Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflections on reflections

This morning, I got out of bed half-remembering what day it was because I was still quite asleep, and I semi-consciously showered and readied for the day. I am not what one might call a morning person. I dried my hair and put on light make-up, all the while deciding my clothes. I threw on my denim shirtdress, brown leggings, and tall boots.

Those boots, by the way, were not my best choice of the day. As soon as I walked outside, I remembered today's high would be around 80 degrees, and well, that's like summer at the end of October. By the time I got home and took them off, they were literally falling apart. They were so awful they went right into the trash. Normally a few scuffs and what-not only gets shoes to my donation pile, but these were way, way past a few scuffs. Anyway, goodbye tall boots.

So as I headed out the door, I thought about how that last glance in the mirror should have been the best I feel about my appearance all day. Granted, I, not being much of a morning person, quickly get ready and do not spend a ton of time and attention to myself. Still, shouldn't a freshly showered and made up self with hair just dried and occasionally curled or straightened get the biggest smile of satisfaction?

But I realized she doesn't. Don't get me wrong; she gets a decent nod of approval. Enough to go on into the day, anyway. She just doesn't get the high-five kinda smile. Which Andrea does? That would be last-look-of-the-day me.

Sometimes my hair looks best after a day of wear and tear, wind and rain. Sometimes my eyes look best without clean lines of eyeliner after my make-up has been washed away. Sometimes my eyes are just more open and not as puffy at the end of the day. But none of these are reasons she gets the high-five kinda smile. Often, I look at end-of-the-day Andrea while brushing my teeth, and I'm most pleased because she's made it another day. Some days I see the peace and satisfaction of having made good choices throughout the day, or the amount or quality of work I did that day, or realizing my response to someone or a situation is very different than it would have been days or weeks ago. Sometimes I see what God has stirred in me, what He has done through me, and what He is using me to achieve. Some days I see that I prioritized others over myself or made hard decisions. It is those days when I am most satisfied with my reflection. Those are the moments I look in the mirror feeling absolutely lovely, confident, and at peace with me. And it has zero to do with hairs in place and eyes shadowed. It has 100% to do with what can only be indirectly seen in the reflection. The part of me that matters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Laughter and the inappropriate

I have been known for being easily amused as long as I can remember, and well, I am. Funny people get hearty laughter from me. People who aren't funny at all even get chuckles. I laugh more at myself than anyone else does. People and life amuse me.

I also laugh at really inappropriate times. Really, really inappropriate times. When my feelings meter is at the top and there's too much ugh! and ah! and oh no!, my reaction is laughter. At best, it is a coping mechanism. At worst, terribly awkward for all involved and makes me appear to be a complete jerk. A co-worker calls me out on this the most, and actually he's probably the one who has seen it most.

I have found out about numerous situations while at work or they were relevant to share at work but the feelings overwhelm as I begin to spill, and with my body trying to retain composure and tell the story, I completely lose control and laugh through it. Now when I say I have a story and begin to crack a smile, he often says, "Oh no. No, no, no. You are about to tell me about someone you know who was decapitated or some family member was run over by a train or some horrific story. NO!" And, sniffle, it's so true, and I can't help it.

Once when I was a kid, I laughed so hard (though stifled the sound) during a funeral that I was shaking. Someone behind me handed me a handkerchief because they thought I was convulsively crying. At least they didn't realize I was laughing because I was feeling too many feelings, but I felt so awful laughing at a funeral. Of a family member, no less. When I have had to break bad news to people, half the time I crack a smile while doing so. The news does not make me giddy, but I just, I just react in that way. Not that long ago, I was telling someone about some awful stuff that happened to me growing up and I freaking smiled through most of the story. There is no reason to have done so other than I completely lost control of showing appropriate emotions.

A few months ago my aunt (dad's sister-in-law) passed away after a long battle with cancer. About a month ago an uncle (one of dad's brothers) passed away. The same week a cousin (the daughter of the aunt who passed away) was in surgery and being treated for aggressive breast cancer. This week a cousin (the son of the aunt who passed away, the brother of the cousin going through cancer treatments) had a catastrophic brain bleed he cannot recover from and was taken off the ventilator yesterday. It is only a matter of time. And in walking to lunch today, my co-worker asked me a question that reminded me of this very sad story of family members waiting for cousin Billy to let go of this life. I began to tell the story and must have been smiling. He called me out. I straightened my lips and began again where I left off. The corners of my lips turned up.

I just can't do sad and heartbreak, though I feel it, because it's too hard. I've talked before about the wailing wall, but that I do alone. With others, in an unconscious attempt to remain steadied, my face contorts. A grin or giggle follow. A smile breaks, with the news, with the heart. And what is seen on the surface just doesn't represent what goes on below.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Tonight I sat with my eyelid twitching the way it does when I've had little sleep or lots of stress and thought about the coming chill in the air. This made me think of winter, which made me think of the coat I need to drop by the drycleaner's to have buttons replaced and a good cleaning given, which made me think of bundling up, which made me think of snow, which made me think of Africa. Obviously.

One of the best memories I have of snow actually involved no snow. When Katherine and I went to Kenya, we got the chance to work in a school. The children were sweet and smiley. Shirts were tucked and the students were all uniform despite the age range of each class. Some children had to sit out of class until their families could afford to pay the school fees or the children received a sponsor. We brought pencils and various school supplies. They had never seen manual pencil sharpeners. Mind you, these were the dime and quarter kind, the kind you rotate the pencil yourself instead of winding a lever. Can you hear the gasps of children seeing a pencil sharpener that is not a knife and the astonishment of the sharpened and smooth pencil?

Those gasps were slight in comparison to the explanation of snow and the airplanes that brought me to the children. I tried to describe the fluffy, powdery white. I tried to say that sometimes it is icy, always cold. I tried to describe the making of snowmen and throwing snowballs at siblings or friends. They had no concept of ice, no concept really of cold. "Oh, do you mean cold like yesterday?" No, child, I do not mean when it was 71 degrees Fahrenheit. I mean when people bundle and they can see their very own breath breathed out into the air in front of their faces. That seems impossible to those just miles from the equator, to those who also put on parkas when the temps dip near 70 degrees but sweat near 80. Their threshold is small.

And I think about the areas of my life that could use a bit of expanding and challenging, the areas where my threshold is too small. The areas where I learn and discover what I never had seen or known. Or even what has been beyond my imagination.

So, that conversation about snow with the squeals of delight and disbelief--the way they receive and learn new information is something I need to embrace. There really isn't more to this story. I just thought tonight about those sweet little faces learning of snow and airplanes and learning to sharpen pencils and my need in embracing my unknown.