Mad Season

on elastic waistbands, the soil, and identity

Every view out my window is rushed movement, leaves flying and stacking in heaved corners, squirrels and chipmunks with their fat-faces, darting from limbs to my garden mulch and chittering like they’re cussing each other out. Pine needles float and swing ghostly from silk-worm threads or spider webs. You can hear the wind out there, and the wind always seems to come for me, upturning memories as if my brain were a rock. Sometimes I worry that my brain is actually turning rock.

Mental health conversations are everywhere because (Lord, have mercy) it’s a mad season like no one I know has ever witnessed. I come to your inbox today because all I have to offer is some solidarity, but in this volatile and divided world, full of lonely people and dehumanizing noise, solidarity may be a worthy offering. 

Raise of hands if your style has become, shall we say … more freedom-oriented and less restricted, and by that I mean - more homely. Let’s discuss.

There are only a few things keeping me from looking like a hag right now, so I wanted to share with you what’s working for me. But first, I would do well to tell you and myself both to look in the close-up mirror more often. That lone chin hair is sneaky, and you never know what day it will choose to grow a whole inch. I am in my forties, so young people, I’ll say anything, and if you’ve been spared from what we older ladies have to tell you about hairs, moods, spasms, and 1 AM heartburn, consider it a grace. Go on with your skinny jeans while you can, and in the meantime, I swear to do everything I can to make a way for you to fashionably wear nothing but elastic waistbands during the second half of your life. 

The chill has swooped in. The heater has come on. I’m layered up, and my midlife love of elastic waistbands could not be higher. I love fashion and beauty and have found a fine art in wearing secret pajamas everywhere I go. Imagine me in cute joggers, a cotton turtleneck, and a blanket shawl or some kind of wool lady drape as I check my glorious chickens or as I go to the store for more magnesium and probiotics (because regularity is the key to life. Regularity, elastic waistbands, and Jesus.) Just add to that a good posture, mascara, and maybe hoop earrings, because if you act like you look good, then you do. That’s the real truth of it, so wear what you want. 

Upturned memories and political hellscapes end up meaning a lot of physical pain for me. My body often gets the memo that things aren’t well way before my mind and spirit know about it, so I do what I can to stay in shape, which is a lot of walking. My best friend and I take what I call “angry walks” which also serve as a sort of poor-man’s EMDR, if we go about it the right way. Autumn blew in the exact emotions I was having last year as the temperature dropped. The aftereffects of spiritual/emotional abuse, having my own story questioned, diminished, then put away (you can’t separate your identity from your story), and then disappearing without a trace from my church and my vocation left me even a year later wondering who I am and what I’m here for. Again. Dammit. Once in while I still slip away from myself over it. But bilateral movement and naming the exact emotions I’m feeling while connecting them to specific memories has helped me keep mostly unstuck from trauma wounds. I know to do this, but I have to watch for PTSD even more than I watch for chipmunks in a garden or more than I watch for perimenopausal chin hairs. Can I get a witness?

Many of us are in a critical place and need to see the seriousness for what it is. There are so many identity statements being screamed at us from every direction: if you cared, or if you're a Christian, or if you love America, then you’d be _______ or do _________. I have heard recently that I am many things: a fascist, marxist, unbiblical, fundamentalist (how can one be all these things?) and none of it is true. Besides - all signs, all red flags, polls, and statistics are pointing to the fact that we were not made to be hollered at for long. Identity isn’t made by yelling at somebody, and if it were, I’d have my bullhorn out right now to remind you that you are both the image of God AND made from the dust of the earth. Divine and dust-to-dust, just like every single other human on this planet, in spite of money, property ownership, ability, race, work ethic, creed, party, or experience.

Seasons come and go. So much of what weighs on us and hurts us is passing, not to diminish the pain at all, but God’s love is not passing. Our identities are whole and healed in that love.

In this mad season where so much has been upturned, it’s easy to misplace self-identity, just as easy as it is to lose a grip on our relationship to the Trinity. It’s funny that Someone so creatively communal and all-consuming as the Trinity, who requires our all and seemingly would erase us, is actually the One who makes us our utmost human and very best healthy selves.

Little by little, I’m seeing it again. Thank God, we transform not by magic exactly but rather by small, personal interactions with Agape Love throughout the day, which is its own sort of magic - or really these interactions are miracles (and miracles happen every day). Many churches still have closed doors, and to some of us it wouldn’t matter. Many of us wouldn’t go anymore anyway, but I’m remembering how good it is to worship our Trinitarian God, who is the One and only. Good like coming home to warmth and embrace, not nitpicked or diminished but rather whole and built up as we release what doesn’t belong to us when we know we’re loved. Coming home to God strangely brings us home to ourselves.

This isn’t some throwaway time on earth. Right now, this autumn of 2020 matters. I also don’t want to forget that you, across the aisle there, are divine clay art. What if, too, we can only cling to our own humanity as much as we cling to the humanity of others? Watch for sneaky dehumanizing language toward anyone. It’s meant to tear down your own soul.

Peace to you as November rolls in and the trees get naked in our yards. May you appreciate the butt God gave you and may you believe that your smallest actions matter, whether or not you see why just yet.