Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Birds without Wings

(from 2002)

“Wishing something would happen
A change in this place
‘Cos I’m tearing of the fancy wrapping
find an empty package”

- ‘Birds without Wings’ David Gray, The EP’s ‘92-94

At the end of 2001, I stopped writing in my journal for about six months. I was tired. Tired of myself. I had this way of turning everything into some sort of whine and cheese party, and I was sick of being sick of everything. It wasn’t supplication I had been writing before then, it wasn’t anything but dribble. I don’t even want to look back at it to quote any of it to illustrate how bad it was. I even promised myself I wouldn’t write anymore things that resembled my cocktail pity party. And what do you do after feeling like that? I did mostly nothing about it. I waited for that voice to die, trying to let things work themselves forward and push that selfish ache away. Yet at the back of my mind I was constantly finding things to do, thinking if I did a little more of this or that great thing my life would get better. What I found out about myself was that I was mostly doing these things to fill time, and this compulsion edged me into anger.

Most of us burn out from being good or turn out to be completely selfish. “...if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more it will demand of you,” C.S. Lewis says in a book that has recently haunted me. “And your natural self which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.” I would be the first to admit that I put myself on an an anger management program years ago and have backslidden frequently. The guys at work call me crabby and I am glad it is just grouchy that I seem to them. It doesn’t take long for my parents to goad me into a lather. Even a few members of clergy have received “the glare” and my personal threat of intended dental harm. I sat Kaldi’s on Main Street in Cincinnati recently, and instead of enjoying one of my favorite spots in the world, a cup of the best joe and a musty book, I found myself doing what I promised myself I would no longer do – angry about a life that wouldn’t work itself out the way with which I felt comfortable and writing about it in my journal. Choosing to do what was right over and over again was the worst way I could humble myself. My anger management program had consisted for the most part of stuffing things all back inside where I had chose to be outwardly silent. I was burnt out, angry, and wishing I had been more selfish.

This Lewisian literature onto which I had stumbled caused me to come to a complete pause. It asked of me this: What are some of the reasons I fear giving my life completely to God? I can’t remember not knowing Him, and yet can find many reasons. So I asked myself the seemingly easy question. The fears, word for word, were something like this.

1. I will do so and be left with nothing but wait. Empty, frustrating, unbelievable wait.

2. All of the things I have worked so hard on about myself would become nothing. Complete crap. All the really great parts of my soul that I have come to like and the others I have learned to live with in peace would no longer mean anything to me, and I will ultimately have to relearn to like myself all over again.

3. I would end up having to be thrown into a duty of a “holy emptiness,” and not experience anything I desire, and these desires would mean nothing to anyone, not even me anymore.

4. I fear my natural self is my real self. I don’t know who I’d be without it.

5. I don’t really know who I am in God. I have an idea, and beliefs, but often can’t find the faith to actually know.

In reflection of what Lewis stated, I asked myself yet another question, which dealt with pointing out areas of my life am I reluctant to give over. These, though few like rooms in a house yet in which to be lived, were such large places in my soul.

1. Being a wife and mother.
I hold onto this dream so tightly. I work at my inward and outward beauty with self-criticism and little benefit thinking I might be noticed by someone. And it’s a horrible and unhealthy cycle. A cycle with which I am completely done.

2. The direction of my life.
I’ve planned. I’ve projected and worked hard. I’ve said I would do things I haven’t even started because I’ve I managed to find myself lost in the day-to-day shuffle, and over time this doesn’t match up with my plans and dreams. I have spent too much time at the hand of my own expectations, and I am done with this frustration, too.

3. My anger.
I work too hard. I try to be good. Yet find I am only an unpleasant shadow of myself. With this, I am done as well. What I had also found here in answering with these three confessions were the reasons why God wants to kill my natural self. Like him, I wanted to kill these reasons. My own “doing” had created nothing but burden.

“But across the fractured landscape
I find the same things

Tired ideas
Birds without wings”

I have been guilty, as I think we all might be, of pouring myself out only to present Him an empty package. When I look, I see more than one devoted mother/insomniac/people-fixer, including my own, taking pills to keep themselves together. I see men without fathers, again like my own, in a quest for fatherhood yet losing themselves in the abstract of dealing with who they are. Day after day, my friends, as I have done, press themselves through the meat grinder of their dreams at jobs they detest believing they would merit something back. I see other individuals I love choose to stay alone because of their fear of love. All of us “do.” We scrape the bows of trees for twigs and bark to gird the fragile nest of our own making. We give him only the part of that tries dealing with the whirlwind of confusions that snap at us like wild animals in this nest of our minds.

“Angry sun burn down
Judging us all
Guilty of neglect and disrespect
And thinking small”

I went back to that disturbing piece of Lewisian literature that struck me so, and I have started to care a bit less. What I have found is the opposite end of being and its bearable lightness. As birds without wings we don’t need nests. We shouldn’t begin to care about the feathers on our back. “Love God and do whatever you wish,” as Martin Luther says. As I wake in the morning, I have found that my only job, when I find those wild animals bounding at me, is to push them back, to welcome the slow concentration of presence, and to let His voice come through. And while I let my dreams and desires fall from the nest of our own making, tumble from my tree to be taken on the wings of eagles. Maybe I am that much closer to insanity, but I am not sure what my fears mean about me now.

“Take for a while
The trumpet from your lips
Loosen your hold, loosen your grip
On your old ways
That have fallen out of step
In a changing time
Hoist a new flag”

- E N D -


(from 2002)

“We are poised by the superstition of our ego.”
-Ellsworth Toohey, from Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’

I drive to Port Huron often. The long drives pull me through pasture and rolling farmland to the shore another country, a place were no one knows who I am. For the past year or so on these steady, streaming flights I’ve been listening to the soft, fluttering voices of the Cocteau Twins and letting their ethereal melodies lift the air beneath me, bringing me to a high that can only be compared to feeling of being in love. Yet when I return, I approach home through the mudslide of the declining sun, restless soul pressed into the melancholic spindling of the Counting Crows, barely moving at full throttle with Adam Duritz’s voice as the gravity. I run away in search of some sort of wonder-filled peace only because I have found the still small voice of God there before, yet many times I return feeling shaken from a deep sleep, my subconscious bare and my emotions irresolute.

I did this today. After making the trip more worthwhile by spending a few hours with a college friend and her sires, I drove to a park near the Blue Water bridge, sat my chair in the grass and watched the white caps wrestle with the tiny boats in the St. Clair River. I opened Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead,’ and became consumed with the justification of dynamics within it. Lawsuits about the misappropriation of ideas. People marrying people for which they never cared in order to serve other people. Others losing jobs because the expendability of artistic reason. The selfcentered anguish of life decisions gone wrong. My blood pressure went up, and I got anxious. I realized that I was escaping back into reality. Yet I stopped only to pick up my own pen. Something was circling. Something was moving.

There is a small section in the book where Ellsworth Toohey’s niece, Katie, comes to him in a tearful crisis, wanting to know why all of her noble choices have turned into the unfulfilled efforts and the hatred of others. He listens paternally to her rants of self-centered anguish. When she is finished, her uncle he told her to forget who she was, her name, her soul. He told her to do anything to kill the stubborn roots of the ego. And then only when she had let go of everything she ever knew, the spiritual gates of grandeur would swing open before her. She asked innocently who she would be when that happened. He told her that she actually would not have lost her identity, and at that time if she didn’t think too hard she would truly believe. Then she would be part of something beyond herself. She understood. I picked up my journal and scribbled hurriedly as Adam sang:

Fading everything to black and blue/you look a lot like you could shatter in the blink of an eye/you keep sailing right on’ve been waiting a long time/you’ve been waiting a long time/to fall down/on your knees/cut your hands/cut yourself until you bleed/and fall asleep next to me.”

I have a friend who can’t understand my masochism, takes a hit of Zanax when things are out of control, yet has this amazing grasp of reality. She doesn’t understand why those of us who have grown up together, desperately endeavoring not to be the one in the every four crazies of our disheveled, fundamentalist beginnings, try so hard to do something which should be so easy. I see both sides of the manic-ness, only to remember the look in Jesus’ eye in the film ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ when the angel came to him and said he could get down from the cross. That filmmaker’s Jesus knew too much. That Jesus made a decision to get down. I am glad my Jesus didn’t. He stuck it out, struck through by metal and wood, suffering with wet lungs and nakedness. He traveled to hell and back, a place were we often flippantly claim to go, to obtain a life beyond what we could offer ourselves as well as procure communion with the living God.

I sat beneath a concert tent a week ago with a friend who is not unlike a unique vintage from God’s secret wine cellar. My friend ferments, bettering with age, and at least once each year I try to pull a bottle of him off the shelf for a tip up. And he thinks that I am cool. As we talked in our lawn chairs, I told him I had noticed a change in him, that his sharp edges were worn down and he was smoother. He said that he was more comfortable in his own skin, and he knew the depths of his pridefulness. He was happy with who he was and was contented in the surrender to his current life status. I spilled my dissatisfaction with the chaotic circumstances that surround my peaceful innerworkings. He smiled as he remarked about how interesting it would be to see where my life would be a year from that night. We grew quiet about how much more there would be to say.

The following is what I wrote in my journal today. “I think my vintage friend has found a secret most ignore or are never brave enough to experience. Eggs must break to have the finest of pastries. Old bricks and small stones become concrete. Self-deconstruction must happen not just to know the compass of your pompousness but to know the “I” before you say “I love you.” Post-adolescent angst, pain, and suffering must happen. The deconstruction of unlearning must happen to everything in order to bring not just a grasp on who you are in your own skin, but the realization of belief in the truth. Being the truth.”

- END -