Openness and Healing

Two Januaries ago, I started taking notes on what books I was reading.

This started because when I was in Antarctica (November/December 2014) and we finished our day’s work [read: quit before our arms fell off so we could still dig the next day], we had a stretch of down-time, and I had some novels in my Kindle app that I’d never gotten around to.

I don’t remember how many novels I read while I was on ice, but what I do remember was my shock at how quickly I could read an ebook. We’re talking an afternoon into an evening. Sometimes staying up late (24-hour light tends to promote such bad habits).

I had been struggling a long time with guilt over not reading enough as a writer, and now, it seemed, reading novels wasn’t so far out of my reach.

I do sometimes entertain the thought that reading is for writers as “good works” are for compassionate-minded people, and practice is for musicians of any kind. However little or much we do we always question whether it is enough.

The beginning of that next year (January or February 2015) was the last of a long stretch of frequent Jay-gone. That last few weeks was really hard, and every hour I wasn’t homeschooling the kids, managing food or the house we’d moved into six months before, I curled up with a novel.

When Jay returned he wasn’t going to leave again for almost a year. (I don’t remember the last time he was home this long of a stretch. Probably before we had kids.) He knew I’d been reading as a coping mechanism, so it was a bit disorienting for him when the reading continued after his return.

It was decadent, inspiring (you can find lots of stories with healthy relationships and characters to admire), and surprisingly soothing. I still can’t tell you whether it was the stories that made me feel so much peace and delight, or the experiential reality of laughing into tears while the house and family carried on for hours upon hours without me. Continue reading »

Convergence (continued.)

It is still my biggest challenge  in storytelling that I cannot select the *perfect* words for a given tale and be done with my work on it. The work is the continual internalization of the story (ostensibly in images– which I’ve learned is not my first language) in such a way that I will feel confident to convey the heart of the story, whether or not I use my most-favorite words.

Of course, between my love for precision, and my gift (I have to call it that, I didn’t earn it) of memorization, I find myself with the impulse to “cram” before every presentation, latching on to my favorite phrases like handfuls of candy, hoping the corner of a wrapper will be enough to hold on to this precious sweetness until I can share it with someone who’s never tasted it before.

From then on, with each day that passed, as the black serpents grew stronger, nourished by their ghastly food, Zohak grew ever more hardened, becoming more cruel and ambitious.

“I have seen the world, Rabbi, and I know that God cannot be here.”

“What would God have to do,” asked the rabbi, “to prove Himself to you, young Chiam who has seen so much of the world?”

“He would have to make a wonder, Rabbi. God would have to make a wonder.”

For all her joy and relief she was near tears.

Every time I tell a story, it is a surrender to imperfection. Not because I’m sloppy or don’t care enough, but because every live performance contains variables, and aside from memorizing the entire piece I can’t guarantee how exactly it will go.

Surrender to imperfection.

Accepting my limits, and believing that the story itself is more important than flawless delivery, as if it could be spoken as poetry.

It reminds me of a G.K. Chesterton quote, “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

I latched on to that saying in the beginning of my fight against crippling perfectionism.

Now I’m just a perfectionist. Or maybe I have perfectionism, like most people get the common cold. It can be an irritation, a distraction from the simple experience and enjoyment of life. It reminds me that failure is all around me, like dog poop, just waiting to be stepped in if I don’t pay close attention to every. single. step.

The difference between this and crippling perfectionism is that I’m no longer afraid of scraping dog poo off my shoe. It’s disappointing, frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s not the end of the world. Or even the walk.

That said, I’m not bad at storytelling. A number of people tell me I’m quite good. And everyone should know that the vast majority of stories don’t take themselves so seriously that they are massively improved upon memorization. I think my impulse to memorization is tied to my drive for perfection. There’s a competitive element in my nature that wants to get everything “correct” and that element is tangled with an instinct that sees being right as a sort of armor.

Precision as armor is definitely a hold-over attitude from my journalism mind. When I’m writing about something that could make people uncomfortable (especially if they might feel the need to pass that discomfort on to me), getting all my facts/quotes/statistics accurate is the best way I know to shield myself.

Uncertainty feels like liability.

Uncertainty = liability is a crippling mindset to bring into either noveling or storytelling.

In noveling, this shows up as the critical editor, mocking or damning material before it is evaluation-time, squelching the baby bird of a rough draft rather than letting it hatch, breaking itself free with the muscles that must be developed by the fight of its escape. The critical editor’s voice might purport to try and help open the egg, but most often it is too clumsy and can crush the shell while it challenges the blind and featherless life inside to prove its right to exist.

In storytelling, this crippling mindset demands a perfection in practice that is not possible before practice. One of the great paradoxes of learning a story is you always have to start before you’re ready. Ultimately, to make a story mine, I have to step away from carving filigree, from expecting the tools of noveling (falling in love with whole paragraphs of beautiful prose), and start making my story selections based on their content, rather than the poetry in the pen of the collector.

In storytelling, as with noveling and my non-fiction work, the key seems to be know and choosing what’s important to me. Once that core is in place I have the motivation that leads to the attention-span that results in quality work.

I’m still figuring out which tools are best for which area, but recognizing a) different forms thrive in difference circumstances, and b) it makes sense that my __________ muscles will get fatigued through prolonged use, I’m learning to trust my instincts. Which, considering I’ve only acknowledged them for the last five years or so, is an encouraging point of growth.

God and the Faerie King

I’ve read very few folk tales or traditional stories for a while, but my understanding of that world and mentality is still pretty solid. When I read a fantasy that has fairy tale or mythic roots I can catch the multiple layers pretty effectively.

A year ago I started looking for good self-published books to read, and this was one of the first I bought. It was a cute take on the arraigned-marriage trope, with the (new to me) twist that the bride-to-be was willing to accept her “fate” and wasn’t a jerk to the guy and having to be won over.

What grabbed me wasn’t so much the story itself as the treatment/behavior of the fae, and the Faerie King in particular. The fae were portrayed in an utterly traditional way, with all their predictable selfishness and capricious unpredictability.

The ultimate story-climax-question became Will the Faerie King be just? Will he do what’s good for these good people, who’ve served him all their lives?

And because the faerie king has all the power to do anything with impunity, there’s a real sense of peril. There is the genuine question, since (as a Young Adult novel) this romance isn’t guaranteed the genre’s usual happy ending.

The heroine’s family of origin is blessedly intact and tight (unique and cheer-worthy in YA), but they’ve grown up working for the fae. They (the family) know the faerie folk’s power and inscrutableness, and as much as the humans hope for the good, I got the feeling their long experience also blunted their expectation, tempered their painful hope to the possibility that what they desired — the thing they knew would be right and decent and essential to happiness — might be denied.

And in real-life, sprawled out reading, I was hit with an almost physical ache. Because I recognized that holding-back.

It was painfully familiar. I’d instilled it in myself over years: through ways of praying, fed by fears that cultivated a drive to self-preservation. I’d scraped together a bark shield in an effort to blunt the pain of deep disappointment and loss.

I had done it all within context and language of religious community. I listened to the pedantic reminders that “God’s ways are higher than ours” (Is. 55:9), and “How inscrutable His ways” (Rom. 11:33).

Through distancing rationalization, I hid behind that flimsy shield in a dull attempt to save myself from further pain. If I didn’t expect too much – or if expected a lot, and was prepared to live without, “be it God’s will” – maybe I could avoid deep disappointment.

When I saw how this family’s response to petitioning the Faerie King paralleled my attitude in asking God for Deep Important Things, my eyes were opened to the sickness of it all.

I feared (not too-strong a word) a god I saw as capricious, and once I realized I was afraid, it disgusted me. Because the God I worshiped did not ask (or inspire) me to fear him in that way. It was a muddled attempt to survive pain, and that muddledness distorted my view of the power that touches my life.

I know the difference between the Faerie King and the God I love, and having that stark a contrast, having that vocabulary, helped me peel back some of the distortion that had been weighing on me.

I looked back at the Isaiah 55 passage and saw it wasn’t designed as an excuse for God being confusing, it was a celebration of his incomprehensible generosity. The same with Romans 11– we don’t have the wiring to conceive of the kind of love and generosity that roots such openness and availability.

That’s why it has to be told to us, and told to us again.

According to a study published in 1998, it takes the average child between four and fourteen exposures to learn a new fact. Some children need over twenty exposures for something to stick.

I am 36 years old. I grew up with sermons and Sunday school, and given the topic I can predict a lot of what’s going to come out of a given pastor’s mouth. I am not short on knowledge, or a critical number of times to hear “Jesus loves me.”

But it took throwing the love of God into stark contrast with the bone-deep fear of power without love before this piece of him broke through (again?): God is dependable.

My lack of understanding (even of big things), and my grief and pain (which are real and often enduring) do not negate the dependability of God.

Since I’m constantly depending on this truth, I had to have known it already, but somehow I felt this other side. A fear of pain. I had my walls up, bracing myself for the time he doesn’t do what I need. And what I’m still wrapping my head around, is that God promises to give us the desires of our heart.

I don’t know how that reads in the original language, but in English that phrasing doesn’t just mean God gives us what we want, he gives us what to want.  I put that all in the Mystery category.

There is so much I don’t understand, but I know God wants to give us good things. “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matt. 7:11)

There’s no way for us to completely understand God.

Metaphor, analogy, simile and Story are all essential to drawing near to him in understanding, but the difference between our God and every other entity in eternity is that a) he wants to be known, and b) he is able to make up what is lacking in our understanding.

His constancy, his desire to be in relationship with us, is bigger than our ignorance, confusion, or misunderstanding. I’m thankful for the way God uses even seemingly unconnected elements to reveal and highlight his character, because even if I don’t have enough ink to tell you all God IS, I can know bone-deep what he isn’t, and even find security in that.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 15) Antarctica Edition

~1~

I went to Antarctica for a month. Stayed a bit longer than I planned (weather delays), but hey, now my Book is just about ready to be launched.

~2~

I went to the place my husband has gone 9 out of the last 14 Thanksgivings. I didn’t think I’d come, except, last November (when I was smoking NaNo with my delicious Sherlock romance/mystery and fostering a 2-month-old while Jay was gone for a month), Jay asked if I wanted to come this year, and I said no-the-kids-aren’t-old-enough-here-all-ask-them-and-prove-it, and they all shouted that YES! they’d love to spend a month with their Grandmas.

Sooo they did.

And I had Thanksgiving in McMurdo, Antarctica. And learned that apparently it is a thing to bring wine. That was interesting.

Also, had the *best* GF sweet potato cheesecake with pecan crust and pralines on top. Good. stuff.

~3~

Did my first winter camping here, after almost 30 years in Alaska, and all I can say: I wasn’t missing much.

We had good gear, and it was rated for the temperatures we were at, but I swear, if it was up to me alone to heat that sleeping bag (and eventually the tent) through the night, I would be hypothermic.

I know this, because I tried to sleep alone in my prescribed mummy bag the first night in field camp. I even closed the hood around my head and breathed all my “hot air” back into the bag (despite Jay’s admonition to keep “just my nose” sticking out in the cold to ensure I’d breathe fresh air).

The two nights I followed his advice, that is, the two nights I covered everything but my nose because it was so cold I didn’t want any more hanging out? My nose went numb. I had to hold my hand over it to warm it back up.

Then there was the day I got a stupid steam burn making dinner, cooled two of the three fingers by keeping them on snow for an hour, and that last finger just wouldn’t stop burning after five hours of melting snow in a little cup.

I left that hand out of the bag, and I didn’t need snow anymore.

After that first night, even though we didn’t have zip-together sleeping bags, we made it work to share heat. The best arrangement for us had the closed foot of one bag inside the closed foot of the other, then the two bags off-set a bit from each other, one past-center on the bottom, and one past-center over the top, so there was a bit of overlap on both sides.

On the colder nights we added our down coats on top, and kept our fleece jackets/long johns  on if we needed them.

What’s amazing to me is that my body really did adjust (it put on some weight, and maybe that had something to do with it). I actually stopped being cold all the time, and that was very impressive.

~4~

We woke up every morning, and worked every day, under a smoking volcano. There’s something very cool-sounding about that.

~5~

There was this awesome thing with the clouds the first few weeks we were here: they were low enough at times to see both the top and bottom simultaneously. The sunshine turned it gold on top, like a never-ending sunset, and the underside (because the light got to it indirectly) was like bleached cotton.  Coolest thing a camera could never capture.

~6~

Actually, that’s one of the main elements of Antarctica: the uselessness of cameras to convey the essence of the space. Because space is the essence.

One of the times we were out at one of the sensor sites where I was being Jay’s extra hands, and when we got to the “wait” part of the exercise, I returned to the snow machine, lay on my back the seat and looked up at the sky.

It was probably the same distance to the clouds as it was to the mountains, but because of the absence of anything that might be used to indicate scale, everything always looked “just a bit further” no matter how far we went.

~7~

The snow was the most mind-numbing exercise of all (and not in the ice cream headache/brain freeze way).

Our group’s first task once we got to camp was to pull and dig up all the equipment from a year’s accumulation of snow.

This was work, but it was measurable and finite with an established, working system and a fairly low learning curve.

What really got to me was starting out on pristine (far as the eye can see, diamond-shine) snow, digging down to the base of “the vault” (eight of these), being literally up to my eyeballs in a snowy pit, and thinking how the depth we’re all standing on was surface level just a year ago.

We walk around, pulling up equipment pipes and marking flags that are maybe two or three feet above ground, and reset them in the current snowpack, so they’re taller than me, and I stand behind the un-snowed vault (because there is literally no earth– to say we unearthed them– on the Ross Ice Shelf), head swimming at the understanding that I am walking on snow, sinking 2-6 inches in the fresh stuff, that will be five or six feet under the new top when next winter’s crew arrives to do it all again.

Where is Your Faith?

Stone tower

I grew up with the unspoken assumption that having faith in anything but God is silly. At best.

Getting worse, I sometimes heard words like foolish, idolatry, and maybe once even heresy.

And that made for trouble later on, because one of my biggest growth-steps well into my adult stage of life was learning to trust myself. I have faith in myself, a phrase I never would have had the guts to say in high school or college, maybe not even for orthodoxy reasons.

It just sounds cheesy and I’ve never liked cheesy.

But I went through this book with a neat batch of women in the fall, and one of the things that came up toward the end was the purpose and place of faith.

In the context of the study, the book was reminding us that we are to live this Christian life the same way we came into it: by faith, not by our efforts to prove ourselves worthy.

This I love. This I can get behind, and cheer, and find relief in.

And I have no idea how to define it.

Image courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov via stock.xchng

But it got me thinking of what we put our faith in, and I realized that for me, real flesh-and-blood people make that list.

For example, I trust that my parents love me.

I know that my husband is going to be loyal only to me as long as we both shall live.

I am confident that various friends [Becky, Kit, Jennifer, Sarah, Tori, Paul, David, Josh, Aaron, and more] are examining themselves thoroughly and submitting themselves to the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, so that I don’t have to interrogate and squish them through a garlic press before I believe they’re right with God.

I have faith in my parents, my husband, and my friends.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

Like the word love, our language has the single word faith that has evolved various meanings.

I have to have faith in myself if I’m going to trust my own capacity to make meaningful decisions (that’s why this was a personal growth-step for me).

I have to have faith in my husband’s and parents’ love if I am going to talk with them about difficult things and trust that their love for me will endure. Without this I will always be afraid to reveal what’s inside me or seek help with what confuses or hurts me.

I have to have faith in my friends’ ability to grow and individually hear from God, or else I will be forever limited to myself.  I will also be responsible for, or at least carry an undue weight and concern for their spiritual well-being, when their relationship with God is one-on-one and only last because they consistently surrender to his God-ness.

This isn’t about conflict-avoidance or not asking questions or challenging people ever, but it is about basic assumptions and simply being able to trust people.

In all these cases the faith is not based on nothing.

“God demonstrated his great love…”

So have all of these people.

Over the years as I’ve come to know them, I see different levels of maturity, different needs and gifts, and (wonder of wonders) places where our strengths and weaknesses braid together in a beautiful cord that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

And they love me. They value me.

When I have a depression relapse, or find myself in an environment where most people are blind to my value, rehearsing my place in these lives, and the respect they’ve given me, reenforces me to me.

~ ~ ~

I have found one of the most loving, nurturing, gifting thing we can do for each other is to have faith in one another.

Now, none of us want to look like fools. None of us want to discover someone we trusted was able to pull the wool over our eyes. It can shake our faith in all our other relationships, because our ability to recognize a fraud or cruelty is part of what allows us to trust those we trust as much as we do.

Image courtesy of amsphotos via stock.xchng

I don’t give my trust to just anyone. But for the reasons listed above, I need to trust someone, and I am incredibly thankful to have more than one.

In most of my experience this faith doesn’t happen because of a resume, or a creed, or the right number and combination of boxes checked off on some form.

It happens over time.

So this faith thing can highlight a hole in our Christian community: have we cultivated or intentionally created the space for the nearness and openness– the vulnerability and authenticity– of communication and relationship that allows us to build relational faith.

I’m told time is a precious commodity in today’s world.

I can’t imagine this is new to our place in history or unique to me, but I know there’s no other reliable methodology to building this faith.

And you might say that discussing my faith in people gives me a better idea of what faith in God looks like, or could be made of.

Time is a good starting place.

The Gifted Lifetime

Stone tower

Pamela Price at Red, White & Grew asked a hugely welcome question about Giftedness beyond the child-stage:

How do we begin to talk about the gifted lifetime in fruitful ways that benefit a maximum number of people?

She invited comments, but I expected mine would be too long (in full) so I started here.

I have a few bullet points that shape the rest of my thoughts.

  • Have a common definition (so we can unblushingly agree that humanity contains both gifted and non-gifted individuals).
  • Create a safe place where understanding is the primary goal. Competition or one-upmanship needs to find an outlet somewhere else.
  • If the non-gifted want to observe, they must assume good-will (the gifted people in these discussions are working out their own issues, not denigrating people different from themselves).
    • We will get so much farther, faster, if we don’t have to saturate our observations and discoveries with disclaimers.
  • Trust each other: our experiences will be different, and if we expect to police each others’ diagnoses, that leads to insecurity and back to competition.

Stone towerSome adults (without using the word gifted, or acknowledging their own giftedness) say that feeling alone is just part of adolescence, or part of the human condition. Religious/Christian people will have very specific ideas about what’s missing in one’s life.

These two bits (smart– in my experience, gifted— people who acknowledge the ‘off’ while invalidating the accompanying confusion, and religious people who expect their tested formulas to fix things) are the two halves of my own experience.

Between excellent honors-track teachers in high school and talented professors at college, I was surrounded by a very comfortable level of challenge and growth. I was kept busy enough through that era of my life that the discontent buzzing in the back of my mind was kept decently managed.

I’m one of those who can’t not-believe in God (and I think that’s a good thing). All my life I’ve been involved in Church, and done what I can to make it (find it?) challenging. So when I started learning about giftedness (well into adulthood) I was giddy to realize that the small church I currently attended was easily 70% gifted. More if you included the mass of kids.

That explained to me why we were so many on the same “wavelength” in intensity, intellectual demands, high conviction, with a level of educational rigor (sense of personal responsibility) for our children, many of us homeschooling, many of us eschewing the Standard American Diet.

[To this day I’m convinced that the cohesiveness of the group is tied at least in part to the shared giftedness, and the feeling of having found one’s “tribe.” This was especially notable because we varied, sometimes significantly, in our theology– usually a reason to “break fellowship.”]

According to the one book on adult giftedness I’ve read, the level of giftedness in the general population is 10%, so I imagine finding a group where nearly everyone was your kind, well, I will personally attest it is hard to walk away from (and I’m still trying to find my land legs).

The odd thing to me is that when I tried to have this [Yay! Look at us, we’ve found each other!] conversation with various gifted members of the congregation (much more calmly and maturely, I assure you), I was immediately shut down.

I can see, now, some sociological/psychological reasons for their dismissal and denial, but at the time I was deeply confused.

It is in this background that my summary of “conversation-starters” is rooted (with a tiny bit of repetition).

  • Provide a vocabulary. Tie it to everyday living.
    • I think the best way to start this conversation is to include people and give them a context for this “otherness” they’ve felt much of their lives.
  • Let people identify themselves– and believe them.
    • Yes, some will be wannabes, but as long as we manage the competition/one-upping side of things they will either benefit by association, or drop out on their own.
  • Validate– agree that there are good things and commiserate with the disappointing stuff.
    • My first two years investigating this topic I had this imaginary conversation in my head: “So you just figured out you’re gifted, huh?” “Yup.” “Just now? Are you sure you don’t need a second opinion?”
  • Provide models (alternatives to the TV-reinforced stereotypes) of successful gifted-lifetimes.
  • Brainstorm how to become those models
    • My primary motivation for trying to convince my fellow church members about giftedness was that nearly all our children were gifted. I felt we had a unique opportunity as a close-knit, gifted population to raise our children in a way that might inoculate them against the shame or embarrassment we received for our eagerness or “over-achieving.”
      • All of which that continued into adulthood, by the way…
  • Create a culture of mutual creation rather than comparison.
    • I keep harping on this angle, but I think it’s crazy-important: we are all so different from one another (along with having things in common) that if we are going to make progress in any meaningful way it will not be through propping ourselves up via the battered bodies of lesser mortals.

So there you are: Where I think the conversation should start. Where it goes from here I’ll be fascinated to watch.

“Misanthropy Was so Much Easier.”

Flanderization is the process by which a legitimate, often fully developed, character becomes a parody of him- or herself.

I believe this is what has happened to the cultural perception of Sherlock Holmes.

John and SherlockHe is portrayed as a brilliant but socially and/or relationally irresponsible individual who redeems himself (reaches “likable character” status) through selective niceness. It seems to me that those who don’t identify directly with Holmes frequently do with Watson, and so any harshness or undiluted rudeness to others is glossed over. Sherlock (BBC iteration is freshest in my mind) has proven his worth by being willing to die for the few he loves.

That action is enough to redeem all his other faults, apparently.

Sherlock’s familiar attitude is well summed up in a painfully honest assessment of another admirer, Jane Eyre, speaking of her employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester.

RochesterHe was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably so.

…I believed his moodiness, his harshness… had their source in some cruel cross of fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies, higher principles… I thought there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled.

janeAs the more Sherlockian of the Watson/Holmes pair, and the more Jane of the Eyre/Rochester pairing, I see a great deal of personal indulgence on both sides.

First, you have an adoring subordinate who revels in the superiority of the other. This is an egotistical indulgence on the part of the writer who is (perhaps) an unacknowledged genius, creating a socially-acceptable display of their deepest hungers and wish-fulfillment.

Then, for Jane’s, or John’s (or Sherlock’s fans) part, they latch so much on to the selective kindness of a man “harsh to inferiority of every description” that they seem to let themselves be flattered at his mere acceptance. It is high praise to escape his harshness, and that awareness only magnifies the felt-kindnesses of a man who actively proves his ability to be kind when he wishes to.

An interesting thing about Sherlock’s kindness is that it is not so much overt choice (“I should be kind to this fellow creature”) as it is his form of need (he needs a mirror, a prism, a case, applause), creating a vacuum for another individual to fill. The reason he has so few connections in his world, so few deep friendships, is because he acknowledges so few needs.

The magic of John and Sherlock’s relationship is that they are both content with what the other is naturally willing to give. It is a nearly effortless exchange.

Most relationships require giving a bit more than we’re ready or comfortable to give, and that is why most relationships grow and shape us. But there’s no denying the rest of an unchallenging, natural friendship. Continue reading »

What Connects with…Me

Image courtesy of Liana Bitoli via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Liana Bitoli via stock.xchng

I found a “coach,” at the end of last year, because most of what I do with my counselor seemed to be coaching, anyway. I was looking for an “outside” voice and perspective that was sharing a brain/time focused on me.

Becky and I have talked about how this is the reason to hire someone: friendships are more mutual, and we don’t want to muddy those relationships to work through our issues.

The coach got me thinking about some good stuff, and some new angles on older projects that have been marinating for a while.

~  ~  ~

Then I got my heart stomped on, and I was back in the counselor’s office.

I had a double bomb in an exhausting 48 hours: First, someone I already guessed didn’t like me confirmed they didn’t like me, and second, someone I love very much– who has a degree in an industry not supported by our local economy– told me they were saving up money to move away to do the work they went to school for.

Both totally make sense, were almost predictable, and so it took me 4 or 5 days to realize I was deeply hurt and grieving. I was so scared by my response (it felt like my depression was returning- freaked me out and you don’t play around with that!) I visited my counselor the day before my coaching appointment.

The counselor gently reassured me that that this wasn’t my depression returning. She affirmed that I was grieving, and validated my experience that just because someone is a jerk, or someone has beautiful dreams that don’t need to include you, intellectual assent doesn’t necessarily change how others’ choices affect you. Continue reading »

Adaptation

Jay has been home for a while now, giving me time to continue work on the first draft of my 2013 novel (80,000 words now!).

A few days after he’d been home I was trying to get out to the cabin (a little room a stone’s throw from our front porch) to start my work for the day. He kept starting conversations, and suggesting things, and thinking out-loud, and as much as I wanted to enjoy this part of him, I had a sense of urgency about getting out and getting to work.

God alone knows when I’ll have this many uninterrupted hours again!

All of a sudden Jay got this cute, confused look on his face and said, “I have no idea why I’m talking so much.”

I laughed.

“Welcome to my world,” I said. “You’ve wondered how a self-described introvert [me] can talk so much– now you know. You’ve been away from your slow-and-steady bleed-off of words. Your only-connecting adult is present (trying to leave) and you have to get the words all out while you can.”

It made me think about how we do (and don’t) adapt.

How we change as our environment changes.

Since leaving my old church at the end of May, I have been looking for a new “home base” to build relationship in, and it’s a tricky slog. You see, I’m really not interested in the company of adults-in-general, or strictly “adult conversation.”

When I want “company” (only rarely) children are as satisfying to me as adults, and I’ve already got three of those at home. When I want conversation, I want a particular kind, or I’m not that interested in talking.

This (in certain company) leaves me feeling selfish: Oh look, she needs something *special.* She’s not willing to adapt.

But the reality is I’m adapting all-day every-day (You think getting x-much done in a day comes naturally?!), so when it comes time to relax, yeah I want it to be on my terms– that’s sort of the point.

So I don’t have any answers yet.

I’ve proposed a writing “small group” at my folks’ church with the idea of learning if there are any “kindred spirits” to come out of the woodwork. That would be one way to know if Journey is a good fit for us.

I have good friends who aren’t writers (which is cool in its own way, because that means all the awesome stuff they say is mine ;) to quote), but they are still idea people. They are still the ones I can talk at a mile a minute or listen to with intensity and neither of us glazes over.

There is intense admiration in these relationships. We end our time together feeling refreshed and connected and looking forward to the next visit, even if it’s a month out, and honestly that’s what I’m still looking for.

Fears Connect Us

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Jesse Therrien via stock.xchng

I’ve thought sometimes about teaching writing, mainly because it comes easier to me than to most people I know (in contrast to the famous quote).

I am not above or apart from wanting to to be affirmed by my culture, and being a part of a culture that affirms through salary, I’m keen to see my abilities contribute to my income, whether or not I need that money to live.

One of the common writing prompts (believe it or not) is Write what scares you.

This may come as a surprise to non-writers, or not-yet-writers but it is very reasonable advice.

The ultimate goal of writing is shared-consciousness.

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of nh313066 via stock.xchng

Yes, really: The goal the goal of most print is to make the thoughts of the writer the thoughts of the reader.

Fear is deeply rooted in us, and is a commonality among all healthy (and even most unhealthy) minds.

By writing about what we fear, we invite others to see us, and to be known, even if the reader is someone we will never meet, because there will be that person whose fear matches mine, and maybe they’ve never found the words for it, so it’s remained a shadow.

Or maybe they had the words, but they felt so alone in this place that the words were only a reminder of their isolation and shame.

In this latter case, the writer, whom they’ve never met, shows the reader s/he’s not the only person who is broken in this way, and that crack in the world’s armor might let in a chink of light and offer freedom.

Because, especially as a believer, our goal is to not remain afraid.

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

Image courtsy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

What am I Afraid of?
The question popped into my head, and an answer jumped to meet it:

I am afraid of loving imperfection.

Among my many contradictions are

a) I am good at loving, and
b) I am good at seeing.

On my good and healthy days, I am glad for this combination, because b without a would probably make me a jerk.

On my weak or confused days I worry that observers will assume a means the absence of b, and since both parts are important to the way I see myself, I wrestle with how I do both, even while I wonder how to care less what any observers may interpret.

In one of my conflicted moments I told my mom, “I know I’m doing the right thing by loving on [name], I don’t know what to say to [those other Christians] who seem to be focusing on that person’s sin.”

Unspoken, perhaps unconscious, in this confession was the fear that my insight, if not my godliness, would be called into question. And my mom’s matter-of-fact rebuttal deflated all my related anxiety:

“If you are rejected for being a friend of sinners, you are in good company.”

Imperfect Company
What a moment’s contemplation showed me was that my fear of loving the imperfect is a fear of being imperfect.

Both my mom and the latest doctor I saw (just this spring, and no, she couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. {groan}) scoff at that word, perfect.

Both of them said (verbatim!) “Wouldn’t that be BORING?!”

And both times I was speechless, because I wonder how they can really think that.

NO it wouldn’t be boring! I could finally relax.

Yeah, fine. Analyze the snot out of that last sentence.

I don’t genuinely expect perfection from anyone, even myself (anymore), but I’ve never seen that acceptance of imperfection as a reason to stop striving. Who pushes for less-then perfect?

And that’s where I started to make sense of this fear. (If you didn’t make the jump with me, no worries, just start here:)

My fear of others’ imperfection is my fear of having even more of a gap to fill.

50% x 50% = 25%

Even further from 100%!

Now I see more clearly: I am imagining the work I have left.

By aligning with someone else I take on their weakness, become responsible for it. More is added to the to-do list that I must make happen on my limited strength.

storm

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via stock.xchng

This is why the imperfect is so frightening: not because I expect more of them (because I know that wouldn’t be fair) but somehow I still expect more of me. 

I know well enough the amount of effort I expend in not-sinking. Add to that somebody else’s something I have to keep afloat, and I cry out It is more than I can bear! How can you ask me to do the impossible?

And sometimes in the storm I hear, You already are.

And sometimes I hear that I’m carrying more than I need to.

God does not depend on human exhaustion

to accomplish his will.

God often gives us strength beyond our natural resources to accomplish his will. If we are out of strength, that could be a sign we’re working on something that isn’t our assignment.

How do I stop being afraid? Maybe by letting go of a burden too big for me to carry.

I must choose a place where my limits are a gift, the means that allow me to rest.

And how do I find that place? Two questions help:

  1. What can I do?
  2. What can I keep on doing?

What I can do is boggling and mind-blowing and amazing.

And what you can do, too.

But that awesomeness is not necessarily sustainable.  What I can do is no longer the primary question, unless it is a special situation with a defined beginning and end.

What is more applicable is Question-2.

It is treating each day as if it’s my forever.

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Janusz Gawron via stock.xchng

Am I living in such a way, that if nothing ever changed, I would be able to continue? Would I be able to be happy, and have something to share with the people closest to me? The people I love?

We are all imperfect.

We all fear.

And somehow it is through that fear and that imperfection that we are drawn together.

I don’t know if I will ever actually teach writing, but I know I’m learning. And the cool thing to me, is that the more I learn about writing, the better I get at living imperfectly, and being less-afraid.