Saturday mornings — especially following the week school resumes after a long break — find my brain in a battle. My logical left brain argues with my emotional right brain, and the conversation goes something like this:
L: I have to get out of bed.
R: I don’t want to.
L: I have things to do.
R: My bed is warm and cozy.
L: I have things to do.
R: It’s nice and quiet here. If I get up, they will talk to me and ask me questions and touch me. If I stay in bed, they will leave me alone.
L: I’m getting hungry.
R: I’m comfortable.
R: Five more minutes.
L: I have to pee.
R: You win.
I love my bed. I think, barring the threat of a UTI, I could stay there all day. Few things make me happier than soft sheets and fuzzy pajamas. I’m a comfort-and-texture girl.
But as much as I would love to snuggle under my blankets all day, Left Brain always wins. My to-do list doesn’t complete itself. My children cannot drive. Yet. So I have to get up.
Twenty-twelve was a great year. A stretching year. A challenging year. A rewarding year. God punted us down a road we’ve been walking on for a few years and did some jaw-dropping, show-offy things. He changed us — and change is good.
One of the highlights of my year (show-offy aside) was a trip to Chicago last fall with Michael, sans kids. The best part of this trip — other than a weekend away with my husband — was meeting my girlfriends there. And shopping. And eating. Without kids. Their husbands attended the same meeting. We all met more than ten years ago during our husbands’ residencies and fellowships in ophthalmology at The University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. We were contestants in a fun little three-to-five year game of “Survivor: Iowa.”
It was, I imagine, a little bit like Army Wives. Just a little bit. I’m not comparing medical training to active warfare and military duty…except that I am. There are similarities. We rarely saw our husbands during those years. We spent a lot of time raising kids and taking care of our homes alone. We were all dirt poor. We depended on each other a lot. And while it wasn’t the deserts of Afghanistan, GOOD GOD IT WAS COLD. So there’s that.
To this day, even though we are scattered all over the country, we share a bond that was created during an experience that no one else could possibly understand.
And I got to see them again for an entire weekend. Insert smiley face.
We met in Chicago, which is, you know, the coolest city ever. (I haven’t been to New York yet.) I live in the suburbs of Fort Worth, and if you saw me driving around town, I would most likely be wearing a sweatshirt, yoga pants, and a baseball cap. If I have to “dress up,” you would find me in my mommy uniform of jeans and a T-shirt, possibly paired with cute costume jewelry or a scarf so I’m not a total slob.
Obviously, that would not do on the Magnificent Mile.
Knowing my proclivity for comfort, Caroline and our friend, Shelley, decided to kidnap me before my trip and go shopping. Not just any shopping. The mall would be too easy. No, we went on a grand treasure hunt at an upscale consignment shop called Clothes Mentor, where you find designer-brand clothing at garage sale prices.
Here’s the thing about shopping with friends: you will very likely try on — and eventually purchase — items that you would never, ever consider had you been alone. Like, say, red shiny skinny pants. Or a long tube top dress to wear with tall boots and a blazer. Darling clothes, but so out of my norm. And friends (especially those who are not paying for said clothes) are all squealy and giggly and very enthusiastic as you emerge from the dressing room. Unless it really doesn’t work – then good friends will simply say, “Eh. Not my favorite.” And then they will return the not-so-cute clothes to the rack while you stuff yourself into a dress three sizes too small.
We closed down the place and walked out with a ginormous stack of clothes for less than $200. I probably could have sorted through my closet and found something cute and Chicago-y to wear. I could have saved this money — or given it to someone who needed it — but I didn’t. I bought fun, new-to-me outfits that will let me feel young and hip and trendy on Michigan Avenue.
Yesterday, I forgot a had an appointment for a massage. Michael had given me a gift card ON VALENTINE’S DAY for Massage Envy, and I had an appointment for the third of three one-hour massages. It only took me til August to get to the first one — and that was after Michael made the appointment for me. I was originally hesitant to go to this place because I heard they give a massage in a cubicle. But obviously that storefront philosophy doesn’t cut it in my surrounding land of luxury cars and boob jobs. This one is a nice place. And for a massage, the price is pretty reasonable.
So I went. And as I’m lying on the massage table with my eyes closed, listening to the music of pan flutes and reverberating keyboards, harps and nature sounds, I began to think about massage therapists. Masseuses, if you will. What happens if, say, she eats a bean burrito for lunch and has terrible gas during her afternoon appointments? Or, if she was simply ignorant to the gastronomic consequences of broccoli, Indian food, or dairy? What would she do? I mean, when you gotta let it rip, you just gotta let it rip. Is it worth losing your $20 tip?
Or what if, while preparing her eggs that morning, she accidentally touches the skillet and burns her hand? Or her arm? What would she do then? Her hands earn her living. How can she rub lotion and knead the knots in my shoulders if her skin is scalded?
Deep thoughts from the massage table.
Speaking of knots in the shoulders, I had a few. And the neck. I think she knew that because she dug in HARD. Not that I’m complaining. I carry all my stress between the bottom of my head and the middle of my back, and it needed some de-knotting. I just don’t want you to be under any illusions that a massage is relaxing. The pan flutes and harps are nice, but there is work to be done — and it hurts. Hurt is good. Hurt releases the bad stuff and makes room for the good stuff. As in life.
So I bought new clothes. And I paid for a massage (and tipped well since she passed on the bean burrito). I jetted off to Chicago for a weekend with friends. A few months later, we traded in our 2004 loser cruiser for a brand new Honda Pilot. I’m feeling a little spoiled and indulgent.
The training years were very lean for us. We ate a lot of Hamburger Helper and Create-A-Meal. A lot of (cheap) peanut butter. A lot of coupons. On the rare occasions when we went out to eat, we never ordered anything to drink other than water. And it was fine.
We are in a place now where we can indulge a little more. We can buy new things. We can go out to eat. We can take a weekend trip to Chicago (and write it off as a business expense). Financially, we are comfortable.
And therein lies the rub. Where is the line between comfortable and irresponsible? How can I rationalize buying red shiny pants, then serve lunch to precious folks who carry everything they own in a used duffle bag?
I met a man this week with no teeth. He works at the homeless ministry where Caroline and I have started serving, but before he worked there, he lived on the streets. For twenty years. He told us stories of being chased by the Klan, and how a bolt of lightning split a tree as he hid from them, and they ran off. He told us how he was beaten by gang members, and how the good folks from Beautiful Feet found him and took him in.
So many have so little, and yet I have so much. And I can’t figure out how to be okay with that. Maybe I’m not supposed to be okay. I live in a place where third graders have iPhones and ride to school in luxury cars that cost more than our first home. Yet I drive across town to a school where a little boy did not have breakfast or lunch, and a little girl tells me she got a “pass-a-port” so she could be reunited with her momma, who was deported back to Mexico — and my soul hurts.
Hurt is good. Hurt means I’m alive, exposed, uninsulated from the suffering of those outside my suburban bubble. Hurt means I face a decision of what to do with all God has entrusted to me. To whom much is given, much is required. Hurt forces me to question how to live wisely, to spend wisely, to give wisely — without callous indulgence.
Hurt creates cracks in my carefully constructed fortress, and through the cracks flow ribbons of light and water and air. Through the cracks, I am made new; I receive life, and the life continues to swirl around and around until it is ready to leave me and breathe life into another soul full of hurt and cracks.
We hold all things loosely. We give freely. We love extravagantly.
It’s a new day, new mercy, new beginnings. It’s a new year. Time to get up, get moving. Tackle the to-do list and the resolutions. Read more. Exercise more. Give more. Serve more. And put it all on my calendar.
Caroline and I have decided to dive head-first into Jen Hatmaker’s next book, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Correction: Caroline decided. I was hoping we could simply read it and not actually do it. But anytime Caroline says, “Hey, I have a great idea!” I buckle my seatbelt. And this book? Seriously safety restraint required. I hope you’ll grab a copy and read along with us. We’re planning to pick up the accompanying study guide, too — just because we don’t have enough conviction and discomfort in our lives already. Should be loads of fun. I’m predicting lots of new cracks, lots of fresh ribbons of air and light. Life and breath.
For now, I’ll start with crawling out of my warm, cozy bed and going potty. Maybe I’ll squeeze into my shiny red pants. Or not.
Happy new year, y’all.