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Well, I might as well go all in and tell you about my colonoscopy. Oh, I’m fine. I got the all-clear from the doctor. But (there’s a pun. Sorry. First of many.) I have to say, I was confused by his report to my family physician.

To me, he said, “You’ve got pockets of diverticuli, which everyone gets as we get older. Maybe get some more fiber,” and he shrugged, as if to say, nothing to worry about.

In the report to my doctor, he wrote, “Counseled the patient at length about the importance of adding fiber to diet.”

Huh? At length? Let me think. Okay. He shrugged. Was that supposed to be code for: make sure to eat shredded wheat (despite the fact that it tastes like hay and you’ll hate your life every day of your life for the rest of your life. Enjoy!)  Finger wag would have made the point more clear.

My suspicious New Jersey mind went places. Why didn’t he tell me to eat more fiber? Hmmm? Is it because he secretly HOPES I’ll get tumors and he can make more money off of me in the future? Perhaps?

But I thought it through. He actually wouldn’t make any more gross income (there’s another pun! Yikes, indeed.) off of my tuchus if I did get cancer. He’s just the one checking the plumbing. An oncologist would be treating me in that case. Still being from Jersey, I wondered: what if he gets kickbacks for every patient that does develop tumors? Hmm? Perhaps?

Talk about your back room deals! 😕

Eventually, I came back to my senses and realized it’s just a matter of words.

The way doctors talk to patients is informally, to make sure we understand. The way doctors talk to each other is informed by legalities. They write in a certain way to protect their own ass..ets (hey now!) in case they get sued.

Overall, it was a moment I’d like to put behind me. Yuck/yuk. Kind people, that’s my TMI story du jour, but please allow me one final pun:

The End.

Maybe make a decision to be kind more often than right?

We try to tackle the big topics on this humble little blog: life, death, spirituality, peace, love, justice, mercy. So, in comparison, my topic today seems ludicrously flimsy and terribly vain: I am going to write about my recent decision to let my hair go gray, as it has been wanting to do, lo these many years.

I started going gray — white, really, if I’m honest — in my thirties. I’ve been dying my locks ever since. I consider being brunette part of my identity. I could never wear colored contacts, for instance. My brown eyes are also part and parcel of who I am. A good deal of this identity is wrapped up in pop culture: Brunettes are serious. They’re smart. My earliest role models were Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas on “That Girl” and Catwoman — all brunettes, all “making it after all,” on their own terms. That was my tribe!

So why change now? Why not go to my grave with my roots intact? Well, for one, my husband recently encouraged me to go natural. And if he doesn’t care, why should I care what the rest of the world thinks? Secondly, it’s a drain of time and money to continue to color my hair, and the chemicals involved are not as healthful and innocuous as one might think while watching a Clairol commercial. Third, why lie, even to myself, about what I look like? I like to think I embrace truth-telling. My white hair is a truth about myself.

But here’s the big one: I truly believe the purpose of life is in embracing the little “yesses.” After all, at the end of our lives, there is going to be a huge “yes” that we will have to embrace, like it or not. By accepting and welcoming each little “yes,” I prepare myself daily for the big “yes.”

And this is, despite being firmly entrenched in female vanity, a tough yes. I look at other women who are letting their hair go natural and I judge. It looks slovenly. Like a lack of self-care. And yes, I know that’s a horrible thing to think. I’m appalled at myself. But there it is. And this is what I will have to see in myself as my “skunk stripe” covers the crown of my head and extends, inexorably, downward. I will have to confront the worst in myself. I will have to deal with my own feelings about aging and about how women are judged and valued on their beauty and youth. I will have to see myself lacking.

And I will have to find God in all of this. I will have to grapple with a God who loves everything about me, but who created humans to love what is aesthetically pleasing. I will have to align myself with a God who expects my power to come from something bigger than a bottle of dye. I will have to say “yes,” not just once, but over and over again, every time my fingers itch to solve the problem with a box from the drugstore.

I am hoping all of this will be good for my soul. Because that’s the part of me I care about most. And it doesn’t need anything artificial in order to be beautiful, does it?

Anybody remember Weebles? That little egg-shaped toy that would wobble back and forth but land upright? I felt like that two days ago, when I woke up leaning to the left. It’s one of the symptoms of MS that happens only rarely for me, but when it does, I focus on a fixed object, sit upright and wait for the dizziness to pass. The key is never to lie down; that’s when things really start spinning. I know it has to do with brain function, but I don’t quite understand the whole process.

The mind is a mysterious thing, isn’t it? Just yesterday, I thought of some terrible social faux pas I made in third grade, of all things, and it brought me down.

What’s the name of the ocean on the east coast? “Atlantic,” I wrote.

As I looked at it, I remembered that I’d gotten a simple answer wrong on another test the previous day and started to doubt myself. I crossed it out and wrote, “Pacific.” The teacher told the class I got it wrong and the other kids looked at me, shaking their heads and snickering.

And I wondered why something from so many years ago still echoes in my mind.

Balance is so important in life, isn’t it? Not just physical balance, but emotional balance as well.

As I went about making my coffee this morning I had an epiphany. If it were someone else, I’d say, Give yourself a break. You were just a kid. It’s nothing to beat yourself up about. I’m completely supportive of everyone else when they make mistakes, even complete strangers. But myself? Not so much.

So I’d like to propose that we think of ourselves in the past as another person entirely. Someone else, in a different era. That way, you’re more likely to regard yourself with compassion.

Maybe that’s the lesson of those days. Perhaps in releasing the need to have done everything perfectly correctly and within the bounds of social decorum, you’ll unclench and be less likely to make the same mistakes. And even if you do make mistakes, maybe you won’t see them that way. Maybe instead of mistakes we’ll call them human foibles. It sounds less painful. Almost cuddly!

Foibles. They could be the distant cousin of Weebles! They wobble, but they don’t fall down. This could be our motto: Foibles. We fumble but we don’t fall down. 😉

Okay. Maybe he’s not Adonis, I’ll grant you that. Hair growing out of his ears. Snores like a buzz-saw. Wears the same outfit every day: long black, mohair pants tucked into white socks. So why is he part of my life? Well, it’s my cat, of course! He’s one of the blessings that make my house feel like a home. I like seeing KitKat curled up on the couch, dreaming of the squirrel that got away.

I also like seeing my teen-age son with his headphones on as he composes songs the new-fashioned way: on the computer. Just knowing that he’s doing what he loves and that he’s comfortable here at home warms my heart.

So what is it that makes a house feel like a home? Well, of course, it’s the people and pets we love, but it’s more than that.

A little boy was lost at ComicCon and wandered around in tears until he saw two of his friends from childhood: Wonder Woman and the Flash. Soon, he was all smiles. It was like stumbling upon a little bit of the comforts of home: someone you know. Someone you can trust. Someone who will steer you in the right direction.

Of course, my idea of the comforts of home may be different from yours. For example, I love to see the process of houses being renovated. All of it. The tractor digging dirt in the yard, the drywall going up, paint color being chosen, deciding on the decor. That stuff may seem boring to most, but I like to see something being created out of nothing, so a blog like this one, “Enjoying the Simple Things,” feels welcoming to me.

This post about a trip to Ireland by the wonderful writer/artist, Jan Richardson, really conveys the sense of being greeted like family, even if you were a stranger when you walked in.

It’s what we’ve tried to do with this humble blog: create a place where you feel welcome, even if we’ve never met in person. So, feel free to consider this your virtual home away from home!

Connect with those around you. Smile! 

Some people talk to God as easily and readily as picking up a phone — they have God on speed dial. Through meditation, prayer or other means, they’ve perfected the art of hearing what God is telling them; their ears perk up at sounds outside the spectrum of human hearing. I admire them. I envy them.

My ears stretch and crane for the slightest peep. I hear only the silence of my own selfish heart. Would I believe the voice of God if it came to me? Or would I dismiss it as a figment of my own imagination? What does it take to hear God? Well, for one, it requires being attuned to your own inner self. This is difficult to do when one is not essentially interested in one’s inner self. Call it dint of long acquaintance, but I am thoroughly sick of my inner self. I’d like it replaced, please, with something better, holier, more interesting. I am tired of slogging through its sludgy waters.

Then I remember: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta last heard the voice of God as a young woman traveling on a train. She never heard the voice again, not through the long years of her service to the poor, holding the hands of the dying, through her own illness and death. Not once. Her “dark night of the soul” lasted decades. And it would be difficult to argue that she wasn’t trying to do what God asked of her all those years ago on that train. She was. With a resounding silence as her reward.

So maybe God doesn’t speak to us with an eye as to what we deserve or even ask for. Maybe God figures once is enough for the right folks. Only when was my once? Was it deciding to go away to a college I’d never even visited before but which ended up creating lasting ties and thoroughly overhauling my spirituality? It was a decision that could certainly be described as providential. But I’d hate to think that the first, last and only time I heard or heeded God was at the raw age of 18. That’s a lot of wasted years.

Or is that I don’t know how to listen? That would be strange indeed, as I count listening as one of my greatest ministries. I’m the woman that strangers pour their hearts out to while standing in line at Walmart. I hear about other people’s crises of faith. So maybe I’m not supposed to hear but to be a conduit to the One Who Does Hear?

I wish I knew, but I suppose that would require a rather loud message that I, for whatever reason, lack the skill to interpret. It doesn’t mean that I am going to toss out my inner telephone. No, I’ll keep it on, hoping as I have through all these long years, that someone will give me a call. I’m waiting.

So, I’ve written before about my health issues, and while I don’t want to bring anyone down, I do like to share what I’ve learned from having MS.

Like the time I took my son, Cole, and his friends, Luke and Nick, to the movies a few years back. On the way out, I asked if they’d seen another movie that was out at the time. “So did you guys see Thor?” Without batting an eye, Luke replied, “Yes, we saw it last week. You took us. Remember?”

But he knew I didn’t. The upside is that these kids are like family, and they’re used to my sieve-like memory. It didn’t phase them. When people are understanding of your limitations, it makes you feel supported.

That’s why I was so thrilled to come across this article about a cafe that employs dementia patients, called “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes.” So you ordered a hamburger? Well, how about some dumplings instead! This shows that if people are aware of your story, they give you more latitude.

It goes back to my theory that there’s always a story, and everyone is dealing with something, often something that’s not visible to the naked eye.

People have taken the challenges of their own pasts and turned them into positive action.

These men took the pain of coming to another country penniless and hungry, and turned it into a kind deed, offering people a free meal if they have no money.

Sometimes a small act of compassion can restore one’s faith in humanity. This hairdresser with a posh client list reaches out to people on the street with his “Do Something for Nothing” campaign, offering haircuts to the homeless. It’s amazing to see what this simple kindness can do for a person who often feels invisible. One gentlemen looked at himself after his haircut and asked, “Why did you do that for me? It’s not an everyday thing.” The hairdresser’s answer was, “I loved hearing your story.”

It’s nice to know we can write the story as we go, and we’re all in it together.

I know a woman named Holly Champagne. It would be hard not to be ebullient with a name like that. Of course, my mother thought “Lori” was an ebullient name, and I am anything but. On the other hand, I once watched one of those “true-life” court shows that featured a boy named Nefarious — nefarious! — who was doing his level best to live up — or is that down? — to his name. Maybe labels are slipperier than we think.

Back in high school, one of my classmates gave quick, one-word descriptors of a group of us girls to a group of boys. My descriptor was “smart,” and even in that moment, I saw my chances with any of those boys fade into nothingness. Words do hurt, do bind and do restrain. But no word can possibly encapsulate the totality of who we are.

Labeling yourself, whether in a positive, negative or even neutral way, sets up certain expectations, certain limits. I am not just a woman, a Catholic, a brunette (a fact that grows more apparent even as my hair grows), a feminist, a liberal. Because what you expect and conjure up on the basis of those words may be as far from true as slapping the word “petite” on me. (Or, as I said to my husband after a recent outing to the movies, “I’m six feet tall and I just saw ‘Wonder Woman.’ I’d get out of my way.”)

God, the author of words (for which I am eternally grateful) does not care much for labels, I think. Labels can be traps. But we humans sure seem to love them, if only for quickly and summarily lumping together and dismissing others as unlike ourselves. We have a deep need to belong to a tribe. And part of finding your tribe seems to include excluding those who do not fit the parameters.

You see a lot of this is the comments section of any social media posting. “Those people” are idiots, losers, corrupt or foolish. “My people” are not. What if, for just one day, we stopped believing in “mine” and “yours,” “them” and “us”? What if we ignored all the labels — rich, poor, dumb, smart, fat, thin — and just got to know one another without expectation or judgment, without filing each person we meet into neat little folders — “like me” or “not like me”?

I suspect something radical would happen. I also suspect that it cannot be done. We like our labels too much. So, instead, let me suggest a new label — “human.” Think about that word. Let the connotations that swirl around it emerge. Hopefully, these thoughts contain such sentiments as “fragile,” “prone to error” and even “lovable.”

Now try applying that label to everyone you meet. It is, after all, how God sees us.

I strongly suspect that part of being resilient is learning how to problem solve.

My son has his first real job as in background check and direct deposit.  I am being strongly encouraged not to helicopter parent.

Not that this is anything new.  Since he was about 9, I’ve had occasional admonitions to “behave myself.”

So how do I manage not to hover now that he’s a life guard and has so much responsibility?  I pray.  I color and pray.  I crochet and pray. And I have a network of friends who will talk me off the ledge if I make a phone call.

God has provided me with the tools I need to give the boy the tools he needs even though I really do want to hover.

–SueBE

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