Monday, July 30, 2012

Home

After a long night of travel I arrived home and dropped my luggage near the front door.  My laptop bag toppled over, a book slid out, and I didn't care.  My next stop was the bathroom where I carefully removed the contacts from my dry, bloodshot eyeballs.  Too tired to unpack my glasses, I stepped apprehensively into my bedroom, careful to watch for blurry blobs of color on the floor, which were surely the shoes I had peeled off on my way from the living room to the bathroom, and climbed into my unmade bed.  I was still fully dressed.

Just before crashing into a much needed slumber, I wiggled down under the purple, cotton sheet while my thoughts hung in a strange parallel:  peaceful to be at home in Kansas while also homesick for my friends in Arizona.  I channeled Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and imagined clicking my ruby red heels together: "There's no place like home."  

'Home' for me is truly cliche.  Home is where my heart is, but my heart doesn't belong to one place or one person.  My heart is broken into sections and pieces, each one specifically labeled and color coded,  each belonging to a different person or place. That night, the piece reserved for Arizona, and the people that make that destination special, ached.  The piece belonging to Kansas, to normalcy and to cooler temperatures, eased me to sleep.

It's amazing how many ways my heart can be cut up (sounds gruesome, doesn't it?) and given away to a person or group of people.  Sometimes it feels like there's no more room to add any one or any place else to it, but after spending all of last week in the middle-of-nowhere Missouri working at a teen camp, I have found my heart all rearranged, re-coded, re-labeled, and missing the new kids and adults in my life.  I wonder, already, how they are doing and wonder when I can see them again even though I just saw them all yesterday.

The crazy awesome thing about home being where the heart is, is that no matter where I am, I am almost always at Home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Love: A Confession

I have a really difficult time loving people. Not all people.  Some people are really easy to love:  my best friends, babies, most toddlers, my massage therapist, beauticians- love, LOVE, love them.  It's annoying, mean, holier-than-thou, stupid, and frustrating people that I have a difficult time loving.

Yes, I just heard some of you gasp in astonishment after reading my first sentence.  Don't pretend that you love everyone all the time; we all know that's not true.  It's totally normal to dislike, avoid, hate, and be annoyed by people so calm down.  It's normal, but it isn't correct.  The most difficult part of love is taking away all the societal rules and justifications and just deciding to love in spite of all of that.

It wasn't until I started evaluating the relationships in my life; evaluating if certain people really loved me that I focused at all on whether I loved other people.  I started researching love.  I researched how different cultures show love, I looked up definitions, and then I held up the facts next to my relationships and learned that many of the people who claimed they loved me, didn't.  Sad day.  After I wallowed for a bit (a 'bit' in Jessica Time=years), I held  the same criteria up to myself and realized I had a choice with those relationships.  I could decide to not love them back, justifiably, or I could figure out a way to love them anyway.

Once I decided to love people through difficult circumstances, life was so awesome!  All of those relationships were completely and fully reconciled, we hung out all the time, and my life changed completely!

Actually, that's not true at all.  It became even more difficult once I decided to consciously love people, especially people who did not, and still don't, deserve it.  Loving people is hard work.  It requires sacrifice of pride and time.  It means giving up trying to prove that you are right and they are wrong (even about religious dealings, maybe even especially then) and letting go of the fun thoughts of leaving them stranded on the side of the road.  Love means moving toward people instead of away from them.  It means you can't be a victim.

Since making that decision, years ago, it has required me to practice loving, because goodness knows it doesn't always come naturally.  I catch myself more times than I would like to admit, mid-snarky comment or angry thought, having to stop and decide to deal with that person in a different way.  I can't just write people off.  I will say this, though:  the more I catch myself and the more I practice and follow through, the easier it becomes.

So that's it.  This is just a confession that will hopefully resonate with you, spark a conversation or just a consideration.


Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm a Crazy Feminist, Apparently

Picture me in a black dress, high heels, gold accessories, weighed down like a pack mule: carrying a clutch*, laptop bag, gym bag, lunch bag, and a light sweater.  My hair is in place, make-up is fresh, the bangles on my arm are gently clinking together as I walk from my car to the entrance of the office building.  I feel very much like Audrey Hepburn, except that I never saw her loaded down like a pack mule, unless she was gracefully carrying shopping bags.

Most women, if not all women, have this natural ability to be able to strategically carry everything they own on their person while still looking professional or classy (whatever the goal is).  The main point is to get everything from point A to point B in one trip, no matter how heavy the load or how many bags she ends up draping over her arms.  It isn't just the ability to carry items to and from a location, it's the ability to also open doors once she's arrived.  If someone happens to be nearby to hold a door open, that's a bonus, but it's impossible to rely on that.

Go back to picturing me, Audrey Hepburn-esque, walking through a dimly lit parking garage.  Looking ahead, I notice several people entering the building.  They are yelling distance away.  I walk a few yards closer to the entrance and watch a man walk through the door.  He suddenly stops and holds the door open but no one is directly behind him.  He yells, "If you hurry. . ." and then motions that I can walk through the open door.

Now, I am not in a position to hurry.  To even get to him in a decent amount of time I would have to literally jog to reach the door.  I sweetly call out, "Oh, no thanks!  Go on ahead, I can get it!"  While it would be nice not to have to struggle to get the door open, I know I can get the door open myself because I am carrying everything strategically!  It isn't worth this guy standing there for 5 more minutes and it isn't worth me breaking into a sweat or risking tripping on my high heels to jog over there.

I really thought he would shrug and walk on, but instead he yelled angrily, "Well excuuuuuse me!  Try to hold a door open for a lady and you all end up being crazy feminists!!"

For real?

He let the door close and I watched him storm down the hallway, further into the building.  I am not a crazy feminist.  Sure I support  the rights and equality of women but I also support the rights and equality of everyone!  Trying to remain looking classy and walking at a lady-like pace makes me a crazy feminist?  I guess I should have sprinted toward the door?  Ugh.

The story gets better.  Once in the lobby, I arrive just in time to squeeze into the elevator with a small group of professionals.  As I approach the open doors, I hear the man's voice and stop- he can obviously see me but I can't see him-  "Don't hold the elevator!  She can do it all herself!"  I see confused expressions on a few of the people in the elevator and then the doors shut.


I hope the next time I see that guy it's pouring down rain because I am going to expect him to carry me over every puddle while also holding an umbrella over my head.  And then I'm going to punch him in the face.


*a clutch is a purse that has no strap, that is carried under the arm.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Remedy for Setbacks

I've suffered some setbacks this week.  That's not entirely true; I haven't suffered.  I have experienced some setbacks this week.  The setbacks aren't anything really major or life altering, just frustrating.

This morning I didn't spring up out of bed immediately, I sat up comfortably, enjoying the warmth of the sun streaming through my windows and thinking about the plan of action for today.  I vowed that the frustrating setbacks would not plague my thoughts today but every once in a while I noticed them creeping up on me, reminding me that in some areas I am starting completely over, and that I am and will remain tired for quite a while trying to get everything back in place.  It is what it is, though, so I charge ahead and take one step at a time: one day, one hour, sometimes one tiny moment, at a time.

I read the following quote a few minutes ago and it validated that starting over isn't the worst thing.  It's better than giving up! Maybe starting over will give me a better long-term result.

"Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

That really sums up all situations, even if setbacks aren't being experienced.  We have to begin, or begin again, from somewhere so instead of focusing on where I should be, what I should have in my arsenal, or what I would have been able to do IF. . .I can find some peace in the fact that today, THIS is where I'm at. I have the tools to get past this point and I have an amazing amount of past experience to know that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it requires sleep deprivation in the beginning!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Scent of Childhood

He ran, jumped, rolled, and squealed, tripping periodically over his untied shoelaces.  My nephew was too busy for the fireworks display that entertained the rest of us.  His parents gently coaxed him, "Hey buddy, you're missing the fireworks. . .", but he didn't care.  He was taking advantage of being outside, after dark, past his bedtime, and in a crowd of people with other children who were also testing boundaries. We adults finally gave up trying to wrangle him to keep his attention on the fireworks display and instead kept track of him, running and leaping, peripherally.

All at once, he flopped onto my lap.  He's not a snuggler so all 5 seconds that he decides to cuddle have to be taken full advantage of.  I squeezed his little body quickly, expecting him to jump up and run off again, but he didn't.  He snuggled in, his head nestled into my neck, his arms wrapped around my arms, relaxed.  I breathed in his childhood scent: dirt, sweat, firework smoke, with a hint of fruity shampoo.  I remembered holding my little brother like this when he was about the same age; five years old.  They smelled the same.

After a few minutes, which is a snuggling record for my nephew, he turned his face up and whispered sweetly, "Aunt Jessica, can I play Angry Birds on your phone?"  I laughed.  "No.  You can watch fireworks, silly.  You can play Angry Birds later."  I thought he might leave, but he didn't.  He stayed in my lap.  He was stinky and sweaty and for lack of a better term, gross, but I didn't care.  I loved every short-lived minute he wanted to spend on my lap, every second we were engaged in a play boxing match, every fit of laughter.  He was practicing the early stages of independence but was still cool with and maybe even in need of snuggle time with his Aunt.

While we were celebrating our nation's freedom he was discovering his own personal kind of freedom. It took me back to 4th of July celebrations of my past.  It took me back to evenings with our friends, running around the blankets and chairs we were supposed to be sitting on, drinking kool-aid, and with every BOOM! of the fireworks pretending we were in a war.  I remember returning home, late at night, satisfied with the knowledge that we had pushed through some of the parental boundaries to our own kind of temporary kid freedom, but also hoping my mommy would be in soon to tuck me in.  

It was when we would arrive home, to our clean house, that I first noticed the smell that now makes me so nostalgic.   It was evident upon peeling off our grubby clothing in preparation for bath time that we had been active, that we were dirty, and that we had absorbed every last vapor of the fireworks.  I wonder if all childhoods smell the same:  dirt, sweat, firework smoke, with a hint of fruity shampoo. The scent of freedom and innocence.