Thursday, October 28, 2010
This poem, Diving into the Wreck, is one that has resurfaced recently in some interesting ways that has got me thinking. What I loved about Adrienne Rich, knowing nothing of her cultural significance at the time, was how she talked to me. Her voice. Her poetry is free verse, no rhyme, no meter, yet epic and dramatic and heart breaking. It came up again because I was talking with Tina about God, religion, the big stuff, having just met her at a poetry workshop at U of H, and sharing an interest in these things.
Most of her questions and objections were about the church, the same questions and objections I brought to the proverbial table when I began exploring Christianity nearly 10 years ago. If God is so good, what about the Crusades? etc., etc.
As we talked I settled on this phrase to describe the pure essence - the truth- of who God is, and I kept repeating "the thing itself." "Forget about the church, about religion, myth, ritual, forget about all that, for now. Focus on the thing itself."
Being well read and generally brilliant Tina said, "Oh yes, of course, like the Adrienne Rich poem." I think I almost choked on my latte because I hadn't heard that name in so long. Not since I was a lonely teenage poet, reading Kerouac, Rich, Ginsberg, and Whitman in my bedroom on the 21st floor of our Upper West Side Apartment.
So Tina, being Tina, recited the entire, beautiful, heartbreaking piece from memory and lingered on this section:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
Today I've been thinking and talking about artists in the church. With my friend Brian and Robbie, and Matt. We talked about the role of artists in the church, the disappointment, the hope, the needs of artists in the church, all of it. The struggle of artists, all artists, between art- creating something beautiful, eternal, and of value- and commerce. Then the sometimes cataclysmic, sometimes magnificent collision of art, commerce and faith.
And then I read this piece again, and I read it from the perspective of me, and all artists, who are called, compelled and drawn to the church,and it made new sense to me. And it broke my heart in a new way.
"I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail."
We're going to start a gathering at Ecclesia on November 10th called "Make Art or Die" and we're going to try to start some of these conversations. Join us. We have no idea what we're doing but maybe together we can make something beautiful.
Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.
There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.
I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
you breathe differently down here.
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.
This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Maybe I don't ever soak in the bathtub because it's dangerous to be alone with my thoughts for that long. An empty house and Dr's orders to "treat myself" and take it easy had 'a soak in the tub' written all over it. The trouble is, the bathtub becomes my confessional. It's where I tell God exactly what's on my mind, and more often than not I am a little suprised by what's on my mind.
I told him about my doubts, fears, and insecurities. I didn't know I had so many. And I didn't know they ran so close to the surface. After 6 years in vocational ministry I've become quite accustomed to professing my faith, not admitting my doubt.
Like "Do I really believe all this?" "Are you real?" "Can you hear me?"
And I really made an effort to listen. You know the underwater sound, the whirrring rushing sound that you hear when your ears sink beneath the waters surface. That's what I heard mostly. But then after a few minutes an image, and a name came into my mind. I was feeling adrift. I was digging into my mind and it was telling me that I needed a life raft, a friend, a spiritual director. Then God floated a name into my mind. Someone I'd just met but had a strong, spiritual and personal connection with. She is going through a very rough time, and so I've been hesitant to reach out to her. But God also showed me a life raft, and I thought, maybe we can be that for eachother.
It's ok to doubt, in fact it's unavoidable, but it's better to doubt in community. With someone you can trust. So I texted my friend. We'll see what happens. But there is no doubt in my mind that when I asked, He answered. He's good like that.
Friday, October 22, 2010
So we drove to the farm chatting about Calliou and didn't get lost- a miracle. Once we'd made it past all the subdivisions ($400,000 to live in Cy-Fair on a lot with no trees? Huh?) and started to see cows and haybales -she was pumped- and so was I.
When we arrived the first thing Sydney did was squeal and jump into my arms- she saw a dragonfly or muddobber or something. I snickered. She is my child afterall. But before I could say "s'mores" she was running and playing and climbing and having a blast. We didn't pick any fruit (there were no apples I could see, but there were loads of persimmons) but we had a great time anyway. She got nice and dirty, and I got to talk with some super cool mom's- a few of whom live in my neighborhood.
We did go on a hayride- even though I'll be pulling shards of hay out of my tuckus for weeks to come- we had a great time.
The best part was letting her run around and not worrying she was going to run into a parking lot or traffic. Just letting her explore a little. I remember all the cool games we would play in the woods and streams when I was little. It was Jersey, but it was really wooded and beautiful. We would ride our bikes for hours through the neighborhood and it was imaginative and magical. One of my friends had blackberry bushes and it was the coolest thing to pick those berries right off the bush and eat them. I wish we had more of that for Sydney.
Maybe I'm hearing the siren song of the suburbs afterall. Can I resist? Should I resist? What do you think?
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Another reason why I hesitate to say I'm writing my memoir is that right now, it doesn't feel like mine. In the writing of it, now at least, it feels more like I'm writing everybody else's story.
But in my family, everybody else's story is really, really good. Even the morsels I've wrestled from unsuspecting kin have been enough to keep me going for a long long time. My family story is full of love, betrayal,heartbreak, fame and fortunes earned and lost. There's a good bit of intrigue to the whole messy business. It's a great story, one that will push the boundaries of non fiction, as there's no way of proving that the best parts are true. It's family lore, and there's no telling whose version is the real one.
So as I write this, I am reminding myself, I can only tell the truth about how I've experienced life up until now. I can only tell my story. And it's a good one.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I have a beautiful friend who is teaching me how to be a mommy. She herself has a husband and two stepkids who are luckier than Midas to have landed her. She makes stuff: memory books, halloween costumes (see above, half the butterfly costume we worked on today), impromptu sleepover parties and poems. She is an artist and her life is her piece de resistance. Her life is her masterpiece. She is a beautiful, complicated, kind, eager, interested, intelligent woman.
I know she'll read this so I want her to know that her story is remarkable, that she is remarkable. And whatever she lends her immeasurable talent to, whatever she turns her curelean blue eyes too will inevitably be made beautiful, be made important, be heard.
For a brief moment last night, at our small group, I embraced the chaos. For a moment. Then I went back to being nuerotic about my child and whether or not she was eating too much candy and not enough dinner, whether she was leading a stampede around the house that could possibly result in something broken.
A scene from Bittersweet is stuck in my head. Pajamed toddlers run around the coffee table as friends gather for time in community and a gourmet meal; a snapshot from the author's small group. I love that image, it's part "Brothers and Sisters" and part, well, church. It makes me yearn for beauty and friendship and good food. But all too often, as that scene plays out in a near perfect replica in my own life, instead of reveling in it, I am panicking.
About my child and whether or not she is....well you fill in the blank. I hate this about myself. I know hate is a strong word, but it's appropriate here. In my daydream about the person I hope to be, I am relaxed; sipping Cabernet at a farmhouse picnic table talking with friends about God, life, love, the big stuff. Or at any table, anywhere really, the best part is that I am relaxed.
Sidenote * I actually picture this all taking place in an exact replica of Bilbo Baggins eleventy-first birthday party. Lanterns, picnic tables, cake. Does that make me a dork?
But seriously, I want to apologize to my small group friends for being such a basket case. And to God, and to myself. While I am quietly obsessing about something beyond my control (i.e., the eating habits of a busy 4yr old) those beautiful moments are happening, and I'm missing them.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Even though Matt's Dad's job doesn't affect us financially- what this all said to us was, in a cosmic way, "Quit whining. Trust Me."
I tend to freak out, and this latest run of financial challenges - is no exception. Even though I know by now than when we stop to pray, when we pause to recognize none of it is in our control, God always seems to pull a Flash Gordon- come from out of nowhere and over-meet our needs.
One conviction for me through all this has been about giving. Chris talked about this on Sunday and it hit me right between the eyes. If you wait to give- when you're making more money, or you have more things, you never will. The financial pressures ratchet right up with whatever money you have.
I was alot better at giving when I made more money, I am ashamed to admit. So I realized that our financial panic correlated with an utter failure to put God first with our finances.
When I was a younger Christian, I was more eager to take these risks. Almost like climbing the high dive or riding a roller coaster. I'd heard of the thrill of wrestling our lives out of the death grip of money and handing it over to the unseen God. I'd heard stories of amazing provision, anonymous checks turning up in the mailbox, bills miraculously paid, mission trips funded. I wanted to experience it for myself. And I did, every time.
Now, somehow more sedentary in my faith, it's easy to forget about the thrill ride- of truly letting go control of the one thing that competes with God for attention in my life.
So as a matter of course, almost like going back and re-reading the instruction manual, we wrote a check. One we should've written many months ago.
We can't afford not too.
Here's a link to Sunday's message: Click Here.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Of course, I am not really "staying home". Technically I'm a worship pastor. Or a worship co-pastor at a beautiful, inner city Houston fellowship of saints called Ecclesia. And I've travelled quite a bit, on a mission trip to Budapest, to a writer's conference at Laity Lodge, and now to a Presbyterian ministry conference. These opportunities we've had have been amazing- amazing to pray with and for people- amazing to lead people into conversation and into worship through music- amazing to feel as though our music has an end use- that our lives can be used in the Kingdom of God. But ironically, in my "year of living domestically" I'm as busy as ever, but yet I don't have that cozy salary I know will meet our needs.
As minister's and artists we've chosen a lifestyle and a vocation that people don't choose for the money:) This is not news. But we decided, pretty recently, that giving our lives and our precious time on earth to do what we were made to do, to do something made of and through Love, would be worth the risk and sacrifice.
But it's hard. It's hard for me today. Money freaks me out and I wish I didn't have to bother with it, but as a wise friend once said "it takes more faith to deal with the money, than not to."
SO I'm praying for more faith. To learn to trust God by trusting Him. But it's hard. It's hard for me, today.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I’ve been at Disneyworld for the last two days, and it’s made me think deeply (and not so deeply) about place.
Deeply: Where is home?
Not-so-deeply: Where is the bathroom?
At Disneyworld, the latter question is easily answered. Leave it to Walt to anticpate your bodily needs, every 300 ft. And if your hungry or thirsty (wait, will a waffle covered in sugar address actual “hunger”?) fear not. Every 150 ft there is a snackbar.
Maybe the two questions are more closely related than I, a snarky New Yorker-come-Texan, would like to admit.
Home is where you’re comforted. Where you’re physical needs are easily, and comfortably met (food, rest, etc), and where you’re emotional need for rest, for safety, for encouragement are also met.
At Disneyworld I am thinking about New York City, which is for me, home. I am thinking about how the city closed up around the hole that I left when I departed. My favorite Laundromat became a Starbucks. My best friend moved to England, and my mother got a one bedroom apartment. Once I’d given up my rent controlled 3 bedroom in Sunset Park there was no going back. Maybe Faulkner determined “you can’t go home again” for Southerners, but all my Southern friends parents’ at least have a spare bedroom. I’ve got to spring for a hotel if I want to reminisce over where I went to prom, where I went to high school or where I got my first kiss.
New York taught me one valuable lesson I am using at Disneyworld: How to deal with crowds. I hate crowds. It’s likely that I am claustrophobic, but the reason I hate crowds is darker, and more sinister than an innocent phobia. Crowds remind me that I am unimportant. Crowds remind me that if I choose to revolt, to push back, I will be crushed by their weight, volume or collective opinion. Crowds remind me that I am merely a speck of sand on a great beach. Do I even matter?
The funny thing about Ny’ers is that we hate crowds. Though we can call 9 million other people our neighbors, we hate crowds. People come to NY to become somebody; they’ve outshined their hometown and don’t want to waste all that talent or matinee idol good looks on Scranton. Every morning on the subway I was reminded of a scene from Dirty Dancing:
“This is my dance space, this is your dance space.”
With headphones, a newspaper or a book we try to carve out that little space that is just ours. That say’s “I matter.” We set our sites on that audition, that merger, that deal we would be tackling today, as if to remind ourselves, “I matter.” Even though right now I am just like every body else jostling for space on the R train: the great democratizer.
Disneyworld is not unlike the R train, with the exception of the availability of drinks, snacks and bathrooms. And of course the entry fee you’ll pay to walk through those musical, magical turnstyles is far north of $2, or whatever it is these days.
In NY you can touch greatness. You are an arms length from your dream at all times. If you can make it there…
At Disney every little girl is a princess and every little boy a prince. And those princes and princesses will remember being seen in a magical, albeit crowded place called Disneyworld. They will remember that Micky, or Belle, or Peter Pan looked them in the eye, and they mattered.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
She is excited. But to tell the truth, she's handling herself pretty well, like, "yeah, I'm going to Disneyworld. No big woop." But the anticipation is coursing through her veins. She has that faraway look in her eyes already.
I've never been to Disneyworld. I am excited. But as in all things, I've waited to the very last moment to prepare for the ministry conference we are speaking at in Orlando - which is the reason we've organized this trip to begin with. It's funny, we never take a "vacation" unless it's bookended with work somehow. Never. The last time we tried I was on my cell phone the whole time trying to save my business from going down the toilet.
I'd just "left" my business partner, admittedly with most of our clients, and I was terrified to appear unprofessional to them. So I didn't tell them I'd had a vacation booked for months, that my husband and I would be driving Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA with stops in Pacific Grove, Big Sur and a dozen other places. Instead I tried to calm their fears and feed their dreams while taking in Pebble Beach. It was a disaster. Pebble Beach isn't exactly known for it's cell phone service. I did a bad job of being a business person, and a bad job being on vacation.
Suprisingly, ministry has not been much different. For some reason I feel guilty if I'm not always working. I know Matt feels the same. I'm reading Shauna Niequist's new book, Bittersweet, and it's reminding me of the unhealthy ways I use work.
Shauna talks about insulating herself from herself by throwing dinner parties, and having houseguests. I do the same thing with work. It's like a cloud of smoke I am always fanning up around me, it's a boundary, but not the good kind.
So, I will try to silence the snarky voice in my head over the next four days while we are at Disneyworld. I will embrace the Mouse. I will have fun, but what's really important to me right now is that S does.
Tomorrow night we're having dinner with Winnie the Pooh. What does Winnie the Pooh eat for dinner, you think?
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
So my friend Tina is an ageless, elfin poet. A rare beauty. Brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious. Today she clued me in to the wonder that is scrapbooking. No holds barred people. When I said "housewife" I was not joking.
Here's the thing: there is a magic that occurs. I felt it. Mostly because my self loathing, the self loathing that stems from having never done a 'baby book' for S, from being lax at marking the major milestones in crepe paper and cellophane, began to dissipate. I felt self loathing ebbing away, it's evil grip loosening. I began to think, and even say out loud, "I can do this." I am not an utter domestic failure.
I may mock, or to say less harshly, make fun of- certain things, certain practices, because I fear them. This is me facing my fear. Of scrapbooking.
I am afraid to fail. I am one of those kids who's fear of failure translates into a fear of attempting certain things. Most of the domestic arts fall into that category for me. I have not attempted some of them because I am afraid of failing. But also, I am good at other things, so I tend to stick with them. Music. Writing. Listening (i hope). Talking. I am really good at talking :)
So beautiful, elfin Tina the poet has taught me to scrapbook. And I have one page done, and it's beautiful, it's healing. I told Tina that looking at the pictures from Sydney's first two weeks, brings back some scary emotions for me. I remember where I was in my battle with post partum in each snapshot. But there is something really powerful about taking those images and arranging them so that the victory of S's life, of our little family, is celebrated. We survived those hard first months, and better than survive we thrived.
I am not the same woman I was when S came into the world. I am older, but I am more. It's what I imagine being an astronaut is like: I went to the moon and I lived to tell about it. I saw our little earth from far, far away, and it was beautiful.
This is the thing about "housewifery": your work day never ends. What's up with that?
And I made dinner last night. But Matt chose to eat out by himself on his way home from work. Leftovers anyone?
Heading to N. Houston to play with Tina. More later.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Anyway, I think they may have considered making it one of those one way mirrors like they have in interrogation rooms in police stations. Or at least in interrogation rooms in police stations on Law & Order. I have no idea if those actually exist.
Anyway, only because I wonder at the wisdom of having the kids feel as though they are always being watched- and maybe judged- by mom and/or dad. At first it's really comforting because from my perspective I can keep an eye on her, reassure her that I'm here. But she is already confident- my watchful eyes may be adding performance anxiety to the mix for her.
Has anyone read Nurture Shock?
I saw a segment about it on The Today Show recently, and a friend mentioned it to me the other night. I think the thesis there is something like- overpraising kids creates nuerotics who are afraid to try and thus afraid to fail. Thoughts on this?
Thanks for the kind words (comments) on this new endeavor. Post your recipes in the comments area friends.
Ok, so I've been notified that parental (mom) participation is about to be required of me @The Little Gym. Isn't that kinda like breaking the fourth wall?
Sunday, October 3, 2010
That's my first confession; I'd give myself maybe a C+ on hipster value. I am a musician, a worship leader actually, and so in some circles that might give me some points.
Confession #2- not sure I am a housewife, or at least, not sure if I am yet a housewife. I am a wife, a mother and yes, I have a house. A townhouse. At the moment it's a wreck because I've just returned from a Christian writer's retreat in the hill country and my daughter and husband have been "batchin' it" for four days. I may not really cook, but at least I keep the house clean. The place is a wreck. But it's a cute wreck; the kind of mess only a grown man and a four year old girl could make. Pizza boxes. Candyland. Atlantic Monthly. Caillou and Kierkegaard.
The title of this new blog may be a bit of a misnomer, but it's something, at least in part, I hope to live into this year. And I'm a sucker for alliteration.
So here's the deal: I am embarking on an experiment, a year of living domestically. Intentionally, domestically, naturally and thoughtfully. And it terrifies me. I am a worker bee. I work, that's what I do. Give me an assignment and a deadline and I'm good. I'm comfortable there. Work saved me from severe post partum depression (that's another story for another night). Work is what I understand, what I know how to do. Being home with my daughter, for her, and for space to make art- this is the experiment. It's not just for her and for me but for my husband too. I think he might like to have something other than cereal for dinner.
Anyone have easy (I mean EASY like 'cooking for dummies' easy) recipes? Don't be shy.
Here's what I promise, if you'll stick with me: I will tell the truth. I may change names to protect the guilty but I will tell the truth, or at least the truth according to me. And I may tell it slant. But I will tell it. And it may not always be pretty. So here goes nothing...