The Narrow Path (30-word Thursday challenge)

Image details: up in the foothills of the Cascade mountain range in Washington State. A quick pit stop to enjoy the beautiful scenery. (02/07/16)

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Surrounded by nothing more than the sound of the rushing river current far beyond the trees, serenity transformed into unease as I pondered the source of the adjacent dirt track.

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Detail-Oriented

“The devil is in the details.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase from time to time. Have you ever taken a moment to consider what it truly means? In truth, it depicts a situation that, on the surface, seems simple and uncomplicated, but when investigated further, the details bring to light difficulties or mysterious elements that may have been previously overlooked.
Pay attention, and you’ll catch a glimpse of subtle differences – minute details – that can tell quite a story. A wince of pain when someone thinks no one else is looking. The redness of the eyes that just cried a river of tears in solitude. Broken and bent blades of grass, hinting to soft footsteps nearby. Masked accents that creep to the forefront amid fatigue, anger, or excitement… The warmth of an item. The rate of breathing. Moisture – or lack of it. The tone of one’s voice. The questions asked, and responses given… All tell-tale signs, if we pay attention and apply basic logic.

I like to believe I have relatively sharp skills when it comes to observation. As a parent, it’s almost a requirement. As a single parent, being without the ability to survey the evidence beyond the “given” story can be quite a detriment! Of course, to err is human, right?

And here’s where I “err” most: reading people’s reactions to and perceptions of ME! Sometimes I really need subtle cues to take the form of 18-foot-wide neon-lit billboards on 20-foot-high poles or bricks being hurled in my general direction (read: at my head, basically) with colorful Post-It notes (you must understand – I’m a fiend for Post-It notes!!) taped to them, explicitly detailing one’s intent.

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Maybe it’s in an attempt to preserve a bit of mystery. Or maybe it’s because of failed attempts in the past, and a desire not to dramatically face-plant and risk public humiliation… Maybe it’s a truly broken filter when it comes to stepping beyond outlying details, inanimate objects, and observable conditions and into the vulnerability of interpersonal relationships. Maybe it’s in an effort to never again re-live the sensation of having all the mirrors within the proverbial Fun House instantaneously shattered in a blistering display of destruction, devastation, and chaos – a brief moment of exuberant light dancing off every small shard of deadly glass, rocketing through silent space, before having it all come crashing down to a final resting of irreparable carnage and utter darkness… But, I digress…

Just recently, in a rather embarrassing and hurtful scenario, the muttering “I can’t believe she can’t tell the difference between kindness and interest… That’s pretty sad!” could be heard just above the bustling of the surrounding crowd, the circulating melodies and harmonies of entertainment, and at the perfect pitch to shatter a fragile heart. Truly, it is sad when “kindness” is so rare a trait expressed that it is foreign in its exhibition among friends and strangers… So, how does one decipher the difference between “kindness” and “interest”? How deeply is the devil hidden in such details of one’s motives that those details may be so grossly misinterpreted? And is it a purposeful dance that leads some to engage, entice, prey on, and ultimately deceive others who may exhibit subtle cues of vulnerability and trust, begging that they fall victim, committing the egregious error of relinquishing their guard, throwing (social and emotional) caution to the wind, and rendering their hearts unguarded? What is to be gained except to see the anguish of another soul? Are there truly those out there so cold? So uncaring? So self-absorbed, that the carnage they leave in their wake is of no consequence?

I’m sure we can all answer – and maybe share a story or two to vilify – that question…

“The devil is in the details.”

The situation seems simple enough when first looked at. However, upon closer examination, there are elements that come to light that change the perspective and understanding. If one has encountered enough “devilish” scenarios, the factor of trust that accompany any new situation may be lacking, if it exists at all… Even if one struggles with carrying a diminishing remnant of hope – hoping beyond all desperation that, just once, there is a chance that this new-found rose will be without a thorn, and not cause impalement, pain, and some sort of soul-aching sorrow – the likelihood of acting on that glimmer of hope is so remote (the rationalization: if the rose is, indeed, without a thorn, it shouldn’t be touched, as it is most likely the only one of its kind, and therefore to steal away with it would be an act of pure selfishness).

Rose Border (Vintage)

So what is one to do when a new scenario is displayed? A new stage is set, and the play is unfolding, scene by scene, but a script is not available to outsiders – participation is voluntary, and the outcome is uncertain. Do you remain seated, near the rear of the theatre, observing the actors, the setting, the tone, the details… Do you seek out the devil? Or do you boldly walk onto the stage, secure in the knowledge that the timbers under your feet will sustain you throughout the performance, despite the unscripted nature of each scene to come? Is there a cautious approach with quiet, deliberate yet tentative steps, withholding commitment upon further inspection? The question arises: will waiting enhance or reduce the intensity of the scenario’s outcome? Will a “thornless” opportunity pass you by, or will you escape a moonlight tango with a sinister partner?
I’ve been asked to move closer to the stage, but I’m not sure if it’s an invitation to join the performance just yet… At least, I think it was a genuine calling toward the reserved seats   (I reiterate, this type of perception is where I am horrifically unskilled, inadequate, and definitely lacking in experience)! Kindness was on display; however, as not to suffer another earth-shaking, heart-shattering, and socially-awkward “face-plant”, with discernment, I’m leaving it merely as a kindness, for now – until something more concrete (like a brick thrown at my head with a Post-it note taped to it stating, “Hey You, Silly! I’m interested!”) becomes (unmistakably, painfully) apparent.

CELEBRATING A MILESTONE!

I just wanted to take a quick moment to sayImage result for polar bear hugs imagesImage result for thank you hugs

THANK YOU

THANK YOU

THANK YOU

to those that have taken the time to read and subscribe to this humble blog!

Today, the 50th Subscriber has clicked that lovely lil’ COME FOLLOW ME button,

and for that, I’m dropping balloons, tossing confetti, and shooting off the fireworks!

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Why? WHY NOT?!

Life is more enjoyable if you find things to celebrate!

So, again, THANK YOU, and I hope you continue to enjoy your visits!

Unique Boutique

I inquisitively peered beyond the façade today, and for a moment, felt my heart sink. Despite a presentable (at least I have been under the impression it was pleasing) storefront, I was awakened to disturbing details. Statistics… purely unhuman and infallibly cold calculations that do not consider ever being considerate, and stare back at the consumer, stone-faced but seemingly without malice or weapon, shattering dreams, hopes, aspirations, and tender hearts.

Twenty blog posts over the course of roughly twenty-two weeks (not counting this one). Over thirty followers now (and a most humble and sincere “thank you” to you all!!). But, in looking at my readership ratings, a most obvious and truly disheartening steady decline… My posting average still remains about 4 new blog posts per month; however, interest in what I am writing seems to have waned drastically. And I ponder if such significant lack of interest should predicate the captain’s call to abandon ship.

1425_3Now, of course, I could invoke the trusty ostrich philosophy, and bury my head in the sand, choosing to ignore the deafening silence played out in the melodic realism of the statistical evidence, as crystal clear and undisputable as any such findings. Conversely, I can fabricate rationalizations that support the finite statistics while leaving a glimmer of hope, such as: people have been busy with the timeliness of the holidays and all the effort, planning, preparation, and participation they entail, and leave blog-reading by the wayside. Another possibility is that some folks out there in the blogosphere, and beyond, suffer from the same two syndromes I too am burdened with: a reading disability that makes reading both incredibly difficult and time consuming (and after 10- to 12-hour workdays, eyes that just don’t want to focus anymore!), and simply, lack of free time to devote to pleasure reading! (I’ve been told that throughout the far reaches of the world, both ‘free time’ and ‘reading for pleasure’ are true events, and not merely works of fiction. I myself remain a skeptic; however, there is always opportunity for growth and a broadening of our understanding, right?)

Or, I can very well dim the illuminated open beckoning call, roll up the awning, shake the dust off the “welcome” mat, drop the window shades, and latch the doors secure amid a darkened dwelling place. Close up shop and proceed forward, or at least onward whatever the direction…

detour

A possible detour (as is often the case in my life)? 

I’ve been visited time and again (translation: haunted) by this quickly-spoken inspirational gem of wisdom, thinking it merely a bobble of whimsy, refusing to consciously allow it to penetrate to the inner depths of my consciousness. Why? Because it tore at my desire to be a people-pleaser, confounded my need for justification, and dispelled fallacies that acknowledgment and edification from others were the only signs of success. I was raised to believe without the praises of others, the conjoined trumpeting of the masses, one was nothing short of invisible; I’ve spent my entire life being invisible, and I was hoping that through my writing, at least one wayward beam of light would rest upon me – not fame and fortune, per se, but a hiatus from utter invisibility.

Specialty stores. (Hang on; this is the same post – I didn’t get lost!) Specialty stores: those small retailers that cater to specific needs and individualistic clientele. A vendor that specializes in offering men a wonderful shaving experience. The clothier that caters to infants and toddlers. Proprietors of anime collectibles. Comic book stores. A vegan bakery and café. A boutique that celebrates the craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind handmade goods of local artisans near high-traffic tourist venues.

I think you’ve got the idea.

But, truly, what is the point, and how does it all relate? Good question. Excellent question!

Let me explain:
One thing that these specialty shops have in common is their disregard for total and complete domination. Yes, they may strive for market position priority (that’s the three business degrees talking…); however, they are intuitive enough to not waste time and resources entertaining the masses while facilitating focused niche markets and boutiques that cater to a select clientele. They, instead, revel in those customers that enter, admire, and welcome with genuine interest the findings that adorn the shelves, baskets, racks, and display cases behind unassuming doors, foregoing the over-commercialized, mass-marketed branding that befalls the majority of retail reality. And those proprietors, those purveyors of fine-found treasures treasure those that have found them! They greet their guests, not worried about those other hurried shoppers looking for items that simply don’t exist within their havens – the vegan baker really isn’t concerned with flagging down a brood of motley teens, snacking on corn dogs and soft pretzels, because she understands her energy is better utilized baking delectable treats for her clientele, and pleasing their palates, nor will the children’s clothier aspire to make those same teenagers frequent visitors to his shop, as they, without need for children’s clothing, will be more of a distraction for the shop owner, whose attention, and heart, are with those who have come to partake in the boutique’s uniqueness, with intent.

summer-sea-glass2Point being (listen, dear inner self!): understand that I am unique. Understand that what I offer is unique. Do not waste my energy and resources (translation: my emotions) trying to please the masses, when knowing full-well it is genuinely more rewarding to celebrate and treasure those that have found me to be a treasure without any benefit of over-commercialized, mass-marketed branding.

This is all a learning process – seeing myself as good enough, without outward confirmation – that is nowhere near its completion. I hope that by sharing my heart and my thoughts, some others may come to the same conclusion about themselves (even if it may only reach 30+ wonderful, caring individuals – nay, cherished guests! – gracious enough to be following this ‘specialty blog’).

Here’s to heart-satisfying and thought-provoking “retail therapy”!

Temporarily Permanent

Perspective.

What is it exactly?

By definition, perspective is “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”. (It can also be defined as “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point”, and although it is arguable that life is art, I won’t be addressing artistic perspective, per se, today.)

I find it interesting – nay, intriguing! – how perspective influences our opinion. Much like experiences having leverage and significant impact on the dimension of our focus (see post Finding Humanity in Winter), one’s perspective in direct relation to a situation not only predicates the response given, it often monopolizes it, regardless of any previous experience to the contrary. Basically, if we’re in the dark and darkness is all we see, it is unfathomable to see anything more than darkness despite having experienced ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in the past.

Extreme? Perhaps. But nonetheless not necessarily untrue.

Illustration: Think back to the last time you had a severe cold, or the flu (or, if not yourself, a loved one that you helped care for during that time). Day Two or Day Three into the experience, the wretchedness of sinus pressure, the shredding pain of broken glass shards tumbling down your constricted, raw throat with each swallow, feverish chills forcing you deep under the tonnage of fleece and woven cotton only to be marred by the beads of sweat on your brow, and the ripping ache throughout your joints, restricting fluid movement, draining every ounce of energy out of your listless frame. Even to partake in a cup of lemon chamomile tea with honey or bowl of chicken noodle soup is a monumental chore. You lay there, tissue in hand, dabbing your swollen, chapped nose and expel the simple words illuminating your current perspective, “this flu is killing me!”

But, wait!

You’ve had the flu before. And you’ve, well, survived… And, despite that present position, deep within the recesses of snuggle blankets and menthol throat lozenge wrappers, the predominant prognostication is that you, indeed, will again escape the clutches of Death in a week or so – with plenty of rest and clear fluids – but you can’t see beyond the mounting pile of discarded tissues, drawing on faded memory, to know that you will see the light of another day. Your feet will touch ground again, gleefully participating in retail therapy. Your tongue will relish in fantastical feasts and roaring repartee. And yes, your heart will languish in the thought of wasting another breath in the living tomb which is your office cubicle… But you don’t see that; you see death. You see permanence in the temporary – darkness in the midst of residing in the dark, casting aside the lucid remembrance of healthier days…

Point made?

So, how is it that we shake off this “permanence in the temporary”, and realize things for what they are – or what they could be? How do we change our perspective even if our circumstance has not changed? If the physicality of something remains the same, how do we redefine it?

Several of my current circumstances can easily lend to melancholy and the ambiance of defeat. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when I succumb to these jesters and lose sight of things beyond the temporary; however, as the past chapter’s song floats away on the evening breeze and providence crashes upon a new calendar year (Hello, 2017! Let’s be friends, shall we?), I’m determined to remain aware of my perspective, adjusting it as one would a manual camera lens, allowing in light and clarity of focus, distilling shortsightedness, and capturing inspiration, catapulting me through – beyond! – the darkness and into the warmth of glowing hope, where once before I drew breath.

Finding Humanity in Winter

Have you ever had the pleasure of teaching a youngster the fine art of whistling? How about attempting to communicate with an individual who speaks a completely different language? How would you convey to a blind person the magnificence and splendor, contour and texture, beauty and awe of clouds? Seemingly impossible tasks, wouldn’t you say? It’s hard to fathom things beyond our own narrow scope of reality. Without having relatable experiences, we are left with vague interpretations, frustrating abstractions, and a plethora of misunderstandings.

Winter is definitely upon us here in the US.  As is common, there are certain areas (ahem, I’m talking to you:  the southern ends of California, Arizona, and Texas; Hawaii; and the Florida panhandle) who refuse to participate, but as I survey my purplish-pinkish-blue fingertips, I can’t say I blame you! And it’s not like I haven’t been through a winter or two up here in the north end (it’s no Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Maine), but sometimes, I’m just taken aback a little by the biting cold and reminded of my own personal vulnerabilities. It’s because of this that I was drawn to a new opportunity to help serve in a little yet profound capacity. And when describing this new venture to a family member back home (in a non-winter-participating location), I became aware of our simple short-sightedness in light of lack of experience.

In most large metropolitan cities, there are men’s and women’s shelters that are run continuously throughout the year, day in and day out. These facilities provide lodging and meals for those who are without the means to provide for themselves the basic needs of food and shelter. Regardless of how one ends up in such a situation, it’s a beautiful thing to know there are those who are willing to step in and bridge the gap, whether through monetary donations to keep the shelters up and running, through donations of food and supplies, or through donations of time, serving and developing relationships with those who walk through the doors of the facilities in need of assistance, in need of a hand up, in need of hope for tomorrow, in need of a sense of humanness in their lives. In colder climates, even in the midst of full-time shelters, there are what are referred to as “emergency cold weather shelters” that open in the event that the weather is forecasted to drop below freezing overnight. These are temporary locations set up within churches, businesses, and other community outreach organizations, coordinated through bands of volunteers for the express purpose of providing safe, hospitable shelter during unsafe, inhospitable weather – further bridging the gap and reaching out to a segment of the community most in need of compassion and warmth (both figuratively and literally).

As I became more acclimated to “winter” – read: temperatures below 50 degrees F – I had heard from time to time the mention of these “emergency cold weather shelters”, but was rather unfamiliar with them. Just this season, however, I had the opportunity to invest whole-heartedly into my community’s outreach program, and become a volunteer! There are actually three participating facilities within the city where I live that coordinate to make sure each day of the week is covered, if need-be. My specific affiliation facility handles Thursday nights; however, since finishing up my studies, I didn’t see any harm in disseminating my name throughout each of the three facilities, to make sure I could be of benefit whenever needed! Each night is broken up into three shifts: 7pm – 11pm, 11pm – 3am, and 3am – 7am. There are always at least two volunteers during each shift, a dinner served at 7:30pm, doors locked and lights out at 10pm, rise with breakfast at 6am, and doors locked again at 7am (to allow for those who have jobs to attend to, time to get off and going). Granted, the “emergency cold weather shelters” are not open every night – only when the weather is forecasted to dip below freezing (32 degrees F), so there are days that go by when there is no need for the volunteers. There are, however, other times when the shelter is open for several days at a time. And because the shelter is hosted by different participating facilities on different nights, the supplies (mattresses, pillows, linens, toiletries, check-in paperwork, etc.) has to be picked up, packed up, transported, unloaded, re-disseminated time and time again – all through the hard work of the volunteers and coordinated effort of the outreach program.

I’ve had the pleasure of shaking hands, filling soup bowls, brewing coffee, and sitting down to engage in conversation with several of the guests of the cold weather shelter in my community. I know several guests by name, and while only a couple remember my name (which isn’t a big deal to me), quite a few recognize me and greet me tenderly. The humility, graciousness, and true gratefulness I’ve seen displayed by these guests is heartwarming.

Twenty years ago, I had never witnessed a snowflake falling from the sky. I’m not complaining; I was blessed to grow up without the fear of frozen pipes, black ice, or snow drifts (of course that also meant no snow days – ever!) Because of that, though, I also never would have known what an “emergency cold weather shelter” was, nor would I be able to explain how they functioned; my narrow scope of reality was dictated by my experiences. Even more so was my shielded view of those beautiful people who walk through the doors, thankful for a warm meal, a warm place to lay their head for the night, and a warm, friendly face, sharing with them the simple “hello” of humanity.

I am grateful for new relatable experiences that help to clarify vague interpretations, add definition to the abstractions of life, and sort out, slowly, the plethora of misunderstandings.

November

Two note-worthy events happen during the month of November: “Movember” and “NaNoWriMo”. For those that unfamiliar with these events, allow me to introduce you to them.

Movember – when gentlemen forgo the ritual of shaving their facial hair and instead “grow a mo’” – mustache – to both bring awareness to, and, hopefully, commit to raising donations that benefit men’s health (which include prostate and testicular cancer and suicide prevention) by participating as a “walking, talking billboard in honor of men’s health” during the entire month and joining in or hosting fund-raising run/walks or other events.

NaNoWriMo – according to their website (www.nanowrimo.org), this event is for anyone who has ever aspired to writing a novel – which I’m sure is a passion most here have either dealt with , are dealing with, or don’t want to admit to, for fear of awakening a beast too rebellious to contain… The goal of NaNoWriMo (for those not “in the know” stands for National Novel Writing Month) is to complete a 50,000-word novel, written between November 1st and 11:59 PM November 30th.

 

 

Okay, now that we’ve all become properly acquainted, let’s move forward, shall we?

 

 

My young son asked me the other day if I had ever heard of “Movember” or “No Shave November”, to which I informed him I had, indeed, heard of it, and understood it to be in place to help bring awareness to men’s health (as it is, indeed)… We briefly discussed the topic, and I jokingly urged him to participate. Now, of course, I don’t know that he’ll be able to actively raise any funds for the cause; however, I’ve been wanting to see what type of facial carpet he could attain if he would just step away from the razor blade for a little while! He’s still so young – I forget sometimes that he shaves, he’s that young – and most of his facial hair comes in tawny-colored so it blends in with his complexion. However, ever since the first time he put the blade to his face and removed the three or four hairs that took residence between his nose and top lip, he’s been obsessed with the smooth skin feeling – stubble of any sort drives him bonkers!

And then there’s me… (Oh, I could almost hear the collective sigh from the universe…) I’ve wanted to complete a novel for SSSOOOOOOO long, it’s nearly pathetic at this stage – almost like that sweet four-year-old girl who, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, replies “a mermaid!” and you just don’t have the heart to tell her it’s well, out of this world, never going to happen in a million, billion, trillion years, simply impossible… Well, yeah, that’s me. I want to be a novelist – or for goodness’ sake, simply a writer by trade! – however, it’s beginning to seem like an impossible achievement. Alas, I still (figuratively lay my head down and) dream! I know writing is something I can do, when tasked – I’ve been a student on several occasions, and have therefore been tasked with numerous written requirements. Thousands upon thousands of words, carefully chosen and with the precision of a craftsman, delicately positioned to convey and entertain, educate and persuade the reader while demonstrating a knowledge and understanding, a passion and compassion, not only for the subject matter, but also for the art form of writing itself. I know that I can write… So, why is it that my mermaid’s tail remains an impossibility?

As of the composition of this post, 1/6th of the month has come and gone. Kudos to my son, who has resisted the urge to shave – not that you can tell by looking at him, but he claims there are whiskers there that are driving him mad, and the sheer unevenness of his mustache stubble is simply unruly (ooooookay, if you say so…). As for me, surprisingly, over the past 24 or 36 hours (I don’t know when it all started, truly, and it really doesn’t make that much difference in the long run!) I began crafting a brand new story line, with twists and turns, surprises and secrets I had never envisioned before! Although I have two in-process works that constantly tug at those guilt strings, desperate to inch forward in progress, remorsefully staring at me like malnourished pups begging table-side, I thought a new creative path might stir up the desire for exploration and journey. Thus far, as fate would have it, my word count toward the famed 50k NaNoWriMo word count is sitting at a nice, symmetrical goose egg.

I can’t begin to explain the anxiety! Even writing about writing causes anxiety! Why? The fear of the unknown – what if writing something brilliant actually leads to the fulfillment of a dream? What then?? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself! And would I be able to replicate such a feat? I mean, really, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling – whomever you fancy! – they were, and are, blessed with abundant talent that surpasses any general conception of talent! And until one can earn enough through writing – which is a feat in itself – there’s the drain on time and energy of the dreaded “day job” (which right now, is my total “Stockholm Syndrome” – but more on that later!)… If I were to tell you that in writing this blog post alone, I’ve stopped and walked away from it on three separate occasions, you’d think me mad! (Okay, so I guess I just admitted to it anyway, and you’re free to think whatever you want – it doesn’t change the facts…) In the interim, I’ve cleaned my kitchen, washed the dishes, made popcorn – because, hey, whole grains, right? – and almost purchased a new desk for my son, all to avoid the thought of finishing this blog post and maybe, possibly being faced with the anxiety-inducing thought of starting my NaNoWriMo manuscript… Agh!

Dang it! If my son can persevere despite the savage tortures of microscopic uneven and unruly mustache stubble, I should be able to boldly face the blinding white of the blank computer screen and toss a few unassuming lines of dialogue and understory much like Bob Ross with his simplistic “even if you’ve never painted before, this one you can do” brush strokes and, voila, just like those famed ‘happy trees’, my story would just miraculously unfold upon the canvas!

Wish me luck!

 

 

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” – Bob Ross, from “The Joy of Painting”

Dress the Part

Conversations aren’t always the easiest to strike up.

          Well, that’s not true! According to my youngest child, I have a knack for chatting up fellow patrons  in the line at the grocery store waiting to pay for their produce, fishing for unbiased feedback from strangers outside the changing rooms while hunting through second-hand haute couture, even alleviating awkward silences on the elevator while scaling urban high rises. But, when it REALLY matters…

My youngest child is at a new school this year, and is experiencing all the thrills that go with the territory: new teachers, new schedules, and a new terrain to navigate in record time each day. He’s not the only new face on campus, though – there’s an entire grade-level worth of “newcomers”: the 2016-2017 high school freshmen class! These individuals, stuck between adolescence and adulthood, trying to fumble and flail their way through the muddied waters of senior high school – no long the “upper classmen” of middle school, tight-knit and secure in their relative proximity to one another as ‘a pack’. Now, scattered across countless acres of mundane, mud-colored buildings, corridors humming with pounding feet and the crashing of exhausted metal locker doors barely clinging to their hinges and a veritable menagerie of shapes, heights, hair colors, widths, eye colors, voices, talents, laughters, snarls, social cliques and antisocial exiles representing all corners of the city, county, school district, and outer banks of consciousness possible. Tough enough task just to make it through each day during that first month. But that’s not enough for the soul-crushing monster that is High School…

 

Must. Inflict. More. Emotional. Scarring. Through. Social. Awkwardness.

 

          Is it just me, or in retrospect, does that seem like the general mission statement of high school?

Two weeks in, and all of a sudden, there’s a social function that requires focused CONVERSATION. The Homecoming Dance. It’s become so much more than what it was when I was in high school – back before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fashion-forward Swatch watches. Now, it’s pre-sale tickets, suits, ties, evening gowns, pre-dance dinners – it’s pre-Prom, for all grade levels! But what do you do when you only know 6 people on campus – those six friends you had in Middle school, four of which are guys you band together with to terrorize online gaming servers and blast everything into oblivion by way of Steam-enabled games? Sure, talking with the person sitting next to you in Geometry or Video Tech class is easy if it’s just random chit-chat about classroom subject matter; however, when there’s a calculated risk underpinning a seemingly innocuous dialogue, casual and light-hearted antics give way to fear, anxiety, and trepidation. Compounding on the perceived pressures of unplanned conversations with a relative stranger, add to the mix the innate cloddish and provincial mannerisms of life as a teenager in general, with untimely voice cracks and unanticipated brain drain, how could it even be conceivable to drum up the courage to talk with a fellow classmate? The list of unknowns is far too overwhelming! I haven’t even mentioned the earth-shattering concept of (gasp!) rejection… (dun-dun-duuuuuun!)

 

Enter ‘Spirit Week’ dream concept: “Traffic Light Dress Code Day”.

 

Okay, picture this – there are those whose lives are truly uncomplicated; they know their path. Class schedules are always without a hitch, friends all live within shouting distance of their front porch, their dog and cat are snuggle buddies, and their bathtub never drains slowly. And questions about a date for the Homecoming Dance? Pish! That’s a no-brainer. Then there are those who wrestle with details: did ‘So-and-So’ get a parent’s approval? Does ‘Whos-a-Whats-It” have transportation? Maybe there’s a relationship that’s as predictable as a bee’s flight pattern during a wind storm, and it’s anybody’s guess until the 11th Hour… Lastly, there are those who are totally open to the idea of unpretentiously parading into the dance with a partying partner but who lack the “partnering” skills…

Red.      Yellow.      Green.

For one day during ‘Spirit Week’ (the week leading up to the Homecoming football game, and Homecoming Dance, where students are encouraged to partake in activities that show their ‘school spirit’), individuals dress in the color that corresponds to their dance-date situation. If your dance-floor moves are spoken for, then red’s your color. If ‘it’s complicated’ for any given reason, dress the color of sunshine. “Green light” indicates you’re open and available!

As I was describing this to a family member, the reaction was mixed. Direct quote: “The color thing almost sounds humiliating. Like, look at me, I’m single. No?” I went on to explain that participation was merely BY CHOICE, and in my humble opinion, I thought the concept was inspired! This was my interpretation of the theory:

If you’re too shy to ask someone for fear of rejection, or you’re not sure if they’re going with someone already, you’re reluctant to ask. However, if you see them wearing green – or, on the flip side, if they see you wearing green! – it opens the opportunity for conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. At fourteen, are they really going to be ‘humiliated’ about their singleness? (please, please, PLEASE, I need to hear a resounding “no!”)

Besides, it’s not really a “look at me, I’m humiliatingly single”, but more of a “look at me, I have the potential of being your new best friend – because apparently I’m gusty enough to play along and I’m honest with people”!

Family member’s response (direct quote again): “Ok. That perspective makes sense.”

 

…for the record, my son wore green pants AND a long sleeve green shirt… I haven’t heard if it started any conversations, though…