Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disintigrating Loops

For those of you who know me well in real life, my brokenhearted state is no big secret. It's hard for me to shake off mourning. It's not that I'm always sad or depressed. It's just that the sadness and vulnerability of stories and circumstances always seems to be very powerful and present for me. There is beauty, even joy, in suffering. I don't hate the sadness in things. I notice it and I am glad I do. It makes the joys richer.

All the same, I prefer a comfortable life. I'm a comfort bug--I don't like my feet to be cold, and I hate to be hungry. A cold shower might make me new enemies, and don't talk to me too soon after I wake up. There is beauty and joy in comfort, peacefulness, security, and quiet living, too. Given my choice, I'd take that any day, and some days I get it.
I also get (just in the past year) a health scare and an MRI to check for signs of Multiple Sclerosis. Starting on prescription antidepressants for the first time (and now, taking myself off them with the loss of my health benefits). Moving to a new city. A new job. Losing the new job the week of my Grandmother's funeral. Unemployment. Fear spirals that talk me into believing I'll be celebrating my 35th year by moving into my parents' basement, broke and alone and jobless.

Speaking of year 35, I had a struggle a few years ago turning 26, because my mother was that age when I was born. Over the years, I've imagined what it would be like to have a child, then two, then three. By my next birthday, I'll be older than my mother was when my youngest sister was born. There has not been a time in my life when I've not wanted to be a mother (ok, there are moments when friends' kids are obnoxious--but of course my children would never behave like that! *sarcasm*), and truthfully, it's a bitter, bitter struggle for me to be ok with the idea that God may not want me to be a mother or a wife.

I don't actually know what I want to do to make enough money to survive. I know I want to learn. To explore. To create. To connect. To love and serve. I am not sure how this looks in real life anymore.

So you see, I live daily brokenhearted by losses and vulnerabilities, and by the belief that I should be so much more than what I am.

But I know, too, that I'm not alone. Despite your happy facebook posts and your beautiful instagram feeds, I know that some of you out there feel desperate, alone, vulnerable and not-enough. Your life, despite the good in it, may not look like what you wanted it to, no matter what it looks like to me. Or maybe it does. If it does, don't tell me.

I recently was contacted by an old high school friend. He has, from the looks of it, an idyllic life--married to a lovely girl, two beautiful babies, just returned from working in London for several years. My first thought in response to his friendly note was, "Damn. If only he had reached out six months ago. Then I was working at what I thought was my dream job, I had just gotten back from a trip to Spain...at least I had a few things going for me."

In my recent unemployment, I've found time doesn't weigh heavy on me. For the first time in 15 years or so, I am able to read and rest and think and pray. And the result of all that is that I am rediscovering my own creative responses to the beauty and brokenness. 

In Makoto Fujimura's Refractions, he writes of art and creative response in New York in the aftermath of September 11: 
Art offers the power to pause and the potential to find healing in the remembrance of things past. Art may be at times the only true memory we own in our experience of disintegration. Art may even point to a greater redemptive plan beyond "the life and death" of each of our melodies.
The Creator God has given us creativity and the arts so that we may "name" experiences, just as God comissioned Adam to name the animals in the garden. It is significant that God gave authority and freedom to Adam, "and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." God did not question Adam's decisions. God completely entrusted to Adam the responsibility...In the fallen realities of our days, God continues to affirm our creative responses to the darkened horizon, and by naming the indescribable, we may yet rediscover our hope to endure yet another dark day.
...we are also disintigrating, but St. Paul reminds us, "though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." Art taps into this work of the Spirit within while recognizing the honest depiction of our disfigurement. God, the greater Artist, will aways seek to communicate via the disintegrating loops of our lives.*

Whether it's a beautiful photostream, a lyric essay, a dance class, making a cake, sharing a music video, painting, sketching, composing music, all of the "naming" you do--it's not fake. It's not meaningless. So keep moving forward, even if you feel like you're disintigrating. 

Of course, I'm talking to you, because it's always easier to encourage others rather than yourself. This is why we need our real friends, the ones who tell us when we're spiraling, who text us truths back when we send desperate texts (what? I know you do it, too), the ones who respond to our rambling and broken messages about being failures at life or making macaroni and cheese (Kraft Dinner to you, Canadians). Being brokenhearted isn't the same as despair.

God speaks through disintigration. Art. Gospel.

*The above quote is from an earlier volume of Mako Fujimura's essays. But he's working on a new project about generative community and creativity. Check it out here. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2124386031/culture-care-book

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I bought this t-shirt a few years ago. I loved the thought of holding fast, holding on to something even when things get rough--but this design caught my attention because it was different from most depictions of the phrase. 

Look up the words, and you'll see everything from tattoos to journal covers carrying the phrase. But most of the designs show an anchor. I liked this one because it showed the wave.

When I was first looking for jobs in high school, my dad told me perserverance was one of my greatest strengths--not letting go when things got rough. It was a nice way of saying that I'm stubborn, although people don't often see that side of me. Conflict is rarely worth the cost, but when it is, it can be hard to shake me.

It's only on the things that are close to my heart that I'm willing to run the risk of a storm. When I make up my mind to hold fast on something, my stomach pitches, my jaw clenches, and I have trouble sleeping at night for thinking about how to negotiate the next battering wave. I give a lot of attention to seeing it through. 

Sometimes, though, holding fast becomes going down with the ship. Maybe it's refusing to deploy the lifeboats early enough, thinking you can make it through one more wave. Maybe you don't give up the ship, but it gives up on you. 

The idea of diving out of the relative security and letting the waves toss you for a while seems terrifying and desperate. But what is it I'm supposed to hold fast to? Maybe it is that piece of driftwood. Maybe holding fast sometimes means giving up the ship.