Personal Journey

Telling Myself… It’s All Good

It’s a new year. Do you feel brand new? Sparkly?  Like the reset button has been pushed on your life?  The tags are still on the new personality you’re determined to create for yourself in 2014, right?  Uh, hem… Some of you have already broken your resolutions. For my part, until yesterday I could say, “I haven’t worked out all year.” It’s true; I didn’t even attempt newness in 2014.  But I’m not a slacker: I’ve got these little verses up my sleeve that have been serving me well since way back in 2013.

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You’re thinking how appropriate these sentiments were just a few weeks ago during the holidays, with all that eating, drinking, and enjoying we all did with some help from God. But how do they apply now? Now that the lights are down, the ham is gone, the cookies firmly ensconced on the hips…

If you know me, you know I struggle with my inside voice. I mean that both ways. Comments that should have stayed firmly nailed down inside my head often zing out my mouth like kamikazes, unbidden and unhindered by discretion.  But I refer now to the outside voices of the world which sometimes penetrate my bubble, have a locker-room chat with my consciousness, and leave me black and blue. 

The media tells me I suck in more languages than I can find spoken in the General Assembly of the United Nations. My children, bless their little ungrateful and entitled souls, unknowingly sit on my self-esteem for years at a time.  Even the standard I look to every day– (as I should) the Bible, puts a gentle arm around my shoulders, gives a little squeeze, and murmurs, “I regret to inform you…”

Probably because I’m a Martha, my tried-and-true life-raft-for-my-thoughts is the verse above. I do many things in a day, and let’s just say they don’t always feel good, and I don’t always feel good about having done them– just depleted and despondent about whether any of this wheel-spinning matters.  I have to remind myself that my flawless cleaning of the cat litter box is good. My vegetarian tacos… good. Crazy that I’m not serving them to a standing ovation, I know.  So I remind myself over and over: Hey, these vegetarian tacos are good labor… and that litter box… sparkly!

Here’s an example of a day pretty much straight from my journal.

December 28, 2013

1. Sorted through Tory’s Goodwill bags – saved some useful stuff.

2. Made Ganeen pumpkin roll – kindness to others.

3. Cleaned kitty litter – kept chaos at bay.

4. Cleaned the fish – kept chaos at bay and fish alive.

5. Took kids to sell their games at Buybacks and spend Christmas money at Target – kindness to others.

6. Had soup ready for dinner when Bob got home – kindness to others/a dreaded chore: done.

7. Handled Katae’s school loan transfer – a dreaded chore: done.

I chose to do seven a day because that’s God’s favorite number.  It matters not how many you choose, so long as you begin to see the value in those little chores/errands/favors/labors you do every day. Unraveling just why these labors are so good is just as important as recognizing their goodness.  I make sure I end every point with a dash and a why-this-was-good comment. There are sometimes a hundred reasons a labor is good.  Pick your favorite one or spend lots of time writing.  That’s ok too.  Think your labors don’t make the cut? I even have a day with #1 being “Applied eye makeup – created beauty.” Really that reason could also have been “kept chaos at bay,” but this is about feeling sparkly, not snarly. Do you think I went too easy on myself with that one? There are many, many days, I choose other good labors over creating beauty in the vicinity of my face.  What I pick as my good labors changes from day to day (i.e., I don’t list cat litter every single day, unless I’m having trouble coming up with seven labors); but pick them I do, and having a record of rights is a worthwhile exercise. God says the best I can do with what’s already done, is– deem it good and thank Him for the blessing of food and drink and labor done with Him.

 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?  – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Repeat verse 100 times a day or as needed. 🙂

Personal Journey

The Apple in my Eye

Apple picking.  You can’t do it at very many orchards anymore.  Now I know why.  We’re why.  Apple baseball, apple basketball, apple golf, apple Frisbee,  apple explosion…  those rotting apples under the trees didn’t stand a chance.

It got me to thinking about the element of fun inherent in destruction.  It’s why kids like to knock down big brother’s block tower, why we revel in throwing cards all over the room in 52 pick up, why we scatter anything everywhere and have a grand time doing it.    Of course no one has fun actually picking up the cards or the pillows or the Cheerios.  There is no complementary  inverse “fun” in cleaning up all the junk we love to throw down.  When is the last time you saw your child enter the Legos ground zero  and beg to clean and organize them by size and color?  No, the fun is in hitting an apple home run and seeing the bits fly everywhere.

As  many of our “players” got the timing right and could connect bat to apple I swear I heard our national anthem crescendo in accompaniment to their demolicious  joy.  As the kids made one grand slam after another it seemed to rain applesauce, and we had chunks of apple sticking to our hair and clothes.  My favorite:  throwing a particularly rotten apple to my unsuspecting son and watching the explosion of applesauce detonate so near the bat as to effectively paint said son.   Unfortunately I was laughing too hard to take a picture.

We moved on to pumpkins.  We found a pile of them rotting peacefully in a corner; it was a frontier too wonderful to pass up.  Some kids treated their pumpkin as if he were a work of art, tastefully and lovingly carving  grins and eyes with sharp sticks.   Other kids used them for athletic purposes: kicking and tossing them about.  Pumpkins can even be used for therapy.   If you stab them repeatedly, they resembled throw up.  All gourds were further on in the cycle of decay and renewal after our time together, and we pushed their remains back into a semblance of their original pile when we were finished “playing” with them.   Serious fun.  No one was hurt, not counting pumpkins.

In the garden of Eden Adam named the animals (classified them essentially) and organized the garden by tilling and working the soil.  I don’t picture him manically hacking at his fruits to make their juice explode all over the place.  So this destructive creativity probably is not something we’ll be taking to heaven.  Still, I know that  fruit explosions can be beneficial– I have tomato plants who testify, from their odd and unplanned locations, that last year’s tomato wars can yield something unexpected and wonderful.  God won’t be mocked.  They threw tomatoes everywhere in the yard.  Now I have extra tomatoes for salsa.

Destruction and art are cousins.  Often one proceeds the other.  One often IS the other.   I admit I can’t always tell the difference.   Maybe that’s the problem.  With me, I mean.   I would never be so brazen as to insult modern art.

In trying to find someone authoritative (and famous, and preferably long-dead) to agree with my supposition that art is about tearing down as much as building up, I found this:

Die Lust der Zerstörung ist zugleich eine schaffende Lust!

(The urge for destruction is also a creative urge!)

Michael Bakunin, Russian revolutionary & anarchist (1842)

Think about that next time you have art class.  I just had a breakthrough.

That’s why, when my minions so sweetly ask for permission to “make” something, I gulp.  The relationship between creativity and destruction Bakunin explained hundreds of years ago plays out in my dining room every time we “make” things.  It ends with me, picking up thousands of paper scraps and hundreds of crayons and broken crayon pieces, scraping glue and sparkles from the seats, table, floor, and walls.  When I say “yes” to art, I’m saying “yes” to anarchy and “yes” to an hour or more of scrubbing.  That explains my aversion and general anxiety about “art” inside the house.   And I thought I was just no fun.

Which brings me back to the apples and pumpkins.   I defer to Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite books of the Bible:

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven…a time to throw stones (or apples) and a time to gather stones (or pumpkins)… I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it.”