Friday, March 27, 2015

Easter Poems - Last Words

Copyright 2010, Matt Durbin
For the next week, poems I wrote in response to the last seven things Jesus is recorded as saying are being shared as part of Jody Thomae's Create-a-Day Virtual Art-Walk. These poems, for me, were entrance into verses in Scripture that for me began to feel worn down by ritual and repetition. I wanted to experience these moments anew, for myself.

The poems are paired with artwork by Matt Durbin, who painted them in response to the verses as well.

I hope you will follow along!

Virtual Art-Walk Day 1
Virtual Art-Walk Day 2

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

War and Peace and Devotion and David and Goliath

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 12 books in 2015. That's one a month - totally reasonable, I figured. I like to read.

That was before I discovered audiobooks.

I finished two books yesterday - Devotion by Dani Shapiro and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I've always wanted to read Russian novels but never took a Russian lit class where they were required, and the heft and weight of books like War and Peace intimidated me. Who has time to read War and Peace, and how good is it really? War, after all. I don't like war.

I loved War and Peace. I loved its characters and its ebb and flow between scene and dialogue and essayistic reflections on war and human nature, I loved Tolstoy's astute assessments of character and the inner workings of men and women, I loved the relationships and the interactions and the "tragic humor" of Russians, I loved it soo much I didn't want to get out of the car after my commute to and from work. I am so happy for the characters in the novel and so sad that it's over.

I started listening to Devotion by Dani Shapiro when for two whole days, I couldn't renew War and Peace. I also loved Devotion, which is not a Russian novel, but we can't ALL be Leo Tolstoy, amIright or amIright? I loved Devotion for its honesty and self-exploration, for its wrestling with matters of faith and its resolution without resolution, for Shapiro's sincerity of pursuit and her desire to comprehend matters of faith and devotion in the midst of suffering and uncertainty.

This morning, I began listening to David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, and I am loving that, too, already. I love books. Books books books, all day, reading reading reading. With my usual hour or so commute, plus a ten minute walk to and from my car during which I continue listening to whatever I'm listening to currently, I get in a solid 140 minutes of "reading" a day.

This gives me about 700 minutes a week of reading time, a little under 11 hours each week. Gladwell and Shapiro's books are each about 7 hours long, which means I could conceivably finish at least a book a week this year, so long as I don't sign up for many more Russian novels (the unabridged War and Peace clocked in at a mere 61 hours).

Twelve books in 2015. Psha.

What I love about books - all books, whether novel or self-help or spiritual or nonfiction or poetry - is the power they have to make me a different person. By reading these stories and listening to these people share their personal accounts or fictitious accounts or contemporary assessments of life, I discover with every book yet another sliver of humanity. Another example of the connectedness of our species. Another witness to the fact that we are all wrestling, we are all stretching, we are all striving for understanding. We are not alone, and behind each book is a person telling us so, sharing part of his or her story. We are built out of story and live through story, we find meaning through story. Sharing our stories with each other defines who we are. Reading other people's stories shows us humanity.

Also, I can't stand morning radio talk shows.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

That Time of the Month

There have been a grand total of about 36 months of my adult life (let's say, after 17 or so) that I have not worried about, wondered if, hoped for, stressed over, prayed for or prayed against being pregnant. My reproductive history is such that I get pregnant when I don't want to be pregnant, don't get pregnant when I want to be pregnant, and put up reproductive barriers to avoid getting pregnant only for one persistent little ovum and eager little sperm to unite anyway, so any time things are running a few days behind my anticipated "schedule," I freak out a little bit. Okay, a lot.

What if I'm pregnant? WHAT IF I'M PREGNANT?!

I've had a tubal, even, and we are officially, officially done with the baby-making business. Please tell me I'm not alone in this matter, girlfriends. I realize probably the combination of a tubal and this fear catapult me into a whole other category of neurotic, but surely you've been there. The monthly "friend," as we call her, is not a very reliable visitor. She's all tied up to other hormonal functions I don't quite understand, so I don't really want her to just go away. It seems extreme to have a tubal and to take birth control just to regulate that crazy girl, especially when those pills destroyed my complexion and altered my moods.

Add to her irregular visitations and my irrational fear of pregnancy the unfair fact that for about two or three days each month I turn into a needy, anxious, sensitive, sad little girl who only wants to be adored and complimented because she can't imagine ever feeling beautiful or happy again, so please just love me love me love me. And when that time passes, and I emerge on the other side, I look back at that sad, anxious person and wonder what the heck was wrong with her, how could I ever feel like that, who is she, anyway?

The temptation, during those angry, sad, and anxious days preceding That Time of the Month, is to say, "Oh, it's just PMS." But it's still two or three sad and anxious days (or longer, sometimes) a month, completely out of my control, that spin me in a thousand directions of feeling needy, then feeling angry that no one is filling my emotional gulf, then feeling ashamed at my neediness, then feeling bitter that I'm still sad and needy, then asking why no one loves me the way I need to be loved right this instant, then asking am I worthy of love, and then WHAT IF I'M PREGNANT?! and so on in a slow death spiral that ruins my psychological state of being for two or three days a month. Just two or three days a month. But... two or three whole days a month!

When I finally moved beyond PMS to That Time of the Month earlier this week, balanced hormonally and back in the beautiful and happy place, Lydia asked me why my stomach hurt. I decided, for some reason, that it was time to introduce the Period. I told her that it happens to all women. I told her she probably won't need to worry about it happening until she's around 12 or so, since that's when my period started. When she asked about what you have to do I told her about pads. When she asked why, I told her that it's related to having babies, and that women are the miracle bearers of carrying children, and that the menstrual cycle is the releasing of an egg that holds the potential to become a child, every month, the potential to become a child, and that led into the Dad's role and WOAH PEOPLE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SEX NOW, that most intimate of acts, and I am blushing, and she thinks it's so weird but okay, whatever, Mom, I'm going to my softball evaluation.

Whew. That's over. Not really, though - we have entered the age of talking about sex, gradually, discussing body parts and what they do and why they do them. We all have bodies. Our bodies are different. They do different things. They make babies together. I don't want this to be weird and awkward, and the best way to remove fear and awkwardness is to talk about it until it isn't awkward anymore.

That Time of the Month--after I am through it and back in the beautiful, happy place--amazes me. This thing that happens to me each month is the very beginnings of human life. It is my most intimate tie to the Creator of the universe. It is my most intimate tie to the earth and the moon with its strange gravitational pull on our bodies that moves a woman's seed into cycle or body into labor. It is my most intimate tie to my husband, that urge to become one with another human being, to love and to be loved, to create new life yes but also to maintain a deep and mysterious connectedness unique to this marriage relationship, tied bodily and emotionally and spiritually and legally, all expressed by this giving and receiving of each other.

The fear that shakes me in those days preceding my period exists because all of these other things are real and true. I fear that I may be pregnant because God has done crazier things in history to bring about a baby (e.g., Jesus). I fear that I may be pregnant because the body and its systems are mysterious functions of breaking and healing and more bizarre odds have been beaten before when people have tried to stop having children. I fear that I may be pregnant because I know that my husband would freak out, that it would change our lives, again, that it would be scary and risky given my three c-sections. I fear that I may be pregnant because I have three people we've created together already who are beautiful strange amazing miracles and, wow, can you imagine another beautiful strange amazing miracle? This last is my secret awe, my secret fear--that I might defy all odds and rationale and medical exactitude and be pregnant again, that my body insists upon it, that I might get to bear this miracle again.

I used to just want to know, God, give me the exact times and dates of my children's births, the exact days numbered out for me, but nothing has ever gone the way I thought it would. The more I seek to know the more I see is mystery. It is the mystery of God and the mysteries of life that propel me forward in awe and wonder, propel out of fear and into love.

Eventually this cycle and potential for life creation will end and with it will come a whole other host of life changes I can't even imagine and have no desire to research right now. There will be certainty: no, no more children. There is no chance you will conceive again. This little bug of uncertainty that flickers about around me those few days before That Time of the Month will burn out. I wish for it and I don't wish for it.

The body is a crazy and mysterious creature, Lydia. Be afraid and don't be afraid.

Back in Time:
2014: I Don't Read Postcards from Hell
2013: Instructions for Crazy
2012: First World Problems: An Encounter with Infomercials
2011: Mercy Me, It's Broccoli
2010: Size Six...
2009: Homecoming