Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."

(Mary Kay Ash)

While I sit here, feeling sorry for myself, there is a ceramic box on my desk. The top has a poppy with a bee drinking its pollen. Inside the box it says "Today is your day to bloom!"

Sounds like something you'd give to someone to encourage them, right? Confession: I bought it for myself, to encourage me.

There's a book, it's called The Five Love Languages. And in it, it talks about what different ways we receive and give love. Well, gifts are one of my love languages. A card in the mail? A flower? A book I already own (my copy, actually) wrapped and put in a gift bag? I love these things.

My sister's love language (from what I can tell) is time. And when we spend time on the phone, or dinner when she's home, it's great. Another one of her love languages is encouragement.

And all this information is good--but if you don't use it for anything but to say, "My family doesn't understand me, my mother didn't buy me the right wireless mouse" it becomes this grouchy selfish cry at my own tea party. I can't change my mom. I wouldn't want anyone but her. But I can't get everything I need from her. Or from my sister. Or my dad. I need other people in my life.

Now turn that around. Switch it up...and it becomes, other people need me in their lives. Switch it to this: I like encouragement, but I love encouraging others. I like getting gifts but I also love giving things to other people.

This morning I decided not to go to church, because even though I know that you can't get my shingles unless you lick me, shingles is a big word and I'm new at my church and I don't want to have to explain all that. It might have been a mistake...because now I'm feeling incredibly isolated, which is what I've been a lot of this week since I was diagnosed on Monday.

Yesterday I ate breakfast in my special chair. It's a black faux leather chair that I rescued from the curb in Greenfield a few years ago. It faces my bookcases. And on the top shelf of one of the bookcases, I have three devotional books: My Utmost for His Highest, God Calling, and Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. (Is there one for Women who watch too much Ugly Betty?)

Yesterday, and again today, I read from My Utmost. Yesterday's devo was about how Jesus' first obedience was to the Father, not the needs of man. That if we only worry about humanity, we will get exhausted. "If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon get exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat." (Chambers, 171)

Today's message was stronger. Or maybe just hit me that way. The scripture is "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends." (Job 42:10) The rest of the verse is that then God restored and doubled what Job lost.

But you know what, I just want restoration! I want my captivity turned! But more than that, I want to love my friends. I want to stop this me me me sickness. And so this morning, for the first time in way too long, I prayed for my friends. I've been spending so much time saying, there's not enough for me, I need, I need, I am broken, fix ME.

I'm a work in progress. So is this thought. What do you think? I really want to know. I do.

Monday, June 07, 2010

finding my voice...part deux

So I had a conversation with a friend this afternoon and she kept saying, WHY, Sarah Louise, does it bother you so much? This external validation? That you felt better when the ladies at work all came back from SATC and said, oh, wasn't it so funny?

And I told her about how SATC has fed me in many ways. It is no, not the way I would live my life, but I have made many of the mistakes those four have made, and I have learned more about relationships from the six seasons of SATC than I have from almost 20 years of dating and not dating.

And I told her how the Christian writer I used to follow on Twitter that could only focus on how SATC-TM-2 (Sex and the City, the Movie, 2) was disrespectful of Muslim ways of living. And how I thought maybe the director/writer was trying to say, "look, it's ridiculous that a woman has to lift a veil just to eat a french fry." But if you're only going to look at that part of the movie, it's not a critique of a movie, it's a lambaste, it's not fair.

And again, my friend pushed. But why do you care so much?

Because they are my girls. And I hate for someone to say bad things about them. It's like someone insulting my little sister. I can say, oh, she's a little this or that, but if you say it, I will come after you in your SLEEP. It's the Mama Bear adrenaline rush.

And, yes, it is hard to be a Christian woman who says, my favorite TV show is Sex and the City. That the theme to the show is the ringtone for my cellphone. But here's the thing. I don't think that liking SATC or not liking SATC is a point of salvation. I know enough about the world and about God to know the difference between a good world view and a corrupt one. I know that SATC is built on a corrupt one. But so is just about every other form of entertainment. THIS world is corrupt, and corroding more and more each day. For that matter, I am corrupt. I say one thing and do another. Like Paul in his letter to the Romans,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20)

I told my friend about how when I worked at Fox Books, a man at my church made it his mission to let me know what books James Dobson thought should be removed. Or that no Christian could ever read/watch Silence of the Lambs. (I enjoyed both the book and the movie, though with all the lights on and taking my time.) That Harry Potter, if written by a Presbyterian woman, should mention that Harry went to church on Sunday. This man hearkened back to the Ford administration, where apparently the press always noted, "and Ford went to church on Sunday." I am no longer friends with a woman who thought that the Narnia books were Satan's work and Harry Potter no better. (Yes, she knew C.S. Lewis professed to be a Christian, and I disagree with foppish beliefs that the Narnia books are allegories...I do not look for a Christ figure in every book I read, he's alive enough in the Bible.) I am no longer friends with that woman, and fortunately only see that man on occasion. But we each in our lives have those people that get under our skin, for whatever reason, can, in my mother's apt words "have power over you." Sally is always getting me on that one. "Why are you letting that person get in your mind, have power over you?"

And I can only reply, when I think to, that I am a work in progress, and I have soft spots. I bruise easily, and I forget that I am beloved.

My father's response to this whole brouhaha was the best. "It's okay to be a fan. People ask me why I'm a Redskin's fan, I guess I like the drama." And in those few words, I got acceptance. That it is okay for me to like the color pink and to like SATC, and I don't have to explain my irrational self to anyone. I am enough. Which at the end of the day, is great to say. (And at the end of many days, impossible to say, true or not.)

I went in to work today, I had to work on some Summer Reading stuff. Yes, today was my day off, but the website goes live on Sunday, and if I don't work the kinks out now, they won't get worked out. "The show must go on" etc.

The great thing, though, about going in to work, was that my one boss, the one who sees me, believes in me, is firm with me, but knows I am capable of great things, encourages me, listened to me whine before I went off to my cubicle to work on the Summer Reading stuff. And then she was there when I'd fixed something or had an idea. And the constant doing something, seeing results there on the screen, followed by my boss saying, oh yes, that looks great, did something for me. And I realized that it's going to be okay, it really is.

So what I won't make Pittsburgh's "Forty under Forty" list. So what, I don't think I'll be presenting at the State Library conference in October. So what, I'm not making anyone a grandmother any time soon or probably ever. So what? I add a lot to a lot of people's lives, personally and professionally. And if I'm a late bloomer, so what?

I got a letter in the mail today. A real on stationery not a bill letter. From my high school friend L. I wrote her one, and she wrote me back. Neither my letter to her or her to mine will ever be published in "Dear Sarah Louise" or "Dear L," thick tomes of letters describing our discovery of the latest children's illustrator, but the letter I wrote mattered to her. And the letter she wrote mattered to me.

And at the end of the day, mattering, one person at a time, that is what makes a life.

finding my voice...

tap, this on?

so, if you've found me here today, you've found me on day 2 of Week 4, which is high season for PMS depression.

but here's the thing. there are two thoughts that have been going around in my mind and if i'm not going to go for a walk, i should at least exercise my fingers.

thought 1: Jeanne Ray's book, Eat Cake, is my cake. (In the book, Ruth, the main character imagines she's inside a cake when she's stressed. When I'm stressed, I read her book. I have a hardcover that lives in my "reading room.") I need to write Jeanne Ray a letter.

thought 2: the sex and the city movie backlash. All the "it's not as good as the show" and by saying that saying that the movie is BAD is the SAME argument that I hate hate hate: "but the book was better." NO. Hollywood is a different game. If you don't like the Hollywood brand, then don't GO to the movies. Stick with your foreign flicks on Netflix. American movies, i.e. Hollywood, is a particular style. And that style is of course going to be DIFFERENT from your favorite book or your favorite HBO TV show.

I love movies. I am in love with the Hollywood brand. I also like art house movies and foreign flicks. But here's the thing. If Hollywood (and let's face it, most things that get re-made get re-made by Hollywood) takes and make a movie out of my favorite book (or favorite show), I'm going to analyze that movie. Okay, why did they change things? What is the worldview of the director? How does this reflect on our society today? I will go back and read the book/watch the show again. I will watch the movie again.

(Which brings me to ask: why do I trust people who have watched the movie they didn't like ONE time? When I like it or it intrigues me, I will watch it at least twice if not 3 times.)

Different does NOT equal WRONG. Different may mean you don't like it. But if you don't, what was that your momma taught you? If you ain't got something nice to say, DON'T SAY IT.

That's all she wrote today.