Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A List of Lessons from 2008

I fell off the face of the earth. Life just got in the way. My parents came to visit immediately after Christmas, I went up to Williams for a snow weekend, and now we’re looking at houses (it is the perfect time to buy).

Even though 2008 is long gone, and 2009 well under way, and we’ve only lived in Phoenix since September, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each other.

So here’s the list of major things we’ve learned:

1. Marriage is AWESOME. You get to wake up next to your best friend every day. What could be better?
2. Even though a given geography sucks, other factors can make a situation fabulous.
3. Fashion is important for a first impression, and so is asking for what you want.
4. It pays to live in a place where walking is a possibility, it keeps you svelte.
5. Education means nothing, as degrees can be purchased for peanuts and most are only worth what value they bring to your life, and sometimes they’re more negative (debt and no jobs).
6. Wealth and culture is all relative – there is such a thing as a trashy rich person, and a sophisticated pauper.
7. Nothing compares to a manual sports car, especially when you’re dodging drunks and snow-birds on the road.
8. I need a left-of-center theological church with a relevant service and more than 5 people, with a varied format. I don’t know where this exists.
9. Friends are awesome, and even if you’re going to be in a place for a year or only 5 months, it is absolutely necessary to cultivate them.
10. A cart full of fresh produce is equivalent to the cost of 2 people eating fast food, but it’s a thousand times tastier and better for you.
11. Tea is better in the morning than coffee (for 50 billion reasons not the least of which is acid).
12. Sometimes we have to do things for the people we love that are not always the most comfortable, but they are the best choice for both people involved and they provide the most opportunities long term.
13. Houses in Phoenix are cheap right now. Come and get one!
14. Christian and I can get whatever we want if we ask (which is both bad, i.e. makes us feel slightly guilty sometimes, and good, because it makes things easy).
15. Things always fall into place, even if it’s not the place we expected.
16. YES WE CAN. And we did.

Those are the top 16 lessons. If I think of anything else I’ll let you know.

P.S. I do have pics of the nativity. I keep forgetting to load them. Don’t hate me, they will get up.

P.P.S. “The Women” is a fabulous movie. Watch it if you have ovaries especially (though others are welcome and encouraged too!).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dark Night of the Soul - 1

I've begun reading Thomas Moore's Dark Nights of the Soul, which I find to be a fascinating read. Even the introduction is rich with allusions to a variety of different mythologies and archetypes (so much so that I might be reading the work of Joseph Campbell's biggest fan...). It may have been this rich text that called to mind so many situations in my own life where his writing (and guidance) could apply.

The dark night is a time of rebirth, a cocoon or chrysalis where we move from being mere bodies into becoming souls. It is a maturing and transforming process. This echoes some of the conversations we had in our small group regarding times of trial and change and suffering - it was frequently a time of suffering or change where transformation and growth occurred in our lives. The death of a friend or a family member would often be the foundation for a new era of life.

Right now I feel I am in the middle of a dark night. It is painful and difficult because at the moment I feel like one era of my life is going through it's death pangs, while another is aborning. On the one hand I look at pictures of a single friend's recent birthday party and I think, "wow. I wish I could go out drinking and dancing and engage in general merriment like that." I lament the loss of those times, however I would not change any of the choices I've made in the past year, least of which marrying my husband. The obligations that come with living with someone, separating myself from my family, and creating a home with my life partner is a jarring yet simultaneously luminous experience. Add this together with the confusion I feel regarding my professional direction, and the mix becomes overwhelming.

There are times where it feels as if I am stuck in a sea of possibilities with shut doors, and others where there are not even walls. I pray that my lack of knowing and this incubation into a new era will lend some direction, some new step where God is calling me to go. If you are experiencing a similar situation, I wish the same for you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

There's no one like me! Well, maybe Penelope...

I first noticed the box at the movie store and thought, "This is kind of quirky. I like the actors... I should see this some time." Granted, I tend to go for more large screen type epics. Theatrical effects, both live action stunts and CG environments are generally my cup of tea. Perhaps it was the stockings, or the scarf, or the funny coat, I'm not sure. I've seen people review this movie and say that the premise is all flubbed. However, when I look at this main character I see myself just out of high school.

You see as much as people like to say that Christina Ricci does not make a hideous looking character, the reality is that at first glance most people will stare. We could go V for Vendetta style and cover the main character with scars, but usually that gruesome of an appearance gives us a more angst ridden tale which tends to end tragically. No one wanting to watch Penelope wants tragic. They want love, discovery, and a personal journey. They want a real life fantasy.

I've noticed that movies and stories have taken a recent twist towards the half way. People don't want something that is all fantasy. It's like having one of those wretched drinks at Starbucks that is all sugar and no coffee. On the other hand, when you're going to Starbucks you also don't want straight coffee - no black coffee here! People don't usually want straight reality. They don't want realistic blood, death, mourning, or unrequited love. When the world outside seems so depressing, so awful, people want a little hope. They want it to seem tangible. They want a cappuccino or a mocha. They want a latte with some cinnamon sprinkled on top.

I give you Penelope...

I could see myself, and so many of my friends as Penelope because she was quirky, cool, talented, and told repeatedly by outside forces that she wasn't perfect. Even the most gorgeous of women (and even men) often feel like they are ugly or unattractive, maybe on the high side of things - just normal.

Even though I had some people telling me that I was beautiful, I inherently found my flaws and they became huge gaping holes in my appearance. I noticed what was wrong with me before what was right. I thought I was an ugly, inconsequential person. Perhaps this was one of the main reasons why I chose to do what I did when I was in junior high and high school - the crazy stockings, the quirky dresses, the vintage and second-hand clothes. Perhaps that's why I dyed my hair and cut it into all kinds of crazy combinations.

At some point in college, or in between schools (ah, transferring, a necessary evil) I came to know myself for what I was. I began to see myself the way others saw me.

Santa Barbara solidified that knowledge of myself, for better or worse. It is only now outside of the place (perhaps forever) that I can see what it did to me. Some of the things were small (walking taller), others large (like being comfortable playing with make-up and high-heels. I blame Larissa for that. ;-)). You may laugh at this set of realizations, but they had a severe impact on me.

Appearance is as strongly effected by who you are on the inside as the outside. When you feel like you are small, inconsequential or unattractive, you become so. When you feel beautiful and confident and amazing, you are equally so. So if you walk into every room expecting all eyes to at the very least glance at you if not down right leer, they will. I know it for a fact. And if you walk into a room wanting to be confused for a man or a woman (the opposite of your apparent gender) you will be. I also know that for a fact (think highschool, halloween, greaser costume in the guidance counselor's waiting room - it was terrible).

Penelope is wonderful. The character is a pleasure - you grow to really love her. She is beautiful with her nose and ears (to the point where you miss it at the end, just like Beast in Beauty and the Beast). It is also the only movie in a LONG time where my heart leapt with the romantic chemistry (I won't explain exactly as I think you should go see it, but I'm sure you'll understand what I mean once you have).

The moral of the story: Own up to how amazing and wonderful and beautiful you are, with all your faults and snaggle teeth and warts and wrinkles and moles. Who cares about your annoying laugh or the constant throat clearing or the fact you always chew with your mouth open?!

You're great just the way you are.

God thinks so, and I do too. :-D

Friday, November 14, 2008

Metamorphosis - Human into Child of God

My mother (though it could have been both parents) once told me that maybe the Son of God thing has been read all wrong. Perhaps Jesus was just able to actualize himself, truly became human in a way that no one has that made him the Son of God. That is to say, that if we chose, we might be able to do the same. Actualization. Truly Human. Running on all cylinders.

People talk about how we have all kinds of hidden talents and abilities we simply cut off from use and therefore they atrophy from disuse... making it nearly impossible to truly be ourselves. I'm thinking of all those as my father affectionately calls them, "hooby-dooby" traits. That is abilities like empathy, telekinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance.

Certainly there is a degree of choice involved to let certain abilities go to the wayside - so yes, it's okay to choose to not pursue music as a career if you don't like loud late night outings 6 days a week. But to forget, to never open your mind to some of the things we SHOULD be able to do... those capabilities that we have that have become weak with disuse, it seems almost criminal.

A lot of people (and groups) claim to have the "prophetic voice" for this day in age. I think that's impossible. They may say things that sound similar to prophecy, but really, can a prophet call him or herself a prophet? Is that allowable? What qualifies a person as a prophet?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the obvious - if you haven't at least TRIED to actualize your humanity, you cannot be a prophet. Some of those gifts and talents we all possess to some degree must be developed at least in part. Then once you have honed some of those skills, then you can begin to act. Take your dreams and act on them. Hear and see the signs and respond to them. Act according to God's will on behalf of people and this planet and then you may yet prove to be a prophet.

I have a long way to go towards actualizing my humanity. If I pulled an A.J. Jacobs and attempted to discipline myself in systematic ways I may come closer. Practice after all, makes perfect. If I continued working with my lucid dreaming and kept a dream journal diligently I may come closer to understanding the currents of our society and spiritual will, or maybe just the currents of myself. It's hard to know.

What I do know is that the more time you spend on something the more like that something you become. So if you spend most of your time practicing being grateful, you become grateful. If you think of yourself as a loving person, you become more loving. So it follows, if you begin to see yourself as an actualized person, you would become actualized (or at least somewhere closer than you are now).

The busy work you do during your day is not enough to keep you from this if you really want it. The kids, the pets, house, money issues, car issues, and spousal relationship are not enough to keep you away unless you want to be kept away. Make time. Spend time with God. Spend time creating and listening and meditating. Spend waking time dreaming. In one month's time I assure you, you will definitely see effects.