• hope1

    Wrestling Hope

    “Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: ‘Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.’” Jurgen Moltmann

    I’ve wrestled a lot with hope in the last few years. Mostly to try and send it away. “Hope deferred makes a heart sick.” I’ve had enough of being sick. But allowing oneself to venture into hell is a dangerous thing as well. I know – I’ve wandered into hell more than once as of late and couldn’t muster the strength to find my way back out.

    I’ve taken to resisting comfort. I’ve fallen for it too many times before. I’ve read the words of scripture and their promises that God will not abandon me or let me fall. My heart has leapt at them only to find that holding onto comfort is like holding onto water as it slips out between your fingers. And God is no where to be seen but my failure is all around me. Better not to let myself try to grab hold any more.

    I’ve gazed at the cross with its promise of redemption after suffering. But Jesus’ suffering lasted for a weekend and mine is lasting for years. Jesus’ suffering was probably greater than mine, but it’s not a competition. My neighbor’s broken leg doesn’t make my broken heart hurt any less. I’d say I just want my suffering to end, but the damage has already been done. What difference does it make now?

    And then I realize that it is an evil thing I’m fighting with which bids me to remain in hell and refuse comfort as too little too late and far too quickly gone. Continue reading

  • moon

    Pareidolia

    On a clear late summer night, the woman sat on the edge of a field outside of town to watch the moon rise. In another age, she would have been known as a seer among her people. But times have changed and there’s no demand for seers anymore. Instead, she spends her days performing the dull, essential tasks that modern life demands of us all.

    She has sought out a place as far from the city’s light pollution as she can get to, but she knows that what she sees is a shadow of what was there when she was a child, far from any city, watching the heavens traverse the sky above her.

    When she was young, she had found it a spooky to think that the beauty of a heavenly parade took place night after night long before there was any human present to appreciate it. And it would continue after humanity was gone. It is hard for a child to imagine a world which existed before their arrival and would continue after they had departed again. But watching those stars as an interloper just passing through allowed the woman make peace with the fact that the world was not for her. It has an existence all its own.

    The moon rose full and bright while the woman watched. It climbed higher into the sky, illuminating the only bank of clouds in the sky. As the thin clouds passed directly in front of the moon, the woman saw two angels bearing the bright orb of the moon between them. As she watched one angel became an eagle. The other soon morphed into a serpent opposite a lion.

    For a few moments, an array of creatures made their presence in the cloud known. The woman was so caught up in the display that it came as a surprise when the clouds began drifting away. Soon the sky would be entirely clear.

    She had looked deep into the cloud and been absorbed in the secret life it carried with it. She knew she would soon enough forget the details of this cloud – one of many she had loved. But for a few minutes, that cloud had been her world.

    The woman was no primitive. She knew that this was just a trick a person’s brain played – seeing faces on the moon and angels in the clouds. God wasn’t sitting around shaping clouds to send her messages.

    She knew this, but she never quite understood why this made the reality of it any less wonderous. That she had a brain which played such a trick. That something as simple as a cloud could make that happen was amazing in and of itself. The fact that sometimes her seer’s heart could find meaning in the convergence between the tricks of her brain and the randomness of a cloud just made it all the more magic to her.

    With her beloved cloud moving on and and the chill of the night breeze picking up, the woman packed up her seat to return to the house where her children were sleeping. Soon she would be asleep as well. In another time, her seer’s dreams would have been seen as valuable and sought-after. But we don’t live in those times. Dreams, like the visions in the clouds, are nothing but more tricks of the brain. And what could be the wonder in that?

    *Pareidolia is the technical term for our tendency to see faces or other known things in random things like clouds.

  • grocery

    Mary the Grocery Store Lady and Me, Me, Me!

    Last night I went to the local grocery store and saw that Mary had dyed her hair. I was a bit surprised. Mary never struck me as the hair dying sort. The cigarette smoking, beer drinking with her family sort, yes. Mary works overnights at the local grocery store and she kind of intimidates me. She’s not like the nice, cheery ladies who work during the day. Mary doesn’t look at you and she doesn’t care if you found everything you were looking for. She wears prescription sunglasses inside, is thin as a rail and moves like a man. I always think she hates me but I’ve watched her with other people and either she hates them too or that’s just the way she is.

    I always try to talk to Mary. I hate how unfriendly people are around where I live, so I make a point of talking to people when I’m out. It’s my little protest. And I just think it’s right to be friendly. However, I’m actually pretty shy and easily intimidated. So when I run into someone like Mary I have to work up the nerve just to say “hi” and ask how it’s going. I don’t always make it. I feel like she’s so fiercely determined not to look at you and keep her mouth set in a straight line because she doesn’t want anyone to talk to her. But if I don’t even try to talk to her, I’m convinced that she thinks it’s because I’m a stupid, fat cow who thinks she’s to good to talk to a person like her. Which right there is a good demonstration of why it’s not healthy to try to put yourself into the head of a stranger. You’re just making crap up. Continue reading

  • I’m a byword for neurosis

     by·word/ˈbīˌwərd/

    Noun:
    1. A person or thing cited as a notorious and outstanding example or embodiment of something.
    2. A word or expression summarizing a thing’s characteristics or a person’s principles.

    My children know one of my old classmates by name.  Not that they have ever met her.  And it’s not even because I have told them stories about her.  I have told them stories about lots of people I have known without bothering to add in their name.  No, I’m kind of ashamed to admit that they know her name because when I was a kid, her name became a byword to me.  Her name stood in for a set of behaviors which I associated with her and wanted desperately to avoid myself.  I called it “Sally Ruthersbrodt* Syndrome”  (*Not her real name!)  My kids and other people who were very unlikely to ever meet her know her name and what it meant to me.  In my mind her name meant thinking that people liked you when they didn’t. 

    I’m not even sure how that became such a big fear for me, but it was.  I got that not everyone was going to like me and I was cool with that (eventually).  But what if the people who seemed to like me didn’t really?  That was an intolerable thought to me.  The idea of thinking that you were safe with people who weren’t really safe freaked me out.  And like any good geek, I believed that gathering as much information as possible was the solution.  Because then I could figure out how to avoid this perceived threat.   So, to that end, I applied my powers of observation to watching the people around me looking for signs that I might be turning into a Sally Ruthersbrodt. 

    Unfortunately for me, if there is a disorder which is the opposite of Asperger’s that makes you inappropriately hyper-sensitive to non-verbal social cues, I have that.  Continue reading

  • Drinking Anger’s Poison

    Hulk gets ANGRY!!!!!! - Yeah, me too.

    One of the worst things I ever did in my life was pull my sister Shannon’s hair.  Well, it wasn’t just the hair pulling; hitting her repeatedly just before pulling her hair was pretty bad too.  I was in my early teens and had been left to babysit my younger siblings, including Shannon who is 8 years younger than me.  I have no idea what started it exactly, but I do remember that she was refusing to do something or another that I had told her to do.  So, I hit her.  And she laughed.  Which enraged me.  So I hit my very slight little sister again harder.  And she laughed harder.  Completely besides myself with frustration and anger, I hit her again and again and she laughed at me again and again.  Finally, I yanked hard on her hair and she suddenly started sobbing.  Which shot right through my anger to the part of me that can’t help but feel empathy towards someone in pain. 

    Saying that it was one of the worst things I ever did is a bit of hyperbole.  More accurate would be to say that out of all the things I have ever done, this was one that I felt worst about.   I had lashed out at someone smaller and weaker than myself in anger.  I love her and had been entrusted with her care, but because I had not been able to control myself, she had wound up being hurt – emotionally if nothing else.  As an adult, I went and apologized to her for this incident and learned (not too surprisingly) that she has no memory of it.  Honestly, I’m quite certain it wasn’t the first time I had hit one of my siblings in an attempt to get them to do what I wanted or needed them to do.  But her hurt this time was so raw it made a huge impression on me.  I was married before I ever let myself get that angry again.  Continue reading

  • Thinking Makes It So

    “There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare

    I picked up this quote back in my senior year in high school while reading Hamlet for class.  When I got to college, I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall above my bed.  It’s on my facebook page right now.  

    This quote has always spoken to me about the importance of perspective, responsibility and choice.  It says to me that the way I see something – the emotions I associate with it, my analysis of what is going on, the assumptions I make about motivations – is a choice.  If one of my kids says something which is unintentionally rude, I can chose to laugh or be offended.  Sometimes I might have a good reason to be offended, but if I can, I’m going to laugh.  It’s a choice.  And that extends from the biggest things to the smallest things.  I can choose how to view things rather than just go with random gut reactions. Continue reading

  • meanie

    Making Friends With Me

    I have a tendency to be very hard on myself.  I had to learn to stop being my cruelest critic and become a friend.  To do this, I started thinking of how I would talk to, support and encourage a friend and applied it to myself.  I would never tell a friend, “well, you’re sure an idiot.  No wonder no one likes you.”  I don’t blame my friends for every problem that comes their way.  And when they do screw-up, I don’t give them a critic’s eye view of exactly how they screwed up and why this is a reflection of a very serious character issues.  So I won’t do that to myself either.

    This was a very hard thing for me to learn.  Somehow I had deeply absorbed the idea that being excessively harsh and critical of myself was part of being a good person.  But while struggling to overcome a serious bout of depression, learning this lesson became a matter of life and death.  For a while I would force myself to write down a list of everything I did that was at all positive each day without criticism or commentary.  When things went wrong before berating myself, I would stop and ask myself, “what would I say to a friend in this situation?”  If I were beating myself up because I had done or said something which was met with disapproval, I would stop and ask myself if my actions were something I would get upset with someone else over.  Pretty much always the answer was no, so I decided that I wouldn’t apply the standards of the most negative, judgemental and intolerant people I run into to myself.  Thankfully, it’s gotten easier as time goes on.

    So if you tend to be too hard on yourself, remember: be nice applies to how you treat everyone – even you!

  • I know this feeling

    Laziness

    I know this feeling

    Of all the epitaphs we throw around “lazy” is probably the one we see as inexcusable.  Which is funny because we all have a tendency to be lazy.  We were made to need rest.  And sometimes what we call lazy is genuinely struggling to do something we’re not good at and find really unpleasant.  It’s a normal part of life.  And feeling bad about a normal part of life is generally pointless.

    But we don’t want to give in to inertia either.  Why not make your default position to push yourself forward but keep a well functioning brake in place?  If we are realistic about the need for a break, you will feel less guilty when you decide to use it.  Sometimes when facing a daunting task simply giving yourself permission to take a break if the task gets to be too much makes it easier just to get started.  Overcoming inertia is easier when you know you have a brake in place.