Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Slightly Wavy

Ruby has been begging me to straighten her hair for the past nine days.

I've done what I can to hold her off, given her all the logical reasons, plied her for a while with stretching it out using row upon row of hair elastics, pulling her curls just a bit further down each day.

Yesterday, my stall tactics finally ran dry.

It doesn't matter how often I admire her curls. I've learned the hard way that it's counter-intuitive to tell her I wish I had them for myself. She likes them just fine. Sometimes, she just wants to try something new.

So we sat down after dinner last evening with our supplies and I cranked the heat level on my straightener as high as it would go. "Better go clean up the kitchen, boys. We're busy over here." I stretched like a cat, cracked my knuckles one by one, and got to work.

Section. Detangle. Moisturize.

The heat wiped her curls out flat, at least half-way down. The ends were another story. They wanted to hold on. They put up a fight. When it was said and done, they knew who they were. And here we are, a full head of slightly wavy hair.

But it's change enough. It'll do.


I've done the normal amount of thinking about the new year in recent weeks. Like clockwork, I've decided to redecorate my house, give away all of our unused/unnecessary junk, buy new make-up and wrinkle cream, try a capsule wardrobe, reduce my sugar intake, and spend more time moving and/or reading. One or the other. Depends on the day.

I've gone so far as to pull up the living room rug with no after-plan in place.

It's 2017, and with every dawning of every new age, I crave blank surfaces and white space and I decide the best way to achieve both is by redesigning my heart and soul. It works on paper but less so in practice. All I'm really doing is transforming physical clutter into mental and emotional static. Wouldn't I be happier if my house was more organized? Wouldn't it be inspiring to revamp...something?

And at the end of the day, I already know the truth. Inspiration is only meaningful if it's enduring. Happiness can really only be felt in the presence of  a bucket or two of sadness and longing. Without the contrast, happiness becomes one more layer of white noise. Its very own shade of gray.


I spoke with my editor for almost an hour recently. We kicked the can back and forth across state lines and cell signals. What do I want to say next? I think she's grown used to my wild ideas and the neurotic way I insist on sharing all of them, even and especially when they're still misshapen and scattered. They're spring-loaded snakes in a can, and just knowing they're in there makes me anxious to tear off the lid. Let's get this over with. Go ahead and scream.

Conversation was light and laced with enough honesty to keep me trusting and engaged. Toward the end, my voice cracked just shy of actual blubbering. "No matter what I write next, I just want it to be necessary. Not to everyone, but to someone."

This has come to matter deeply to me, particularly over the past year.
But "necessary" takes different shapes, because I take different shapes. And you do, too.

It feels less and less necessary to boss you or myself around, (though I guess I still reserve the right and am not making promises.) I'm equally less and more sure about the stuff that keeps me up at night. I've almost cleanly lost the ability to believe I have any power over change here at all. At the the same time, I'm more committed than ever to risk being wrong.

I'm not as inclined to detail the lives burning bright and burning to the ground around me. More often, as you know, I end up talking about the way my heart and eyes and skin have blistered from my nearness. It's all sort of normal now, this low and beautiful place where we have slowly settled in. But I wonder, do I say enough about the good stuff happening? Do I see it clearly enough? Am I still letting it change me by the day?

Two Sundays ago we straggled down the alley to church, faces freezing, feet dodging slushy puddles and broken glass.  I've come to learn over the past two years that there is always something waiting for me there, something unexpected, something I need. I think this thing is called hope, and I believe it grows from the seed of endurance.

Nearing the end of the service, our pastor blessed the communion. She called on the ushers to begin releasing us row by row, but before she was even done speaking, one of Cory's friends from jail broke protocol, rushing front to be the first in line. I whispered to Cory, giggling, "Gage isn't playing." Then my eyes filled with tears.

Heading into a fresh year, I suppose Gage is my mentor. He's showing me the way, and I'm honored to follow.

Lead me to the cup. The cross. Lead me to more of Christ. Less of me.

I want to be made new.

Along the way I've come up with a few other things I'd like to tweak. I can't help myself.

* I'm not buying more books until I shorten the stack growing precariously atop my cabinet. It's a safety hazard at this point, and there's plenty of good stuff waiting. I won't buy more. I won't buy more. (Unless it's an emergency.) ;)

* Last spring I recognized my tendency to do certain things just so I could say I did them. I was keeping score with myself, sweating blood trying to win an invisible game where I was my only opponent. This is nothing new. Nor is it a surprise to me that I reacted by swinging wide in the opposite direction. One thing lost in the process was the list of books I read. I needed one less thing to track. But I regret this now. I miss having an account of the friends I spent time with when the house was quiet. I'm keeping track again, but in my personal journal (something I added into my life exactly one year ago). I'm sure I'll keep sharing these "friends" along the way, but I'll be reading because it's life to me, not because I'm trying to best last year's score.

* I'm going analog whenever possible, and this includes, of course, cooking from my beloved, cumbersome recipe binders whenever possible.

*I'm making (another) concerted effort to not speak sarcastically to my kids. THIS IS VERY HARD. Here's why. Me: "Cory, Keisha and Hans-David will be here today around 2."  Calvin: (directly in ear-shot) "Mom, are Keisha and Hans-David coming today?" I can't. I CAN'T. I field this line of questioning no less than 38 times a day, and bear in mind that my kids are all in school from 8-3. They know things, but pretend they don't. They cannot wrap their pliable brains around the idea of commenting on something rather than pretending they are in the dark. But where I usually get extra irritable and say something like, "What did I just say, Calvin?" I'm trying to simply say, "Yes." In the scheme of things, along with being much nicer and a better model for my kids, it's actually easier.

Meanwhile, I'm still just Shannan, currently obsessed with a morning cup of black tea and a slice of sourdough bread, toasted, lightly buttered, and with a skimming of Aldi's Premium Fruit Spread (raspberry).

I would still pick a sad movie over one that makes me laugh.

I still prefer late nights to mornings.

I still spend too much time in my head.

But maybe I'll be just a bit softer, just a bit more present, just a bit more at peace. I pray I'm the one running toward communion and community, and I also hope I manage to straighten up my messy closet and get to bed earlier.

I don't need to become Shannan two-point-oh, but maybe Shannan 1.1.
Shannan, slightly wavy.