Archive | July, 2012

Drug of Choice

25 Jul

For as long as I can remember, books have been my favorite toys. With the exception of a pair of ice skates I received one Christmas, I was always most delighted by the packages under the tree that were compact, rectangular and shaped like a Nancy Drew book.

While one might think of winter as the prime reading season, (being that one is stuck in the house due to snow or what not), I live in sunny San Diego so my reading habits do not ebb and flow according to weather conditions. Yet nonetheless, I often associate summer with the thrill of reading.

When I was little I spent summers in Madison, Wisconsin visiting my grandparents. Many hours were passed reading in the basement or next to my grandma while she knit. And there was no greater thrill than a trip to the University book store followed by ice cream at Babcock Hall. Perhaps it is nostalgia for these summers that drives me to stay up late reading at night and to lay in bed longer in the morning doing the same. For kids, summer equals a hiatus from school which means more freedom to indulge in whims. And so here I am at 43 feeling like I’m 8 again with the whole day open and stretched before me (even though it isn’t). But for now, for this sweet moment in time, I have my passport to far off lands.

For me, reading is a drug with healing properties. Books have been a life line as well as a means of interpreting the world around me and trying to make sense of it. I have found wisdom and inspiration in books as well as escape and relaxation. And thus, I mourn for those who are illiterate and for a culture where game boys, computers and t.v. are eclipsing library and quiet time.

I am already gearing up for the day in which my eye sight might fail me. In the event that this occurs, I will learn braille so that I can keep reading.

I don’t know what it is really that brings me such comfort from books but I know that if I have a book, like a child with her pacifier, I am okay and soothed. Perhaps it is the sense of sanctuary that books provide. In a world filled with chaos and dysfunction, it is reassuring to know one can move into another realm. Like slipping into a quiet church in the middle of midtown Manhattan, books allow us to both escape and transcend other dimensions.

Here’s to a Balm in Gilead. To the library as shrine. And may we all enjoy a little summer reading!

Memories, Dreams, Reflections….

18 Jul

One summer when I was young I happened to stumble upon “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” and found myself mesmerized by Carl Jung’s intense tracking of his internal life. In him, I saw a reflection of myself in the way that he processed information around him. Thankfully, as I’ve aged I’ve become somewhat more externally focused but the inner life can reveal much of import.

The night before I received a suicide note from my mother, I had a dream. In the dream I was in a car that had somehow fallen into the sea. Water was seeping into the vehicle as it plunged to the bottom of the ocean with me in it. I knew I was drowning but there was nothing I could do. I watched helplessly.

It is now four years later and my dreams have quieted some. My mother is gone and what remains are memories and reflections. Yet in these she is more alive than ever. And that is the gift the Lord has given me. He has given me back my mother.

The other day I saw the new Disney/Pixar movie “Brave” about the spirited princess Mereda. While I never spoke to my mother the way Mereda does hers’, I could relate to her feeling as if she had nothing in common with my mother. “Change my mother!” is Mereda’s wish and from this incantation a witch’s spell transforms the Queen into a bear.

I too wanted my mother to be different. I wanted a mother who didn’t have a problem with alcohol and who didn’t wind up in jail five times for felony DUIs. I wanted a mother who was emotionally available and who would parent me instead of the other way around. Yet when the witch’s spell threatens to be permanent, Mereda suddenly realizes all she might lose. She remembers being a young girl playing at her mother’s feet and being scooped up in her mother’s arms. Similarly, when my mom died I too remembered the strength of a bond before it was torn.

Topography of the Heart

10 Jul

Despite often being accused of having strong intellectual defenses, I am nonetheless a big fan of the heart. In fact, in Chinese medicine, the heart reigns supreme over the brain and is said to house both the mind and emotions. They refer to it as the Little Emperor.

Here in our Western world we are told to trust our minds not our hearts and are led to believe that the heart can get us into a lot of trouble. Perhaps. But if the heart so misleads us why does so much of our vocabulary reflect its intelligence? i.e. heart of the matter, heartache, change of heart, heavy heart, faint of heart, light heart, etc.

I know that for myself the heart is a mysterious creature that I can’t seem to get away from. Every time I want to leave it at home for the day, it follows me like a dog who won’t leave my company. In fact, in many ways it is like a dog: loyal, vulnerable, forgiving, fierce and protective of those I love.

In therapy, when clients are often stuck in their heads and not making progress towards talking about what is really going on, I’ll often ask, “If your heart could speak, what would it say? If it was sitting here right on the couch with you, what would it want to talk about? How old is your heart and what does it want?” And inevitably that is when clients start to cry. Because their hearts actually have a lot to say but have been ignored and censored.

I’m not saying the heart is always right. We have to develop a wise and discerning heart. In Ezekiel 11:19 it says, “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and ordinances and obey them.” We have to cultivate the heart in a God like way so that it knows what it is doing.

My heart hasn’t always led me in the right direction and yet more often than not, it navigates fairly well. It yearns for God and beauty and joy. It desires connection and vitality and to give and receive love. It also knows when it has been hurt and when it needs rest and to not be over-excited. I thank God for my heart. Despite my over zealous mind and ego, the heart represents the compass of my life. If we traced the topography of our hearts, I think we’d find ourselves in vast, wild and beautiful terrain.