Tag Archives: honesty

An itch

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“Constantly risking absurdity/ and death/ whenever he performs/ above the heads/ of his audience/ the poet like an acrobat/ climbs on rime/ to a highwire of his own making…” –Lawerence Ferlinghetti

It has been a long time since I wrote here.  I missed holidays, seasons, thoughts and ideas.  I missed the click of keys and the scroll of ideas across the screen.  I missed writing.

I have been working to the point of exhaustion since my last post, both in person and online.  Days spent on my aching feet and nights straining my tired eyes have been so incredibly long.  As I have been working as a TA, grading papers and looking at the process that others go through as they write, I have missed it myself.  I envy them, getting space and time and an audience.  They get to collect and present their ideas.  They get to narrow topics, sift through articles, make arguments and craft titles.

I miss writing.  I decided early on that I would write here regularly as I teach, to keep my own sanity.  That has not happened so far, but I think it needs to.  As I made my way through the text for this course, Ferlinghetti spoke to me.  There is a drive, a frightening dare to create.  Something inside compels a writer to write, something that is greater than the fear of failure.  I miss that push, that scream that demands to be given voice.  It has grumbled and mumbled, but I have not given it a chance to develop because I haven’t made time to set it free.  I need that time.

In one of the texts I’ve used for teaching, the introductory chapter discusses, at length, the fact that no one is born a writer.  Good writers do not exist–they develop.  They practice and learn mechanics and understand how to structure a paper.  Good writers are made.  Which I belive, to an extent.  I spent years learning rules and diagramming sentences, identifying thesis statements and formatting bibliographies.  I learned to write.  I learned to articulate with conviction and support.  Great men and women showed me how to make thoughts bigger than they started, how to give them life and send them into the world.  They taught me to look at the words of others that came before, see what they meant and mean.  I learned to see the bigger picture, the web of people and life and literature that is more intricate and unbreakable than I know.  I learned to read and write, and how to read deeply and write powerfully.  I learned.

But that push inside me recoils, whimpering, “What about me?”  Aren’t writers born to do so?  Doesn’t something in me, unique and determined, make me write?  Isn’t it the same thing that drives painters to smear the canvas and chefs to filet?  Isn’t something inside me special, something that cannot be taught or learned?  Don’t I have something that makes me write, something that sets me apart?  Or is that all wishful thinking?  Is it only true for real writers, those who have something authentic and big to say with words that are not tired?  This idea, though meant to strengthen confidence, shook me.  If I am honest, I like to think that I am a good writer.  I want to be seen as someone who uses words elegantly and effortlessly, who puts words to thoughts that others cannot.  I want and like to think that I have a talent or, perhaps more powerful, a gift.  I want to think that I was made to write, made to express.  Those words, meant to convince everyone that they have the potential and ability to write well, took all of that away from me.  Perhaps that has also led to my lapse in writing–I feel doubtful.

The one thing that I have clung to, the one thing that I think I do well, was snatched from me.  Even knowing that I have worked hard in school, for years, to learn the skills that the text was encouraging students to learn, stings.  Learning to be a good writer is not the same as being one.  I want that gift that I am now unsure exists.  A skill is not as special, as defining, as a gift.

All of this has brought me here, starting yet again, with the intention to continue.  I guess I want to take time for me to continue to work on the skill that I have developed.  What I pray is that I find a tiny place inside where I still feel chosen to be a writer, born with graphite and pronouns coursing through my veins.  I want that joy, the thrill that string words together brings me.  I feel lighter, more agile and powerful, when the ideas are left on paper.  I need to remember this intense affection I feel for letters and spaces, and the world they create.

“If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me/ Threatening the life it belongs to/ And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd/ ‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud/ And I know that you’ll use them however you want to…” –Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2am)”

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Something is better than Nothing, I guess

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This afternoon, after finishing all of my assignments for my online training, I scanned my usual websites for something new to enjoy.  While I am devouring the archives of the newer finds, and discovering links that they are kind enough to include, I would love to find some new blogs to follow.  I decided to give stumbleupon a try.  It proved somewhat interesting and a good waster of time, but wasn’t giving me the new connection I was hoping for.  However, tonight, I found something very, very interesting.  I will continue my search for new people to “meet” online and read, but this was creepy and made my night fascinating.

I found a very strange and somewhat confusing personality test.  A series of 20 images are shown, and you are forced to choose A or B.  Many questions do not really make sense, so I just went with my reflexes and instinct.  It doesn’t take long, so I recommend you give it a try:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3X4MO9/www.hypnoid.com/psytest2.html

My results we as follows:

Your power comes from an ability to sense how things might be and to proclaim this possibility with a great force and willingness to act. You have a tendency to be romantic, and can be an idealist. This sense of how the world can be is often expressed with self-deprecatory humor. Because of your need to address the immediacy of the moment, you may not think things through to their logical end, relying instead on a feeling for how a situation SHOULD end.  You need to be liked and appreciated by others, although your attention often wanders. Sometimes you neglect old friends in favor of a new or exciting acquaintance. You have a real difficulty being alone.  Often you will seem to know how to handle a situation without exactly knowing HOW you know this. Your thoughts are often shallow. While in the excitement of the moment you can obsess about a task at hand. If it should become rote and unexciting, however, it can be dropped just as quickly.

Some of this is a bit off, but most of it is weirdly spot-on.  I’m sure some of it is generalized–we all need to be liked and appreciated.  But this need is the foundation of who I am, why I do almost everything.  One of the things that made choosing a major and career difficult is that I do fall head over heels for what I am currently studying or interested in–children, teaching, writing, criminal justice, ministry… my passion was strong and changed with every new class I took.

I am less enthralled by how accurate this analysis is than I am with the thought that I am deeply and fully me.  There is nothing I can do to hide or change what it is that drives me, sustains me, plagues me.  Just like the children from the beautiful 7-Up series, I haven’t changed over the years, and I won’t.  Insecurities, pleasures, ideas, loyalties–these are so entrenched that every instinct, every action I perform relays them.  Even when I am unaware, these traits permeate my choices and display themselves for the world.

“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  –Popeye

A Complex Victory

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“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible.  But in the end, they always fall.  Always.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

I had planned to write about something else tonight.  Then life happened.  While talking on the phone with my dad, the news cut in with the announcement that Osama bin Laden is dead.  For a country that has feared that name alone for nearly a decade, a name that is synonymous with death and destruction, this is huge news.  This is the only news. 

I think about the gravity of this revelation.  The man we have hunted, have feared, have loathed since September 11th, 2001, is gone.  He is no more.  His body is still, his life ended.  It is still far too early to tell what the implications of this will be.  Is the world now a safer place?  Did we crush the head of the terrorist beast that has stalked us?  Did we simply anger it?  No one has answers to these questions yet.

I am, rather unbelievably, conflicted about this news.  The moment I read the headline flashing on my television, I felt a jolt of disbelief.  I remember that morning, remember the planes, remember the rubble and tears and flags.  I remember the fear, the hope, the patriotism, and the thirst for blood.  I remember vividly the day that made Osama bin Laden a household name. 

“The world needs anger.  The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”  –Bede Jarrett

A piece of me is glad, relieved to hear that he is dead.  I feel a little safer, a little calmer.  I am not naive and know that there are still plenty of people out there who hate me because I am an American, because I am white, because I am me.  This is not the end of the story.  But tonight, as I go to sleep, I will know that there is one less monster in my closet, one less nightmare hiding under the bed.  This is not an innocent man, bullied by the big kid on the block.  This is a murderer, gone.  He terrorized the world, made life unbearable for average, innocent people.  He preached hate and lived violence.  His crimes warranted punishment. 

We were wounded, blindsided.  We wanted justice, and were willing to settle for revenge.  In all honesty, they may be one in the same.  We wanted blood for blood, death for death.  And I am not necessarily saying we were wrong.  Tonight’s news may very well be a reprieve for countless lives.  This may mean freedom for the masses.  This may have been necessary and inevitable.

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”  –Ernest Hemmingway

All of that being said, I feel a deep, nagging sadness as I watch the news.  I do not think that we were necessarily wrong.  As I said, I do feel that this was necessary, that I am now safer, if only in my mind.  However, the human part of me, the divinity within me, the heart of God calling to me, is saddened. 

I watched as crowds gathered in front of the White House and cheered.  They threw streamers, chanted, and took photos.  They celebrated.  And perhaps the joy is justified, but a man is dead.  Another person was forced to end a life.  No, bin Laden himself had no qualms about killing.  Yes, he was a monster.  But a tiny little part of me also knows that he was once a baby, a son.  He was indoctrinated, just like we all are.  He made choices, just like we all do.  He allowed a hatred to manifest in ways that we all do not.  But he was a person, a life now ended.  I have no problem with people resting easier, with a danger neutralized.  I do, however, sit uneasy in the celebration of death.  I do not know that we should have a party over the end of a life.

I feel a tearing, a pull between knowing the bigger story and seeing the bigger picture.  Justice.  Revenge.  Protection.  Necessity.  It was all of those things.  I can’t help but feel, though, that relief and jubilee are not necessarily the same.  Death and destruction are still tragedy.  The man who killed him did not deserve to be a hero in that way, deserve to have that job thrust upon him.  Whatever had to happen, I feel a deep sadness that we rejoice in murder.  That is what bin Laden did.  We did not deserve the attacks he rallied terrorists behind.  However, we also do not deserve to be a people who celebrate death, dance through destruction and revel in ruins.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary.  The evil it does is permanent.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

To Trust Or Not To Trust, That Is the Question…

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“But the lion told me I must undress first… So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place.  And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully… It was a most lovely feeling.”  –C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Lately I have thought a lot about trusting other people.  The nightly news would have us believe that no one can be trusted.  Ever.  I do not think that I am nearly that cynical, but I have realized that I am perhaps not as quick to trust others as I once thought.  I lend quickly and easily.  I do not worry too much about being repaid or having items returned to me, which at times leads to losses.  But as soon as I am asked to trust another person with more than the material, with something deeper, it takes a lot for me to have faith in others. 

Much of my fears stem from personal insecurity and self-consciousness.  That is a given.  I realized this in college.  While involved in ministry, we talked about being open and honest a lot.  In order to have a relationship with God, while He does not need us to tell Him anything, we have to be willing to open up about everything.  We have to bring Him our fears and shortcomings and all the dark things we work hard to hide from everyone, perhaps even ourselves.  This openness with an invisible God is difficult enough, but it extends to our community as well.  It is impossible to be authentic, to work through faith and doubt together without honesty.  We cannot help each other through struggles without being open about our own.  There is truth to all of this, and a freedom too.  Secrets, shame, hidden fears weigh us down in ways we cannot understand until we release them.  However, there is also a huge danger.

“Then the lion said–but I don’t know if he spoke– ‘You will have to let me undress you.’  I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now…  The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”  –C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This image of Eustace being cleaned by Aslan is one of the most remarkable, salient descriptions of a baptism.  I was reading it recently and was reminded of the tradition of washing feet.  When Jesus does this for His disciples, it is far more than an act of cleanliness.  We talked many times of the symbolism, of the Teacher and Savior stooping down to do servants’ work.  He lowered Himself to serve His followers, literally touching the dirtiest, roughest parts of them and washing it clean.  When done well, the act of following in His footsteps and washing each others’ feet is one of the most touching, beautiful things I’ve witnessed.

I have no issues with washing the feet of another.  I do not hesitate to serve, to cleanse the feet of those I lead.  I don’t mind talking with people about their struggles or hardships, reserving judgement and keeping an open heart and mind.  But I have always been far harder on myself than others.  I hate allowing others to touch my feet.  I know that they are ugly and rough and cringe at the idea of someone touching them.  I feel wholly unworthy.  I talked about this intense discomfort with a friend one night when we were discussing the story in scripture.  It is so hard for me to imagine someone seeing how bad my feet can get, how dark my thoughts can be, how hateful my heart has been, and not reject me.  Letting someone into those ugly dirty places is showing them every reason they should reject me.   I simply cannot do it.

I can talk superficially about struggles I may have.  I do not feign perfection.  I can scrape away some of my own facade and shed a few layers of skin.  I admit that I struggle with insecurity, that I have a hard time really even understanding the meaning of “self-esteem.”  I worry about my family and the struggles that seemed to emerge as I grew older.  I constantly fight a deep feeling of loneliness.  But the real demons I fight, the dark things that haunt me, those are the ones that lay deep beneath layers that I don’t know if I’ll ever peel back.  I may want to, and try to, but the fear of being that vulnerable and open is too great.  I do plenty of things that make it hard for me to make friends without showing people the really damaged parts of me.  There is just too much risk involved in honesty sometimes.

I hope that I can work on this.  I hope someday that I am comfortable in knowing that, no matter who rejects me, I am loved beyond comprehension by my Creator.  I hope that that knowledge is enough.  I hope that I can trust people as much as they deserve.  A part of me thinks that what I have to share is not as messy as I think, that my friends can handle the truth.  A bigger part of me is scared to find out if that’s true.  I’ve come close to complete openness, with a very few people.  Close isn’t quite there, but someday, with someone, I hope that I’ll get there.  Perhaps it will take God’s grace to peel it all away, to get back to the real me inside.  I can only take comfort in knowing that, when I eventually give in, when I let it all go, the pain will be liberating enough to be bearable.

“Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree, because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch, or you might simply get covered in sap, and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors, where it is harder to get a splinter.”  –Lemony Snicket

SecretPost

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When we live such fragile lives/ It’s the best way we survive Dirty Little Secret

While running errands today I heard the All American Rejects song that reminded me of the Post Secret (www.postsecret.blogspot.com) event we organized.  I’ve started checking the site each week since then to read the secrets that people are willing to share and the see how they share them, which is almost as important and interesting.  I know that I submitted a number of postcards when we put on the event, in part to share and in part so that it didn’t come off as a total failure.  I was surprised the night of the event to see how many more people shared their secrets.  Or, if they were like me, how a few people had so many secrets to share.   At a school in a city where so much is invested in appearances, it was both a beautiful and ugly moment when all these things we hid were shared.  Granted, the project is anonymous, so the secrets are still somewhat secret.  There was still something cathartic, something powerful in giving secrets a name, to condensing it into a four by six inch piece of paper. 

It was refreshing and energizing to see such openness and authenticity in a community that was only really linked by the art.  There’s no way to know whose cards those were and if they had any other interactions aside from the project.  It’s almost easier to think that people who don’t know me, who don’t see me every day, were seeing things that I never admit to anyone, whether trivial or deep.  It’s easier to tell someone who I don’t have to maintain contact with that I’m broken and dark and messy because the reality is that I don’t really matter to them.  There is less judgement, less pity, less chance that I’ll ever have to talk about the secret again.  There is also something healing about getting to be that confidant for someone else.  It’s nice to know that you are not alone, but you are also not discovered.

I think it’s interesting the secrets that we keep and those we finally let go.  The trivial habits and vices that we will never reveal and the monumental thoughts and fears that we do and don’t share.  I think that some things just eat away, are so corrosive to a person, that they just have to come out at some point.  Others, in the light of time and distance, become less dangerous so the time comes to allow them to be known.  Still others reveal enough of themselves in small ways, over time, that they simply cannot be denied or hidden any longer.  And still others will never leave our lips.

I want to talk to people more about what I’m feeling– about fears and pain and joy and hopes.  I want to talk honestly and fully.  It’s easy to say that I’m afraid of being alone or that I feel lonely, but it’s another thing all together to really talk about why and what I actually feel, specifics instead of generalities.  I want to be honest with people about how I feel.  I want to tell them what they mean to me, to be up front about feelings that I hide.  But it’s too raw and real and risky to get into all of that, so it stays silent.  There is too much that I do that I’m embarrassed of, that I want to be reassured in, that I hope I’m not alone in.  But the fear of actually being alone, being abnormal, of humiliation is too intense.  So, no matter how much I talk myself up, I decide to be honest, I face my secrets, I keep it all inside.  I hope one day this isn’t true.  I hope that I can be open, show my friends and strangers alike the things I hold inside, like I was in my postcards.  One day I want to choose to keep my secrets back, not let them keep me.  I don’t think we’ll ever not have secrets– sometimes it’s nice to keep something to yourself.  I just want to feel comfortable enough not to keep myself to myself.