Looking the Gift Calf in the Mouth

A few days ago, I wrote about running with my Fitbit and Nike app—how I was evaluating what benefit I derived from these tools and if they interfered with my running experience or enhanced it. I got some interesting feedback from a couple of women, both of whom basically said that noticing something doesn’t mean that something is bad and needs to be eradicated. One woman said she used to time her runs and chart them out on graphs—back in the day, you know, before we had Fitbits and Nike apps.

I read an article recently that takes to task the folks who are advocating unplugging and promoting “days without technology.” The upshot of the article was, in a nutshell, “why?” Why would we want to ditch something that makes our lives better? I just spent a good hour looking for that article so I could put a link in, but I cannot find it. I did however discover during my Google search that 1 in 3 Christian adults are giving up technology for Lent. Which makes me wonder, what makes us feel virtuous when we give up something?

Yes, yes, I know that we all need restraint and moderation and that there are things that are undeniably bad for us, but what about seemingly positive things that make us go “no, no, no—I can’t possibly have that, because it makes life too easy, makes me feel too good. If I feel too good or get too much benefit or pleasure from something, I must sacrifice it. Cut it out.”

One friend who has given up martinis for Lent says she gave them up because nothing tastes quite so lovely on Easter morning as that first martini after a 40 day martini drought. So, delayed gratification and the resulting enhanced pleasure is perhaps one reason to give something up, at least temporarily.

I suspect that is not one of the primary reasons to give something up for Lent but it’s not a tradition my brand of christians followed so I’m not much of an authority. My people eschewed most everything that smacked of fun all the time, so giving up something for Lent seemed redundant—if we could give it up for Lent, why not just cut it out of our life for good?

I’ve been thinking lately about a phenomenon that occurred quite regularly when I was a member in good standing of Campus Christian Fellowship back in my not-so-halcyon college days. Whenever a Fellowship member felt like something they were doing was coming between them and their relationship with God, they gave it up.

One of my bible study leaders my freshman year—let’s call her Tina—was a gifted French horn player. A music major on a scholarship, she was a senior when she decided that playing the French horn had become more important to her than her commitment to Christ, so she gave it up and changed her major. Ostensibly, Tina’s decision was based on the second commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Her French horn had become, in her words, an idol, a graven image, the Western Washington University undergraduate equivalent of the golden calf. Like the golden calf, the French horn had to be (metaphorically) melted down, or at least put away.

I remember being horrified by her decision as she shared her logic with us at a bible study meeting—I asked Tina if perhaps she was missing the point . . . that god had given her this amazing talent and wasn’t she just squandering his gift to her by quitting?

She replied by reminding me that god had given Abraham his son Isaac, too, and then asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Evidently god was insecure enough that he required a human sacrifice (well, yeah, eventually he sacrificed his own son, so Isaac was merely a precursor). Tina wanted to be as devoted as Abraham. Privately I suspected Abraham was a crazy old man who heard voices that were not god’s, but I was only the bible study attendee, not the leader, so what did I know? Turned out god was merely testing old Abraham and let him keep Isaac after all, but still. What sort of god requires that kind of sacrifice?

I kept seeing this notion crop up while I was in CCF—students ended relationships with one another because they became “too special.” Students gave up their apartments, their roommates, even their cars if they felt like they were becoming too attached. It all seemed a little crazy to me—why give up a good thing, I wondered. I failed to see the harm in appreciating a great apartment or a favorite car, or, especially, a deep friendship.

I imagined the great white sky-god pulling his long white hair out over all of this foolishness—all of this sacrifice. After all, hadn’t these students prayed to succeed? (Trust me, they had—everything became a prayer in CCF). Prayed to find the right apartments, prayed to find friends? And hadn’t god granted these things? Only to watch these ingrates squander his blessings?

I’m decades removed now from CCF and no longer even try to understand the logic that sect adhered to, and I do try not to have judgments about whatever it is that people want to give up for Lent because I think it is a time that can be like the new year when people can adopt new habits and try new ways of being. Lenten sacrifices may serve as a catalyst for getting healthy or for taking on positive new challenges. But even outside of religion, in the realm of regular folk, I believe we have a tendency to adhere to some spilled over puritanical beliefs that can strip us of small joys (like tracking our fitness) and larger gifts (like music and friendship and art).

We might all benefit from looking a little deeper at what we are giving up and why.

Lovefest (forewarned–gratitude alert)

Today I spent a lot of time in the car–two and a half hours to Seattle this morning. Only and hour and half (maybe less), to get home this afternoon. Lots of time to think. So, I did.

Tomorrow, The Little Woman and I are leaving for Phoenix (along, apparently, with all of the college kids in the whole universe–I did not realize it was going to be spring break when I booked these tickets back in the fall). We are going to see Cher at her first stop on the Dressed to Kill tour. I have loved Cher as long as I can remember–back to when I got my first record player in 6th grade and somehow go my hands on a “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” 45. Bliss.

I have wanted to see Cher forever. And now, thanks to my mindlessly flipping channels on the night when Dancing with the Stars had her on, we are going. I was minding my own business, just flip- flip- flippin, half an ear on the tv and half an eye on my Facebook feed when I heard Cher. I stopped flipping and watched–there she was,  talking about her music, and then I watched the rest of the show and ALL the couples had to dance to a Cher tune. Further bliss. i watched until the very end. And then I looked up her tour dates and bought tickets to her concert because, jesus, she’s my mother’s age and how much longer could she possibly have?

As I drove this morning, I turned off the Cher CD that has been blasting in my Jeep since before Christmas. When I bought Cher tickets, we got two (not just one, but TWO) CDs of her latest album, Dressed to Kill. I started playing one right away but since this was a surprise for TLW, I couldn’t let her know or give her her copy. (Because she’d be asking me why in god’s name I’d buy it on CD and not iTunes and why TWO copies?).

This morning though, I muted Cher and I turned on the Sirius Radio Spa Jazz channel–lovely new age-ish, flowly, soothing, happy instrumentals mostly that really do a nice job of keeping my road rage in check. Thus soothed, I pondered love. I pondered erotic love. Familial love. Kid love–I don’t think there is a more enevloping love than the love we have for our kids. Agape love–which makes room for those we don’t want to sleep with and to whom we are not related. (Agape has been co-opted by the christians, but really, it means love for our fellow man–like I said, everyone who falls outside of the realm of family and lovers). It’s a pure love (if you can believe Wikipedia).

I love my kids.  I love TLW. I love my parents. I love Cher. I love that Pat Benatar is opening for her! Life is full of love. I love school, I love the personal work I’m doing. I love the path my life is on. I love doing Haikus every morning. I love the writing I’m doing (even though most of it is for school), and the challenge of a blog every day (mostly). I love the written word and books and reading books. I love sharing what I read. Sharing my writing process.

I love that I have a writing community and people who support my work. People whose work I adore and applaud. I love the team of  folks who care for my mind and my body (it takes a village these days, truly), and my spirit (yeah, this last one, it’s new and still a little awkward for me–it will be a blog of it’s own at some point). I love that I have this adventure in grad school ahead of me and and then some.

I feel very fortunate–for all of this because, really, it’s so much. So much. A whole lot of love. Thank you. Sincerely.

Peace.

 

When Words Fail Me: My Writing, My Wedding

Sometimes the pressure to write builds up inside of me and it is so huge that I feel like I am going to explode. Someday The Little Woman may come home to find bits of me all over the house, word bits, words that built up and couldn’t find their way out of me. There will be a preponderance of prepositions and a truckload of nouns, verb carnage all over the kitchen, and gerunds on the ground (hey, that rhymed!). Adverbs and those nasty words that end in –ly will litter the walls, pronouns and random punctuation marks will be sprayed around.
Too often, these words don’t find an outlet. Instead I spin and dither. I find other ways to expend the energy inside, activities that seem less arduous than sitting down and grinding out sentences. This week, for example, I’ve set up the art table and started making things: prayer flags with my own twist and boxes to put the prayer flags in. I love making these boxes—I’ve been making books (books is a broad term, in book making, just about any form of art with words) for a number of years, and now for every book I make, I create a box in which to stow it. The timing is good, for making things. I can justify my projects as Christmas presents. These projects are my safety valve, the overflow, where the dangerous steam can spill without harming anything. Still, it is not writing.
And it’s not like I don’t have things to write about. I got married this weekend. I feel like I should be writing something about that.  We had a small and lovely ceremony with our daughters and good friends in attendance. My longtime friend Laura officiated, my friend and writing buddy Jolene took pictures (she’s good, check out her page). Our vows reflected the tenure of our relationship, sturdy vows, hard won truths reflecting our accrued wisdom. Mature vows from which the dewy innocence has been shaken, vows with wonder and tenderness and love.
TLW (aka SugarMama) and I have  been together for more than thirteen years. We had a silly ceremony ten years ago, and became registered domestic partners about five years ago. None of that was enough in the end however, for me to retain my health insurance benefits with her company. I proposed to her last Christmas not long after Washington State enacted its same sex marriage law. And yes, we gays fought to get married so we could have benefits, but I felt a little irritated rushing our ceremony in to beat a deadline. We were caught between her company’s end of the year deadline and the one that comes in June of next year that says the state will roll our domestic partnership into a marriage if we don’t act first.
(Yes, we had a year to make plans and do the deed. We need not have rushed, but all excuses and reasons aside, that is what happened, so don’t judge me, Dear Reader, just read on, quietly and without comment).
Family: Anna, Nancy, Pam, Taylor
I’ve run out of words. So here are some photos instead and a copy of the poem I wrote for my wife (wow, my WIFE! There’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying in this lifetime, forever ending the dilemma of what to call her: significant other, TLW (always), partner, girl friend, spouse, better half, my uhm friend special friend, the boss, etc).
Our rings–mine is the sapphire.
Shout out to Jolene Hanson, photographer
Nancy, You are my anchor

The harbor in the sea

The home from which I can journey
The door that will always be open
I rise and when I fall
You lift me up
Our bodies entwine
Rising up from our bellies
I’ve held my breath all these years
And now with you
I can exhale
I offer you myself
A safe harbor in the sea
A home with heart and fire
A door that is always open
When you rise I will cheer
Hitched! At last.
And if you fall, I lift you up
Our bodies entwine and
Rise up from our bellies
We breathe in as one
And now that we are home together
I can exhale
The circle of this ring continues forever,

As does my love for you.    


My Distractions: