Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

Two entirely different earthworms.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Maybe I am the earthworm. The wriggly mess of a body with no distinct form. I wonder if it would be better to be severed and to be two entirely different earthworms, than to be one unified confusion.
– Mandy Steward via Messy Canvas

Isn’t this the excruciating tug of the art life? The writing life?

The all-of-us life?

To be one and the other, contradictory, at once.

For me..

To be a Christian who love-hates the church, at once trusting and suspicious of others because of all this mess?

To pursue in my left hand a living and in my right hand a life?

To feel the glow and pulse of a masterpiece within that comes out looking like the coffee grounds covering banana peels in my trash can?

To be a Republican who sees social inequality as a real problem?

To experience both the weight of depression and the lifting of joy?

To spend all my days doggedly pursuing what, often really desiring that life wasn’t as long?

Wanting that I should love earth; waiting for Heaven?

 

The war with myself is constant.  Consistency is rare.

I used to be a person who needed to be right, all the time. I couldn’t say I was wrong. I couldn’t say I was sorry. Now I often (too often) assume I was the one who was wrong and I often feel so, so sorry. For what, I’m sometimes not even sure. In fact, I hear myself saying, thinking, feeling almost constantly the I really just don’t know.

Christianity has plenty of word for this:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

“The now and the not yet.”

“Creation waits with eager longing for adoption.”

It’s the cry of God’s people: “How long, O LORD?”

 

My goal in art is the translation of that cry to beauty:

The not yet.

The “how long” that means something is certainly coming.

The hope that does not mean not-knowing, but means literally to wait with confident expectation.

The final fulfillment of all promises will come, as this one did:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Praying we each embrace hope the beginning of this Advent season.

Smaller.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

[Abu Simbel, from Flickr]

All wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness.

The joy of small . . . makes life large.

– from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

I’m a high highs and low lows soul. Lukewarm is fully frustrating: the evening-out of medications that provide stability (but not joy), or the leveling of opposing opinion to provide a palliative (but not peace). There’s something untrue and untrustworthy about the middle ground, the moderate.

My trip to Egypt in 2008 brought literal mountain-top experiences, as I wondered at the view from the top of Mount Sinai, writing in my journal that it was my life’s most amazing experience to date. But it also brought the deepest depths. I was struggling with what seemed like dozens of factors pitted against me: I had accidentally packed my anti-depressant medication in my checked baggage and had to miss two doses; an old friend and roommate with whom I had a strained relationship was on the trip; and I was (unbeknownst to me) a month from becoming engaged, and I, a normally fairly independent person, was finding it surprisingly difficult to be away from Eric.  More often than not I was sad, anxious, moody, restless, and lonely as I encountered the various Egyptian sites.

I remember feeling particularly troubled at the site of Abu Simbel, where Pharaoh Ramses II erected several colossal (66-foot) statues of himself and his favorite wife Nefertari. His purpose? To glorify himself as God. This was a common goal and undertaking in ancient Egypt. Countless enormous statues and monuments pay tribute to men and women; our culture is just the same, is it not? Ironically, on the same trip I also saw Ramses II’s mummy.  Built up high, brought down low.

When we try to make ourselves large, we are shown, eventually, to be very small.

And yet, when we think the solution is to make ourselves small, we make ourselves bigger.

I am also a frequently self-deprecating person.  Over the last several years, I have learned (the hard way) how egotistical it actually is to try to convince myself of how small I am. Either I depress myself with my smallness, which is still thinking always about myself, or I end up feeling pretty good about making myself feel small (and isn’t that very big of me?).

Acknowledge my smallness comes not from thinking about myself but about His bigness.  This was the reason Sinai was so much more impressive than Abu Simbel. A camel brought me up and up, climbing tall in the darkness lit by stars to the view, the mountaintop, the high up airy cold, the sunrise, and then the oddness of camel knees folding beneath me, setting me down upon that huge rock. Surrounded by big, I felt wondrously small, but lifted in worship to His high place.

Outward, not inward, finds soul’s size properly shrunk; I go humbled and lifted up, where I cannot possibly place myself, where I should not be, where He places me.

The joy of small makes life large.  Make much of Him this week as you enjoy the small gifts He has so graciously added to Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving.

My breed of extrovert.

Monday, October 17th, 2011

[Emily Dickinson — the ultimate hermit]

I love studying personalities.

I minored in psychology and think they are completely fascinating. Which is why I take a Myers-Briggs test every 1-2 years, even though Eric makes fun of me. Other than a single little blip of being more judging than perceiving one year, I’m a solid, time-tested ENFP.  I’m proud of my NF — NFs are a category labeled as “visionary.”

But it’s that little E that troubles me.

Writers are supposed to be recluses, of a sort. They rush home after 3 hours of activity to jot every piece down in beautiful prose, or capture it all concisely in a perfect poem.  They keep a notepad with them, whether real or imagined, observing their surroundings and making deep connections.

They don’t, like I do, fill silences with too many jokes, talk far too often and much, get home tired with little energy left for reflection.  They don’t crave interaction. They can’t talk for hours, if allowed, unless they’re talking about plot twists in their latest novels. And yet, that’s not the whole me, either. For an extrovert, I’ve always felt reflective and introspective, despite thriving on good conversation and the occasional soiree. I over-think, overanalyze, drive myself crazy and journal it all to death.

In the last three years, I’ve written so many cover letters and variations of cover letters that I’ve lost count — probably fifty, at least.  In that time, I struggled to come up with phrases to described me.  At some point I began to worry about labeling myself as an extrovert and similar terms, because it didn’t tell the whole story — how I left the WSU party to move to a new state where I knew no one; that I have no interest in superficial friendships; that I despise ever being seen as inauthentic or shallow.

At one point I  settled on this phrase: introspective extrovert. Months later, pondering its meaning and implications, I did what any 21st century young lady would do. I Googled it.

The third result was a personality website forum discussing ENFP’s.

After I tripped out for a minute, I got to researching — could this aspect of personality be shared? Do like-minded people exist? To the point that they struggle to pin themselves down and assign labels? I must say, for as much as I am skeptical and critical of online relationships, there is much to be said for the community that results immediately from discovering that you’re not alone.

After further Googling, I came across this, from The Writer Bee:

“One thing I’ve learned is that, unlike most extroverted types, my specific combination needs some alone time. This was a relief to discover this after recognizing my desire to sometimes say “no” to going out with people which I thought was supposedly contrary to how extroverts in general behaved.”

Bingo.

I realize that this post has been entirely self-centered. But I’m writing these findings in hopes of exploring more of what it means to have personality affect art — specifically, how an extrovert (even an introspective one!) interacts with self, solitude, and creation.  Writing can be a lonely and isolated occupation.  What must I, as an extroverted person, do to avoid burnout when I sit at a computer alone in my house all day? How can I thrive? How can we?

Have you had similar thoughts?

If you haven’t ever taken the test, I encourage you to  take it and report back here. You don’t need to pay for extensive reports — there’s plenty of free information online.

How does your personality inform your artistic process?

Telling the truth.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I have a problem with honesty.

Do you?

When I was young, this problem looked like actual lying — mostly about things that didn’t matter at all.

“Have you seen such-and-such movie?” someone would ask.  I would lie and say I had.  I laughed or nodded contemplatively along with the person as he or she recounted our supposedly shared experience.  It was too hard to tell the truth because I risked alienating myself.  It was so important to me to find common ground that I lied — which, of course, doesn’t create common ground at all.

Soon, relationships were not the only fragmentation I encountered; I lied to cover up the disconnect in my own life.  I lied to my parents as an attempt to maintain their image of me as a responsible and obedient daughter.  I kept information from friends that would reveal my Christian upbringing and morality, because I thought it would make them feel other.

After years of this, I finally told a silly little lie that grew and grew, about the cause of a car accident I was in.  I lied in the moment after a friend made me feel stupid, and I realized immediately that I couldn’t take back what I had said.  I forced myself to keep the lie going and I told it to my parents, my family, and even the insurance company.  Months later, I realized I hadn’t been able to be truly alone since that day — any time I was by myself with my thoughts I felt nauseated and dizzy.  My lie had grown and made me its slave.

Now obviously, this blog post is not the first time I’ve come clean about this lie.  Eventually, I felt so sick over it that I told the truth.  I’ve often seen this event as the catalyst for a huge life change in me, wherein my conscience was restored — I’ve even said that since this event, I haven’t been able to tell a lie.

But if I’m honest with myself, there are ways dishonesty enslaves me.

I’m so grateful that this situation taught me the importance of honesty, especially in my closest relationships.  God used an ugly but relatively unimportant issue to expose the much bigger lies I was living.  I don’t keep secrets or live a double life anymore.

But I do not have to tell lies to be dishonest.

Dishonesty is also withholding truth.

I find my biggest problem in writing to be that I refuse to tell the real, whole truth.  I worry about appeasing deep-seated anger and self-pity, and, more illogically, about being read.  Why bother telling a truthful story well if I will never allow anyone to read it? I ask myself.

Some time ago, a counselor spoke to me about telling the truth when I talked to her.  In that moment, I was trying to speak about experiences that influenced me to be the way I am.  I censored myself over and over again, worried that I might make my family seem less than perfect, or that I might exaggerate truth based on how something felt to me instead of how it really happened.  I didn’t want to fall into self-pity and blame, or shift responsibility for my failures onto the way others treated me or onto the examples they set for me.

Honesty often requires painful digging.

I don’t want to think about the fact that a friend or family member made me feel inadequate, or that I have intentionally harmed people I care about.  I don’t want to admit that some of my less-than-admirable qualities may have been not only genetically transferred but also modeled in my home, and in the same way I don’t care to remember the awful example I set for my younger siblings and their friends.  I want to pretend I never hurt you and you never hurt me.  But that just isn’t how life happens, or how truth works.

There is a difference between choosing not to remember because all has been forgiven and choosing not to remember because all has been under rug swept.  There is a place for both, and the space between is a fine line I’m still learning to walk — after all, God chooses not to remember my sin.  But that line is not an excuse to pretend parts of my life did not occur just because those parts did not look the way I would like to remember them.

Artists, more than anyone, have to visit the places we don’t want to visit.  We don’t come up unscathed and unaffected.  We choose to rip scabs off old wounds.

What is this artists’ life, that only by grace can we avoid becoming bitter, angry fools with pens?

We dive into mire and come up changed.  We plunge our hands into mud to find lost treasures.  We brush dirt off of diamonds.

But too often, I disregard the high calling to reveal beauty in ashes.  I am a coward.  I skim the surface, and I find nothing worth holding onto.

That announcement you’ve all been waiting for.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

I’ll get straight to the point.

I’ve done it.  I’ve been walking the plank of the SS Education from end to end, sometimes standing at the edge with toes curling over, for some time.  And I’m jumping ship…


…into the world of freelance writing.  I’m still a teacher.  I plan on working as a substitute and will absolutely keep up my license, and I’ll even apply for some jobs here and there.

But I’ve reunited with my first love, and we’re running away together into the unknown. (more…)