Friday, October 29, 2010

Luke

"Don't mess with what's on the table at meals or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There's more to a meaningful life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the natural world, free and wild, not tied down to a job description, peaceful in their identity in God. And you count far more.

"Have you ever known a person who got an inch taller by looking in the mirror and whining about their height? If whining won't do it, why whine? Look at wildflowers. They don't even think about their appearance, yet, have you ever seen color so vibrant, design so unique? The ten most ripped men and ten most thin and beautiful Victoria's Secret models look shabby and ho-hum alongside those flowers. If God cares so much for flowers, most of them never even seen, He's bound to care a whole lot more about you. Be proud of you. Like you. Do what's best for you.

"I'm trying to get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can understand God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works whine over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep yourself in God: what is real, what His desires are, what He wants to give. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. God wants good things for you.

"Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."


I might've paraphrased a paraphrase. You can find the "original" that I borrowed from in The Message version of the Bible in the 22nd verse of the 12th chapter. These words were said by Jesus and written down by this guy named Luke, a doctor and well-educated Greek, between 6 B.C. and 27 A.D.

I think I like Luke. We might've hung out. Who knows? I feel like his words speak pretty strongly to my most recent thoughts on beauty and God. Not a lot of answers, but a few interesting thoughts along the way. Thanks, man.

For some reason it's easier for me to relate to the Bible and its stories in historical terms. I guess I assume these are more likely to be facts that even an atheist couldn't argue with, the sorts of aspects that don't require faith. Learning about how the Bible came to be, who these people are, and what it means intrigues me. Only recently have I been able to delve into what the general population accepts about Jesus and the Bible. For some reason, knowing these things makes them more real to me. I guess I'd always associated the Bible with fairy tales that only Christians believed, but it's interesting to know that biblical scholars that are religious, agnostic, and otherwise, still study and value Biblical texts for its complex structure, historical value, and poetic style.

It's almost like these aren't just silly stories I heard in Sabbath School and memorized for tests in church school.

It's almost like these things really happened and there are lessons I can learn from them no matter where this journey takes me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver


When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and
takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comeslike the measles-pox;
when death comeslike an iceberg
between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door
full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unattractive

In one breath:
"Beauty is dangerous." -Gerard Manly Hopkins

In another breath:
"Beauty will save the world." -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

These quotes--and approximately 47.6 billion other reasons--contribute to my contridicting beliefs about beauty.

What is this inner urge I have to feel beautiful? To be attractive? To be a woman?
What is this outer urge I have to be tough? To be unattractive? To be less of a woman?

I can most easily trace the roots of these conflicting desires to my childhood (where all good psychological reflection seems to end up). My story is neither fantastic nor unique: I've been rewarded for being "pretty" my whole life.

As a kid, I heard:
"Oh, you're such a gorgeous girl!"
"She's gonna grow up to be a heart breaker!"
"No, you can't be twelve! You look so much older than that!"
It was in grade school that I got my first taste of the ugliness that went along with being "pretty." The boys in grade school who would finger my bra against my back and shoulders. The boys who would ask me, quite seriously, to take my shirt off for them. The boys who "educated" me at the age of twelve much further than I wanted to be about everything from blow jobs to sex positions, and their fantasies that often involved me or other girls. I envied the quiet, mousey girl in class who didn't garner their attention.

In highschool I learned that I didn't have to be intelligent, funny, talented, honest, or even necessarily kind, I just had to be pretty. I still got plenty of attention from my older brother's friends, but at least theres was less . . . vulgar. The eating disorder began in high school (surprise, surprise) where I was rewarded the longer I starved myself.

The experience that most challenged my thoughts on beauty was Cambodia. In a short amount of time, I became fully aware of how my presence on the street attracted stares, licking lips, stares, and touches. Walking outisde felt like I was on display in a whore house. When I went outside, I would cover as much skin as possible, pull my hair back tight, wear large sunglasses, a pollution mask, and a helmet to avoid their attention--without much success.

Three years later, I'm becoming more and more aware of my developing beliefs about beauty. This weekend, my boyfriend, Jeremy(bless his soul), taught me a few things. (It still kinda surprises me how much of my story I admit on this blog. Eh, what the heck.)

Last week, he commented, "Your face looks . . . orange."

This is what every girl wants to hear, right? I did not intend on my face being orange. The new make-up I was trying to cover my "flaws" with was obviously failing me and I felt like a freak. It took me a good 30 minutes of thinking and a few kind prods from him saying, "What are you thinking, girl? Do you want to talk about it?" for me to acknowledge: yup, I REALLY want him to find me attractive and when he doesn't (or simply comments that my make-up looks weird!), I struggle to feel valuable, worthy, and beautiful.

Maybe this sounds silly. Maybe this sounds shallow. I don't actually believe that my only worth is in my appearance, but I've sure had a lot of experiences that tempt me to. And I keep coming back to: How will I ever know if I am good enough? Where does my value lie?

Jeremy remind me, "I'm not those guys you went to school with." He deserves more credit than that. He's not one dimensional. He see all of me. That's awfully hard to believe based on my observations the last few years, but my options are
#1. Call Jeremy, my dad, and other respectable men liars.
#2. Believe them. Possibly the doubt. the lies, the lessons to be learned, can be found within me.

I think I am going to do some research. Possibly a survey project that will ask women:
"How do you honor your beauty without letting it define who you are?"

Because the temptation is to:
stop spending any time or money on my appearance
OR
surrender to the culture's expectations of beauty and call the first plastic surgeon in the phone book.


Oh, sweet balance. Don't give up on me. I'm learning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Herrmann

When I woke up this morning, this is what I found in my inbox:

"herrmann has left a new comment on your post "Book Release: Honestly, I'm Struggling":

so: i take it we have you to thank for trash chutes in rees smelling like vomit?!?

newsflash: your life is a cakewalk. get a fucking grip & stop whining about it cos no one's listening"



I don't know who this person is. They left me no way of tracing them. So since this commentor left me no one-on-one way to respond, I'm doing so here, hoping that they'll read it.


Dear herrmann,

I don't know anyone by your name. To my knowledge we've never met. But you obviously have some strong opinions about me. Well, now I have some strong opinions about my limited knowledge of you too.

You are a coward.

To make such strong statements about me through the veil of an anonymous comment on the internet, resembles junior high fights on Facebook. I will not honor your remarks with equal immaturity. If you would like to actually talk about your opinions, you can post again and leave your email address (Don't worry, I won't post that for others to read. That would, after all, be rude). I'd be more than happy to talk with you. I will not, however, fight with you.

I suppose since you "approached" me by way of a cruel blog comment, you're probably not that interested in talking. Just in hurting. Just in being reckless. Just in being cowardly.

In case you only read this blog once and will never actually "talk" to me, I must say . . .

While there have been reports that the Rees hall (girls dorm) trash chutes reeked of vomit several years ago (actually, before I even came to college), you don't have me to "thank" because I never once purged at the dorm and your being unfair and insensitive to assume that I did. Whoever was vomiting in the trash was hurting . . . horribly. And for you to go pointing fingers or making fun of that pain only makes me respect you less.

I agree with you on one point: my life may look like a "cakewalk" to some. I'm not going to argue about whose life is harder. It doesn't matter. We are only responsible for our own stories. I am fully aware that many people have, many people do, and many people will continue to hurt more than I will ever experience. Just because I wrote a book about my struggles, doesn't mean I think for one minute that I am unique. We ALL struggle. We ALL hurt. Writing about it has been healing for me and healing for others.

I am trying to "get a grip." I'm looking for balance in my life. I'm looking to move on. I haven't always done this gracefully, but I'm trying. And I encourage you to stop reading about it if you're so angered by it.

Lastly, to say that "no one's listening" is actually quite untrue. A lot of people are listening. People do care. I've lost count of how many people have shared their own struggles with me because I've shared mine with them. And together we heal.

So frankly, this one cowardly blog comment doesn't worry me.


Have a nice life.


(And now I will sign my name)

Heather