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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sweater Shavers, Fuzziness, and Thoughts on Getting Moving in the Right Direction Again

I pulled on my favorite red sweater with one hand and reached for the sweater shaver with this other. You know a sweater shaver? You get them in odd places like fabric and craft stores, they look like small men's electric razors and use one AA battery to power them which is induced into a chamber much too large for its purpose. As a result, the sweater shaver actually shaves for only a few minutes at a time before you accidentally jar the battery out of position, have to open the sliding back to adjust the battery, and try again. I bought this sweater shaver about the time I acquired my husband, late 80s or early 90s, and it still holds its place of honor in my life. It is an honorable job, is it not, to restore fuzzed-out sweaters to their rightful de-fuzzed state?

I had erroneously failed to "turn inside out" my favorite red sweater at it's last washing, and now it was covered with towel lint and other unidentifiable fuzziness. The sweater shaver was the only way forward. So I shaved away, all over myself. I prefer the methodology of putting the sweater on first to trying to shave the sweater on a table, because the tendency is for the sweater to stay put on your body and not so much on a table.

Sweater shaved, I was off to my best caped crusader impression of the day.

About half-way through the day, it suddenly dawned on me that I had neglected to shave the fuzziness off the back of my sweater. Now that was probably obvious to you when you started reading this, but it wasn't so obvious to me from within my red sweater. I mean, if you look into a mirror, facing forward, I looked pretty good. But if you were following me around through my day, I was probably a little natty-looking from behind. Nothing to be done about it at that point, so I continued forward, and tried to forget my fuzzy rear-view.

As the day wound down, and I finally removed my sweater for the day, I could see that in fact there was a quantity of fuzz on the back of the sweater as I had suspected all day. Not one person had said a thing about my two-sided sweater dilemma, either.
I suspect that is because I am a whole lot fuzzier all the time than I like to admit, and my sweater was saying nothing others didn't know about me already.

I have for the past 20 plus years taken a certain amount of pleasure in being able to articulate my direction and purpose in life. I have been on a journey of faith that has been more or less clear to me, as I have both squished through the muddy places on the road and shimmered along the smoother paths. This rear-fuzzed sweater has pointed out to me that my life is less obvious and fuzzier than I had previously thought. I had just been looking at the "front" part of my life and not realized what was happening "behind"...looking through the dim glass and not realizing it.

Now having noticed how fuzzy my sweater-back has become, I find I have to choose. Do I remove my favorite red sweater, turn it around and pop it back on backwards so I can defuzz the back which is now the front? How disturbing that will be to those around me during the process. Am I moving forward with my back to the future or backward with my front facing where I've been? That seems unmercifully challenging, not to mention confusing, just so I can remove some fuzziness in my life.

Or do I remove my sweater completely. Stand there partly naked and lay the sweater, face-down on the table to get at the fuzz, accepting that I will have to chase the sweater across the table in a number of directions to get the job done? Is the nakedness and slipperiness of this solution any better way forward at all?

In order to keep your sweater free from fuzz, you must always remember to turn it inside out before you wash it, and preferably wash it by hand. I have failed, in several ways, the better angels of my pre-Vatican II upbringing that tried to teach me this.

Failure to meet some of the basic expectations of my sex because of the exciting new thinking of the 1970s led me to believe that I was a child of a new generation that could skip the tediousness and time-consuming efforts of the times gone by, and go on with something new. We were sure we could, both men and women, be interchangeable and wear unisex, machine-knit, polyester garments that would no longer require the attention to laundry techniques of earlier times. It was all to be easier, better, more successful. We would not fail.

I adapted myself to this new philosphy. Nothing short of total transformation was required from the way I had been raised. Learning new languages was mandatory. Putting off the generosities, kindnesses, sensitivities, carefulness, and taking on the golden and steel-edged ways of a new course in the world that was harsher and more careless about all things, especially precious things. But by radical change and transformation, a journey forward full of great success was guaranteed; unisex, un-frilled, slightly wrinkled but NOT fuzzy and surely much more highly successful than ever before.

Except for one thing. I never lost my fuzziness. I wasn't unisexual at all. My new golden-steel exterior, so blessed by grace and superiority to that which my former self had been, was fuzzy still. Very, very fuzzy. I forgot you can't put any sweater in the laundry, no matter if it is wool, cashmere, wood or steel, and expect it to come out fuzz-free if it's not first turned inside out. Fuzz on what is supposed to be strong and unbending is hilarious. It is even a punishable offense.

So here I am. Strong in all the wrong places and fuzzy beyond ability I have to remove the fuzz for myself without nakedness. I couldn't change the essential me by changing my philosophy, my personality, my commitments or by becoming unisex.

There is always a sort of restlessness that accompanies the cross-crossed lives of Jesus' followers. We carry the cross in a way that is uncomfortable and even painful to bear, and leaves us stumbling with the limitations we've accepted for our lives. We yearn to be off the cross and free to walk upright in complete acceptance and love by all we meet, instead of bent by the burden. Others see our cross-crossedness though, and crossing themselves, step to the other side of the road, clear that this burden is not one they want to help carry. We grow weary, tired of our discomforts and challenged by the unwillingness that our fellows feel toward helping us with our burden. They close their doors as we stumble by.

That is when it suddenly is clear how very fuzzy this all is. How, with our eyes front, we've missed how fuzzy this journey has become behind our backs. Where we had once seen through a glass clearly, we now need to see that no amount of AA batteries in our sweater shaver will ever really remove the fuzziness at all.

I'm thinking now about what it will take to get the fuzz off me, or if it ever will come off. Maybe I was meant to be fuzzy. Maybe you were meant to be fuzzy with me. Maybe we are all supposed to be fuzzy, and it's denuded that wrong.

Maybe we've been looking at the cross the wrong way. Maybe we have been clinging to it like it was life itself, when in fact it was the instrument of tens of thousands of torturous deaths. Maybe we have embraced and carried an instrument of torture when what we should have been embracing and carrying was fuzzy sweaters to warm a chilly world. Maybe the fuzz is of God, and that is what Jesus came to show us. Jesus seemed to really love fuzziness, our fuzziness, our confusion, our feebleness, our weakness, our failings. They all seemed pretty acceptable to Jesus and he seemed a lot less comfortable with the clean-shaven and perfect world.

What if I do start to wear my sweaters backwards? Maybe I should pull open my battery-operated de-fuzzer and start sticking fuzziness back on. What if I do start to value the fuzziness in me the way I have long valued the fuzziness I see in others?

What was that? I just said it... I have long valued the fuzziness in others.
I have long valued the fuzziness in others!
I have long valued the confusion, the feebleness, the weakness, the vulnerability in others as a sign of their best selves, and yet I did not value it in myself. I have been loving the wrong side of myself! I have been looking for only the clean-shaven strength in me...

when the fuzzy, weak, sensitive, wholesome, tedious,
kind and sexualness of me have been actually better all along.

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