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RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Rivers in the Desert March 23, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in Friday Fives.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

1) My husband: My life wouldn’t be the same without him in it. I thank God for him everyday, and I hope I never stop doing that.

2) My children: Boy-o: the wonder with which he approaches the most ordinary things often makes me stop in my tracks and wonder when I got too busy to appreciate the daily things. For example this morning when I was getting him out of the car, he saw some birds in the parking lot and he started laughing and saying “Birds fly!” When they did, he was so happy he started spinning in circles and chortling at his power to make the birds do what he wanted. The Princess: she reminds me that I would never again be 14, no matter how much you paid me! How very CRITICAL everything is at that age, and it’s just exhausting. I feel absolutely BURSTING with life when we part ways – I just wish it was a feeling I could communicate to her so that she could understand there is life beyond not getting what you want in the moment.

3) Renaissance faires: I am fully aware that disease, monarchs with a penchant for removing people’s heads, and back-breaking labor were some of the less attractive aspects of medieval times, but you can’t beat merry wenches, jousts, mead, sword swallowers, jewelry shopping, and Maypole dancing for a good time. Coming up: Medieval Faire in large college town next weekend, and another Renaissance Faire in small city to the northeast and then ANOTHER Faire in the state I grew up in in May. I love to spend a day or a weekend at these events, but truth be known, I’m always very glad to get back to “modern times” at the end!

4) Music: You may think it’s a teenage angst thing to lay on one’s bedroom floor and sigh with delight or distress at a song, but I’m quite sure I’ll never get over this particular way of re-setting my mood.

“The passing of time and all of it’s sickening crimes is making me sad again…but don’t forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life, yes you’re older now and you’re a clever swine, but they were the only ones that ever stood by you…” -The Smiths

5) Being on the water: I’ve blogged before about my love affair with the ocean and how difficult it has been for me to live in a state with nothing but land and more land around me! While it is very relaxing to walk the beach, I’m cautious before swimming in the ocean due to the preponderance of jellyfish in the waters off the coast of the state I grew up in. But give me an inner tube and a river, and we’re in business! Tubing is not a passive activity by any means, and I’m always exhausted at the end of ride. I also love being on a boat or in a swimming pool or at a water park, or for that matter, in the shower! (I know you’re all glad of that last one!)

I take my son to his aunt’s house… March 6, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in life, road trips, theology, thoughtful.
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…as she has agreed to watch him for a few hours until his dad gets home from work. I am about to embark on my first non work-related road trip in quite some time, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m anxious – there’s something about leaving my child in someone else’s care that does that to me, even if it’s only for a few hours to go to a movie or out to dinner. I suppose I’m fortunate that I don’t let that anxiety cripple me to the point of not being able to leave him. I’m also feeling anticipatory. I don’t have any enormous plans, just a short 3 hour trip down to the state I grew up in see my friend S and to go to the Irish Festival, but it is time for myself, time I have needed since my husband began full time grad school on top of his full time job and I became our son’s primary caretaker. We pull into a visitor parking spot at his aunt’s apartment and he immediately throws down the toy computer he was playing with in the back and announces, “I want to see Foxy!” That’s the sweater-wearing diva dog in residence, of course, and the boy always has a grand time when he gets to play with her. We walk up the stairs – he is just starting to be able to alternate his little legs on the stairs, and in no time we are knocking on the door. The minute he lays eyes on Foxy, I cease to exist. Somewhat grudgingly, I’m given a good bye kiss and a “see you later!” I’ve been banished, and so I trudge back to my car and pop a Peter Murphy CD into the player.

“…listen boy, it’s a long way down… down to heaven’s gate
to heaven’s gate the steps the steps to the tower of pride, the devil lied…dive up to the highest point, where our lives are saved…”

I back out of my parking spot and head down Mississippi Street to where it will meet the highway. I light a cigarette – I don’t ever smoke with the boy in the car – and call the husband to let him know that I’m off. He says he’ll miss me, but he wants me to have a good time. He hears the music and asks what I’m listening to. I hold the phone up to the speaker for him, and he says, “Is that the Sisters of Murphy?” I start laughing so hard I have to pull over to the side of the road for a minute. That’s the man I love – he’s always “almost, but not quite” got it.

“…don’t get shy, don’t get caught with the world and its thoughts
I’m not asking for worship or lazy sleazy thoughts…”

I inhale and exhale, and tap the ashes out the window. The turnpike stretches out ahead of me. Not too long ago, my sister-in-law hit a deer on this road, in broad daylight no less, and so I’m a little more observant, a little more wary, even though in the course of my daily life I spend so much time driving that I do get lazy sometimes. I sometimes joke with people that I’m a tad bitter because my mother lied to me as a child – in 1980, she told me that in the year 2000, cars would be flying in the air like planes and that their drivers would be able to sleep while they were traveling. I reach the toll gate and drop in my 55 cents. Green light – hit the gas and keep going.

“…I twist a shade to my right, and spit at Beelzebub on sight and go on loving all I see, for here I live on patiently…clearly now, I tell you man that all I say is all I can
for I am nothing but my sin until I learn to caste them in

My thoughts drift to some emails I’ve gotten lately from an old friend, someone that I only talk to a few times a year, even though, if I’m really honest with myself, I wish it were more often. I was 25 when I first met this friend, and I was fresh out of a very needy, traumatic relationship that had finally run its course. At this point in my life, I knew that I wanted to get married and have kids, and I was fairly certain that I was done with getting into relationships that had no shot at permanency – and I had pretty high standards for the next contender to meet. This friend – and oh, I loved him and wanted him to be more, yes I did – was beautiful, intelligent, funny, had a job, and didn’t live with his mother. He introduced me to new music and new food, made me think about things that I had never thought about, taught me a few things about insight, and helped heal some of the shame that I had been carrying with me for years over some poor decisions that I had made in the past. I give him a LOT of credit for getting me ready for the man who did become my husband. He was bizarre in quite a few ways – he took me to meet his parents, but he was so secretive he would never show me the house he lived in, and a few short months later, I knew that I didn’t have the wherewithal to figure this enigma out. We had a tearful conversation in my car on the last night that I ever saw him, and I drove away, my heart in tatters. The whole 7 hour drive home, I alternately screamed and sobbed. I had to pull over several times because I simply couldn’t see through my rage to drive.

“…hot tears flow as she recounts her favourite worded token, forgive me please for hurting so don’t go away heartbroken, no…”

This is the trip that comes back to me as I’m driving now, and I’m not completely sure why. While the process took me a good two years, obviously, I *did* heal. I went on to marry someone else, someone who is my partner in every sense of the word, who created a beautiful son with me, someone who knows all the scary bits and ugly bits and loves me anyway. I talk to my old friend a few times a year by email, and he always asks about my family and always skillfully deflects any questions I have about him and the state of affairs in his life…and that’s okay. Not everyone is the open book that I am. Since it’s a bit chilly AND I’m headed to an Irish festival, I stop at a convenience store and get myself an Irish cream cappuccino. I get back in my car and laugh, remembering several long drives that my friend and I took together when I would drink the same drink. These drives usually took place in the dead of night, and since I don’t like regular coffee and needed help staying awake, this was what I would choose. I punch out a quick text message informing him of my beverage choice so that he will know I was thinking of him, and very shortly I get back “Haha! You should have gotten a red soda.” I shudder at the memory of his oh-so-vile drink of choice and keep on driving.

“…the moon and the sun, partners in light separating reflecting one light, hearing this confusion wanes, no need to ask for wealth or one thing more now…”

By now I’ve reached a major interstate and the rest of my drive will be due south on this multi-lane highway. I don’t drive on highways like this much – most of my work takes me down one or two lane country roads. My pack of cigarettes is emptying at a more rapid pace than I would like, but I need something to do with my hands…I’m not content to keep them on the wheel where they belong. I try and decide if I want to do anything tonight when I arrive at my destination. Briefly, I consider stopping to pick S up and informing her on the spot that I have decided to keep driving…all the way to the nearest beach. She might actually go for it, being from California…but she might not, and she’s been looking forward to the festival as much as I have. I sigh and decide to stick with the plans as scheduled, but know that I will have to get to the nearest beach as soon as is reasonably feasible. I’ve lived in a completely land-locked state for the last two years, and I need to be near the water in the very near future or I may lose it. I tell people that often, and they say, “This state has lots of water!” Yeah, it does – but man-made lakes ain’t the same, kids, and I don’t care how big they are.

“…a white light blazing deep through the wasteland searching we soaring birds now hunt the brow as thirsty gripped with hunger now clear sighted painful ends to win, the battle of the me so wafer thin, the line between the devil’s teeth and that which cannot be repeat…”

A book that I am reading for my Benedictine study group at church – Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent – falls out of the passenger side visor when I have to brake suddenly, and as soon as I get back up to speed and replace everything that fell, my thoughts turn to Lent. It’s no understatement to say that I hate Lent…but lately, it’s been bugging me that I don’t really know why I hate it so much. I have no problem in theory with the concept of sacrificial love – I *am* married, after all, so I get a new lesson in some aspect of what it means almost every day. At the same time that I am reading this book for my study group, I am also re-reading (on what little personal time I have) an old favorite, Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk. She says in the introduction to the book that a pleasant surprise for her in writing it is the way her marriage “came to weave in and out of it. It seems appropriate, as my life vows are not to a monastery, but to matrimony, and marriage has been for me a primary instrument of conversion., a “school for love,” to employ Benedict’s metaphor for the monastery.” A few pages after that, she writes, “As I walked back to the hermitage in the dusk, I was suddenly glad, and not despairing, that in just a few days I’d be back with my husband, to take up life in the ruins.”

The highway stretches ahead of me, seemingly without end, and as I cross the state line and enter the Motherland, I mused for the next little while on what “life in the ruins” has meant for my husband and me. We’ve encountered our share of challenges, to be sure. We’ve both had trouble finding our niche professionally, and this stress was compounded by knowing we had a child to support and therefore no luxury of time to figure it out. We’ve both targeted the other in times of extreme stress, and been slow to forgive each other. We’ve moved often…in search of the perfect job, neighborhood, and proximity to family/friends…and ultimately ended up somewhere my husband swore he would never return to, which I turned out to be the place that I have experienced the deepest happiness of my life (in spite of the lack of God-created bodies of water).

“…yeah on and on it goes, calling like a distant wind…through the zero hour we’ll walk… cut the thick and break the thin, no sound to break, no moment clear – when all the doubts are crystal clear, crashing hard into the secret wind…”

Back to Lent. It starts with Ash Wednesday, when I am reminded of my nothingness in the grand scheme. It ends with Holy Week and Easter, a time of high pageantry when I experience in “real time” what it might have been like to be a disciple. In between is where I get bogged down. No meat on Fridays…take something on or give something up?…repentance and discipline on the brain, concepts I strongly resist in the best of times…getting bogged down with thoughts of evil and hell and WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Is Hell for REAL? What kind of God does that? Is God’s “YES!” stronger than my “NO!” as I heard one pastor say, or can I keep backing away and backing away until I fall over the edge into a Hell of my own making? Surely it can’t be the pit of fire and brimstone with a red devil with horns and a pointy tail, or Dante’s “Inferno”! And why can’t I figure it all out? And on top of that, why do I experience this pathological obsession every freakin’ year?!

When I was a child, my dad heard me say under my breath, “Damn you!” to my sister. He immediately made me get out the dictionary and copy the definition of “damn” one hundred times. If I remember correctly, it was something to the effect of, “To condemn someone to hell.”

That’s a lot of power to give a little kid.

“…there is no middle ground, or that’s how it seems for us to walk or to take…instead we tumble down, either side left or right, to love or to hate…”

I arrive at S’s house, and take my bag in. She’s tired and not in the mood to go anywhere, so we open a couple of beers and settle in for “Iron Chef” on The Food Network. We can laugh at anything, and we do. The secret ingredient of the evening is peanuts, and the contenders appear a little *too* excited about it. At the end, one of the judges says that one of the dishes was so good it made him “cry like “Beaches”, and we spend the rest of the weekend using that over and over and over again. The next morning, we go to the Irish festival. We look at every single bit of jewelry for sale, and I promise myself once again that one of these years I am going to buy myself a full length hooded cloak. Instead, I satisfy myself with some dragonfly earrings to remind myself that it is better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not. We listen to the bands and the session players and watch the dancers. We eat…and eat…and eat some more. I drink Belgian beer, because in spite of the framed Guinness poster on my wall, I don’t like to chew my beer. I let a beautiful boy speaking in a true blue (green?) brogue bum one of my cigarettes. I have a wonderful, relaxing day with an old friend, and briefly I think again of the friend who was on my mind during my drive and wonder if I will ever lay eyes on him again. I head home refreshed, renewed, and ready to take up my own version of “life in the ruins.”

“…on a long and winding grey paved street, your breath the only friend, chattering others surrounding you, you’re going out again…”