You know what annoys me? Scratching my ear and finding a big gob of hair conditioner stuck in the corner of my ear. This is especially annoying (and embarrassing) when it happens HOURS after I took my shower. And why is there conditioner on my ear when I do not apply conditioner TO MY EARS? It’s just weird. And gross.
You know what else annoys me? My torturous love/hate relationship with stuff. And my continuous angst over first-world problems. And the internal pressure I feel all the time to fix this particular character flaw, to shed all the garbage of a materialistic existence… and then the pull I feel to buy buy buy consume consume consume til I’m all like screw my ideals I want a pony! I know I’ve blogged about this before so my angst is already pretty well-documented, but I started reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7 last night and that just kicked my neurosis into overdrive which means more posts in which I complain about how hard it is to be selfish. AREN’T YOU LUCKY.
Pony! Photo source is this very odd website. Have fun.
Jen’s book is about an experiment she did to push herself past her comfort level (for Jesus, of course) in a couple of areas. The first area is food. Y’all, this loony lady decided to eat just 7 different foods for four whole weeks. Which, to an American – even a low-to-middle class American – sounds like a crazycakes way to kill yourself slowly. (Or get ready for bathing suit season.) But to an American who is so poor they’re on a steady rotation of Ramen noodle flavors because tuna fish costs too much? Not so crazycakes. To most of the world’s poor, 7 different foods (especially when those foods are things like organic spinach and apples and sweet potatos, and free-range chicken and eggs) sounds like a fantastic luxury.
Do you see where this is going? I’m totally idolizing Jen by page 2. Which was not her intention, I’m sure, but I gotta compare myself to everyone I meet (and I use that word very loosely – if I’ve ever read your blog, I have probably referred to you as my “friend” because I like to pretend I’m popular) so I’m comparing myself to Jen and that’s where we go off the rails.
So I’m laying in the bathtub reading this book and the tug-of-war starts. Somewhere deep inside of me a mini Smoochagator feels unsettled and guilty, like maybe she should be doing an experimental mutiny against excess. Mini Smoochagator says, Sell everything! Eat only potatoes! Be like the early church! Kumbaya!
And then ANOTHER mini Smoochagator walks up to the first mini Smoochagator and smacks her upside the head and says, Fool, you know how you are when you try to pull those sorts of stunts. You are a fiery ball of self-righteous deprivation for 36 hours, then you cave and cheat and plunge into a pit of self-loathing so deep you cannot be saved by red velvet cake. AND THAT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS, LADY.
And the first mini Smoochagator says, you’re right, you’re right, I KNOW you’re right, pass the red velvet cake.
It’s gonna be okay. Photo source.
Then I got out of the tub and went to bed hoping to silence the little people in my brain.
But I’m still thinking about this. About how I judge people who are raising one kid and a goldfish in a four thousand square foot home when hello they don’t NEED all that space or the fancy Pottery Barn furniture that’s in it and they could easily use the money they’re spending on their McMansion to sponsor 130 orphans in Tunisia. But then I think about hey, am I really any better with my iPhone and expensive cable package and all the hours I spend on Pinterest wishing wishing wishing for thousands of dollars so I can have one of everything and two of the things I REALLY like? I mean, am I? I talk a good game, and I have had friends gasp in surprise when they find out how much I give to charity (in case you’re wondering, it’s not even 10% of my take-home pay, which is legalistic church-y terms is NOT MUCH AT ALL) but am I really giving sacrificially? Am I really thinking beyond myself?
And let’s be real, isn’t it kind of a cop-out to write a check once a month to a 501(c)(3) organization and to drop my reject stuff off at Goodwill when I get tired of cleaning around it? (Tax deduction, HOLLA.) It doesn’t require me to actually meet and talk to and touch and care about people who need (more than money, more than anything) someone to care about them. It keeps me safe in my suburban ivory tower. I can feel like I’ve checked the charity box on my “list of things that good people do” (it’s right below “floss” and right above “refrain from torturing kittens”) so I can just keep on keepin’ on with the Pinterest and the cable TV shows and the subscriptions to fashion magazines and all the stuff that they tell me I need.
Would you just LOOK at all that shit I could buy? Glory! Photo source.
I’m still thinking about how I am not living the life I want to live, but I’m not 100% sure how to get from here to there. I could just sell everything and give it to the poor but my life is not my own. Literally. I’m married. I’m one-half of an equation, and my husband really REALLY likes having possessions and watching cable TV, and I’m not about to let my marriage die on THAT hill. (Incidentally, I don’t think that causing marital strife for Christ’s sake is all that smart, just an FYI.) And I’m thinking about how the second mini Smoochagator said was right – I will burn on out my self-righteous resolutions if I am doing it for the wrong reasons. You know, just because it seems like the thing to do. I’ve been there before – back in my cult days – and I am sure that it did me and others more harm than good. But when I make a change for the right reasons, if it’s in my heart and not just my head, then I don’t boomerang back into hedonism with a do-gooder hangover. I put down roots. I stick it out. I walk the walk. I mix metaphors. It’s a beautiful thing.
Did I just manage in the course of this blog post to talk myself out of making any positive changes in my life? No, I don’t think so. I talked myself out of trying to be Jen Hatmaker. Or [insert name of awesome Christian lady here]. I’m still feeling uncomfortable, and that’s a good thing. The question is, am I going to try to silence that discomfort with chocolate and pedicures, or am I going to let it speak to me, kind of Holy-Spirit-like, and get me to give a little more and a little more until I’ve given my all?