Aging

I had one of those fun moments the other day, when I was completely out of sync with the world around me. An innocent conversation among friends took the dreaded turn to topics I am either completely unprepared for or blissfully uninterested in delving in to. This time it led to wrinkles. And try as I may to simple smile and nod while others contributed, inevitably one caring friend sought to include me by turning and asking, “What do you use on your face?” 

Now, there are times I’m anxious to step up as the odd man out, and then there are other times I wish to simply blend in to the crowd. I blame that instinct on moving often and adapting to new cultures. Blending in leads to people feeling like you belong. Well, with this one simple question I was trapped. No matter how talented I am at avoiding these inquiries, smiling, nodding, and muttering “yeah” wasn’t going to pass as an answer. So after one big sigh for extra courage, it was time to face the music.

“Well, sometimes I wash my face with baking soda, and I’ll do a rinse with apple cider vinegar every once in a while if I think of it.” In some crowds this wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows. But not with this Southern California group. Staying young is an art form in this region. And to be honest, I’m often very impressed by how people take care of themselves here. But right away I recognized that face. It’s the face with a delicate mix of confusion, amusement, suspicion and pity. I’ve seen it often. 

“Oh. Well, what does your family use?” I’m not fully sure how this is the follow up question, but perhaps it’s their way of figuring out if I’m a weird offshoot branch or if I come from an odd tree. Well, the answer is pretty simple: we’re all a bit different, and that’s what I love about us. My mom has used a bar of soap for 30+ years and has never regretted it. Granted, she was blessed with good skin. My dad, not so much. Guess which one I take after. Yeah… dad won out. 

But to be honest, I don’t come from a family who fears aging. I never saw either of my parents worry about new signs showing their increasing years of experience. If anything, dad would jokingly brag about the new grey hairs he earned. I blame my siblings for those. The only talk of wrinkles that I remember centered around the importance of living a life that left you with laugh lines. I often heard my mom proclaim that she had earned every wrinkle she ever developed. 

Now, I love the way I was raised, and wouldn’t change it, no matter how long it kept me tapped in to the fountain of youth. But I am anxious to understand the other side of this issue. Remember this is a no judgement zone here, and there are many, many ways to be human and we all have the chance to learn from each other. So I’d love to hear your feedback. What do you find most valuable about fighting off the wrinkles and covering up the grey hairs? Is it a way to reflect your inner vibrancy on the outside? Does it help build confidence with those around you? Do you find it fun to keep people guessing about your age? I’d love to learn from you about your reasons to fight back against the aging process! So share in the comments below.

The Lesson of the Brown Bag: Part 1

So I’m circling back and refocusing myself in regards to this site. You’ll see more of that later. But for now, I’ve started ruminating on the very basics: the title. While sometimes (ok, often) I choose titles, handles, emails addresses, etc based on what’s still available, this title was chosen rather specifically. To fully understand what it means to me, let’s start at the beginning and go back… *cue fast wind chime music* to my childhood.

Lunch time at School

Growing up we weren’t rich. We never classified ourselves as poor, but we were always what I’ve come to call “thrifty.” Money didn’t get thrown at things that weren’t needed, because apparently money doesn’t grow on trees (unless you own an orchard, I guess). I went to school with a plain brown paper bag filled with random foods found in the cupboard to feed me during the day. Interesting side note, I was homeschooled. Laugh all you want, but I went to the local school sometimes for fun, so don’t start assuming I was just walking around my living room with my school lunch. 
Now, this was the era of the incredibly cool lunch boxes and bags. All my friends and mortal enemies had them. It was a majestic display of colors and characters when lunches were pulled out and placed on the table. My brown paper bag and I were often put to shame in comparison, and wished we could just be back home eating out of the fridge. But my few seconds of hesitation were outweighed by the hunger growling in my stomach, and my lunch was pulled out for inspection. Then after some minutes of excited comparison of food products among friends, we feasted. 

And as painfully cliche as this sounds, I quickly learned that my lunch was just as good as everyone else’s, regardless of what was used to bring it there. This may seem like the simpliest of lessons, but to a 10-year-old girl it felt pretty huge at the time. My simple, crinkly, brown paper bag got the job done. And as soon as we were done eating and ran off to play, we no longer cared about what transportation device was used for our daily nutrition. 

It felt like a floodgates had opened, and this new lesson changed the way I saw everything. Our car was a little rusted and often dusty, but it got us to school and back. It did the same job as the shiny, maroon suburban that my classmate’s family drove. I may not have the most expensive brand of coat in the winter, but my Goodwill coat kept me just as warm as my delicately wrapped friends. And surprisingly enough, I was just as happy as the rest of them. I didn’t lose sleep worrying about whether Nikes or Adidas was the brand of the year, or when I would be allowed to start wearing makeup. I discovered this amazing freedom that I never wanted to lose. Granted, the shackles of those fancy lunch boxes still sneak up on my sometimes (usually instigated by a quick click over to Amazon.com), but a quick peek inside the bag reminds me that the goodies inside remain the same. 

So that’s one reason I’m here, to keep myself (and you, if you’re coming along for the adventure!) focused on what’s inside by simplifying the packaging. 

In the Darkness

Every several months I take a social media fast. Not that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with being on Facebook, Twitter and the like, but over time scrolling through the noise becomes deafening. So I stop. I let the urge to click, refresh, scroll down, refresh, express my emotion instantly, scroll, and get lost in the labyrinth of friends’ profiles pass me by, even as my fingers seek the keys instinctively. There are days that in my search bar I start typing “Face….” and stop myself just in time, although often I click enter before I can stop myself and come face to face with the tempting log in screen. It’s a daily battle with myself, which I hope will make me stronger in the long run.
The silence hits. Seconds, minutes, hours open up to a new possibility. Where once my eyes perused a 4-inch screen to discover its every last message, now I begin seeing the little details around me. My mind begins to flirt with thoughts that I’ve shut out for months or ignored vehemently by seeking an alternative train of thought at the touch of a button.
Am I enough? My mind searches desperately for a reason to escape giving an answer. Do I need to forgive? Maybe there are dishes that still need to be washed, laundry that needs to be folded, a room that still needs to be vacuumed. Do they really care? Reading is supposed to be good for you, maybe it’s time to pull an old classic from the bookshelf and lose myself in the prose of an author who actually had it all figured out. Am I where I should be? I bet there are still some unanswered emails in my inbox, and it would be rather rude not to respond to them right away, even though they’re from last week. What do I need to change?
It’s in the silence, deliberating with myself, that I start to hear the squeaks in what I once thought was a well-oiled instrument, accentuating areas that need tending to, especially in the painful-to-reach corners. The unnerving process of confronting each thought head on often gives me a headache. It’s not like I’m going to figure out the answers to all of my questions right now anyway. So why try?

These thoughts lead to somewhere in the darkness. Maybe the darkness is exactly where I need to be from time to time.

Sometimes a journey doesn’t need a destination

We all reach a time when we’re no longer happy where we are. For some it’s just a matter of restlessness, others have grown to a point they need a new challenge, and occasionally it’s just about becoming so uncomfortable where you are that the unknown holds more hope than your present reality. For some of us lucky ones, we’re hit with all three of these motivations.

I come from a family of restless people. My dad grew up in the mission field, so standing still is a relatively new concept for him. My mom grew up in one place and I think had stood still for too long. So I grew up moving around, but never fully understanding the reasonings behind the decisions.

For the most part, I just experienced the consequences of moving, good or bad. I learned how to make new friends. And I learned that friendship isn’t forever, so you have to enjoy every drop of it while you can. I learned that being somewhere new doesn’t mean you’re alone as long as you’re with family. Treating where you live as if you’re just passing through allows you to live like a tourist in your own town. There’s no expectation of “well, next year I’ll check out that festival” because you really never expect to be there next year.

There were definitely some things I missed out on learning though. I’m not that good at fighting for my friendships or making them work long-term. I don’t really know how to settle down without the expectation of leaving. I’m not going to say I learned to run away from my problems, but I did learn that problems stick with you as long as you’re holding on to them.

But now that I’m on the side of making the decisions about whether or not to move, I find there’s so much going on behind the scenes, and I don’t even have kids to worry about (oh, my poor parents). For once in my life I’m seeing the value of hitting the open road. And maybe what’s really important is the change, not necessarily what’s at the end of the map. I’ve learned today, that sometimes just getting in the car is the step that needs to take place.

I have no fear of the destination, or lack thereof. Every city has amazing places to visit, every church has some incredible lessons to teach you. An office will always come with some fun new challenges and some frustrations. And friends can be made anywhere. Every destination is a good destination. And every journey ends somewhere.

All-lingual

Last night I spent some time talking to an amazing couple in a somewhat similiar-to-ours multi-cultural relationship. Well, even more interesting was observing the dynamics of the bilingual aspect of their relationship. Both speak Spanish and English very well, and I’m guessing the husband also has a third language under his belt. As I started the conversation in English, they continued. Though I speak and understand Spanish fine, the English teacher in me kept speaking in English to keep the wife practicing. But under normal circumstances they communicate to each other in Spanish.

I make Daniel speak English here in the States, and I spoke in Spanish in Peru. Eventually I’m sure we’ll go back to Spanish when I start slipping there or need to brush up on my expressions. But let’s be honest, no bilingual couple stays 100% in any language. And I noticed this even in our conversation last night. Certain sentences were in Spanish, sometimes out of excitement, sometimes because the topic just didn’t feel as natural in English.

A photo posted by Daniel Taipe (@inz) on Sep 6, 2015 at 4:56am PDT

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsBut the one thing I loved watching was what happened every time she was trying to think of a word in English or say a word she didn’t know. Even though I would have understood even if she said the word in Spanish, she turned to him and asked “how do you say… in English?” In those brief moments when she felt lost and didn’t know the answer, her very first instinct was to look to her husband. Sure, she could get the word from anyone, but naturally, without thinking, she turned to him.

This instinct amazes me. Without thinking, we know who we trust the most. And it really is a relationship being built over time that brings you to lean on each other for more than just the basic needs of life. I hope my marriage is learning some of these same lessons.

But more than anything, I hope my relationship with God is building the same way. We often say that we know we should ask God for help even for the little things, but don’t think to do it. I think a lot of this is built on relationship, not even our typical “oh, He came through for me this time, I guess I’ll ask again” or “I know I should ask Him first, so I really just have to remember.” Maybe, just by talking to Him daily, sharing our hopes and fears, we’ll get to the point that without even realizing it, we lean over and ask “hey, how do I say this?”

Pain

They say that pain is a signal that keeps you from causing more damage. Example being, you feel pain when you burn your hand so that you pull your hand away and keep from burning it worse. Sure, I get that. But I’m not so certain that all pain is valuable. Headaches can signal dehydration, lack of proper nutrition, and probably much more (I’m not a doctor after all).

Pain is one of those strong emotions that helps burn a memory or lesson into your mind. This makes sense, because why learn that pressure washing your foot is a bad idea if you are just going to forget and do it again the next week?

But today I have a headache, and I have NO IDEA WHY! Sure, I could go through the long, long list of what causes headaches and systematically eliminate potential reasons. But, let’s be real. Who’s gonna do that? I might drink 16 oz of water, and if it’s still there, give up. Much more likely, I’m going to break my cardinal rule of “stay away from medicines” to take a pair of iBuprofen. After all, why be at work if I’m getting no work done due to my pounding temple?

So is pain valuable if you don’t know the reason behind it? If there’s nothing you can fix, does it serve any purpose? If you don’t even know what to fix, often times we end up fixing the wrong thing.

I feel like this happens in my relationships with others. I don’t like confrontation. I pull the most ridiculous stunts JUST to avoid running into people I have issue with. So this is kinda a big deal to admit… If someone hurts me, innocently and without realizing it, and I say nothing, my pain is in vain. Sure I may learn not to trust someone or to put my guard up, but haven’t we learned this pessimistic attitude enough? This doesn’t mean I should lash out, or yell, or accuse. But perhaps, the only way for meaning to come of it is for me to sit down, calmly and logically, and let them know what they did and the result it had on me. Only by sharing this will they have the opportunity to learn from it.

Disclaimer: This does not guarantee they will learn from it. You can’t control what others do and they may hurt you again.

So maybe this level of vulnerability is what I need to learn next. Let people know how their actions make you feel if they need to know.

Give it Up

There are many moments in our life where we feel like giving up. Some times are simple, like a game you’re never going to win even if you keep trying. It can get a bit more serious, like a friendship with someone who is selfish and never takes you into consideration. There are also the big moments, like quitting a job, deciding to file for divorce, moving away, etc. And some people even get to the point that they want to give up on life. For the record, I never encourage this one. Never give up on life.

I have a hard time giving up. I will often stay waiting for hours for someone because I’m afraid that as soon as I walk away, the person will arrive. I hate that thought of missing something amazing because I walked away a minute too soon. I’m not sure where that particular fear comes from but I’ve lived with it for a long time.

I think this way on so many topics. What if I walked away from this person, and they were just about to change? Or what if I give up on this project right before the committee decides to adopt it. I guess that’s me living in the land of “what if” and letting it control my life again. This is a dangerous way to live. I keeps too many of us in bad situations because of how they may some day change. Don’t give up too soon, sure, perseverance is incredible important. But perseverance for the sake of perseverance may not get you where you want to be.

There are moments to give up on some things. I have always grown up holding tight to my memories, because somehow I thought that a moment wasn’t worth living if you weren’t going to remember it anyway. But in the last few years I’ve learned the value of giving up negative memories. Yes, negative moments may have helped shaped you into the person you are, and maybe you should never forget the lessons that you learned as a result, but you don’t need to hold on to memories that hurt you. Give it up. Some habits or traditions are in your life for no good reason. If they’re not there for a good reason, they probably shouldn’t be there. Give it up. Some things if your life might be doing damage.

Maybe, just maybe, learning to give up the small things to make a better life for yourself and those around you will give you the courage to give up the big things that are holding you down.