Archive | May, 2010

Bruises and Scrapes

29 May

Recently a friend of mine told me he thought I was courageous. I about fell over in my chair, as courageous is not an adjective with which I use to describe myself. In fact, if truth be told, I am a flat out ninny. I live with so much daily fear and neurosis, it is both comical and sad. It’s also testimony to how weak my faith really is, for faith is the opposite of fear and/or the absence of it.

The undercurrent of anxiety in my life surfaces in the way I check the stove a THOUSAND times before I leave the house for fear I haven’t turned it off and will thus burn it down with my beloved cats trapped inside. This little preoccupation became evident to a friend I was traveling with recently, which was a bit embarrassing for me. It didn’t help when she told me that her father had actually left the stove on once and burned down half the kitchen. Great…

Yet oddly enough, the other day wasn’t the first time I’ve been told I’m brave. When I was eighteen and went to live in Indonesia for a year as an exchange student, people constantly told me I was brave. What they didn’t realize was that 1) I didn’t know any better and 2) I was utterly terrified. I guess it’s that old adage, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Or, as another friend of mine used to say, “Fear is just energy — or happiness without the breath.”  

Anyway, I am a full fledged neurotic which is why surfing is great for me. All kinds of things can go wrong when you surf. The board can bang you on the head or break your nose and the fins can cut you. In just the year I’ve been learning, I banged my toe on a rock (although that was while walking on the beach while carrying the board) to the point of sprain, stepped down way too hard on my ankle when riding a wave into the shallow and have taken a number of beatings by water. In fact, I sometimes drive home wondering if you can get a black eye from being hit by a wave. And all of this is good because in life we get bruised and scraped and that is part of living. I need that reminder. Because I’d rather be living than dying.

Yes, we get bruised and scraped but we must get back on that horse. Back on that board. Out into the sunshine. This thing called life.

The Heart of the Mystery

29 May

I had an art teacher once say that if you analyzed a painting too much, “you kill it.” You took all value out of the subjective experience of viewing the art. 

I’ll never forget his comment as it seems to echo in many areas of my life. Whether it’s academia, religion, love, art, whatever. If you analyze a subject too long, you can “kill it.” Taking all the mystery out of it.

Now I make my living analyzing things. Well, people to be exact. Even before my training as a psychotherapist, I seemed to have an intuitive understanding of body language, facial expressions and verbal subtext beyond what most people discerned in everyday encounters. But perhaps contrary to popular thought, to me the purpose of analysis is to delve deeper into the mystery of another – into intimacy – into being – vs. trying to dissect something down to the point of fragmentation and objectification.

I reflect on this topic as I have been writing today about the historical quest for Jesus and take the position that in trying to discern who Jesus was  – the supposed historians are actually missing the point of who he is as a living presence. But because religious experience is basically phenomenological, pegging down someone’s actual spiritual experience is a challenge and “we need a new way of looking in order to see what we can’t otherwise see” (Luke Timothy Johnson).

So I am all for seeing, for analyzing, for seeking, for discerning, for getting to know. But I also love the inherent mystery that is the heart of life itself.

Trexw – aka Trek or Trech

17 May

I’ve never been a Trekie. In fact, when I think of “Star Trek” my only impressions are from childhood when I thought Spock’s ears were weird and the women’s sixties style space suits were cool. But in Greek class the other night, my teacher teased us that the word trek germinates from the Greek verb trexw: “To run, rush, advance, exert oneself, strive to advance, make progress, progress, speed on.” Given that definition, I think he is right. It also explains our contemporary usage of the word. For instance, “I’m going on a trek,” or “we’re trekking through the mountains.” Well, lately I’ve been feeling like this year has been one big TREK. 

What does it mean to “run, rush, advance, exert oneself or progress?” I’m not sure except that this year I know I have been advancing. Advancing to what or in what is another question but I know I’m in motion. Moving towards something that doesn’t really feel like a goal as much as a trajectory – out into space – out into new frontiers and into the unknown.

This all started with the strange voyage of entering seminary – an endeavor I love but don’t know that I’ll be able to continue unless I get a renewed scholarship. This one step forward for Lise-kind catapulted many other changes. My job is different, my mind has stretched and my ability to take on more than I thought possible has been like a muscle undergoing strength conditioning. Likewise, my social circle has expanded and my spiritual process has been on turbo drive.

And all this is good. Yet I still feel myself spinning out into space.

There are three more weeks left in the quarter. I can’t imagine not studying Greek anymore and my heart will break if I’m not enrolled in school during the fall. But I trust that part of this journey into the unknown means I don’t know when, where or how I’m going wherever it is that I’m going. I’m just on a trek. Beam me up, Scotty.

Why I Need Water

7 May

I awoke this morning kicking myself for scheduling a client today at 10:00 am instead of seeing her last night after my work at the hospital. This would have freed me up to surf on a day of stupendous weather but now that won’t happen. So let’s play our tiny violins, Lise. But seriously, as I felt a pang in my chest almost like suffocation at the thought of not being in water, I had to contemplate – why is not being in water (be it ocean, pool or bath) create such a state of emergency within?

I have loved the water ever since I was a little girl. Because my mother worshiped the sun, I spent a considerable amount of time in the pool or ocean while she sunbathed. It was kind of how we spent time together even though she didn’t swim because it messed up her hair. So who knows. Maybe the connection to water reflects some type of connection my mother. But I would guess more accurately that the water became a surrogate mother; a trace memory of floating in an amniotic sac and being inside my mother. A longing to reclaim unity that was difficult to experience outside of her body and in the physical world. 

For me, water is no longer just mother. It is Father/Mother/God. It is redemption. Purification. Salvation.

When in high school my mother would fall asleep early from drinking too much vodka, I’d slip down to the pool and swim away my frustrations with her alcoholism. I’d soak in the jacuzzi after ballet class, when my toes were blistered and look up at the stars at night and dream of being far away from home. In high school, I swam on swim team. And in college, I walked down to Blacks Beach every morning to go running, worshipping the Pacific with the surfers at 6:00 am before class. When a knee injury kept me from running, I took to lap swimming again and fell so in love with the pool, I actually painted a portrait of it with steam rising off the water. 

But it wasn’t until I became a therapist that swimming became essential to my functioning. Because for me it’s impossible to absorb people’s energy, emotions and pain all day without needing to wash it off afterwards. It is my exorcism of intra-psychic energy that is not mine; it is the way for me to reset the computer. And when it comes to my internal landscape – my dreams, emotions, intuition and troubles, it is the only thing that moves these elements up and out to prevent a debilitating depression. So for me, swimming is serious business. 

I will make it to the pool today in-between stuff and I will get to surf tomorrow. And when I’m really desperate, there is always the bathtub. (I love the scene in Splash where Darrell Hannah, playing a mermaid on land is desperate to get into the bath to nourish her scales). And bizarrely, the surf board that stands against the wall by my desk smiles down on me as I write this saying, “I am here for you. I am your friend. Your ticket to sanity. Your Mother/Father/God. Because I connect you to water. To sun. To adventure. To life.”