Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oh So Super Extreme.

Here we are again, smack dab in the center of the holiday season. Now there's something you need to know about me, I LOVE Thanksgiving and only slightly less Christmas. I'm the dork who will spend more on wrapping the presents than I do on the presents, who will create a whole gingerbread village just for the fun of it, who will make more work for myself with a smile if it means having a more festive season. I can't help but compare this year to where I was last year at this time. Last year was...hell. The only way I got through the holidays was floating on clinking ice in a mixed drink, which makes me all the more thankful for where I find myself today.

I've spent this last year lightening the load, both physically and emotionally, and find myself more healthy on both fronts for the effort. The shock of this whole process we call life and healing is: it takes MUCH longer than even your longest projected estimate. No problem, I'm just about the most impatient person in the tri-state area. I want to "get there" like, yesterday. Internally, I have been feeling stalled, not sure how to proceed how to get to the hard stuff. I am still going to counseling, and since most of the family crisis has subsided, trying to work on the lasting effects of the damage. This, I can tell you, is much harder. Less crying drama; a lot more practical living changes. I am really scared of taking back the reigns, of being responsible for myself, so I guess I'm choosing infantilization over that. There are legitimate reasons why I am having a hard time finding jobs and getting started, recession, job market, no car, no real jobs around here...then there's the fact that if none of that was going on, I would still be here, in this same exact spot. The hard truth is: I am choosing to be here in this place, and will be here until I can overcome the fears that seem so much bigger than the frustrations of living in self-imposed arrested development. Or maybe not. I live in fear of seeing the same patterns I am familiar with showing themselves again, and probably am creating them as I fear them. Sometimes the vicious cycle feels like a cyclone sucking you round and round. Am I going to be able to get out of this?

Here's me hoping that this tension, this place of the not-quite is a really good sign that I am about to break through, that all of these last years have been the dress rehearsal for the real show. I have already been surprised by the shape of my life, and look forward to the unfolding.

I'd like to give an update for those who are interested on how the confrontation with my dad's pastor ended up. The pastor called us back after a few months of doing nothing and asked to meet to apologize. I did get that at this point, he didn't quite get why he was apologizing but did it nonetheless, which I can respect for what it is. He tried. I also had a really good meeting with the assistant pastor, who was much more able to listen to me and hear me whether he agreed with me or not. The whole process brought me to this: I now can see what is my stuff and what is not, what I am responsible for, and what I am not responsible for. I have gotten to the point where I can recognize when a response is not about me. I can recognize when someone is bringing their own issues to the table and not feel so personally attacked. Its like, "oh, ok...this is not about me. This is your stuff." Simple as that. Its not all about me really :) So my brother and his family are going back to that church and my mom and dad are still there too. I don't go to that church and am ok with that...

I must go to work now. I have a part-time job for the holidays and am loving being out active with a little cash in my pocket. Feeling blessed. Hope you are too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pause for Effect

OK people, its been a while since I've written. I've gotten so many beautiful, supportive, and affecting responses to what I have written, and for that I want to thank you. I guess I never realized how many people would not only read this, but relate to it and then respond. To tell the truth, I was a little overwhelmed. I hesitate to call it this for fear of being presumptive, but I had writer's block. When I thought I was writing for a little audience of one maybe two, I was writing for me, for expression, to get it out there. When it became clear just how far reaching this blog had become I was a bit paralyzed. What if I'm not good enough? What if I disappoint? What if what I write does not meet expectations?

So to laugh in the face of all those fears, I thought I'd write them. Boom.

Here are some of the thoughts that have been bubbling in my head for a week or so.

I was listening to a podcast of an Australian pastor who was speaking about acceptance. A friend had suggested him, so I listened. One of the illustrations he used was when the Pharisees dragged the adulterous naked woman before Jesus and demanded her stoning. The pastor Rob (from Bayside Church in Melbourne) elucidated the actual reference. In the original language it was written, Jesus didn't say, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone," a noble sentiment and a treatise on judgment. What Jesus actually said was, "He who is without THIS sin cast the first stone..." I was blown away. Jesus wasn't just saying, Judge not lest you be judged; he was pointing out our (as in all of our) tendency to judge most harshly those sins we fail at ourselves. He was pointing out the Pharisee's hypocrisy in trying to kill a woman (who was clearly guilty as charged) for her exposed sin, while they kept their own failings neatly hidden away.


I was listening to a BBC podcast about Akhenaten, an Egyptian pharaoh. I think he was Nefertiti's son, but not sure. He was the first pharaoh to replace the animistic references to gods in art and architecture and writing with humans. More specifically, he systematically replaced images of animal or natural representations of god with depictions of a family: father, mother and child. The historian speaking stated that this triad traditionally holds importance and power in many ancient cultures.

Why am I going on and on about this? Well, it reminded me of a book I read last fall by Sue Monk Kidd called, Dance of the Dissident Daughter. In one part of the book she talked about how the Trinity, which modern Christianity understands as father, son, and holy spirit, originally was figured as father, mother and son! There is the triad again. There is some deep wisdom to be understood in this trinity.

Why does this symbol keep coming up? What does it mean? Here's what I have so far. I think this triad, or trinity points to relationship. Coming from a fundamentalist christian background, I am no stranger to the phrase: Sanctity of Marriage. Dobson and all of his contemporaries go on and on about how marriage is the cornerstone of our society. There are seminars about marriage under fire, and many people I know and love go on and on about how marriage is being destroyed. Everyone has a different opinion about what's destroying marriage. I guess I'm more concerned about why its important. What deep truth does marriage embody and symbolize?

The symbol of family is embedded in vast and disparate cultures. It is almost universal, which is another red flag that it is important. Whatever you imagine Family (or Triad) to look like, it is clear to me that the sacredness and importance of relationship is central in the symbol. God is all, and I do mean ALL, about relationship. I see the decay of family in our culture as a result of loss of relationship.

I was talking to my niece the other day about her boyfriends in high school. Her experience has been largely transactional rather than relational. I will give you (fill in the blank), and in return you will give me (fill in the blank). We both get what we want right? Any of you who dated in High School can attest to how often that arrangement works out. Girls give of themselves physically to get love. Boy's hide their true vulnerability and try to get masculinity from getting sex. Neither comes out the other side happy.

We do this to God too. I spent so many years of my life unwittingly expecting God to come through on some deal I had created. I will believe in you God, go to church, pray, read my bible, the whole deal; In exchange you'll give me the life I want. You'll arrange for my happiness. If I pray hard enough, hold out enough faith, you'll heal my friend. Here's the formula, follow it and you will get results every time. God will keep up his end of the bargain.

Have you ever been disappointed when that formula didn't work out? I have. I could only draw two conclusions from that disappointment. Either God isn't who he said he is, or the formula doesn't work...or maybe there is a third option. I don't really understand who God is. Maybe what I have learned about God is false.

I need to relearn who God is, and what it means to have a relationship.

Those are two thoughts I've been stuck on for a while now. I am just going to throw them out there and see what sticks. At this blog, I invite you to the dialogue. I won't pretend that I have it all together (I'm something of a quick study at that). The thoughts I throw out there are just that, thoughts. I would love your responses. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We Didn't Start The Fire....

It's bonfire of the vanities around here. The fire started small, but the wind has picked up and now we have a full blown conflagration on our hands. (I have found succor in writing in metaphors lately). Fire is typically associated with destruction, but I think that is a human value judgement. We see any big change in nature as a natural disaster. I wonder if maybe we need to rethink our perspective; maybe it's time for a paradigm shift. Fire, as far as nature is concerned, is a good thing. Forest fires that happen frequently serve to clear out undergrowth, which dries out and can cause really large, dangerous fires if left to become tinder.

But I just want a controlled burn. I want to get rid of the stuff I want gone, and not have it affect my precious possessions. Most of the time, that is why we avoid fire. We don't want to risk the loss of that which we deem essential, so we will let the choking undergrowth take over. The logs fall across the path, the vines and brambles quickly encroach. Pretty soon, what we have been trying to save is both unreachable and covered in vines that are tearing it apart. At that point, a fire is going to burn everything down. What will be left is clear ground, ashes, a scar. This is the point at which most of us despair.

This summer I took a road trip with my sister Joni and my friends Andy and Bea. Andy and Bea, being from Scotland, wanted to visit as many national parks as we could get to on the way home. Me being as I am, was worried about money for gas, food, and lodgings, and about getting enough time with my sister Avril. Andy wanted to visit Yellowstone. I was not at all interested in Yellowstone because I remembered my visit there in 1999. About 75% of the park had burned in a forest fire. It looked like a war zone, burned sticks coming up from ashy ground. There were also many and large potholes and TRAFFIC. I had no desire to go back, but went anyway anticipating a blah experience and a long ugly drive. What a difference 10 years made. A growth of new green lodgepole pines covered all the wreckage. It was a different place than I had remembered. New, fresh life had sprung up to fill the void left by the fire. I was awed by the beauty. It was there that I had an epiphany: I need Beauty. I don't just like it, and enjoy it, it gives me something that is essential to my makeup. Wandering through the massive corridors of mountains, geysers, and sky I was able to put my life in perspective again. All of the problems that I think of as insurmountable, are nothing in the face of the mountains shearing down to a crystal clear stream.

So, from this fire I am expecting the sprouts of new life to spring through the now enriched topsoil. The ashes from the old will allow the soil to support new, stronger life. I expect Beauty of the extravagant nature; beauty that outsizes even the behemoths that lurk in the dark places of life. Burn fire burn, because I have seen ten years down the road, and its going to be amazing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Post Trip, post dream.

What a summer its been! First I took a 3 week road trip with my sister Joni and two friends from Scotland, then I came home to idyllic July weather (hot and humid) and swimming every day with the kids, in the process bleaching out my hair and tanning my skin. It feels like its been a "real" summer for the first time in a long time. No pesky thing called a job to get in my way, thanks Branagan.

When you were young, did you ever get a whirlpool going in a round pool? We did all the time. My mom was usually the instigator. She would get everyone going with her "waterobics" voice pumping her open palmed hands into the air. As a kid I could get away with letting the current sweep me along; my little legs barely touched the bottom of the pool. But as an older member of the whirlpool, I was expected to keep the current going until we all collapsed and enjoyed the ride. I've been riding the current lately, taking time to watch my toes bob in front of me, noticing the conversations shooting over my head and watching out for the ladder as I come around again. Its been a time to rejuvenate, to look at the cyclical patterns so inherent in my life, and to see where the "current" has driven me into the proverbial ladder. I always thought of the ladder as something to be avoided, maybe it was a not-so-subtle hint to get out of the pool. Oh that metaphor could go so many ways. One thing you will learn aobut me is that I LOVE metaphor. I've heard it referred to as the language the heart understands. I could sit all day and play out a metaphor to all its possible conclusions. That is, I think why I love Joni Mitchell so much...QUEEN of the extended metaphor(I'll write a blog about her one day soon) ...but I digress.

My mind has turned recently to contemplating dreams. Being home again, I am remembering recurring dreams I have had over the past few years, as most of them are set in Oswego. There is one house that reminded me today of a dream I had several times in the past. It was a cyclical house with lots of entrances and exits and I remember either trying to get out or to keep someone out and feeling like neither was going to happen. Then crossing the river today, a dream I had recently came flooding back to me.

In the dream, I am swimming in the river, which I sense is none too clean, but I am with a tour of people I may have known from high school and the tour guide is, wait for it, Bob Newhart. He starts giving us a run down on the history of the canal system that runs through town. I keep looking around and seeing all these people with 80's hair and "nice" clothes (for 1985) bobbing through the refuse strewn water with me. The river holds no menace, as it has in past dreams, I am just feeling slightly icky and knowing I am going to regret this dip in the cess pool that is the backwater under the bridge. Kind of like when you've eaten at McDonalds; you know it was the wrong thing to do and it is going to wreak havoc with your system, but it's too late to do anything about it now. I keep thinking to myself, why am I here? What am I doing?

I've been in the Oswego river in dreams before, but under much more dangerous circumstances. I am usually trying to cross it, either in the emergency bucket with a swirling maelstrom below me, or I am voluntarily jumping from the serene lock canal into the wild side of the river knowing that the jump means certain death and not being able to stop myself. River dreams have never been good ones. The latest is sort of an anomoly in this particular recurring dream. Anybody got any guesses as to meaning?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Apparently not...

I guess I don't have so many things to wonder. I started this blog months ago and have not taken the time to sit down and write. I am a big believer in discipline as you can see.

Actually my life became complicated for a while there. I finally woke up to the signs my body was trying to give me. On April 1st, we went to Rudy's for lunch for my mom's birthday. It was the first Rudy's visit of the year (yeah!). Rudy's is a local fish fry place on the lake, and an institution here. After we finish lunch (lots of fried food on buns dipped in gravy) I started to feel like I had swallowed a chestnut with the prickly coating on it. It became more and more uncomfortable to swallow past, and I was scared. I went to the emergency room 2 days later because it wasn't getting better. I should have realized a wake-up call when I saw it. What followed in quick succession were simply punctuation and underscores of the first wake-up call. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, esophageal spasms and possibly sleep apnea. I needed to take care of myself PRONTO!

I have spent the last two months paying attention to my body ( and doctor's) in ways I never have. I have always prided myself on how much pain I could endure and my high my tolerance for pain. I am now realizing how much of a gift pain is. It lets you know that something is wrong. And here's the thing: most pain can be relieved. Why would you choose to live with pain if you could eliminate it? Why did I take so much pride in being able to "tough it out?" I guess maintaining old habits is easier than forging new ones.

Here's the kicker: The physical always mirrors the spiritual. I have been dealing with internal issues that I was "tough enough" to bear through...until I wasn't. I have been dealing with the fall out from my "Stuff", now I am dealing with the fall out from years of not taking care of my body. So yes, Diabetes is the best thing that happened to me.