Transformation

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Fostering beauty

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I’ve decided to start painting my fingernails. This may sound inconsequential, but it feels significant: it’s a tiny symbol of an effort toward beauty.

I’ve lived in Denver for three years, and while by no means have I “let myself go,” my circumstances during this time have not exactly required me to bring a fashionable A-game. I worked from home for a long time, which allowed for days upon days in my pajamas. When I would venture out of the house, 9 times out of 10 it was to go running – so why would I ever bother with hair and makeup?

Just over a year ago, I started working from an office again – and while it’s required me to actually, oh you know, GET DRESSED every day, I happen to work with all women. There is no pressure to look awesome – so I don’t. T-shirts and jeans every day, whatever’s comfortable, hair in a ponytail. Done.

It’s interesting what the world’s focus on physical appearance has done to me. For a long time, it was a standard I was trying to meet. Then, when I realized that perfection was unattainable, the pendulum swung the other way: I just shouldn’t care at all. Who am I trying to impress, anyway?

But I’m realizing how deeply my lack of personal effort has been sinking into my psyche. Go for months without feeling put together, and one is bound to start falling apart.

The past 6 months of my life have been marked by some significant decisions toward health. I see a counselor on a regular basis. I paid off all of my debt. I am making changes in my calendar and my habits and my thought patterns. These developments feel beautiful.

I just want my outside to match my inside.

I keep thinking of the phrase “fostering beauty.” To foster does not mean to strive, to strain, to struggle, or to contrive. To foster means to cherish, to cultivate, to nurture and uphold. It suggests that the thing one is fostering already exists; it does not need to be fabricated or manipulated. It just needs to be cherished. Cultivated. Nurtured. Upheld.

So today, my hair is curled, and I’m wearing a new shirt. My fingernails are a dark, dusty pink – the color of Ibuprofen, an accidental homage to the trusty pain killer.

And I’m telling you, just like Ibuprofen, it’s making things better.

Beauty for ashes

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Well, well.  Happy new year, all.  And just in time – I’ve never needed a new year so badly.  I was so ready to drop-kick 2011 Beckham-style out the door and usher in 2012, fresh, hopeful, and, as of yet, untainted.  Hallelujah and amen.

You may be wondering what life has looked like since I last blogged 9 days ago.  Or maybe you’re not (likely).  Regardless, YOU ARE GOING TO KNOW.

I wrapped up my job at Emma.
I flew from Nashville to Kansas City.
I snuggled my nephews.
I read four books in seven days:
– “One Day
– “Room” (the best book I read all year)
– “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
– “Incendiary
I ate so much cheese.
I slept full nights.
I played Dance Central on the X-Box.
We made it through the first “divorced Christmas.”
Things were awkward and sometimes painful.
But we did it.
And I love my family for it.
I drove from Kansas City back to Denver with Becca.
And Greebs and Toad.
Every day I declare war against dog hair.
I bought and assembled one of these.
Zion’s adoption was made official.
He is irrevocably a Parsons.
He is the best thing that happened in 2011.
I spent multiple days cleaning and organizing our home.
Four different sets of friends got engaged (including Greta, OMG!).
I got a new phone number.
And I start my new job on Tuesday.

I rolled into the new year a burning train wreck, having spent a solid two hours of December 31st on my bed in uncontrollable tears before pulling myself up by my bootstraps, throwing my body into the shower, and willing myself to go to a few parties.  It’s been awhile since I’ve cried so hard – the honest, gasping kind of tears, the sort that leave your eyes stinging and your entire face swollen.  2011 was a kick in the gut, to say the least – and a good, long cry seemed the most appropriate way to mourn what went down, and bid the year adieu.  With a bold middle finger.

But as I stared at my puffy, snotty countenance in the mirror, wondering how I was ever going to recover enough to show my face at these parties, I remembered the part in the Bible about how those who grieve are given beauty for their ashes, and joy for their mourning, and peace for their despair.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one to go slinging around scripture insensitively – especially when it comes to the big, weighty things.  Life is too hard and people’s hearts too fragile to offer Bible verses as mere Band-Aids.

But I have to say – if it weren’t for this idea, that God takes the burning wreckage of our lives and gives us beauty instead, I would have no hope.  None.  The fact that he can take the hopeless cinder pile of my heart, and transform it into something not only worthwhile but beautiful… well, this is where I’m staking my hope.  And they say that where you place your hope, that’s where your joy will be found.

So, onward.  New year.  Same old me, but new hope.  Hopefully.

Why I love “The Biggest Loser”

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I mean, you guys.  Have you been watching?

I caught up last night, and had tears rolling down my face.

This is the greatest show.

I love that the contestant’s weight loss is something that they cannot fake – you watch their physical transformation over the period of 4 months, and no amount of special effects or movie magic could make someone who was once 400 lbs into someone who is 246 lbs.  They work so hard, day after day, doing exercises that would be tough enough for someone who is already in shape – it’s inspiring and heroic and challenging to me.

But even more than the weight loss, you get a glimpse of the heart change happening in these people.  You get the sense that their obesity is merely a symptom of what’s going on inside – and that the physical transformation begins to lead to heart transformation.  Where there once was self-hatred, there is healthy self-belief.  Where there once was victim mentality, there is empowerment.  Where there once was despair, there is now fervent, passionate hope.

The season finale is next Tuesday, and I will be watching.  Team Purple all the way, although if I had to choose, my vote is for Nashville girl Hannah Curlee.  What a sweet spirit – an underdog who has undergone such a complete emotional metamorphosis, not to mention the fact that she looks AMAZING.

Burned

Friday, May 13th, 2011

This past Saturday morning when I was out on a walk, I got the mother of all sunburns.  I was over a mile closer to the sun than many of you, AND I’m pigment-deficient – it’s only natural.

By Saturday afternoon, I was radiating so much heat, you could have fried an egg on my clavicle.  My mom pulled out her prescription-strength aloe – the kind they gave her during radiation (you know, when they try to kill your cancer by giving you skin cancer instead) – and I’ve been slathering myself up all week.  But even still: now, I am peeling like a Tennessee cicada.

I wish that life was that easy – when you got burned, you could just shed the damage.

But maybe that’s not the point.

Maybe we’re not supposed to just slip out of the old.   Maybe it’s time for transformation.  Maybe we should hope for a tan, instead.

Taking my chances

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Without first being angry, you cannot forgive.
Without first being unsure, you cannot trust.
Without first being afraid, you cannot be brave.

If you find yourself in any of these less-than-desirable places today, you are really just on the verge of a beautiful opportunity.

A chance to forgive.  A chance to trust.  A chance to be brave.

A chance to trade up for something better.

Because after all, what’s so great about bitterness and fear?

Let’s be more interesting than that.

Trying for triceps

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I have negative triceps. There’s, like, nothing there. If my arms were outerspace, there would be a black hole where my triceps are supposed to be.

Haha, PHYSICS JOKE!!! Science is sooooo funny.

I am 3 1/2 years older than my sister Becca, so when I was 15 and basically the same size I am now (massive), she was 11 and scrawny. She is still incredibly skinny – she turns sideways and disappears, just like Olive Oyl – and can wear clothes that the cool kids wear (skinny jeans, tiny dresses with leggings underneath, various Forever 21 garb), while I and my thighs are banished to more frumpy sensible attire.

I am not bitter. Then again, here is a picture of me as a child:

ap2

I have always had those thighs and a scowl.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that when I was a full-grown 15-year old and Becca was her scraggly 11-year old self, she could beat me in arm wresting.

I have never had any upper-body strength. But I want that to change, because what if one day, I find myself dangling off a canyon edge? A single pull-up could save my life. And if that’s the case, it’s time to take action.

Take action to get action. That’s always been my motto.

Several times each week, I see the King of the Weight Room at the gym. You know exactly who I’m talking about: Stallone in “Cliffhanger.” The man who is bursting out of his muscle shirt. The guy whose neck is just a direct path from his ear to his collarbone.

This man is to triceps as Hunter Lane is to quads.

In other words, I have found my new trainer.

He just doesn’t know it.

YET.

50:3

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

On Sunday, while talking to my mom, one of my major insecurities fell out of my mouth.  Without the slightest hesitation, it slipped off my tongue – and landed right there on the coffee table.

“Where did you learn that?” she asked.  “Why do you feel that way about yourself?”

And for the past 36 hours, I’ve been thinking about the “reasons why.”  For an all-around self-confident girl, I’ve spent a lifetime banking reinforcements for a few stupid insecurities.

A few days ago, I got word that John Medina, a dear friend, former employer, and bona fide GENE CLONER was going to be speaking in Denver last night – so of course, I went.  I’ve heard John speak in Seattle many times about his research on the brain – how it works and what we know – but no matter how many times you hear him, he’s always engaging, entertaining, and brilliant.  It was so good to see a familiar face.

Last night, he said that research shows that it takes 3 reinforcements for the brain to learn something, and 50 to unlearn it.

For a girl like me with a lot to unlearn, those are some really bad odds.

Once again, it’s time to combat with a Hiroshima of Truth.

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.

R is for Rest

Monday, November 24th, 2008

This weekend, I was overwhelmed with a wave of… I don’t know. Shame? Guilt? Regret? I was knocked off my feet a few days ago, and since then, it’s been a deluge of memories and hauntings and disappointments.

I don’t know why I was created the way that I was – wired to both express and share, even at the risk of rejection or judgment. A few people who are close to me have recently suggested that maybe I should be different. Maybe I shouldn’t share so much. Maybe I should present a different picture to those around me. Maybe I should keep a lid on the truth.

But I just don’t know how.

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with trying to make people like me, to be something good, to convince others that I’m someone worth knowing – whether it be through acting a certain way, or looking a certain way, or doing something noteworthy, or being associated with All Things Awesome. We all want to be liked, right? But ultimately, it comes back to the fact that I just am who I am. It didn’t change when I moved 2,500 miles away. And no amount of finagling or maneuvering or tweaking of the Annie Parsons Package is going to change who I am – who I was created to be.

The people that I like the most are at rest with who they are. Contented, humble spirits. Quiet, unassuming souls who love easily. I want to be one of those people.

So. Stomping down insecurity. Being exactly who I am, and trusting that “Annie” is the best thing I could possibly be. Humbling myself. Praying for the grace to stand in truth, acceptance, and hope. And knowing that my ability to love others will be a direct overflow of the love and care lavished on me by a God who is always faithful. He’s ready and waiting to transform my heart, heal the things that I’m afraid are beyond healing, and give me rest.

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.