It's My Face

I'm in a journaling group. One of the prompts was to write about your physical body. I was prepared to stretch boundaries and discover things. I never made it, though. I came to a screeching halt at my face. I've been journaling about it for days. There's a lot to say.

There's a popular term called Resting Bitch Face or Bitchy Resting Face. I have to admit I lost my mind laughing when I heard it years ago. I totally have that.

I own it.

But I like to call it Stoic Russian Mennonite Face. Half of my ancestors were Russian Mennonites. You know why they had those faces? They had been kicked out of country after country because they were pacifists. They believed people should be able to choose baptism for themselves after a certain age and that church and state should be separate. At the time, rulers were aligned with religions that baptized infants. My ancestors were a threat to social stability. Mennonites and the like were seen as radical and dangerous.

Every few decades, they'd settle in a country, work the land, contribute medical service or other labor in place of going to war. Eventually, the governments of the day would take their developed land, change the rules and say fight or leave. Most would move on, newly destitute. Others would stay and be sent to work camps or killed.

They led simple lives and believed that simplicity, toughness, and self-reliance made them better people. Imagine a Mama who just gave birth to her tenth child and is filling the outdoor oven with fuel by hand to get the fire to just the right temperature and bake bread for her family. She'll scrape the burnt part of the bread and make coffee from the scrapings. Bitchy. Resting. Face. 

Compared to that upheaval and diaspora, my life is cake. I still have "stuff'" though. I'm getting older. The laugh lines are mixed up with the stress cracks in my forehead. I have a zillion things going on in my head at once. Sometimes that's because of mania, but most of the time, it's due to motherhood and being a writer. 

Thinking about if my son has pink eye, scraping peanut butter out of the nearly empty jar, having a spark of an idea for a novel, and listening to my daughter tell me about her day all at the same time looks like hostile anger on my face. I can't help it. 

After days of writing about my hangups with my face, the most important discovery I made was that it's one more arena where I don't have control. It's one more chance to practice getting my respect from me, and me only. I can't control how people see me. I have to remember that I'm whole and I understand me, and I don't need other people to do that for me.

I've been labeled a snob, spacy, cranky, aloof, stuck-up (my perennial favorite), and bitchy because of my facial expressions. Oh well. I can't be me and contort my face to other people's liking. 

I also have no control of a culture that celebrates pleasing, demure women. I am that person sometimes and I recognize when it works in my favor. Other times, I let the gray grow out and eschew makeup. I yell at my kids in public (when it's absolutely necessary) and I see people scurrying away. 

I even kinda like it. I put on a large flowery mental housedress, cross my arms and flex my peasant-born man-back. I curl my top lip enough to look unapproachable and think, "Ya, this is my face." It's the best way to fully accept the shadowy parts of my nature and that feels fantastic.

Because this post wouldn't be complete without photos:


This is one of my great-great grandmothers. She had 3 husbands and 13 children. 
Isn't she pleasing and demure? 

(Not a Russian Mennonite, but every picture I have of her contains a Bible. 
Her son and grandson would go on to become outspoken evangelists in the South.)

2017 Scene & Story #4



This photo is my favorite for the month.

First, I love seeing my husband cut stuff, weld, and use tools and fire to make things. I don't normally intrude on his workspace just like he doesn't hang around my laptop. He's different out in the garage. When he's doing physically strenuous work, he breathes heavily and walks like a predator. It's fun to peek at him in that element. I see his intellectual and emotional strength all the time as the dad to our kids. The intellect and fortitude it takes to plan these garage projects engage a different part of his brain and it's awesome to me. 

In the picture he's grinding down a weld on a part of the jig he's using to keep everything "Straight, Centered, and Level," he said, while he reworks his motorcycle frame. Part of the jig is from a friend. He bought the parts for the rest of it and painstakingly planned how to join the pieces. The amount of preparation needed to keep things straight, centered, and level while he tears down and rebuilds something requires focus. 


Also, my word of the year is Ignite. Every idea is like a spark. Most fizzle and disappear. Some burn a freaking hole in my shirt. But every once in a while, one spark will ignite a fantastic flame. I left the comfort of my desk to capture birds with my lens, but I saw this blazing intensity and couldn't pass it up.


For all of 2017, I'm joining Lee from Sea Blue Lens and Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. Visit them and all the other contributors. They are my photography inspiration!