Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Have I Done Today?

Since I have been going all LoserLady recently, I am going to fall back on one of my techniques to get rid of her - to look at what I have actually accomplished rather than at all the things left undone. It usually sends her on a somewhat brief hiatus, because in hindsight things look less failureish.

Got up at 7am. Today I have, by now at 2:30pm:

- Drunk cafe latte
- Eaten one slice of awesome rye toast
- Read my morning forums - Happy Eaters, Video Fitness, Television Without Pity Dexter Forum, FB, Pinterest
- Taken one load of laundry out of the dryer, folded it and put another load in the washer. Did not put folded load away.
- Made a pound cake for Moppet 3's birthday party tomorrow
- Made pasta sauce with Italian sausage, wore Baby in sling to get her to sleep while doing this
- Ate said sauce with garden rotini and 2 raw celery sticks
- Lifted weights in kitchen while waiting for pound cake to be done cooking - 15 lbs: 2 sets of 20 shoulder press, 2 sets of 16 upright row, 3 hand positions of 16 reps lat row - stationary lunges, curtsy lunges, basic squat (30 lb total). 12 lb: 16 reps in and out shoulder flyes, 16 triceps kickbacks, 16 single arm overhead triceps press, biceps curls in 3 hand positions. bodyweight: 2 sets 15 big-girl pushups, 60 second plank lowering alternate knees to floor, triceps dips, barre-style leg raises in 3 positions, 30 reps each. Basic quick stretch.
- Washed accumulated bowls and pans from cake and lunch
- Will take Moppet 1 to an almost 2 hour dance class around 3:30, wait for her at a Burger King Playland with other 4 Moppets, and then will be home around 6:30 (Husband usually takes her, but is on a big job and so is not available)
- Is not planning on doing anything else productive this evening. Will probably play a new game with the family, the hopefully watch Firefly. Will have Moppets do their living room and kitchen chores, will eat regular bedtime snack of full-fat Greek yogurt, Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal and frozen wild blueberries, then will undoubtedly be ready for bed, and will hopefully be mentally prepared 10am birthday party in the morning.

Friday, December 2, 2011

In Which Several of My Alter-Egos Duke It Out

There once was a gal whose mentality
Tended towards split personality.

Alter-egos she juggled, and constantly struggled

To maintain just a base functionality.

Like some people are blown around with every wind of doctrine, I am sorry to admit that I am blown around on every gust of emotion - mine and others'. I am way too affected not only by my own emotional swings, but I am hyper-sensitive to the moods of everyone else in the house.

When someone in my charge is less than satisfied with life, my alter-ego, LoserLady, dons her cape. LoserLady's Unsuperpower is feeling like a total failure whenever anything remotely within her sphere of influence is imperfect. This may seem like low self-esteem, but it really isn't. When she is not dealing with other people in one of her life roles, she morphs into another personality, maybe one with a real Superpower. And it isn't humility, either, because humble people, it is said, don't think less of themselves, but rather think of themselves less.

When LoserLady is on patrol, everything is about her.

As her therapist, I am aware that in some ways this Unsuperpower developed because she was reared on a far distant planet, fed a diet of Abandonment Soup, Insecurity Crackers and Fear Pudding. She eats better now, but has many lingering problems from this malnourishment...

Okay, I HATE allegory and it is proof that rapidwriting taps into oft unused brain cells if I drifted into it. But the point is that I am tired of LoserLady and want the equivalent of a Buffy Vamp Stake to do her in...I just don't know what weapon would work. LoserLady's arch nemesis (who seems healthier but really isn't) is Self-Improvementista, and she is always trying to slay LoserLady by choking her with wadded up plans and schedules shoved down her throat, or hitting her on the head with big, heavy books on how to better yourself. So far, this has failed and LoserLady lives on.

Recently I have been experiencing a queer lack of drive and/or ambition I thought was a manifestation of LoserLady (or maybe her frienemy DiscouragementDiva) but now I am not sure, after I read this in a blog post (by a man who happens to have Stage IV cancer) today:

"Most of us are mediocre, make unique contributions only in the peculiar ways we screw things up, and could easily be replaced as husband, father or employee, by somebody better suited to the task...As I look round the church, it strikes me that this zen-like condition of a lack of ambition is much to be desired because far too many Christians have senses of destiny which verge on the messianic. The confidence that the Lord has a special plan and purpose just for them shapes the way they act and move. Now, just for the record, I am a good Calvinist, and I certainly believe each individual has a destiny; what concerns me is the way in which our tendency to think of ourselves as special and unique (which we all are in some ways – D.N.A. etc.) bleeds over into a sense of special destiny whereby the future, or at least the future of myself, comes to be the priority and to trump all else."

Despite being quite lazy in lots of ways, I have always been a sporadically productive person of an artistic and somewhat visionary bent, and I do like to help and encourage people in that area, as you probably know. I have all kinds of plans and ideas for things I would like to do or study or accomplish at some point in my life, but lately I have been wondering what the point of any of that is. At times, those thoughts come when LoserLady is visiting, or I assume it's just creative block or whatever, and that it will pass. There is also the fact that basic day-to-day tasks keep me busy and make me tired and so television sounds much more appealing than dragging out and cleaning up paint.

But then there is this underlying sense that nothing I have done or will do is really all that earth-shatteringly important, and I say this in the most self-loving of ways. Even though I have several negative and unmotivational alter-egos who haunt me, I usually think I'm a fairly likable and intelligent person with a somewhat interesting past and present life, and a moderate amount of wisdom that might conceivably be used to help others, make them laugh, or teach them something if I happened to translate it into a book or an art workshop or whatever. But there is nothing I could offer that is so unique that absolutely no one else could offer a reasonable facsimile. Plus, I still struggle to know whether I am using whatever talents I have for God's glory or my own 15 minutes of fame. I don't know how to tell.

Recently I have been considering giving up (for an indeterminate time) my grand plans and the work I do which is geared somewhat toward fulfilling them. I want to do this because:

1) A lot of the stress in my life comes from trying to juggle the daily tasks of wife and motherhood with "the other stuff" focus is divided and I can't give either one my full attention. But the artwork doesn't care one way or another if I neglect it, and it will always be there. The people in my life do suffer when I feel resentful because I am being disturbed in the middle of something. Because I become more or less unpleasant, depending on how resentful I feel. This is not to say that I will never write or paint or whatever, but for now I want to let go of the struggle I have trying to carve out the time for it.

This leads into the next reason:

2) My spiritual life has been in the proverbial toilet for a long, long time, and I know my more annoying alter-egos thrive on that fact. I realize we can't really know what God wants us to do with our lives in detail - we know that whatever is lawful is fine to pursue. But this past week SelfImprovementista has been reading First Things First, and a kinda cliche phrase stood out to her - The Good Can be the Enemy Of the Best. All the creative stuff a few of my other alter-egos like to do are good things, but I know I will never get anywhere with them while I put more focus on them than the eternal things. I could create the most beautiful and emotionally resonant art journals in the world, but when my flesh has gone to The Body Farm, they might, at best, be somewhat interesting to my grandchildren. But apart from that, they will pass into obscurity, which is as it should be.

I am not planning on "fasting" from my creative pursuits for spiritual reasons per se, like a personal Autumn Lent. But I feel burdended so much of the time trying to get so many things done, and the burden does not feel light at all. Even though I am not a Career Woman, I am striving to "fit it all in". Even when I succeed in doing that, you know what your clothes look like when you unpack, if you just shoved everything, way too much of it, into the suitcase. I want to free up some space in the suitcase of my life, and see if God will work in an obvious way to fill it. I am sure he won't charge 50 bucks a bag like the airlines do, no matter how much it ends up weighing.

He might give me a nice stretch of time and a burst of clarity and talent to paint a huge canvas next week. I have no idea. But I don't want to be trying to scratch out that time with my ineffective little chicken claws, squinting down at the earth and trying to decide whether the corn or the grubs would be more tasty.

I'm not sure of the "official" meaning of Revelation 2:17, "I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." But I know that in other contexts God gives people new names when He lets them in on at least a bit of the future He has planned for them. Jacob literally wrestled with God before he got his new name, but I am too tired for wrestling. I have named every one of my alter-egos so far, but I still don't know the Real Name of my primary self. I do know that whatever her name turns out to be, what she ultimately wants is to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Since I don't know if or where any of my talents or plans fit into the pursuit of that goal, I am just going to loosen my grip on all of them, and see what happens. Believe it or not, relinquishment is the only thing I haven't tried in my personal quest, despite knowing that in God's kingdom, the maxim to follow for discovering ourselves is Finders Weepers, Losers Keepers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Non-Psychological Rapidwrite, Part 2 - A Project I Would Like to Undertake

I have done a lot of different types of art and craft over the years. Some things I just dabbled in for a while, and either decided I didn't love it...or maybe I did love it, but relegated it to some future decade (God Willing) - because there are, after all, only twenty-four hours in a day. I use the internet as much as the next gal, but I still love most the things that are made with the hands, and ideas contained on real paper...I used to be really into "promoting" those things online (with blogging, an online storefront, etc), but I grew weary. Maintaining stuff like that is a lot of work and takes more time and energy than I have. But I think I am going to make a video, or a few short videos, showing the different non-virtual, tactile things I have done over the past two decades...It has taken two decades to create it all because there is so much else in life that kinda needs to be done.

But I do want to show people who might want to be more creative - but are too intimidated or feel too busy or whatever - that even with all the other things we have to do, if we do a little bit of It (whatever It is) over a long period of time, we will eventually have a lot to show for it. I seem to go through phases of art-making and writing, and then find myself backing off from it for a while...even with lotsa breaks, I have spent a little or a lot of time time doing these things: embroidery. crazy quilting. dollmaking. card and envelope making. drawing comics, bookbinding. scribing the Bible. writing letters and journals by hand. and using desktop publishing, art journaling, publishing zines under three addition to spending lots of time sitting on my rear watching television, reading gruesome crime novels (with some good non-fiction stuff and literature occasionally thrown in), exercising, being depressed and/or discouraged, praying less than I should, procrastinating about cleaning, cooking and other housekeeping chores, while ironically and simultaneously spending YEARS trying to make a pizza that I was totally happy with.

One thing I have never done is photography (apart from many badly composed digital camera shots, too many to ever sort through before I am in my dotage) or movie making. I got a book at the library called Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck, plus I have a daughter who likes to make and edit movies. But it is still waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone to try to create an interesting piece of film, and also to be in front of a camera, especially TALKING, for any length of time. So, I don't know when this will happen, or even if it will...but I am going to read the book and also gather together my stuff for this possible online Show and Tell.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Totally Non-Psychological Rapidwrite Part 1...American Wasteland

I am going to write a series of non-psychological stream-of-consciousness blog entries. No naval gazing, just things that don't have much to do with my Inner Landscape - thoughts about books I am reading, projects I am doing or would like to do...more tangible things and living in the Outer World. Sometimes I've just gotta take a vacation outside my own head, although it will be obvious this comes out of my head sans any editing ;-)

In the past week I have read a few books...let's see if I can remember what they are without getting up...American Wasteland and Precious Blood, and I just started Five Views on Law and Gospel. American Wasteland is my favorite kind of non-fiction book...something about an interpersonal/social issue that may or may not be political, written in an easily readable style with appropriate humor (often sarcastic or ironic). Non-Sentimental-Pathos is also welcome. Wasting food is something I feel guilty about, but I've never really TRIED to reduce it. This book really hit home the fact that throwing away food is like throwing away money. There are so many reasons I waste food - sometimes it is laziness, other times lack of ideas how to use what I have on hand, or I don't have a real plan for managing leftovers, etc. We shop at a scratch and dent, or seconds, grocery store sometimes, but I have realized that a lot of food from there gets wasted because 1) it is more likely to actually be stale since lots of the stuff there is close to the best-by date 2) it is often an off-brand that just isn't very good and 3) we can just buy more than we can reasonably eat because the prices are good...but even if something costs only 1.00 or so per item on average, if even 10% of what I buy gets tossed out, that adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year. The author, Jonathan Bloom, also states that the less varied your diet is, the less you waste...that is kinda good news for me, because I am not a very adventurous eater, and a lot of my struggle with cooking comes from feeling like I "should" cook a huge variety of different meals and lots of components within meals. I saw when we were camping that cooking was easier when there were fewer choices to make...the night before we came home, we didn't have lots of food left, but I made a meal of oatmeal, sauteed green apples with pecans, and fried leftover baked potatoes and onions...yeah, it was high carb, but it was not horrible nutritionally and it all tasted good together, and there was no hand-wringing involved, with me bemoaning my not-well-planned-and-balanced meal. The majority of this book is about food waste throughout the entire food cycle, from farm to store to restaurant or home, and the focus is not clever tips to cut food waste at home. It was a sobering look at how our prosperity has made us immune to the real value of food, and how our Martha Stewart ideas of beauty in the kitchen lead us to reject imperfect produce or crushed boxes, and how our paranoia about safety keeps supermarkets and restaurants from donating tons and tons of perfectly good food to food banks, charities, etc. We just don't know how good we have of the people interviewed for the book thought that in a way, living through a real financial depression would be good for us, because it would shock us out of our mentality that just about everything is easily disposable because there will always be more where that came from.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Before-Art Rapidwrite

I am planning on going into my art room to work on some cereal-box journal pages after Grown Moppet finishes watching Supernatural. Since I always struggle whether I "should" be doing written or art journaling (tending to negelct one or the other at any given time) I figured I could write here for 30 minutes then move into the studio to do something a little more hands-on. Moppet 5 is asleep, which is good when I look at it from the vantage point of Right will not feel so good tomorrow, when she wakes up earlier than I want to get out of bed! Ooops, plans have changed. Husband just informed me that he and all 3 middle Moppets are sleeping out in the tent tonight. That means I will not want to be in my art room, because it is so far away from the bedroom where Moppet 5 is sleeping - she doesn't have a very loud voice and I don't have a baby monitor, so I want to make sure I hear her.

I don't feel like dealing with the mess of paints, anyway. I will either sit here at the computer and write or otherwise occupy myself, or sit in the living room and read or actually handwrite in a journal. I have not been dealing with things honestly in my journaling recently - of course, I haven't been journaling much at all due to being on Baby Time...but when when I do I am not getting at the Meat of Things...definitely due to fear and resistance. There is also the fact that I rarely remember to briefly jot down thoughts that are good writing fodder, so when I sit down to write I can choose something and just go with it. I have a lot of these thoughts at night while I lie in bed, since it usually takes me quite a while to fall asleep.

I have a desire in my journaling to be kinda raw and totally honest and emotional...the only two art journalers I can think of (whose work is well-known) who seem to get into really primal stuff about themselves and their lives are first, Juliana Coles and to a lesser extent, Traci Bunkers. Juliana Coles actually has this process she teaches called Extreme Visual Journaling, which deals exclusively with reaching into the depths of yourself. She uses mixed-media journaling with cool psychological techniques like non-dominant handwriting, letter-writing to the self, or to other people living or dead or perhaps only known to you through books they write, etc. I love reading about her process, and would love to create a similar-but-different kind of process one day. But the truth is that I am totally scared of the depths of myself. Not theologically, although I am scared of the depths of myself in that way, too. I mean I Just Don't Want To Deal With It. But journaling doesn't hold long-term interest for me if I stay on a shallower plane.

I want to write about all the weird experiences I have had and how they have shaped me. I want to write about all the things that have happened to me that are just like what happens to everyone. I want to simultaneously individuate myself and drown in the Teeming Sea of Humanity.

I was just looking at this blog by a woman whose idol is Tasha Tudor, and there were all these poems about nature and quotes from Charlotte Mason, and talk of gardens and canning and the joys of home arts. That is the kind of site I visited a lot from about 2001-2006, and now I can hardly stand to be a click away from one. This is one of the subjects I could really delve into, and I have written a long zine article on the subject - and I was somewhat honest and revealing about the subject in that article. But there was still a bit of the Psychiatrist/Patient dynamic that comes out in a lot of my personal writing...I sound like I am a caring psychiatrist telling an interesting, but somewhat emotionally detached story about a patient. Or a client. Whatever you call people who pay you to listen to them.

But I still skirted over how I truly think and feel about the years I spent in the Biblical Womanhood camp. The thoughts and feelings are multilayered and mostly uncomfortable. They go into deep issues of family and relationships and sex and how I relate to God and right down into the ultimate scary questions...What is my purpose here on Earth, what can I expect from life, how can I survive the raw joy and pain of living and dying? When I peel into the onion of my life, every single thing I could possibly write about will eventually ask those same questions, and they are not rhetorical.

I am drinking decaf now, strong decaf, but decaf nevertheless. Still, it is only 10:15 and I wanted to do something creative until about midnight. I am starting to feel resistance, just talking about possibly writing something real.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thoughts Spawned Mostly by Mary Pipher's Autobiography and the Season Premiere of Dexter

October 3, 2011 5:37pm

I have been reading Mary Pipher's autobiography, and like hearing about most lives, it makes me feel both hopeful and despairing. I see that other people have similar problems to mine, but somehow they have managed to do something (like write a book) with them. Then I look around and wonder when I will ever have time to write uninterrupted, or if I could even sit long enough to write anything more than the swirling thoughts in my head. She is a Buddhist and the subtitle of the book is Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World. I relate to her in her racing mind, her desire to be all things to all people, her need for solitude. I envy her the interesting years she spent as a radical in the Bay Area. I want to look at my own life in this place - where it is horrible hot half the year, which seems to put me in a horrible mood for that long - as a life that is interesting in itself, not just one that might be interesting if I could spend more time writing or creating.

There is a lot of focus in Buddhism about being present in the moment, and sometimes I think that my introspectiveness and my desire to chronicle what I am thinking or feeling detracts from that...because I always am focusing on my own mind - the interior landscape - which is occasionally scenic but can also be a lot like driving through the flattest, most boring terrain you can imagine. I rarely notice what is going on around me as far as sights, sounds, etc. I am different from most people I read about in writing or journaling who are so inspired and nurtured by nature. I have pretty much zero desire to be in nature. The only nature I crave is fresh air, but I like it to come inside through open windows. I have always said that sitting in front of a large window with a nice view and a computer is my idea of communing with nature. But even in the house, I rarely HEAR things like the fan buzzing, or the computer keys tapping. I don't LOOK at my coffee cup that is green with stylized yellow flowers and orange skeleton leaves, and contains about 1/4 cup of cold coffee. I don't HEAR the rustling of the fairy play tent that I bought for 5.00 at a yard sale. And especially, I have difficulty living peacefully with other people "in the moment".

It is so difficult to have 6 people who need me, almost constantly...of course, it's good to be needed....but there being so many needs that are expected to be met by me is not conducive to "being here now"...because there is so much going on in the now I get overstimulated and can't take it all in. Those so-called golden moments of childhood are rare (except with the tiniest of babies)...then I feel guilty that I am not more adept at creating an atmosphere conducive to Ms Pipher's definition of "moments". She writes in the book about the difference between minutes and moments...minutes are the kind of linear time in which we live most of our lives, and moments are those few drops of timelessness, or sacred time, that come far less frequently. The "peak experiences", which can actually be sorrowful or joyful, but which are somehow transcendent and seem to get at the real meat of what living is, or can be if you are present.

What I AM present to, all too often, is the almost constant discomfort in my my left hip, lower back and leg. I know that a lot of that discomfort is caused by stress, and my unwillingness to do restorative things for my body. I get very nervous inside when I think about taking a month or even a week off weightlifting to focus on "only" stretching" or using a foam roller, or doing yoga. I don't want to be a person who is always fighting aging, while at the same time I do want to be a person who ages in the best way possible, doing whatever I can to facilitate that. I know that fitness is comprised of strength, endurance and flexibility, but I neglect the flexibility and endurance for the strength training, mostly because of the aesthetic benefits of weights. Then I see something on television, or read something in a book that reminds me that someday I might need real strength, for something really happening in my lives. It might be some kind of crisis or dangerous situation where I need to climb fences or pull myself up through a window - something that requires real strength, not just "muscles".


Baby is asleep, Husband is reading Zane Grey while Youngest Son lays in bed with him...both middle kids are listening to headphones - Wizard Rock for Eldest Son and Stuart Little for Middle Daughter. I have the new episode of House to watch but am not really chomping at the bit to get to it.

A few times recently I have heard ideas like, "You can't really begin to change until you accept yourself as you are now", and I tend to agree with that. It's something I first heard in the Happy Eaters world, regarding weight loss, dieting etc. I am an inveterate self-improver, and I guess Ms. Pipher is, too., but it is a totally different mindset to want to change because said change would make your life better in some way, or help others, or whatever - as opposed to the belief that you are such a failure as you are that you need to change to even be acceptable. One viewpoint is hopeful about yourself and the future, while the other has a desperation behind it. Ms Pipher says something to this effect in her book, which has a real focus on self-acceptance and compassion for yourself. What is so interesting is that she says it was when she realized her own innate goodness that she was finally able to accept her shortcomings, whereas I believe I am becoming more accepting of my failures as I internalize the deep theological fact that I am a total screw-up by nature, and that even though I am safe before God through Christ, a life with lots of discouragement, frustration, stress, etc. is to be expected in this fallen world. So, we come to the same conclusion (about needing to have compassion on oneself as well as on others), but have different reasons for believing that. She has struggled a lot with guilt, like I have, and her childhood was (of course) different than mine, but definitely odd and unpleasant in a lot of ways. She learned to repress the loneliness and pain that came from having parents who were not very available and/or were emotionally volatile. She came to feel that if she could be strong and competent and care for others' needs, she would be loved, but in doing that she opened herself up to burnout. That is very similar to how I feel. I have also found that my willingness or perhaps even capability to really experience deep emotions is stunted. I know I don't really "feel" the amount or depth of love or compassion for people that I actually possess, and let's not even talk about other, more naturally painful emotions. They are all there, but behind something like that glass in limos and police cars that block sounds between the front and back seats...I m the driver and so I know the little buggers are there, and sometimes they want my attention, but I can't hear them so they are easy to ignore.

11:05 pm

Half the family is sleeping outside in the tent. I watched House, was not impressed. I have really come to appreciate the weird quirkiness of science fiction, fantasy and other shows that have alternate universes (even if they are only psychological constructs like on Six Feet Under) and your garden-variety drama set in our universe is less interesting than it used to be. The season premiere of Dexter was moderately interesting, but it looks like it will have a religious backstory, and once again I was annoyed than you just can't seem to get a proper presentation of the Christian faith on television - and I am not saying you need a proselytizing message, or even a program that "respects" the faith...but really, you have to be somewhat bright to write a television show, and when there are Christian overtones, why can't the writers at least do their homework and get the story right? It's just as easy to be against the ACTUAL gospel as some stupid wrong depiction of it, if that's what you want to do. One of the most common "mistakes" is calling the book of Revelation, Revelations - which is just a stupid error no one should make even if they don't take the faith seriously. In this episode, Dexter asks his friend Angel to explain his faith, and he was able to begin with something true, like "It's all about His sacrifice for us" (good start) but then there was no more content and it all degenerated into "it's just something you feel, you can't explain it", which, of course, makes the Christian character look like an idiot. There have been a lot of shows I have seen that have episodes wherein the characters deal with spiritual issues, but it is always a bunch of what Francis Schaeffer called "God-Words"...the use of the word God and other words about the eternal things, which actually have no content behind them, but which are still supposed to give solace and comfort and warm fuzzies about "spirituality". They require the "leap of faith", which is a concept totally foreign to the Scriptures, which tell us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope which is in us, and that the reason is rooted in the eyewitness accounts of the historical works of God in Christ. But then, even despite all these dumb misrepresentations of the faith, some non-Christian writers get the Christian message right and present it allegorically, although they would say they don't respect Christianity - like in Buffy, we learn that love has the effect of disarming hatred, and that salvation from evil requires a sacrifice.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

10:39 pm Sunday Rapidwrite, With Paragraph Breaks to Save Your Eyes

I just realized that I absolutely do not use the internet to it's full potential. I have about 5 websites I look at every day, but I rarely use it to really connect with people or learn something. I signed up for an online workshop with one of my favorite artists, Katie Kendrick...I have been waiting for her to produce one since I first saw her work in LK Ludwig's art journaling book, True Vision. There is a yahoo group for sharing artwork and other "community building" stuff, but my Inner Hermit almost always keeps me from participating in those things. That is partly because I do not want to spend lots and lots of time online, and I don't want to get overly caught up in whether anyone comments on my work, etc...I had enough of that in my past blogging days. But I am sure there is also an element of fear involved, an element of not wanting to commit to "doing something" with my creativity. I know I don't have unlimited amounts of time to dedicate to art making, because of daily tasks and duties with a big family, including a newborn - and since I tend towards all-or-nothing thinking I either just let everything else go and do some creative stuff, or else I do nothing except exercise in my art room.

For the past few weeks I was in a hormonal depression and I was wondering whether I should just give up on art altogether, because I have a hard enough time dealing with basic cooking and family interaction. I wondered if I was just kidding myself into thinking I am even supposed to be doing any of that "other stuff". Then today the hormones shifted and I felt fine and energetic, and I remembered that today was the last day to sign up for the workshop...I knew I would regret it if I didn't, and I also know that even if I don't have a lot of time to follow the lessons in the 4 week format, I can watch and learn. Even when I am entertaining The Bad Hormones, I am usually aware that they are the cause of my icky mood. That was not always the case - for many years I just thought I was depressed, but I see now that these swings have absolutely no correlation to anything in the outside world...things can be peachy keen in my life, and I still feel like (insert favorite gross substance here). The Mood manifests itself mostly in guilt, insecurity and feelings of extreme fatness. I really, really want to get to the point where I can actually do creative work during those times, either to "work through it", "document it" or just to get my mind off the stupid, sniveling, pathetic misery.

Today is September 11th, the iconic 10 year anniversary. I remember where I was and what I was doing, like everyone else, but I don't think my feelings about it are very common. The whole thing is horrifyingly horrific...the photos have the oddly beautiful, haunting quality of tragedy that does what images do best - saying things when words are impossible. But the true horror of it all has almost been lost as it has become so politicized and has stirred up so much hatred, and warfare, and has led to so many more deaths...I just can't stand that. I do happen to be a person who may be missing the patriotism gene, the gene of belonging, of school spirit, etc. To me, this terrible thing has nothing to do with the United States for good or ill, and everything to do with a fallen world, the sinful heart of man, and the foolishness of trusting in man-made edifices or earthly princes. I am so grateful that we attend a church where that was the message today. No flag-waving, no dehumanizing The Enemy...just the pure message of God's sovereignty and our utter security in Him and His never-ending Kingdom, even as the world crumbles. We think this is our world, and so we get angry and frightened when we finally see we have no control over any of it.

I drank full-strength coffee today, which I do only about once a month. I can really tell that caffeine is a drug now - that doesn't make it bad, but I appreciate it more now. These days, if I am tired, I take a nap. I am naturally more awake and alert WITHOUT caffeine, and I look back on my caffeinated days and see that I THOUGHT my natural state was more tired and sluggish, and I needed the caffeine to feel "normal". Now it's just a cool thing to use once in a while (it's only been about once a month lately, but a few times a week would be fine) to get a little extra enthusiasm going. Like, it would be cool to drink caffeine on days I plan to let the house fall apart and work in the art studio. Back when I was a pot smoker, I wish I would have known to use that in the same way.

One thing I keep feeling like I need to do before my True Inner Artist makes her debut, is to come to terms with my own outward appearance. Yes, I want to be lean and have muscles, like this awesome female specimen who is about my body type, but is not so unreasonably thin that she obviously never eats:

And that is a fine goal and deserves my time and thought, and wouldn't even take all that much work...10 or so pounds and a round of P90x or some other good strength program would do it. But despite how bad or good I actually look or have looked at any given time, I have spent almost all of my life, from even before puberty, being overly concerned about and dissatisfied with my level of beauty and fitness and all that stuff. It used to be about wanting the guys to like me, to make up for my male abandonment issues, but there is none of that motivation anymore at all...but I still spend way too much time thinking about my figure and how it falls short in the aesthetic sense. So, I want to get rid of my fat and at the same time make peace with it. I am sure that is possible, but I am unsure how to go about it. I just know that my desire to be My Authentic Self is stunted until I get at least mostly over this issue. I have thought for a few years that I need to take lots and lots of self-portraits in all kinds of flattering and not-flattering clothes (and lack thereof) poses and lightings and just make peace with it all. I want to be able to make art videos or memoir videos and not be concerned about how I look on camera...believe it or not, that is a close second to uncertainty about subject matter as to why I have not done that already.

Despite my caffeine, I am starting to get tired now, at 12;15am. I think I will read just a bit in my third Tara French novel - all of which are cool crime novels and psychological studies, totally without gratuitous sex and violence - almost unheard of - and then hit the sack.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Post-Pregnancy Ponderings

The house is quiet...Husband took the three loudest middle kids to the store to get new bathing suits for their upcoming swimming lessons. The 17 year old is lounging in a chair, reading Foxtrot. The 5 week old is blissfully napping, after being on a sleep-strike yesterday; if she could walk she would have been on the picket line holding some placard stating her noble reason for refusing to give her poor Mama any rest.

I am drinking a half-caff latte, and have been reading a library book called The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth - Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School. It fits in with my television viewing the past nine months, which consisted partly of Glee and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's interesting to watch shows about high school with my oldest daughter who has never set foot inside one.

A scene from Buffy put it this way:

Buffy: "How was school today?"
Dawn: "Same as usual...a big square building full of boredom and despair."

I wish I'd never been inside one myself, although I still have friends I acquired during those days, and since our school was in Southern California, we were spared the big square building part and were able to walk directly outside from our multi-windowed classrooms.

I was definitely an outsider, but did not really take full advantage of that status. I didn't "fit in", but I also didn't develop my own personality and interests like I could have. I got involved in certain "odd" pursuits like theater, but I never loved that. I spent too much time thinking about my female insecurities and my mostly nonexistent love life. I am praying that the angst that plagued me for the few years before this last pregnancy does not return, and that middle age can be the unschooling adolescence I never had. My interests haven't changed much over the years, and I wish I had a longer record of my progress in visual arts, or my changing thoughts about politics or faith or psychology from those very earliest days.

Despite having quiverful sympathies, I don't think I can go through any more pregnancies and births for both physical and mental reasons. I don't even feel nostalgic or more than a touch melancholy saying that. I got progressively more patient through Moppet 3's early years, but seem to have taken many steps back since that time. I'm in the same ultra-thinly buttered loaf of bread with Bilbo Baggins. My well has run dry because I have had little to no time for solitude, which I need in order to have the energy and strength to take care of the people in my life. This "sounds" selfish, especially from the vantage point of my past self, the Wannabe UberWife and Mother. But underlying this craving for solitude is a true desire to nudge out Guilty, Anxious and Resentful Me, and see more of Patient, Present and Loving Me.

The journal always being open on my new pulpit desk is helping. Since I have been doing visual journaling for so long, I am struggling with writing and doodling on a blank white page. It seems "less than" to me, but things I do feeling "less than" is one of the prevailing themes of my life as a perfectionist. But I am ignoring that feeling and am writing several times a day. My writing is messy enough that I don't have to worry about anyone reading what I would not be worth the struggle for most people, I'm sure. My life and thoughts are sometimes mundane and boring and the writing reflects that. But if I write long enough (which is rare, of course - that lack of solitude thing) I will sometimes break through to more interesting stuff and write with more flow and even a bit of beauty or depth.

I have always been a crappy goal setter, but a few days ago I wrote down a few things I'd like to do before the end of the year. I am definitely a more visionary type. It's easy for me to visualize things and come up with exciting ideas, but following through is difficult. I'm not a great time manager, I can be easily distracted, I often let my emotions dictate what I am going to do. There is also the practical aspect of not understanding how to set goals. It became a little more clear to me years ago when I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but The Creative Entrepreneur (which is a guide to business planning using visual journaling) helped me understand it best. Understanding it does not mean I have actually made any goals nor achieved any, but hope springs eternal.

The author calls goals Objectives, and says that they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound - acronym SMART. After you determine your objectives, you develop strategies and then tactics. Strategies are how you intend to reach the objective, because there are often several ways to do so - for example, if you are having financial problems, you can 1) make more money by working or investing, and/or you can cut back expenses and spend less. Each of these would have different tactics. Tactics are the specific actions you will take to fulfill the strategies. Isn't this fun? I love all this planning stuff. I have a two-inch stack of cool plans, ideas and schedules I have made for myself, my children or our family over the years, and they have all been grand failures. This doesn't mean I have never accomplished anything, but my path to any accomplishment or finished project or needed change has always been a meandering back road that's not even very scenic.

Anyway, here are the objectives in my journal - not all of them have full tactics lists yet. The timetable for these is by December 31:

1) Have an Art Journal night for friends at my house

- I'm not sure how to go about this I want to teach a "technique" or just put out the supplies and have a free-for-all? Do I want to have actual journaling time and writing prompts, and sharing of writing?

I am also considering starting a writing group using the book Spiritual Journaling, but more likely AFTER the first of the year.

2) Finish mixed media painting I started at least 5 months ago

- Watch art videos for online classes I purchased
- Create sketches, find paintings of poses I can use

3) Lose enough fat so I am satisfied when I look in the mirror. (I don't have a scale...I estimate I have 7-10 lbs of fat to ditch to get where I'd like). Keep building muscle.

- Keep eating intuitively and doing my basic newborn weight workouts every other day until September 20 (when baby will be 3 months old)
- If necessary at that time, start using FitDay again to track eating, get new food scale
- Go back to full-length DVD workouts at that time
- Find a place where I can get my body fat tested, and do so sometime in January...I think I want to be at about 23%

4) Have Moppet 3 reading and doing schoolwork

- Go back to Alpha-Phonics, do 15-20 minutes 5 days per week
- Plan copywork
- Have her read aloud 5-10 minutes 5 days per week

It's getting late now and I am feeling the tired grumpies creeping in. That's my sign to end this here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stuff...Both Literal and Figurative

When last I wrote I was in the middle of Fall Housecleaning/rearranging, and now it's Spring Housecleaning/rearranging. I have always been someone who loved to move furniture around because I craved the fresh perspective, but now it is just exhausting. Of course, I was 5 weeks pregnant last time and am 28 weeks pregnant now - so maybe that has something to do with the exhaustion factor, but I'm not sure. Now I just want the peace to actually use the stuff I am moving around...the art supplies and books especially. I know that in this world everything tends towards disorder, but I am starting to feel beaten down by it all.

One bright spot is that I am planning on actually hiring someone to come clean my house from top to bottom when I am done with all the sorting and moving of stuff. And this place is dirty from top to bottom. I am not the best housekeeper and cleaner at the best of times, but I have sunk to an all-time low (or the dirt has risen to an all-time high, depending on your perspective). All the floors, sinks, cabinets, appliances, doors, ceiling fans, name it, they are filthy. I will also bring someone in to clean the windows, which is something we have NEVER had done in any of our houses. I have always felt too guilty to have someone come in to clean for me, even once, because I know I "should" be able to take care of it all; if not alone, then with the help of my children. But even when I have been energetic, happy and productive I have never had a really clean house, and I am to the point where I don't care anymore if I ever become good at it.

I have spent years trying to make it to the proverbial Proverbs 31 Level of homemaker-ness, but when you read that text you see that she had servants. I don't want and can't afford to have someone come in very often, but I definitely need someone to do it when it gets to this point - I don't have the strength or sanity to even pretend anymore that I can keep up with every housekeeping, homeschooling and relational duty I have as a wife and mother. And you know what? I don't think that when I stand before God, He is going to sternly ask me why my kitchen cupboards had coffee splatters on them. I get so worn out, spending so much time trying to keep up with all the Womanly Tasks (or else feeling guilty that I'm NOT keeping up) that I am neglecting things I truly feel would be more of a blessing to the people in my life.

I have friends who are recovering from illnesses and surgeries, and I have not sent them any kind of handmade card or book like I normally do at such times, because I am so behind on household maintenance. There are letters I haven't written, reading practice I have not done with my beginning reader, people I haven't had over for coffee. I have not written in my journal, have exercised less than I like to, and my spiritual life is in the toilet. Something has to give, and sadly, it has been things like that. I would rather hire someone to clean for me every three months than continue to run on a neverending housekeeping treadmill.

I remember reading the Mitford series of books, which are pretty annoying for lots of reasons - but I was particularly annoyed when I realized that the only reason the main female character was able to prolifically write and illustrate children's books was because she didn't cook, clean, do laundry or any of that. This is not to say that any of that work is demeaning at all, and it is totally necessary, and I can do it at a basic level, but not more perfectly than that - or everything else suffers, and that is what is happening now. I don't know whether it is my growing family, my aging self or my midlife hormones that have brought me to this point when I see that I will never receive the Susie Homemaker award, and that's okay. Why spend so much time inefficiently struggling to do something that needs more efficiency than I can bring to it?

I thought my 40s would naturally be this wonderful time of discovery, prolific creativity and insight. Of course, I am only two years in, but so far those two years have been more discouraging than the last 5 years of my thirties put together. I think it's because I am learning what my limits are and am struggling to accept them. That's humbling. I have always been someone who doesn't want to ask for help. For a long time I thought I didn't need any, and I didn't understand that the resentment and anger I sometimes struggle with is a symptom of the Trying-To-Be-All-Things-To-All-People disease. I don't know if I will ever be totally cured of that, but I am learning to admit that I need help, that I need rest, that I am not very strong at all.

A theme I see when I look at the very few posts I have made on this blog is the desire to feel comfortable and accepted when I am Not Doing Anything For Anyone Or Being So Impressive In Some Other Way. My whole life I have felt that I needed to either BE something amazing - either beautiful, brilliant or highly talented (none of which I have ever been) or else always DOING something helpful or productive for people, in order to feel secure. I have seen, though, in these past few years when I have definitely been getting less beautiful, brilliant, talented and productive, that no one has rejected me.

After 14 years of being a Christian, all this is helping the gospel to finally reach heart level. If the people in my life don't reject me because I'm not always super impressive, then I can be sure God won't. I have understood that intellectually for a long time, and didn't think I worried much about it. But as I am going through these psychological struggles, I am seeing that I can't read anything theological that isn't about grace. It is the very heart of our faith to admit that we are imperfect in all areas. To the extent that I don't live that out in my life, to the extent that I hide my weakness, and my exhaustion and my sadness, I am denying what God says about me, and I don't receive the rest that is promised to all those who are heavy laden.

I will finally admit it. I am heavy laden, and I need that rest. I know that ultimately, that's a spiritual thing. But I'll still be thankful that I can call in the Merry Maids.