Archive | December, 2010

Pregnant with Possibilities

31 Dec

Two years ago I started this blog on New Years day and wrote, “Like a snake shedding its skin, the end of the year always presents a unique opportunity to let the old fall away. For this reason, I find New Years’ Eve one of the most spiritual days of the year, as we sit pregnant with new possibilities. And like a tentative mother waiting to give birth, I use the day before New Years’ as one of rest and contemplation, avoiding revelries and alcohol, if at all possible. Instead I prefer to be alone or at least in a quiet setting so that I can better hear what God intends for me.”

Hmm. Maybe I need to read my own words more often.

Having been possessed by some sort of demon all week, I have hardly been feeling hopeful or “pregnant with possibilities.” Thankfully, the demon was exorcised at some point in my sleep last night, so I’m a little more open to God at the moment and to hearing from Him.

As my mind becomes more receptive, I reflect on why we human beings are so quick to shut out possibility (and God for that matter). In an effort to protect ourselves from the unknown, we’d rather predict misery and disaster, than live in the ambiguous zone of not knowing if we’ll succeed or fail, find love or lose it, be happy or unhappy. It’s easier to shut down than to see any sense of possibility.

I think when we don’t know what is up and what is down, our faith is most deeply challenged. It’s also when we have the most possibility for wonder, if we could only grasp that.

I’ve done therapy groups with people so hurt and wounded that when asking them to hold an imaginary penny and make a wish, they can’t because it’s too painful to think of all the wishes in their lives that haven’t come true. And yet, I’m no different. There are times when I too can’t make a wish or the wish I would most want to make, (if I wasn’t so afraid of the potential pain and disappointment).

This fear permeates all aspects of our thinking, language and behaviors. Why the other day, I found myself muttering, “I can’t wait for 2010 to be done with!” But I had to stop and pause for a second. “Wait a minute. 2010 was awesome.” This led me to rephrase my sentence. “I can’t wait for this week to be over and for 2011 to start!” Let’s look at things a little more accurately, Lise. 2010 was wonderful and who is to say 2011 won’t be more so?

So for whoever reads this blog, my wish for the New Year is that we are all open to faith. That we see possibilities in situations where we have no vision. And that we remember rainbows come after storms. And for all those of us feeling metaphorically barren, may we sing and remember Isaiah 54:1-5:

“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the LORD.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

What’s in a Tree?

18 Dec

When I was a little girl, I adored the Christmas tree. It was my favorite thing about Christmas. In high school, I often opted for sleeping on the living room couch so I could fall asleep in the glow of the tree’s lights. My dad was kind of a kook for the tree too. We often had a live Monterey pine as our tree so one year we kept it up until the end of February before eventually planting it.

As I became an adult and my family proceeded to unravel, I kept the tradition of having a tree, even as I let go of gift giving and much of the fanfare that comes with the season. I remember lugging a tree home from one of the corner stores when I lived in Manhattan and purchasing a stand with screws to secure the trunk’s base. But in the last few years, I’ve grown negligent in my tree traditions. In fact, there have been a few years where I’ve skipped getting a tree all together.

In the same way that I used to enjoy cooking for one because I found it an act of relaxation and self-nurturing, I used to not mind getting a tree for myself. Why would I deprive my heart the pleasure of a tree and lights, simply because I live alone? But now I find cooking kind of tedious and something I do to keep fuel in my body and quite frankly, I have found the tree thing an ordeal as well.

One year, my neighbor lent me his artificial tree. Initially resistant because I had always been a “real” tree girl, I actually loved the tree. It looked real, was incredibly easy to set up and didn’t involved sacrificing a live tree. But then the following year, I didn’t bother.

This year, that same neighbor and his family brought over a gift that I was to open before Christmas. In it, was a small artificial tree and a strand of white lights. Immediately I set it up on top of the cats’ cat tree and delighted as each cat had to sniff it, attempt to eat it and yes, knock it down twice. And that night, I fell asleep in my bed but I could see the lights and the tree from my room.

It’s funny that something as simple as a tree with a string of lights can bring such joy. I was in Del Mar earlier this week where everything was decked out and instead of the beauty making me feel cheery, it just made me feel sad, as if it marked another year in which I have somehow failed to create my own nuclear family. And yet as I look at my little tree and came home last night to find a wreath had been placed on my door by the neighbor elves, I realize there is much in a tree. Trees symbolize life.

And is not that what the Messiah came to give us?

In the act of my neighbor, who I don’t think even attends church, I see the Gospel being acted out here and now. And I am reminded that this is a time to rejoice.

The Writing Life

8 Dec

I have been keeping a journal since I was eight years old. Stashed away in closets and baskets are piles of diaries and notebooks that have accumulated over the years as a result of this fetish. It is actually a little embarrassing to have a record of your life (and self-absorption) littered throughout one’s house.

I think writing was something I’ve always enjoyed. My grandfather used to comment on how I’d spend hours writing letters to my folks back home whenever I’d visit during the summer and that they would have to call me to dinner because I’d get so lost in what I was doing. But I know that for me, writing was more than an amusement. It was a life line. I began to write to sort out just what was happening at home.

The diary with the kitty on the cover chronicles my first reflections on my mother’s alcoholism. “My mom was acting strange. Then she got the hiccups bad. I know she was drinking. She poured herself some vodka and the big bottle is almost empty. She buys everything in small quantities but liqor (I didn’t know how to spell the word). When she is drunk she goes off to space. This weekend will be all right but I’m going to have to push those feelings aside and barge down the wall. She is my mother and I must be good to her, but it is hard. I hate it when she sits and stares stupidly. When she drinks, her eyes get foggy.”

I reflect on this because this month I have committed to some serious writing, in which I’m at the computer first thing in the morning before going into work, revisiting a subject I have been writing about since those early years. Piecing together reflections since my mother’s suicide like strands of beads on a string, I find myself exploring the same themes: God, suffering and the longing for connection and peace. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sometimes I think I write because I’m crazy; other times I write because to not write makes me crazy. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an urgent need to put thoughts and feelings to words. Language for me is the oxygen that keeps alive. I wonder if I write because I was an only child and the paper became a substitute sibling or friend and if now the paper has become a substitute for a spouse. Or if I would keep writing even if I lived in a house filled with a jillion people. I wonder if I spend hours writing crap or if what I’m working on someday will really touch people’s lives.

Regardless, my grandfather was right. I love to write. And sure enough, in the kitty diary I wrote, “I want to be an author so bad. This diary I can tell all my feelings to and can look back and laugh. I know I will write stories about the great life God planned out for me.” That is a little spooky to think that at age eight or nine, I knew myself perhaps better than I do now.

Maybe that is why we write. To make certain we don’t lose ourselves.