Thursday, January 14, 2016

Week 19 - how like a church the pool



Showering off this morning after the usual morning laps, I thought again how like a church the pool is.  The arching height.  Meant to shelter and yet let light in.  How it glows from the inside out.

Driving here in the morning, all the streets are dark and then - a glimpse between dark houses, light shining out of darkness.  And I know I will find there the embrace of clean water and familiar smiling faces.  I will try to reach a little further than I did yesterday.

This is what a church should be.

There are the regulars -- older ladies, a few old gentlemen.  The organized teams of young people, the squealing kids for lessons will come later in the day.  But the morning congregation is the same type of population you find in Barbara Pym novels keeping the Church of England going.  And a similar purpose motivates our coming so faithfully -- purportedly because it will do some good for us, but it's obvious we aren't all that changed.  Our extra poundage of all the results of bad choices still wags around with us.

So our real reason is not because we are ascetics so particularly advanced on the spiritual (or physical) path but because we like the pleasing regularity of routine, the familiar faces, the company so early in the day facing the dark.

And something more that we sense almost blindly, when we immerse ourselves in this buoyant element and give ourselves over to the rules of water, trusting it to hold us up today once more, like every day before.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

52 Questions | name game?

We are discussing names, my youngest and I, while driving through town from the high school. At the stoplight, he asks why I've re-branded myself as MJ at my new job. I say MJ is handy because it is easy to remember (unlike the multiform MaryJanes, MaryAnn/es, MaryJos, Marys, Jans, etc, I waded through before) -- and it can't really be shortened into anything else . . .

He: Unless you shorten it to M like in James Bond.

Me: There's always that.


He: You know you really could be in James Bond ...

(for an instant I'm trying to imagine myself as one of the deadly slinky femme fatales -- uh no)
He: ... you can be stern and all in charge like M.

Wikipedia: The current M radiates stern efficiency and practicality. She is not afraid of sending agents to die, but on occasion, goes out of her way to help her colleagues and prevent a slaughter.  She demonstrates confidence in her agents 
and slowly warms to the unorthodox efficiency of 007 and his colleagues in the 00-section.  She is known to be a caring mother but refuses to let her compassion get in the way of performing her job and keeping Britain safe. She ably liaises with high-profile government officials and is able to stall the political backlash against MI6 and its processes and agents on many occasions. She will always stand by her decisions and her agents.

Me: That's true.
And we ride along beside each other in silent acknowledgement until I can't resist . . .  
Me: So how do you know I'm not M?

He: Because.
I grin and raise my eyebrows.
He: Mom, I know you're not.

Me: Are you sure?


He: You can't be.  You weren't born in the UK. You don't even talk like that.


Me: Or I may just be very good at accents. How would you know?


He: I'll ask Grandma.


Me: Unless she's in on it too.


He: Mom!


Me: Maybe we're a ring of international spies.


He: Then Grandpa!


Me: If Grandma is in on it, don't you think Grandpa would be, too?


He: Okay, listen. You're not a spy.

Me: Or I'm a very good one.


He: You can't be.  Young sees you at the high school every day.

Me: No, actually, he's been at Outdoor School this week. He hasn't seen me at all.


He: MOM! You are not in MI6!


Me: Good boy.  That's exactly what I want you to keep telling people.


He: MOM!!

Mom, of course, is the name I've had now the longest and the one I respond to most instinctively.  At the store, someone else's child will say "Mom" and I look up, while I still have to remind myself at work that "MJ" means they're talking to me.

Or they’re talking to the persona I put on each workday along with my chunky-heeled, classy-looking high-heeled Bjorn shoes, a persona I’m breaking in and hoping to fit into.

MJ who is capable, creative and eager. Ambitious for this little town, undismayed by nay-sayers, down-to-earth but optimistic, promptly responsive, friendly and full of life. As alert, to-the-point, and on her toes as those two upright open letters themselves.

Inspired, I am sure, by the confident and clever MJ of my girlhood’s favorite comic strip, Spiderman’s more than equal partner. I love it that, though written at first only as a foil to burnish the paler virtues of the “real” love interest, snappy, self-propelled MJ insisted on persisting, in time to win her own irreplaceable spot right at the center of the story.




I’ll never be so va-va-voom, but setting out into the workforce as a silver-haired mother of married children, I was glad to borrow some of MJ’s brisk concision, some of MJ's easy assurance. And it’s not as though I wantonly renamed myself. After all, MJ is the name my college roommates wrote their notes to, the name my younger brothers and sisters would greet me with (Hey MJ!) on my return each summer.  It was the name I've always used to talk myself out of a slump (Okay, MJ, next step. You can do it.)

So that every time my workday moniker is used now, it’s like an echo of that chipper voice of self-encouragement, an echo of that hearty affectionate hailing, saying to me, like the billboard I saw as I came up over the hill right before I heard I’d landed the position: 



MJ would say just that.



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