We Believe

Uh-oh. This was not turning out the way I wanted.

My hair had turned a most unnatural shade of red. Burgundy, really. I should not have bought this dye just because it was on sale. They had discontinued my favorite kind, called “Natural Essences” and I have been casting about for a replacement.

See that? NATURAL Essences. If I am going to fake color my hair I want it to be natural. This burgundy nonsense screamed to everyone who saw it that I was a fake.

I wanted to be fake, but not so that people could tell. I am not alone in this. There is a reason why even grocery stores carry hair dye. When I was younger, I could pick a color and try it on, because it was fun. Now, I can see bright flashes in my hair. The dreaded grays.

So I feel compelled to be diligent with my hair coloring. I want to be seen as young.

I want other people to see me and react to me as young and attractive. I want to look in the mirror and approve of myself and look forward to how people will see me.

This burgundy did not meet my approval. I had seen ladies with this shade, and it was acceptable. I could have gone to any job interview and been professional with my hair looking like that. But it clashed with my personal aesthetic. It looked weird on me.

I didn’t want something so different. I wanted subtle.

Shaking my head at my reflection, I knew I had to fix this. I didn’t want to be seen like this!

So what do I do? I immediately take a selfie and post it on the Internet. I needed the intimate commiseration of a few hundred of my closest friends. I’m not saying it is logical, but that’s what I did.

I’m not ashamed of my choice to color my hair. We have a social contract. We agree to believe that women really are what they present.

Hair dye has been around forever. Henna has been used for 6000 years at least. Red! Hair! It is rude to suggest that my red hair isn’t the way God made me. Of COURSE I’m a natural redhead.

But I am having trouble owning this burgundy. It clashes with my life. I don’t feel beautiful as I walk around. I had to do something to change this.

I was so mad at myself. I knew better. This is not what I wanted. I had to go find a fix.

I can imagine 6000 years ago, henna ladies had experienced the same problem. “Not THIS shade! What have I done?”

This is where the snake eats it’s own tail. I want to present a certain image. I want to be pleased with what I see in the mirror, and a big part of that is how I think others will be pleased with what they see.  What I think others will think.

Others agree to believe.  Only one or two percent of the world is redheads. It’s dramatic, to have bright red hair. So when ladies choose to henna their hair, they are taking on a rarity. I am one of a hundred! I have red hair! And society? We buy it. We accept it. We suspend our disbelief.

That’s why it’s been around so long. If we women make the effort, it is accepted. People grant the status, the favor of rarity. Even if we are sort of faking. Why not believe? What’s the harm?

So after I decided that my color was unacceptable to me, I took efforts to change it to good. It’s not like I wore a bag over my head. I did go out in public. I didn’t get criticism, people mostly didn’t talk about it.

Of course, there were comments on the internet-posted selfie. I asked for it. Some people were critical. Most were nice.

Even more were silent. I posted the progress, after I’d lotioned and potioned out the glaringness of the color and updated my friends on my journey. The usual suspects made comments.

I’d achieved hair parity by Sunday, and almost forgotten about it. Then a sort of debut of the hair happened at church. It turns out a lot of people were paying attention silently. “Your hair looks pretty!” they said.

Really? I didn’t think that many people were following my drama. It turned out more people cared than I realized.

Even more than I realized. These lovely friends made a point to tell me I was loved and accepted. Sometimes that is what “Your hair looks pretty!” really means.

I suspect they would have loved me and been sweet even if my hair had remained the burgundy color I hated.

Most people are really nice. Most people are willing to see our best selves if given half a chance.

Six thousand years of history tells us that society will buy it. You are one of a hundred, nay, one of a million.  At least today, because you made the effort and that counts for something.

Maybe it counts for everything.

because I can be the last to know

It was a hard-won realization recently that I am a many-talented person.

I thought, well don’t we all have lots of talents?

Sure, to an extent. Something about me is different though. There is a flame in me, a hunger, that wants a lot of things, and wants a lot of things a lot.

I want to write. More than want, I have to.

And I also want to be that guy in mission control. I’ve made a career on it.

These are not the same things at all. I am the things that don’t go together. But they do, in me.

So here I am, the things that don’t go together. Yesterday I came to realize that really really was true.

Not in a defensive way. I’d been carrying these talents and passions like a crayon picture that I was REALLY trying to convince everyone was a fairy.

“See? It’s a fairy! Do you see it? Can’t you see it?”

I had to draw that picture, because inside of me I had to. I had to do it and keep doing it. Because I had to.

Only…I didn’t understand it and I didn’t now why I had to, I didn’t know what this compulsion was or what I was trying to do.

Do you see the fairy? Tell me what it is! It’s a fairy. Isn’t it?

People patted me on the head, sure, honey. Or sometimes they saw it before I told them what it was.

Sometimes they said they didn’t see anything.

And those people who didn’t see anything were the ones I believed the most. They were right. What was I doing?

If a lot of the naysayers happened in a row, I would leave off the drawings. Give up hope.

Only draw the fairies in the dark. Or erase them

drawing in sand

tracing the outlines in the fog on a mirror

the ideas of fairies won’t leave me alone

when the fog lifts from the mirror

the fairy disappears and leaves me

me with who I am

and what I’ve been given

God spoke

Let there be my child

Reflecting to myself

Let there be me

Let me!

Divinity wills it so

How dare I fight the will of God?

My heart

My expression

My voice unifying with the voice of creation

Let it be! Let me be as I am designed!

all other voices fall as the noise

I know

I create what I am created to make

[Those other voices don’t fall as much as I wish. And still I create.]

Small Values

He’s up there in front of his PowerPoint display, gesturing at the bullet points:

“In order to ask the boss for more resources to complete the project, you need to understand her ideals AND her values.”

This was the chapter meeting for the project management group I’ve been part of for years. I love being here. We all have experience with the same problems. When we got together it is safe to share war stories. Part of the meeting was listening to someone give a talk on their expertise.  And we are all able to ask the questions and challenge what is being said, really chew on it.

This speaker had a good opener, “How do you get the project sponsor to give more money to complete the project?”

Indeed. That comes up a lot.

Ideals and Values? Per his definition, Ideals are what we aspire to, what we say we aspire to. Values are what we actually choose and pay for.  He went on, being all logical and full of good ideas. Pay attention to all the people involved in the process, even to the organization as a whole. Ask! Don’t assume.

I thought about all the times I’d worked with companies and been blocked and couldn’t get traction. Maybe this was the golden ticket. Maybe if I could pay attention to the true values of the management, not just was they say they are their ideals…

After the meeting was over, an old friend was talking to me. He said, “I had this one project I was working on, and I asked the manager for their top priority. He told me that money wasn’t a problem and that it was most important that it be done right.

So I was giving him reports and charts of the progress. We were having a big meeting and I show him my reports, everyone around the table. He excuses himself.

Then he texts the number 2 guy in the meeting and asks him to meet him in the hall because he couldn’t come back in the meeting to talk to me. Come to find out, money was their most important priority after all.”

People are complicated. We don’t really know our own hearts. And inside of corporations, each individual has to shadow box with what they think their boss wants them to say.

For me, as I try to think of my ideals and values about what job I should have next, I know I’m a contradiction. I idealize self-sustenance and long for entrepreneurship. I talk myself into it until I break down at the foot of my deeply held value of being in a big safe corporate job.

Just like that manager who said he wanted the project done right but turned to jelly when the bill came. We all hide our clay feet in superhero boots.

It’s not that it’s impossible to say what we really want, but it’s pretty close.

This last year, I made a goal to try to listen to my heart and pay attention to what I truly love, what inspires me and makes me happy. It’s a still and small voice, my heart. I can’t hear it if I am not paying attention. To put a fine point on it, I also need to pay attention for more than a minute.

See, I believe I can cherish my ideals and pay attention to my values. The fear that gives power to small values can be calmed. I don’t intend to play small and give in to fears my whole life.

I have to water and tend my ideals so they overgrow the small values. That takes listening and persistence. As I learn to do it for myself, I can do it for the corporate projects too. The team needs to be heard and inspired. So does the manager who is asking for the whole thing in the first place.

I falter and fall. Everybody does. But getting up again and trying is the beautiful thing.

Briar rose and Southern California

Veronica asks for Briarose as a bedtime story. So I’m reading it to her and she asks what a thorny ticket is. How do I explain?

I said that thorns are like pokey things that the plants grow a Bush of pokey things

Like a cactus she said

Of course like a cactus

Family times

Trying to sleep after the family reunion,

Remembering all the ones I’ve been to

Completely satisfied that my daughter is able to be part of this family and this family reunion

family reunion

We start the road trip to the family reunion today. I have been selling it hard to Veronica as a visit with her cousins. She does not have any first cousins, but cousin is a very accomodating relationship. She is VERY excited to hear that Cousin Jane Lovig Kauffman has Barbies to share, although she does understand that Jane is a grownup. I have told her of cousin Rebecca Kauffman and her brother Andrew…And that it will be happening at cousin Claudia and Barry Courtney‘s house…I’ve told her about Aunt Pat…and Aunt Zelpha…She is VERY excited, and is now possessive. She doesn’t like that we have the same cousins…she said “I want a cousin that will love only me!”

“All of your cousins at the family reunion love you. They will be very glad to see you. They will want to talk with you and hear what you have to say.”

“I can make them a craft project!”

That’s family! we are there to love each other.

Sui Generis

I am throwing together the day’s lunch bag for school while my daughter slowly wakes to My Little Pony. I can’t believe I am packing Pringles, Kool-Aid and Oreos for my daughter’s lunch. I’m sure every other kid has fresh fruit and organic bread.

Probably other parents don’t let their kid watch as much TV either. I wonder what they do to get their kids out the door?

All alone in my home, my mind racing to compare every single thing I do to the superior efforts of all the other people in the world I know or only imagine.

As a mother, I am also on the lookout for how my daughter is doing. Is she doing better than the other kids? Is she behind? Should I be proud or worried?

It’s not like I think this is awesome. I kinda know better than to compare  myself and my daughter to other people’s standards. And I kinda don’t. Because if I don’t compare myself to other people, who else should I compare myself to?

The other day a friend said to me:  “Comparison is an act of violence against yourself.”

Fantastic. I’m even doing that wrong. Now I can laugh at myself.  Because I know the right sort of comparison and the wrong kind.

I struggle with accepting my daughter exactly the way she is, because it can embarrass, infuriate or inconvenience me. Yet I also do accept her, and love every infuriating bone in her body. She redefines perfect.

And the right sort of comparison is comparing how I regard my daughter and how I regard myself.

I want to love my daughter unconditionally. Not because someone said that I should but because it is my standard for myself. And my definition of unconditional is that she is perfect. Not that she’s never wrong. She will make mistakes and she will grow and learn and become different things throughout her life. All of which are well within the range of perfect.

I do not regard myself with that kind of love and mercy. And if I can’t give myself room to make mistakes and grow without condemning myself I can’t do it for her. Which is unacceptable.

Comparison of myself to some standard that others have placed on me, I can see how that takes me away from unconditional acceptance. If I beat myself up for not trying hard enough or not knowing enough, I use mental energy that could be used to do better.

I am thinking of a phrase: sui generis. It means one of a kind, and my college professors used it to describe a piece of art that was new under the sun. Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Pablo Picasso’s work, or Albert Einstein’s theories. Where did these original creations come from? Comparison is mostly a distraction to appreciation.

I think about that when I look at my child. She is her own creation, nobody else like her.

And we are all children. Every one of us is our unique. Truly a new thing on the earth. Striving to meet a standard of comparison is harmful to unique expression. I want to stop comparing myself to the wrong things.

For me, that is a far higher goal than the perfectly balanced lunch.

Sunday mom

Seriously not having it this morning. It’s only July and it’s freaking hot. Daughter and I got up at. 630!!!

The only thing on the schedule today is church at ten

I am on the mom shift. Unpaid, inglorious boring and annoying.

And the next person who tells me to enjoy it because they grow up so fast gets an icepick in the ear

Can’t i do anything?

My life on unemployment: set goals.

My goal is to become mayor of my daughter’s preschool. In a world of meaningless yet achievable accomplishments this would make me feel ironically proud

Foursquare is not giving it up.
Now I feel passed over.

Paying attention to me

One of Michael’s today was to eat properly. What with all the everything that’s happening I have not been paying attention and eating. I haven’t had much appetite

But now it’s time for a treat