Adventure in another year another Valentine’s my way

It’s coming. The bane of single existence. A day we all hate so much so long as we’re single. But the instant you find yourself someone to share it with you suddenly fall in love with Valentine’s Day.

It’s so much pressure for anyone. It’s pressure for the guy to be impressive. It’s pressure for the girl to be impressed. It’s pressure for the guy to be endearing and creative. It’s pressure for the girl to react appropriately. It’s silly. St. Valentine doesn’t even understand our insanity, and quite honestly neither do I.

In high school for a couple of years an odd group of single people would meet up at Wendy’s for a classy dinner. We’d be clad in sweatpants or jeans. We treated it like any other night. Completely unspecial. The only real difference was people who rarely spent time together made the choice to spend some quality and strange time together. It’s weird in high school.

In college though it’s just frustrating. Especially if you are single, but it offers the same opportunity. Don’t be discouraged by your nearly vacant resident hall. Your ghost town of a floor. Grab your other single anyones. Celebrate your independence. You get to do whatever the hell you want. Be unimpressive. Think of it as the Independence Day, not starring Will Smith, that you actually understand!

Call your mom. Tell her you love her. Send your grandma a card. Call your dad. Call your old college roommate. Call your best friend or if she’s single go grab a cuppa or see a movie.

But don’t see a chick flick. That will just add insult to injury. I personally will be spending it the very same way I have for the last five years. Curled up in front of the TV watching scary movies with my favorite date. Me! Because nothing quite says, “I love life,” like serial killers cutting up sexually active teenagers.

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Adventure in music on my mind

I can’t be entirely sure what my preferred musical choices say about me, but I can say with fair certainty that this piece here being one of my favorite pieces of all time does not speak well of me as a sane individual.

The “Danse Macabre” is Opus 40 of Camille Saint-Saëns written for an orchestra in 1874. “Danse Macabre” or “Dance of the Dead’ is a relatively common focus of artists from a late-midieval period on. Death calling forth the dead at midnight on Halloween every year so they can dance for him to his violin/fiddle playing. They dance until the rooster crows at dawn, and they go back to their homes underground in their graves.

It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece that I can’t really help but be moved by. There’s something so joyous in something so spooky. Maybe it’s the rest that comes from the idea that there is more than death after death, even if all you believe in is Death coming to a cemetery and bring the dead out for a Halloween ball. The good news is, they don’t have to dress up as much more than skeletons or zombies. It’s just another deady dance party. It’s not like I particularly care for anything else by Saint-Saëns. It’s really just this one piece.

Maybe it’s association with But Jonathan Creek is something I’ve only known about for a few years, while I do love it, this piece has been in my head longer.

My taste in movies being a bit off as well. Clue. Psycho. Scream. Adam. Planet of the Apes. Stranger than Fiction. Reality Bites. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Driving Lessons. Nothing particularly happy, except maybe Clue. But nothing particularly sad. Comedy in tragedy. Tragedy in comedy. All very. Even. What’s wrong with me?! But that’s sort of it. That’s sort of my brain.

Adventure in encouraging my fears or pushing myself out

The thing about being a simultaneously strong and weak woman is that I have exactly two fear-inducing problems. One) My personal strength and self-reliance makes me intimidating and off-putting. Two) My weakness (not as a woman but as someone who lacks self-confidence) makes me easily preyed upon by the creepy and gross. These issues are fear-inducing because the second issue makes me think this is the best I can do, and the first has me thinking I’m doomed to the solitude I’m trying to learn in. I don’t, however, want it to last forever.

So I’ve been doing some research. Noteworthy single women:

Louisa May Alcott

A transcendental feminist who wrote a bit romantically about marriage and families, but spent her life doting on her sisters and their children never starting her own family. Best known for Little Women.

Maggie Kuhn

Controversially taught human sexuality at the YWCA. Told her Presbyterian seminary students they would not pass if they did their fieldwork in the church rather than seeking out impoverished communities. Fought against ageism after she was forced by the Presbyterian Church to retire. Started the Gray Panthers.

Agnes Martin

A minimalist painter awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of Arts in 1998.

Susan B. Anthony

Worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in co-founding the first Women’s Temperance Movement. Aided in bringing women’s suffrage to the United States. Annually gave an average of 75 to 100 speeches. A key player in the government acknowledging women’s right. You’ll recognize her from her coin.

Coco Chanel

Pioneering French fashion designer. Used men’s fashion as inspiration for women’s fashion. While she never married she did play mistress. She was also a Nazi spy during World War II.

E. Cora Hind

Western Canada’s first female journalist. Agricultural editor for the “Winnipeg Free Press.” Women’s rights activist.

Agnes Campbell Macphail

First woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. One of the first two women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Wrote agricultural columns for the “Globe and Mail” in Toronto.

Harriet Martineau

Wrote 35 books and multiple essays. Translate the works of Auguste Comte. Supported herself entirely on her writings, a difficult task for a woman in the Victorian era. Wrote autobiographically to be published posthumously, “…In short, should popularize while could neither discover nor invent.”

Reverend Dr. Pauline “Pauli” Murray

Women’s rights activist, civil rights activist, writer and lawyer. First black female ordained Episcopalian priest. Many of her arguments were used in Brown v. Board of Education.

Dame Christabel Pankhurst

Co-founded Women’s Social and Political Union, suffragette. Was arrested in 1905 for interrupting a Liberal Party meeting shouting demands for women’s voting rights. Earned a law degree. Appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1936, after hiding in Paris to avoid prison.

Dame Freya Stark

Travel writer who wrote 21 books. She went alone into areas women rarely traveled, particularly alone.

I don’t have a picture of these two women, but I wish I did.

Happy Waltz and Aida Toffolo started Blackhawk Christian School in 1973 with the school now educating over 600 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade in general education founded on Biblical principles.

None of them ever married. Perhaps because they were intimidating for all of their independence and strength. Maybe it’s because they were too engrossed in their careers and caused. Or maybe, and it’s something more people should consider, they simply didn’t want to. I may be alone, but I’m not alone.

Adventure in I will be better

I realize that January is nearly over, but I’m pretty crap at making resolutions for the new year. I’m almost as bad about making them as the rest of you are at keeping them. I can’t disappoint myself if I never make a promise to me. I also can’t do much growing that way either. So after some consideration I’ve decided that without making strong commitmenty sounding words I’m going to try at these things.

I want to be better at being alone. I spend 90 percent of my time alone these days, and I complain about it a lot. But only because it’s really hard. It’s so much harder than I thought it would be. I lived by myself for a year at college, but I wasn’t really alone then was I? Not with hundreds of people around every day.

In that same vein I want to stop being so fearful in my solitude. It offers me so much, including constant opportunity to be alone and undistracted with God. It also offers me the chance to step out of my door and do the things no one else in my life ever wants to do with me. This Saturday I’ll start pursuing those things by going to the art museum. I’ll go to the movies I want to see. I’ll go to theatre productions. I’m probably not back on board yet with going to dinner alone, but I’ve done it before. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll be stronger.

I will take risks in the new church community I’m pursuing. I will sign up for classes that interest me even though I know no one, because who could I ask to go with me? Who better to take than Christ. Christ beside me. The Spirit speaking.

My friends Brett and Erica and I want to run the Fort Wayne mini marathon together, so I suppose I should get better at this running thing. It goes well in phases. And then I remember that there are cookies that can be delivered right to my door in the middle of the night. Discipline and self-control.

I want to be better at listening to the Spirit. I want to be better at understanding how the Holy Spirit directs me, and I want to be better at discerning my weird desires from the Spirit’s weird proddings.

I will take risks in the new church community I’m pursuing. I will sign up for classes that interest me even though I know no one, because who could I ask to go with me? Who better to take than Christ. Christ beside me. The Spirit speaking.

Speaking up. Over the course of the last seven months I’ve lost my voice and my strength. I want it back, and I’m going to take risks in that. It’s scary, and it will be hard. But I can’t feel silent anymore. I don’t need to be loud. I just need to know that I’m sitting idly by as I watch injustice exist. I will raise my voice. I will shout. I will try.

I will do my best. I will try to be better. I will try.

Adventure in beauty parcel

Semi-faithful readers will know that I’ve been working on a Project. I’ve been gathering definitions of Beauty from anyone and everyone I can. I’ve asked nearly everyone I know. Moms, dads, grandmas, aunts, college students, high school students, social workers, teachers, grad students, professors, Americans, Brits, brothers, sisters. Answers trickle in slowly. It’s a tough thing to define, so I wasn’t anticipating an overnight flood of responses. Some weeks I get a few. Some weeks I get none. I don’t know what will come of any of it. I really don’t yet. I’m not even sure how I’m going to go about compiling all of it. Pictures, music, words, videos. I’ve a cornucopia of Beauty on my hands and no such compiling skills.

What has been most encouraging in all of it is the opportunity to hear so many different Hearts. So many wonderful words from so many unique Hearts and Heads. It’s a very humbling experience to be entrusted with all of these thoughts.

Today in the mail I received a true gift. My dear friend Dana sent me a parcel filled with 59 index cards from mostly high school freshmen in Tennessee defining Beauty (and Love), a three page definition of her own, a CD with music that she believes showcases Beauty and an added bonus of encouragement in CD form. I’m so truly blessed.

It’s all so wonderful. I can’t wait to gather it all and share with each of you.

Please, if you’d like to participate, e-mail your definitions to me at Hayley.Liz.Johnson@gmail.com if you’d like to participate in the visual aspect you can also attach a photo of your face, unmade up. Thank you very much for you support. It’s a truly humbling endeavor.

Adventure in Girls, Inc.

It has begun. Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. I put on my red t-shirt, got in my car and drove to the west side of Indianapolis. I met with my session coordinator and my partner as we prepared for our first session of Media Smarts.

I’d had the flu this week, so nerves and fevers are alternating in my head as we hang up signs and lay out magazines and newspapers waiting for the girls to get up stairs. And as we wait for some very important Girls Inc women to arrive including the CEO and Regional Director. That’s not intimidating for a lady on her first session of her first cycle ever.

What if I’m awful at this? What if this affirms that not majoring in education was the right choice? What if I’m a jerk!?! My head floods with questions about my capabilities and inadequacies as a teacher and woman. What if I’m actually the world’s worst role model? I’m already not a great one. What if I’m just truly crap?! What if middle schoolers hate me more than they did when I was actually a middle schooler?

Well the session came and went, and while ten 11-year-old girls make for a very chatty bunch we made it through the first round. The very important women stayed all the way through and were quite nice about it all, but when women are working with girls trying to teach them to be strong, smart and bold…my brain floods again. What if they’re just being nice so I don’t hate myself later? What if they say that to everyone? Was I monster? I felt like a monster. I didn’t learn all of their names. I couldn’t read all of their name tags. I pointed. I pointed at girls whose names I didn’t know. I’m a jerk. I’m a pointer. Why can’t I just be a human? Middle schoolers don’t really know about sarcasm yet. I don’t care what the Mighty Ducks tried to convey. I probably need this class more than they do.

It went pretty well. I’m looking forward to next week.

Adventure in Dear Gilda

In season 5 episode 7 of M*A*S*H Major Sidney Freedman writes a letter to Sigmund Freud. Sidney is an Army psychologist, and he’s telling Freud about why he comes to the 4077th to get some rest. Hawkeye and BJ find the letter and ask Sidney if perhaps it isn’t a bit crazy to write a letter to Sigmund Freud. Sidney explains that there probably isn’t anyone who better understands his situation.

I’ve been doing it for years now. It started with a journal, and then to people I knew, but never sent. For a while when my brain got full I would write letters to my friend Krista. It offered me an opportunity to be honest, but somewhere in there I lost that in myself too.

Recently, I’ve been feeling a little lost in myself. Some of that is the isolation. Some of that is the lack of opportunities. It takes me a while to build up my former social steam, and even when I do I still quite feel like myself. Or what people expect of me. What’s worse is that has my sense of humor fading away. It started slowly, but it seems to be quickly melting out of my hand.

So I’ve started writing to people who might understand. I write to them because I’ve spent so much time with them they feel like friends, but also because I can’t help but wonder if they’ve ever gone through the same thing. Without an audience what good is my sense of humor? I ask Tina. I ask Gilda. I ask Lily. I ask Lucy. I ask Julia. It’s getting bad. I ask Steve. I ask Darrell. I ask Phil. I ask Dana. I’m desperate. I ask Fozzie. Because how do I get it back? How do I keep it going? There’s only so much time I can spend performing sketches alone in my apartment. There are only so many times I can run monologues. There’s a limit. I have a cap. And I’m afraid my time is running out to keep it together. I can’t practice voices alone forever. Without an audience, sooner or later, a sense of humor is good for nothing else but laughing at oneself. And I’m afraid I do that too much already.

Dear Gilda…

Adventure in what I have to offer (if anything)

This Sunday I’m going to try again. There’s one place that people have told me to try. All sorts of different people, but I didn’t want to go because it’s big and intimidating. Turns out the more time I spend away from people the harder it is for me to be around people. So this Sunday I’m going to try another church. After multiple attempts at multiple locations with no one speaking to me or only negative stirrings from the spirit I’m going to give it another shot.

One, because I can’t continue to flounder on my own. Two, I can’t continue to be so selfish as to only support myself.

But there’s the rub and here’s where I’m at in all of this, without any attempt at pity just honest communication, what do I have to offer the Church? I suppose in a grander sense with the universal Church there’s more. There’s always prayer to be offered for the Church. But what do I have to offer a church? Honestly, I’m at a loss. I was asked earlier today if I practice anything or what my hobbies are. I’ll tell you what my hobbies are! I…don’t know. Which puts me in a real bind for what I can do for anyone anywhere. I’m not particularly good at anything. I’m proficient at mediocrity. Which is not to be celebrated. From my grades in college and high school to my “art” and “performances” mediocrity reigns supreme.

Which doesn’t speak well to anything I might be able to contribute to a community of believers. And my goal in finding a place where I fit is not just a place that benefits me, but a place that I can also be a benefit. But with nothing real to offer I find that hard to truly pursue. At some point it becomes me taking and never giving. Or not giving enough. But then what am I giving if I am giving something?

I’ve never been particularly good at anything. I’ve only ever been notably get-by-able at everything. In middle school I play volleyball and basketball. I couldn’t sink a shot for the life of me, but I could rebound and get the ball to Krista. I could dive and get a ball out of a tight spot, but I couldn’t direct it anywhere. I cheered in middle school too. I once saved Laura Stoll’s coccyx, but my low-toned voice brought our chants down. I did gymnastics for a while as a kid, but I didn’t have any arm strength. The uneven bars were my greatest nemesis. Tumbling I could manage because it was brief moments of arm strength. So I took up swimming to build my arm strength. The only meet I have a firm memory of I dqed because I couldn’t remember where I was. I took piano lessons for a while, but it wasn’t fun so I stopped. Now I have almost no control of my pinkies, especially my right-hand pinky. I played the clarinet for a while. I was even first chair, but then, I was also the only one in the band.

None of those are even things that would be beneficial to a church, but that’s not the point. The point is I never stuck with anything. I changed my major three times in college, and I still don’t think I made the right choice. I had professors who will confirm that.

So Sunday I try again. I try again to find a place that is “right” for me, and that I am “right” for. With mediocrity as my only support.

*Again, this is not to be pity-inducing, so please keep all “you have so much to offer” comments to yourselves.

Adventure in Single-Living

When I first moved to Indy I tried to live two distinct lives. Actually, I just tried to maintain my former life while working in Indianapolis. Well the time came quickly for me to get my act together and realize that lives change and people won’t always be together, despite the illusion the Christian college campus may make you believe. So I tried. I tried a few churches, some quietly without anyone else knowing. Some with pleading for prayer when I couldn’t get myself to get out of the car.

Part of the problem is this. It took my three years to feel comfortable or welcome at the 509 a place that most of my friends went to, but something about being there made everything completely different. Relationships outside the 5 seemed irrelevant. But after a few 509 summers I found a semi-comfort. After I moved that uncomfortableness at the 5 returned in the form of someone telling me I couldn’t be coming there anymore. So if that’s the relationship I have with a place I felt comfortable, for the most part, and that took a while to build, how much more difficult will it be when I know no one?

Well, let me tell you. Exponentially. Because first, it’s a lot of hit or miss searching. It’s a lot of sketchy theology. It’s a lot of stirring of the Spirit. And it is a lot of married people, or nearly married people. One particular church I tried a few times. I was on board with the teaching. I was on board with their philosophy of community. But it only one visit for me to notice the limited amount of uncoupled people. I went back once with a visiting friend. She saw it too. What’s worse, outside of a brief greeting when told to talk to your neighbor was the only interaction I received with anyone else there.

One Sunday I did not go to that particular church. I believe I was home. That Sunday my married friends tried it. (I will say they had tried it once before) Invited to a house church. Now it’s where they go. And that’s wonderful. It is. We should all be so lucky.

But we the singles are not very often so lucky. Especially those of us who are in no hurry to be married. With pastors saying things like “You aren’t fulfilling God’s will for your life, if you aren’t married,” I suppose I should be panicked, but I think I’m more along the lines of hurt and a little furious. (A little furious looks a lot like pissed). What if God isn’t calling me to marriage? Or what if he isn’t calling me to marriage right now? I’m not going to force his hand and get into some messy marriage because I have to be married to be a good Christian.

I don’t want my reliance to be on another human, and it’s easy enough for me to do that without being married. Add the constancy of another person, and I can’t imagine my focus would ever remotely be on God. Not right now. Yet, in the Church this somehow makes me feel like a failure. Because even if I find a group of single women to interact with, many of them are still just looking for a husband. And a group of coed Christian singles looks a lot like that too. Which is confusing to me. Because I was under the impression we were supposed to “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” If I’m wrong and somewhere in the Bible it says “Seek first your husband,” then please, point it out to me, and I’ll get right to work.

So no. I’m not married. No. I’m not dating anyone. And no. I’m not really interested in it, because there’s this other relationship I’m still really trying to work on that has nothing to do with his and hers towels.

Adventure in the flack I will receive

Here it is. I realize this is nearly four years after the fact, but it’s apparently still an issue for people.

“Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” offers the exact opposite complication of the latest “X-Files” movie. And here’s how!

With the new “X-Files” movie you prepared yourself. You had all of these fond memories of that old relationship, but you knew it ended badly. And you knew it wasn’t going anywhere, but some times it’s nice just to see them one last time no matter how uncomfortable and painful it would be.

With Indiana Jones it was a great relationship, and you left it on such good terms. Time or distance separated you, so when you got the chance to go back you thought something would be rekindled. You hoped, but life goes on and things change.

For those of you who hold issue with the Commies not being as bad as Nazis. No. In this instance they were not, but you’re also looking at it from your post-Cold War worldview. In the Cold War Commies were awful, and everyone was seeing Red. People were turning in friends and family because everyone even slightly un-American was a Commie. So no, not Nazis, but not less frightening to Americans. Americans who fought against the Nazis, but were still less directly affected than Europe. Calm down, current 20-somethings, you’re getting bent out of shape over something you first saw on video.

For those of you who beef that it was about aliens. The movie takes place in 1957. And here’s a trinket of knowledge for you. Aliens and Commies became synonymous in pop culture.

Let’s let Mr. O’Neil explain that to you, about 5 minutes in.

And it’s true, so searching for something alien-related to keep it from the Atomic Communists, makes sense. Just like using the object that contains the God of the Israelites makes sense for the Nazis to use against the Jews.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter what he’s looking for. Indiana Jones could be looking for a puppy with laser vision. It’s just a McGuffin. When you watch “Raiders of the Lost Ark” you aren’t thinking about the ark. You’re thinking about Jones. Getting ANYTHING away from the Nazis.

Is it the best? Hell no. I’ve seen “Last Crusade”. Is it less BORING than “Temple of Doom?” Goodness yes.

There. I said it.