My Cup Runneth Over

January 19, 2009

To the extent that there were Bibles in my life growing up, it was the King James Version all the way. I was a competitive child and wanted to win every contest, including the Bible verse memorization contest at Mt. Zion (the church where my Baptist family goes and my dad grew up). I memorized this verse in this context (along with, amusingly, lots of verses that are not significant at all but were easy to memorize and, thus, win the contest). This passage still speaks to me even though I rewrite it a bit in my head these days.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I love this for so many reasons. A God that restores my soul. That invites me to lie down in green pastures, and walks with me along still waters and is with me when I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I don’t even know really much what a rod and staff are, but reading it in this passage, it just sounds comforting. I always sort of skip over the part about the enemies, and get to the part where God anoints my head with oil. Have you ever had your head anointed with oil? I have, and it makes you feel so special. (As a side note, I tried to figure out a way to incorporate this into a healing service at a UU church a few years ago, but it was just a little too much, I think, for the congregation at the time. I have not given up though.) Surely, I will dwell in God’s house forever. And ever. Sweet. I just love the idea that no matter what I do, or where I go, God has built this house of love around me – full of still waters and pastures and, yes, even valleys of the shadow of death – but in all of this God is with us. It is coming back to these sort of verses – with such a long tradition (I can see myself right now saying this along with my Mammaw and my Dad and my Aunt and all the elders of the church who loved me so much) that I miss Christianity and think maybe I could become Episcopalian. I know I can’t. And won’t. And don’t want to. But sometimes the thought sneaks in.

I thought of this verse now because every once in a while I am just knocked over by how much my cup runneth over. I sit in my nice warm apartment, two cats at my feet and one sleeping on my rocking chair pillow behind my head, eating frosted flakes, drinking tea, with my supportive, kind, lovely partner in the other room. We are both working on our computers – him for his job (we feel so lucky he has one these days) and me for my school in my doctoral program that I am so lucky to be a part of. And I just think, geesh. What a life I live. Full of love. From my friends and my family. A faith community we love. Gosh, it even makes me feel thankful for our neighbors downstairs who are playing very very loud base right now. Ah, the lessons they have taught us about loving your neighbor! It is hard when it is literal and your neighbors are not very lovable. But I suppose the idea was to do it especially to those who are not lovable.

So I am thankful this evening. And, as a side note, procrastinating on a paper that is due. But it doesn’t take away from how thankful I am. And how ashamed I am, sometimes, that I am not able to better be thankful for all that is good in my life instead of focusing on all that is not that good. Gotta work on that. Or even, as they say, pray about it. Give it up. Hand it over. And know that I will fail again and again, but must just keep opening myself up to change and transformation and keep in mind what I wrote about for the New Year. Trying harder isn’t always the way to go. So, maybe I will not try harder to be thankful, but see if I wait, and walk in green pastures and beside still waters, listen, rest, praise, and worship… maybe my thankfulness and gratitude have been there, and I just need to be able to see it and let it wash over me.

Or something like that.

Much peace, E

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New Year New Year: a bit of rambling/visioning/thinking and an annoucement of sorts

January 10, 2009

Hello 2009. We are 9 days into you. I wonder how this will go?

I tend not to be a big new year resolution person because I am not really good at keeping big promises and because I am always trying to improve things and I adding to that isn’t really so helpful. Really, I don’t know. I just don’t do them much. (As I write this, I realize I did it two years ago right here on this blog where I vowed not to buy new clothes for a year and I stuck with it very well for five months. But usually I don’t do resolutions, and maybe my failure five months into my 2007 resolution helped to solidify this.)

Anyway, so I guess I want to reflect a bit on the upcoming year and how I would hope that it might go for me and my family.

So I guess I am sort of private and this blog isn’t really a personal journal, but it I suppose I will want to write about this more at some point so:

drum roll

is about a month and a half until we welcome a little baby into our family. So that makes for a very different year. I have been reading about pregnancy since I was 15, and excited about having a baby since I was old enough to hold my baby cousins. I’ve always wanted a family and it has always been a big part of how I envision my life.

I would read about or talk to women who would say that they didn’t like being pregnant, and I would think, “They must not love it enough. They must not have read enough about all the natural remedies that can make it better. They must not have a midwife and a doula and a support system.”

Until I got pregnant and have been very very very sick ever since. I do not believe in a God that teaches us lessons, but if I did, I am sure this would be one of God’s humbling lessons to Elizabeth about how you can’t control everything in your life and you shouldn’t judge other people so harshly, especially until you have walked a mile or seven and half months in their shoes.

I should probably clarify that there are women who have been more miserable than me in pregnancy and, as far as we know, nothing is really really wrong. I have not been hospitalized. Baby seems healthy. I seem healthy (enough). But every day is a day to get through. Which does not facilitate the pregnancy pre-baby, round belly, pregnancy joy that I had been envisioning.

Soooo, my point here is that in the New Year, I am going to try to let go a bit more and realize that I cannot read and plan my way out of the struggles and road bumps in life, and that sitting counting the hours and the days until something is over or better does not make for mindful, joyful living. In high school, it was “Oh, how I can’t wait until college.” In college, “Oh how I can’t wait to settle down with a partner and be done with college.” In my Masters studies, “Oh, how lovely that will be if I can get into a Ph.D. program.” Each semester: “Oh, how nice it will be to be done with papers.” And, as much as I have tried to not think it, it has often been, “Oh, how wonderful it will be for the baby to be born and not be pregnant anymore.”

And so goes our life.

My life has, far too often, been about achievement. I wanted to be the line leader in Kindergarten. The best reader. The best community service do-er. Get more scholarships. Seem more special. Write better papers. Be the best future minister.

In one way, of course, this is good. It is good to work hard, right? To do good. But, of course, we can do it too much.

And, at the end of the day month year, our wall is covered with diplomas and our drawers are stuffed with A+ papers and the congregation loves the sermon and we have missed What We Are Here For. Which, for me, is to love others. To be loved. To drink hot chocolate and hear others’ stories and be present to people and be present to myself. To cuddle the cats. To love the colors of the trees. To ease the suffering of others.

I have seen this so much in the last months as I tried to not collapse finishing my classes, waddling around like a sick hippopotamus on speed trying to read enough, write enough, do enough, and watch myself be perky and cheerful to others, as if I was watching some other person who could not turn off her fake cheer and show how tired she was.

I do not want to show this sort of life to our baby. I do not want to miss first coos, and the magic of a baby growing up while I scramble to Do It All. And I do not want him or her to learn that to live is to Do Good and Do Right and Achieve. I have not spent enough time playing. Or laughing. Or drinking hot chocolate. And I want my little one to do this more.

I know this is cliched and I almost don’t want to post it because it seems to me like it could be some sort of email spam story about treasuring our friends and our life and our children. All that is missing is a note at the end that if you don’t pass this on to 10 people you will be cursed.

It reminds me of a thousand sermons about being in the moment. A thousand books about Women Who Do Too Much and our rushed 21st Century World and how we need to Slow Down.

Perhaps there is a reason that there are so many damn books and sermons on this – because it is hard.

So, as we prepare to welcome a new little person into our lives, I have given myself a little new year nudge, realizing that it will never be a goal I will Achieve, but that it is an important path to be on and remind myself of.

Be present. Be gentle. Love. Let myself be loved. Slow down. Remember what will be important as I look back on my life.

Mess up.

Try again.

Be thankful.

Amen.


Hating Conflict Too Much

January 6, 2009

When I was a little girl and teenager, I fancied myself tough, willing to tell you what you need to know. Somehow in my mind, this was what it meant to be smart or good or the best. Or something.

My dad, on the other hand, would rather eat live mice than confront someone. I remember a particularly dramatic incident when McDonald’s forgot the ketchup for my french fries and my dad thought we should just make do and I thought we needed to DEMAND our ketchup.

But around about age 17, I started to understand where he was coming from. It was often easier and more practical just to agree with someone, or follow the stupid rule than to argue and point out the rule’s stupidity. In a sense, it was a humbling of my own heart. Maybe I don’t have all the answers. Also, I am sure it was part of me being chronically ill for many years – learning how to conserve my energy for the most important things. All sorts of things.

But, it has gotten out of hand. I realize this now. I have known it. It is why I sit in my apartment in Somerville right now at 2:21 a.m. with a heater that doesn’t work correctly, costing us HUNDREDS of dollars each month, yet is not fixed because after several very difficult encounters with the landlords, it has just seemed easier to pay an OUTRAGEOUS heating bill rather than go to court or knock on their door and harass them or to hire a lawyer or whatever it would take to get it fixed. And, the reason I am up at this hour is because our neighbors below us are listening to music on their new stereo drunkenly singing along, and interspersing the sing-alongs with stories that use the word fuck way more than Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone put together. The music is loud enough and has gone on long enough and it is late enough and this sort of thing is frequent enough that it would really be very reasonable to go down and politely ask them to turn the music down. Or the more cowardly version of writing a letter kindly requesting that they don’t play music loudly after midnight.

Of course, they have habitually stolen our mail until we got a P.O. Box (no we did not confront them on this either) and seem capable of at least minor violence and property damage, so maybe not confronting them is the wiser thing.

Still. It is one thing to be kind, gentle, flexible, and easy going.

It is another to put up with very unreasonable behavior over a long period of time.

But the threat of confrontation with really nasty people just seems not worth it. Finding the right balance for all of this is hard.

And I just thought I would write this because I am up anyway and contemplating what I should do about this.

At least they aren’t singing along with the songs as loudly now. Maybe soon they will sleep.

Or not (she writes as the bass is turned up and the transition is made from Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock’s duet to Eminem).

I can’t wait to move to the country. Where there are crickets. And no neighbors below you.

Amen and goodnight.