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.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, Samantha, I really enjoyed this. You ARE a great writer, by the way, a great thinker, a great wife and mother, and a great many things more. You are creative and inspiring and flawed like everybody else, but beautiful in your Samantha sort of way - which is unique and lovely. I especially relate to the barrier to fully experiencing emotions - that has something to do with our similar childhood experiences, but an area that God has been making more clear to me and is slowly breaking through to being more real, to experience life in a more truly "human" fashion, for lack of a better word. Because we am safe with Him, there is no need to protect ourselves, but it is so difficult to actively work on breaking that ingrained, reactive habit that we aren't even consciously choosing, for the most part. As for being present in the moment, reading Ann Voskamp revolutionized my thinking about that when I started reading her blog about a year and a half ago - I was surprised to see how much of my life I live inside my head, either in the past or in the future - but rarely in the present. Whether that is a result of escape learned early in life, or the natural challenge of a creative mind, it is both a strength and a weakness, isn't it? Thanks for writing - I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.