What if I had got this Christianity thing wrong and when we died, we all went to some beautiful land where everyone was their best self and no one did anything hurtful and everything was happy ever after - but Jesus wasn't there? Perhaps there was even a God there, but He was a Force or even a Super-Being, but he wasn't the Jesus of the Bible - not that whole Saviour on a cross Son of God thing.
What would I do? How would I feel about that? After all, I'd be in the most beautiful place ever, and I'd know that everything had come out alright, and all the people I loved would be there. And there would only be good things happening. And there would be endless interesting things to know and do. And happiness ever after.
But no Jesus.
Just think about it.
Lots of things to do.
But no Jesus, Lord of Glory.
I've thought about it. If He isn't there, it would be an emptiness that ten thousand million billion people couldn't fill. If I can't be with Him, all the lovely in the universe could never substitute. If the imagination of such an afterlife crushes your soul to tears, then you know where your love is. If it doesn't sound too bad, then maybe being a Christian isn't really where you're at right now.
My father died on Rosh Hashanah last year, before dawn.
This morning I woke up from a dream where I realized the interpretation
was that I had been living in a house full of half made repairs and
open gaps in the joinery. Grass had grown along the windows and snakes
were exploring from under the sills. I received that from my father, never
make it right, just make it good enough to leave for now and promise
something better later.
Time isn’t the enemy, it’s a kind of hypnosis that persons who hate you use to keep you occupied with other things until it’s too late.
The very first post-it note I put on the wall was Ephesians 5:14,
Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."
Sometimes it's you who hates you, sometimes it's your family or friends - although they really and truly have no consciousness of it, and sometimes it's just the world hating you, because you aren't who or what they wanted - yet, there you are, nonetheless.
So, over a year later, there IS a second one! H'ray!
First up, a little aperitif from The Cars, back in 1978. If ever I get to live my life over, à la Peggy Sue Got Married, then I'm going to this concert.
The Cars, Live at the Agora, 1978 - All Mixed Up
She shadows me in the mirror She never leaves on the light And some things that I say to her They just don't seem to bite
She tricks me into thinkin' I can't believe my eyes I wait for her forever But she never does arrive
She's always out makin' pictures She's always out makin' scenes She's always out the window When it comes to makin' dreams
She says to leave it to me (Leave it to me) Everything'll be alright (be alright) She says to leave it to me (Leave it to me) Everything'll be alright
Do you hear the song of the snake charmer in that sax solo? The snake charming act isn't about hypnotising a snake, it's about seeing how gullible you are and how much the charmer can steal from you while you're fixated on the snake (the "problem".) Lots of drama and danger and promises, and while you "leave it to [them]", they've stolen your emotional strength, irreplaceable time and life, and all your money.
File under: Things it's taken 50 years to learn.
Okay then, what else have I got...
Everything old is new again, at least in the art world, you just have to find the reference. Our little city, like so many, I'm sure, has become plagued blessed with large animal sculptures. They're sold as being unique but, truthfully, that's horribly expensive and artists don't work for free. Unfortunately, there's google now, and you just have to go online to find where they all are, but the rhinos and lions and bulls and horses we have are just riffs on a theme that started long ago.
I stumbled upon this postcard on Etsy, the only one I can find with both the rhino and the bull in the image.
Here's a lovely little article on them and where they are now. Sometimes people are very convinced that artists create, but I can find no evidence of that at all. Artists take what they've seen and heard and express it all again for someone else to see and hear. Witnesses, teachers, artists, and evangelists are all in the same trade.
Oh, also, I stumbled across an interesting rabbit trail on youtube this morning, a cluster of wedding videos from Africa! Start here and explore for yourself, everyone's video is the "best ever" so you'll just have to persist and be patient. I'm guessing they were for the most part countries in West or Central Africa, French is spoken in some videos, for others the posts and comments are all in English, but I haven't gone digging to find all the details, I just enjoyed the dancing!
They're great! Apparently, large wedding parties are preferred, and everyone dances down the aisle to music. I could tell that the dance isn't about showing out (as my granny would say), but an exercise of infusing the ceremony and the people with the riches of joy and celebration that the families possess within themselves. Western style dress everywhere, but the traditional style of dance is brought in subtly and I have no idea of the finer points. The men seem to be more about power and refinement with their leg and foot work, and the women seem to weave a garment of music into the air itself.
You might like, you might pick up a step, but, best of all, you'll pick up a happy vibe. As for me, I've found a whole new stream of music! The videos don't always list the music, but that's no reason to quit trying, once you find one, you'll find more. iTunes is useless for this, I haven't tried amazon yet, but I will. Being wedding music, it's happy, or romantic, or praise music, so it's a great entry point for me.
I found this artist and, um, obtained this song already. Just my style, because the one he's singing about is the same One I already know. He's not a doctrine, not a philosophy, not an archetype, not an it. He Is - the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I was listening to Dana Morningstar’s weekly livestream on YouTube about two weeks ago and someone in the comments section finally tagged the right name for my father’s relationship to me, to Maggie, to all of us in my family of origin: resentment. I’ve been trying for years to figure out what that slow simmer of love, confusion, and back handing that he would never acknowledge really was, and so far this is the best explanation.
Of course, if one is resentful, it isn’t just anger, it’s also entitlement, it’s self justification, it’s the slow burn from lying to yourself and everyone else, all of whom should have been clearly informed of the offenses so they could have made it right. But, in our house, nobody was ever wrong, everybody was very nice, and the offenses and assumed graces just kept piling up.
While looking for something else just now, I came across an old notebook where I had kept notes about repentance (my own). It seemed like I never could completely and finally get rid of “oughts” I had against so many “any.” [Mark 11:25 KJV “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”]. I was always having such trouble leaving the former things behind and pressing on to the new that I would constantly be circling back to forgiving everyone everything. It didn’t really matter, I just wanted to walk away free. Along with asking my church elders to cast demons out of me, forgiveness is one of the scriptural paths for a believer to break free of what’s holding them back. I had no clue whatsoever of what was holding me back, but I wanted to get away from it!
(My church elders never did cast any demons out. They didn’t have the therapy skills to discern what was wrong with me, but they did have the spiritual discernment to know I didn’t have any demons, either. A mixed blessing, but a great blessing, nonetheless.)
This is what I wrote about 20-something years ago about an incident with my father. I’m sharing it here because it’s full of bits and insights that I had no framework to contain it at the time and still maintain the familial relationship. I didn’t have categories like “emotional abuse” or “codependency” to filter events and emotions thru back then. None of us did.
“When I was still living at [E.....] and Dad’s marriage to [wife #2] was still new, I remember that he was becoming more and more distant in his relationship with me. When he was single, he had sometimes treated me as tho I were Mother, several times introducing me to people as “my wife, M[aggie].” I would correct it, but he would say he hadn’t done it! I remember the night it all came to a head for me. I hadn’t seen Dad for a couple of weeks and it was getting on towards holiday season. There was something wrong with the house and he said he would come over and look at it. [He was my landlord. The washing machine wouldn’t drain and was overflowing onto the kitchen floor. It had been doing this for awhile.] When he got there, he was angry that he had to be there at all. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me and would not look at me in the face. He never even took his coat off and made it clear that the problem was my problem and not his concern. It was a coldness and anger and humiliation by association that he had always displayed towards Mother that he was now blasting full force at me. I remember being so confused and stunned speechless. There was nothing to do but take it. As he rushed out the door without a hug or a kind word, and slamming it behind him, it was then I knew that the special relationship I had always though we had was just a lie. He had used me as an emotional buffer against Mother. I was there to vent his frustration with her on and to make him feel adored, truly lovable, and innocent. He hadn’t really wanted to spend time with me, that was just bait to keep me on the line. Now he had a new wife and a new life and I wasn’t required anymore. I was, in all truth, an unpleasant reminder. [Of a bad marriage, a failed family, of not being the trophy child he thought he was getting.] I remember locking the door after him and completely breaking down. It was the first time I would cry the same tears I would cry again when used and thrown away by [Boyfriend #2] and [Boyfriend #3]."
I moved five hours away two months later. It was about 18 months after that before he ever called to see how I was doing. Another 3-4 years before he came to visit. I remember our first conversation here, I was so freezing cold with nervousness my teeth were chattering. I couldn’t control it. I was trying to talk to a stranger and not frighten him off - and he was my Dad! I loved him, I trusted him, I had always thought he was my friend, but the crazy truth was he was always running some secondary agenda that I could feel, but wouldn’t know about until later.
The wretched truth is those secondary agendas he thought he was managing came back around to kill him when he became ill. Wife #3 always had her agenda, too, and she never stopped working it.
We were related, but we were never family again. Stupid, foolish, naive me knew that, and just the same kept hoping right past the end that maybe I was wrong. There’s nothing like cleaning out old papers and tallying up the estate accounts to make it clear, tho. Believe me, this isn’t what he thought he was doing. He thought he had every old grudge contained and every person isolated into their own little lane, but he was outfoxed by someone who had done it more often and so much better.
This hasn’t been pleasant to write, when I have to go near the subject it feels like my insides get hollowed out a little bit more every time. It’s probably necessary to get the rot out, but I don’t want to make it a habit. Analogies, and people, do break at some point.
I was shopping for a rug (or something) to go above the bed and cover that hinky place in the wall, and after a while of blah, blah, blah, I found this.
5'x5', seems to be Uzbek (although ain't no tellin' who really made it these days), the blue, gold, and green are right, and the cinnamon is my fave shade of orange, but the thing that sold me on it was this article.
I'm not taking up shamanism by any means, but this description isn't a cult in direct opposition to the God I know. Sometimes you just have to work with what you do know. Remember, we (every one of us) only know God because He reveals Himself to us, not because we are clever and tracked Him down.
I've always wondered about the ancient history and people groups from east of Germany to, oh, west of Mongolia. Big area, I know, and lots of people and empires that never made it into my school books. I'll never go there now, I just don't have the willpower to endure that many planes, trains, and automobiles anymore. But, now that I've laid down the cash to get this rug, perhaps it will provoke me to find out more.
If you know something, say something in the comments.
I’m not completely heartless. When I got home tonight and opened the car door, the car that used to be my father’s, I caught a whiff of his scent. I think it was because of the rain, the humidity picked up his smell - but there was no “I love you, baby girl,” and no hug, and not even a hint of a lingering ghost to go with it. And there never will be again.
It’s been almost a year since last I saw him as his normal self, up and about and taking us out to dinner like always. When he waved goodbye to me as I left for home, I knew it was the last time I would ever see him do that. I knew it, but I wouldn’t dare say it lest I (hoping against all hope) might be wrong and jinx something. But, I was right. So then, now all I have is his car and a picture of him sitting on the porch.
I’ve got 30 years still to go. It will have to be enough.
Self Deception in Psychopathology, Jordan Peterson
I’ve been sifting thru this video for a few days, there’s not really a wasted word or thought in the whole video. It becomes absolutely fascinating about 30 minutes in with the dissection of the addiction loop in the brain and on thru the stories at the end of his lecture (54:30 to 1:09:06). It has a number of small repeats in the video, I think that is for messing up the digital censors, just keep going.
I was talking to a friend the other day who knows the frustrations I had with my mother, but not so much my father. We were talking books and I said my mother was all West Virginia Hillbilly Elegy crazed ferocity, and my father was all the Mississippi Delta brooding silence of William Faulkner’s “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Maggie would rage, but Dad would keep silent at all cost. And I do mean at all cost, no matter who paid or how much. You can rack up quite a bit when other people give you a lifetime of open credit - and then die first. Or just run away.
It’s great comfort to hear someone say that lying by omission is still lying, and that it causes its own grievious harm to all concerned. I learned the fine art of white lies from my father, it was the one defensive method he taught us all - just don’t engage, offer nothing, and divert the conversation elsewhere. It took me decades to realize he had been doing it to me, too, even though there were many years I barely saw him even once a year. What could he possibly gain by it, I never stood in his way!
I rather suspect that fear and deception becomes its own addictive loop in the brain after you practice it for awhile. Like other behavioral patterns, for a time you use it - and then it uses you.
This is also a good video if you’re thinking that Peterson is some sort of closeted Judeo-Christian apologist. He isn’t. He’s a psychologist in search of how the narratives we create to explain our experience as living beings over time relate to something called “reality.” I think that’s plenty enough to ask him to do well. That he is open to considering mythical paradigms, even what C.S. Lewis would call the “true myth” of the Biblical narrative, is its own small miracle.
I have to go to the farm today and retrieve the very last (I hope) of anything I want to bring home. I named this post Recalcitrance because I really don't like doing this anymore, but the second sentence in I'm thinking that's too harsh. I will go, I just don't want to go. By comparison to many other years of having to do and go to do things I didn't want to do, I'm actually doing really well. Back then it would have taken me til Saturday afternoon to get moving, not Wednesday. I don't think I'll ever get to first thing Saturday morning of vacation week for such things.
But I would like to get to where I have some things I'm excited about first thing on a Saturday morning! Wouldn't that be fun!? Fun That's something I haven't seen in a few decades. I'm aiming at more Fun in my life.
Somehow I stumbled over Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project on youtube this morning. Without being a therapist or anything near that, she did figure out that some people don't know what makes them happy, so her Project paradigm has room for those of us who don't know who we are, either.
This is the second video of hers I've watched, I like that she's perceptive, but motivated by her primary goal of happiness and aligning our lives more in that direction, so I'm putting this one out for anyone else. I like her take on growth as well. You can't just fix where you are, you have to grow out of where and how and who you are now in order to take on more happiness.
I'm also working thru (a little bit at a time) the book Creative Aggression, The Art of Assertive Living, by Dr. George R. Back and Dr. Herb Goldberg. The catchphrase on the back of the paperback is 'Nice Guys' Wreck Lives! Their own - and yours, too! It was written in 1974, so it's quite ancient in view of the categories and terminology we all use now, but it's spot on about the problem of being over cooperative and not dealing with conflicts directly - EVER. Avoiding conflict gets people killed, being falsely cooperative doesn't make conflict go away, hiding yourself won't keep you safe. At its root, it's profoundly dishonest and deceitful. It's a lifestyle of deception, even, no matter how much you seem to be a Good Guy to others.
I've hated the word "nice" for years now, at least 15 years or more. I may have hated it even in high school. "Nice" is code for ice cool manipulation and passive selfishness in the face of personal destruction of yourself or other people. The Latin root for nice is nescire, which means not know. Nice people choose to either act like they don't know the unpleasantness in the room, or they choose to actually not know. Neither choice gets them off the hook in the long run.
Making a disclaimer here - I've gone thru and read most of my posts again and decided some need better formatting and a little bit of punctuation constraint where possible. (Read: maybe a few more commas, sentence breaks, and maybe a semi-colon or two. Because the long sentences are there on purpose.)
I think I'm still on regular google blogspot (I don't really know), and I know there is a google plus (but I don't really know what that will do to or for me), and quite a few bloggers tout the praises of just getting off of google and going somewhere else. Obviously, I'm not paying for this yet, and will likely never get to that point, but I'm not happy with the editing policy they've adopted concerning who can say what. It's fanaticism, ignorance, and flaming narcissism on full display, so it's probably time to think about what I prefer and do something about that, too.
I think I'll go thru and make sure I have a copy of everything first. One never knows how fast a fire will spread.
I think I’m going to start writing a mystery. I’ve been writing self help and psychoanalytic forensics for years now, I think it’s time to change genres and leave something else entirely for my estate minders to find.
To that end, I’m officially releasing myself from my former diary style, inherited from my mum, wherein I catalog all my new resolutions and lists of things done and undone. From now on, I’m going to to do tear away diaries. I can write whatever I want, but if I come back and find that there’s nothing to build upon in a previous entry, I’m free to tear it out and throw it away. Leaving written evidence behind about how I keep getting stuck in the same potholes is just useless.
Upon my death, my nephew will find that his eccentric aunt was either remarkably terse or had quite a series of unusual, colorful days.
To that end, I’ve cleared off my desk and have at the ready a number of art journaling resources and a few calligraphy pens. It’s also spring here now, and there’s a massive blooming forsythia hanging from a wall that I’ve been meaning to photograph. I may have all the skills of a two year old at his finger paints, but that’s okay, I’ll fit right in at the old folks home.
Okay, kids, I think it's time to bring this thing in for a landing. I believe I've sussed out most of the relevant framework of my family of origin dynamics and, barring any previously unknown siblings turning up at my front door, I think I can wrap up the last of the forensic searches and put away the what ifs and what abouts and never go looking again. Or, as they say, "stick a fork in me, I'm done."
My father wanted to know why he had to go through cancer and hospice, I think he had hoped to drop from a heart attack like his father. If nothing else, the experience I had with him in his final months burned away the last of the illusions and hopes I once had about him - and that was a blessing in deep disguise. As excruciatingly painful as the last five months have been, it's better to know the truth about who and what I was to him, and accepting that is setting me free.
I'm rather tired now, but the good news is that I'm spent. I've questioned the conclusions I reached about my father, I've wondered if it just wasn't anger at his dying, but I had already begun to draw those conclusions over and over again for the last 40 years. His death just made any refutation of my assessment impossible.
It was what it was, it just wasn't what I thought it was. It could be that I'm getting the very thing that I wished for my mother. It turns out I got everything wrong about who "I" was; with no one left who has ever known me, whoever I thought I was has faded like a ghost at noonday. It's alright, I'm willing to forget all of it to just be fully and gratefully here, now, wherever I go, for as long as I have left.
I'm not dead yet, I'm getting better. I think I'll go for a walk.