He Causes the Rain to Come

There is something very refreshing about being out in the elements. Not staying out there, mind–but tasting of all those things we’re presumed to want to keep ourselves safe from–out in the night, out in the rain, out in the snow, out in the wind and the cold.

If you find yourself smiling and nodding as you read, it should be no surprise to find that the opposite is also true: it is very sapping and draining to live in too sterile and fake an environment.

I hate the carpet in my bedroom–loathe it. It feels like rough plastic under my feet. I would tear it up in an instant if it were my house; I’d try to talk my landowner into tearing it up, if I thought there was anything under it than chipboard. Instead, I skitter from the bed to the bathroom with my subconscious muttering, “ick, ick, ick” the whole way. I walk the dog barefoot, sometimes, on the asphalt loop–that’s rough, and sometimes pointy, and always rubs tar off on my feet. It still feels more interesting and honest.

The hard things and the raw things and the honest things. . .and the sad thing is, it seems those are the things society most expects and encourages us to run from and hide from and cover up.

I feel out of place and alien in my condo-upper-bedroom. My feet, used to being dew-drenched in the dirt of the garden, rebel against the “sturdy” carpet. But my soul does, too, in a way. I tell myself that I’m going to be here a while, and I should get settled in. Make things homey, bloom where I’m planted, all that jazz. But the truth is, I don’t want to make this place home. It’s a good box to park in while I go to school, but the place is sterile, and it’s hard to get any real life in it.

I feel like an ingrate. A roof, a bed, a kitchen beyond any right. Trees. Crickets. Stars out the window, sometimes, even. But mostly I wander around and wonder what possesses people to be willing to settle for this–complicit, almost. A place of shelter for a transient time of life, while you grasp for something better, yes. A place where you just stay put? With the plastic, rope-like carpet and the dearth of windows, and the back-filled sand that you can’t really grow anything in?

For six weeks, I wanted to labor hard on something, but there was nothing to labor on. Someone comes and does the lawn work. Someone even comes and cleans the house. You can’t really take care of something you don’t own but this, too, is supposed to be okay–more than okay. When I came back home, I worked until every muscle in my body was sore. The delayed onset meant it woke me up in the middle of the night, and I was surprised by the rush of gratitude. Being protected from hard labor is another mark of civilization, I guess, but it’s a kind of death, like not ever being able to feel the rain running down your head. Cloistered. Almost claustrophobic.

The most curious thing of all to me is how it seems so many don’t even notice. It’s like hearing music and commenting on its haunting beauty, only to discover no one else hears it. Why would they follow what they could not hear? You poor, numb creatures. It is so very similar to one of my classmates extolling the virtues and wonders of frozen pizza–and I truly, truly pitied her. I made her come and eat real pizza, made in the kitchen I don’t deserve to occupy, and afterward she thanked me for ruining frozen pizza for her and I told her she was quite welcome and it was a real pleasure.

Somewhere along the line, people heard that it was bad for you to stand out in the rain. And to work hard until you were sore all over. That sweat was nasty, and so was dirt, and that carpets were good, and on the whole of it, it all makes me feel very, very sad. You sorry lost chickens, if someone offered you the garden of Eden, you wouldn’t know its worth. And I’m going to leave you in your blindness and deafness, because I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a frozen-pizza-cardboard-box of an existence. For the temporary, yes, but you know I’m plotting to leave you as soon as I can. And I won’t look back, my dears, I will not be looking back.

Watch

This is a biased, bigoted assumption, but I think the last person using this public microwave was a guy. There is rice dumped all over the inside of it. Curiously, it’s all over the table I wanted to sit at, too. I take the glass platter out of the microwave and sweep the rest of the rice onto it and empty it into the trash. When I put the platter back, I used my cleaning napkin to pick up the piece of chicken sitting by the microwave, too. Then I wipe the table of it’s rice, too, while my food heats. Why not? I’m on a roll.

There is a game I play with myself sometimes. If I were to have to survive off of the sustenance of vending machines, what would I eat? Trail mix. That popcorn is probably okay. Pretzels are safe, but pretty void of nutrition; that jerky claims to have protein but looks anything but safe. At least there is still water. Actually, there is water, and orange juice and grapefruit juice and V8 juice and milk–2% and whole. This is the sign of a first world, isn’t it? Clean water and milk from every handy machine. I don’t think it gets bought here much, though.

There is a guy over there, demonstrating his own survival skills. The machine won’t take his money. He folds his bill, smooths it, flips it around. Nothing. Won’t take it. He isn’t thwarted. He finds another machine that will accept it, and buys a pack of gum. The machine spits him back quarter after quarter. He won’t put weight on his left foot; something hurts him. I wonder what. Now he’s using his quarters to buy hot coffee syrup and water.

I have some survival skills, too. Like where the cleanest bathrooms are at. Never use the ground floors; top floor or basement. No one wants to deal with all those stairs. I left my knapsack unattended today, while I did three flights of stairs. Because I trust people. My knapsack is like, more than 30 pounds. No one wants to be bothered with that kind of work. Not here.

He speaks slowly, almost slurring his words. About how he has to play Candy Crush every day. But he started over. “Because. . .there was a level. . .that I got stuck on. . .soo. . .it was, like. . .boring. . .and stuff. . .so I started over.” I wish I could believe he was drugged or something. Developmentally disabled. He doesn’t look it. And this is not unusual behavior.

Everyone is bent. Huddled over devices. Little ones, tiny screens. Or bent over desks too low, or slumped in chairs. I scan. . .no eye contact, from anyone. What are we afraid of?

There’s this walk I keep seeing, a shuffle-slump-swagger. The head is still up, but the neck is forward, the shoulders are collapsed. The feet are careless, but the steps are guarded. Always the same expression on the face–”yeah, I could probably take you”–but the smirk doesn’t make it all the way across the face. One side always falters, exposing the doubt.

I see the scissor cuts in her jeans. To make them look worn. I guess maybe it takes too long get there naturally. Maybe she gets bored of them before then. She has studs all over her boots. And all over her knit cap. I’ve never seen a knit cap with studs before. I wonder if it’s meant to be ironic, or if there’s something I’m missing.

When we stop at the light, there is such a stream of cars. All the people hurry-scury-ing about, going their places, doing their things. I wonder if all the people are happy?

Marana tha

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. . .

The sky is a steely, depressing grey and I remember why I named this blog what I did. So often the cover of clouds make me stare out the window and grasp to find the words to explain what is–almost as though, without sunlight or happenings to distract, all that really remains are the thoughts inside of me.

There is an aching and a pining that goes along with listening to the wind. I don’t know if it is from a desire to know where the wind is coming from and going to, or from a longing to have the wind blowing always, or maybe even just wishing it was more tangible and holdable than it is.

I feel like the wind is blowing now, and like all creation I turn into the wind, trying to smell what the wind carries on it. There is movement, but what does it mean? I can’t make it happen sooner, or more slowly; I cannot control it. I cannot pretend it doesn’t exist, but I cannot pretend to fully comprehend it either.

Don’t you know that curious joy? When a storm is blowing in, and you are standing out in that pulling, pushing, pulsing wind–and you can’t stop grinning like an idiot, even though you don’t know why? It’s exciting–and kind of scary–and silly–and wonderful–and fleeting–and imprinted inside of you–and has nothing to do with anything and is the most important thing that’s happened all week.

Sometimes I feel swept along, gasping and out of control. Sometimes I feel impatient, waiting for the next gust. Sometimes, like today, I feel like I can hear the howling in the trees. It is coming, I can hear it. But where is it coming from? Where is it going to? How much of what I hear is my own echo, leaving my mouth and then bouncing back to me like new words? Or is it the fore-runners of the wind, telling me were to stand so my wings will be filled?

There is a long and a hungering for more, and that’s good and true and right and will never be satiated in this life. The tension between those two things drives me crazy sometimes. I want resolution. I want to work toward resolution. What can I do to make this happen? But the wind comes and goes without any clear beginning or end, with a direction that seems always to shift.

Am I ready for the storm? No. Goodness, no. I never will be, but I want it to come, anyway. Come, Lord Jesus.

The Artist

“T.T., I want to talk to you about something.”

I stop in my tracks and turn around. This happened maybe 4 years ago now, but I still remember this part clearly. It’s the secretary at work, who I’ve always gotten along with very well–and yet she sounds concerned. Maybe even upset.

“I keep hearing you tell people that you’re just an aide. You’re not ‘just’ an aide! You’re not ‘just’ anything. . .”

I don’t remember how she finished her thought. Something about me being valuable or something. I don’t remember how I responded; I think maybe I kind of laughed it off, at least in my attitude. The conversation niggled in and stuck in my craw, but the point–I told the niggling thought–was that patients were asking me clinical questions, and I was appropriately clarifying that I wasn’t a clinician: I was “just an aide.” Why was the conversation getting stuck in my head, then? Because–I knew she was right. I knew I said Just all the time about myself. I knew she was picking up on my attitude. I belittle my role, and she was right to call me out on it.

And now, 4 years later, God is reminding me I wasn’t listening hard enough, as Emily P. Freeman says almost the exact same thing, word for word. I was so startled to find Emily’s writing because it so neatly coincided with my own (I thought) private world of thoughts. One of the things I was thinking about this summer was art: about how my actions showed that I devalued it–threw it out the door in favor of “responsibilities” and “duty” and “things that had to be done.” Now, my mind was being prodded into remembering another facet of who God was: The Creator. The Artist.

In my mind, responsibility and duty superseded art. But was this God’s construct, or mine? Was God more concerned that I finished my homework than engage in creative endeavors? Was God more worried about the unswept floor than the rich form of expression we call “art”? I found that it was my construct. What I was worried about. What I was afraid of. I found that in creating, I better understood God. I would look at my art, my unique and peculiar expression, and feel so fondly about it–and in a moment that comes suddenly but lasts longer than the clock would claim, I understand God looking fondly on His creation. I found that God had a joy in creating, a joy which He was pleased to have us share in.

I dismissed art, because it was fun. It was pleasurable. Therefore, somehow, it must take second fiddle to the things which are odious, burdensome. Work before play, right? It seemed so virtuous. But God made fleeting lilies of the field, Just to be beautiful. Just to be Art. What I thought was important was not necessarily what God thought was important. What I thought I had to do was not necessarily what God wanted to do through me.

Emily writes about living art. Emily writes about turning everything you do into art. Emily writes about acknowledging art–and about not sticking a “Just” in front of it. Emily and I, I think, are talking about the same thing, even if we are finding different words for talking about it.

We are art, because we are the creation of The Artist. And that means we are not “Just” anything. You can try to cram that “Just” in there somehow, but if you ask me, “we’re Just made in the image of the Living and Holy God” sounds like a pretty lame use of the word “just.”

But somehow, we think we can. We think we can say that our declared list of things to do is more important than responding to reverberating Voice within us that says “Create!” We think we can use the word “Just” to refer to ourselves, somehow forgetting that what we are really doing is using the word “just” on the handiwork and design of God, the Alpha and Omega.

And I am sitting quietly under this rebuke, because I have been again speaking “just” over myself. But in the quietness that remains, there is now room for hope to grow. I am not, my situation is not, life is not Just. And I do not have to labor or work hard over being “Not-Just.” I am Not-Just because of the One who created me, and continues to pour through me His vision and His delight. I don’t need to make sure that I’m being properly and dutifully Not-Just in whatever role I’m in; I need to quietly sit back and recognize that I am Not-Just in those roles because He is the one who called me to those roles, to show a reflection of Himself through the expression of putting me where I am. I need to delight in what He is pouring through me, not think that I have right to dismiss my existence as Just.

One of the problems I had transition from work back to being in school was the Just. When I was working as a physical therapist assistant, I could see, I felt, so much more clearly, how God was using me. He was using me to pour out His healing, His comfort, His expression of love on His creations. But when I went back to school, I became “Just a student.” What was the point? What was I doing? What was I accomplishing? In effect, I was promoting the opinion that God had no use for students. In effect, I was saying that God could make anything beautiful out of academia. In effect, I was saying that since I had declared the whole system a farce, God must not care about any of it or any one in it, either. I was declaring it all a waste of time to be Just a student, and then despondently asking God why He had called me to such a worthless position.

But God did not call me to be Just a student–and indeed, I cannot be Just a student, even if I wanted to be, with God pouring out His own idea of how He would choose to express Himself through a student–and not even “a” student–through me. He could use any student; He chose me, knowing how He created me and how He would use me. And He was busy making me Not-Just a student, whether I was going to open my eyes to that fact or not.

This is a curious thing, because it means, among other things, that it’s not about you. Trust me, I have plenty of prayers about what I think, what I want, what I need. What I think I want or need. But God didn’t make only me, and, even curiouser, I am not the only person on the campus, either. So self-absorbed I can easily become, that it seems quite odd that God could have sent me where He did, when He did, not because of me. I could have the teacher I have, not because I need the teacher, but because the teacher needs me as a student.

One might think this idea could have crossed my mind before–or at the very least, that I would not be so caught off guard by it. No; it is a testament to my narrow-mindedness that I have been much more busy thinking “Dear God, please have mercy on me in the teachers that you send my way” instead of recognizing that there could be teachers He is having mercy on.

Those who know how very frustrated I can and do get with certain teachers are probably thinking that my teachers do need prayers for mercy shown them; well, I don’t blame you (that is another can of words, my friends, and a topic not to be addressed at already 10pm and 13,000 words. A little focus is needed, here). What I have been struck with in the last few weeks, though, is the utter discouragement of my physics professor. He seems to have such a desire to teach and to be making such an effort to teach–and it is seeming to be so lacking in effecaciousness and so utterly vain. His posture, his voice, his expression–all of it speaks of being so weary of fighting this battle.

I have seen it all change, in flashes, in bits and pieces, glimpses here and there that go by so quickly that it only increases the wonder of having seen it at all. Did you see what you thought you saw? That flash of light across the heavens? It was unmistakable, what you saw, but it’s gone already. I haven’t been often able to put into words what it is that I see, and yet it lodges within me like the words of my co-worker 4 years ago. I wasn’t sure what what it was, when he said of course he remembered me. I was totally caught off guard by the evident relief and–was it pride?–in his voice when he said that my exam was the last one he’d gotten in his hands, but the first one he’d graded–and that I’d done quite well.

I kept trying to find the words for it, and I would draw up blank, set the matter aside–and then come back to it again. It wasn’t until last Friday that I finally realized what I was seeing. I told him that I’d taken him up on his recommendation to be a tutor for one of his other classes with many struggling students, and now–there was more of a spring in his step, he was standing a little straighter, his eyes were a little brighter, there was more of smile on his face. He had the demeanor of a man who’s had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and the realization was so sudden I lost my train of thought and had to start my sentence over. This teacher is nearly at the end of his rope.

That seemed so much like the role of a student, not the teacher–but then, when had I considered what it was like to try to reach row after blank row of students? It never occurred to me that God could look down and say, “Oh, teacher, you need the encouragement of a student who actually wants to learn. I will send one.” Not Just a student; the one He sent. Or say, “Oh, teacher, you need someone to help you bridge the chasm between you and your students who say, ‘you can tell he wants to help you learn and that he’s trying to help you and trying to be accommodating, but he can’t explain things to you, because he’s just too smart!’” That’s what she said, when she came to me for help on Friday, and I laughed, only because I could see the picture so clearly in my minds eye. Her, floundering, overwhelmed; him, aware she was drowning but struggling to find any possible way to make it any simpler than he already had. Both of them, frustrated.

It’s a rather odd sensation when you realize that while you’ve been preoccupied about one thing, God has been merrily going about something else in a steady sort of a way without you ever realizing. It makes you just a tad more aware of how unaware you are. I certainly did not return to school with the intent of finding professors to help; indeed, the idea never crossed my mind. But I walked off of campus on Friday thinking, with some wonder, that I really am not Just a student. Not because of me, but because God has been busy scheming things I didn’t know needed to be schemed. I was looking for work, not art. He was saying they were one and the same, and He had every intention of making something beautiful here. The “just-ness” that I was clinging too was dissipating in the face of design of God, who created rocks and trees and me; who set course for the water, the path of flight for the birds, and me, here. It could not be “Just” when it was God who ordained it.

I can neither dismiss the work of The Artist, nor undo it. If I stop and consider, I may catch of a glimpse of the colors He is painting out through me, and in that is joy. And hope. And beauty.

The Making Of The World

Sometimes, when I get to thinking, I think about the making of the world. Of what’s under the hood and what can be designed and planned for and what can’t.

Like planning cities, for example. It sounds so very interesting, and then it makes my head hurt too badly, and I have to stop thinking about it. As a little aside at the end of the last class, my physics teacher threw something out there about a Mexico City earthquake and how the mid-range height buildings (like hospitals) were completely devastated, worse than the tallest buildings or the shortest buildings; he explained the physical reason behind it (which made my head hurt), but mostly cautioned that you have to plan about these things. How confounding. So many things to plan for.

I categorize peoples’ styles. I step into their house or apartment, and I take a visual snapshot of the inside of their head. I look around my living space and wonder if I’m representing who I am, and if I’m not, what should I do instead? We build ourselves by accident, mostly. I walk through stores, and I look for people. Abby needs that mug; Marianne would love that clock. The cake platter would be in my kitchen, if I had my own kitchen. I don’t see things, because things break and wear out. I see stories, and pictures of homes, growing up around objects.

We talk about technology, and what is changing and what is not. I say technology is just a tool to get you where you want to go; and then people ask me where I want to go. It’s a good question, but I don’t see where it could take me that I want to go. I want to work with my hands. I want feel things–sound deep inside my chest, taste every ingredient in my food, colors without the luminous glow of a screen. Technology can do my laundry, maybe.

I think about genres, about scenes and setting throughout time. Some people decide they don’t like the scene and setting they’re in, and they mimic a different one–a different time, a different style. Why? What do they not like about their current setting that they think they’ve found a solution to in their pretend world? If I made an alter ego, who would she be and why?

I hear a lot of people say we need to live more simply, or it was a more simple time. I wonder what they think changed, or what feels complicated to them–but I know what they mean, too, when I make simple food. It’s more satisfying. But what would you get rid of, to make it simple? I heard another story–I’m sure there are many–of a woman who sold almost all of her belongings and spent a year living out of her car, driving around the nation. She wanted to see what she really needed, I guess. I’m no good at playing those games, because there’s so little you really need. What would you want the most to keep with you is a different question than what you need.

Somebody else talked about how in his writing class, he makes everyone go through their pockets and bags and wallets, or if they’re so horrible as to not carry things around with them, their memories of the things they have on windowsills and desks. Then he makes them choose the most irreplaceable thing, and write about it and what it means to them. I thought about it briefly and felt very odd that I couldn’t answer it. I don’t carry anything around with me, except for replaceable things. The irreplaceable things–family photos, projects I spent years working on–can’t be carried with me. If you got rid of those things and I never knew it, would I notice? So many things tucked away for safe keeping; but it is it bad I don’t have meaning in the small things?

I went down for an almost week long trip, and I took a plane. I packed everything in a carry on bag and an over-head piece of luggage. It was plenty livable; I would miss having my own kitchen and my own bed, and if I was going to do it for long, I would have to find some way of bringing along my creativity. My sewing machine and my keyboard were investments for me that I hoped would last me a huge portion of my life. I paid more for my car, of course, and it will need to be replaced sooner.

I’ve started a stone wall out by my garden. I love stone walls. I don’t know how meaningful that stone wall will be for me, but I need to build it, so I can build other stone walls–more and more. I need to put making stone walls inside of me, so I can always make them wherever I go. I feel sad when I see good architecture, old architecture–falling away to time. Who will make the beautiful things now? Are we loosing them all? How do you make beautiful things? I want to make the beautiful things that people want to hold onto.

Staring around my grandmothers house, I see her hand everywhere. I don’t agree with her style or her taste, but I see her hands. I think about houses, and I wonder how many people live in them, and I wonder what that means. What is living? Is it worth the time it takes to have your fingerprints on everything? If you’re living, will you have something meaningful crammed into your purse? Someone once said that she always carried around a little bottle of bubble soap in her purse, to blow bubbles with. I loved the whimsy of that; I almost wanted to go out and buy bubbles for my purse. But I would never use them, and I know that, and it makes me kind of sad. I put band-aids and safety pins in my purse, but I never use them, either. Just my wallet, phone and keys, mostly. And a pen and a piece of paper and a small tape measure.

There’s a tree that’s fallen down, just across the road, and I wonder why. God started a tree and then smote it. He destroyed the Moabites, and it grieved Him. He loves His creation, even the tree that fell across the road. The world and the history it contains–He planned it all. All of it. He created a hole in this history and creation shaped just like me, and made me to fill it, and I don’t understand that, either, any more than the tree.

In our makings and shapings, we do reveal ourselves and what we value. God did, too, and we’re a testimony to his presence as much as the fake flower wrapped around my grandmother’s curtains reveals her. Sometimes it seems like an impossible burden; how could God ever be reflected in me? The only answer I’ve found so far is to delight in His creative vision, in the hole in history He shaped for me.

To stop walking by when the old lady by the side of the road wants to talk. To wear striped shoes, and to sit in front of the physics class, making eye contact with the teacher and trying to understand. To paint bad paintings and take pictures of broccoli. To let a duckling hide in my hair, and to sing songs about the Moon River, and to drink water out of a glass pitcher. To paint my bedroom green and the bathroom yellow and forget to make my bed. To write, even when no one is listening, and smile at the people who walk by you in the library, even when you don’t know them. To feel silent and invisible and to leave your mark on every thing you touch.

“We are, we are the visible invisible
We are the flesh and bone
Of Your redeeming love
We are, we are Your kingdom unshakeable
Jesus Christ alive in us
The visible invisible. . .”

More Than Rubies, Visible Invisible.

Yes or No?

Yesterday I read a lot of posts from people on the Mercy Ship writing about Selection Day–a day where they tell as many people as possible ‘Yes’ and an alarmingly huge number of people ‘No.’

I don’t get all in fits of “eek, eek, how could you live in Africa? On a ship?” But I can’t possibly imagine how a human could survive crushing so many people in one day, saying “no” over and over and over again. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. I would break down half-way through the day–sooner, more likely–and abandon my post in tears and someone else would have to take over for me.

It bothers me a lot.

I went to bed last night thinking about it. I finally blurted out, “God, how can You say no? All those people–and so many turned away because there was no more time, and You knew that and You let them stand in lines for hours with hope You knew wouldn’t be filled. How can You say no?”

“I don’t say No, I say Yes,” was blurted back into my mind.

I don’t understand.

What is better than that? Why was it allowed for some of them and not for others? It sure looks like You say Yes and No. They say there’s no partiality with You, but then, what is this?

The truth is that God’s will is best. The truth is that He alone knows what best is. The truth is that He is a loving God, and looks down on His creation with mercy–mercy enough He sacrificed His own son, made the Innocent One tormented for guilt not His own. The truth is He is right, and true, and consistent.

But it doesn’t look like it, and if that’s not faith, I don’t know what is.

Re-try, again.

Well, it worked, I suppose.

I’m on my eighth week of my eight week sabbatical, and I have finally been able to deliberately do nothing all day, just because, without trying hard or being upset about ‘not getting things done.’

If you had asked me, I would have told you that I honestly didn’t think it was really going to take me all of eight weeks to unwind. I really didn’t. I picked eight weeks because, well, because. When people say God told them something, I really struggle with that. what does the voice of God sound like? How do you know?

In my limited experience, you know because you know, the same way you know that God created all the world, including you, and sent His only son as an atoning sacrifice for all of His lost children. I was sitting on my bed with a spiral bound notebook, working and re-working the numbers. Yes, I needed time off between work and school, but how much? One week? Two weeks? If I made it to the next paycheck cycle, would I have enough money–and then suddenly, interrupting all my thoughts and figurings, I knew it had to be two months. It had to be.

I closed the notebook, because there was no use thinking about it. It seemed more than a little scandalous to spend two months doing nothing, but I was certain. It seemed rather irresponsible, too, but you can’t go and tell the Almighty that He’s being irresponsible.

I quit my job. I really pissed off my boss, because she thought I should work the summer and that there was no reason to quit before school, and that I was self-centered and self-righteous, and I didn’t care about her or the company or the patients or anything. It was very uncomfortable. Yes, very uncomfortable, but still not even close the uncomfortableness of trying to defy God.

I guess that’s what some people would call being stupid for God, but I’ve never cared for that phrase. God, as the originator of all wisdom, is not stupid. He’s just not as near-sighted as the rest of us, and He understands and owns wisdom far deeper than we can perceive. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little stupid when people keep asking me what I’m doing. Nothin’. Just–you know, passin’ the time.

You quit your job so you could do ‘nothin’”?! Yeah. Don’t be jealous. How does that even make sense?! I dunno. Does it have to?

But today I got mad at Etsy for for not being creative enough (this is akin to complaining there isn’t enough room in the dump truck), and decided I was feeling sick and tired (literally; sore throat and headache) and needed to take a nap. But I couldn’t fall asleep because I kept designing clothes in my head, and had to sit up and try to sketch them out. I never did get a good nap in, but it was the first time in years I’ve been so creative I couldn’t sleep (or that I got mad at Etsy for not being creative enough).

In quieter years, I was good at the creative dreaming and really bad at the functional carry through. Over the last several years, I’ve been so conditioned and trained to be functional that even the last few weeks of sewing have seemed more rote than creative. I suppose here is where I’m supposed to make some sort of grandiose statement about finding balance in my life, but I’m not ready for rash promises just yet (ask me tomorrow).

I’m getting back that feeling that I can take on the world. Not slog through it–take it on! I’m not going to tell you that feeling will last long. But I’m not going to tell you it won’t, either. I guess that’s the point of taking a break, to fill you with impossible hope. (Okay, it really won’t last long. Want to know how I know? Conclusive studies over the last 8 weeks have shown that it takes no less than TWO consecutive late nights for me to be a basket case and need a nap. Bets are open as to how long I’ll foolishly do two consecutive late nights.)

It’s a feeling. It’s not reality. I know that. But the fog is clearing, and just in time–classes start next week. The panicky feeling is subsiding. I’m thinking again, thinking thoughts instead of to-do lists (although I did sweep the floor today, aren’t you proud of me?). What I feel like is that I’m ready to grow. I’m not stretched so thin with simply existing that I have nothing left to give to turning into anything else. I’m not the King of the World, but I’m ready to try again.

Zombie Apocalypse

I think a lot of people are very uncertain about the future. This is not merely a thing of today; it’s an outlook from many times in history. But everyone finds their own way of addressing this uncertainty, and I’ve come to title this expected disaster as “The Zombie Apocalypse.” If you want to get specific, things quickly degrade into name calling; if you leave it vague, everyone can assume that of course The Zombie Apocalypse refers to whichever things they think will cause this disaster. Everyone can agree on Zombies.

More and more people are believing in the Zombie Apocalypse everyday. For some people, it just leads to questions like, “Yeah, but how practical will this degree be for me when the Zombie Apocalypse comes?” Some amuse themselves with lighthearted lists of things to stockpile (toilet paper! Remember Argentina!). For others, it means making bigger gardens, learning to put up food, and, in general, “becoming more self-reliant.”

I was talking with one of these ladies who is really getting into the Zombie Apocalypse thing. She was getting frustrated that she really didn’t think their gardening efforts were leading to a monetary savings; I was pointing out that the education (School of Hard Knocks) itself would be very useful come Zombie Apocalypse. She explained that what they really needed to get ready would be the ideal piece of real estate. I suggested that it was very hard to know what would really be needed during the Zombie Apocalypse, and maybe what she really needed most was just good neighbors. She stated unequivocally that what was most needed was food, water and shelter, and then it hit me.

She was wrong.

I had been trying for some time to be able to put in words what bothered me about Zombie Apocalypse preparations, and I suddenly held it so clearly I could barely continue the conversations. What matters most is not food, water and shelter. What matters most is being a good neighbor.

I’ve read stories of hard times and holocausts, and the tales that have been impressed on me–the people who have made the strongest mark in my memory and inspired me as to how I would wish to behave–are not the ones with the stockpiles. Not the ones with the clever preparations. Not the ones who held off the scavengers with a shotgun. It’s the ones who have given the shirts off their backs, the food from their mouths, and risked their very life time and time again to help others. Those are the ones who leave me in awe, not the ones who managed to survive under the mantra of “I got mine!”

The point isn’t to survive. Maybe stock-piling and cleverness is the best way to ride it out, but what’s the point of surviving that way? The tales of those survivors are dark indeed. The secrets they hid of what horrible things they did to others to get by, the depression, the unrelenting fear, the self-absorption and the paranoia. But some survive who didn’t claw their way to the top of the pile, and they tell a different story. They have still seen horrible things, but theirs is a lighter burden because the life they lived was worth living, even as horrifying as it was.

Maybe giving the shirt off your back will mean that you don’t survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I think I am more than okay with that. I think I would rather live the shortened life, knowing each minute was worth it, than to survive it surrounded by shotgun shells and having had brought the darkness inside of me. The way to prepare is not to stockpile food or ammo or toilet paper (okay, maybe toilet paper), and it’s not to find a way to successfully isolate yourself from anyone who might do you damage. The only real way to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse is to practice loving; to practice giving to those in greater need than you, especially when you don’t have anything left to give; and to practice being full of light and joy through every hard and frightening thing. Those are things that no looter can steal away from you, and those are the things that will be of great use no matter what form the Zombies take.

Things To Remember

things you want to remember

I want to start a journal.

I’ve wanted to start a journal a million times, and have nearly as many books with one to three entries. Sometimes, I have even tried digital journals. I’ve tried to turn this poor blog into a journal, and I’ve tried to keep Word documents as journals.

Why–if I keep repeatedly failing–do I still want to start a journal?

I have lots of reasons, and no reasons at all. Maybe the most compelling things aren’t really properly defined reasons at all, just quiet, sneaking suspicions in the back of my mind, like Einstein’s little pinky finger.

There a wonderful things, probably every day, that we need help remembering. Not just 50 years from now, or 5 years from now–right now. What wonderful thing did you witness today? What seared you today, with a sharp edge, but maybe not big enough to really be noticed–something like a paper cut to the soul?

It almost seems that having a journal would be a mark of respect for the awe of the life you have been given to live. It’s unfolding, like a flower; you don’t know what it will look like when it’s fully open, but can you not at least appreciate what you have been able to see yet?

But you have to be patient, waiting for flowers to open. And I’m not patient. And that’s why I need a journal and why I can’t seem to keep one, all rolled into one.

Maybe this time I won’t fall asleep in the garden.

Hurting Each Other

You may remember when I first mentioned The Civil Wars. They had an intense form of music, with the emphasis on the two very talented singers. This would be typical of one of their songs:

I found their obvious talent to be a big draw, but I didn’t buy their CD, because they were still just playing around. Joy would be up there dancing cheerfully to the glummest songs, and she and John Paul would drag out words through all sorts of auditory acrobatics together, just because they could. I wanted to see what would happen when they settled down a little.

They didn’t show many signs of settling down; their tour schedule was brutal, and it there didn’t seem to be much of a hurry of putting out another CD. I waited.

Joy and her husband Nate had a baby boy. No new CD. The Civil Wars went touring in Europe, leaving John Paul’s wife and children back in the states. No CD.

Abruptly (almost in the middle of a show), the band canceled the remaining tours and put their status on indefinite hiatus due to “irreconcilable differences.”

I was sorry, but not surprised. Of course both of their respective marriages had to be strained–how could they not be? Of course all parties involved were facing serious burn-out. How could they not be?

What infuriated me was the general public’s response, their entitled response that Joy and John Paul had no right to be in falling out, had no right to deprive their fans of continuing music, and, in general, were both acting like a bunch of babies who were engaging in needless drama to increase their fame.

The land of “fandom” (ha) continues to engage in wild speculation, attempts to find one or the other to blame, demands answers, and, generally, is making far more drama out of it than either Joy or John Paul ever did or likely ever will. Yes, Joy and John Paul aren’t speaking. But when Joy granted a rare interview, she didn’t blame or accuse or explain away. She acknowledged tension, and didn’t throw anyone under the bus. John Paul has yet to speak, allowing many to therefore decry that he must be the guilty party and he needs to hurry up and come around.

Really? A man who is unhappy enough with his life choices that he publicly apologizes to his wife for being such a jerk is not likely to be a man who wants to “talk about it.” It is far more likely that he is filled with his own regret, and has more important things to deal with then some people who think they’re entitled to entertainment, be it musically or by getting the dish on whoever it is they want the dish on.

It was nearly a given that Joy would be the one who would be able to speak, even if just something gracious and oblique. She has been in the better position. She was touring with her husband; John Paul had to leave his family behind. She was basking in the glow of being a new mother; his wife, I’m sure, saw plenty of the public speculation that John Paul and Joy were romantically involved. How hard must it be to be separated from your husband who is off on a tour of fame with a pretty lady who everyone thinks he’s an item with?

They did their best to honor their commitments, including offering to pay people their travel costs for arrangements they’d made previously to attend their concerts. They also finished the CD that they’d been working on, even though the tension was high. Here’s a song off of that.

This CD I might have to buy.

On the first CD, they were pretending. They agreed on what made good music, and they made music. On their second CD, they’re raw. The songs are more real to them, and they’re singing from the gut, not playing with their talent. I hear the difference, and it means more. And they know it, too.

I am grateful for the music, but I hurt for them, because their hurt is real. But there are so many people trashing them and bashing them for–hurting.

And that, in itself, is a reason to hurt. People are pretty screwed up.