Thursday, July 5, 2012

Maybe The Longest Post Ever...All The Unfinished Blogs I Never Posted, With Commentary From Today's Perspective

I am having such a difficult time writing more than a few sentences these days, but if I don't get some of the "stuff" out of my head, there will be a new reality show about me called Brain Hoarder. And that won't be pretty. I looked in my blog dashboard and saw an embarrassing number of unpublished drafts, and I figured interacting with my own writing would be a good jump-start. I am going to post in unedited entirety blog posts from as long as a year and a half ago, and just have a freewrite response to each one - the response will be in bolded type. I am not trying to wrap up any of these topics in a neat package...just responding to my past self in a probably disjointed, messy way!  1) "Along with the blessed relief from the awful Texas heat, Fall always brings me to a time of Kinda Depressed Introspection. You may be asking, what have all these other non-Fall posts been, if not Kinda Depressed Introspection? I guess in a way that is my default mode."  Kinda depressed introspection is definitely my default mode! The other day I saw one of those supposed-to-be-inspirational internet quotes, and it said something like. "When you feel discouraged, encourage others", and I think I am often like that - I mean, when I am not just whining and complaining about my own discouragement. I was wondering the other day exactly what it means that Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden is light? Does that mean if I feel beaten down and discouraged a lot that I am not hitched up to the right cart?   "I have a love/hate relationship with self-help books and articles, as well as books and articles that are intended to help you in your Christian life."

This morning I was reading Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, as well as listening to his White Horse Inn program, and they both pointed out that (and I paraphrase) "legalism and antinomianism like to hunt together", and that most of us are BOTH antinomians and legalists - we want to have no authority outside ourselves, and also judge others (as well as ourselves) by a strict standard of morality, however we happen to define that. I have gotten a lot out of all the self-help and Christian-growth books I have read, although the piles of bones I spit out after reading them get bigger the older I get.  Each type of book seems to feed either my inner antinomian or my inner legalist, and the really great ones give both of them juicy, dripping slices of the vittles they love most -  could be chunks of pride and judgment or bowls of fear and shame -  they just tear 'em up and consume in wild abandon. They gain weight and strength quickly.

"1:55 pm

I am feeling my most common type of stress - the pressure that comes from having numerous things I could do/should do/want to do/need to do, and the inability to discern which I should choose. The baby is napping and my options are:

1) begin cooking the lunch of lemon tempura chicken
2) fold a load of laundry
3) do strength training
4) participate in a Facebook discussion about whether when Jesus speaks in the Bible, He is speaking to individuals or nations or both

I truly do not have any preference as to which one I do, the problem is that they all need to be done, and I don't know which is most important. Being constantly pulled in numerous directions and not being able to determine proper priorities is one of my biggest challenges. I did just play Yahtzee with 3 of the Moppets, so I do feel like I did some good parent stuff, and it has not been long since they had a snack (apple slices with a peanut butter/maple syrup sauce, dipped in pecans, and Barbara's all-natural cheese puffs), so no one is starving. But food is my biggest homemaking struggle, so I always consider that one first.

I hate, hate, hate having responsibility for feeding people. It is the most stressful, thankless task, and has brought me to tears and made me feel like the Most Worthless Person Ever more times than I can count. There is no way to please everyone, and everyone's a critic, plus it leaves a huge mess. Not to mention the spectres of all the Family Dinners Of Better Families, which are marked by delicious food, edifying conversation and the overflowing kindness of participants, each towards the other. This just reminds me that I am generally burnt-out on woman's work, and all the so-called "duties" of my so-called "role". Gasp. That doesn't mean I want to throw off the patriarchal shackles and head out into the shining vista of the paid workforce by any means. But I really need a vacation from the unending drudgery of it all.

I'm sure I haven't trained my children well enough, and that I am not efficient enough in how I do anything, and that I have an attitude that is not befitting a Christian woman with a meek and quiet spirit, and that it is a great high calling to be home despot in the service of the King and all that, and no sarcasm or irony intended, really. But I am tired of feeling like a household appliance, and not even a respected Kitchen-Aid or Vita-Mix - just one of those cheap foreign numbers that doesn't even work very well and needs to be replaced every few years. I have felt like I need to be replaced for some time now. Replaced with a better model - one which actually works less than the other one, and pays more attention to other things - like people and truly important endeavors.

I don't often give my full attention to my people because I am either feeling the discouraging weight of all the household tasks I could or should be doing, in all honesty, for as long as I am awake - OR - I am annoyed at everyone else for not helping me more often so I don't feel that weight. It's not even that anyone is soooo messy, but there are 8 people living in this house, and lots of different things that each person does, all with its own paraphernalia. I could literally walk from room to room all day and there would be something that needed to be picked up, folded, washed, dusted, straightened, emptied...and I am not even a person who wants Martha Stewart neat and/or clean. So, a certain subset of the how-to better-live-your-Christian-life books really, really left me with baggage, because before I got into that I really never worried about that stuff...not that I was a total pig, but I rightly paid more attention to other things. I got so caught up in the whole role of the wife and mother, and now I feel like I am trapped in a net (one I crocheted myself, of course), struggling to get out. 

I'm not renouncing roles or any of that, but I really don't believe that God would have me put so much time into something that brings me so much discouragement, when there are things I do that are both meaningful to me and a blessing to other people. I don't think anything that is traditionally women's work is demeaning or inherently servile, and I know that things have to be functional on a kind of basic level, or the environment is too chaotic to live and work in. But I do think there is a cyclical, futile quality to it all that can be stifling, almost to the point of suffocation, for me at least. I need to learn to let any truly unnecessary work go, learn how to delegate, do what I can myself, and then move on to do other things... I need to get back to making zines, art journaling, baking, interacting with family and friends more lovingly. I sometimes feel like a part of me is dying, and my Inner Titus 2 Woman is the killer...she's usin' poison fer a slow, not easily diagnosable cause of death.

"Immersing myself in Christian culture is the reason I nearly stopped being a Christian; immersing myself in a morally-suspect show about witches and demons is the reason I came back."

I actually didn't write that quote...I found it on someone's blog in an article they wrote about being a Christian who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Back in my Godly Womanhood days (not that I don't want to be a Godly woman now, ya know...I'm just referring to the Godly Woman subculture, which contains ladies I am crazy about) I would have not exactly scorned, but definitely been VERY uncomfortable with the idea that a Christian could be watching Buffy, while simultaneously sitting smack dab in the middle of God's Perfect Will For Her Life. I knew nothing about the show, of course and I wasn't even THAT conservative...but really, in addition to the whole holiness thing, how good can a show even be if it is about a 16-year-old blonde named Buffy, who kills vampires?

I never came close to "stopping" as far as my Christian faith went, but I honestly admit that I have found myself to be much less self-righteous, more compassionate, more aware of my own general, more sanctified since I began watching so-called "worldly" television shows. I have a Facebook friend who posted something a while back, one of those articles that are written by people who are pretty sure YOU shouldn't see something because it contains situations/ideas/philosophies etc. they consider to be inappropriate content...while it's fine for THEM to see it and actually review it, all to protect you. Because you know, you are too dumb to tell fantasy from reality. No doubt if you ever saw a show or read a book that has witches or demons or vampires as characters, you would immediately start spitting blasphemies and run out and join your local coven.

"There was a life, phase after phase.
It oft felt like running a maze.
No matter how odd, twas all planned out by God,
to Whom be all glory and praise.

I wrote an article for one of my past zines called Phases I Have Gone Through - I identified at least eleven distinct phases when I looked back on my life from when I was about 15 years old:

The Psychology Phase
The I Am Woman Phase
The Natural Mothering Phase
The Libertarian Phase
The Pre-Christian Phase
Christian Me, Part 1
Christian Me, Part 2
The Titus 2 Phase
The Aging/Fitness Phase
The Artist Phase
The Midlife Crisis Phase
The Integration Phase (which is basically my whole life)

A lot of these phases overlap each other, and there have been phases within phases.

I am thinking about this again because a revised and expanded version of the article may be officially "published" by an entity other than me, and I am struggling with the revision process. Thankfully, I don't have to make it shorter - I actually have the freedom to expand it to more than twice its current length. But my writing style has changed somewhat since I first wrote it, and I am not sure whether I should try to completely re-write it (which seems too daunting for me right now) or if I should just add a sentence or phrase here and there where it seems appropriate...I am concerned it would end up feeling like a ragged crazy quilt if I did that.

But my biggest concern is that I just won't be able to do it at all, that I will freeze up mentally and emotionally, and will finally pull out the "I-Have-Five-Kids-a-Husband-and-a-House-To-Take-Care-Of-and-I'm-Already-Halfway-to-the-Looney-Bin-So-I-Can't-Do-This" card."

This is the kind of important thing I neglect while I am wandering from room to room, despairing about all the perpetually undone stuff. It's such a cliche, but I definitely know I will not be on my deathbed, wishing I had kept a more organized refrigerator.

"There once was a gal who checked in
With herself to see how she had been
Taking stock of neuroses, making new diagnoses...
Is she hopeful, or filled with chagrin?

I live in my own head so much, one would think I would always be hyper-aware of what's actually going on in there. But most of the time I am so busy and distracted that I simply have a vague sense of unnamed well-being, unease or, occasionally, foreboding. Rarely do any of these feelings line up at all with external reality."

I have a desire to be a sort of pseudo-Buddhist, or maybe Buddhist Lite. All I really know about Buddhism I know from reading Natalie Goldberg's essays on writing. She talks a lot about what she calls "monkey mind", which is basically just the state inside ourselves all the time - lots of fleeting thoughts, restlessness, inability to focus, fluctuating emotions - you have a mind, you know what I am talking about. Buddhist meditation aims to quiet that somewhat, tries to get us to look at our thoughts and emotions in a kind of detached, non-judgmental way. Then there is the whole idea of mindfulness, or just being in the moment. I think a lot of Christians think these are "new age" ideas, and so distrust them. I think that they are perfectly compatible with what we learn about ourselves and about life in the Bible. The gospel basically proclaims that we are a mess, and the monkey mind is proof of that. I am sure Adam and Eve did not have monkey mind, pre-Fall. We now have mixed motives, righteous and sinful desires at war within us, pride and self-loathing hangin' together. Then there is our maddening tendency to spend an embarrassing amount of time regretting the past, worrying about the future, and even having conversations with people inside our heads, making up what we think they will say. All that is the opposite of mindfulness. When I stop at any given moment and think about it, even if I FEEL terrible, the external reality almost always is that things are basically fine. This is not even taking into consideration the fact that God has promised to take all those things which actually are tragic, or serious problems in an earthly sense, and use then for good. So things are always fine in that sense, even when they are not fine in another.

"There once was a gal so befuddled
With her thoughts all piled up and a-huddled.
But when she did write, though not all was polite,
Inner Self would feel slightly less muddled."

I struggle a lot with knowing what is an "appropriate" amount of negativity in my writing. On the surface, a lot of what I write appears negative, but I never let it just stay that way, let the pain or whatever just exist there, raw on the page, without the little twist to make it...I don't know, easier to swallow both for myself and others who might read it. I know that everything goes towards our sanctification, but some of our issues will never, ever be well reconciled in this life, and I think it is a defense mechanism when I try to always "put things into perspective". I want to be brave enough to just say something, and allow it to be what it is, in all its uncomfortable awkwardness, making plain to everyone that I have serious wounds, many besetting sins, and ugliness inside me that just won't quit.

"I am alone except for a sleeping baby. At least I thought I was alone, but then I felt the presence of Midlife Mama, who has spent the last 5 years or so living in one of my mental guest bedrooms. I know, I know. You are wondering how many alter-egos one non-schizophrenic can have. You are wondering how Midlife Mama differs from Aging Artiste. Well, maybe you aren't, but I sure am.

Aging Artiste is positive. She embraces the whole idea of an exciting second life in her later years (assuming she lives long enough to have later years). She grows in confidence. She has a more humanistic outlook than is really acceptable...not in that she doesn't have real belief in God, but in that she really does think that somewhere in this world there is fulfilment.

Midlife Mama is full of fear. She is afraid that life is passing her by, but is also afraid to really live, to trust God, to be willing to either accomplish her big grandiose plans or relinquish them, whatever He calls her to do. She is afraid to feel things, to love people, to grow, to lose. She feels the weight of this world, and begins to understand the lure of being with the Lord, living in the new Heaven and Earth. She wants rest, physical and mental. She wants to sit and know that it's okay to sit. She wants to put her baby down in the grass and know that there is no worry in that - the baby cannot get lost, cannot get hurt -  indeed "the nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den"."

I have thought a lot about what it means to be at rest, because I have never, ever experienced it. There are always the nagging background whispers, the reminders that life will always be as shifting sands beneath our feet, because there is evil in this world, and with evil comes hard times, sadness and grief. Like Joni Mitchell sings "Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes. Things that you held high, and told yourself were true - are lost or changing as the days come down to you...Everything comes and goes, pleasure moves on too early, and trouble leaves too slow. Just when you're thinking you've finally got it made, bad news comes knocking at your garden gate...knocking for you." How can we rest when we know that is the truth? The blessed vision of putting your baby down and being able to drink your latte without worrying about anything happening to them came to me one morning, and it was the first time I ever got a glimpse of what eternal rest might be like. I carry so much worry in both my conscious and subconscious minds that my heart could be broken at any time, and to let go of that fear is the most restful thing I can imagine.

"It is sometimes so easy to go without writing. I have feelings, or remember things, or feel a rant coming on, and I think I should go write about it. I often sit down with a pen or at the computer, but for many months now, when I do that I feel a physical block, literally a lump in my throat or in my chest, and I might shoot off a few bland sentiments, but then I stop. I do know that I am not taking the time to push though to what Natalie Goldberg calls "First Thoughts", that which will come through after you get out all the boring crap, the whining, the censored version of what you really want to say. I have rarely gotten past that point, honestly. I am afraid of First Thoughts, and since I keep them buried my writing has never been very powerful. Then at times I admit that I have used writing about life to avoid actually living it, and I want to stop doing that. I want to live, and then I want to write what I lived. But I am actually so busy and so tired with doing life that I am not processing much. One of my big fears is that I will die before I can process it all, before I have time and energy to think about what now seems like drudgery, but will probably not seem to be in hindsight."

I just wrote this the other day, so I don't have much commentary to add.