Friday, March 25, 2011

Be Gentle

I live by semesters. This means that the things I think I see and the things I write in October, November, March and April are tinged with melancholy and fatigue. In those months life’s grey area feels less like the misty rain romance of Seattle and more like the long, slow drive across the state last year when I leaned against the steering wheel for miles, squinting into a fog that pressed against the road.

So I question what I am doing. I question whether it matters. And since the answers to big questions are hard to come by, I eventually turn my dissatisfied gaze to the minutia. Suddenly I need a haircut. And the expensive wrinkle cream they sell at the Mall. And impractical shoes I really don’t want to wear. And a pink dress.

This week I sat waiting for the aforementioned haircut in a cozy salon with taupe walls and magazines that offered GreatAbsInTwoEasyMoves. I had paint under my nails from the second coat I had applied in the mudroom before work. I had run from the shower to class to the appointment, so all the make-up I had planned to put on before I sat and faced a wet-haired version of myself for 45 minutes got left on the counter. I sat in the chair, draped in a black cloth that accentuated the harshness of a tired face and tried to make small talk. Mostly I said disparaging things about myself and the gracious woman cutting my hair tried to ignore the awkward mood I brought in with my backpack and man shoes. At one point I said something about the expansive real estate of my forehead. I had wanted bangs, but she had kindly suggested that bangs require work and she had correctly sized me up as the diggin’-in-the-dirt-for-worms kind of girl. I left without bangs. I also left with a stomach ache.

In OctoberNovemberMarchApril, it feels difficult to be myself. Because in OctoberNovemberMarchApril I start looking around, or even worse, turn the burning focus of the magnifying glass on the parts of me of which I am least fond. This helps no one.

And I think of a friend who has been finding solace on her rugged road in silent retreat at a nearby convent. Once, as she was leaving, one of the nuns leans close, held my friend’s face in both her hands and spoke the truth of God to her. “Be gentle with yourself,” she said.

So I sit down to write and think, far from the mirror. Because I want to be a person who looks out, looks up. I want to be someone who spends her sorrows on the hearts of others, because those are the tears that bring a beautiful harvest. The other ones – the OctoberNovemberMarchApril tears – only dehydrate the soul.

“They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” Psalm 126:6 NAS

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