Conversion

I was thinking about the boom box at Baskin Robbins the other day. The tinny sound of Mix 105.5 floating over the trickle of water through the scoop basins and the chorus hum of freezers.

I can’t hear a Billy Idol song without thinking of that boom box (was every night 80s night?). Natalie Imbruglia, Alanis Morissette, Harvey Danger, Eve 6. Ryan would bring his Discman so we could add Wyclef Jean into the mix and every night he worked he would play Closing Time at 10pm to hint to the lingering customers that they needed to clear out so we could mop. 

This was my teenage job that paid well below minimum wage but dividends in free ice cream.

So. Much. Sugar.

I used to buy a large Coke at McDonald’s on my way in and then I would add vanilla syrup. I think that combo might kill me instantly now. I used to eat hot fudge topped with whipped cream with a spoon. A taste of this or that. Suffice it to say even my 17-year-old cheer captain self lost five pounds when I quit that job.

The N’sync cake. *Sigh*

I probably need to come clean about that.

So when you rise through the ranks of BR and become 17, you get some responsibility. One of them is to decorate cakes.

One day there was an order for a birthday cake with a drawing of the band members of N’sync on the top. We didn’t have photo cake technology. No—we had a device with a mirror and a light that would reflect the image on the top of the cake and I would trace the image in icing. This worked well for simple line drawings, but photographs…? Nevertheless, I attempted it. How hard could it be to freehand Justin Timberlake in icing?

The answer is—really hard.

Like, no one—especially me—should attempt to freehand Lance Bass in icing. No one. But I did it. 

So, the birthday girl’s grandma came to pick up the cake. I don’t think she even looked in the box. But she paid for it and carried it out the door. And I was like, “Phew! It worked!”

I don’t know if I imagined no one would open the box. Or maybe I had magically nailed their vision for an avant gard rendering of teenage heart throbs, but I was relieved for about 30 minutes until the mom returned with the cake. Shit!

She asked me if I could fix it. Ummm…no. That is my absolute best attempt. Pretty sure. 

She was upset. Which seemed reasonable at the time but thinking back on that, I’m not sure that was well-placed. After all, it’s just 17 year old me with a few bags of icing and a mirror light—should we be surprised that I’m not creating Pinterest worthy N’sync cakes? Seems like that one is kind of on you, lady. 

Thankfully, it’s just ice cream and I let her select a cake from the case, probably the 9” round cookies ’n’ cream with Oreos on top—always a safe bet. She took the new cake and I hastily tossed N’sync in the trash.

When I’ve told this story over the years, people ask me, Who would take an order for such a crazy cake in the first place?

I have no idea! I would exclaim. I was just doing my best!

But no—that’s a lie. I know exactly who too the order. 

It was me. 

Whatever part of me that took that order, it’s the same part that decided it was a good idea to run against Veronica Shreibeis for senior class president. (Even without knowing her, you can tell just by the sound of her name, what a fearfully, beautiful creature she was with long, blonde hair and an air of effortlessness that I would never attain.)  

It was the same part that made me jump into the swimming pool at age five even though I didn’t know how to swim, and just because some older girls told me I couldn’t do it. (I still remember the image of the tiles on the side of the swimming pool bouncing up and down as I jumped to reach the surface, and the watery silhouette of my mom as she bent over to pull me out.)

But it’s also this part that emboldened me to go back to school to become a PA (I didn’t consider myself a science person…still don’t!), choose to stay in a marriage, choose to leave that marriage, have a baby, buy a house, surf, post a video of me singing on the internet, and write this terrifying blog.

It’s a freaking bad ass part of me. 

But this is the question I am most interested in at this moment in my life: What can I control and what can’t I control?

I know I have some power, daring, courage. 

I also know how it feels to be kicked in the teeth and fail miserably.

Which, I think, leads me to elusive faith. 

Over the years I’ve observed so many church ladies who seem to be in conversation with the divine constantly. What is that? A delusional construct? God on speed dial? Some kind of coping skill?

I’ve looked on with contempt as they seemed to hand over the outcome of their lives to an unseen being. And maybe that’s because it seems to get sucked up into the martyr role that women so easily assume. Women who are told their desires don’t matter and their functions in this world are preset and predetermined. Women who are told to be quiet and small, their means to creative power leashed to covert influence on a husband.

No wonder the church ladies turn to god. 

But where does my power end and the divine begin? 

I felt the answer as I was pulling laundry from the dryer. This quiet confidence. God is in me.

The image of a god in heaven hearing and sending and receiving and cursing and blessing didn’t get me there. I had to pull god out of the sky or maybe, more accurately, I stopped worrying about that version. Because that version has so much baggage.

The version of god that gives me faith is the divine that lives in me. Only YOU know, Michelle. I say this to myself all the time. 

I know I am on my path. I know because I am listening. I am in constant conversation with myself—not my thoughts, but the deeper voice. The knowing. There is a fluid connection in my life that guides me through my desires, curiosity, envy, anger, joy and peace. They are all speaking to me.

What I have learned to do is listen. 

And believe in my ability to do that.

Maybe that’s faith.

Leave a Reply