression.”  She looked up so she could stare right into my eyes.  It reminded me of the way a door to door salesman would stare at you while he was trying to convince you of your overwhelming need for the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner.  I smiled back uncomfortably.  

After an awkward silence, she apparently decided I was now ripe for the gospel, and added triumphantly, “But Jesus leads to peace.  Santa has deceived us all, we’ve all ended up at the mall, but you don’t have to stay there, because you can choose to either follow Santa or Jesus.” 

Santa or Jesus? Okay, so I’ve had a couple bad experiences with street evangelists in the past, but this “gospel message” takes the cake.  Not only did it not make any sense, but it wasn’t even seasonally appropriate!     

It was ironic she thought “following Santa” would lead straight to the mall, because I was on my way to stop by a friends house – who’s actually a friend from church — and then we were going to spend the afternoon at the local mall.              

She looked satisfied, and abruptly walked away without another word.  And I continued on to the mall thinking how her “gospel” was enough to make me feel turned off from Christianity. 

I didn’t tell the lady I she was preaching to the choir, because the “Christianity” she was selling was nothing I was willing to defend or own. 

It seems like we’re in need of a new term, because somewhere along the way the term “Christianity” lost its meaning.  It became about televangelists, concerts, cheesy bumper stickers, judgemental and stupid people, and somewhere in all the hubbub, true Christianity was misplaced; it stopped being simply about “Yes, Jesus loves me.”     





Perspective

1 02 2007

The journey from empathy to aggravation can be as effortless as sipping your morning coffee, while munching away on a slightly burnt piece of toast, and staining your figures with news print, completely oblivious to the fact there’s a hint of poison deluding your morning ritual.  It doesn’t require much poison for the results to be lethal. 

I caught myself recently feeling increasingly frustrated and annoyed with some of the very people I’ve gone out of my way in the past to be there for; people I truly care about.  My inner voice (not my conscious, the other fellow) had become more and more irritable and nitpicky and I’m sure my mental eye rolling count was rising at a rate to rival the gas prices.   

Yes, there are some obnoxious people in the world, but if you feel the need to put them all in The Stupid Box, pretty soon it’ll just be you and the local shrubbery (which honestly doesn’t always sound so bad, but that isn’t the point right now).  

It wasn’t the people and their both irritable and concerning quirks that frustrated me originally; it was the looming problems on the horizon, which they were unaware of, so consequently where walking headlong into. 

I was frustrated because I cared about them, and the last thing on earth I wanted was to see them get hurt, but somewhere along the way I’d lost sight of why I was even upset in the first place.  There was cause for concern and frustration, because there were real problems, but I was getting tied up in knots over the minor issues and irritations.  My concern for them and developed into frustratoin wtih them.    

It’s amazing how just a slight change in perspective can completely alter everything from our mood, to the way we interact with those around us.  It doesn’t take much to lose your focal point, and in doing so, completely miss your target.    

Oh, that’s right, I do like people.  Duh. 

Empathy is a curious thing.  It’s a wonderful gift, but if you don’t keep a regular tab on it, it can easily turn into something hideously narcissistic.  Maybe even our best traits can become disfigured without a careful eye.  Proverbs 4:23 puts it nicely, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” 

Perspective can make all the difference in the world, but it needs some looking after.