Splittings

Deep, abiding love is a choice. Something we choose each day, and even each moment, with those we care for and who hold us as sacred as well.

This week, “dispatches” came to me in the form of two great friends who decided to share their wedding day by having it at our home, here in rural Maine.

Although I lack the skill, poetry often speaks to the truth and heart of life with precision and grace. Instead of my own musings, I offer this poem with all my love and faith.

 

Splittings
from The Dream of a Common Language

1.

My body opens over San Francisco like the day –

light raining down      each pore crying the change of light

I am not with her     I have been waking off and on

all night to that pain     not simply absence but

the presence of the past      destructive

to living here and now      Yet if I could instruct

myself, if we could learn to learn from pain

even as it grasps us      if the mind, the mind that lives

in this body could refuse      to let itself be crushed

in that grasp     it would loosen      Pain would have to stand

off from me and listen     its dark breath still on me

but the mind could begin to speak to pain

and pain would have to answer:

We are older now

we have met before     these are my hands before your eyes

my figure blotting out      all that is not mine

I am the pain of division      creator of divisions

it is I who blot your lover from you

and not the time-zones or the miles

It is not separation calls me forth      but I

who am separation      And remember

I have no existence      apart from you

2.

I believe I am choosing something now

not to suffer uselessly     yet still to feel

Does the infant memorize the body of the mother

and create her in absence?     or simply cry

primordial loneliness?      does the bed of the stream

once diverted      mourning       remember the wetness?

But we, we live so much in these

configurations of the past      I choose

to separate her     from my past we have not shared

I choose not to suffer uselessly

to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me

flashing its bleak torch in my eyes     blotting out

her particular being     the details of her love

I will not be divided      from her or from myself

by myths of separation

while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me

than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning      on these hills

3.

The world tells me I am its creature

I am raked by eyes     brushed by hands

I want to crawl into her for refuge     lay my head

in the space     between her breast and shoulder

abnegating power for love

as women have done      or hiding

from power in her love     like a man

I refuse these givens      the splitting

between love and action      I am choosing

not to suffer uselessly      and not to use her

I choose to love      this time      for once

with all my intelligence.

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Forgive Your Self

“Forgive yourself your own self. You have it in your power to merge everything you have lived through- false starts, errors, delusions, passions, your loves and your hopes- into your goal, with nothing left over.” – Nietzsche

There is a mantra from Sheryl Sandberg’s book that I have been repeating to myself again and again lately: Done is better than perfect.

Done. Is better. Than perfect.

Again.

Aaaaaand again.

In my world of the last two months, even getting to done has been a struggle.

But PhD applications wait for no one. So I’m here, my first three applications done except for uploading the statement of purpose. I know I’ll do it. I will. Just a few more tweaks. Just a couple more readers. Just need that one perfect word.

Because hitting that button is one of the riskier things I will do this year. Sending my life goals, my passions, my imperfections, my false starts, my hopes, all of it – to strangers, in 1,000 words or less.

With the hope that they will read my words with the grace and compassion with which I hope to pursue academic work. That someone out there will “get it” and understand that it’s not about hiding in books, it’s about expanding knowledge.

It’s about sharing the enlightenment I’ve felt reading another’s words and knowing someone has felt this before. That we’re connected across geography, time, culture and language.

That perhaps together we can search through life’s wisdoms and attempt to live them in ways that heal.

That we can find peace, deep soul-calming love, and active hope.

For the privilege to even attempt this journey, I am grateful. And I will hit “submit.”

Woa.

Oh holy moly, chickadees.

Here’s my next week: work, finish 3 application essays, work, two days in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving, work Black Friday, and host a wedding at my house (albeit a small one).

But as Mindy Kaling’s mom said, everyone’s busy so don’t talk about it, it makes you boring.

Yet, all I’ve been over the past week, hence the unintentional blog hiatus, is busy.

I’ve been burning through to do lists like no one’s business and just attempting to hold it all together.

Small victories of the week: learned to write my nickname a new way I like on my coffee at the cafe (aka job 1), hung out with Rhubarb the office dog (at job 2), ate oysters, hiked seven miles. Oh, and it snowed.

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already. ~Dave Barry

Testimony

“I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.”
—Michael Cunningham, Author of The Hours

There’s something really powerful about committing a thought to writing.

To seeing whatever it is, a joke, a confession, a question, boldly out there – in black and white.

We lose a lot of connection to writing thanks to email and text and the screens constantly pressed in our noggins. To write has become second nature – but I’d rather call that clicking.

I click myself – all over the internet. On the ‘gram, beloved gif-world of imgur, texting on the magic box (really, it’s more magic than phone).

To write takes thought – at least the thought of the act itself: I am going to write something.

Although writing (for many) is often painful, difficult and just plain frustrating, it is infused with optimism.

An optimism that says: this is worth saying, I need to say it, I need to create.

Like many other creative pursuits, writing is an intentional effort to believe in something. Mostly, to believe in yourself.

And that is a hard-won faith.

A faith that there is something at the end of this thread of words, or characters, or ideas that needs to be fully felt through, explored and mined.

Yet writing can also take on the most basic of human needs: to tell our story. To offer testimony of what has been seen, felt, heard and lived.

As Tim O’Brien said: “Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember but the story.”

Feeling is First

since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

“since feeling is first” by e. e. cummings from 100 selected poems

Today, I am weary. For many practical reasons and a few existential.

These words of another are my offering.

That when we see ourselves in the words of others, we feel connected, somehow more whole.

And feeling, of all its depth, is always first.

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Broken

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“Prompts for the Promptless” is a weekly prompt link up, focused on sharing perspectives and expanding minds. This week:“Kintsukuroi is a Japanese noun meaning “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.”
***

I’ve been shattered.

I’ve been hurt.

Indeed, we are all broken.

Being broken, trampled, ignored, injured by this world is not justifiable.

It is not okay.

“Redemptive suffering” glorifies hurt.

It makes salvation only possible through bloodshed.

It breaks, ignores, tramples, injures our real bodies, personalities, emotions, souls, communities, histories.

Allows the privileged to look at a child in desperate poverty and say “isn’t that beautiful” while buying a $5 latte.

Yes, healing is beautiful. Searching, loving, embracing, dancing together toward something better is beautiful.

My beauty is not made more or less because I have hurt.

I do not need gold to cover it up. To hide it. Or to glorify it.

My beauty is and will be by virtue of my existence. Of my living with others who are broken. Of standing, shouting, singing, laughing through all we experience. Of holding, honoring and releasing hurt.

“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds.
And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”
~ Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures

“No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.”
~ Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

Tiny Stitches

Mixed media, I guess. I’m all about it.

Earlier this year I toyed with sewing in canvas and I’m hooked. This week brought that element into the painting as well as tree trunks, grass and even more leaves.

The form is solidifying, and the balance emerging.

I love the feel of the rough brush strokes under the small sateen stitches. I wonder how many I’ll do…

***

And although I didn’t make it at all, we all just need to take a moment to appreciate this cinderella pumpkin P cooked full of cheese, bread, cream, bacon and happiness.

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Puzzle Mountain

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Ah, such is my view on many a hike…

Unfortunately, I had to hang back further than usual on this one, as I was just starting to come down with a cold.

It did give me the chance to appreciate the silence, the absolute glory of a perfect, crisp, Maine fall day.

To notice the very last bits of color coming through.

To hike toward some of my oldest friends laughing, sharing local brews at the top.

To revel for a while amongst the pines, in the beauty of this place.

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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
~Henry David Thoreau

Allegiant

Snail mail is one of my most favorite things.

This past week I got TWO real life things I could hold in my hand from two beloved friends. One a glorious note; the other, an unexplained book.

Not that it needed any explaining, however, being the final in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth that a visiting friend got me hooked on earlier this year.

Like the others in the series, but somehow even faster, I devoured this read, wherein our heroine, Tris, finds her small dystopian world blown apart (again. of course).

“…I just let the silence stretch out between us. It’s the only adequate response to what he just told me, the only thing that does the tragedy justice instead of patching it up hastily and moving on.”

But despite some of the formulaic sci-fi themes (discrimination, mad-max survival, evil governments), and a not so light dash of barely-veiled Christian themes, I found myself again rooting for Tris and excited that a young, female character was portrayed with such flawed strength.

As is also the nature of the final book in a series, Allegiant also dealt with ‘wrapping up’ the characters – accomplished by the alternating narrative between Tris and her boyfriend, Four. While I didn’t enjoy his voice as much, and the alternating was a bit bumbled at times, the pay off at the end made sense.

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”

And like in her previous books, Roth uses her characters to plumb the depths of teendom while fighting a war for everything you’ve ever known (melodrama much?).

Allegiant  was a fast, fun read, with surprising nuggets of wisdom that feels hard-won, not just by Roth’s characters, but by the author herself.

I often found myself thinking that I would never have come to those conclusions at 16, but I also didn’t watch my entire family die or go through brutal initiation processes….so.

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”

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***

Dispatch this week to Bustos!

 

It’s the motha-f*ckn G-O-D

Theology…you really like God n’ stuff?

This one time, at Bible camp…

So I’m really spiritual, you know? Just not religious.

Oh the glory of trying to tell a stranger what you do for a living as an aspiring theologian. Or that you aren’t going to judge/damn/attempt to convert them no matter how they respond (exception: complete assholery).

Or that like any normal human adult, you put your pants on one leg at a time, and had red wine and corn puffs for dinner last night.

A couple articles this past week (along with my continuing application odyssey) prompted me to rethink (again) what the hell I’m doing.

I’ve never been a woman of singular interests – from the gymnastics/ballet/science club/ cheerleading/concert choir/musical theater of my youth to my social work/barista/doggie volunteer/reader of all/travel nut present, I just don’t like to be pinned down.

It’s one of the reasons discernment in the big sense is such a challenge for me. I definitely fall too quickly into the “if I do this thing then that is the thing, I am that, this is what I do. Period. Does this mean I’ll never do all the things?!?! I’m supposed to do all the things!” trap.

Blame it on my type-A nature, or 90s child “they said I could be anything” multiple aspirations, but this particular personality aspect is beginning to frustrate me.

That’s one of the reasons I was somewhat heartened to read Tara Isabella Burton’s article in The Atlantic: “theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.”

Her words were a nice reminder of one of the reasons I find theology so fascinating – an in-depth, dedicated quest for meaning. Meaning that can have multiple definitions of equal import, a complexity that is often lost in the modern academy.

Yet, her article overall made me think of her as a “theology apologist.”

I bristled at this because I’m guilty as well. In our science-oriented society it’s just so much easier to explain the whole enterprise in social science terms – that studying belief systems will help us better understand a certain event/person/group and then have this positive impact on the world and one of its particular issues.

While I have no problem with this, and in large part my research works on these types of questions, that’s not all studying theology is about.

In a post-modern world, theology makes truth claims.

Big ones.

God ones.

The ones you’re never supposed to mention at the dinner table.

And you know what? I love that. I need that. I think we all do.

As much as hard science and MTV and the Real Housewives can explain our world, how often do we force ourselves to sit with our lived reality, our experiences, our feelings, and come out the other side with something that helps it make sense?

Damn, I like that challenge.

This is not just about my particular faith, which is continually hard-won and questioned near-daily, but about our ability as individuals, groups, communities and society at large to make meaning.

Meaning does not have to come in the form of religion or a belief system, but it often does.

This is not because it’s an easy way out, or a comforting fairy tale.

It’s because we all know there is a truth. In moments that we can’t understand, or explain. When we just know that our dead friends are okay. When we kiss our person. When we breathe deep in the autumn night air, looking at the stars.

Theology sits with these questions; with they mystery of it all, and tries to say something about it.

***

I’m sure it’s that deep quest Dre and Snoop were talking about – fuzzy bikini not included.