Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Smelly Me

Great quote...

"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."      Anne Lamott (italics mine)

I wholeheartedly agree.  And as I've been impacted by the honest and earthy writings of folks like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller it has provoked me to not just write but also to live more honestly and authentically than I have in the past.  I certainly haven't arrived and lots of times I'm a chicken shit and like to hide "the me that stinks".  But I feel enough gratitude to these other honest/authentic truth tellers who have made me say, "Whew, I'm not the only one!" that most of the time I want to join them on the limb they've climbed out on.  I want to maybe, in a small way, help other people know they are not alone and restore some buoyancy to the lives they live.

Here's the catch.  That takes a whole lot of courage!  With a capital C!  Because you run the risk of being judged.  Who are we kidding? You will be judged.  We live in a time and place where "success" is often defined by the shiny magazines that show off perfect bodies, perfect houses that are perfectly decorated, perfect vacation spots, even perfect blogs... you get the idea.  Living with authenticity would be easy if my life looked like that but it doesn't!  My life is more like a ratty old magazine that you find in a thrift store.  It's a little out of date, pages are missing and it smells a bit off. 

Most days I'm okay with that. (Great line from the Veggie Tale movie, Jonah, "I am a caterpillar. Well, that's not entirely true. My mother was a caterpillar, my father was a worm, but I'm okay with that now.")  Then there are the "green eyed monster days" where I'm not.  My heart is fearful and petty and small and jealous and downright stinky.  And so I do stupid things like hide.  Hide from others, hide from myself, and from Jesus.

I commit myself to living a quasi-life.  Not really living, just existing.  Ken often says the quote, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." And it's funny, here we are on this glorious adventure that many might say, "Wow, look at them, those wild and crazy Symanskis!", but when you get into the guts of the adventure it's more normal than you ever realized it would be.  The setting is different but the actors haven't changed.  I'm still me, my family is still my family, and our challenge with figuring out our way through family life without losing the plot is still our challenge.

So hooray for adventures of all kinds but today I'm faced with whether I'm willing to live the adventure of living outside of the fears and insecurities of the realities of my less than perfect, somewhat "thrift store", life.  Am I willing to come out of hiding and let myself be known wherever and whoever I am?  Am I willing to let Jesus open up places inside me that need His help? Am I willing to stop hiding from myself and beating myself up with forced isolation?  Hmmm.... deep thoughts....

I love and am inspired by this true little anecdote. 

Never having embraced thrift store shopping as a child, it took me a while to warm up to the idea as I moved into adulthood.  Generally my generation snubbed second hand clothes as "beneath" us.  And personally I hated the smell.  You know, that musty smell of used clothes and furniture that hangs in the air like the stores all had the same brand of aerosol, "Second Hand Smells".  However, in the last ten to fifteen years I've noticed that not only has it become acceptable to shop at "Value Village" and the "Sally Ann", but the items found there are often worn like badges of honour!  And I have been converted.  I have my favourite thrift shops in Winnipeg and rarely does a trip into Whitehorse go by without a stop at the Sally Ann there. 

And Brenna LOVES it.  If I come home with a second hand piece of clothing she is thrilled and the lower the price the better!  Last week while we were in Whitehorse we stopped at the Sally Ann and as we walked in the door she looked up at me with grin on her face and said, "I just love the smell of this place."  I inwardly clicked my heels.

And here's the lesson and inspiration in that for me.  Just as I've been making the effort to living authentically, honestly and out of hiding, can I get to the place that I love the smell of it?  Can I get to the place where I value the scent of my own life with its own "Second Hand Smells" like Brenna does the smell of the thrift store? Can I get to the place where I wear my own life not necessarily as a badge of honour but as an example of a life that like a perfectly fine old pair of jeans rescued from the landfill, is redeemed and worthy of celebrating?  Oh, that sounds just yummy and true and right.  I want that.


Thanks for rescuing me, redeeming me.  I celebrate you and the life you've given me.  You smell good.

'til next time,



  1. Very well said, Dianna. And of course, you know you're not alone in your desire to write your way out of hiding. In my own way, I'd like to join you in this pursuit. My main motivation in having a blog has always been to be vulnerable in the areas I feel challenged in. In other words, when I write, I really want to let people in on what God's been addressing in my life lately, or what's He been trying to say to me - even if it's unpleasant. My hope is that I can become better known to those who are interested, and perhaps some may find it helpful to reflect upon some of the things I reflect on in writing. But the risk, of course, is that I'll just look like a loser. Donald Miller once wrote that he thinks that people tend to write most about what they struggle with the most. Well, if that's the case, the theme-index for my blog reflects some pretty big struggles for anyone to see. Oh well. As you said, since we can assume we'll be judged by what we reveal, one hopes we won't be judged too harshly. I certainly feel encouraged by the journey you're on! May you increasingly enjoy the smell.

  2. Ken, I've enjoyed your blog for the very reasons you've mentioned. I find your honesty refreshing and wonderfully provoking. And in light of your job, I especially respect and love that you take the risks you do in sharing your struggles. You are a great example. Thanks too, for your encouragement. Writing is a fairly new medium for me and knowing it makes some kind of sense to someone helps. Greetings to the fam!

  3. Once upon a time I met a woman and her family. The more time I spent with them, and the more I knew of them - the more I realized how much I loved their smell...


  4. Auntie Di,

    Regarding your metaphor of the tattered old, second hand magazine - For me there is no better treasure than a slightly worn, dog-eared, written in/on book from either a used book store or the Sally Ann. A shiny, crisp, clean New Book may be just that, but it has not been loved. I will not find treasures buried within it, treasures beyond what the author wrote. I'm talking about notes in the margin, a greeting or love note on a blank page, even highlights and study notes folded and hidden within. And it's always a laugh to see what was taught in the heyday of scuba diving, how terrifying and dangerous every single sea creature was... Just imagine how "perfect" the homes, bodies, hair, and interior decor looks from a 70's era House and home?

    I feel we are all the more Rich by finding our treasures at Sally Ann. In more ways than one ;).

    Keep writing, Love ya!