I have no mascara. It’s a long complicated story that I don’t want to get into, but the last week I’ve been out in the world with bare eyelashes. Not since I was old enough to legally drive a car has this occurred. To you, this is no big deal. For me, well—I’m blogging about it, aren’t I?
When I was a teenager, my mother and I were shopping in a gift shop on Providence Road. As we were checking out, the clerk looked at my face and said, “Look at your beautiful eyelashes! That makes me want to run home right this minute and put on some mascara.” I wasn’t used to getting compliments, much less compliments from strangers—I would be in my early forties before anyone again used the adjective “beautiful” to describe any part of me.
I took the clerk’s assessment to heart. I had an asset. I needed to play it up. To paraphrase a friend, ever since that day I’d rather leave home without my panties than leave the house without mascara.
Yet, here I am, prancing around bare-lashed.
Do you know how tiny an eyelash is? All together, my lashes aren’t bigger than well-drawn hyphens. Insignificant doesn’t begin to describe it . . . to you.
There’s a lovely thing going around the internet about being nice to people because everyone you run into is going through something. The reminder is intended to build empathy, and that’s good: life is hard for me, life is hard for you. Let’s go easy on one another.
I’d take it one step further. Everyone is going through something AND you don’t get to judge their something. You haven’t a clue the background that produced their something. Even if they explain it to you, you will never experience the emotional wave of it. It may be too hard for them to talk about anyway. After all, not everyone is willing to tell the world they’re having a bad day because their mascara went rancid.
There were too many people. The pews were stuffed, the back of the church filled with overflow. So when it came time for communion, even despite the use of three stations that moved more swiftly than if all had kneeled at the altar, the line of people outlasted the prepared hymns.
One or two wayward notes trilling from the organ.
Then a man stepped into the aisle. Not attired in choir robes but resplendent in an emerald green suit, a beautiful tie heavily knotted at his neck. He began to clap. “Gonna lay down my sword and shield.”
Immediately those in the pew took up the beat. “Down by the riverside,” they sang. “Down by the riverside.”
At the front of the church, the people bowed their heads and accepted the host.
“Ain’t gonna study war no more,” the congregation sang, and the stained glass windows shook with the ringing voices.
Lent was a bitch. The vegan days. The realization I was a near-constant critiquer of people. The lack of alcohol to make it any easier.
“Down by the riverside. Gonna lay down my sword and shield.” The man’s voice rose, soaring to the rafters.
“Down by the riverside,” the people shouted, splitting the golden incense hanging in the air.
My disciplines were appropriate. They challenged my existing view of the world, leaving me in a different place from where I’d begun. I didn’t like it, but I did it.
“I ain’t gonna study war no more.” The man lead, and the people rocked and repeated. “Study war no more.”
Lent is gone, vanquished by clapping and singing and foot-stomping joy.
Easter is here.
“Down by the ri-ver-side.”
And, because there were too many people, I got a resurrection service I will never forget.
I peaked too early. After this difficult Lent, I’m ready for Easter. Yet, blocking the road to resurrection, sitting there as unattractive as a big green toad, burps Good Friday.
As I stand in this place staring at the toad and kicking the dust, I do not see Easter as “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” I see it as the most common story always told.
My own personal Easter Cliff Notes: when given the choice, humans act like shits; however, do not lose sight of the over-arching good in the world.
If we are celebrating Good Friday to remind ourselves that we are a people who have been intimate with the good and MUST VOW TO NEVER ACT THAT WAY AGAIN, I’m okay with it.
If we are celebrating Good Friday because we love the narrative (see above), count me out.
Each day, we carry our Good Friday choice with us: to act like a shit or not?
To make political decisions.
To go along to get along.
To lie if we must to protect ourselves from ridicule.
To wash our hands of consequences because it wasn’t our job in the first place.
To use intellectualism and analytical questions to justify our hard hearts.
To join in with the mocking because it makes us feel good to berate someone other than ourselves.
Every day, when these choices present themselves (and they just flat do), I hope to remember Good Friday. Is that who I want to be, a Good Friday type person? Or do I want to be a child of Easter? One who acts irrationally, inexplicably, indefensibly to spread more good in the world.
We shall see.
I interrupt revising Model for Deception
to revise Train Trip, bringing with me
the streamlining lessons learned from revising Model for Deception
only to return to Model for Deception with the additional streamlining practice I’ve gained
revising Train Trip
as I read American Gods, learning how to craft a slightly different novel so I can eventually take my Train Trip and Model for Deception learning
and apply it to The Bone Trench.
Someone posts a photo of her beloved pet, and I weep.
Someone posts a photo of a great flash mob, and I weep.
Someone posts a quote, and I weep.
I believe I’m ready for Lent to be over.
I don’t think I’m put together for an extended period of intentional deprivation. I’m MUCH better at deprivation over which I have no control. Intentional deprivation—a lecture to yourself to not be happy—makes me (Surprise!) not happy.
I am not an adherent of the “suffering brings us closer to God” tribe.
I am an adherent of the “God put all this joy on the earth for a reason” tribe.
I have learned a great deal from my discipline of not critiquing people (I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point when I’ve got the energy). I’ve learned one big lesson from the vegan days—animals keep me alive—but I realized that a week and a half into Lent. I have learned nothing from the abstaining from alcohol because I already knew I liked wine.
Call me spiritually immature. Call me lazy. Call me a whiner. Call me a failed Episcopalian. I can agree with you on some of those. Just, at this stage in the liturgical calendar, don’t call on me to defend Lent.
I was flipping channels, and I stopped on a little girl explaining her science project. She wanted to assist water conservation. Specifically, she wanted to make her fellow and sister elementary school students aware of water use. She had the idea to tell them, whenever a faucet was running, to make a noise in their heads. “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” she said demonstrating. Associating this noise with a running faucet would make them remember water was running and being wasted.
This was years ago. Maybe ten years ago. Maybe longer.
Still, whenever I hear a faucet running, I hear “Shhhhhhhhhhh.” I use two hands to brush my teeth so I can turn the water on and off as needed because I cannot tolerate the “Shhhhhhhhh” in my head while the water is running. I never let the water run while I’m washing my face because I hear in my head, “Shhhhhhhhh.” I fill the kitchen sink with water to wash dishes because, if the faucet is running, I hear, “Shhhhhhhhhhh.”
This child has no idea the impact she has had on my water use.
She will never know the impact she had.
But she had it.
I have a complaint: why is the celebration that gives Palm Sunday its name so short?
What is it about our theological bent toward the difficulty of the passion that we can’t celebrate the world’s recognition of Jesus for more than ten minutes before we must plunge into the hard part?
Do we worship suffering and difficulty so totally that we can’t let ourselves remember when the world loved Jesus, without immediate reminding ourselves that it’s gonna turn to do-do?
Do we not trust ourselves to stay the course if we are too happy?
I understand we cannot trust the acclamation of the world. I understand Easter is a totally different type of joyousness than Palm Sunday’s triumphant procession. But why are we such killjoys that we insist Palm Sunday play no role other than a lesson in fickleness, a warning about the world, a mirage of happiness that is mere precursor to the true point.
The world DID love Jesus. He did ride into the city, no matter the irony of the donkey. If we cannot find and celebrate happiness where it is, instead always turning down our mouths like sourpusses, then we reject the joy God has put into this world for us to find where we may.
If we’re gonna keep celebrating Palm Sunday the way we currently do, I vote to change the name to something like: The Donkey and Barabas: A Study in Crowd Dynamics.
For those who read my blog yesterday: I am better. As is its want, the pain is gone, leaving me to wonder what I was complaining so about yesterday. From here forward, I will live a good, fun life.
I’ll do my PT exercises, impressed with myself for what I CAN do.
I’ll walk the dog, forgetting this once caused pain.
I’ll roll my feet on frozen water bottles, releasing the muscles along my soles, appreciative of the rolfer who recommended this practice.
I’ll bend and pick up things from the floor, grateful to the dog for returning this ability to my life.
Day to day, I will go about my normal life, and it will be normal. Thanks for caring.
Today, the pain arrived on a beautiful Saturday morning when spring had finally peeped around the corner, and I was exulting in the joy of life. When the doctor has told you, “If you said ‘now,’ I’d have you in the OR tomorrow replacing both hips,” the pain can descend at any moment. Problem is, each time, the pain arrives anew, in a way I have never before experienced.
* It feels like someone is poking a needle in my hip—what is that?
* Pain is traveling up and down my leg like the tide, ebbing and flowing, ebbing and flowing—what is that?
* My left side is so contracted I cannot move—what is that?
The dearth of answers sets my imagination to flight. How can pain break through 1200 mg of ibuprofen . . . or is the ibuprofen causing the pain? It hurts right above my left kidney—does ibuprofen damage your kidneys? Am I crouched on the starting line of total renal failure?
When the pain first came into my life I talked to the Magic Monk, an orthopedic surgeon who’d had both knees, both hips, and both shoulders replaced. He stood about five and half feet tall. Each time his joints declined, he rode the pain as long as he could before he acquiesced to surgery.
“For what the pain could teach you?” I asked.
He smiled wide, blinking as he nodded his head, so pleased with my insight.
My pain has taught me I am afraid of dying. Afraid of the degenerative process that leads to the loss of your body. Afraid of what lies down that path, the unknown process I have never before experienced.
Last August, I took a break from my daddy’s deathbed and walked the tree-lined street outside his house. Mid-way down the block I saw, perched on a limb of one of the magnificent oaks, my dead cousin.
“Can’t you help him,” I pleaded, referring to my daddy’s death struggle.
“He has to do it on his own,” my cousin said.
“Seems like you could at least tell him that,” I objected.
“He already knows it,” he replied, and I wondered: why are the dead so dispassionate?
The answer, I think, is because the greatest mystery we carry with us—what is this life and when will it end?—has for them been answered. After that, what is there left to get excited about?
I might not be dying, but my hip joints are. One day soon, I’ll become a bionic being. This may put a halt to my communicating with the dead. Instead, I’ll probably hear it when radiators speak.
The first time I visited the National Civil Rights Museum, what I saw were words. Words and words and more words hanging on the walls upon black and white sheets of paper. So many words.
After my early visit, the museum added a few physical exhibits, most notably a big-ass garbage truck in recognition of the striking sanitation workers who brought Dr. King to town. But the experience was mostly still dependent on words.
Now the museum has undergone a massive renovation to make it relevant to “younger audiences.” I am not younger, and I deeply appreciate the revisions. You can read about them here on this NPR segment.
Fortunately, the renovations have purposely pursued a path that would not detract from one of the most moving exhibits in any museum in the world: Dr. King’s room, the bed covers turned down, the empty room waiting for the return of its occupant.
I can’t wait to visit the new National Civil Rights Museum and, once again, thank Dr. King for allowing us into his sacred room.