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Showing posts from October, 2011

Blind Review

Last night when I got home from practice, I ate a cup of pot noodles and two (big) bowls of ice cream and then spent more or less the next four hours straight watching the entire first season of Awkward, MTV's new sitcom about high schooler Jenna Hamilton's struggles to be somebody other than "That Girl" whom everyone thinks tried to kill herself.   How apropos.

No, I don't want to kill myself (not like last week), but I do know why I ate all that ice cream and stayed up all night watching television (actually, huluplus on my iPad): I am still feeling very, very, very angry about the reviews that I got back on the article that I sent out, the gist of which seem to be (as well as I can remember from reading them last week, I don't really want to revisit them now), "Your material is great, but your presentation sucks." (And, no, they did not engage as such with the material or my scholarship, only the presentation.)  Even the editor who encouraged me …

Enlightenment

All my life, I have believed that it was wrong to try to do something that you couldn't do easily at first (a.k.a. "had talent for").

All my life, I have believed that it was wrong to say what I really thought or, worse, "put myself forward."

All my life, I have believed that the world was a dangerous place filled with people you couldn't trust and events you must be prepared for lest you fail or die.

All my life, I have believed that to have something nice I would need to deserve it, that is, behave in a certain way, otherwise it would be wrong to have or expect good things.

All my life, I have believed that other people know better than I do how I should behave.

All my life, I have believed that it was my fault if I felt awkward or uncomfortable about doing something other people thought I should.

All my life, I have believed that it was wrong to feel anything other than happy.

All my life, I have believed that the reasons I had difficulty being the perso…

Victim Mentality

My worth is dependent upon what you think of me.

My beauty is dependent upon how you see me.

My success is dependent upon whether you are impressed.

My importance is dependent upon your ability to appreciate my work.

My happiness is dependent upon whether you smile at me.

My joy is dependent upon your ability to congratulate me.

My boundaries are set where you decide.

Not that I know what this feels like, just saying

"And yet, for all his protestations of confidence, he was shaken.  After years of defending his work as an exegete against students and masters too thick (in his view) ever to appreciate the great labor of his life, after exposing the most intimate secrets about his career, albeit indirectly, in a work of great ingenuity, not to mention love, Rupert found himself, once again, having to defend his work in terms that he himself despised."

--Rachel Fulton, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 346.

Note to My Students (Because I Know You're Reading This!)

It's not about you, it was never about you.  Not anything difficult that you read here about Fencing Bear's frustrations and struggles as she seeks to learn what it means to be wielded by God.  Only the good bits are about you.  You are my most cherished nurslings, the children of my dreams, the hope of our future, and the light of my life.  No, really.  Okay, you and the Dragon Baby, but you know what I think about her.

Just so you know.

Behind the Scenes

Perhaps I should tell you a little more about myself, just to put some of my more recent posts into perspective.

My parents divorced when I was 11.  I would love to say that I saw it coming, but I didn't, not in a million years.  I have a very distinct memory of walking home from school about a year before, past a house in our neighborhood where, it was said, a woman lived alone with her kids, a "broken" family.   (Gasp!  This was, after all, the 1970s).  "How lucky I am," my 10-year-old self thought, "my parents will never break up."

But they did.  My father went on a training course for six months to Florida where he met another woman; she was 20 or 21 at the time, a precocious medical student; he was 36 or 37, a surgeon and researcher at the top of his career.   We got to go to Disney World when we visited him there that summer.  Three months later, he was home, and my parents called us all into their bedroom. 

"Your mother and I aren't g…

To Blave

Riddle me this: what is the difference between true love and indifference?  'Cause, you know, I'm not really sure anymore.

All my life, there have been certain people who could hurt me more than anyone else with the things that they said to or about me.  Or, rather, all my life, there have been certain people whom I allowed to hurt me more than anyone else because, or so I thought, I loved them.  Or, rather, all my life, there have been certain people whose opinion of me I valued so much that, regardless whether what they said had any bearing on reality, I believed because, after all, they loved me, which meant, surely, that they knew me better than anyone else and that, therefore, I could trust them to see me clearly and understand who I was and, therefore, how what I was was good or true or worthwhile.  Or lovable.

Which hurts (and has hurt).  A lot.  Because, as I have started to realize over these past several weeks of sitting with those uncomfortable feelings I keep talki…

Medicine for the Soul

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Doggie Zen

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My dog has exactly the right idea.  Whatever she's doing, she does with her full attention, whether it's lying on the floor in the hallway or going outside to chase squirrels.  You never see her halfway: kinda relaxed or kinda watching the squirrels.  Her attention is fully on, and in, the moment.  Which means, true to her name*, she is never without joy, whether she has a hour to play in the back garden while I sit and read, or only a few minutes as I take her downstairs to pee.  An hour, a minute, it's all the same to her--because it's all the same to her.  She takes full advantage of every moment to sniff, to look, to be.  And then, she's coming back inside, as satisfied (nearly) with the momentary break from indoors as she is with a more extended walk.  Okay, so she tugs at the bottom of the stairs, just to make sure I'm serious, but then she is bounding back up, as cheerful and engaged in the moment as she was when we went down.  She does not worry from o…

Hurtful Things

Two beers, a Batman double feature on the DVD, and a night on the couch later, the demonic storm seems to have passed, but as with all real-world weather systems, I know it is likely to be followed by others, even if I can't always quite predict when (although, to be fair, there is a certainly monthly cycle to them, if you know what I mean).  But there is truth in hormones just as there is in emotions, even if in our calmer, less estrogenic moments we can keep them under control.

Or is there?   (Truth, that is.)  Because, you know, one of the things that I find hardest about weathering such storms is the uncertainty: is what I am feeling based on anything external or am I just crazy, layering onto things people have said to me intentions that they never had, assuming indifference or criticism where there was rather confusion and lack of self-confidence, sensing hurt where there was simply insensitivity, malice where there was only selfishness or fatigue?  More important, what shou…

It may well get better, but first it gets worse

Today has not been an easy day for me.  I've had a headache since yesterday (possibly eyestrain from my still-healing eyes, possibly after-effects of the flu that I had last weekend); the article that I so hopefully sent out for review (the first in three years) came back with the usual confusing mix of comments ("great scholarship, but unpublishable in its present form"); I've missed practice for a full two weeks now thanks to the flu and, last night, the headache; and I don't have any excuses anymore for not feeling loved.

Yup, it (life, you name it, everything) sucks.  If I had had time to work on this post earlier today (or, rather, had allowed myself to skip working on my translation or going to campus to meet with students), it would have been called "Suicide Note" and opened with something about how if you saw me after reading it, it just meant I hadn't done it yet.  Don't worry, I'm already in therapy.  But.  But, you know, I'm j…

Pushing Against the Rock

I tried to find out who originally wrote this exemplum, but as it seems to be widespread on the web, I suppose it is okay to quote is as I found it here: "Author Unknown."  It is the best description I have seen of what I have been trying to learn about paying attention as a way of practicing for prayer.  It all depends on how to read you read the rock.  For me, it is almost everything: my fencing, my scholarly work, trying to "fix" myself psychologically and spiritually, you name it.  But what if, after all, the point is pushing the rock, not making it move?
A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the co…

The Way of the Bear

1.  Allow yourself to eat whenever you are hungry, without judgment and without worrying what other people will think.  Enjoy your food.  Eat what you want most.  Stop when you are satisfied.  Pay attention when you feel the urge to eat and can tell you're not hungry.  Listen to what your urge to eat is telling you about what you don't want to think or feel.  Sit with any anxiety that you feel.  This will help you make peace with the past.

2.  Declutter your home.  Keep only the things that you currently use or enjoy.  Throw out or give away everything that makes you feel anxious, unhappy, or burdened.  Watch yourself when you find yourself wanting to acquire something new.  Is it something you need?  Is is something you particularly like?  Or is it something that you think having will change your life in some significant way (e.g. make you feel more beautiful or loved or safe), but in fact will most likely just become more clutter?  Sit with any anxiety that you feel.  This w…

Why the Seven Deadly Sins Are So Deadly

Because they distract us when we are reading or meditating or praying from paying attention to God.  They are deadly because, more often than not, we don't even realize what they're doing.

Gluttony says, "Eat this, it will make you feel better."  And so we stuff down the uncomfortable thought: "I'm unlovable."  And get fat.

Greed says, "Buy something, it will make you feel better."  And so we stuff down the uncomfortable thought: "I'm not worthy."  And fill our homes with clutter.

Lust says: "You would be happy if only you had sex (or a relationship) with him (or her)."  And so we stuff down the uncomfortable thought: "I'm inadequate."  And lose ourselves to another's image of what we should be.

Sloth says: "You can't be expected to concentrate continuously, just take a little break."  And so we stuff down the uncomfortable thought: "I can't do this."  And never accomplish our g…

Exercise in Attention

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Can you see what she sees?

Alpha Bitch, or The Bear Turns

It came to me all in a flash on Saturday.

My husband had asked me to tell him a story, "something good about your childhood."  I tried, but all I could think of, other than the food, was how hard it had been making friends.  "It sounds," he said, "like you're blaming everybody else."  "No," I screamed (yes, it got to screaming), "I didn't say that.  It was just hard, and everybody was so mean to me."

Which they were.  The kids on the playground when I was in second grade, who confidently told me that I would fail when the grown-ups decided to promote me to third grade after the first month.  The girls in the neighborhood who beat up on me when we moved.  My best friend(s) who dumped me for another girl or who refused to acknowledge me on the bus after we had been hanging out all summer.  The popular girls who never quite let me into their clique.  My friends in high school who spent the summer after we graduated going out when …

The View From Where I Sit

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I'm still angry.  It's kind of a tenor for my life right now, as I sit, looking out at my past with the help of my therapist, over all of the emotions and thoughts that I have about who I am and who I want to be.  I'm also afraid.  The world is so beautiful, my life is so beautiful.  But I can feel it slipping away from me as I sit, still too afraid to move.

No, that's not it.  I'm not that afraid anymore, not like I was.  Little by little, I've been working on my translation; little by little, I'm starting to ask questions again, starting to see things that I would like to do with my research.  But I can still feel the panic rise when I hear about work that a colleague has been doing and I start thinking about how much time I've wasted ("wasted") trying to get my feet again.  And I still worry about not being beautiful or thin enough.  About not being loved.

There, I said it.  (Did I really?  Breathe.  Say it.)  I worry about not being loved…

Thank You, Mr. Jobs

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You changed my world the first time, back in 1984 when I was a junior in college and typing papers on a typewriter, and a second time, just this past year, with the iPad.  Thanks to you, my life has been filled with writing in comfort and beauty.  Thanks to you, I have books and music to listen to while I am driving to fencing practice, and books to read that I would never have been able to before.  You made my work possible in ways I never fully appreciated until today.  Rest in peace.  And thank you.

Not quite an explanation of why I haven't been writing but ought to

I need to write something.  I have so many things that have been jangling around in my head these past couple of weeks that I need to say but have been avoiding saying (or saying only obliquely) by posting quotations instead.  Some I am afraid to write because I am worried that writing will make them go away and they are too precious to me.  Others I am afraid to write because I am angry at certain people in my life and I don't know how to say what I need to say without drawing their anger in return.  There, that's cryptic enough, but does it satisfy?  If only I could just jam my fingers on the keyboard and have all of the resentment and anger and frustration flow out.   Asdfghjkl;--so there!  It's not working.  See, to help myself feel better I need to explain myself to myself, but I can't do that obliquely, so I'm still simmering, angry, feeling got at and unable to protect myself. 

I could say something.  Why don't I?  Because I've tried in the past and …

On why human language is inadequate for talking about God and what God did about it

"3. But as regards the idea thus privately entertained by yourself in such efforts, I would not have you to be disturbed by the consideration that you have often appeared to yourself to be delivering a poor and wearisome discourse. For it may very well be the case that the matter has not so presented itself to the person whom you were trying to instruct, but that what you were uttering seemed to you to be unworthy of the ears of others, simply because it was your own earnest desire that there should be something better to listen to. Indeed with me, too, it is almost always the fact that my speech displeases myself. For I am covetous of something better, the possession of which I frequently enjoy within me before I commence to body it forth in intelligible words: and then when my capacities of expression prove inferior to my inner apprehensions, I grieve over the inability which my tongue has betrayed in answering to my heart. For it is my wish that he who hears me should have th…

The Death of God, Sixties Style

"The Vicar announced that they had the great good fortune to have in their midst the well-known--indeed, he dared to say, famous Canon Adelbert Holly, one of the most lively and up-to-date of our new dispensation of theologians.  [In the story, it is Christmas Eve, 1968.  The congregation is gathered in St. Cuthbert's Church, Blesford, Yorkshire.]  Canon Holly had agreed to say a few words to mark this joyous occasion.  He would speak on the meaning of the Incarnation in a time of doubt and trouble.  He would speak of things that changed, in order to remain steadfast, and not to fail.

"Canon Holly creaked past Daniel's pew end, to take the pulpit.  Daniel smelled his smell, years, months, weeks, days and hours of stale smoke and exhaled tobacco.  Canon Holly, like Daniel, and also like Gideon, had put on his dog-collar.  His white hair was very long, hippy and patriarchal, even angelic.  He began, rather importantly, by saying that he knew he was famous for his eluci…