Thursday, January 28, 2010

what if

It occurred to me last night, in the dead of night (as it always does), that perhaps I have come to where I am in life not by virtue of my accomplishments, but on account of my mistakes.

I've been updating my resume, supposedly applying for a Blacklock Fellowship, the envelope for which has to be postmarked by the 31st (and I am nowhere near done, stupid, here I sit blogging instead.) A look at the last ten years prior to the church made me go groping under the bed, where, amidst plentiful wads of dust, I found my two "portfolios" of relevant ephemera: a book of articles I wrote that were published between 1999 and 2001; and a book of clippings and programs that prove my 16 years as a producer and curator. It's a resume of a life-track that has largely gone underground since I got into the church -- writing, curating, etc. I still do all those things, but not for money, and not on anyone's schedule besides my own. Of which I am sometimes proud --- have released myself from the material burdens of that particular pursuit of success --

-- and yet, I'm not sure. I think of where I am right now, and wonder if what I do has meaning. Wonder if anything I've EVER done -- besides mothering my child -- has meaning. Or if it's always been some pretentious play at meaning, when really I'm just a workaholic who has to fill all my waking hours with frenzied activity, allowing my delusions of grandeur to justify and amplify my compulsive scratching. Too stupid for words, really. Not happy unless I'm throwing myself at something that seems impossible.

And mistakes, lots of them, rather than achievement -- it's my mistakes that have promoted me. So maybe I'm extraordinarily blessed -- every time I do something stupid, a new door opens to lead me onward. Or maybe my blessing is like the one you bestow on your toddler -- maybe someone has simply been charged with making sure I don't take a serious existential header one of these days. Angels, heaping paperwork in my lap to try to keep me out of trouble. Frowning exasperated at my lack of appreciation, my lack of satisfaction with what I've got.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Well. We got the loan. Now we just need to successfully buy the school.
It's a short sentence to describe a process that began a year ago and has included months of waiting, sometimes excrutiatingly so, and several discouraging rejections. We praise God for this final affirmation, and hope that the other players can't somehow throw up another series of bureaucratic barriers -- it's easy to feel anxious, I've been anxious about it for so long. I need to focus on the joyful part of this, and I'm intermittently in touch with that. Sounds so negative, I don't mean to be negative. As I mentioned to more than one person this week, I'm a little numb. But it's good, it's a good thing, and will now define the character of this year for the church.

There are things happening in the lives of some friends and loved ones which are very challenging right now, besides, so it's not as though a whole-hearted party will ensue per the loan. But I was frustrated, the day we got the news, by our leadership's seeming inability to grasp the fabulousness of it all. Our Council meeting that night was very business-as-usual. I should have just stood up and said, This is nuts you guys, we're heading for the bar. Or something to that effect. Would have fallen flat, but still.

Frustrated I guess by my own apathy as well.

And yet. I'm more focused as a result on what I want to accomplish this year; and with my life. Some very "midlife" thoughts, and while I am, yes, only in my early forties -- well, life is short. If there are puzzles I can resolve that stand between me and a reasoned happiness, I want to get on those.

I don't want to still have this unfinished, unresolved feeling in my gut when I'm 80. I want to know who I am and what I'm about. In reading "the Hours," and thinking about Clarissa, I recognize some of my own characteristics in her description. A woman sailing past her prime, with a sufficient list of assets, decent looks and a decent career; who faces death and unresolved relationships near at hand, and wonders whether she has made anything of herself at all -- wonders if there is in fact a point to it all.

And I wonder too if what God really wants for us is to imagine most of what's possible in living -- to show us this incredible array of choices, experiences, good fortune and mischance, the best and the worst -- and expect us to merely abstain, for the most part, and to be grateful with our asses nailed to the couch. As a white American, I have the luxury of wondering these things.

I have the luxury of wondering whether, in spite of the Old and New Testaments, God sees not only our propensity for sin but the inevitability of sin, given the infinite and glorious plethora of opportunities to have a good time while making the wrong choices. Given our inevitable stupidity at the crux of life's plot, our overwhelming tendency to be looking the other way when presented with the teachable moment, the brass ring, the intimate look, the unspoken plea, the opportunity knocking.

OK, I'll admit it, I'm a little depressed. Depressed and introspective, always dangerous, because this condition exponentially increases the chances of acting selfish and needy and shameful. Or, it could lead to some valuable realizations. Who knows? We'll see. Is Clarissa depressed? She doesn't seem to be. But she is in doubt. She is not proud of herself, it would seem. But she's trying to act a part, while she waits for the answers to materialize.

Well. Back to work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the Hours

I'm reading a few books right now, going through one of those rare fiction phases: "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham; "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood; and just an occasional page at a time, "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo. I'm half way through the Hours already, though I only bought it Saturday (trading in a large, expensive hardbound copy of "The Quilts of Gees Bend," which I got for Christmas and already owned.) Amusingly, I'm consuming the book in utterly un-literary fashion: saw the movie years ago, then bought the Philip Glass soundtrack, and now have finally committed to the novel itself, which won a Pulitzer (I'm so ignorant.) Though the film was quite true to the story, and I feel as though I've already been here; though it may be the story itself which compels such a feeling, since there's plenty of longing and desperation and self-doubt to be had. The Atwood was a gift from a friend, who has been over many years responsible for most of the fiction I've bothered with, as an adult. I'm afraid it's another end-of-the-world epic of women struggling to survive, but no matter. Not as good as "The Blind Assassin," I can already tell.

Now is a good time for escapism. Life is every bit as strange as art these days. Wonderful and wretched. The Hours compels me in part because of its lists, the exhaustive lyrical detail of every scene; but mostly because it is full of death, women standing right at the edge of the grave, leaning toward or away, contemplating oblivion. Not me, I'm not there at all -- but there are women trapped in houses, too, considering their failings, gasping for breath. Women wondering what they are for. Me, sometimes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

New year, new leaf. Some goals:
Make new friends
Pursue my art career with greater intention
Spend less time on Facebook
Bake and cook more with my kid
Be more visionary, more aggressive with my ideas
Look for ways to delight my family
Drink less wine
Embrace everyone more often (as much as I can get away with anyway...)

My life hangs on several points of tension and delicacy, like a spiderweb, which sometimes seems fraught with peril and other times quite lovely. Am I the spider, the weaver? Am I the fly? Probably both...

...and now I'm reminded of that strange and funny Joan Osborne song, "Spiderwebs."
I dreamed about Ray Charles last night
and he could see just fine.

A random tune to start the year.