Broken

We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in — Ernest Hemingway

Lately, my crazy train has been making a lot of stops and picking up a lot of passengers.  It’s easy to forget that I can get off this train.

I press my face to the glass next to my seat and look out across the rolling plains.  Close to the train, everything moves too fast.  Fixing my eyes on the distance is the only way to travel.  Or is it?  I need some air.

Getting to the door at the back of the car isn’t easy.  There are too many people in the aisle.  As the train lurches and sways, I struggle to get my balance.  There are too many distractions.  Most of the people in the aisle are talking loudly.  They make demands I have no interest or desire in fulfilling.

“Where do you think you’re going?” they say with a sneer.

“You think you’re too good for this train!  We’ve got news for you, you aren’t.  Sit down and be quiet.  No one cares that you want off.  Get used to it.  This is life.  Toughen up.  Did you expect a free and easy ride?  We all have it tough.  You think you’re special.  You’re no better than any of us.”

I choke back tears and return to my seat.

The voices in my head wonder,  “Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s wrong to want to get off.”

As I press my face to the smudged glass next to my seat, I see my reflection.  The burden of clarity creates a tight hard spot in my chest.  I’m free not to ride this train.  Letting other’s words and opinions confine me is wrong.  Accepting the limits they impose on me is wrong.  Internalizing their disrespect has been devastating.

This train isn’t going anywhere I want to go.  It’s full of meanness, of small mindedness and opinions that do not build or inspire but hurt and tear down.  When I ride this train, it’s very hard not to become like the rest of the passengers.  And, I have.

I have neglected what is good and holy.  I’ve listened to the wrong voices and forgot that like me, they are broken and struggling against something they don’t really understand.  We have lost our way on a hair-raising and chaotic ride to the end of the tracks.  We’ve forgotten that in the end, the end will come to us where ever we are.

I want the end to find me happy.  I want the end to find me mending my broken pieces while I mend others.

I stand on the edge of the stairs at the last car and practice my jump in my mind.  In the distance, the hills call my name.  I jump.  I roll.  I live.  The train vanishes around a bend.  A new chapter begins.

Sanity is Over Rated

I am forgetful.  I am not as patient as I once was.  The other day, I screamed at a driver to get off her cell phone.  Fortunately, she didn’t see me.  I was shocked and ashamed of myself.  I wanted to pull over and cry.  I’ve had a few people call me nuts.  Ouch.  What happened to tact?  Wait, I don’t have a lot of that either.  Maybe I am a bit nuts.

Recently, I read about the prefrontal cortex (part of the brain).  It’s got an amazing job.  It regulates decision making.  It’s the seat of abstract thought.  It allows people to plan ahead and make strategies.  It controls emotions. It makes good judgments. . . all when working well, of course.  The prefrontal cortex is slow to develop and given as one of the chief reasons why smart teens may make such poor decisions.  It has limits.  In my case, it’s been overloaded trying to cope with the day-to-day that is my life.  My prefrontal cortex is having a bit of a crisis.

On top of circumstances beyond my control, I’ve got a decrease in estrogen.  Researchers used to believe that it affected the menopausal woman’s hippocampus.  Now they find:

“The prefrontal cortex is critical for intact working memory and estrogen enhances performance on working memory tasks. In conclusion, this study provides preliminary evidence for executive dysfunction in untreated menopausal women as women with HRT outperformed women without HRT on tests requiring directed attention, inhibition of inappropriate responses, and cognitive set switching.”  [Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11403979]

Which in lay person’s terms means, I am so screwed.

I didn’t plan on this.  “Lord, what are you thinking?”

“Lord, this is about faith, surrender, acceptance, isn’t it?”  The answer is a peaceful silence.

My God’s not much of a talker but then again, getting a word in edgewise with me, is no easy feat.   So, I try listening.  The clocks ticks off the seconds. I hear the soft rise and fall of my family’s voices as they enjoy a cooking show.  I can’t hear their words but the tone is sweet.  Soon their talk turns to the worm in Mescal.  Funny how quickly their voices rise.  I hear “Uuuuuuh,” then laughter.

Again, the ticking of the clock forces its way to the center of my awareness.  “Lord, are you telling me to heed the passage of time?” In between ticks, I realize that even in these challenging times, my life can be full and sweet.  Blessings are as abundant as sorrows.  One highlights and illuminates the other and I see with fresh eyes, not confined by logic or reason.   Mine is an exquisite kind of crazy.  I’m one lucky woman.  Sanity, is highly overrated.  I’m sure of it.

Write Me Beautiful

My soul has been weary.  I dream about being someone else, having a new identity,  going into witness protection.  What I’ve been witnessing isn’t pretty.  I need protection.

Decisions should never be made when life is too heavy.  Such decisions arise out of panic, not reason.  A knee jerk reaction to life can end up kicking one’s own behind.  Staying calm in a world full of crazy is more than a challenge.   Last night, in my sleep, both knees and legs start dancing like fleas in a hot skillet.  Poor husband, who is awake staring at the cracks in the ceiling and pondering their significance, witnesses his wife appear to run while laying down.  Sleeping with me is never boring.

The timing of this activity is everything.

Just the other day, I was demonstrating to my husband what HIS jimmy leg is like.  When he is overly tired, he has a leg that jerks in a pattern that eludes my capture.  Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.  If I’m not asleep when it starts, I have to move to the couch to get some shut eye.  Now in addition to hitting him in the head, sitting up and giving commands, raising my hand and talking about absolutely anything in my sleep, I can add running…sleep running.  I’m way ahead in this insane contest of who can be the most active bed partner.

My husband has my deep and sincere sympathy.  I’d have a hard time sleeping with me.

Notice how I went from soul weary to challenges with self-acceptance.  I’ve been miserable struggling with both and seeing little if any progress, until today.

Today, I had met 3 strangers who gave me messages of hope and one hug.   In those brief meetings, all excess fell away, all the struggle began to have a meaning, even if I can’t see it yet.  While I’ve felt like I’ve been sleep walking through a nightmare, I have been busy.  I have been making a positive difference in ways that I failed to understand.  And the world, that I often find so inadequate has been busy showing me the things that I need to see, even when I didn’t want to see them.

For days, I refrain from writing because, the words aren’t beautiful or inspiring.  They are heavy and full of whining.  I want to write more.  I want to give some thing beautiful, some thing precious and hopeful in my words and when I can’t I feel frustrated and empty inside.    At the same time, it is important to me to be REAL.  No sugar coated platitudes, or simple-minded denial for this gal.

As my evening begins I find these words on Pinterest:

“So build yourself as beautiful as you want your world to be. Wrap yourself in light and give yourself away with your heart, your brush, your march, your art, your poetry, your play. And for every day your paint the war, take a week and paint the beauty, the color, the shape of the landscape you’re marching towards.  Everyone knows what you’re against.  Show them what you are for.”   — Andrea Gibson, Evolution

God’s timing is perfect.  I’m going to write my world beautiful!    It’s time to remind myself what I’m for.

Jesus Take the Wheel

(Thanks, Carrie Underwood and Youtube.)

The small god of electronic and electrical devices works overtime in our house.  This is not a benevolent god but a capricious sprite with a terrible sense of humor.

The fan in the old PC sounds like a jet engine on approach to PDX.

The stove won’t ignite but will collect lethal and explosive levels of gas.  Don’t even think of trying to use it.

The microwave above the stove stores my Dutch oven and collects kitchen grease like no body’s business.

Our dishwasher is a dim memory.  (Its physical remains have been dissected by the boy and I and used to host a tomato plant in years past.)

Things break and fall apart on a regular basis  in our house, people included.  I often threaten to attach the latest broken item on the end of a rope (always inanimate objects) to the bumper of my van and give it a spin around an empty parking lot.  In my mind, I imagine my latest hated appliance on a rope smashing into as many parking bumps, curbs and poles as possible.  All the while, I  laugh, a giddy laugh of vengeance and destruction.

I’ve yet to do it, of course.  Not many church or store parking lots are going to welcome me with open arms.  In my fantasy rampage of destruction I see broken plastic and computer components laying in haphazard streams of glorious garbage which signifies a liberation of the soul that I will only meet in my dreams.

This image is so satisfying that when things break or quit working,  I take a quick moment to visualize the process of parking lot destruction and my frustration dissipates.  After all,  it only a thing: a broken thing but still a thing.

This morning I suddenly realized that what I like best about my destructive fantasy is that I’m in the driver’s seat.  Most of the time, I tend to feel like the thing tied to the bumper.  Ouch.

Acceptance is one of the central issues of a spiritual life.  Religions vary as to the ratio between acceptance of God’s will and the role of an individual’s free will.  Thinking about it makes my head hurt.  Theologians and angels dancing on heads of pins may debate it but when you’re driving the car or being drug behind it, your position in the universal scheme of things is the difference between sitting in a comfy seat or being covered with road grime and gravel as your life is quickly extinguished.  Perspective — placement—is everything.  How you feel about it and how that feeling fuels faith, is everything else.

When I’m behind that vehicle wearing gravel like body glitter, I need God in that driver’s seat.   In extremis, nothing else matters but having a ghost of a chance at salvation.  I, however, am not an easy appliance to save.  I’m headstrong.  I like to argue with God over who gets to drive.

Figuring out what I can control, what I can do something about isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Maybe because I’m such a stubborn case and tend to cloud the issue with talk of driving and glorious streams of haphazard garbage.  Fortunately God is patient and kind.  He allows me to flop around in the gravel or occasional take the car out for a spin so I can learn to get my priorities straight.  Every day is a new opportunity to learn to allow God to take the lead.  I’m tired of the view from the back.  I want to be riding alongside the driver.  The seat is warm and ready for me.  There is an amazing road trip in my future.

From the Ragamuffin Gospel

Some time this last year I read a book by David Timm entitled The Power of Blessing.  In that book, Timm references a quote from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel.  Manning was a priest, author and wrote candidly about his struggles with alcoholism.  Manning’s humble realism and poetic soul appeals to me.  I copied the following down from Timm’s book which quotes Manning on page 19.  The piece of paper on which I wrote these words is passed around from pile to pile.  The edges are starting to wear down.  I reread it often because I can’t help myself.  I especially love the line, “unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

I know exactly what that means.

Lately, it’s been hard to write.  I’m afraid too.  Opposition, criticism can really eat away at one’s self esteem, one’s courage.

Life is also crazy busy.  I am drug behind the freight train of life struggling to climb aboard.  This isn’t the way I imagined it would be.  There are lots of moments of joy in between moments of grave disappointment.  The cheese on my cracker is Swiss.  Joy is the cheese.  Disappointment are the holes.  Manning reminds me that this is as it should be.  He gives me hope that even though I’m a scalawag with slipping cheese, I am loved beyond imagining.

This is the essence of the Christmas message.  The Nativity Story is the story of simple people, a simple God, and the most humble of beginnings. Love was born into this world in a barn. Imagine the smell of the animals, the flies, the little rodents who love to share spaces like these.  Imagine no snow in the Middle East.  Imagine hot manure.  Imagine a helpless new born baby beside it.

This Good News is the Ragamuffin Gospel.

“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.

It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for the earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment.

It is for the smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”

 

I can recycle that scrap of paper.  I write the Ragamuffin Gospel on my soul.

Thanks, Fr. Manning.  I’m beginning to understand the true joy of Christmas.

What’s Your Purpose?

Yesterday was hard.  I poured out my heart writing but couldn’t hit the publish button.  Some struggles are best kept private.  Overwhelmed, lost, I struggled to get my bearings.  I prayed that God would show me the way but I didn’t expect an answer.  One was provided for me any way.  In my faithlessness, I was shown faith.  My closed heart shown an opportunity to love.  Lost, I was given the way.  No one else was given the job to be me.  It’s time to step into the life I’ve been given as a gift.  It’s time to be me, the better me, the best me.

 

Refrigerator Declaration

Brene Brown in O Magazine talks about the things she wants to make sure her children know.  Inspired, I created my own note.  It is now posted on the refrigerator.    It will help remind me what is really important when I’m losing it about the sticky mess on the island or the pants on the floor under Andrew’s chair, or the millionth Lego that found its way under my foot.   If I never found dead socks on the floor or pants in unlikely places, life would be really dull and I would be missing something wonderful.

Dear Family:

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable.

When I fail to show you this, and I will, please, know that I will try and try again because this is the most important thing I can ever teach you:

You are worthy of love, belonging and joy.

You are a priceless gift from God.

There will be times and seasons of life when we will disappoint each other.  Love will not make us perfect.  We will stumble and fall but we will fall into the forgiveness and hope of each other arms.

We are worthy of love, belonging and joy.

We are priceless gifts from God.

No matter what we always belong to each other.

Love,

Mom

 

Gifts of Desperation

dichotomy

This morning I read that GOD is an acronym for “gifts of desperation” (Anne Lamott).  Yes,  I do believe that makes perfect sense, at least on this morning as I struggle to ignore a head cold and the natural frustrations of dealing with teenage children.  I choose to have a fabulous day.  I put my troubles in a box and put them on a shelf in the deepest corner of my mind so I can move forward.

In the first class of the day, we read the latest news about North Korea.  Fear licks at my heels.  Talk of war is crazy talk no matter how sane any one sounds.

“I’m a pacifist,” I tell myself and then I remember the argument I had with my daughter as I dropped her off at school.  Am I really a pacifist if I am so easily drawn into conflict and defense of my position?   Give peace a chance, let it begin with me?  St. Francis and Gandhi and a few crazy hippies start fighting for real estate in my soul.  No body is winning.  I am at war with myself, the person I want to be and the person I really am.  The cold in my head and the conflict in my soul make my head ache.  I lean on my hands. Continue reading

Wordy Wednesday

My woes on Wednesday come from an excess build-up of words that have no place to unleash themselves.  So many words have built up in my head that they have started to leak out.  I can’t stop talking.  No one is safe.  I want to communicate and communicate I am.  Apparently, all those built-up words have layered themselves on my tongue and are finding an outlet.

This need to communicate is why I write.  There is no real sense or reason behind.  I write because I can but since I can’t always write (Life has a way of interrupting.) I talk to myself in my head or any one who happens to wander into my “field of conversation.”  (Some times, this is a pretty big field.)

Maybe, I should start talking to the dog.

She can be an amazing listener.  Although, right now she has some insane idea that there is something out side that she must bark at.  It’s probably a squirrel or the wind.  She barks at both.

When she isn’t barking and isn’t sleeping soundly underneath her blankets, she listens.

Her comprehension is questionable.  The average dog is said to be as intelligent as the average two-year-old child.  Ruby, our mini-dachshund, does display an advanced degree of toddler cunning.  She’ll never understand the meaning of all my words or begin to comprehend the subtle nuances some of the carry but she is an excellent listener.  She could be teaching a seminar in listening.  I think I’ll sign up the husband and the kids.  They should sit in the front row. . . and take notes. . . careful notes.

Maybe she is such a good listener because she is trying to understand.  Maybe, she is trying to learn something new.  Dogs can learn new tricks.

Maybe she listens because I am that important to her.

The “why” of her listening matters not.  The fact that she listens to me with her ears at attention, her eyes searching my face with eager expectation, that matters a lot.  Her listening is therapy, free and sweet.  It calms me.  The clouds of emotion that have obscured rational thought are gently lifted away beneath the gift of her attention.  Listening is this valuable.

Her lack of comprehension doesn’t matter.  Her immature, solitary desire focused on the possibility of a food reward doesn’t matter either.

What matters is that my words have found release.  There is no critic, only dumb, lovely acceptance and hope.  Maybe, just maybe, this is why ‘dog’ spelled backwards is “God.” In her listening, the genius of dumb coincidence meets the knowledge that in a world filled with words, there is one creature who listens to me as if I were the only one.

 

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.

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The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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