Monthly Archives: August 2013

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.

A thought. . .

. . .I had, that keeps chasing me around.

“If we had less, we’d be more grateful.”