Naked

I learned yesterday that photoshop magicians are now adding weight back onto models, who are so deathly skinny they look, well, like they’re dying. A wash of feelings ensued: sadness, pity, annoyance, disdain, pride, etc., and guilt.

Guilt because I photoshop myself all the time. Not literally; I really don’t even have time to look at my pictures, much less edit them. I mean I do what everybody else seems to be doing: I try to appear perfect. No, scratch that, not perfect, because that would be just over-the-top enough to get on everybody’s nerves. I aim for just shy of perfect enough to make people think I have it all together. It’s not only exhausting and dishonest on my part; think of what I achieve if I succeed: I make other people feel like crap. How do I know this? Because I feel like crap when everyone around me seems to have it all together.

I’m not saying we should all hang our dirty laundry out and gawk at each other. I am not talking about complaining. No, but about admitting the things that are hard to admit, embracing authenticity; taking pleasure in the remarkable things about life that even make grief possible.

A simple piece of music by an old college friend of mine speaks to this last bit. Sorry about the sound quality, but I wanted you to be able to see her reverberating smile. If you love it, here’s a better version. She is a lovely and passionate artist, brimming over with authenticity and gentleness.

I am reminded at last of Hebrews 12:1 from the NIV of the Bible: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Worst of all, my failure to be spiritually and relationally naked hinders my ability to be healed and to embrace Life.

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Free as a Barn Swallow

I took an e-mail fast.

One day long.

36 unread messages in my various inboxes.

Thought: Why the heck do I have three different e-mail addresses?

Thought: Do I really weed through an average of 30+ e-mail messages a day?

Thought: No wonder I don’t have time for anything else. 

Action: Weed through e-mails as they come, switching important things over to one address with a good junk filter. Unsubscribe from some stuff. 

Action: Take a day-long break from e-mail once a month. 

Action: Install “RescueTime” to keep track of how much time I spend on e-mail, etc. during a given week. Pare it down. 

(Post title is from one of the best commercials of all time: http://www.commercialcloset.org/photos/videos//wamu-nude.flv)

Vibrance of snow

Once in a while, a torrent of wind and rain rips through a remote corner of the world, shredding physical constructs and leaving a trail of uncharted and unjustified complaints in my mind. In the looming great shadow of bare survival, the fact that I complain about things like red lights and feeling tired in the morning brings a rush of shame to my cheeks.

So, I recently set out to catalogue my complaints, in an effort to oust my hot topics and “by opposing, end them.”

My complaint log failed, mostly because it turned out to be a more exhaustive project than I had anticipated. But evidently, my subconscience was hard at work, because no sooner had I abandoned the project than something uncharacteristically optimistic happened to me. I was driving home from the dentist—which usually entails a bevy of complaints and several puffy, novacane-faced, how-stupid-do-I-look-when-I-do-this expressions in the ol’ rearview—when I was struck by the sheen of glossy new snow covering the intersection. Oily puddles and bum litter had been transformed into textures of landscape, and all around me, things were beautiful and clean. One sheltered tree still blazed November-red, and I was caught unawares by the vibrance of snow under red eaves.

Suddenly, I was struck with such a Pollyannish  notion, I almost didn’t recognize myself: what if we didn’t have dentists?! Oh for the love of amalgamated mercury alloy, what would I do if we didn’t have dentists! All my teeth would have, by now, rotted and fallen out (or come out Castaway style).

I inherited some pretty bad teeth, and so my trips home from the dentist are usually characterized by comments about how genetics were a terrible idea and how I should just replace all my teeth with implants already. But no—this time, I had a disturbing peace about the whole affair. When the light at that intersection turned red, I was thankful for the chance to snap a picture of the snow-covered underpass, and now I keep it at the fore of my memory in case I feel like griping about something. I figure, the world is full of enough sadness, why compound it by failing to see the grace of good dentistry and the cold mercy of freshly fallen snow?

I go back to the dentist in a few days. Wish me luck.

How the world views people in their 20s… fuzzy math

Through the eyes of people aged 11 and under:

20+     Grown-ups

Through the eyes of people aged 12-17

20+     Still-cool grown-ups

30+     Past the point of possibly being cool ever again

Through the eyes of people aged 18-25

20-23     Early twenties

24-27     Mid twenties

28-29     Late twenties

30+        Impossibly far away

Through the eyes of people aged 26-29

20-28     Early twenties

29          Late twenties

30          Might as well be dead

Through the eyes of people aged 30-31

30 is totally the new 20

Through the eyes of people aged 32-39

20-25     Practically teenagers

25-29     Sigh…

Through the eyes of people aged 40+

20-35     Those twenty-somethings