internal struggle

"Today on the blog," she began to write, but then she erased it because it sounded too pretentious.

She looked at her cat, sleeping in a lump like a clean wash cloth tossed straight from the dryer onto the living room chair, and she smiled at how cute she was.

She thought, "Maybe I should eat some peanut butter," but then she looked at her calorie-counting app and saw she was already 16 calories over her daily goal and it was only 5:32pm.

She sighed and drank some water.

"Today on the blog," she began again, but then she erased it because it sounded like an episode of 20/20.

She looked at her copy of The Crucible lying on the ottoman and wondered if she'd like it as much now as she did when her 11th grade English class took turns reading different parts aloud. That was when one student pronounced "conjure" like "bonjour" and then everyone thought that was how it was supposed to be pronounced and continued pronouncing it that way through the entire book.

She sniffed a laugh and thought about how foolish her classmates were, but then she remembered how her 11th grade notebook had been slathered in pictures of Mel Gibson and Aragorn and she shifted on her couch to try to forget being 17.

"TODAY ON THE BLOG," she began louder, but then she erased it because who was she? Just another voice in the din.

Her cat stretched on the chair and she wished she was a big enough wash cloth to wrap her around her shoulders, using her little pink nose as a button to fasten at the front so she wouldn't slide off.

That could be poetic, she thought, and she tried to write it down, but then she thought, was it poetic? Or just taxidermy?

Sometimes she'd read things she wrote when she was 20 and wish she could be that person again. She'd read the words like a distant spectator and think of them as belonging to someone else, someone she wished she could know better but could never become. The same way you watch a famous person be interviewed on TV.

Maybe she could just tell them what she'd done this year, she thought. She started to make a list.

1. Went to Colorado
2. Went to Tennessee
3. Went to Florida
4. Went to Europe
5. Went to a Twenty One Pilots concert
6. Went to Northern Wisconsin
7. Went to therapy

She looked up at the clock on the wall above the TV. 6:16pm on a Monday night. Who was playing Monday Night Football? What should she wear tomorrow? Why does peanut butter have so many calories?

8. Got a new car
9. Got a ukulele
10. Got a tattoo
11. Got an eHarmony account
12. Got a better idea of what journey God might be asking her to take
13. Got the flu

Just another voice in the din, she thought.

14. Got rid of the eHarmony account
15. Almost got a gun to protect herself from the stalkers she accumulated from the eHarmony account
16. Did NOT get hepatitis from her tattoo like her coworker Pam thought she might
17. Did not get a gun
18. Got the Hallmark Channel

Well, she supposed, being another voice in the din meant she had a voice, at least. Suppose she used it and left it up to the din to decide whether or not it listened?

She went to the cupboard and grabbed the peanut butter.


Vive la Liberte

Five Things I Learned by Traveling to France

1. Funny things makes friends out of strangers. 
Three instances taught me this: 

Instance #1: When the Egyptian guy in the Chicago airport thought the TSA agent was being serious when he told us to empty our pockets of all things, including lint. He looked very concerned (what are you hiding in your lint, hmmmm?) and I had to tell him it was just a joke and we laughed and then chatted for so long in line that eventually he invited me to smoke hookah with him and his friends in Milwaukee sometime. I politely told him he was a strange man in an airport and no thank you, and he said foreigners are friendlier than Americans but he understood and gave me his phone number just in case. (I still have it.) 

Instance #2: When the Indian woman sitting next to me on the plane said not one word to me the entire 8.5 hours from Stockholm to Chicago, not one word, even though I know she noticed that I was discreetly watching her movies from my seat to see if they looked interesting enough for me to watch. (She kept glancing over at my screen every time I started a new movie, and I tried to stare straight ahead with an expression that said, "I came up with the idea to watch this movie all by myself.")
Then as we were preparing to land, the pilot gave some long Scandinavian instructions to his flight crew and, when he'd finished, translated succinctly into English, "Cabin crew, sit." 
I giggled. 
The Indian woman giggled. 
We looked at each other for the first time in eight hours
She said, "It's like they're puppies," and I laughed and said, "I was thinking the same thing!" 

Instance #3: When the guy on the tram that takes you from the Chicago airport to remote parking looked at my guitar and said, "You must be a professional if you're going to carry that thing around the airport." 
I nodded to his five pieces of luggage he was engulfed by and responded, "Says the guy who's carrying around an entire department store." 
He laughed and from there I learned that he just came from Mexico where he was in a wedding and he needed to pack seven different pairs of shoes just in case he needed gray ones or brown ones (depending on his pants). He just moved out of Chicago, so "It will take me 2 hours to get home from here, how bout you?" 
"It depends on how much longer I decide to ride this tram," I responded, and he laughed again, and we're getting married next June. 
(Just kidding. He didn't even tell me his name, unlike the Egyptian guy. Americans are so rude. Hesham was right.)

2. European Netflix is different from American Netflix. 

3. Where canola oil comes from. 

This is the view that welcomes you to France: Fields of colza which gives us canola oil (and engine lubricant, apparently) and smells like feet. Isn't it pretty? Did you ever wonder where canola oil comes from before this? I did, all the time. JK I never did.

4. How to say "pigeon" in French. 

"Pee-jo," basically, only prettier. I also learned how to say "socks" and "don't drink this water" in German (which I thankfully learned before it was too late). I spent the whole week with the Rooses and they taught me a lot. I'm very humbled by the love which this family responds out of daily. Their generous and sincere hearts make me so very grateful to know them and to have been a part of their family for the week. (Pictured: Fayth, Hannah, Tony, and a stately building in Dijon, France. Not pictured: Raeni, pigeons, mustard.)

5. Freedom comes in letting go.

These are the Alps, as seen from Annecy, France. 
I don't think it's any secret that I did not plan to end up living in Wisconsin and working for an insurance company. My plan looked much different and others' plans for me looked much different, too. And I've been feeling the burden and weight of those dead plans and dreams and I think I've been trying to resurrect them or repaint them somehow, or something similar.
But as I sat in an empty field and stared at these mountains, I felt very strongly that God was telling me to "be free." Be free from past plans and others' plans and the expectations of being female or 20-something or Christian or single or a pastor's kid or a businesswoman or artsy or brainy or blah blah blah, the list goes on. Just let go of all the expectations that I or anybody else has placed on me, and let God build something new, and delight in the newness without trying to salvage any of the old pieces to incorporate in the new building. There is freedom when you let go of expectations and old plans and old ways of doing things, when you just let go and let them drift away like curled-up leaves that float atop the water like little boats, not anchors. Freedom in just being you and being happy with being you, today, undefined by anything past, present, or future.

It's a new day. Be free each new day.