After waking at 6am for months, I rouse later than usual this morning, around 8am. It happened yesterday too. I’m not complaining. The husband is in the kitchen, asking who finished off the bacon and put an empty container back in the fridge. No one fesses up. The 10yo offers, “Maybe I did it while sleepwalking.” Over eggs and tea, Brandon asks how I’m feeling. I tell him I’m fine for the most part…but there’s this and there’s that. There’s always this. And that.
Minutes before we cart off to church, I get into an argument with my hair. My HAIR. It isn’t cooperating. Hasn’t for years. I’ve gotten used to it. So I do what I do and pull it back in a bun. But the lackadaisical knot especially aggravates me today for some reason. I re-bun several times, brush out my hair to a fluffy flyaway state, then bun again, all the while growing more frustrated. I finally tie a fabric headband around my noggin and climb in the car. As we drive, I tear up; tearing up is my thing these days. But the teariness is about way more than my deflated ‘do. Simply put, my hair is a reminder of yet ONE MORE THING I can not control. I feel not in control of a lot these days: my hair, my health, my children’s attitudes/behaviors, a few grown-ups’ attitudes/behaviors, my social life…not that any of those things are actually mine to control. Not that I ever had any “control” to begin with. But when life has been rolling along nicely and one ignorantly falls for the idea that it’s because one has done such a good job planning/parenting/befriending/hairstyling, it can be unsettling to suddenly, fully comprehend that no matter what you say or do, no matter how much you exercise or eat your greens, no matter how much gel or conditioner you dollop on your locks…people and circumstances and hair are going to ultimately do whatever they please.
At the building, I stay in the car attempting to compose myself while Brandon shuttles the kids to their classes. I see a friend sitting in his van a couple spots over and feel self-conscious. Another acquaintance pulls in right next to me so I pretend like I’m checking something on my phone to avoid making eye contact. When I finally curtail the tears, I do a mirror check, and my face is a big blotch of red. Great. I have to walk into class red and blotchy-faced with slacker hair. After five minutes sitting at our table, I realize I can not – don’t want to – participate in an intellectual discussion of Christian ethics. Not this morning. I want to leave and go to the room where people spend the entire hour praying. But then I think…I shouldn’t get up and leave…it would be rude…I don’t want to draw attention to myself. And then…seriously, self? I want to be near the pray-ers. I tell Brandon where I’m headed, then relocate down the hall. There actually isn’t a lot of praying today – mostly just discussion – but I like the peaceful atmosphere that pervades this group of people, and how the overhead fluorescents are turned off with the room lit only by a few small lamps. There are people in here who believe, who BELIEVE…I can tell by how they talk. My doubting heart is fascinated by their convictions. After class my friend Aimee introduces me to her artist aunt. When I mentioned my love of watercoloring in a recent blog post, Aimee immediately messaged me to pin down a day for us to visit her aunt’s studio. I love her persistence in helping me pursue a creative endeavor. In the atrium, I cross paths with an acquaintance who says she likes my headwrap. I end up dishing about my hair-tastrophe. She laughs and it makes me feel better.
The congregation is already on its feet singing when I enter the auditorium. We find seats near the front, just rows from my friend Christine who is leading worship after almost a year trapped in a hospital bed. I love hearing her sing and watching her get lost in what seems like a meditative state, turned inward, like she’s having her own personal meet-and-greet with the Spirit. My 3yo points at her, exclaiming, “Christine! Christine! Dis Christine’s song!” She says it every time we start a new song; every song is Christine’s song. Right before our preacher steps up, the theater department from a nearby college does a skit blatantly poking fun at everyone who participates in the Sunday morning program. It’s funny. And true. Lots of people of laugh. I love when Christians have a sense of humor about themselves. So many of us take ourselves too seriously.
After worship, I make a beeline for a woman I messaged months ago about her mane of dreadlocked hair. Maybe if mine was in dreads I wouldn’t have to worry about “fixing” it anymore. We have a lovely conversation about hair and Nashville (where we’ve both lived).
While the kids munch on sandwiches, the hubs and I talk about friendships…how to know who to pursue…and not pursue. I feel like I have been pursuing people for FORTY YEARS. I’ve had friends aplenty, but I feel like I’ve had to work hard for them. I grew up hearing the adage, “If you want a friend, be a friend.” And I have always wanted friends. Don’t most of us? So I’ve put a lot – A LOT – of energy toward being a good friend. I do this partly because I LOVE PEOPLE. I do this partly because I WANT PEOPLE TO LOVE ME. And I’m coming to realize that, in the name of “being a good friend”, I have occasionally extended friendship to the detriment of my health.
After lunch, I trek up to the campus library. I order a dark roast (with two shots of mocha) and go on the hunt for a spot with a window. So many collegiates working, sipping on coffees and tapping on keyboards. I think back to my days here as a student. Don’t remember spending much time in the library. I DO remember studying out on the lawn a lot…and wondering why more people weren’t out there with me. Maybe they were all in the library.
I land a chair one table across from a boy who resembles Elijah Wood with a buzzcut. His eyes – like translucent sea glass – match his light blue-green shirt. On the back of his laptop are a Patagonia decal, a couple of cycling stickers, and one that reads “LOOK”, which I notice only after I’ve looked at him several times. Later he dons hip-looking specs; they hide his pretty sea-glass eyes. Outside a girl walks past, dressed in a gray slouchy, v-neck t-shirt, and worn, tight-rolled jeans (back in fashion, apparently). Her brunette hair is long, to her hips, the last few inches bleached blonde. She looks cool, and she carries herself like she knows it. I will probably never see these people again but I wonder what their stories are. I love watching the students, most of them transitioning from the twilight of childhood into the dawn of adulthood, attempting to disengage from their families of origin, taking in this university preview of life-in-the-real-world, and learning how to interact with the ones to whom they’re attracted. So much of this phase of life is a dance to find a partner, someone with whom to share a journey. I know it’s not what everyone wants, but I’m gonna take a gander and say it’s what MOST want. Maybe a lover, maybe just a close friend. But either way, we all want someone to love…and someone to love us back.
The fam is supposed to pick me up so we can head out for obligatory fall pictures with gourds, but they’re running late so I start strolling home. I cross paths with a friend who is due with her third baby today; she is out on a walk hoping to jump-start labor. After our chat I return a call from the 10yo’s English teacher to discuss his issue with turning in assignments on time. She assures me that he’s perfectly capable academically and loves having him as her student.
By the time the fam rolls up we are running thirty minutes late and I’m annoyed. By the time we get to our destination on the other side of town, I’m over it. A trailer loaded with pumpkins sits in the circle driveway of the home, and we take some pics of the girls. Our hostess leads us on a tour of the house after the kids run out expressing enthusiastic exclamations about her living quarters. A spiral staircase leads upstairs to a solitary bedroom; the balcony looks out on a tree-lined golf course. The owner says I can come stay anytime I need a retreat from my life. I do…and I WILL. The husband says, “She WILL.” He knows me.
For dinner we head to Jason’s Deli, and I start feeling overwhelmed…like I usually do when we take all three kids out to eat. A stranger waves us down and runs across the parking lot to retrieve one of our take-home boxes left atop the car and hands it to us. His kind gesture makes me wonder about his story. On the way home we marvel at the neon pink sunset with a jet stream slicing right up the middle. After a frenzy of quick showers and teethbrushing and buttslapping (?!), the three youngest stories fall into bed.
I text an apology to a friend for a foot-in-mouth comment; she writes back that she didn’t find it insensitive but the perfect description of what was happening in her life at the moment. Brandon and I watch three episodes of The Wonder Years. Such a good show. But it stirs a sadness in me. Not exactly sure why. Maybe because it’s set during the late 1960s, a revolutionary time in the US. Maybe because Kevin Arnold’s story makes me think of other stories…mine, my parents, certain friends. I find myself wanting to hurry through, binge-watch just to get it over with, so I can move on to something that doesn’t make me feel so melancholy.
At the end of an episode, Kevin wanders dejectedly across the middle school dance floor, his friend Winnie walking past him through the crowd nearby, unbeknownst to each other. The foreshadowing tells me they’ll end up together, it’s just not their time…not yet. The grown-up Kevin speaks over the scene: “All our young lives we search for someone to love…someone who makes us complete…we choose partners, and change partners…we dance to a song of heartbreak, and hope…all the while wondering if somewhere, somehow, there’s someone perfect…who might be searching for us.” Such a big part of so many stories, this search. For so many of those kids in the library. Maybe the boy with the sea-glass eyes.