Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Getaway Reflections

Friday, April 12th, 2019

I spent three nights this week at a “Getaway” cabin. It’s a very small cabin with cooking facilities. And you get to not talk to anyone. They left a card for you to leave behind thoughts, a quote, or a picture.

Here’s what I wrote:

Silenced

I came with an agenda,
so much to think about,
so much to plan.

I sat out by the trees,
and the woods said to me,
“Shut up!”

I laid by the big window,
and the stars said to me,
“Shut up!”

Silenced by beauty,
stopped short by wonder.

And it was good.

***

That was my reaction to the first night. I’d brought lots of books to read and had intended to do some major planning. But when I arrived and saw the space was smaller than I’d anticipated, instead of spreading out the books and notebooks and getting to work – I went outside and read a book.

After it got dark, I laid on the bed and discovered I could see more stars through the big window than I’ve seen in a very long time. And it calmed my mind.

The next day, I did get busy with my getaway.

The space was smaller than I’d expected. Somehow I’d expected drawers, closets, shelves, and certainly mirrors, something more like a hotel room. This was not that. But my suitcases did work to hold my clothes.

I brought far, far too many books. But I’d known I was bringing too many, and it turned out there was room to line them up so I could choose, so I could dabble in a wide variety.

There was a hiking trail and it turned out to branch into two directions. I took the first way the first day, and it eventually petered out (unless I missed a turn?), then took the second way the second day and was relieved to find the trail was a loop so I didn’t have to turn back. I did have a scary moment crossing the stream on stepping stones. People who lay out stepping stone paths generally don’t plan for people with very short legs such as me, and despite myself and despite the super shallow water, I got so scared I was shaking, and then was more afraid I wouldn’t make the step.

Believe it or not, here are the stepping stones that scared me:

Then I went and found a walking stick, and I got my foot a little wet, but I did it! Both walks took about an hour, walks through the woods with plenty of birds singing and not seeing a single solitary human. On the first walk, I saw someone as I got back to my cabin and told her where the trail started.

In some ways, I’ve got a getaway in my own home, since I live alone. And I had a getaway all three times I went to a library conference while on the Newbery committee – since I had a large hotel room to myself.

But the gift of this place was that part of not talking to any people. I’ll admit, I did check my phone. And answered a couple of emails very briefly. But it was ideal for a place to read and write on my own agenda. I made simple meals and did not have to go out and find food, as I did when I stayed in a hotel room on Chincoteague.

My purpose in going was to decide: Do I want to take up writing again, now that my time serving on the Newbery committee is done?

The answer was an unequivocal YES.

Now, it was two years – since April 2017 – that I knew I would be on the Newbery committee, and another year before that I knew I would be on the ballot. So I’ve been putting my writing on hold for three years. And it was a beautiful experience being on the Newbery.

I brought all my old writing – the three books I’ve finished, three books I’ve started, and two short stories. My plan was to read them all and decide whether there is anything to salvage out of them and what to work on next. I was also planning to think through possibilities for nonfiction writing.

I didn’t have time to read all of those. What I ended up reading was an old writing journal I’d written 1995 to 2001, when I was a mother of young kids and planned to write. Toward the end of the journal, I thought of writing Sonderbooks, and it was fun to see that idea develop.

In the journal, I was reflecting on writing books I’d been reading. And I was asserting that I am a writer.

The lovely thing, reading that now? I no longer feel the need to assert that so hard. Yes, I am a writer. Now I know it in my bones.

All the years of writing Sonderbooks reviews, of responding to life in Sonderjourneys, and especially all the friends I’ve emailed about so many big issues – about my marriage falling apart, about what directions to take, about dreams and hopes, about theology – and even writing my life story in Project 52. I’ve figured out that I think things through by writing about them. How I put it, when I apologize to friends for the long emails I send, is this: I am a writer at heart.

Whether or not I ever get a book published, I am a writer. That’s who I am.

And taking some time out to think about that reasserted that. Yes, now that the Newbery’s done, yes, I want to spend at least a half-hour a day writing. I don’t think I’m going to not count writing reviews any more (like I used to) because some day I might want to write some kind of collection of book reviews. I won’t, however, count the time it takes to post the reviews.

But yeah, I’m a writer. And thinking about adding that back into my life makes me happy.

In fact, I’m not putting this on my online profile, but it makes me a lot happier than the thought of dating someone again. Maybe I’m not discouraged after all that I’m not finding a match that way! I’m thinking out a schedule for getting that half-hour in, and maybe having a longer time once a week… and I’m not sure I’ll be real patient with anyone wanting to interrupt that.

As for what to work on – one of those short stories is a very silly story about a kid saving the world from alien invasion. I’m going to try to turn that into a beginning chapter book.

It’s a very unserious story, and I like that for my again trying to write a book.

Today I read this in the book Chapter after Chapter, by Heather Sellers:

One writer I know, Brandon, is dying to write what he calls his magnum opus, a fantasy novel that brings all of his ideas together in one stunning story. But he feels stuck as a writer, completely blocked, and he has trouble starting even small pieces. Many of his friends have told him he needs to write his magnificent book and risk failure in order to save it. The longer he sits on his project, the more blocked Brandon will become.

But he won’t start writing.

I’ve always wanted to write a great book. Reading for the Newbery, I read plenty of great books. So if I get back into it by writing a silly little book – maybe it won’t be so paralyzing.

Anyway, that’s my plan. And I just spent a half-hour writing about that plan. Funny how easy that is.

But it was a lovely Getaway.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell Their Story

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

I’ve been reading in Psalm 107 lately. I think NIV has tweaked the translation, and I love the way it reads now, at the beginning:

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…”

Then the psalm is about various people, in different kinds of trouble, who cry out to the Lord — and he comes through, every time.

There’s a format to each story, a refrain.

God has come through for me, multiple times and in multiple ways. I thought I’d take one of those times and put it into a Psalm 107 format:

Some were lonely and broken,
rejected by the one they loved most,

told they were unworthy of love,
told their failings were unforgiveable.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.

He sent forth his word and healed them,
he sent a community to nourish them.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

for he heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

How about you? What is your story?

Seeing the Other

Friday, August 31st, 2018

I’ve been thinking about Patricia Evans’ books on verbal abuse lately, because of an abusive argument on Facebook saying it’s not even a valid definition — and the argument was so hurtful, it reinforced my belief that she has a great definition.

She says that when someone defines you — tells you what you think or feel (“You’re too sensitive!”), what you want, or anything else about you that they could not possibly know better than you — that is verbal abuse.

She points out that verbal abuse begins with pretending — pretending to know what’s really going on inside someone else. In her book Controlling People, she says that many people who get into habits of abusing and controlling do it because they have created a Pretend Person in their minds. When you respond as yourself — different than this ideal, pretend person — they take it as a personal offense. They tell you how you should really be responding.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in the context of my marriage that ended after my husband had an affair and left. I was completely blindsided by the affair — I thought we were both happy in the marriage. He thought we were both miserable. In fact, he argued with me that I’d been miserable for months — even though I had journals that recorded how happy I was. We were both making the mistake of reading our own experience onto the other.

Recently, when I was writing Project 52 and looked in my journals from our years of marriage, I found plenty of evidence of fights and disagreements. But I would pray about it in my journal and remind myself that my husband loved me and make myself feel better. But I think I assumed if I felt better, than he must feel better, too. How much of my husband did I not see?

Now, in my defense, neither one of us should expect our spouse to be a mind reader. When I’d ask my husband if something was wrong, he would usually tell me he was fine — and I’d usually take him at his word. I see how messy it was after the fact.

On a less significant level, since I’ve learned the definition of verbal abuse, I’ve noticed that exactly when I feel out of sync with my girlfriends is when they make assumptions about what I’m thinking or feeling. I’ve got a friend who will praise me for spending lots of time reading — as if it’s something I’m dutifully doing instead of a guilty pleasure! Or in some other way, it’s jarring when a friend reads you wrong.

But when my friends read me wrong — they are willing to be corrected. That’s the difference with verbal abuse — an abuser tells you that your motives are bad and even argues from what you’ve said that they can prove your motives are bad. (This is nonsense, by the way.)

But how often did I expect my spouse to read my mind and know how to please me without me telling him? And how often did I expect him to be pleased when I did something for him that would please me?

I’m an INFJ — and I think that does make me prone to snap judgments about people. I got a crush on my husband rather quickly, and I still get crushes today. And once I’ve got a crush — it’s harder to see that person for who they really are. I need to remind myself that they don’t automatically see the world the same way I do. That doesn’t automatically make us alike in every respect. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to be easy to live with.

Those kind of assumptions can be somewhat shocking when you do try to build a home together. I’d like to go into any future relationships with eyes wide open. Not only for my own sake, but also for my partner’s sake.

And I’d like to have a humble spirit — willing to learn from him. Not only to enrich my life by seeing things from a different perspective, but to learn how I can best make him feel loved — not assuming I already know what my Pretend Partner needs.

All this reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed:

“Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbour, but my neighbour. For don’t we often make this mistake as regards people who are still alive — who are with us in the same room? Talking and acting not to the man himself but to the picture — almost the précis — we’ve made of him in our own minds? And he has to depart from it pretty widely before we even notice the fact.”

Lord, help me to see the other person in front of me and not the Pretend Person I’ve invented and that I want or expect to be there.

Part of loving someone is seeing who they really are. May I learn to love like that.