Thursday, March 9, 2017

Into the Woods




Last night I sat talking with my weekly Bible study/discussion group (over beers, because, y’know, it’s called Beer with Jesus for a reason) and the topic was Jesus in the wilderness when he was being tempted by the devil. Three times Satan tempted him and three times Christ resisted. Heck, I can barely resist temptation once, let alone three times.

Our group discussed times when we felt like we were in the wilderness. Times when we felt like we were being tested and how we handled those times. This morning driving into work I kept thinking about how I feel like I’m entering into a time of being in the wilderness right now. I can feel it, but this time it’s not a crushing or pushing sensation. I don’t feel like the trees are crowding in around me, but I can see them. Can picture them clearly in my mind. I’m walking into the woods; through the woods. I’m sure of it.

Before I knew just what I was going to write about today – or that I was going to write about anything - the title “Into the Woods” sprang to mind. I recall seeing a PBS telecast of the stage production well over 20 years ago now (wasn’t that impressed with the movie) and the prologue has been stuck in my head off and on ever since. 


 The refrain of “into the woods…into the woods” has played through my mind all morning.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Into the woods, it's time to go, I hate to leave, I have to.
Into the woods. It's time and so I must begin my journey.
Into the woods and through the trees, to where I am expected…

“…to where I am expected…” God knows what we’re going through and he knows where we are expected. Even when we do not. Sometimes I wish I could see into the future and then I pause and realize that I really don’t want that. The older I get, the more I appreciate being able to have honest reactions, even if they aren’t always the happiest ones. I’m not sure I’d want to see bad things coming. I’m not sure it would help.

Until last night I don’t think I realized I was heading into the wilderness or “into the woods”. I can pinpoint something that happened last week that feels like the starting point, but really the wheels have been in motion much longer. That seems how it usually goes. Things are building and bubbling under the surface long before they make their presence known. 

Oddly enough, I’ve been remarkably calm about the crises and problems that seem to be popping up all at once and that’s really not my standard MO. I feel like I’m a person who panics and gets stressed out at every little thing. I often joke that I’m paranoid about things – car troubles, appliance issues, health problems, money worries…you name it, I always feel that I overthink things and worry oh, so much. 

Interestingly (to me, anyway), one woman in the group last night was dumbfounded when I said I wasn’t naturally a calm person. That I usually freak out when things seemingly go wrong. She said she’d never have guessed that and when I said I suffer from anxiety issues, she started to question her ability to read people. Apparently I have a great poker face.

What followed is another lesson in perspective for me. I see myself one way and I have learned in the past year that it is quite often a one-eighty from what other people see. I’m pretty confident in who I am – or who I think I am – and then I hear from someone else that that is not at all who they perceive me to be. God has sent many messages my way the past couple of weeks about perspective, but I’m still piecing it all together as to just what it means. I may never know, but at least I am pausing a lot more to consider the possibilities.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
The way is clear, the light is good. I have no fear, nor no one should.
The woods are just trees, the trees are just wood.

“The trees are just wood.” The trees are simply there. Merely set pieces or props in the theater of our lives. They can’t hurt me. They are simply there and we’ll pass by them all on the journey and move on. Move forward.
 
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Into the woods and down the dell, the path is straight, I know it well.
Into the woods, and who can tell what's waiting on the journey?
  
“Who can tell what’s waiting on the journey?” Well. That says it, I think. Or it at least says a lot. Who can ever tell what is waiting for us just around the corner. I had no idea that I had a healthissue coming last year until I hit that brick wall and realized something was wrong.  I wasn’t planning on getting a new (or new-to-me) car any time soon until the mechanic said I’d be better off buying a new car than pouring a huge sum of money into repairing the one I already have. I have to make a trip tomorrow and I know where I’m going – meaning I know the physical location of the building and in what city – but I don’t know what may happen during that journey.

ALL
Into the woods without delay, but careful not to lose the way.
Into the woods, who knows what may be lurking on the journey?
Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.
Into the woods…
  
So that’s where I am today. I’m heading into the woods. Heck, I may already be a ways down the path since I only realized less than 24 hours ago that I was in a wilderness period. But for the first time I can recall, I don’t feel like the trees are closing in on me. I don’t feel like I’m in the middle of a dark forest where I can’t find my way. Oh, that may happen the further I head into the woods (I have no idea how many times I’ve used that phrase and refuse to go back and count), but right now when I close my eyes I see the woods around me, but the path is wide and the light is bright. I know I have to go through the wilderness to get to the other side. There’s no way to avoid it. The journey is not always joyous. It is not always easy and I don’t believe this one will be all hearts and flowers either, but I am so appreciative of the peace I feel inside – the peace that I know is from God – that is helping me stand up tall and move forward.
 
“Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journey.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

All I really wanted was a damn donut

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Until it wasn't. I was doing well until the last minutes of the work day when I discovered a crisis that I had to deal with before I left. Didn't matter that I had to be an hour out of town for something and needed to get on the road. This had to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, it also nearly drove me to tears. Without a huge rehash, suffice it to say that a mistake was made and I take my share of responsibility for that and hope that others will as well. The way that someone chose to deal with me in some text messages regarding this situation is what made me want to cry. But I didn't and we got things sorted out, if not exactly the way we'd want to, then at least in a way that covered the bases.  The goal now is to ensure this never happens again.

I hopped in my car and drove an hour to honor a commitment and the drive time, along with laughter at my destination, helped a great deal. Also the realization that if this mistake hadn't been discovered until today then the situation would have gone from bad to much, much worse reminded me that things that are painful or bad aren't always as bad as they seem at the time. I'd much rather have had to deal with yesterday than the potential of what today might have bene.

I know. I'm talking in circles. I'm good at that, you know.

As I drove the hour to get back home, I realized I'd never eaten dinner. I wasn't particularly hungry at the start of my drive, but as time went on, the munchies kicked in. More particularly, I began to crave donuts. Sugary, sweet; maybe filled with custard and covered in chocolate. All kinds of deliciousness in a circular form.

The miles passed by, but my mind kept thinking of donuts. It doesn't help that I live less than a mile from Krispy Kreme and it was, more or less, on my way home.

Back and forth, back and forth, I waged an internal war over the merits of stopping for donuts versus going straight home. I wasn't so upset anymore that I wanted to eat my feelings. I was truly craving a donut for the sake of eating a donut. But...should I? I haven't been the healthiest eater lately and while I haven't gained weight, I still haven't lost the 5 lbs. I gained last summer and doing so is important to me. If I stopped for a donut, I'd end up with at least a half dozen. I'd never take home only one and certainly wouldn't eat only one when I got there.

So I drove down the darkened highway for a solid 20 minutes going back and forth about donuts. What would it mean if I ate one? It's not like I don't eat sugary desserts or candy every day (did I mention I cant lose those 5 pounds?). Would a donut (or 3) be so bad? I wasn't doing it because I was upset or trying to fill a gap. It was what I wanted. So why not get it?

That was the devil on my shoulder talking and I was more than willing to listen. But then...the angel on the other shoulder chimed in, reminding me that having the donuts in my apartment would be a huge temptation. I'd have eaten them all by breakfast this morning and then how would I feel? Bloated and sick? Most likely. Would it be worth it? Cheap thrills are always just that...cheap. But that thrill...Dang it! How am I supposed to figure this out?!?!

Decision time came and I made the right turn - literally, I had to turn right - rather than heading straight, which would have taken me to the donuts. To console myself, I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast this morning, but it wasn't the same.

Now, this isn't just a silly story about donuts. While my brain volleyed the options back and forth last night, I realized that people who have a healthy relationship with food probably don't have to deal with things like this. They likely don't overthink situations and weigh all the pros and cons of doing something seemingly as simple as eating a donut.

But I don't have a healthy relationship with food. Never have. Growing up, I remember my mother making comments about the size of my thighs (even when I was smaller, my thighs have always been pretty thick) and then turning right around asking if I wanted some Doritos. I got the double shot of being told I was pretty and being asked if I was sure I wanted to wear shorts because, once again, my thighs were big. My mother loved me, but she didn't teach me how to have a healthy relationship with food or my body. If I had one, I can't imagine I'd have gone round and round for so long about eating a donut.

The final decision was easier than I thought it would be and I obviously satisfied my sweet tooth this morning with the pancakes. But the realization of how the debate in my mind was playing out kind of fascinated me. I overthink most everything in my life. Always have and probably always will. Some days I'll end up making the choice to stop for the donuts and maybe in the mean time, this is a lesson that will stick with me as I try to have that healthier relationship with food. I want that, I really do. I want to feel better about the food I use to fuel my body. I know how I feel when I eat a healthy meal and it satisfies my body's needs. I like that feeling. But as it is with so many things in my life, I wish it hadn't taken me this long to come to that realization. Better late than never, I suppose. Maybe that's my new motto.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life is too short to wear boring dresses


I was flipping through the January issue of Elle magazine this morning and was surprised to find an article that really hit home for me. I say “surprised” because, while I currently seem to be subscribing to a lot of fashion magazines, I am not a person who is particularly interested in fashion. I am, however, a person who is interested in freebies and free magazine subscriptions make me happy. High fashion, however, mostly makes me laugh. I am always fascinated that there might actually be someone out there who would wear some of those things.
I suppose that’s not really the point though, as I do enjoy clothes and my own sense of style…whatever that may be. Honestly, I have said many times before that I’m an advocate of Garanimals for grownups. It would make my life easier if I didn’t have to figure out how to pair up various article of clothing, but could let the little animal tags tell me to put the sheep with the sheep or the giraffe with the giraffe. And maybe sometimes the wildebeest with the butterfly, just for fun.
So I flip through these magazines mostly rolling my eyes at some pretentious, ridiculously expensive item of clothing that is simply “this season’s must have” thing. Yeah. Sure. Whatever. My “must have” is more like clean socks and underwear and bras that hold everything up that should stay up and in. I’ll never be high fashion…I’m more likely the best dressed person at the local Kmart.
This story, however, really struck a strong chord in me because, for a change, I could relate. “This Dress Will Change Everything” was written by April Long who is, well, I don’t know who she is, but she gets me. Her story is about when she was studying abroad in London years ago, and found a dress that caused her to imagine her life taking an amazing and joyous turn. Her roommate spotted it first and bought it, but ultimately gave it to her.
Long says she only wore the dress one time, but “It was exactly what I’d imagined when I first saw the dress; I became, in that moment, a version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.”
Oh April. Girl, I get you. I really do. Because in my life not only have I had a dress that would change everything, but I think maybe I’ve had two.
The first dress was the one I wore to the junior prom in 1988. Now, don’t get ahead of me here and assume that an 80s dress couldn’t be gorgeous because this one was. And still is…I just can’t fit a leg into it anymore, let alone my whole body. Over the years this dress seems to have taken on a life of its own.
It’s not merely my prom dress, it’s The Prom Dress. It always felt like it deserved capitalization. An elevated level of importance. The reason being, at least partially, is that after wearing the dress, people kept coming up to me talking about it. A girl I went to school with, but whom I did not know, came up to me the following week after prom and complimented me on the dress. Another girl even went out and bought the same dress at the boutique where I got mine to wear in a pageant. And, in fact, it was a pageant dress. Nothing wrong with that…just adding an extra detail to the story here.
Even years later, people were still talking about that dress. It was fascinating. Still is, for that matter. I mean, sure, I might talk about it, but other people? That was weird.
Maybe it’s because the dress was black – that was my only requirement in finding a dress for prom – and the 80s tended to lend themselves to thoughts of Scarlett O’Hara pastel hoop-skirted nightmares (apologies if anyone reading this had one of those, but they were never, ever my thing) or something in delightful neon colors (which I did wear more than my fair share of and will again one day when they inevitably come back into style), but this dress was one that I guess no one saw coming.
These days The Prom Dress resides at my father’s house in a closet since I don’t have room in my apartment for it. I realize that nearly 30 years down the road I should get rid of it, but I have a hard time with that. I would hate for it to go to someone that didn’t appreciate it or that would do something foolish like cut it up and turn it into something else. But I suppose that is part of moving on and moving forward – you have to let things go and allow them to belong to someone else. I’m going to give that some thought this year and maybe I’ll be able to find the right person to be the dress’s new owner. I’d love to see it getting out and about rather than sitting in the closet for another 30 years. Goodness knows I’m never going to be able to fit into it again. Maybe someone else out there can.
Jumping forward nearly those 30 years, this morning I realized that I had had a very similar experience to the author of this magazine article.
Just over year ago, I was out shopping one evening after work. I don’t go out clothes shopping willy nilly, but when I lost weight I needed to buy some clothes that fit me better. I’d spent decades wearing loose, billowy clothes to try to hide the fat. To try and hide myself. Now I get giddy that I can wear a size Large and am happy to wear anything form-fitting.
This particular evening I was wandering around the store, not sure just what I was looking for, when I wandered into what I call the “Much Too Young for You” department at Belk. I think it’s called Young Contemporary. Either way, probably not where a 40-something female should be shopping, but who says I can’t make my own rules.
Checking out the sale rack I found a super cute LBD – Little Black Dress. It had an open back. It had fringe. It was just happiness on a hanger. And, it was size large.
Looking at it, I wasn’t sure the dress would fit, but decided what would the harm be to try it on anyway. Just in case.
Well, it fit. It fit and it made me SO happy. So happy, in fact, that I took some selfies in the dressing room mirror and posted them on Facebook, which is very unlike me. I hate having my picture taken.
Once I got home, I added some fishnet stockings I happened to have (still haven’t figured out how I had those) and some heels and once again was so ridiculously happy that I sat around my apartment for at least a full hour all dressed up, just loving that dress so much and how it made me feel.
To quote April Long again, “in that moment, a version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.” The author also wonders “was that because of the way the dress made me look, or because of the way it made me feel?” For me, I’d say it was both. I loved how I looked and from there, I loved how it made me feel.
Since that evening I’ve only had one occasion to wear the dress, a mere few weeks later to a party. It’s not that I wouldn’t wear it again, but the opportunity simply hasn’t arisen and I’m not sure that it should. I had so much fun that evening, I loved wearing the dress, and it definitely caught the attention of various people that night. I felt good. I felt pretty. I felt…worthy. I hate using that word because it makes it sound like I walk around feeling unworthy all the time, but that’s the best word I can think of. I felt worthy. Of the attention, of the good feelings I had, or all the happiness bubbling up inside me. I love that dress because it made me feel so good and that good feeling carried over and still does today. I won’t let it go and I likely won’t let that dress go any time soon. Or maybe I will. Maybe it’s time to take a good look at both dresses and see if they can be used to spread happiness to someone else because I’m pretty sure they are both made of magic.