Monday, March 28, 2016

iris

today i got a good look (a new look?) at my iris. 



it is not so much that i’ve never looked at my eye color before. it's rather that i don’t think i’ve seen my eye color rightly before, seen it as fully exposed in blatant honesty as displayed in the direct glare of the sun.

on my license it says they are “blue” 
which is not false, 
but it's not quite true. 

with the sun shining directly on them, my eye color is revealed to actually be the green of my mom dropped into the blue of my dad.  the green dispersed itself within the blue, until the rim, leaving a bold blue border that is all my dad. but this border would be nothing notable if it weren't for the green from my mom which transformed the central color.  

but, that color in the middle is neither green nor blue.  
that color is something all my own.

i thought about how perfect a metaphor this is of who i am, of who we all are really - a mixture of our parents. maybe one parent is more at the core of our wiring, and the other is what defines our edges, but whatever it is - we are defined by parts of each. 

but then there are these components of ourselves that don’t come from either parent. and we stand mystified when we analyze ourselves at arm's length, wondering where those things we see in ourselves but can't see in either parent came from.

it got me to thinking of how we each are the summation of an inheritance of pieces of others.

we are made up of pieces donated, given, and taken from family, friends, coworkers, enemies, even complete strangers we meet for only a moment and never see again.  

we are also mixtures of the snippets of movies, books, art, and music we love best.  the creative works of others become part of what we work out in ourselves. 

experiences and landscapes become part of us too.  the things we do and the places we go give us pieces of themselves to digest into our bones. we are made different by them because they require us to carry something different than we arrived with when we travel on from them.

and so we are a mosaic of all these pieces - other people, other things, other places.  and it is all these bits of others that creates the unique finger print that is me.
that is you. 

this is a mosaic that is changing all the time. growing and shrinking. adding a greater variety of colored glass and stripping down to just a few hues.  sometimes we take in large, smooth-edged pieces. sometimes it is a scattering of jagged small pieces, barely noticeable, as invisible as a grain of sand.  

sometimes this adding or removing of pieces hurts quite a lot. sometimes it is almost unbearable, impossible to survive.

and to think about this even further - you give away parts of yourself to others all the time, and these parts become part of them.  conversations you share, memories lived together, the 1000 non-notable moments you don’t realize someone else has internalized, that you don't realize you treasure.  

all of that is the postal service by which you send some scrap of parchment with part of you along with another as they journey on in life, and that is a thread they weave into the tapestry that is their own self.  neither of you realize you’ve become part of each other. 

but you do.


i am not sure what i'm getting at with this, 
after all many have wrote of such things before, 
but today i got a good look at my iris, 
and thought 
(perhaps) 
we should risk looking directly at the sun a bit more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

paresthesia

paresthesia (noun) - a sensation of tingling, pricking, or burning of a person's skin...the most common type is the "pins and needles" sensation or of a limb "falling asleep."

a book by rebecca solnit mentioned an art experiment (for lack of a better term) by artist ana teresa fernandez in which she cast herself in a pair of high heeled shoes made of ice and stood in a gutter of an inner-city street until they melted and freed her bare feet. i was mostly struck by what solnit went on to say in brief analysis of this:

"when your feet or hands go numb with cold, they don't feel at all after a while. it's when they warm again that the pain begins, just as a limb hurts not when the blood flow ceases and it goes to sleep but when it wakes up."

i haven't lived life long enough to know if this happens more than once in a lifetime, but i feel we each hit at least one moment where we find ourselves suddenly awake.  it might be that we were once awake and have fallen asleep, but it might more likely be that we were never quite awake in this way ever before.

it is not a jolt awake like a kick from subconscious, but it seems quite sudden when we finally articulate it to ourselves.   i think it happens kind of like this ice experiment - slowly and not all at once.  so imperceptibly that pain arrives before we knows what is happening.  i don't think we know that we have grown numb to ourselves, our voice, our heart beat, i don't think we are aware that blood has ceased to flow to the heart of who we are, who God calls us to be.

but when blood does begin to flow to that, when we begin to warm to that, pain arrives before any recognition of what is happening does.  hurt's arrival is confusing - a heavy, unasked for gift. a gift that is not seen as such for some time (perhaps even some years) after its initial perception.  as i watched the time lapse video of this art experiment, even in its few minutes summation, i felt fidgety and uncomfortable - i wanted it to be over for her, wanted to fast forward to the end to get it over for myself as the viewer.

waking up out of numbness feels so the same - we want to get it over with. however, with the "pins and needles" that arrives when blood returns to a numb and sleeping limb, we fidget, stamp our foot, and maybe even run to get the blood rapidly flowing back into, make the pain stop.

funny that this is exactly what we don't do when awaking to ourselves.  

when coming out of a figurative numbness in life we recognize pain, but we try to heal that pain with paralysis, we address "pins and needles" of our soul by standing still. we are frightened by it so we try to keep movement away from the issue, try to disguise it, stifle it, drown it back into a numb state.  we don't give a name to it, perhaps don't even talk about it to others because we are so confused by what it might be.  since it is not a "i'm fine" type of response to the "how are you?" question we pleasantly all give each other - we pretend it is nothing, and call it "fine" to try to break the spinal chord of whatever beastly creature it must be.

what if we fed it instead? gave it a life blood, treating it as a vampire that might just make us...well...undead?  the "pins and needles" pain of finding ourselves drawn deeper into ourselves could become something to rush circulation to, a hurt to run quickly on and away with in a form of embrace which would bring us to a more authentic version of ourselves.

waking up is disorienting and undeniably painful. and as solnit says "not everyone has the will or the warmth" to get beyond paresthesia - but i think you do.

(and maybe i do too.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

imagine

it was nothing like what i imagined
or
i would have never imagined
or
it was better than i could have imagined

but, very rarely (perhaps never)

it was exactly as i had imagined

if you do hear the last, or if you have ever said it, think of the story or memory it is attached to...do you remember it well? remember fondly? do you retell that story often?  it doesn't do for much of a memorable share, because it isn't very relatable.  somehow, the expected doesn't become a central thread to the fabric of our lives.

i truly cannot think of a time where something has ever been "exactly as i imagined." and that is saying something, because i imagine a lot.  as one addicted to planning, i am wired to imagine...i imagine a plan A, B, C...and then a D, E and F (just in case). i always imagine the worst case scenario. that way (i tell myself) if the worst happens - great, i expected it. if it doesn't - great, i'm delightfully disappointed.  i imagine the far away future. i imagine the typical day future.  i imagine the next minute future.  (a bit manic, i know) but the point being, none of these futures are ever exactly as i imagine.

sometimes i wonder (and i'm sure you do too) why doesn't God just give us all the clear blueprints of what is to come?  why doesn't He permit things to more often end up just as we had imagined? why can't He just reveal the good and the bad of the future so i can expect it all and be prepared?  wouldn't that make so much of life easier?

there is a danger to 'easier.'

if i'm being honest with myself - i am grateful that i never imagine the future perfectly, and that God doesn't reveal it to me either.  if the future is worse than i had imagined, i'm glad i didn't know in the end. i'm chronically anxious (it is something i have to acknowledge out-loud regularly so as to no let it defeat me in daily life).  so if i knew this Worse Future was coming, what good does that do me? it'll cost me minutes, days, weeks, or perhaps years of extra worry all for things i had little if any power to change.  even more to the point - these are things we shouldn't try to change anyways. the wrong turns, burns, and hard lessons we learn are important parts of who we are - to avoid such things because we knew they were coming wouldn't be much of a life, and it would leave us being something less than ourselves.

if the future is to be better than i imagine, to have anticipated the greater good before would result in less rather than greater joy, would result in less rather than greater gratitude and praise for the blessing.  there are few greater joys than encountering a day, moment, or exchange that was "better than i imagined."  when something as simple as a movie, meal, or book "exceeds expectations" we talk about it for days after, if not forever after, to everyone we meet.  to be taken off guard in this way is intoxicating. to realize things can be better than what we had planned on takes our breath away.  what a gift it is to be wonder-struck.

what is the point of imagining at all you say?  if we are so rarely correct in our foresight? anticipation and contemplation have great value still, i believe. there is a richness gained in the awaiting.  we are losing that precious gift that is wondering, with information at our fingertips everywhere we are thanks to the internet.  we are forgetting the beauty found in uncertainty in our over-connected world.  so maybe imagining, even knowing we will never imagine exactly right, is a means of holding on to the dying art of curiosity.

and if we are being honest with ourselves, there is an exhilaration that comes with the unexpected. like a roller coaster - sudden (but safe) drops from a height, sudden (but safe) turns on a dime.  we feel slightly sick, and temporarily disoriented, but even in the dizziness at the end of the ride, we are breathless with thrill. we are re-awoken. we are hungry for living - even if a bit terrified.

i'm glad to imagine, but equally glad that almost nothing is ever quite as i imagined in the end.  

we all need regular doses of astonishment.

i will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; i will counsel you with my eye upon you.
-Psalm 32:8

Monday, March 7, 2016

dropping

 
rainy day writing.

rainy days, days suggestion of rain, days just following a rain are the best for writing.

today, it was raining.

so, i write.

about half way through my run this morning (rain jacket zipped, hood up) i realized i wasn't quite certain it was raining anymore.  i actually had to lift my face directly to sky, creating a horizontal platform for rain drops, to determine if the rain was in fact dropping anymore. it was not.  i had been so shielded up, assuming that the drops were coming down as steady as before, that i had no idea they had stopped.

"better safe than sorry."

but
actually
maybe not.

maybe we are better off being sorry sometimes instead of safe.

the fact is, i wasn't sorry at all at not being safe in this case.  yes - there was a distinct likelihood that the deluge would begin again at any moment, but with the jacket slightly unzipped and hood off - what a symphony of fantastic sensations.  the mist that was still coming down was so refreshing as it dusted my neck, and the chilled breeze felt like a literal 'breath of fresh air' - like air i'd never tasted before, so sweet i wanted to drink it in deep into my lungs, hold it, and savor it there quietly lest anyone notice i'd found something good and try to take it back.

and the wind made a great mess out of my female mullet (due to the trials and travails of "growing out a pixie cut").  i forgot how marvelous the movement of wind-tousled hair is.  i'm not one for dancing, but i am keen for my hair to dance in the wind.  being overly-safe, with protective measures in place quite often keeps us from such simple gifts.

and because everything becomes a metaphor for me, i was led to further ponderings while running.

sometimes, you just have to face the storm. no...it is more like, you have to seek the storm out, reach to embrace it, lift your face up to it, run straight into it.

i think it might be healthy, and in many cases vital that we let down the hood or even leave the jacket at home and fully seek the storm with no self-provided protections.  later in this run in particular, the rain did (as expected) begin again.  and it made up for lost time, seemed to be trying to make up for the past few years of drought perhaps.  rain drops turned into hail shards - biting at my exposed hands. then thunder and lighting began, followed by a thick winds, buffeting the trees, and sometimes threatening to buffet me.  i laughed almost deliriously at the wonder of the chaos...any driver that passed by must have though i lost my mind.

maybe i did.

sometimes i wish i would.

my mind tends to build up walls and armor as a means of self-fashioned protection, in order "safe" and not "sorry."  i think today i realized how so much of my life has been lived as a means to avoid storms, but now a bit of losing my mind is showing me what storms have to offer - simple gifts that can't be grasped unless i risk a little (if not a lot) vulnerability.  a bit of losing my mind leads me to weaken my walls a bit, to let the gift of the wind in.

stuck on that slight revelation of having run for so long protecting myself against rain that was no longer dropping, i began to wonder:  how often do i do that in other areas of my life? how often do i put on armor and built up walls, barriers against dangers that exist only in my assumptions?  how often do i allow myself to lift my face straight up to get a better taste of the storm?

my mom used to sing this song to me when it was little, and it resurrected itself in my mind today while overthinking all this, because overthinking might just be what i do best:

when you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
and don't be afraid of the dark
at the end of the storm
there's a golden sky
and the sweet silver song of a lark
-"you'll never walk alone"

i fear the storms in my life. i have feared them. i do fear them.  i fear them even when they don't yet have a sketch of a plot. even when i don't have a whisper of them yet. i know they hover there, somewhere in the sky, collecting moisture, just waiting to pour down.

but here in this song, we are encouraged to do what i'd done earlier - hold our heads up high in the storm. it doesn't tell us to avoid the storm, to seek shelter, to wear every measure of water proof clothing we are able to clean and gather. it just says to walk, hold your head high, and don't be afraid.

i'm tired of afraid. i'm tired of safe. but afraid and safe is what i know. so safe and afraid is who i am - or is it?

why am i writing all this? (i'm asking myself, really). i mean who really cares what i thought about on a run in the rain, myself included?

i guess today i'm just trying to be sorry rather than safe.

i am trying to not be so safe in what i write that i end up being sorry that i hardly write anything at all.