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Dear Flabby, Why does everyone else have someone who loves and adores and fulfills them, yet I am alone? Signed, Searching in Schenectady

Dear Searching:
Look inside yourself.
Peel back your bones.
Where is your heart hiding?
Has it set a place at the table
for unlikely visitors: angels
undercover? Light in unusual
bodies? Look further, into unguarded
places. Find yourself in the last place
you’d look, and you will find your answer.
Nothing outside can fill the void. You must
tend yourself like a flower, remain in light,
rain tenderly on even the ugly bits.
Nurture and coax. Believe in what
will blossom. The enormity of its
blood-red blooms will fill you.
Like will attract like, easy,
bees in a field of flowers.

 

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My left eye is trying to tell me something. Apparently, I have displeased it. The lid is red and swollen, probably signifying an allergic reaction. Into the trashcan went the mascara; I decided to go nude-faced until the displeasure ceases. Which posed a quandary — can I really go out in public without makeup?

I don’t wear much makeup, but without something on my eyes, my face tends to disappear, especially since I let my hair go “natural” (read: a mixture of brown and — to put it politely — silver). I’m one of those ghost-faced gals who needs a little color. Without makeup, I look old and tired. Not that I’m not old and tired — those are true things — it’s just that it’s not what I want the public to see. For their own sake. Being inordinately tall is one thing; being tall and preternaturally pale is bordering on spooky.

Nonetheless, I went out, makeup-free, and you know what? No one seemed to notice. It’s a funny thing. People look at you a lot less often than you might think. And what they conclude about you from a glance isn’t worth worrying about. In fact, most people are so self-conscious, they are likely not thinking about you at all.

Still, it made me wonder: What kind of mask am I putting on when I face God, and don’t I realize God can see right through it? My naked soul is certainly more frightening than my naked face. I can dress my soul up in formal prayers, modulate my manners and voice (“see, God, I’m being patient!”), yet God sees every wart, scar and defect. It’s like those x-ray specs they used to advertise in the back of comic books, only these actually work. And God’s got the only pair.

I’m a little ashamed that God can see me as I am. Maybe that’s a good thing. Anything that motivates me to improve the actual quality of my soul is a plus. And maybe — like my eye — my soul will become less unsightly with time.

Can I turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse? Unlikely. Luckily for me, God loves sow’s ears. And tall, pale people. Just as they are.

I don’t go around thinking about Original Sin all that much. Who does? It’s like an old stain on a favorite shirt. Who remembers how it got there? But something our friend Lady Calen wrote recently caused me to have what can only be deemed a revelation: What if Original Sin isn’t what we think it is? What if it isn’t disobedience — which, let’s face it, never made much sense (“You can eat from any of the trees in the garden except that one. It’s the best one, by the way.”). What if it’s a little more personal?

Just after the fracas with the apple, God asks Adam and Eve why they’ve donned snappy little outfits made of leaves. Adam says, essentially, “We were naked, so we covered ourselves up.” But who told them that being naked was a bad thing? Who got into their heads with comments like, “Seriously, Eve, those thunder thighs. Put on a skirt”? Not the snake. They did it themselves.

What if Original Sin is a failure to love ourselves properly?

Take a minute to think it through. What if our inability to love ourselves is at the root of sin and hatred toward others? What would happen if we stopped running ourselves down and fully participated in the gifts we were bestowed? Maybe something miraculous.

But Lori, you might say (if you knew me well enough to know my name), plenty of people love themselves. In fact, they love themselves a little too much. Maybe that’s just the other side of the sinful coin. Narcissism is like looking at oneself the wrong way through a telescope. It has no more to do with reality than undermining ourselves constantly. And it can lead to the same failure to love others properly. Only after we are at home in ourselves — neither grossly overvaluing nor undervaluing our beings — can we properly live among others.

Does that sound too easy? Well, contemplate this: How many of us have managed to love ourselves properly, historically speaking? How many of us have got it right? Someone who loves herself does not start a war. He or she does not commit violence. He or she does not hate others, because he/she is secure in him/herself. So the answer to the aforementioned questions is this — practically nobody.

It is our lives’ work to know and love ourselves, to find our place in the world at large. That’s it. And yet we fail at it, over and over again. I’m not excluding myself. Just this morning I wondered why on earth I should love a short-tempered old cow like myself. I haven’t got the answers. I can only pose the questions.

But if loving ourselves is the point — if failure to love is our Original Sin — hadn’t we better get a jump on fixing it? Let’s start now, during this blessed season, by doing one thing for ourselves. Take a nap. Be content with the presents you’ve bought. Stop stressing. And just open your heart up, to yourself and to the world. You know, sometimes I put two and two together and make a pretty good-sounding “four.” I’m gonna rest in that knowledge today.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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