2.22.15 Fall Like Eve

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Genesis 3:13 of the Bible says, “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So … FYI … Eve is so not my favorite chic in the Bible.  Not even close.  In Genesis 3:16, after God had figured out Eve ate the dreaded apple, he determined a portion of her (our) punishment: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.”  I am able to recall  just how much Eve isn’t my favorite the first day of a particular day each month when this verse runs through my head as I simultaneously reach for the Advil.  I’ll admit, childbirth wasn’t exactly easy, but thankfully, God softened the sentence a little by allowing epidurals into the world.  The thing is, I don’t blame God … I blame Eve! 

She was given one rule – one!  I’ll admit that curiosity is powerful and temptation is no treat, but ONE tiny rule?  And about not eating FRUIT!?!  Fruit!  Not chocolate, not cheesecake, fruit for God’s sake (no pun intended).   Seriously sister … put down the apple and call it a day!  UGH! 

The thing is, that I don’t think cramps or contractions were the greatest pains from her fall.  Those things are temporary, fleeting; they pass.  Vanity doesn’t.  It was only after Eve fell from grace that she realized she was “naked.”  It was only then that she felt exposed, vulnerable and insecure … three words most people (men and women alike) have experienced numerous times in their lives I’m betting.  Again, I blame Eve.

I find it incredibly interesting that the New Oxford Dictionary has two definitions for the term vanity.  One: “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance” and two: “the quality of being worthless or futile.” What a paradox, that on one hand it explains a fascination with beauty, and on the other a sense of inferiority.  I do not think this is consequence. 

I am a girl.  I am a girl and thus, I love beautiful things: beautiful words, beautiful sites, beautiful dreams.  It is in our nature, I think, to see beauty … to gladly admire it for what it is.  When we are young, we notice lovely things everywhere, and call attention to them.  My daughter already does this.  She sees the sparkle in a diamond, the way some dresses twirl, and how blue brings out her eyes.  She is five.  She is beautiful – everyone tells her so; and she believes them, for now.  But I know the day is coming, you know too, because my guess is, I’m not alone, and that day already came for you.  The day you “bit the apple” … the day you saw yourself through the warped mirror of the world, and felt those three words. Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Insecure.  And suddenly we were no longer those children noticing what beautiful was – we were critics, noticing what it wasn’t. 

Without even consciously deciding, we all fall like Eve, and deceive ourselves into thinking that who we were created to be “as is,” just isn’t enough without a cover.  We go from: willing embraces to arms-crossed, eyes-wide-open to suspicious glances, broad smiles to guarded grins – barricading ourselves from the chance to really let someone in for the fear that then we’ll have to deal with being really seen.  The fairy tales know it … Snow White bit the apple, Sleeping Beauty couldn’t resist the curiosity of a spindle, and Cinderella lost her cover with a shoe.  Fact or fiction, we all stumble, but while their stories were fixed by the kiss of a prince, ours were solved with the death of a king. 

I get that Eve screwed up (and sort of screwed us over in the process) but God loved her better than her failure.  And he loved us enough to send someone better than prince charming to show us that true beauty, is sacrifice. 

So I may not like every line in my reflection, and I may never drop the inhibitions I inherited from that first fall, but really, it’s all a matter of perspective.  They say, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” but I think God would change that to, “Beauty is in the eyes of He who holds her.” 

In her book Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman wrote, “The sky is already purple; the first few stars have appeared, as if someone had thrown a handful of silver across the edge of the world.”  You are the silver; you are the stars.

Let yourself be held.

Elle

2.15.15 Your Crazy Isn’t Crazy After All

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So this video clip from Apple inspires me, not only because it has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with humanity.  It has to do with inspiring us to remember that expecting more out of this life than it is freely willing to give, does not make us greedy, it makes us resilient.  Because I don’t know about you, but my life has a voracious appetite; most days, it is just waiting to swallow up every one of my dreams with practicality.  But the thing is, I’ve never been practical, I’ve never necessarily done things the “easy way,” and I certainly would deny the very fabric of my being if I started now. 

I would like to blame my parents for this, mostly.  You see, they sort of ruined my chances at being satisfied with “normal” when they refused to tell me that I had to be.  There was never a day in my reckoning that they were not: there for me, believing in me, or cheering me on toward impossible ambitions with an unalterable attitude of “possible.”  So … yes, I blame them.  And I thank them, for allowing me to pursue the wish of becoming one of, “The Crazy Ones,” who just won’t accept that they were meant for ordinary. 

The thing is, knowing this about yourself … that you want to do, and say and be more, well – it’s kind of exhausting, especially when you’re not sure what to do with all you’ve planned.  I kind of joke around that I was born for ideas, and I wish I could just sell them to people who had more time to do with them than I’ve got.  I think, and think, and jot down ideas, and think of more.  My mind is a bit overwhelming at times, and this, I know, most of you can relate to.  Personally, I have come to judge my own brain’s respective fullness by my habits in the shower.  The other morning I realized that I had washed my arms twice, but forgot to shave my left leg.  Let’s just say, it was an exceptionally intense brainstorm and yes, to answer your question, I wore pants that day.  

I guess, for me, there’s no such thing as “starting at the beginning,” because my ambitions look something akin to Sudoku puzzle, the numbers never all line up without an issue.  I wish I had the mentality of journalist Gene Fowler who said,  “Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.”  It is the last word, the wait that I struggle with.  I often have conversations at God like, “Whenever you’re ready to talk to me, I’m ready to listen.”  But notice the very important preposition choice there – “at” not “to.”  If I were talking “to” God, maybe I’d have a better chance at hearing him, but I’m often too busy with an inner monologue at Him to let His words get very far.  I know this, and yet I cannot always seem to push past my own life’s static to get a clear connection. 

People love to tell you to slow down, to be present in the moment and then clarity will come.  Sometimes I would like to personify my day into a person just to give it a good, stern talking to!  I would like to let it know that it has not done a good job of turning out to be what I planned, and it needs to take into deep consideration, the effect its actions have had on me!  How can I become what I’m meant to be (whatever that is) when life’s got other plans?  If only I’d be content with ordinary. 

When it comes right down to it though, I don’t believe any of us were intended for standard, routine or commonplace.  No one grows up wishing to be conventional or expected.  We all had visions and wishes and plans for more … so why the letting go? If I am being completely transparent with you,  you should know that I’m rather insecure.  I have aspiring and purposeful dreams, yes – but they are not because I actually believed my incredible parents who tried their hardest to instill in me that I was so much more than usual.  I do not really believe in my plan for me, but I do believe in God’s plan for me.  This busy mind and unquenchable spirit of mine have more reason than I usually give them credit for; I think you’re not so different.  

I believe that you might actually have a great deal yet to do with yourself … your gifts … and your potential.  So I am going to end with the quote we started with – just promise me you’ll take a sincere look inside and maybe realize that your “Crazy” isn’t crazy after all.

“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs, Apple

Here’s to changing your world; I thank you for continuing to change mine by listening,

Elle 

 

 

 

2.8.15 Book Covers

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The other day, I was in Walgreen’s picking up a prescription for my husband. While it was being filled I was wasting time roaming the merchandise. And although there were some mediocre sales to be had, and a few gaudy new Valentine’s decorations, nothing captured my attention quite so raptly as the six-foot-something, burly man muttering to himself aisle after aisle.

My woman brain started flashing “stranger danger” in neon colors, so I steered my left-wheel-dragging cart (as non-obviously as I could squeal) in the opposite direction of the guy. But the thing about aisles is, they have more than one entrance point, and as I turned down another, randomly, there he was … still muttering, and looking more flustered than before.

I flashed a small, polite, nervous smile as I turned to see just how much room I had to squeak past crazy. Then I saw it, the source of his surly attitude, and I smiled in earnest. Shaking my head at my preconceived judgement, he reminded me that looks really aren’t always what they seem.

Scratching his head in true bewilderment, looking at the wall of nightmares (also known as feminine-products) my heart melted as I asked, “Can I help you?”
“Would you?” he asked hope-filled as he noticed me standing there for the first time.
“Of course,” I smiled assuringly.
He turned twenty-shades of purple when he said, “It’s her first day.”
“Got it,” I said knowingly, then handed him the appropriate box.
“Gosh, thanks,” he said, letting out the breath he must’ve been holding all that time.
“You just tell her you won husband- of-the-year from me.”
“Will do,” he said blushing again.

The philosopher Socrates advised,
“Be as you wish to seem.” It’s a noble thought, but I’d venture to say that who we appear to be is decided by whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at any given time. Someone once told me I walk like a snob because I kept my head and neck up. I told them I was a dancer and posture was just a habit at this point. They told me that made sense, and I didn’t know how to reply. “Thanks for not thinking I’m rude now that you’ve taken the time to talk to me?”

The thing is, I couldn’t take offense … because we do that. We look at face value, we generalize, and we judge books by covers (I was at Barnes and Noble last night literally doing just that). But often, we’re wrong.

I have a student in my class I’ve nicknamed Romeo. I did this because the boy is a flirt. He has a girlfriend (also in my class) but that doesn’t stop him from passing compliments around like candy hearts in Valentine’s Day. Even I, twenty-years his senior receive some. A few days ago he “liked my haircut,” then “I had cool eyes.” So you’ll understand my wary smile when he approached me in the hallway and said, “Mrs. H., can I come home with you?”
“Well, why would you want to do that buddy?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate when he said, “I just really want to know what it’s like to be a part of your family.”

Again, proving … things aren’t always as they seem. Because suddenly, they weren’t. He was no longer “Romeo;” he was a vulnerable little boy who wanted to be, well – wanted.

A few days later, I told my students I wasn’t going to be there because my daughter was sick. And Romeo asked if he could write her a note. It said, “Hey, I am sorry you’re not feeling well and hope you feel better soon. I am sad that Mrs. H., your mom won’t be here with us today because I’ll miss her, but I’m really glad she’ll be there to take care of you.”

Coming home to my baby girl that day, I saw tired eyes, and a smile she’d saved just for me. Because once in awhile, things are exactly what they seem.

The greatest fashion statement in the world is love, and how it always wears its heart on its sleeve. Maybe if we followed the trend, there’d be a few less passing judgements. And we would realize that face-values and generalizations don’t matter so much after all … people do.

Go love someone past their cover,

Elle

2.1.15 A Gift, A Monster, A Memory

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I love this picture.  I love the contrast of the color tones, the perfect composition, the leaf in her hand, the smile on his face as he looks at her.  I love the photograph, but I don’t need it.  I’ve got an exact replica in my mind, and it is surrounded by the feelings and the sounds surrounding that moment captured on ink and paper. There’s no chance of my forgetting it, no chance of my forgetting them.  Antonio Porchia once said that “One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.”  Who on earth wouldn’t say this is true?  Who doesn’t long to be remembered?  I would actually argue that most of what we do, most of what we spend our time on is dedicated to creating something of a legacy of ourselves, not to be memorialized, but to be known … appreciated … and reminisced.  We long to be thought of with fondness, and cherished for the times we shared that made a difference, even for a day.  

As the years pass me, I realize more and more that William Gibson had it right when he said, “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.”  I, maybe even more than most, love to drift into what once was.  Like the translucent strands of a web, I find that when I walk too close to the edge of a memory, I am quickly caught up.  The details may have lost their crispness, pictures in my mind having long since faded to sepia, but the feelings remain.  Isn’t it something that the heart remembers what your recollection would have let go of?  

Usually remembrance is a respite; a hidden treasure we are able to look in on again and again, without any fear of things being taken from us.  But sometimes … just sometimes, the reverse happens, and that place isn’t safe anymore – it’s painful.  John Irving worded it this way, “Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t.  It simply files things away.  It keeps things for you, or hides things from you – and summons them to your recall with a will of its own.  You think you have a memory; but it has you.”  Sharp words.  Jagged and piercing, this version of memory isn’t one I like to acknowledge, but heartbreakingly, it recently became too real. 

The other day, I went to dinner with my five-year-old daughter, my mother, and my grandmother.  These generational get togethers are so rare, and thus, so precious.  As we sat down to dinner, we took some time to pass around pictures and chat about recent goings on.  After a few minutes of reminiscing, the monster crept in, and its name was dementia.   Suddenly, asking about a few old friends turned into my grandmother saying how much she missed the boys, her boys.  She asked about Billy, her first son, and how he was doing … completely forgetting that he’d passed away almost forty years before.  My mom, caught off guard, didn’t say much, but her look said enough.  And then, in a picture that stands too clear in my mind, I saw the devastated look of recognition cross my grandmother’s features.  “He’s not dead, is he?”  she asked my mother, tearing up.  What else could she do but tell her what she’d already begun to remember?  A monster indeed.  It was excruciating to watch the cruel play of a memory that chose to haunt her.  Watching her remember was like seeing a fraction of her learning for the first time.  And though I hate the disease that steals my grandmother’s mind piece by piece, I wished, just then, that it had taken this one memory away completely.  

My mom is stronger than I am, in many ways, but this one in particular.  Because as I sat at the table, leaned over and kissed my daughter’s cheek, trying to escape to somewhere brighter, my mother’s eyes didn’t shift from grandma, or the dark memory that threatened to steal her joy.  She waited it out … she held her hand … until eventually, it passed. 

We want to be remembered.  We crave recognition.  We long to be the one photograph in a file of memories that doesn’t fade.  They are a blessing and a curse, equal parts light and dark, and someday, they are all that will remain of the lives that we piece together day by day, moment by moment.  I pray that the memories I am a part of will be bright, but life doesn’t always lend itself to that.  And regardless of whether people are parted by circumstance, or some stronger force, I hope that we are all able to channel what we once were to one another, and are able to recall the beautiful things our hearts have refused to let go.  And so, in the words of Khalil Gibran, “If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together, and you shall sing to me a deeper song.” 

Remember well tonight – and forever after, 

Elle