Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And your heart was an open book

I used to feel like a vibrant compilation artist, moving fluidly from adventure to reflection to expression, experimenting and experiencing whatever circumstance brought me and as my whimsy took me. Now, I feel like an accumulation of skills and talents learned on those adventures, made useful by practice and with a responsibility not to waste that utility because of the concomitant knowledge gained over the past 15 years about the suffering of so many other people.

I fear that this is adulthood. I fear this hardening. It is so new and I don't know yet how to reliably find joy within it. When I thought that adulthood was being married and owning a house and having kids and being respected for my opinions, I welcomed it. I can see how one would find joy in all of that.

Now that I understand that adulthood is commitments, I have been feeling bereft. And, let there be no mistake, I don't mean commitments as in a lot of things to do; I long ago learned basic time management skills.

I define "commitments" to mean "things I have given my heart to and so desire to pour my best effort into." There are only so many things you can pour your best effort into. Right now, I feel like I am filling holes to keep the ground level rather than building anything worthwhile.

When I told Jacob last night that everything moved too fast, I couldn't explain the metaphor, but just knew it was true. I can't catch up and I can't slow down and absorb the life that is all around me. I make lots of stupid mistakes, like forgetting to tell Jacob that I already ran an errand and wasting his time or forgetting to tell him that I need something that he would have been happy to have the opportunity to provide for me. Jacob can't and shouldn't have to do all the housework himself so the house is a complete sty. I am also unconsciously avoiding simple tasks that have any chance of difficult emotional underpinnings, like basic implementation of financial decision that Jacob and I have made.

This will not end well.

So, I am hoping that identifying this new state of being will be the first step toward accommodating it and finding balance. My parents checked in on me last night since they hadn't heard from me in awhile and my best friend in Minnesota called. That helped, too. But my best friends in Chicago, the people who have poured their best efforts into me, are moving tomorrow. My grief is embarrassing and doesn't help with the larger problem.

I'd like to be an artist again. How does one find the necessary liberation to experiment and express when one has commitments? Do you know?

Monday, August 09, 2010

25 new things about me

1. I have witnessed the laboring of two women in the last four months and helped with the actual birth of one's child.
2. I am no more baby-crazy than I have been my entire life; the people closest to me are just beginning to have babies that I feel I have a right to obsess over.
3. I remember being angry with the old lady who babysat for a whole group of us kids while our moms had a Bible study upstairs. I was only 3 or 4 years old but I was indignant that she wouldn't let me hold the babies.
4. I have been married just shy of a year.
5. Dude, this marriage shit is hard.
6. And I have a lot of fun.
7. And I'm not lonely anymore.
8. And I like having the opportunity to care for my husband and to do things simply because they will make him happy.
9. And that scritchy-scratchy feeling of wariness from a constant expectation that life could jack-knife and go shooting off in any direction while leaving me behind has also significantly decreased.
10. However, I am fully aware that this new-found sense of stability is merely illusion; the easiest way to make God laugh is still to tell her your plans.
11. I believe in a God who wants the best for me; my explanation for why bad things happen to good people is that we live in a broken world (for some reason) and so consequences of that brokenness hurt folks, often when they didn't break a thing in the first place. It's not a satisfying theology but I'm learning to live in the mystery.
12. After I met my husband, his Judaism taught me the phrase tikkun olam, which is a concept that God wants all of us to participate in mending the broken world. This is part of why I need Jacob and his faith: to give me words for what my Christianity has neglected.
13. I have somewhat traditional beliefs about God and Christ. You know, the Trinity, the co-existent divinity and humanity of Christ, death and resurrection, and the persistence of the Holy Spirit.
14. I do not need anyone else on the planet to believe the same things that I do.
15. I think that beliefs are a direct result of experiences. Therefore, everyone's beliefs are slightly different.
16. So, my Christianity gets expressed by gathering with other people who all start from different places but who are all heading in the same direction - toward God - rather than being expressed by clustering with people who are exactly like me.
17. I make quilts.
18. I recently knit a sweater for the first time even though I have been knitting hats for years.
19. I used to live on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
20. I have a job that perfectly melds my profession passions and skill sets: I build capacity within an organization that is just beginning to succeed at effecting policy change at a systemic level regarding how American society views vulnerable children by challenging Christian to live into their faith and care for a child in their homes for a little while so the parents can get their feet back under them.
21. I am very close to my family.
22. I struggle a lot with treating other people well. I just can't seem to get the hang of seeing things from others' perspective. This sucks for everyone involved, myself included.
23. I fear that if most people had to describe me with three words, the first two would be "abrasive" and "intimidating."
24. That fear probably explains a lot to anyone who is trying to figure me out.
25. I laugh a lot over the course of a day.

Previous descriptive list posts can be found in these posts: 25 Things About Me, Because My Old One Is Woefully Out of Date, and 100 Things About Me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Happy birthday

When my friend finally gave birth today, I had my face next to her face, holding her shoulders from behind and cradling her head with one arm to help her to curl up to push. There are images in life that never leave you and seeing the tiny ear, so perfect, so defined, emerge from the mess of flesh and hair is one of those images. I whispered in Jess's ear, "There's an ear!" And when the baby slithered out, I was the first one to tell her, "You have a baby girl!"

Her water had broken 34 hours earlier and she labored that whole time. I joined them for the last 5 hours, bringing fresh energy, telling funny stories in between contractions and then just sitting quietly as things progressed sooooo slowly and my friend began to struggle. She became a Woman Giving Birth, beyond humor, focused on getting it right, focused on the intense work of pushing and focused on the animal fear caused by pain. She was exhausted and glorious. More than once, I teared up when all my eyes could register was how strong she was. Instead of thinking, "That is Jess," I thought, "That is strength." Also, I was profoundly aware of the honor of being allowed to work with her, lending her my muscles to help her change positions or to hold her legs up and out. I felt such keen affection for her body, kissing her ankles and massaging her feet, smoothing her hair and wiping a cool washcloth on her forehead, neck and wrists.

I also almost passed out but we don't need to talk about that. :-) I had locked my knees while standing at the side of the bed to hold her leg and between that and the tiny breakfast, I felt the world swim and recognized what was going on soon enough to ask her mom to take my place so I could lean against the birthing tub with my head between my knees. The sweet and awesome midwife called out a little later, "You OK, Rebecca?"

"Yes, but this isn't about me anyway."

But it was a little bit, too. My perception of my place in this world has mostly involved feeling like I was not #1 on anyone's list. I have had few seasons with best friends and many of those BFFs had other totally legitimate relationship priorities going at the same time. Have I ever told you about when I was 11 and offered a best friend charm with a heart in three pieces to girls from church and they turned me down?

My friend who gave birth today is particularly talented at making friends. And she chose me to be there. And expressed earnest gratitude when it was all over and she was herself again. (I mean, she was always herself. The worst her language got was when she shouted, "Oh! Goooosh." It was just an unfamiliar self.) This made me feel special in a way I have not felt before. It made me feel like there was something good about me that shined brightly enough that they saw it through the abrasiveness and whatever it is about me that intimidates most folks. I didn't want to be trite when they thanked me by saying, "No, thank YOU," so as I stumbled to find something else to say, all I could come up with to explain my feelings of reciprocity was, "I love you."

And isn't that the reason we want to be important to other people? We want to be given deep enough access to fully love them. The act of loving is crucial to our well-being. When too many people in our lives consider us to be in the third or fourth tier of intimacy, we don't have the chance to love them.

But today, I got to tell a friend that she had a daughter and give her periodic sips of water and so I'll say here what I didn't want to say there, "No, thank YOU."

Happy birthday.