What I’ve Learned from Living with a Lollygagger

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Photo by David von Diemar on UnsplashL

Laura and I are good friends—really good friends. But like any pair of humans, we have our differences. I love music, and Laura likes silence. I am hot blooded, and she is perpetually cold. I enjoy Brussels sprouts, and she gags when she eats them. So we compromise. She puts on another layer. I wear headphones. She makes small batches of Brussels sprouts for me and another vegetable for herself.

But there is one difference that really requires a lone compromise on my part.

Laura believes in the divine elasticity of time.

To put it simply, she’s what some people might call a lollygagger. Now this doesn’t mean she’s lazy—it just means she enjoys taking her time, and, by the nature of taking her time, sometimes she doesn’t realize how much time she’s taken. I’m the opposite. I watch the seconds and try to cram them with as much action as I can.

I wouldn’t change Laura for the world, but I have learned how to change my perspective about her ambling approach to living. Do you find yourself frazzled with the people in the slow lane of life? Check out these tips for living with a lollygagger.

  1. Nix the need to nag. If you grew up in a church-going family, you probably experienced your father in the idling family car, honking as your mother put the roast in the crockpot, shoes on the baby, and makeup on her face. When we were first friends, I hovered by Laura’s bathroom in the mornings, giving out two minute updates—the equivalent of horn honking. This did little more than make for a tense drive to work or church and further frazzle both of us. If you happen to be the one ready first, one or two gentle reminders will do.
  2. Make sure you’re ready. There have been times that I was so focused on clock watching and grousing at Laura that I forgot to be ready myself. Gather your stuff, turn off the lights, have the lunch packed, and even gather the lollygagger’s stuff if you can. Be ready to go, because when a lollygagger finally realizes the time, she can move pretty fast.
  3. Pitch in. Mornings seem to be particularly hard for lollygaggers. And because they are usually the contemplative sort, they are prone to get lost in their pontifications. Gently encourage them to start getting ready earlier. It might even help to set the clocks forward a bit throughout the house, to sort of trick them into a false urgency. Ask how you can help them get ready so that you can get out the door on time.
  4. Use the wait time. If you are inclined to wait in the car, perhaps keep a book on tape to listen to. Keep a book handy to read or journal to write in. Clean the frost off the car windows, water the plants, look at the news, sweep the porch, write an email. Don’t just sit around and watch the clock tick.
  5. Consider the lessons. It often occurs to me how much my lollygagger has to teach me. I’m not sure what all she does in the bathroom each morning, but Laura comes out looking 10 times better than I do. At least in my experience, my lollygagger isn’t so much slow as she is thorough. And though I usually panic about the time, I’ve learned from Laura that time really is more elastic than we give it credit for. We’re rarely as late as I think we’re going to be. In other words, I’m frequently reminded to slow down, focus on each task, and just enjoy my moments.
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When You’ve Had Enough This November

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You know, I believe I’ve figured out why stores skip right from Halloween to Christmas, bypassing Thanksgiving like a freight train passing a hobo. Quite simply, short of Reddi-wip, Butterball turkeys, and Stovetop Stuffing, they have nothing to advertise.

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Halloween, even Easter—all these holidays center around giving things to people. But stores don’t know what to do for Thanksgiving because to be thankful means to be full, in fact, overflowing with gratitude. You don’t need anything because you already have enough. And marketers just don’t know how to entice people who have enough.

How interesting that Thanksgiving—a holiday of fullness and plenty—is just one month before Christmas, a season when we have neither enough time or money but a growing list of needs and wants.

At the start of November, I love seeing people make their daily Facebook posts of what they’re thankful for—a countdown of thanks to Thanksgiving. With all our friends, family, freedom, stuff, and grace, it’s easy to post 23 days of statuses. Our Facebook posts runneth over. We’ve had enough—we are full!

But what if our thankfulness overflowed in ways other than just making a list of our blessings?

1. Give 23 people a thank you card. Does a coworker do something particularly well? Shock their socks off by handing them a thank you note. Did someone do something for you years ago that you still remember? Send a card to let them know you haven’t forgotten. Appreciate someone just because they’re in your life? Jot a note of appreciation and leave it for them to find. Let a little-known person know you appreciate what they do—the custodial staff at your office, your mailman, the cashier you frequently see at the grocery store.

2. List one of God’s awesome attributes a day and study the Scripture that corresponds to that attribute. Keep a “thanks” journal to let God know that of all your blessings, you’re most thankful for Him and not just for what He gives you, but for who He is.

3. Take a break from buying things in November and focus on what you already have. Contemplate in what ways you can embrace the people in your life, what way you can appreciate the things that you already have, and in what ways you might better devote yourself to the heavenly Father.

4. Give out of your abundance. Identify the 23 things you’re most thankful for and share that with someone else. (Note: you might not be able to take a break from buying and do this at the same time). If you particularly enjoy the warmth of your comfy fireplace, invite someone over to enjoy hot chocolate on a cold evening. Thankful for the Starbucks on your way to work? Buy a coffee for someone else in the office or pay for the order of the person behind you. Enjoy a special game or book? Surprise someone by sending it to them from Amazon. Appreciate the mercy of the driver behind you when he let you over in a busy lane? Let someone else over later that day.

5. Commit to a complaining fast. Decide that for 24 days you’re going to bite your tongue when you really want to complain. And when you’re tempted to give in, find one good thing to be thankful for in the situation instead.

6. Identify 23 things you are not thankful for. Decide why not and consider how you can choose to be thankful in, if not for, every situation (Philippians 4:11). Consider how nothing happens for nothing. We can grow through every situation and learn to trust the Father more.

Just like it’s silly to think that love and peace and joy should be confined to the Christmas season, it’s ridiculous to devote the month of November to being thankful without practicing gratitude the rest of the year. I hope that these 23 days will jumpstart gratitude habits that will last through next Thanksgiving and beyond.

Our lives are so full of good things; we should be full of thanks.

 “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7 NLT).

I’d love to hear about how you practice thankfulness in November and how it carries through the rest of the year.

 

 

 

Lessons from October

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Guest Post by Avery Foley

I can never decide which season I like best: spring or autumn.

Every spring when I breathe in the scent of apple blossoms and watch the green grass and colorful flowers pop up, I decide spring is my favorite. But the months pass, the leaves start to morph into brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange, the air somehow smells like change, and the wildflowers put on one last display before heading to a well-deserved winter’s sleep. And, every year, I make up my mind—autumn is my favorite . . . until spring rolls around again.

But the fall season has held special significance for me the last three years.

On September 13, 2015, I said “I do” and started a new journey of love and commitment to my best friend. Just over a year later, on October 1, 2016, we welcomed an 8-pound, 10-ounce baby boy into the world. And, this year, as the leaves once again rustle and swirl across the browning grass, he celebrated his first birthday. The adage is true—time flies.

My family will tell you I’m a planner. I like to know what is happening and when it is happening. I count down the days to exciting events, even starting two or three years in advance. I had my wedding planned as an 8-year-old and had my career goals mapped out by age 12. I had a detailed 10-year plan in hand when I reached “adulthood” at the ripe old age of 18. I knew what I wanted, thought I had figured out how to get it, and was determined to accomplish it as fast as humanly possible.

But, as Anne Shirley remarked in Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Octobers remind us to slow down. The change of color, the cooler evenings, the pumpkin stands on the roadside remind us that another summer has come and gone, that Christmas is coming and, close on its heels, another new year. And then this year will be gone, and a new unmarked year will again be before us, ready to be filled with our joys, sorrows, accomplishments, mistakes, successes, and setbacks.

Octobers remind us to slow down.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the next thing—finally buying a house, having more money in savings, yearning for the blessing of another baby, the next step in my career or 10-year plan—that I’m discontent, almost “itchy,” with the life I have now. I think, “Oh, life will be good when I have another baby” or “life will be good when we finally own a house.” It’s not that I don’t like my life—I do. It’s that restless feeling of something else out there that I should be striving for, working toward. And somehow slowing down and resting in the blessings my Heavenly Father has already given me gets forgotten.

My dad always told me “Enjoy the journey.” I used to chafe at that, believing it was the end goal that mattered, not the story of getting to that goal. But October and a blue-eyed baby who is somehow already a toddler are teaching me not to count the days but to make the days count.

While in jail for his faith in the city of Philippa, the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12b, 13). Being content doesn’t come naturally, it must be learned. The secret is the strength Christ gives us to cease striving and come to him for true rest.

So this October, as the leaves fall from the trees and the stores rush to get all the Christmas décor on the shelves, telling us to hurry up, think ahead, stock up for the coming season, I want to just slow down and revel in everything my Heavenly Father has given me and enjoy the journey to wherever he takes me and my family next.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

18953473_1610422135658473_8753166920002761271_oAvery Foley was born and raised in Canada but now lives with her husband and son in the Cincinnati area. She loves writing and speaking about science and God’s Word and spends most of her free time either going on adventures with her two “boys” or chatting on the phone with one of her six sisters or eight brothers. She endures my edits each day and hangs on for dear life when we car pool together to work. Read more of her writing at https://answersingenesis.org/bios/avery-foley/ or follow her at Facebook.com/apologeticsavery.

 

Celebrating the Black Cats of the World

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October is Black Cat Awareness month. Calico, munchkin, Persian, Siamese, furless, gray, white, and tabby—none of these cats have their own month of awareness (that I’m aware of). So what makes black cats so special?

Black Cat Awareness month sounded silly when I first read it online—like some kind of crazy Halloween-themed PETA gimmick. But while researching black cats, I found a long history of their misunderstood association with the occult; I read how all black cats were killed during the Middle Ages; and, saddest of all, I found recent statistics that indicate a lingering prejudice against black cats.

Laura and I got in touch with our inner cat ladies.

Several years ago, before we quit teaching and long before we even considered adopting Dudley, Laura and I got in touch with our inner cat ladies and periodically went kitty “shopping.” Though these excursions ended in allergic reactions and ring worm, still we trekked from the SPCA, to Petco, to privately owned animal shelters, to adoption day at Pet Smart looking for the ideal cat: an orange one with white paws and the perfect personality.

We saw orange cats only sporadically, but our options for black cats were never lacking: everywhere ebony kitties gazed at us with green, blue, or yellow eyes. But after a while they all looked the same.

One evening at the Hotel for Cats and Dogs Animal Shelter in Pensacola, we found the perfect butterscotch cat named Sunny. He poked his white-tipped paws between the bars, teasing for attention. After charming us into opening the cage, he blinked up with yellow marble eyes and nonchalantly weaved around our legs.

As we followed him around the room, I noticed the other cages holding almost a dozen black cats—half the cats in the room. A few rubbed against the cages and reached out their paws. But many lay still, barely lifting their heads to inspect us, as if they knew we’d pass by like so many other people had before.

Fewer people pay attention to black cats.

Statistics show that black cats are less than half likely to be adopted than lighter colored cats. Maybe because the dark color doesn’t readily reveal their facial expressions or because it gives them less individual identity than a white or orange cat or because of the black cat’s association with bad luck—whatever the reason, fewer people pay attention to these kitties blending in with the shadows of the cage.

That evening, following Sunny around as if he were a celebrity, I felt guilty. So determined to find a perfect match for my closed-minded specifications, I had passed by who-knows-how-many black cats, to my shame, because they looked the same—unremarkable.

To ease my conscience, I went to each cage, stuck my hand in, rubbed their fur, let them bat at my fingers, murmured comforting things to them. Once up close I noticed each one was different. Some were fluffy, others were short-haired, some had tuxedo markings or small spots, and one had only a single white whisker.

But lying there not bothering to get up or to get our attention, somehow those kitties looked familiar.

I’ve seen those same gazes of resignation from dozens of “black cat” people throughout my life, the reserved coworkers or students in my classes, some who’ve given up on being special enough to gain anyone’s attention in the shadow of outspoken or flamboyant people.

We’re each endowed with defining qualities.

That year, determined to go out of my way to know all my students, I asked them all to write an interesting fact about themselves on their first quiz. I learned that one girl was born with an extra finger on each hand, another guy was a TV show stand-in for Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son), one girl is named after the Pink Power Ranger, another unassuming girl took the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan, and one particularly quiet guy can spin a basketball on a pencil for three hours. On and on went the little accomplishments or quirky traits marking each student as an individual with a personality all his or her own. Flipping through those cards, I felt lucky to spend time with those special people each week.

I’m glad for a month dedicated to black cat awareness, and I’m thankful for the correlating reminder that we’re each endowed with defining qualities—no matter how ordinary we appear.

Whether you’re at the animal shelter looking for a new pet or just looking at the people surrounding you every day, don’t be afraid to cross paths with the black cats and get to know them. You’d be surprised at how lucky they’ll make you feel—during Black Cat Awareness month and every other day of the year.

Fall: The Cynic’s Perfect Season

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Guest Post by Cheryl Simmonds Kee

I watch the steam curl softly from my coffee and sip slowly, aware that today is a day for savoring—a rare light-sweater day of gold-soaked sunshine that toasts your clothing without toasting your skin—the quintessential “fall” everyone envisions.

Only a handful of these days exist each year, yet these are the days that make up most of the traditional fall imagery associated with the season despite how sparingly they are sandwiched between the far more frequent days of gloomy gray skies and gusty winds.

It’s my favorite season. Part beauty, part symbolism.

Understanding the brevity of this beauty, I revel in the deliciously bright and cool morning. For the first time in weeks, the air conditioner sits silent, and I begin making plans to try a new soup recipe I saw online the other day.

It’s my favorite season. Part beauty, part symbolism—it flares so briefly into place with more panache than all the other seasons combined: Crimson. Gold. Orange. Cinnamon. Cider. All things pumpkin.

It’s more than merely a fiery farewell from deciduous greenery that thrills my soul—it’s the flavors, the scents, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet, and the chill that pulls snuggly blankets from their closet storage and prompts my flip-flopped feet to seek fuzzy socks. Autumn is a total immersion of all the senses, and it’s a season made specifically for cynics like myself.

It’s a season made specifically for cynics like myself.

I’ve never been a Pollyanna who can see the best in every situation. In fact, for every silver lining, I am more than capable of finding many a cloud. When my husband took me to Six Flags, I spent most of the rides envisioning every little thing that could go wrong with each ride. I was filled with absolute certainty that death by mechanical failure (caused by a loose screw or something equally benign and unnoticed) was inevitable.

Spoiler: I didn’t die. But I also didn’t enjoy myself much because my focus was mostly on all the bad things that could potentially happen.

And it’s not just Six Flags—I can be a great resource when it comes to considering an opportunity. For every pro, I can think of a dozen potential cons and supply a laundry list of reasons it might not work out. This tendency makes vacation planning fun. My husband gets excited and enjoys the process of looking forward to something, whereas I hold my excitement in reserve. If I don’t build too much anticipation, I can’t be disappointed, right? If I have no expectations, any experience can only exceed them.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Basically, I’m protecting myself against the disappointment of things not going the way I hope them to go. Because bad things CAN happen. 

When it comes to fall, however, those of us who tend toward critique and identifying all the potential downsides are brought up short. We already know the bad thing that happens: things die.

We already know the bad thing that happens: things die.

Verdant life declines toward barren winter. Leaves drain of life while filling with color and then, when they can no longer resist the pull of the wind, they fall to the ground in heaps of bright decay. Geese give lonesome-sounding cries as they abandon their northern homes and fly south for the winter. Fields are relieved of their produce, and pumpkin patches and apple orchards become popular destinations.

Thoughts grow pensive, reflective, and inward—but the hazard is already there, so it doesn’t have to be speculated in all its alarming potentiality. The potential for peril has been realized, and not only do we see death, but we are also given the grace to gaze upon it and find elements of beauty. The focus shifts from mourning the presentation of death toward the celebration of life lived in bold color. Harvest, hearth, and home shine bright and cozy as death flares across the trees and seeps into the ground.

If you track the weather, you’ll see that the ratio of gorgeous autumnal elegance is quite small compared to days filled with blustery gray chill. Yet it’s the fiery flare that sticks out most in people’s minds.

And that is why, despite the melancholy, I love this season best of all. For this very briefest of seasonal changes, even the cynics tend to focus on the golden glory rather than the gloomy gray.

 

. . . . . . . .

CherylCheryl Simmonds Kee was one of my dearest friends (and one-time suitemate) in college. How many times I remember visiting her apartment where she served me the most fabulous scrambled eggs and French toast, and lent me fuzzy socks! She was and is one of the most whimsical people I know, with a flair for the dramatic and love for deep thinking. I always admired her writing for classes and on her post-college blogs. She works as a realtor and lives near Milwaukee with her husband, Ian, and her two kitties, Oscar and Annie.

After the Eclipse

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Photo by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

I didn’t expect it in the months of anxiety preceding the eclipse, when I feared my glasses might not be certified, when the weather forecast called for rain, or when I drove six hours to place myself in the path of totality.

I didn’t expect it when I wrote down a list of what to see during the eclipse (shadow bands at 2:34; Bailey’s Bead at 2:37; the corona at 2:38), when a small, ornery cloud slinked up to the edge of the sun at 2:25, or when my family gathered in the driveway with eclipse donuts in hand to watch the moon nibble at the sun.

I didn’t expect it when the shadow bands writhed across the white sheet we had spread on the concrete or when my heart began to race, stomach bottoming out in the excruciating suspense and anticipation.

I still didn’t expect it when the darkness tucked in around us and the crickets chirped and the neighbor’s rooster crowed.

And at 2:38, when the remainder of the sun slipped behind the moon—of all I had planned to see and hoped to feel—I did not expect rifle shots or fireworks, a gauche raucous a few streets over.

I had expected to be enraptured by the heavens, to hoard the experience as it exploded within me like a supernova. Instead I was startled, disoriented for a moment when a moment couldn’t be spared. The umbra was moving at 1,500 miles an hour—it would be passed soon. Yet there I was, fettered to earth by the fearsome noises that occupy our nightmares and the evening news—guns and bombs, attacks and ambushes—a cacophonous backdrop the duration of the eclipse.

I remembered, at that moment, the sign I saw on my way into Travelers Rest two days before. In crooked marque letters, the advertisement read, “Fireworks. 2 minutes. Entirety of eclipse.”

I’d expected the euphoria, the tears and cries of people overwhelmed with the sight and sense of a world shifting above them, beneath them, within them. But I had not been warned about distraction.

The darkness gave my neighbors a reason to pop off, to make noise, to disturb the real show with their flash and bang. But the darkness was a cheap thrill—a thick cloud might cast a shadow nearly as dark on a stormy day. Had they missed the halo in the sky? Had they not been convicted by the knowledge of something larger than the darkness, far away from the red Carolina soil beneath their boots?

They had sensed the darkness, but they did not see the eclipse. And, really, neither had I.

So in a post-eclipse world, I went to get my hair cut.

At Great Clips, the television replayed footage of crowds, their faces tilted upward, mouths gaping. Newscasters chattered on, attempting to describe the eclipse, as if there was anything to add to what we had seen.

And what had I seen? I pondered this as the hairdresser’s scissors snipped away. Had I absorbed the experience in totality, within and without? Had I received every message that the eclipse had whispered and proclaimed?

I sat there, an ingrate with dripping hair, so swiftly returning to the mundane, distracted by the unexpected and irrelevant.

And I wasn’t alone.

“It didn’t get as dark as I thought it would,” I heard the man in the chair next to me say to his hairdresser. “I was disappointed.”

She commiserated, “Yeah, the lights didn’t even turn on in the parking lot.”

I understood at that moment that had we watched the universe burst from the fingertips of God in the beginning, we might have griped that the lights came on too fast. So petty and jaded, we hoped for special effects but found instead one more reason to be disillusioned.

Expectations are what get us in trouble. Perhaps we enjoy being disappointed almost as much as being satisfied.

Later in the week, I finally discussed all my thoughts with Laura, “I feel like I was robbed of my experience. The eclipse came and went, and I couldn’t even immerse myself in the moment because of the noise. And I just don’t understand.” Here I began crying, for my grief at the crudeness of my neighbors, my guilt for the experience I’d let pass, my disappointment in not feeling the world shake beneath my feet. “How could they look away to light a firework? To fire a rifle?”

But Laura didn’t pity me. “Wasn’t part of the expectation not knowing what to expect and not knowing how other people would respond?” She shrugged. “Wasn’t it all part of the experience?”

And of course she was right.

This is life, to not get what you want but to get something anyway.

While I was waiting for totality, I checked Facebook to see children peering into empty Sugar Smacks and Cheerio boxes fashioned with holes and tin foil. With such wonder they looked into the box to see the projection of the eclipse through a pinhole.

What a time to be a child, I thought. What a time to be alive with an eclipse above us and in cereal boxes. 

People speak of eclipses with reverence, and now I know why. It’s not the glory of the sun or the terror of the moon’s creeping shadow. It is the knowledge that those few seconds are all that heaven grants us.

At first we stood in awe of its generosity, but gratitude turned to greed for more and greed turned to loathing, for in seeing the eclipse we saw ourselves as we are, powerless to make it linger or return.

It’s for the best, really, that we’re rationed these moments of glory. For being reminded of all we can’t control, we’re left to fill that disillusionment with something else, disappointment, grief, humility, or perhaps a quiet wonder at what—whatever—we were blessed to see.

This, I believe, was the message of the eclipse, whispered rather than roared, echoing in my mind: What a time to be alive!

 

 

 

 

No Reason Not To: On Getting My Ears Pierced at 31

“Let’ears2s get your ears pierced,” Laura said several months ago.

I hung a pair of Alice in Wonderland earrings back on the rack and shook my head.

“Why not?”

I gave a sincere shrug. Thirty-one years without pierced ears, and I just didn’t know why.

“Maybe you should find out,” Laura suggested as we walked past J.C. Penney, out of the mall.

Though it’s true that I went over three decades without having my ears pierced, I’ve had holes in my ears since I was born. Turns out I’m one of the under 1% of people in the United States born with preauricular pits, tiny holes on the front of my ears where my ears meet my head. I didn’t learn how rare they are until I was a teenager, but I could have guessed: I’ve spent my life inspecting ears and have met only a handful of people with ear pits.

I’m one of the under 1% of people in the United States with pre-auricular pits,

Once in a store, a little girl noticed them. “You’ve got weird piercings.” (This was back before any part of the anatomy was up for studs and plugs and gauges.)

“They aren’t pierced. Just holes,” I informed her.

Her mouth gaped as she stepped forward for a closer look. That’s the general reaction when people find out about my ear pits (usually hidden by my hair).

When I was young, I sometimes stuck pins in the holes and pretended they were earrings, but was never allowed to pierce my ears. Then again, I never asked my parents if I could. I knew that my mom had once had her ears pierced but let the holes grow shut. So I always assumed those Old Testament verses that spoke about not making marks in your body precluded us from dangles and studs.

A few days later, with Laura’s challenge haunting me, I took out my pink notebook and made a list of reasons not to pierce my ears. Sixteen reasons later, I had it figured out.

Among my reasons were . . .

  • Afraid I might get an infection.
  • Dont want to spend money on earrings.
  • Afraid that Ill be disgusted by sticking something in my earlobes.
  • Embarrassed of drawing attention to my ears (which, in addition to having freaky holes, also curl up a bit at the lobe.)
  • Ashamed that it took me this long to get them pierced.
  • Afraid Ill be like everyone else.
  • Afraid it will create some kind of awareness that I don’t think about now, but would if I get them pierced

The answers startled me. I hadn’t known they ran that deep.

“I’ve made my list,” I told Laura. “Sixteen reasons not to get my ears pierced.”

I guess I expected her to be impressed or dissuaded. She was neither. “OK, now make a list of reasons you should get them pierced.”

Flipping over the page, I cheekily started with “Reason 1—Because Laura wants me too.” Then continued . . .

  • I see cute earrings all the time.
  • Earrings are cheap.
  • I might like them.
  • Theres no real reason not to.

Sometimes a list of pros and cons boils down to one line—the only line that means anything. It’s the do line on the die list. The man line among a column of mouse lines. The swim line in a paragraph of sinks.

 Theres no real reason not to.

With that line staring back at me, my deepest fears seemed unfounded.

Afraid I’ll be like everyone else? Was that a bad thing? In a world obsessed with elusive uniqueness, we forget that it’s not our differences that unite us but our similar experiences. All my life, I was proud of my ear pits because they set me apart—but they also made me feel lonely and freakish. Sure I had holes in my ears—but I didn’t have the adventure of getting them pierced.

Afraid it will create some kind of awareness that I don’t think about now, but would if I get them pierced. Good! I need to know something that I didn’t know before, to broaden my empathy and knowledge.

Afraid that I might get an infection or be disgusted by sticking something in my ear? Well, I wouldn’t know until I tried.

The next weekend at Icing, I rattled on about how weird I felt, getting my ears pierced at 31. As she marked my earlobes, the lady smiled. “That’s OK. It’s never too late.”

It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I had dreaded when the needle pierced my flesh. But when I looked in the mirror and saw the silver studs in my ears, tears sprang to my eyes. Something old had passed; something new had come. I wasn’t the same as when I sat in that chair. We always grieve a bit when we change, always balk a little when faced with the unknown.

We always grieve a bit when we change.

That was a month ago. My ears have healed, and I can wear whatever earrings I want (which generally means raiding Laura’s jewelry box). Each morning, what has been ritual to so many women since their childhood has become a new experience for me as I slip the earrings or studs into the little holes.

Recently, when my mom noticed my pierced ears, I asked her why she let her holes grow closed years before I was born. She shrugged like mothers do, brushing off the real story you’ll never know. But she went to her room and brought out a ring I had fingered many times in my life. It held two diamonds and two opals, but I had never thought to ask its significance.

“Your dad gave me these for our wedding,” she pointed to the opals. “And his parents gave me the diamonds. When I let my ears grow closed, we wanted to keep these, so we made a ring.”

It was a story I’d never heard before, opened like a door unlocked by the key of our related experience. I was glad that I asked.

Our risks, our experiences connect to other experiences and stories and join us to our past, our future, and one another. Time and money will keep me from seeing many places in the world and bar me from experiencing things that I’d otherwise long to see and enjoy. But it’s the simple, close-to-home adventures that sometimes frighten me the most.

It helps when we make our do or die list to find that bottom line and remind ourselves—

There’s no real reason not to.

(And for those who really want to know, this is what my preauricular pits look like.)

my ear