Walking out the Creases

Monday 27 October 2008

Today Elly and I walked for almost an hour and a half, rhythmically pounding the streets of Braybrook. I needed a long stretch to try to walk out some of the irritations I've been feeling lately, and trying to get in touch with a whole lot of things that feel like they're pricking at me. Irritants. Like burrs in your feet when you run on the grass.

This weekend, my solitude very quickly became a prison. It took me a bit to realise this, hanging out as I was for it while my brother was here. Last night I read Walking in this World and this is what Julia Cameron had to say:
If we do not limit our inflow, we become swamped by the life demands of others. If we practice too much solitude, we risk being flooded by stagnation and a moody narcissism as our life and our art become emptied of all but the big question "How am I doing?" What we are after is a balance, enough containment and autonomy to make our art, enough involvement and immersion in community to have someone and something to make art for.
Well, that's pretty duh, right? But it took reading it to smack me in the face. I have slipped into the pit of self-absorption again. No wonder I am feeling so miserable. I was so hanging out for my own space back while my brother was here, that I presumed that lolling around by myself all weekend would be blissful. But instead, it was just lonely.

I strongly believe that you can live a self-absorbed life in the midst of hundreds of people, just as you can live an others-also life whilst living in the desert. It sounds paradoxcial, but it is true. When I am spending time by myself but I'm not dwelling relentlessly on "how am I doing?" it doesn't feel to me like I am alone. In my small quiet life, and in my closet where nobody sees, I am connected to other people through God. I can feel the connections. But goodness, this weekend has been the flipside of that, for sure.

As we pounded the pavement today, in desperation I resorted to counting my blessings. Thanking God for the roses going nuts in so many of the gardens (I did stop to smell more than one), that cloud over there, the colour of the sky, the warm weather. I thanked him for current good health. From there I went on to thanking him for the irritants in my life, and for the wisdom inherent in those situations that is mine to glean if I only have the courage (and being grateful for what I will glean, little as it may be).

And then I whispered to myself,

"I feel so self-absorbed, I am scared that I am going to be stuck here."

Now, I have whispered this to myself before. It is true that illness requires self-absorption. It is true that since then, with all of these things that have gone on in my life (I shall look back on these last years as some sort of hell, I imagine, in the future) I have found myself in such self-absorption as I would not have thought possible in earlier incarnations. I love people. I hate incessant navel-gazing to go over and over the same sorts of things and indeed that was one of the things i cried out to God about on my walk today, at the beginning. How long, O Lord? Am I just going around and around in circles about the same old stuff? Have you forgotten me?

I realised of course towards the end of my walk that it's not so much the problems themselves as it is feeling like nothing is going to change. That is the issue. It was why I cried out to myself, "I feel so self-absorbed". And yet after I said that to myself, then I comforted myself, and that always brings such sweet healing. I reminded myself that I have not always been this self-absorbed, and that one day I shall again be less self-absorbed. And I reminded myself that these giant wounds in myself that I keep falling over because I just don't feel like they are fixable, that even these are fixable. And I reminded myself that this is what God does, that no situation is left stinking in its own shit, no matter that it looks like that at the time. Every tear shall be wiped away. Sometimes I fancy a travel back in time, to wipe away every tear that fell in this life also. It is a nice thought. My heart believes it, even if my little girl soul doesn't quite :)

One of my favourite movies is What's Eating Gilbert Grape? One of my favourite scenes in that movie is when Gilbert's new girlfriend, Becky, meets his mother, Bonnie, for the first time. Bonnie has been holed up inside her house, living the life of a hermit, too ashamed to go outside and into the town, too obese to get upstairs and sleep in her own bed. She sits inside in her shame while her son's birthday party goes on inside. Gilbert shyly leads Becky into the house to meet Bonnie, against Bonnie's wishes and shyness. And as they slowly begin conversing with each other, in the darkness of the room, Bonnie says to Becky,

"I haven't always been like this."

And Becky, with such sweet, non-jugdgmental charm, says to Bonnie,

"Well, I haven't always been like this."

Sweet, young, pretty Becky, and yet she too hasn't always been like this, and neither will she stay like this, and neither will any of us stay like this. Which is a blessing and a curse depending on whether you are relying on things that are going to fall away, or a blessing when you remind yourself of it in the midst of struggles in which you are unable to see if you have made any sort of progress at all. And I just think that, inside my self-conscious self-absorptiioin (a double dipping of the tree), I remind myself that this is valid, that this is not self-absorption, this healing kindness to myself, as psychobabbly as it feels and as childish and silly sometimes. This is not self-absorption, this is self-love, and it leads as effortlessly to other-love as self-hatred leads to self-absorption.

And now I'm going off on an artist date to the movies all by myself, which feels self-indulgent, and which certainly is :)


  1. You've touched on something that worries me a great deal, too. Will I just stay like this rather eremitic me only spiralling downward or will I emerge the stronger for this period of being "out of it"? I certainly hope it is the latter. Windows do gradually open and I have to trust that. One of them opened yesterday, matter of fact. :)
    I sometimes think of situations in Japan when I was lost. Eventually I found myself. Lost is only a temporary condition and finding oneself builds a stronger you.

  2. Sue,
    Have you considered doing a short term visit with UNICEF or World Vision? I don't know why, but something about this post just screams to me of doing something like that. I spent two months in Haiti back when I was 16 and I think it helped me with some of these same feelings. I can't say why exactly, but it did.

    I don't expect you to respond to the question, but I felt compelled to ask...don't know why exactly.

    I think I'll rent that movie this next weekend, it's one I always pass and think I'll pick up but don't.

  3. Barb - yes, I think there is that fear, isn't there, that we will end up so intent on gazing at our navels that we end up bent over that way for good. And I am all for a bit of navel gazing but sheesh, doesn't take too long for it to get ugly. But yes, you are right - windows do gradually open. I am happy for you that one opened for you yesterday :) Did the fresh air smell nice?

    I think these periods are necessary. Many times I think they signify work that God is doing, and even though they are so uncomfortable that I fling myself around and want to throw myself off cliffs, they always bring me to a place of greater safety.

    Jennifer - that's funny you should say that. Since I wrote this post last night I have been thinking that it is time to do some sortof voluntary work and so this is nice confirmation of that :) The only thing that holds me back is consciousness of my health and fatigue and stamina levels and stuff, but it's not like I'm getting married and it has to be forever, right?

    I'd like to hear what you think about the movie :)

  4. i love the cameron quote! life is such a balancing act, is it not? the thing to remember about balance is that we need BOTH sides to stay in line. it is not an either/or kind of thing, but rather a both/and. duh, right?

    great post!

  5. Right :)

    I'll let you know when I watch the movie...will you share back? :p

  6. Lucy - yeah, duh :) Both/and. Both/and. Both/and. Repeat :)

    Jennifer - okay, sure. I will tag the paragraph that dribbles over Johnny Depp so you can skip over it, if you want :)

  7. being self absorbed is so tiring, and in the end you feel as if life is going by and your still stuck in a moment. (Sounds like a song ;)
    Im glad you have taken yourself off for an artists date to the movies, nothing like a piece of someone elses world to give your brain a rest :)

  8. Sue,
    HA! LOL! I'm not typically attracted to famous people or drooly over men, but he is one to dribble over. :o

  9. Andi - definitely :) It was noice.

    Jennifer - no, I'm not into the whole famous people thing either, I find it a bit bizarre. But he is an exception (and Keanu for me, even though he is old and crusty) ;)


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