Tuesday, November 19, 2013

logical is no way to live

My husband is a civil engineer. He designs bridges. When he isn't designing something he and other smart people are busy checking plans to find mistakes, his work and others. This involves long calculations and formulas and things which make my eyes glaze over.

Engineers are perfectionists because they need to be. No doubt this is common in many professions, where anything less than perfection equals fail.

He will tell you that some engineers seem to find satisfaction, even delight in finding faults in another's work.

They're like professional fault-finders.

And I have to tell you that he doesn't live like this, fault finding, but it can be difficult when he comes home to turn off the critical voices, to not feel like he's living under the narrow-eyed microscope of perfectionism.

And it is a good thing there are fault-finders to find the flaws and errors- it is the reason we don't need to carry parachutes crossing bridges.

But it is no way to live.

In this way I think there is a bit of a fault-finder in everyone.

I think all of us can live it- an analytical eye; partially on the look-out for flaws and imperfections, a way to sum-up a person in our own calculating, silent way.

Maybe it is a defense mechanism, maybe we are born squinting.

It starts early. Even my kindergartener today came home and muttered, she got what she deserves. Where did she learn that?

And I do it to myself.
Just the other day I stopped in the middle of the day and gasped, remembering a time and something I said and how foolish it was, such a fool, I said it out loud, and I could bury myself in judgment.

I do not work in an office where performance is king. I am a writer, and once a month I meet with other writers to talk about the story we each are writing. The group helps make my writing better and in the process they remind me how to live.

Here is the contrast:

We aren't looking for flaws, we are looking for potential, and creative people are able to see potential in anything.

I think we are able to see potential because our work is so very much in process. We know that we have read only a small portion, maybe a chapter, of a greater work. And we understand that the unanswered questions we have, the gaps, aren't going to all be answered in those few pages. The answer likely is buried somewhere in the pages we haven't seen.

You know, like people. Like life. We get this one tiny glimpse into a person's life. Maybe a chapter. Usually more like a paragraph. And from those few clues we think we have a person figured out.

When we are critiquing a portion of a story there is an understanding that it will be flawed because it is unfinished, and this is why we are here, this is why the author has bravely presented her work to critique, because she needs advice and wants to hear our thoughts on her piece. We understand that fear  and are gentle with it because it is so familiar.

Oh how much healthier, more whole, people might be if we could find a place safe to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other and ask for advice, help. We are all so very much in process.

We have earnest dialogues about the necessary laws of fantasy worlds. We debate the reasoning of fictional characters. We offer possible solutions to made-up problems. We invent characters with magical powers. And I leave with my sanity restored.

I'm serious.

Because this is the way I want to live, this upside down way: In possibility.

It is our new Reality.

There is a God of metrics and calculations, but it is the former way, the curse, death. In it everybody loses.

In Christ there is a new way, a living way, the way of Grace-
where our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west and remembered no more,
where even a bruised reed Grace will not break, or a smoldering wick snuff out,
where Love believes all things, hopes all things, covers a multitude of faults

We need engineers in the world. We need precision, logic, reason.

But somehow we must separate this world from our true home, where the last are first, and sinners are called saints, a world of Yes where the story is called Redemption. Where anything anything is possible.

Monday, November 11, 2013

marriage weekend

Jim and I went away to a marriage conference this weekend. It was our first marriage retreat, and the first in a long time being away without kids. Too long. The weekend was part of a big, national conference that has been hosting marriage retreats for over 35 years. Tons of planning and research has been put into this, and the topic is huge- A LOT of ground was covered in those two days. In fact I am still feeling a bit emotionally spent from all of it . . . but also I am feeling reset. Refocused and energized, renewed in my marriage and in my calling as a wife and mom. It was a good, practical and restful way to get away and focus on our marriage.

Could I be skeptical? Of course. Anything can be dissected. But overall I came away thinking again, where would I be without Christ? Without the instructions of scripture, the call to love and serve, basic things which go so against our nature and our culture and can only be produced by the Spirit. There is so much confusion in our culture, in me; I need to revisit the basics every so often. I was struck by the room full of people committed to their marriage and family, willing to go through the hard and painful and humble work of self-examination, forgiveness, healing, love.

Whatever the season of your marriage, I would highly recommend attending a Weekend to Remember. There are conferences happening all over the U.S., and a few coming up soon in Northeast Ohio. Send me a message if you'd like to know more, I'd be happy to tell you more about it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

soup 11.8

I have been thinking this week about the seasons and how necessary they all are. These months are so much calmer- so predictable and steady, and I am feeling more creative energy and finding more space to work and making some good progress on the book.

Again this year I considered NaNoWriMo, but November begins with a birthday and ends with Thanksgiving, and isn't a month that I can devote solely to a project. However completing the first draft of the novel I am writing by the end of this year does seem achievable. The only goal I have now is to finish my shitty first draft by the end of this year.

Shitty first drafts are liberating. They free you to try ridiculous things, to experiment, play, paint it out and start again, in red this time. It is so much fun.

Painting has made me pretty familiar with the creative process. So much of it is not rational or conscious. I am very aware that right now I am just laying in the broad strokes. Roundish, lopsy figures, taking a pallet knife to block in the undertones, sketching in what may be a barn, or may become a plate of oysters, but something is telling me that something needs to be there.

The creative process- so illogical and unexpected and magical. It feels good to be in it again.
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." -Anne Lamott

Two good links this week:

I'm a Feminist Because I Love Jesus So Much: Interview with Sarah Bessey at Christianity Today

The 'Stubborn Gladness' of Elizabeth Gilbert's Favorite Poet-- this is so lovely!
 Gilbert takes this middle way, and I think it’s a far better way: he says the world is terrible andwonderful, and your obligation is to joy. That’s why the poem is called “A Brief for the Defense”—it’s defending joy. A real, mature, sincere joy—not a cheaply earned, ignorant joy. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

thinking about Thoreau at the end of the sixth birthday party

I cannot take Thoreau seriously since I learned his mother did his laundry
simplify simplify: a nice thought but somebody or your mom must wash your underwear
Thoreau lived deliberately and did not ever
so far as I am aware
separate the whites or
deal with his child's civil disobedience or
hear his name called up his spine
so persistently that he might consider ducking into the coat closet

Did you, Thoreau, ever plan a six year old's birthday party
or contemplate food allergies
test the recipe for chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
or advance confidently in the direction of the store for maraschino cherries- a five year old's only request?
Details Details

Did you, Thoreau, ever see your daughter so drunk on delight and red40
at the end of her sixth birthday party?

Now watch as I take this glass of wine to the bath
And read the Atlantic and scrub my poor feet with sugar

No one, not even Thoreau, had such delicious solitude
Not even Thoreau had such smooth feet