Don’t think I’m a Polly Anna. There are situations where you just can’t expect someone to be grateful.  When my friend recently lost her husband and son in a hiking accident, another friend told her she could be grateful that their deaths increased the knowledge of those around them and will thus save lives.

I’m 98% certain that the choking noise I made was audible.  No, no, no!  That is not what I mean when I recommend having an attitude of gratitude. Don’t be silly.

But there are other things that have happened for which she is truly grateful.  There’s the AT&T rep who spent time helping her figure out how to reduce her monthly bill by a significant amount.  Last night a neighbor moved her husband’s pick up.  It’s a beast and my friend needs to be taught to drive something that massive.  But until then she’s found someone who is more than willing to shift it for her.  Another friend drove the truck home from New Mexico.  More gratitude.

And it is helping to bring her peace.  She knows that if she gives a shout out on Facebook, someone will step up with the knowledge she needs to face the next problem.  And through this peace, no matter how small in these days of sorrow, she has hope for tomorrow.

A vision?  A plan.  No, that hasn’t come yet.  But it will.  And when it does, we’ll celebrate.

Gratitude.  It really is a tricky thing when times are tough.  But look for the helpers.  Look for those acting as the hands and feet of Christ.  When and where you can, give thanks.  It will lighten your load and lift your heart.

–SueBE

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?

Sometimes walls have unintended consequences.

I wish I had something pithy to say about my path to success on this one but . . . not so much.  Try, try again?

–SueBE

What are you building today? 

 

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. 😉

We can accomplish great things working together. #InaugurateLight

Something to contemplate.  How many Americans do we know who claim to be open-minded, but . . . distrust Muslims, disparage anyone who is dark, and generally don’t deal well with someone who isn’t just like them?  God created humanity and, indeed, all of the natural world in great diversity and wondrous variety.  How can we loathe what he has created?

–SueBE

Last Sunday, we had a most interesting sermon.  It was all about laughter.  The basic idea was this – when we laugh, we connect to God.  Why? Because laughter is one of the gifts that he has given us.  When we forget how to laugh, we distance ourselves from God.

A smile.

A giggle.

A deep down belly laugh.

The shrieking, squeeling laughter of a child.

Don’t take yourself or your situation was so seriously that you lose this connection. Laughter is, as they say, good for the soul.

–SueBE

Cuturally, we have an open door at our house.  I don’t care where you are from.  Your religion?  I’m happy you have faith.  You are welcome here.

Mention this in front of white Christians, and you get the most “delightful” questions. I’m using delightful here the same way my Texas grandma used it.  Well, aren’t you just a delight.

Would you feel that way if you met a head hunter?  What about a cannibal?

I’ve never actually met either a head hunter or a cannibal.  But I have met a very wide range of people.  I’ve worked pow wows alongside people from the Native American Church.  I helped proctor a class with a professor who was a Baptist minister but had been honored by the Thai king for his work among Theravada Buddhists of Thailand.  I’ve lived with Muslim students.  Honestly, they made excellent room mates.

Don’t let your fear take you to extremes in your imagination.  Definitely keep your eyes and ears open.  But see people with the love of God. Not through your fear of the dark.

–SueBE

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