Lipstick Dilemmas and Mascara Theology

I have a love/hate relationship with makeup.

Random, right?  This blog is usually not about makeup or hair or nails… and it still isn’t.  I’m getting there.

There’s this memory I have from youth group of this woman with some Serious Makeup going on… like, foundation, blush, blue eye shadow, and perfectly coiffed hair telling this goth girl that she needed to ease back on her black eyeliner and dark lipstick (the only makeup she was wearing) because it was ungodly, and wouldn’t God want her to look sweet?

I have another memory of watching church women discuss Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup with disdain.  I was very little, and I remember thinking that she looked a bit like a princess and I didn’t understand why people were mean to her.

Sometimes I’m really not into the makeup thing.  I like it, but I’m not someone who needs it to leave the house. Sometimes I’m super girly and go on Youtube and figure out what I want to try and Full Face Makeup.  I have thrown out every cosmetic I own, and I have spent $50 at MAC without batting a well mascara-ed eyelash.  Usually, I feel very passionately on the subject of grooming and makeup.. namely I feel you should do what you want on that front.

RuPaul Charles said that “We’re born naked and the rest is drag”, and that’s pretty true.

Recently I visited this young, hip church in the area, and was reminded at how church culture has a Look, and how much you stick out if you don’t adhere to that Look.  I don’t know that the Look itself is bad, but I don’t know that it’s super genuine either. Maybe I’m too judgy about a Look that I don’t fit into.

This is all roiling around in my head because Self Care is such an important practice, and for me sometimes that means not spending any time on hair and makeup and focusing outside myself, and sometimes that means makeup and taking some time to take stock of myself and express myself creatively.

Makeup to me is like painting.  It’s not about anything other than creativity.  However, I have an awareness that it has an association with vanity, pride and selfishness. Is the medium really the message in this case, or is it possible to have a relationship with Appearance that is not too severe on either side?

Then, there’s an ethical component.  Are we using things to make us beautiful or even express ourselves that are slowly killing us, or our planet?  Trying to find even a basic cleanser without microbeads or a plastic base in it is becoming nearly impossible, unless you shell out for organic good quality products… and then one has to ask if that money is well spent?

Is paint a waste of money?  If not, is paint for your face a waste of money?

There is a lot to be said for humility and meekness, but are we using that to stifle?  There’s a lot to be said for the fact that “man looks at the outward appearance”, but are we using that to justify?

Am I going to come to a conclusion about balance once again?

Or am I going to decide that it doesn’t matter as long as I do what seems right before God for me?

Perhaps I just put a little more mascara on, and remember Tammy Faye, who was beautiful and didn’t need all the makeup… but more importantly was kind and creative and loving.

Lists Save My Life

When I say OCD, I get the impression that people think that this is extreme finicky-ness or perfectionism that I have as a personality trait.  But that’s not the case, as people much better at writing than me have pointed out.  I’m fortunate to have a pretty mild obsessive compulsive disorder, or maybe it’s just better handled because my parents were so aware of my genetic predisposition for it.  But the obsessive compulsive thoughts are always my hardest battle.

This morning was a bad one. Depression or stress or anxiety always ups the compulsive loops in my brain.  Sitting at my desk at work with a lot of uncertainty about my future and a lot of just generalized despair and I felt the thoughts go through, like some evil version of Buddhist prayer wheels, poisoning the air in my mind.

I learned a while back that if I made lists, it would fight it.  I figured this out because prayer solves a lot of things in my life, but because of the nature of these thoughts it is so difficult to practice, it become a religiously tinged negative loop.  Making lists works though.  It works as a form of prayer, as a meditative practice… something weirdly obsessive enough to disrupt whatever is going on in my brain.

These lists go from the mundane to the spiritual.  They can be lists of ways I can fix a situation, or things I’m grateful for,  of the LORD’s promises through scripture, they can be a shopping list.  I don’t know why it short circuits the compulsive thinking, but it does, and it offers me relief.

The tricky bit is to remember to do it.  When you are locked in what Allie Brosh calls a “Sneaky Hate Spiral”, thinking about anything outside of that spiral is hard, even without an OCD component.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s time to go back to therapy, and possibly get medicated.  Maybe I shouldn’t make mental health decisions when I’m on my period and my husband has had a bad week.

But until then, I’m going to make lists, and remember to breathe,

A.C.

Froggy Fog and Evening Fug

You know what? The leaves have started to turn.

When I was a little girl, I remember my daddy trying to put me down for a nap. I think this was probably not an easy chore because even as a small child I suffered from Fear Of Missing Something.  Anyway, he was telling me that someday we’d live in a place with trees and rivers and something I though was “frog”.

Which was confusing, because even though we lived in the desert in Arizona, there were frogs.  Tons of frogs, after a thunderstorm.

I knew that some words looked or sounded the same but had different meanings, and I don’t remember why I didn’t ask about it.  Maybe his soothing storytelling voice was working its magic and making me sleepy.

What my father had said was actually “fog”.

Today is foggy, the leaves are tinged with orange, and as I finish my lunch break at work, I’m having some FOMS.  There’s all sorts of things that I’d like to do, that I will be too tired to do when I get off work.

I have started to suspect that the reason I’m so tired after work is because almost the first words I utter upon getting home is “Wow, what a long day… I’m tired!”  After that proclamation, everything I have to do seems to be in the way of my prime directive: being in jammies and reading.

The first glimpse I had of this being the underlying cause instead of actual fatigue was last week, when I got off work and the first thing I said was “I’m so excited about making lamb!”  See, Trader Joe’s had lamb on sale, and even though it was a little fancier than my budget usually allows, I had scored the rest of my list for fairly cheap.  So I’d bought lamb and then perused Pinterest for the perfect recipe to try.  I found this one, and knew exactly how I wanted to change the recipe.  I was so so so excited.  The meal turned out lovely, and I was so happy afterwards, I had a burst of energy and got some chores done, while singing.  Then I put together a little something fun for a friend.  Then, finally it was time for jammies!  I say finally, because usually getting out of work clothes (read: regular clothes, my job ain’t fancy) and bopping around in my jammies all evening.

Since then I’ve had up days and down days, but a pattern has emerged… how I declare myself at the end of the workday helps.  Not hashing through every single annoying thing in my day helps.  Singing helps.  The Evening Fug can be translated to Delight, with less work than I thought.

I sound a little annoying with the whole declaration of positivity thing, even to myself, but I can’t deny that it works.

Almost Autumn For Reallies,

AC

Sand Dollars

I spent my anniversary at Heceda Beach on the Oregon Coast.  It was a lovely wind whipped day that made me feel brand new.  I had such a lovely time walking silently on the beach looking for sand dollars with my love.  The ocean did all the talking, as it tends to do.

The first time we went to the coast together, Ian found me a tiny sand dollar.  I just wanted to find one to echo that moment… instead a rubber tide came in and we found ten of them,  surrounded by hundreds of little tiny jellyfish.

I had been feeling gutted lately.  Stressed and spiritually drained and physically tapped out.  But being at the edge of the ocean is like touching eternity a little bit, and somehow it just smoothed my rumpled soul and said “everything can be okay”.

I think about Anne of Green Gables talking about “feeling a prayer”, and that’s what it was like.  I don’t think I prayed much, although I had songs going through my head.  Glenn Kaiser, and Hymns.  My life has been Trout Heart Replica lately.  But now It is Well.

I needed to get out of the city, away from everyone and every thing, and to spend time with the person who knows and loves me most on earth.  I’m so grateful for my husbear, he sees me and loves me anyway.

 

Sleepwalking My Life

I have always felt like I lived in a World of No.  That I was not allowed, that whatever I wanted to do was somehow dangerous, wrong and irresponsible.  That if I got the chance, it would be taken from me.  That if someone was to get in trouble for something, it would be me, every time.

This has gotten a bit better as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been trying to give myself permission… I think my friend Chey telling me I had permission was super helpful and a big step in everything.  But still when I think of things I want to do I think “I’m not allowed”.  Nothing ever controverts that thought, in fact it is reinforced constantly.

When I got engaged I thought “I finally have permission!  I can have children, and write children’s books, and grow a garden and make art!”  but that turned out not to really be the case.  I had to pay bills, and put off having kids for my career (such as it was) and go to school so I can make more money to pay even more bills.  This is life, and it is what it is, I understand it.

This comes up because as I’ve been going to school I’ve hit this wall of exhaustion.  It’s been building for a while, I’ve felt the low level depression, like a low grade fever that you just work through because life has to continue. I was going to be a nurse, but I just can’t see taking a job (even one that I would love and be good at) that would swallow my life and not leave me time for anything else.  There are other things I can do with the schooling I have so far.  I have options.  I am (as everyone is so fond of telling me) young and smart and resourceful and hard working.

But I wonder if I’m really any of those things, or if I’ve just had to come up with it.

I want to cry a lot more than I let myself.  I want to say “No fair!”.

When people ask me what my dreams are I just respond with “I want to have a job to pay for the life I want”, but it’s not the truth.  In my head I have a whole big wide world of dreams, but I can’t even say most of them, because I feel like I’m Not Allowed.

My favorite time of day is after I’ve done my bedtime reading but before I go to sleep.  I get to imagine what I’d like to do, what I’d like to be doing, things I’d like to try, places I’d like to go,  stories I”d like to write down, compose songs… I can lie there for hours and work in my head on my other life.  I would love to actually DO any of those things, were I Allowed, but I’m not.  Also, the time I have to myself (namely whatever time I steal from sleep in the middle of the night) isn’t the best time to get things done.  It’s wasted time, but it affords me some sort of pleasure anyway.

I read my old journals and diaries and find that for the most part, I used to do quite a bit of the things that turned me on.  I suppose that is more than other people really do.

Just every once in a while I dream that something happens to me, that lets me slip quietly away from everything, that release me from all the people I love, all the responsibility and all the trappings of a life I’m uninterested in, and go do the rest of the things I dream about.  It’s a terrible, selfish dream, but if I don’t occasionally think about it during the day, I’ll dream it like five nights in a row.  I’ll dream that there was a fire while I was at work alone, and I just walk away and everyone thinks I’ve died but I just go walking until I get to the ocean.  It’s insane, it’s unlike me, really.

My friend Kezia reminds me that it’s okay to sometimes say things that aren’t positive, that I’m Allowed to have feelings even if they aren’t joyful and good.  I think if she hadn’t said that I would never write any of this.

If I try and think where this feeling of I’m Not Allowed comes from, I think it’s because my parents were really great at the “you could do or be anything”  line of parenting.  Which is great, and not many children have it.  But there was this other super controlled line of parenting too.  If I tried something, and it wasn’t perfect, it got read to filth.  So I started to think “I can do anything as long as it’s perfect and it doesn’t look like a kid did it and I had it all figured out to begin with”.  I know this was not their intention.  They wanted to give me me a sense of excellence, and a sense of I Can Do It.  But I think no one really realized how sensitive I was, or how much I analyzed things.  How I didn’t do things because if I couldn’t do it exactly right while people were there, I didn’t want to do it.  It’s taken me most of my adulthood so far to dismantle that.  Usually I have to actually say out loud “I’m a grownup, I’m Allowed”.

In reality, though, I’m not Allowed.  I am too far into school to just stop.  I don’t have the kind of life/support system to just work from home in a cottage business, write books, and have babies.  So.  We carry on.  But once in a while, in my tiny voice, I get to say out loud that even though I’m blessed and privileged and have a good life,  that I am sad that it’s not the one I was trying to build.

A walk in the rain…

I just like it when it rains.  It feels like Eugene is more itself, and I feel more like myself.

Rain in the desert smells different, it smells wilder, it is wilder.  Lightning forks and thunder rolls off the mountains for minutes on end.

Here in the rain forest, the rain has settled in and has slippers here.  Its toothbrush is in the cabinet.

There are two things in nature that I have obsessed about since I was very small.  One is the moon.  The other is rain.  In my head I am every age I ever was when encountering those two things.

I have been studying so very hard, and working and full of duties, and outside is wonderful for me, even if I’m walking in what is considered inclement weather.  The other night I stayed late at the college to go to a study session, and when I left the building, night had fallen.  The moon was out and the air had that wonderful night coolness and promise that there were Things Happening somewhere, and that those Things could be Anything.  It was this delicious and freeing sensation and it shocked me how strong it was, how cubed in I have been.

I have looked at the moon through the branches of trees all over the country.  I remember some of them specifically… Washington DC,  the middle of the woods in Michigan,  palm trees in Miami.

School must be done, work must be worked, but this weekend I need to get outside and pay attention.

Goodness isn’t a paint by number.

There are days when it is in the forethought of my mind that I have left the Evangelical pattern of religion for good reason.  Usually I don’t think on it much, because I wasn’t super happy to leave it.  I desperately wanted it to work. I think as much as I wanted a fresher version of it, I never intended to leave it, until I made the decision to be intentional about leaving it behind about 8 years ago.

The reason I’m thinking about that this morning, is reading a friend’s blog post about struggling with not feeling good enough.  I recall that feeling well.  I constantly felt like a complete failure, that I could never do enough, and my shame was consuming. Altar calls did not seem to alleviate this feeling, this knowledge that I wasn’t not perfected in my faith.  I feel for her keenly as she struggles with it and puts out her intentions to recognize that she cannot be and needs grace.  I know that feel, to quote the current vernacular.

I don’t feel like that for the most part anymore.  Not because I’m amazing, but because of an intentional shift in my thinking about how loved and valued I am by my Creator. Raised by Believers, taught by the church, I did not really believe that God loved me until I was in my 20’s, when some people who care about me sent me on a Emmaus walk.  (Trust me, the irony of a program being what got across the love of God is not lost on me, but rather illuminates what can happen when the heart of a program is for love.)  I’m grateful for the good I learned in evangelical circles, but there is so much “un-programming” I feel like I had to do.  That I was brainwashed to feel like a dirty awful sinner all the time, and had to remember that I am a person and I’m flawed and messy but also beautiful and strong.  I still recognize that I make choices that separate me from my Creator (which is really what sin is),  and repent of them when I become aware of it.  But there is something about living your life in joy and celebration that lends itself to good choices, that viewing the world as a bunch of “no” doesn’t provide.

One of the things that I love about the church my husband and I sometimes attend, is that they seem okay with our sometimes.  If we want to be more involved, they’re happy to let us be.  If we don’t show up for a month, when we get back it’s like we never left.  Part of how we chose our church is that if we looked around, they were a church in the community that people said good things about… how loving and kind and helpful and involved they were.  We never saw them telling people they were bad, just serving.  And not “we will serve you if you listen to our pre-rehearsed commercial about why God is Awesome”  but rather “here, let me serve you.”  It makes me happy to serve… there’s no anxiety or worry about “Did I save enough people today?”  because there is an understanding that only Yeshua saves,  I’m just his disciple.  I’m off the hook for the redemption, I just have to be an example of the redemption, and somehow that’s beautiful.

Sometimes I think I miss the community, but what I actually miss was a sense of belonging.  I can’t really say that the community was really great in evangelicalism, everyone was trying to be a certain thing and if they weren’t trying to hide it or repent of it or kill it off… even if their different thing wasn’t a sin but just a different-ness.  This, understandably, was Very Hard for me, because I can’t play normal for very long without literally losing my mind.   But I wanted to belong, and it was basically like highschool (only I refused to play in highschool but embraced the game in “church”) :  do the popular thing, don’t let people know that you are weird, if you have to be weird just repackage it to look like a new version of the status quo, don’t dress in a way that makes people have to think (we wear pink on Wednesdays),  and make sure that your song lyrics stay pretty much the same no matter what.  And there’s this headiness from belonging that will take you through it like a high, but somewhere, in a thinking persons head, you have to be thinking “Is this all there is?”  It’s so boring.  You don’t know anyone who isn’t like you, unless you have tried in an artificial way to meet them so you can “witness”.  You don’t live life, you live the “Church” 2-4 days a week, every week… goodness forbid that you have time for a life outside, why, you might get Ideas. Evangelicalism was always feeling “Good” while knowing that inside you were rotten to the core and should strive to be better.  I don’t miss it.

If I sound like I’m being harsh and judgy, it’s because I am.  I am still angry to see this one weird interpretation of scripture being all that people see when they look at churches.  I’m still angry that my friends put themselves through this kind of sadomasochistic wringer every week.  I’m still upset that grace was hidden from me and I was complicit in it. And, I admit, I’m angry it didn’t work.  It would be so easy to follow the rules and stand on platitudes and know that you will be saved by it,… it’s so much harder to walk up a narrow steep path looking at all the beautiful treacherous things and work out how you’re gonna make it to the summit with fear and wonder.

Hoping to soften my anger with compassion.

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