Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sun, Shadows and Facebook Forgiveness

I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong

And falling down on your knees asking for sympathy
And being caught in between all you wish for and all you seen

And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in

There are many things that don't work themselves out. For me it at times has been friendships. There is that finality from being dumped by a "boyfriend" which is on one level. On a deeper level for me there is having someone who fills in the shadows punctuating them with humor, love and possessing a personalized platonic soothing no longer speak to you over years. There have been, without making this sound like an autobiographical eulogy, many rays of light in my life that play against one another, infusing me validation and attaching this light to my soul. When one beam drops away, I feel their cold, empty shadow inside sometimes for years.

May gods love be with you

May gods love be with you

I instigated the first one. I had seen this person's tiny electronic pop around on Facebook, feeling a fuzzy, achy static electricity inside. It had been over two years since I had spoken to the person and I still felt the humiliation of being stood up in a crowded breakfast place downtown, waiting and waiting as I occupied one of two coveted seats—one for me and one for her. I sat. I called. I sat there for over an hour until my mind began to piece together the un-returned phone calls and unanswered notes. A week later, giving this person time to call me back, I left an angry, questioning phone message. I didn't understand and the situation became painful to think about. My wedding came and went with no other contact. So after I pressed send on a message of forgiveness to to ease the static inside and give the grief rest, it was a day or two before a custom written apology appeared. And there it was, a wedding invitation to her own.

I know I would apologize if
I could see your eyes
cause when you showed me myself
I became someone else

But I was caught in between all you wish for and all you need
I picture you fast asleep
A nightmare comes

You cant keep awake

The second apology came out of the blue via a dream. A former co-worker I had been close to in a needs-to-be-forgotten professional life send me a message saying she had a dream about me. She saw us laughing and talking intimately once again and this is how she knew she needed to say she was sorry for abandoning or friendship. Back then we had fallen into a professional spiral of silences and the distance made me not know where I stood with her. There the apology was in my inbox, and I was delighted at her request for forgiveness. All I could do was feel grateful that I was valued and deserving of the request. I had surmised that in the great before I was professionally unfashionable to be friends with and she had shed me in an act of self-preservation. But all that was gone as we exchanged written accounts of how our life is right now.

May gods love be with you

May gods love be with you

I do have one friend that I don't know if things will ever return to that quality of closeness. She penned a breezy note to me inquiring about my family over the message inbox. I was still pained by the past, and although I passed on the events of the past dozen years I ended the return message with an attached honesty that likely did not settle well with her. I have yet to receive a reply but minutes ago I penned this, "I did not expect to feel that emotional in my last message about something that happened so long ago. It appears I still may have some letting go to do. I regret that I may have offended you. I know that the situation was not your fault and that you may have feelings about it, too." And I pressed 'send'.

'Cause if i find
If i find my own way
How much will i find
If i find
If i find my own way
How much will i find

I miss my friends: the college friend, the best friend from high school, the painter friend in Nashville. There are times I feel the shadows, especially when these friendships are lost in the train wreck before apology meets forgiveness. Perhaps Christ meant that when you forgive someone 77 times, you help them not to experience the place where His spirit has lived mending the hollow spaces and painful wreckage, and help them to experience the joy and peace of letting go.

I don't know anymore
What it's for
I'm not even sure
If there is anyone who is in the sun
Will you help me to understand
'Cause i been caught in between all I wish for and all I need
Maybe you're not even sure what it's for
Any more than me

I talked to an old friend recently. I told him how embarrassed I was of my own self in the past, when I had lacked the listening skills and lost in my own fearful dealings with control in my life and dolled out advice or direction with my own spin of empathy. I think many people may only view me in one way because of this and that way is that I am harsh, bossy and a bit of a know-it-all. The truth is more like that Bob Dylan lyric,"...I was so much older then." I regret my own potential for mistakes, my own noisy way of elbowing my way into self worth and how it may have distanced me from those I truly value. For those who love me, I thank you for transferring your grace. For those whom are still feeling my stinging ways, I hope our story is yet undone.

May God's love be with you
May God's love be with you

* In the Sun by Joseph Arthur (click to listen)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black Metals and Pearls

Come on children

You're acting like children
Every generation thinks
its the end of the world

And all ya fat followers
Get fit fast
Every generation thinks it's the last
thinks its the end of the world*

Certainly the hard times have been magnified and our politicians have blackened our eyes here in the Magic Mitten. I can't figure out if this outstretched hand we live in is a "Come take advantage of us some more, we can't help being suckers." or a "Please help us, we are desperate." My husband, as did many others, lost his dream job last year and our 5-7 year plan has grown to a 7-10 year plan. Recently on the road to Chicago, using up the very last of his travel bonus points, we dug into our Wilco CDs, anticipating a new kindle from Tweedy. When I heard the lyrics to the bands newest release, I could not help but think of where my husband is in his career.

Yes dream down a well
There's a lone heavy hell
I don't care anymore
I don't care anymore
It's a feeling we transcend
We're here at the end
I don't care anymore
I don't care anymore
You never know

You can pretty much track his career by the transitions in advertising media technology. He began his career as a keyliner and then came desktop publishing. He became a producer as a result and now even that has been digitized by job tracking systems on the client and vendor side. He's not sure what to do next, and his realism transitions like the lyrics of the song. The childhood dream of living The Dick Van Dyke Show is just a worn-out, jaded fantasy. Looking for meaning in the second half of his life, he wants someone to believe in him, to give him a message that there is something to do and have the faith in him to complete this unknown vocation.

Many women have been in my position over the past year or so: bringing home the bacon, frying it in a pan and not being able to let your spouse forget he's a man. At times, the stress ends up thick around your middle in more cortysol and less portion control. It is not all that fun and freeing for yourself nor the man sitting at home. That Laura Petrie character from the show is a fascinating artifact that should be documented in a museum. I want to tell her that her fancy of women's liberation will only end in this year of 2009 in a screwed up economy of women holding on to jobs for the sheer fact that corporations have gotten away for decades with paying them less and that men like Rob will be left behind. Men need this architypal sense of vocation for the sake of their masculinity, and I respect this need. I really want my husband to feel like the world needs him again.

Francis Ford Coppola used to work as a youngster at a Western Union office in Italy. He would paste the telegraphed messages to cardboard and deliver them on his bicycle. In a recent issue of Esquire magazine, he told the story of how he did something terrible to his father out of love.

"...I knew the name of the head of Paramount Pictures' music department — Louis Lipstone. So I wrote, "Dear Mr. Coppola: We have selected you to write a score. Please return to L. A. immediately to begin the assignment. Sincerely, Louis Lipstone." And I glued it and I delivered it. And my father was so happy. And then I had to tell him that it was fake. He was totally furious... I know why I did it: I wanted him to get that telegram. We do things for good reasons that are bad."

I want my husband to get a communication like that message, that someone to believes in him and has faith in him to complete this unknown vocation. I want him to get that message so badly that it came up physically in my yoga practice, as tension that had built up in my body, which I let go as prayer. Yet I know that message can only be un-buried from within himself. We all have to at the end of all of this ruination to find the God-given strength to believe in ourselves more than we believe in the American Dream.

I had stopped by the book store before my yoga class to pick up a book for my husband. It was a manual to get him started on something new that I hope will keep him a few steps ahead. I want to let him know with strains of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" in my heart that it is not the end of the world because, well, you never know.

Come on kids
You're acting like children
Act your age
Put back the black metals and pearls
All ya sword-swallowers pull yourselves together
Every generation thinks its the worst
Thinks it's the end of the world

It's a secret I can't tell
There's a wish down a well
I don't care anymore
I don't care anymore
It's a long heavy hell
Super-size it by 10
I don't care anymore
I don't care anymore
You never know
You never know


* You Never Know by Wilco (click to listen)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Gag Reflex

legs scream at bikes
and bikes scream at trucks

and motorists curse their lousy luck
crossing guard's not doing his job

and traffic's not about to stop

for the first casualty of thought

it's the rules it's the rules*

“He can do that for hours,” Linda described the focus her 2 year old son, Cooper, maintained as he roared his toy car round and around the edges and over the lumps of fabric of the family love seat. His concentration was immense for someone so small.

I was sitting with her daughter Audrey with Audrey’s feet on me, waiting for tiny blue toenails to dry. It was our little ritual that happened each time I was over. Audrey gets her nails done while mom and the rest of the girlfriends get caught up. Audrey was joyously eating a chocolate chip cherry oatmeal cookie one of us had brought. Then her face tautened with alarm, the way that major tragedies do with almost 4-year-olds.

“I don’t like it.” Audrey pulled a half chewed cherry out of her mouth. I took it from her hand and placed it on the towel on my lap.

“Sorry, she inherited her father’s gag reflex with certain things,” Linda apologized. I didn’t mind it, I was glad it was out and not working itself back up. I thought briefly of what the girlfriend/maker of the gourmet cookies spent on the cherries: time, money and talent. When Audrey was done, four shiny, mangled, leathery cherries gathered on my lap.

Lately we’ve reached out from under all of this snow to spend time with friends over wine and good food under kitchen candlelight. Having people over or going to their home feels like Christmas and a vacation all at the same time. The reach has felt good, like a long yawn and stretch following a long afternoon nap.

A few Saturdays ago a couple that stood up in our wedding came by for paella and garnacha. We ate and ate, watched obscure Roxy Music footage and played Scrabble. Over the evening they revealed their doubts about their faith, how they were in the process of figuring out who Christ was and is for them: difficulty with the red letter words of Jesus and the council of Nicea was what I heard. Raised in the church and after a long absence during their marriage they had reentered a faith community only to exit it and seemingly regretting the awkwardness this created in their friendships there. As my husband and I listened, the quote from Say Anything played through my head where Lloyd Dobler talks about what he wants to do in his life.

"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."

I told my dear girlfriend that I was glad she was in the process of rediscovering her faith. I, too, was secretly tired of being oversold by the religious right because it had become in the public eye exactly what the movie described: not love.

superfarmer's bent on the cover of time
the moralist screams he's all mine
so the bard isn't doing her job

the vacuum night

the darkest rites
the small quarantined thoughts

it's the rules it's the rules

People have kidnapped portions of our culture and very little has been done to supply a ransom let alone a rescue mission scheduled. It's difficult to express anything about this time in history without feeling a general sense of disappointment. Disappointment has become the rule of the day, expressed as the simplest of personal actions. For those of us who lived by the rules before, the rules have shifted to a more astringent form and it almost feels as we are being punished for others and their living off the rails for a long time. At what time do you speak up? To whom? Will they listen?

I had recently stumbled across a blog of someone condemning the practice of yoga and thus the moniker Christian yoga. I was baffled by the superiority of someone so little acquainted with my own reality. It was an old post, and I doubt the individual even read my response. Yet I was not stopped. I wrote the following:

"First, yoga cannot be called "Christian" any more than an apple, a collection of music or a calendar can. Only people can be Christian, and to say that the product of their efforts is "Christian" is to lessen the objectivity of being called by the name of Christ. Secondly, Yoga was developed by Hindus, yes, yet there are other practices to which people who are Christians devote their efforts, and the religion of the creator is not called into question. Football. Baseball. Basketball. Soccer. Lacrosse. If you research the origins of these games, some of them have primitive, dark, ritualistic roots based in what can be termed "paganism". And should we dump psychoanalysis because it was developed by scientists with no devotion to religion of any kind? Lastly, as a Christian and a yoga (little "y") teacher, the foundation of the practice is religion-less, seeker oriented and essentially healthy as well as morally challenging. Please take the time to research the yamas and niyamas as well as the rest of the 8 limbs of ashtanga before committing an opinion. Often Christians make too many assumptions without effective research to develop an observation due to fear of contamination. It is with respect I write this post."

So many people have taken a piece of Christ over past and present history that his image has become like the bloodied corpse that was taken from the cross. It felt like and continues to feel like that moment. I don't blame my dear friends for harboring doubt. We stand outside little Cooper's circular, certain, childlike intensity, the same effort we see in those that are content to move in seeming effortlessness through the mainstreams of faith. For many of us, like Audrey, the sweet delicacy of life has become an un-chewable, over-sweet, meaty mess that just won't go down. Discontent breeds disinterest in mainstream thought and deep longing for truth. For many like my dear friends and me the nights are lengthy and we crave a dose of empathy as well as honesty.

salesman says this vacuum's guaranteed
it could suck an ancient virus from the sea
it could put the dog out of a job

could make the traffic stop
so little thoughts
can safely get across

it's the rules it's the rules
guaranteed or not it's the rules

I think back to the character, that young hero Lloyd Dobler, and his simple, well thought out request of life and how that was tested. He also said to his Joe obsessed friend in a moment of doubt:

You probably got it all figured out, Corey. If you start out depressed everything's kind of a pleasant surprise.

I don't want life to be what it is now. I don't think any of us do. After all, what comes after the choking sensation driven by irresponsibility and assumption? Gord Downie's tongue-in-cheek, lyrical sarcasm from the song above calls into question how this has been steadily filtered into our lives and grown roots of compromise. I am not going to be oversold by something that guarantees my unseen language of feelings and thought and, yes, doubt gets verbalized and communicated. I don't want life to exist in a haze so that the small miracles I encounter become just a "Huh!" and a smile. I can't let the mediocrity of those who un-fruitedly claim to be experts or self-righteously deem themselves (religious or not) knowledgeable enough to deliver some interpretation of history or implant some idea to pass off as truth influence my heart's honest reality or my quest for principle. I don't want my faith in Christ to be something served to me and un-digestable, casting dark shadows over others who do not believe as I do when truly all I and those who genuinely feel called by His name want to do is love.

It's time to re-write the rules.

Board the plane. Be seated. Clasp hands. Lift off.



*from The Rules by The Tragically Hip (click to listen)