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On forgiveness

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

It’s amazing how quickly I, an alleged full-grown woman, can revert back to feeling like I did with other girls in elementary school: insecure, timid, and small.  Recently, a moment leapt out of nowhere and grabbed me by the throat, reducing me to those irrepressible tears that leave me shaky and sick to my stomach – because my feelings got hurt.

I am naturally a sensitive person, but I’m also fairly rational.  I don’t get my feelings hurt all that often – mainly because I am largely surrounded by pretty tremendous humans who rarely do or say mean-spirited things.

But when it does happen, it makes me feel so sad, and shocked, and ultimately, rejected.

How could I NOT cry?

But here is the difference between 9-year old Annie and today’s Annie: to forgive is to not let those feelings take root – even when they are justified.  To forgive is to deflect any feelings of insecurity catalyzed by those initial words.  To forgive is to let go of what is right, reasonable, and defensible – in favor of something entirely unsensible.

It’s hard work, forgiveness… but then again, isn’t it our very best option?  Isn’t it the easiest, most freeing thing we could possibly do – to simply let it go?

No one ever loses if no one is keeping score.

Right now

Monday, May 18th, 2009

On Friday night, I attended a memorial service of a dear friend in Seattle.  While there in the church pew, celebrating the life of and grieving the loss of this amazing woman, another friend took my hand and placed it on her pregnant belly to feel the baby kick.

One friend is giddy about a new love interest in her world.  Another is dreading the inevitable breakup she will soon have to initiate.

And after a gorgeous spring day – the kind that confirms that Seattle is the most beautiful city on the planet, and nudges my spirit saying, “Remember what it’s like to smile?” and in which I got sunburned cheeks from being outside at Green Lake and along the waterfront of Shilshole – I spent the evening with, and felt the incomprehensible sadness of, my sweet friend who is living in the ruins of having lost a child.

Death and life, the end and the beginning, profound joy and severe pain; contrasting events juxtaposed in the most poignant way.  It made me feel so small.

And I was re-reminded: the only way to find life is to live in the present.  To be emotionally gutsy enough to feel whatever we need to feel, come what may.  To attempt to live in gratitude, no matter the disappointments or frustrations or non-ideal circumstances.  To find the gift in the “right now” – because life, ready or not, is going to hold a vast spectrum of events, emotions, stages, chapters, seasons.

We have to be present.  We have to.  Because in this life, longing is inescapable – but to be available right now is to be open to hope right now.


Monday, May 11th, 2009

Recording a song can be like architecture – you lay a foundation, and then build layers on top of it, one by one.

Yesterday, Josh and I made a scratch track, or a “shepherd,” as I like to call it – a single guitar track that will serve as the guide for the rest of the instruments of a particular song.  Everything else will be built around this track.  It’s an important first step.

But on its own, it’s a little bit sad-sounding.  When I have a certain final product in mind, full and dynamic, the small effort of a single guitar can make me doubt my efforts.  How could this lone track possibly be of any value?  It’s simple.  It’s rough.  It’s not even close to what I envisioned.

And yet, little by little, one piece at a time, we are able to add to that little shepherd track.  And with every layer, we get one step closer to the goal I had in mind.  Before I know it, I am listening to a full-bodied song – one that sounds like what I had hoped for all along.

While listening to that scratch track yesterday, I had the distinct thought, “Remember this.”  When you are aiming at the target but have no idea how you’re going to hit it.  When you have the destination but no roadmap.  When you have the dream but no way of knowing how to reach it.  When all you have is the first step.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The in-between stage

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

You don’t even have to say it.  I already know.

You are desperate for an update on the growth of my hair.

Ever since I cut off my hair over a year ago, I have been longing for it to grow out.  I have patiently not so patiently endured the days, the weeks, the months of the “in-between stage,” feeling dowdy and frumpy.  I have kept you up to date with the growth progress – all I can say is, lucky you.  It is now long enough to put in a ponytail without bobby pins, to French braid, to even do a fancy side knot thing when the occasion calls for it.

But I have a haircut appointment today during my lunch hour.  And – so help me – I am THIS CLOSE to chopping it again.  People, I do not have the PATIENCE for the in-between stage.  I remember back to this stage, and think, “That was cute!” even though we all know that at that point, I sure didn’t feel like it was cute.

But right now, my hair is an unruly mane of mediocrity.  It’s kudzu-gone-crazy.

I’m stuck.  I know that if I cut it off again, I’ll be starting back at the top of the downward helix of discontent.  If I just get a trim, and let it keep growing, I’ll continue being drab for a few months – but then again, maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll have flowing locks like Liv Tyler.

What should I do?

You have until noon, central time, to weigh in on the matter.  But then, it’s the moment of truth.

Michael J. Fox

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

For the past couple of days, I’ve been starving for dinner by 3:45. Since my little temp job is from 7:30am-3pm, it’s very convenient – I can heat up some leftover curry that I cooked in the crock pot over the weekend, put on my sweats, get in bed, and watch “Oprah.”

I can’t believe I just admitted that.

Here, I’ll go a step further: yesterday, I also had a glass of boxed pinot grigio.  At 4pm.  In my bed.  With my curry, and “Oprah.”

But y’all.  Did you WATCH “Oprah” yesterday?  How much do we love Michael J. Fox?  A hundred million times.  I’m going to name my first-born after him.  Yes: JFox Parsons.

This man’s attitude and outlook on life is inspiring.  Parkinson’s is causing his body to turn on him, and he has lost control of so many basic physical abilities.  He talked about people staring, and the inability to keep his limbs still.  But he is continually thankful, continually hopeful, and continually positive.  He sees this disease as a gift – the thing that has caused him to appreciate his life, his family, his wife, and everything that he does have.

I have a lot to learn from him.

His quote of the show: “Happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance, and reverse proportion to your expectations.”


Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Yesterday, I threw away my scale.

Just like that. Trashed. Into the dumpster.

I am a compulsive weight-checker, always keeping tabs on my poundage, and consequently tempted to feel either good or bad, happy or sad, proud or ashamed, jubilant or angry. It’s amazing how a great day can be ruined by a number – a NUMBER – like an ever-shifting scorecard for whatever level of healthful diligence I have demonstrated.

In the last few months, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated at the number on the scale RISING – despite my ability to run further than I could ever run before, despite my capacity to carry on a conversation throughout a 60 minute jog, despite my clothes fitting the same, despite my energy and improved attitude. In the face of all of these accomplishments, the scale says that I weigh 10 lbs. more than I did before I started running last fall.

And for a girl who has been a dieter since age 11, this is traumatizing news.

Miranda has been telling me for years to just throw the damn thing out. She would get outwardly angry when she would see it in the corner of my bathroom, and, knowing the emotional stranglehold the scale has on me, would order me to get rid of it. But for me, to get rid of the scale would be to give up control – and then, maybe, to expand, expand, expand like bread dough.

At first, I thought that I would just take the scale and stash it beneath my bathroom sink – out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. For me, keeping my scale would be like staying friends with an ex-boyfriend on Facebook – an unhelpful temptation “just to check.” Sorry boys.

And sorry scale.

It’s time for a new chapter in my life – one in which I have no idea what I weigh.

Who knew that tossing out my scale would be one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done?

Claiming my heritage

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Today, I’m wearing all black. My high heels are caked with mud from my front yard. I feel significantly un-cute. I’m in a bad place financially – but this is no one’s fault but mine. I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I’ve made some really terrible decisions. I’ve slacked on my running schedule this week, and over-achieved at consuming calories. I forgot to take an allergy pill this morning. My to-do list feels overwhelming, and my brain feels like a wimpy, deflated balloon.

I am in jeopardy.

I am so tired.

And when I get tired, my mind starts playing tricks on me. It starts trying to convince me that I am a total loser, and that everything is falling apart. And everything just MIGHT be falling apart – but I am not a loser. Even when I act like one. I’m not.

I’m a child of the King. So I refuse to act like an orphan.

Something small

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

At church on Sunday night, the pastor mentioned that in all of his interactions with people of my generation, the overwhelming majority of us feel apathetic and bored. I know that I do – at least, very often I do. We’re all wrestling with the questions, “What is my purpose?” “What am I good at?” “What is going to fulfill me?” “What am I doing with my life?”

I have no idea. It freaks me out. And I have to admit – when I was 13, I wasn’t exactly envisioning a future of being several years out of college, single, uninsured, totally broke, and working a dead-end temp job. I must make my parents so proud…

On Monday, I had lunch with some girlfriends. One is a gifted freelance writer – on her own schedule, working on a book that is going to be incredible. One works with the baseball team of a local university – the lone girl surrounded by cute boys all day long. One is legitimately famous – all over CMT – gorgeous and glamorous and currently nominated for, you know, a GRAMMY.

And after lunch, I went back to my silent, hourly-wage temp job – the one that is rapidly sucking my mind dry, like that tube at the dentist that catches all of your extra spit.

It’s hard to not play the comparison game. It’s hard to not look around and consequently feel lame. It’s hard to not give into the voices that say that my life is purposeless. It’s hard to fight the urge to allow my circumstances to define me. It’s hard to not feel apathetic and bored.

But I don’t want to be too big to do something small.

I have a choice – to focus on all of the bad things, or on all of the good things. Today, I choose to be grateful for a job that pays my bills. For a quiet room to sit and write in. For no one hanging over my shoulder. For the opportunity to be in touch every day with the people that I love. For the gift of no job-related stress. For a bottomless bowl of office candy.

And… for the abundance of good things that I have going on OUTSIDE of work.

I have no guarantee that I’ll ever have a job that is fulfilling – but maybe my job isn’t SUPPOSED to fulfill me. In the meantime, there is something to be said for patience.

Pushing and pulling

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

This morning here at work, there are four repairmen walking in and out of the lobby – in and out, in and out – carrying ladders, tool kits, wire, and generally, looking confused. I have no idea what they’re doing – but they keep climbing ladders and removing the ceiling tiles and disappearing from the waist up into the space above, yelling back down to their comrades on the ground. They were here yesterday, too.

The glass doors in the lobby swing one way. Since they have probably used these doors 80 times in the last hour, one would think that they would know which side to push on, and which side to pull. But they don’t. Every single time that they walk up to the door, they do the wrong thing: push when they should pull, or pull when they should push. And a few minutes ago, one of the men ran straight into the door.

Who could blame him? Glass doors: now you don’t see them, now you don’t.

I feel agitated. These men have invaded my domain, my private sanctuary, and are disrupting my peace and quiet (and, let’s be honest: nail painting) with their… clanking. Hammering. Shuffling. And whenever they pull when they should push, or push when they should pull, I fight the urge to roll my eyes and yell, “IT’S NOT THAT HARD.”

Why do we make the same mistakes over and over again? We know better. We’ve been there before. We’ve experienced the consequences. And yet, we still mess up. We struggle with the same thing we struggled with yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. We fail to choose the right path – we forget the fallout.

Sometimes, I start to think that my struggles are hopeless – that I will never rise above, that things will never change. I push when I should pull, and pull when I should push. I know the right answer – I know the TRUTH – but I allow myself to be distracted just enough to trip. To throw my weight in the wrong direction. To run smack into the wall.

To change our behavior and our way of thinking, it takes awareness. Vigilance. Dedication. Attention.

There are many areas of my life that I could apply this to. But this morning, I am coming back to the same issue that I have struggled with year-in and year-out: the relentless issue of “beauty.” I believe lies. I buy into the world. I trust the media, and the voices in my head. And since such a large percentage of the female population feels the same way, there is no escaping it. Will it ever change?

Yesterday, my beautiful friend Emily posed the questions:

Am I willing to be the odd-woman-out and love the shell that God has given me to inhabit while on this earth? Am I willing to talk nicely to myself, in private and in public? Am I willing to ruthlessly edit the messages that I receive through media – cancel magazine subscriptions and delete shows from my DVR, if that is what it takes? Am I willing to let others compliment me and receive those kind words as truth? Am I willing to train my thoughts to dwell on the positive and stop comparing, stop chastising, stop chasing?

THIS is what it looks like. This is awareness. Vigilance. Dedication. Attention. And I want to be willing.

Push and pull, push and pull. Maybe one day I’ll get it right.

The beauty and the mess

Friday, October 17th, 2008

In general, I am not a forgetful person. I remember important dates, items on my grocery list, and words both tender and toxic. It’s a rare occurrence for me to miss an appointment due to negligence. I can hear a song one time, and be able to sing back the chorus word-for-word. I don’t need a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. No, when it comes to the important things, I do not easily forget.

Which makes it very odd that I left my keys IN MY FRONT DOORKNOB overnight. I slept soundly, thinking that I was safely locked inside my apartment, when I truly could have been murdered, had my house ransacked, and my car stolen. I suppose they would have been justified, though, because have you seen my hot ride?

Nightmarish scenarios aside, there’s another realm in which I can be forgetful. When it comes to the past, I tend to be a revisionist. I look back at certain times in my life with great nostalgia, under the illusion that everything was perfect when it wasn’t. I forget the hard times – I forget the reality. I convince myself that my life in Seattle was flawless, when in all actuality, I know that I struggled with the same things that I struggle with now: insecurity, loneliness, lack of purpose, lack of discipline. Instead, I remember the friendships. I remember feeling needed. I remember feeling seen. I remember the cozy weather. I remember medical insurance. I remember the water and the mountains and the drive-up coffee stands. And as shallow as it is, I remember my hair being long.

Ah, yes, times were good.

It’s easy to forget the bad, in the same way that it’s easy to forget that your ex-boyfriend wore sweatpants with elastic around the ankles.

I want to remember my past for what it was – being both grateful for the gifts, and mindful of the pain. But more than that, I want to accept the present – with everything that it brings, good and bad, ugly and awesome. I want to be here now. I want to live.

Which will probably require never forgetting my keys in the door again.