Remember when you were in 8th grade or so, loved your church youth group because the older kids had to be nice to you AND every week you got to sing songs about love in 4-part harmony with choreography, and at least once a year a LOCK-IN at the fellowship hall and auxiliary youth building seemed like a good idea? Remember how exciting the concept was, though in reality you hated spend-the-night parties and had you stopped to consider what you would eat, wear, or look like by 8 a.m. the next morning you would never have considered going? What grown-up EVER sanctioned these?
Last night I attended a lock-in for adult photographers and friends. It lasted all of 2 hours and 5 minutes, and I was there for work, not to sing, pray, or flirt with boys who never liked me to begin with but had to follow the acceptance rules of the youth group and the social norms of the South. There were no locks. It was a relatively interesting Fall Photo Festival hosted by Yellowstone National Park and the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, and the only real similarity to a lock-in besides feeling like my breath was getting worse by the minute and being fully dressed way past my bedtime was the feeling of being completely trapped. That is not nice to say when several of the slide shows were presented by personal friends and the final series was absolutely worth waiting for. I had to step out of the room during the next-to-last presentation into a dark, rainy, uncomfortable night just to prove to my face and my aching head that I was NOT locked in and to keep from yelling “SHUT. UP!!” at the man talking way past his 5-minute allotment about nothing and himself. As the representative of one of the hosting entities I could not yell shut up, which I don’t even say in real life, to a presenter at my photographic lock-in. It does make me wonder how many Sr High youth wanted to scream that at 13-year-old me.
Here’s the thing (don’t you know there’s always a thing). The guy who was last should have been #10 of 15 or 20 presenters. In truth he should have been first but didn’t sign the list when he arrived. He drove 2 hours to get there early, has to work this morning 2 hours from here, and sat through EVERYONE else’s photos wondering why he didn’t get introduced when it was his turn. When the mistake was realized and he was finally up he was cheerful, funny, warm, and delightful. Maybe even delighted. Certainly unfazed. He didn’t need rain on his face to mellow his mood and he wasn’t on fire with the injustice or exhaustion of being trapped and last. He even spoke with me before the shindig started about how he doesn’t really need photo credit for his pictures if they are promoting a cause he believes in. How do you remove ego so completely from creating? How do you keep your moods from going to your head or your mouth or your way of being with other people? How is he so mellow?
My newest goal – besides 14 consecutive days of yoga and digging my electric toothbrush out from the bottom bathroom drawer – is to maintain a level of warmth and love despite circumstances and surroundings. Mellow despite mood, considerate no matter considerations. I love a worthy goal almost as much as a youth group and I love a muted bison in blues and browns. We’ll see how it goes but it can’t hurt to mute a few raucous colors and soften a few edges. If the whole point of a lock-in is to love and sing in harmony and accept bad breath, and the point of fall is to trade in golds and yellows for greys and whites, then waiting to be last should not be a problem and yelling shut up should never cross my mind. A little snow and rain have put out the burning wildfires. I think a little patience and compassion can mellow my harmonies and choreography.