Sunday, 30 September 2007
"It is true that some speak lightly and loosely of insanity as in itself attractive. But a moment's thought will show that if disease is beautiful, it is generally some one else's disease. A blind man may be picturesque; but it requires two eyes to see the picture. And similarly even the wildest poetry of insanity can only be enjoyed by the sane. To the insane man his insanity is quite prosaic, because it is quite true. A man who thinks himself a chicken is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad. It is only because we see the irony of his idea that we think him even amusing; it is only because he does not see the irony of his idea that he is put in Hanwell at all. In short, oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world."
I need to be getting me some reading of his nonfiction stuff. The quote, from Orthodoxy, spoke to me not only of writing, but also of my inherent weirdness. People have always told me I'm weird. I like that different drummer's sound. Is that the same as odd? Next time I feel like the world is dull, I'll know why ;)
But still, most of the time I'm filled with wonder for the world ... or at least for the reality beyond the world. So what does that mean? That I have lapses into temporary insanity? Well, don't we all??
The tagline for my emails at the moment is another quote of Chesterton's, which I just love:
"Fairy tales don't teach children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed."
Saturday, 29 September 2007
But now that I am getting well, I'm getting ready to ramp up my hours and the prospect of being there even more isn't a tantalising one. But I am trying to have some perspective. Doing more hours doesn't mean I'm going to be doing this job for the next century. And really, when I slow down into the work and focus on the job at hand, rather than projecting forwards or backwards and complaining in my head about how boring it all is, it all becomes do-able. It becomes then more akin to a meditation. If I focus on doing it as well as I can then its crap elements - its boringness - becomes a springboard to it being some sort of a meditative offering.
So that's how I'm trying to approach it. But this job was never going to be anything more than a job. Being stuck in front of a computer for X hours doesn't really motivate me to write. And I do feel like writing is my vocation. Even though I feel like I have barely scraped the surface, and I have so far to go and so much to learn, it is the one thing that consistently draws and entices me. I am planning on tackling writing a novel this year (yikes) and I am desperate to return to writing some more short stories that feel like they're circling round in my body. But a certain level of physical wellness is necessary for me - for whatever reason, I have never been able to write whilst sick.
Now, I know vocation is not necessarily the job you're doing to pay the rent. For all I know, perhaps I will be stuck doing rather boring jobs forever and writing on the side. Perhaps I will never reach the point where I could write full-time. Hell, I don't even think I could write full-time, the way some writers approach it, with a starting and finishing time and writing eight hours a day. Then again, I have never tried it, so who knows? Perhaps I would surprise myself.
But the idea that it's possible to do work you love? Now, that's such a hard one to grasp. The protests that well up in me at that thought make me wonder what my motivations are. Why do I think that I don't deserve to do work that I enjoy? Well, I guess because I (a) have never really done work I enjoy in my entire working life and (b) I look around me and most people are doing stuff that is boring as batshit, to varying degrees. But does that mean it's not possible? Not at all.
My desire is to write non-fiction stuff for publishing (magazine articles etc) so that I can then have enough time to write fiction, the stuff I really want to write. It is so obtainable - look at the amount of magazines there are on the market. And with the internet, now I have the world's markets to be able to publish in. It's do-able. It just doesn't feel like it :) But that's my aim, and I'm sticking to it ... even though months go by and I don't do anything to move towards it. It's still there. It won't go away.
So that Beuchner quote. I'm pondering that one. Where is the crux of my deep gladness and the world's deep hunger? I feel a bit shy talking about a few of the things that come to mind. One of those things is my conviction these days about God's kindness, about how much it changes everything and how little we believe it. But I don't know how that fits in. Does it all boil down to writing again for me? Is that something I should be writing about? I don't know. I hope so.
I also think that our vocation is often the thing that talks to our hearts the strongest but that feels too good to be true when we think of it as our vocation. That's writing for me, definitely :) And I guess that's what Buechner was saying in his quote.
Another thing about a vocation is that it needs a lot of time. It needs a lifetime. And a lifetime of time which from the outside of a life looks like time spent wastefully. But perhaps all good things in life appear that way these days. The time spent raising one child seems wasteful. To keep up with your friends. To compose music, art. To make a garden. To train to learn how to dance. But if we don't take the time now to do those things, then how much less expansive and beautiful and full life as a whole will be in ten years' time. We are so efficiency conscious that spending time wastefully seems ... well, wasteful! And yet I am becoming convinced that it's where ALL the good stuff lies, and that my compulsion to go and do only those things that are efficient is something that springs from the flesh, and not from reality. And oh, I can't tell you how much of a relief that is. Reality is springier, longer, bigger, wider, and more wasteful than we think. Always. Or than I think, anyway. The other reality is in front of my eyes every day, but it's blue pill reality. What constitutes the heart of that reality is the stuff that should always sit around the periphery in the red reality. Blue pill reality is grey, lacks music, nuance, dance, words.
I want to live wastefully.
Friday, 28 September 2007
So Telstra boss Sol Trujillo's auntie's dentist's brother's dog has probably got tickets for tomorrow. It can sit next to some guy and his mate who don't even care all that much but his Mum got them from her work so they may as well use them (or scalp them). Meanwhile lifelong members miss out. It's not fair. If the AFL was at all fair dinkum it would grant the vast majority of tickets to team members. Imagine what a fantastic atmosphere that would be! I think that 70% of tickets should be for members. That would leave 30% for corporates. That's more than enough.
The AFL is far too corporately-focussed for its own good and for the good of the game. But hey, why would it be any different than any other large corporation that can't end up seeing past its own nose and ends up stuffing up its own nest by expansionary greed? I vote for an uprising by all 16 clubs to wrestle back control from its evil clutches. Let's rise up, friends! Rise up! Now, that'd be something fun to do over summer until the next season, wouldn't it! I am in the mood for a cause ;)
Or maybe a rally of some description. A march against oppression of some sort. Something to focus my considerable angst and frustration on. Something I can protest against so I can get capsicum sprayed and bashed by policemen totally overreacting to citizens exercising their citizenly rights to protest against stuff big people are doing against little people (like, for example, those protesting Burma in Canberra today). Maybe I'll go to Tassie and chain myself to a tree on the proposed Gunn's site (Gunn's should feature in an episode of The Simpsons. They are so caricatureishly evil).
I must have looked particularly grumpy as I walked to work on Wednesday (I was, rather) because the Australian Childhood Foundation guy backed off really quickly midway through his spiel. Then I felt bad. I felt like I was contributing to the big vast horridness that is called living in a city in the early 21st century when nobody gives a toss about anyone else. This poor guy was probably on some stupid pittance of a salary and will be quitting by next Tuesday because so many people are snarling at him trying to make money for the Australian Childhood Foundation.
But then I pondered as I walked to work how easy it is to throw some money at foundations (not to mention how frustrating to be accosted by them in the street), and then think we've done our job. Oh well, that's my contribution towards Australian childhood taken care of - phew! Now I can go about my business of not giving a shit about anyone else and if I accidentally squash some small children on my way I can do it without too much guilt.
People say that Australians are generally friendly and overseas visitors comment on how warm it is here but I personally don't see it. Perhaps I'm doing that old person's thing of living in the past, but it was so much warmer when I was a child. Daggier, sure. Everyone's hair wasn't as beautiful as it is now. But now, the iciness resembles the air this evening as I walked to the station (brrr, a burst of winter ushering the weekend in). I must be over-sensitive because sometimes the coldness makes me ache (not to mention cough). The gloomy knowingness that of all the thousands of people you have just walked past on your way home, none of them really gives a stuff about you. It's very depressing.
Sigh. I'm being melodramatic again. "Don't curse the darkness - light a candle!" my surely 3 million more-positive-than-I-at-present readers are saying. "Why!" they cry. "Instead of whingeing to the blogoverse about your frustration at living in a dying, cold as stone civilisation, go out and do something proactive! A tiny little flicker of warmth can start a bonfire. A small little gesture in a sea of apathy!"
I glared at a woman on the train earlier, and then out of the blue felt a burst of compassion for her (she seemed weighted down by life). I smiled at the woman in the carpark before. Does that count? I said prayers for a few people who looked strung out on the train. I hugged my dog. I cooked my ex-husband spaghetti bolognaise last night as a welcome-home-from-the-hostible meal. I babysat my cousin's kids the other night for her. I guess these things count.
As a bad global citizen I stopped in at The Warehouse on my way home. The Warehouse is an evil multinational chain that sells incredibly cheap stuff that were probably made by four-year-olds working for a grain of rice a day in a country I shall never have to look at or think about unless I turn my mind to it. I spent $17.75 I don't have on stuff - just stuff. Actually, what I went in there for was a candle. I decided that tonight I would sit down and carve out a haven for myself and do some writing. I was clean out of candles. I also bought 100 sheets of coloured paper to write on (I lurve stationery). And a doodle pad of different coloured butcher's paper which appealed to me because of its roughness and its colourness. Good doodling paper. And a black and white coffee mug. And some soup and a box of teabags.
As penance for shopping in The Warehouse, I have joined the Big Brother Big Sister program. They are looking for people to become buddies for people with intellectual disabilities. It's something I've been wanting to do for years. I joined the Oakleigh Centre several years ago and then promptly didn't ever volunteer there (in hindsight, I was still too ill). But I'm really looking forward to this. It will be a bit scary, I imagine - but hey, ain't all the good stuff?
Unfortunately it's far easier to write that than it is to live it :)
Thursday, 27 September 2007
And blergh and blergh.
And on it goes, being blergh. And then I feel okay for a bit and get a bit of perspective and see a good sunset on the train on the way home with the great unwashed (I hate catching the train with the loathsome populace. I always detest humanity in proportion to how crap I'm feeling myself. Today I felt positively hateful towards my fellow human. Sad).
Then I see the sunset and think, look how beautiful that is. God is here. And then I realise that it's not all blergh.
And then later on I feel blergh again. Return to top paragraph. Repeat.
I guess I should console myself with the bell curve approach. At least I'm not Mocca, who, whilst playing a friendly game of work netball yesterday afternoon, got upended by someone, and came smashing down onto the ground. He broke his fall with his wrist and his head. His head had concussion, and some stitches put in it last night (9 hours after the fact; hail our marvellous health care system). His wrist was so badly fractured with bits of bone sticking up a la Nathan Brown that he had to be put out for them to reset it. They operated this afternoon - a four-hour stint. He's not having much fun, but being his standard stoical self.
Me, I'd be more like the guy in the cubicle a few doors down who was whingeing and crying out to people to stop the pain. I'd be yellin' for the morphine, too. I don't have it in me to be stoical, as much as I'd like to be able to suck it up.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
(I remember someone saying once that your biggest downfall is not in your weaknesses, but in your strong suit, which is kinda an interesting thing to ponder. But anyway, I digress. Controlling others is never going to be my biggest downfall. It's just what I'm dealing with right now.)
These ruminations have come out of a two-month-long bout of illness, preceded by a new friendship that I think in hindsight I handled badly and which has apparently ended badly, preceded by a marriage breakup, so it's not like that's anything resembling general real life. But it's definitely a rubber hitting the road-type scenario - the waters rise, and then you get to see some stuff in yourself which you thought maybe had gone, stuff that you desperately wish would go. Fears that may get to lie dormant for most of the time, but they're still there, informing my view.
Control. It's probably what I loathe most about Christian culture. For me it really shows how small someone's view of God is. And controlling Christian environments demonstrate like nothing else that we don't believe that God can work without us manipulating him like some giant cosmic puppet, or without us constructing elaborate structures to enable him to do his stuff.I can understand control and will-to-power in the grab-it-for-myself world, but surely that area should be very different within the bounds of Christianity. But alas, not. We are supposedly about a God of love - but all too often, our love descends to control. Christian communities are meant to resemble families. But I guess the scariest people are those that we love. They are the ones that hurt us the most.
God is able to reach anyone however he chooses - and quicker and better and more beautifully without me sticking my stupid head in and stuffing it all up. St Francis' dictum to "preach the gospel at all times; if necessary use words" should be branded on the forehead of everybody who claims the status of a Christian ;)
God needs us way less than we think he does. Way less than I used to believe that he did. I cannot subscribe anymore to the maxim, "God can't if you won't". Believing otherwise doesn't negate our ability to do stuff for God; it doesn't send us to the couch to be potatoes (that would be something else that does that ... perhaps even a God-inspired season of life, he being able to carry on just fine without us, thanks). It just puts it all in the perspective with which we can walk in a life alongside God and do stuff for him on the way if, as Jesus said, his yoke is light.
So much amazing stuff happens when I relinquish control, loosen my fisted grip on things that scare and discombobulate me, and I get to see the texture of my life so much better. I am realising lately that in certain aspects of my life, the more broken, darkened parts, it takes less than what I originally thought to get me scurrying back into the confining jail of not wanting to budge unless I can see the outcome. Like a cockroach. Those fears limit my horizons. And after all, it's the horizons that get my heart beating faster.
Ah, the human ability to be able to see further than we can travel at any given point. It's a frustrating one, to be sure, but I guess it's all about how you look at it. If I take my ego out of the picture, glimpses of yet-unreached horizons become an opportunity to prepare myself better for what is to come, so that when the horizon becomes my reality I have conditioned the soles of my feet a little bit better to be able to walk in it.
Saturday, 22 September 2007
"One of the main differences between my journey and the journey that the book character (Mack) experiences, is that I never turned my anger against God. Many do, but my journey was a little different in that respect. Now that does not mean that I was at all convinced that he loved me, and I ran the performance wheel most of my life, but for whatever reason, even as a child, I instinctively knew that the issue was the heart of human beings, not the character of God. As a sexually abused child, the biggest piece of my anger was self-directed anyway and the shame kept me on a tightrope that existed between the tension of perfectionist performance and suicide. Again, I always believed that the ability of human beings to do terrible things was an affirmation of both the respect God has for his creation and the magnitude of his resident image in each person. It takes a powerfully created being to do the kind of damage that we do.
"Now, having said that…there was a 50 year process before I ‘knew’ in my heart that he tenderly, compassionately, overwhelmingly loved me. To ‘love’ is Papa’s character and the healing process in our lives is to restore the damage incrementally, bit by bit, so that we begin to live in the truth and are not so lost in the lies. That process, at least for me, almost killed me. It was brutal, full of blood and terror and loss, until I was dismantled to the point where the only thing left at the edge of the cliff was a single, tiny, solitary seed. Then the rebuilding, slowly painfully exchanging one lie at a time for the truth. I will tell you this…there is no part of my being, or my theology that hasn’t been significantly tampered with. One thing that must be stated loud and clear: at no point in the process is Papa perplexed, angry or disappointed in us. It is a process, and he seems to like process: it seems to be something scheduled for us all."
Happy Saturday, everybody. I plan on doing a bit of housework, a bit of writing, a bit of pondering, a bit of praying, a bit of playing, a bit of walking up the shop to buy today's paper (I have sorely missed it over the past few weeks; my friend Michael Leunig is always a welcome addition to my Saturday).
Friday, 21 September 2007
I am just about to go, but before I do want to post this little snippet from my favourite voice at the moment, Madelaine L'Engle:
"The problem of pain, of war and the horror of war, of poverty and disease is always confronting us. But a God who allows no pain, no grief, also allows no choice. There is little unfairness in a colony of ants, but there is also little freedom. We human beings have been given the terrible gift of free will, and this ability to make choices, to help write our own story, is what makes us human, even when we make the wrong choices, abusing our freedom and the freedom of others. The weary and war-torn world around us bears witness to the wrongness of many of our choices. But lest I stumble into despair I remember, too, seeing the white, pinched-faced little children coming up to the pediatric floor of a city hospital for open-heart surgery and seeing them two days later with colour in their cheeks, while the nurses tried to slow down their wheelchair races. I remember, too, that there is now a preventative for trachoma, still the chief cause of blindnss in the world. And I remember that today few mothers die in childbirth, and our graveyards no longer contain the mute witness of five little stones in a row, five children of one family, dead in a week of scarlet fever or diptheria.
"George MacDonald gives me renewed strength during times of trouble - times when Ihave seen people tempted to deny God - when he says, "The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their suffering might be like his."
All the colon cleanse is requiring of me is a teaspoon of the stuff in a glass of water, followed by the juice of a lemon in a glass of water, plus eating well (no sugar, eek!) Now, I admit it's taken me a long time to get to the point where that is do-able without too much discomfort. I've gone sugar free before. I have a sugar substitute called xylitol which is not like Splenda and all that other don't-go-there-even-with-a-barge-pole stuff. So I'm kinda prepared. d But still, the sugar cravings are going to come, but I want to kill them off again because it's so good not giving into that stuff.
I'm already seeing the benefits of the cleanse ... yep, I'm really giving myself the shits :)
If you really really want to be grossed out, take a look at these pictures that people have taken of just what has come out of them after doing a colon cleanse. I warn you, these pictures are completely and utterly DISGUSTING so if you're queasy, don't go there :)
I don't have any such pictures to share with you. It takes a few days before the really disgusting stuff happens. That should happen sometime this weekend - lucky the 13 loads of washing are still there, all over the floor, in the bathroom so I can just puke on those ;)
As fun as it sounds grossing out all my readers (it's the 'squeezing pus' factor, like Andrea said), I think even I will balk at posting pictures of my own innards with you, o dear reader, and the greater blogoverse.
When I am old, I am SO going to be the one who talks about all their operations and stuff! :)
It is finals fever here in Melbourne. My team, alas, bundled itself out of contention last week in rather insipid fashion. Still, it was the bad psychological final we had to have so that next year we can go in with all guns blazing :)
My brother, his housemate and his housemate's son are all staying here tonight. There is an overabundance of sleeping bags and pillows in the loungeroom. It smells very ... manly here (deodorant or after shave). They have all gone off to watch Collingwood and Geelong. I'm very happy for them and only a little bit jealous.
I am consoling myself with my old friend Bernard Fanning and some homemade green curry chicken stir-fry. I hope Bernard does another solo album because such a sterling first effort surely needs a reprise. How good it is returning to this album after a few months' layoff. Such a beautiful heart and sentiment, old Bernie. I'm so glad I saw him perform this album live. In fact, twice. The first time was dreamy and beautiful, at The Forum in Melbourne, which is a perfect venue for beautiful music. The last time was quite horrid and held at the horrid venue of Festival Hall. What a duality. But luckily, the first time was so good that it's cancelled out the last. When I think back, it's the good stuff that I'm remembering.
Oh, shite! I just take a look at the TV guide and it turns out the footy is live tonight. So I'm writing stupid blog posts and I've missed the first five minutes. Damn. I reckon Collingwood is a chance tonight, as weird as that sounds.
And anyway, I got it all done, and even found by the end of the day when I caught the bus home that I was taking notice of everything around me and feeling ... well, kind of happy!
This is what happens when I get well. Not that I'm entirely well - the cough still lives, although reduced (I did, however, manage to pull another, albeit small, muscle in my side today where I thought no muscles live. This is the last one.)
- The sturdy little boy on the train this morning with his mum. I couldn't stop staring at him. He was just delicious. He was asking his Mum "What's that, Mum? What's that, Mum?" about everything. But what was beautiful about him was the way he was stopping and pondering and prognosticating about everything. I could see the cogs whirling in his beautiful little three year old mind.
- The sturdy little boy's mum who must have excess amounts of energy to deal with the ponderings of a three year old. (Note to self, if I have children: "I don't know" is an eminently reasonable answer to give a child.) He pointed to the man sitting diagonally across from me and asked "What's that, Mum". "Man", was the answer. To something within the train, "What's that, Mum?" "Train" came the somewhat lame answer - but can you blame her? The patience of parents is priceless.
- The amount of shit sales calls I get at my landline number. Seriously, I just registered with the Do Not Call list because I'm tired of taking out my bemusement on underpaid Calcutta call centre workers.
- The latest call I just received which had an American pre-recorded voice informing me that I have just been preselected to win an all expenses paid trip to Florida. Fuck off.
- The man on the bus who, even though he was within whispering distance of the bus driver, still reached out and pressed the request stop bell. Seriously. The driver probably doesn't bite, you know. And he breathes and loves and despairs just like you do. Really. Talk to him. It helps the world go round a bit nicer when we actually interface with each other just a tiny bit.
- My car, Olive, who has a satanic-sized oil leak and who will be in the shop for repairs until at least Monday afternoon. Breathe deeply, Susie. You can do without a car. You can. Actually, I caught the bus home tonight and it took just as much time as it does to catch the train - plus it stops right outside work. Bonus.
- The old man on the train. His face was an intricate web of wrinkles. He sighed at one point, and I thought, "Yes, darling, the world is cold, ain't it? I tire of it too and I'm not 80 (I did spend 6 years feeling like it, though, so I have much sympathy for you") He was twiddling his fingers in that way that betrayed the fact that he was going over deep ruts of worry in his mind. He twirled his wedding ring.
- The rain that has fallen out of the sky this afternoon. I took Lester out yesterday to the river and I noted how much drier it is than even two weeks ago - and September is commonly one of the wetter months of the year in Melbourne. Not this year. My motor mechanic said that when he was at the Otway Ranges last weekend, it was dusty. It's September!! And the Otways don't usually get dusty. Scary. Please, Papa, more rain.
Thursday, 20 September 2007
I have just begun a candida cleanse and a colon cleanse. The whole colon cleanse thing interests me greatly and I am looking forward with great interest to seeing how it affects me. Actually, I'm a bit scared about what I'm going to experience. According to some, when the colon gets ... umm, backed up and blocked - a common thing due to our standard Western diet - so do associated emotions and memories get blocked up and stored in our bodies. Cleansing the colon , so they say, helps clear out not only the gross stuff but there is also an emotional purging that goes along with it too. Many people report this happening when they do a colon cleanse. This link explains it a little bit more.
Granted, it sounds a bit far-fetched to me - in fact, it sounds a tad hey ho diddlyo wacko - but then so does the idea that we have the same receptors in our gut as we do in our brain, and that is a scientific fact. There are so many things that are quite crazy about the way our bodies work - I don't want to disregard something just because it sounds silly or ridiculous.
Ed told me today about a woman who regularly comes into his shop. She is an artistic, expressive, outgoing woman in her 70s. She came into the shop with her husband while she was in the middle of the cleanse, and Ed said she was behaving differently than normal, real childlike behaviour - hiding behind the shelving and peeking out at him and not wanting to come out - and then she ran out of the shop.
Her husband informed Ed that when she was young, her father would lock her in the boiler room where she would be subjected to rats running around etc - charming. These memories had resurfaced during her cleanse, and now she was acting them out.
So yeah - great. I await with bated breath the acting out of all my repressed stuff. Should be a real hoot. I'll make sure I post some pictures of myself dribbling in the corner, picking my nose and screaming. But this I do know - whatever happens, my intuition is telling me that this is definitely the way for me to go.
Coming off two months of illness where getting myself through the day has been just about the extent of it, there has been no fruit for me. No creativity, no extra love or care for anyone else. It's been maintenance mode. I forgot how lonely it is in here. (But still, even in this aridity things take root, in the dark. Nothing is wasted. Nothing).
I have been re-experiencing a reprise of how it felt to have CFS. It's been almost unbearable returning back to the land of illness, a desert of the waste howling kind.
But still, it was much worse back in CFS land. As if it's not bad enough to experience the physical effects of being ill, you have to deal with the psychological effects of very few people understanding or giving any kind of validation for the horror you are experiencing. At least coughing up my own lungs with great regularity has produced an abundance of sympathy from horrified onlookers. If only there was some kind of outward expression like this for CFS patients. It is an invisible illness in so many ways.
The physical aridity of illness stretches its fingers inwards. Everything that makes life pleasurable becomes out of reach, like the fruit at the top of the tree that is too far away to reach. How juicy it looks. How pleasurable far horizons seem, and how impossible to gain them just when you need them most. This is where the evil is at its worst. To rest - spiritually, emotionally, mentally - when you are sick is almost impossible. At least, it is for me. It requires conscious effort and excess energy. I never really did learn to rest while I was ill. That has come when I have been well.
When I regained my health, being well felt like some kind of crazy cosmic high. It was the simplicity of life that took my breath away. How easy life is when it's been taken away from you and then returned! When you have died and been reborn, everything is a bonus and from that vantage point it becomes very apparent that the world is made out of the kind of playfulness that children live in instinctively and that we lose when we become way too serious and fearful and logical and analytical and Western about everything. We think that we have to strive and strain to reach the things which lie inside quietly, waiting for us to slow down to the "unforced rhythms of grace". It is all so so simple. So very, very simple. So simple, even a child can understand it. That's what's so frustrating. Because simple doesn't mean easy to reach.
The buds are unfurling. Very slowly. I feel like a creaky old chair that's been out in the rain for a decade or so. My thinking is as crusty as my body and my mind, too, must unfurl. Yesterday afternoon I came home from uni and took myself to bed. It felt way too luxurious a thing to do, which is exactly why I did it. The walls had closed in around me as soon as I walked in the door. The house, reflecting its owner's two-month low-energy status, cried out to me to pay it some attention. The bathroom has been overtaken by about 13 loads of undone washing festooned all over the floor. There are dishes everywhere, papers, dust, dirt, letters that haven't been opened for a month (my landline got cut off for a few days because the bill got stuck under pile number 17 in the loungeroom).
I felt my usual overwhelm at the amount of stuff there was to do around this place. That familiar sinking feeling of despair, of claustrophobia. So I did the best thing - I didn't do anything. I took myself off with my dog, and lay on my bed and read. And slept for about three hours. And when I did it felt good, and the leathery surface of my mind smoothed out again, and I could breathe. And everything became more manageable.
I needed to do this kind of thinking regularly when I was ill. But I couldn't. Or wouldn't. I couldn't see that there was a way out, a way to rest while I was sick. The violent stress of needing to control everything burst its banks and flooded my mind. How unattractive the land of control is. But the perspective is just not there when I am ill.
I think, why do I ever try to do anything when my mind is turmoiling like a washing machine? Of course, that's the time when the need to do just that is at its most screaming and desperate. Funny, isn't it, how when you are the most strung out it seems to be the time when you must, must, must solve all of your problems, and the Middle East crisis to boot. When I have a measure of health, the ridiculousness is apparent to me. As soon as I recognise my flustery thinking, the opportunity to escape presents itself alongside the recognition. The recognition and the ability to find the escape hatch has become a more automatic process since I have been well. But when I was sick, once again it completely flew out the window.
But yesterday, I managed to ignore the turmoil. And got the benefit last night by feeling like I had space enough to do something vaguely creative. And oh, how nice it felt :) I got to write some crap poetry. Felt the leathery surface smoothing out a little bit more. And I thought, here is that wastefulness again. It feels too extravagant somehow, living in the rhythm of life. There is an ease, a luxury, to it. All of the good things, creativity, love, music, reading, relationships, change, they all need to grow in this rich soil of extravagant wastefulness. The West has lost its sense of dreaming, and so we forget this. But our hearts don't.
Sometimes I think that we have been told so often that we are spotted yellow and diseased that we don't think that we deserve to have any fruit, or that it's unobtainable, or that it's tied up in how rich we are or successful or whatever. We become so tied up in striving outwardly that we become fearful of the silences within and so we cut ourselves off from our own fruitfulness. Yet even when the tree is spotted yellow and diseased, it still contains all of the potential for fruit within it. Even when it looks like it's dead. The sting is out of death's tail, swallowed up in life.
Wastefulness is seen as excessive, wrong. But it's not always so. Not when those things are good things, life things, like love, kindness, patience etc. The fruit of life. They live in the unforced rhythms of grace. The speed of life. God is wasteful. Terribly terribly wasteful in every direction. It's enough to make me laugh out loud.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
The sheets held me womblike last night.
You thrashed beside me, ran down your dreams.
Our great-grandparents made love, gave birth, died, in one bed.
The death rate is low under fluorescent hospital lights.
You thrashed beside me, ran down your dreams.
We die, together, most nights. We awaken in the morning.
The death rate is low under fluorescent hospital lights.
But there is more than one type of death.
We die, together, most nights. We awaken in the morning.
Our great-grandparents made love, gave birth, died, in one bed.
But there is more than one type of death.
The sheets held me womblike last night.
This rather crap poem is apparently a French pantoum. It is part of Abbey of the Arts' poetry party (I got tired of going to my own pity parties, so I decided to attend a more communal, albeit online, event).
My excuse for its crappiness is that (a) I don't write poetry and (b) I have written nary a thing (except blogs) for the past two months and am as rusty as an ocean of nails :) But still, it was fun (albeit rather depressing fare. What can I say? I have a winter's worth of flubberness to get rid of).
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
The media is such a biggie. I think of the APEC conference a few weeks ago and the media presentation of that. And the G8 and G20 protesters. And the workplace relations rallies that have occurred here in Australia recently. The media consistently represents those who are rallying as riff raff, troublemakers. The past secretary of the MUA believes these people are often labelled 'terrorists' these days - it's the new 'communism' tag, apparently.
Seems that what is required of us as good little citizens is to sit down, shut up, stay divided and conquered, and isolated. Because that is what we surely are. It never ceases to amaze me how we are so rich in comparison to past generations, and yet we are so alone. We are consistently taught that there is not a great deal we can do to change anything, that people will always look out for themselves first - and while there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is true a great deal of the time, I also suspect that people are desperate to feel part of something bigger than themselves.
I know from my own life just how much I need community, to be a functioning part of something bigger than myself and my own (often petty) concerns. The time I have felt that the most was when I demonstrated at the Workplace Relations rally a year or so ago. It felt empowering. I want to do something that empowers me, empowers others. I just don't know what.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
I hated school from about Grade 5 through to the very end, which for me was halfway through Year 10 (I left to do an apprenticeship). I hated being taught useless stuff that had no apparent application to my life. I hated sitting in stuffy classrooms, being taught by apathetic people who couldn't make anything exciting for a student who would then go home and copiously read library books off her own bat. A lack of confidence (hidden behind a brash exterior) meant that the things I was most drawn to - the arts - were the things that I didn't even consider I could do.
What I hated most of all was Sunday nights. The depression. The claustrophobia of plodding slowly towards Monday morning with nothing I could do about it except bleat about it to my similarly suffering cousin and cry over Brian Mannix (or Dale Cassar, if we're talking Year 7 - he was in Year 11; or Marc Ward, if we're talking Year 8 - he was in Year 12. I liked my boys older in those days).
It feels a bit that way tonight. I have cooked myself some dinner (baked battered I&J frozen fish thingymies, steamed cabbage and capsicum, mashed potato). I'm about to watch some TV (which includes one of my favourite movies, Lovely and Amazing). I'm not dying of cancer. I don't have to get up tomorrow and go to a job that I hate (just one that bores the shit out of me). There is nothing inherently wrong, apart from a bit of sadness about a few life situations (including my football team losing its final in rather lacklustre fashion) and the fact that I am in as unhealthy a position as I have been since I have recovered from CFS, and the fact that I have absolutely no idea what the hell my life is all about. There is so much to be thankful for. Or agog about. Including the fact that right now I just looked up at the television to see a zookeeper masturbate a rhinoceros to remove its sperm to later inseminate a female rhinoceros. Disgusting. But still, better than the Australian government's workplace relations adverts we're being fearmongerishly subjected to at the moment. Apparently if any government other than a Liberal one gets in, we shall all spontaneously combust.
I think part of my mental malaise is that I have the writerly equivalent of blue balls (that concept always disgusted me and engendered a grudging respect at the ingenuity of teenage boys). I haven't written anything except blog posts for a couple of months. I was just reading some poetry before and a short story and I felt that familiar stab of wanting to reach inside and see what I can pull out. I have been looking at a whole stack of blogs lately that are full of artistic beauty. So many people creating so many good things. I don't know where to start. But that's a start.
I have forgotten how to write something that isn't less than 10 paragraphs and that I expunge onto the internet in 15 minutes. I have the urge to craft, to pare, to discover, to be delighted at the crap that comes out of my head. And you know what? That's enough for a Sunday night. I have barely felt that gentle urge for the past eight weeks - the feeling is good enough.
I must be getting better.
Edit: I apologise for references to rhinoceros sperm and teenage male genital issues. Must be my convict stock.
I developed my love for cooking, paradoxically, when I was sick with chronic fatigue syndrome and cooking a meal sometimes took up all the off-the-couch energy I had for the day. It fulfilled two needs I had: (1) it helped me feel in some vague way that I was still useful for something; my life may have become stuck in the toilet, but I could still cook my husband a meal every night. But also, (2), I realised how powerfully self-nurturing it was. And a creative one at that (my creativity being sorely limited, but my desire to create intact). And I got to eat my creativity after I messed around with it in bowls and frying pans. I began taking great delight in finding out what the best things were to feed my body with and then to prepare them myself.
Today I have been trying to do the same sort of thing, but in my thoughts. I am rereading a pretty cool little tome called Slowing Down to the Speed of Life which in very basic terms is really about how our thoughts are our expression of reality, rather than reality itself. I get so caught up in my own negative thinking at times. Lately it has been almost impossible to not think negatively.
But today, I sat outside, and got a bit of sun, and started entering in by counting my blessings. It sounds a bit wanky even writing that - but gee, it's not a cliche for nothing. I also began telling myself some things to try to give myself a bit of psychic space. I found it a profound pain in the bum when I was ill that, even though I had very little that I actually had to accomplish each day, I always felt rushed off my feet, as though someone somewhere (probably that inner Puritan again) was trying to get me to move on, to do something, to cross off something on my to-do list. It's a real disservice to yourself when you're ill to think that way - and yet, here I am doing it again. Perhaps it's some kind of crazy way to try to maintain control when you're feeling a bit out of control (sickness is the ultimate loss of control, I guess).
It feels so basic, so 101, to sit and tell myself that it's okay, that I can slow down. But apparently I need to do it. So, I am trying to paint in my own head the kinds of thoughts that will give me the mental equivalent of rolling hills and trees and far horizons. It feels kinda nice, actually. Like I'm being kind to myself. It also reminds me of how powerful my own thoughts are.
This is a frustration to me, because it means that I have responsibility for my thoughts and whether they're crap. And that's a bit of a bummer ;) I don't want to take responsibility. I want God to come along and Gandalf new good thoughts for me. The paradox of taking responsibility for my own thoughts is I am in control more than I realise. And while that sometimes feels like a bad thing to my inner Tantrum Child, ultimately it's totally amazing.
How strange life is.
Saturday, 15 September 2007
|You scored as Cultural Creative, Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.|
What is Your World View?
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When Mark and I first broke up I stayed with my good friend Jane for a few months. I will always be grateful to her because I was totally freaked out, and she was such a great person to be around. No matter that she was going through her own stuff with her own 10-year-long illness, she was always willing to offer encouragement and perspective when I needed it.
One thing that stayed with me from that time was her saying, "Gee, Sue. I see you going down into these dark, dark places - and yet you bounce back again and again! It's inspiring to see."
I am glad for whatever it is that bobs me back up to the surface again. However, these days, I feel like I could just let go and get sucked down. Go lie on the bottom of the ocean for a while. Go hang out with the octopi. I feel so empty and alone, so aware of my own limitations.
I am a rather selfish person, I think. I suspect. I don't mean to be. But I think I find myself in that position. Perhaps it's just the territory of living alone and spending a lot of time by myself. Perhaps we're all inherently selfish if left to our own devices. Maybe I need to have some children, to make me realise that it's really not all about me ;)
I feel like a piece of poo at the moment. Maybe it's a natural reaction when we look inside and see so much to despise. I read a really cool quote before about living as a masterpiece in process. I love the idea. I love the psychic space in my head when I think that this is not all I am, nor is it where I am stopped. But gee, growth is so painful.
I am taking solace in the following quote:
"The deeper and richer a personality is, the more full of paradox and contradiction. It's only a shallow character who offers us no problems of contrast" - Madeliene L'Engle.
Having meditated a bit on the kindness of God recently, I think now is the perfect time for me to put it into action and to be kind to myself. It's rather a difficult thing to do sometimes, isn't it? It feels somehow good and cleansing to be horrible to ourselves. A bit of self-flagellation to keep us on the straight and narrow. A strange kind of guilt purging, I think. How strange that inclination is. And how wasteful guilt is. I don't plan on indulging it. I plan on killing it. With kindness ;)
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
- Naomi Shihab Nye
The Hufford book is still having an impact on me. I don't nearly agree with everything he says - but then, neither do I have to. Chewing the meat and spitting out the bones is always a necessary thing to do when you're reading things written by other fallibles like yourself. But gee, a lot of what he says does hit home.
Last night I was reading about how God doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Now, this is something that has always bothered me, and last night I got a bit more clarity on it. It seems, when reading the Bible, that there are two interpretations about God's record keeping. There are all those verses in both Old and New Testaments which seem to point to him being more than willing to forget our pasts. This one has been floating around in my head ever since, and I woke up with it this morning:
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
That first psalm verse above is so true - who can stand knowing that God is collecting all of our stuff and is going to shove it all back in our faces at the Last Judgment? Reading what Hufford was talking about last night, I have come to the conclusion that this certainly mustn't be how it is, because we can't live like that. For us to live closely and relationally as a child with their Papa, to do so with a being who is constantly hanging our past shit over our heads is living with a practitioner of child abuse, not a God of Lurve. It cannot be true because the way we humans are made up, if we live defined by our pasts we don't grow. I'll quote this little bit here because it rang true to me and gives me cause to think:
"The truth about you has nothing to do with what you have done or where you have been. God rejoices in the truth about you because it is truly something to rejoice about! One of the greatest problems with most people is that they honestly believe that they know the truth about themselves. What they think is the truth is really not truth at all. Most Christians confuse "the facts of their life" with "the truth about themselves." This is one of the greatest causes of spiritual death that the Christian world has ever seen. The two are as far apart as the east is from the west. The facts of our life have nothing to do with the truth about us. God's eyes are fixed on the truth, and He rejoices in it because it's beautiful.
"God is not bound by time and space. He knows our future as well as our present. When He looks at us, He calls us by what He sees in our future, not by what we see now. With God, the future is as solid and real as we see the present. When He looks at us, it's important to know that He is not "hopeful" for what we COULD become, but He knows for a fact what we WILL become. This is the truth that God rejoices in! This is the name He calls us by and this is the only way He sees us.
"Let go of what you believe to be the truth about yourself and open your heart to the things you have been dreaming that you would some day become. These dreams were put in your heart by God, Himself. You must familiarize yourself with them because the truth about you exists deep in the heart of the visions God gives you. Most people reject the vision God has given them because they don't feel they deserve it. This is not only spiritual suicide but it's an outright rejection of truth. God's vision that He has given you is the truth about you. Embrace it, and call yourself by that name because that's the name He calls you."
The reason why I love this is because I have spent so long living the other way, of being defined by my past, of labelling myself for it, and especially trying to live the Christian life and get close to God, all the while feeling this heavy weight and burden of my past hanging over me. I would get conflicting messages. People would read quotes like the one above and they would resonate in me - I would think, this is how Love behaves, surely! We all experience it ourselves with those we love, in our finer moments, when we are so willing to forgive them because we want them to be free.
But then in a hundred other ways the Christian community would often demonstrate the complete opposite. And of course, being the adventurous soul that I (sometimes) am, I had delved quite a few times into the book of Revelation, terrifying though it was (this was back in my more literal days when I believed that what was described in that book was a looming future event about to catastrophise my life next Thursday - living my life by Jesus' 'do not fear' maxim seemed an impossibility back then). I would think about the scene where the Books are being opened in heaven. I would think about how there were certain things in my life which I had never told a soul, being too ashamed - and about how, apparently, because "all things will be laid bare", that God would be happy for my stuff to be spread abroad willy nilly, with little concern for my own boundaries or the fact that this felt like violation of the highest order. That Book would be open and there would be a record of every little thing I've ever done.
But I'm beginning to wonder, if there really is some literal time in the future when that event will occur, that the Book won't be open and it will be empty and sparkling, pristine. That's the only way that makes sense, it's the only thing that would make me bow, it's the only way that I can feel safe enough to get close enough to God to allow him to change me, and it's the only way a decent God would behave if he was committed to treating his children with decency and honour. And it's the only way he can behave if Jesus really did take all the sins of the world onto Himself - He took them because we can't live with them. Now that's something to get down on your knees about :)
Friday, 14 September 2007
"Understand that in no way does the end justify the means! When we use fear to either get people saved or to get them to toe the line, we are partnering with evil. ALL FEAR IS EVIL. God does not delight in the use of evil to manipulate His children into salvation or repentance. When we do this, we are not acting according to His heart, because we are openly declaring that God delights in evil.
Hell was never supposed to be the force that drew people towards God. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit draws us to God. Threats of Hell bring fear and condemnation. Only a loveless generation would even think of doing such a thing. If someone told our children that we might pour gasoline on them and light them on fire if they didn't mind us, we would be enraged. This is unthinkable because we love our children, yet it's a common practice among many Christians. It's not the Heart of God!
God finds no delight when we tell people that He might take one of their children from them or destroy their business if they don't give their lives to Him. The darkest point in Christian history is still very much alive today. There is an underlying 'crusades era' mentality in thousands of Sunday sermons nationwide. This is Evil! While it may cause people to physically run to the altar, it causes them to spiritually shrink back from God's heart. God did not create man to save their souls from Hell. He created us to have relationship. Fear tactics make that impossible. The end does NOT justify the means.
What if I were to send someone to my wife before I married her and have them tell her that if she didn't marry me she would lose her job, gain a hundred pounds, have her house repossessed and come down with a severe case of shingles. She may agree to marry me out of total fear but she will NEVER give me her heart. What kind of a marriage is that? God wants people to love Him for Him, not for the purpose of saving their souls from burning in Hell. He will never threaten our families or our health in an effort to coerce us into a relationship. God is love.
When we win people with the power of Hell, we make them 'sons of Hell,' and not sons of God. Jesus tried to explain this to the preachers of His day when He said, 'You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much as son of Hell as you are.' (Matthew 23:15 NIV)
The goodness of God outweighs the badness of Hell a trillion times over. Using fear only proves that we haven't personally experienced His goodness to a degree that exceeds our faith in Hell's badness. It is impossible to experience something that we don't believe in. We only see what we put our faith in".
I didn't go to work today. The thought of having to physically have a shower, get dressed, put makeup on and drive to the station just felt too hard to bear. Aside from the physical things, I am feeling emotionally wrung out. There was a situation that I thought I could handle, that I thought God was asking me to walk in. What was frustrating was that when I felt like I was walking in it with God, it was do-able and it was good. But I couldn't do that all the time, and whenever I walked in it by myself, my own stuff spewed out the sides. And that happened just a little bit too often. So does that mean that God didn't want me to walk there? I don't know anymore. It was pretty crystal clear to me at one stage that he did. But it hasn't worked. I can't do this because I am feeling too vulnerable myself, and for it work I would have to put my own vulnerability aside. I don't know if I am prepared or even able to do it without feeling like I'm being violated in some way. But perhaps, in the end, what it was all about was that I wasn't prepared to put my own stuff aside enough. I don't know. But however it has stuffed up, it's all rather depressing, really.
I don't know what I think about much at all, at the moment. I guess I'm not as together as I thought I was - at least, the two-months-after-sickness me is not together very much at all. And I wasn't even very together before that. I guess I should be grateful that I am not going out shooting up innocent people in post offices.
What was it that CS Lewis said, something along the lines of ascribing to our own character
what is actually due to good digestion, or something like that? Basically, he was saying that if you throw a few loops into the mix, then you will begin to see what someone's real character is like once they're having to deal with bad stuff. I'm not sure where I stand on that - I'm not really into the whole "you are actually a lowly worm" version of humanity (and I know that's not what he was saying). But gee, if he is right, then in all actuality I am a depressive, intolerant, insufferable bitch. And gee, somehow I don't think that is the heart of who I am. But it amazes me how little I can cope with when I am unwell. It really does bring out the very worst in me. Perhaps it's because I spent over six years ill with CFS that wallowing in illness brings out my worst. I'm tired of living with my grumpy, depressed side, because I think my standard personality is upbeat and positive and pretty excited and full of wonder about stuff. I look forward to re-engaging with my personality sometime soon.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
The outgrowth of being confused and disconcerted is greater faith, greater knowledge, greater love. It is always the way. So I'm not ashamed of my discombobulations anymore. I am always trying to see what lies just beyond my own horizons. That is always disconcerting.
Where did we get the idea that we had to have all of the answers? It surely never came from God.
I got tired of MySpace. I felt peer-group-pressure to leave the dark side of Murdochia and venture forth to where the rest of the world blogs from. Now I look exactly the same as you I feel so much better ;)
Excuse me while I move furniture around.
PS: Previous posts can be found here