Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Dumping Ground

I often find myself acting as a resting place for people when they are in pain. It's a blessing to give respite to someone who's hurting or lost. But it can be dangerous too, when the boundaries that ought to be respected - both by an injured friend and by me - are not respected. And they're often not.

I recognize too that I have a unique way of dealing with hurts caused by others. In my extremely dysfunctional family, I was taught that hurt could only last as long as the inflictor wanted to inflict. There was no waking up the next morning bearing a grudge or even expecting an apology.

I still don't do either. I don't forget; that would be stupid. But I don't bear a grudge, and I don't expect an apology. Surprisingly, my refusal to be hurt when I should be hurt is not a strength.

How, then, do I keep offering respite while refusing to become a dumping ground?

There's a million dollar question.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Memorization

When I was in elementary school, we were required to memorize stuff.  To this day, whenever I have to change or cancel an important appointment, I mentally chant Shel Silverstein's "I Cannot Go to School Today."

"I cannot go to school today," said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.  I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks; I've counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there's one more - that's seventeen, and don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue - it might be the instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke; I'm sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin.  My belly button's caving in.
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained, my 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my toes are numb, I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight, my temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, there's a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is ...
What? What's that? What's that you say?  You say today is .............. Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
Love that poem.

It seemed like it would be more challenging to remember things at 41 than it was at 11.  After all, I've long held the belief that anything one can research on the internet in milliseconds is not worthy of memorizing.


In Latin we use a textbook that often presents information in box-form.  Noun declensions and verb conjugations are laid out in tables, and whenever there's a table we have a quiz.  Then there's standard vocabulary lists that are presented differently now that we have some Latin experience.  For example, each verb now appears in it's true dictionary form, i.e., sum, esse, fui, futurus (to be).  Given that the four forms can be distinctly different from each other, it's important to memorize them.  So, now we've had quizzes on those verb forms. 

I like the quizzing.  It's forcing me to memorize. 

I like memorzing.  It stretches my brain in new directions. 

I like my ever expanding brain.  It functions like a ginormous file cabinet and gives me impressive recall.

I like recalling.  It's so much less time consuming than researching.  So when I come across a passage like this:

I can read it.

Memorizing gets easier the more frequently it's practiced.  For Mythology, we had a map test on Ancient Greece.  Studying those cities was like studying Greek.  But once I mastered the map, hearing the myths and stories in class was far more enjoyable because I had a mental image of where things occurred and how far a journey was.  On Monday we have a test on vase forms.  I didn't understand why it mattered which shape a vase was or what the Greeks used the various vases for, but I did like knowing the vase that's been used at church for the opening skits this Lent is a pelike. And I didn't have to do anything extraordinary to remember the name of that vase.

There was a time I was just happy to forget things.  Sad, painful things.  Hurtful things.  All the things that left my spirit in turmoil.

With a now peaceful spirit, I'm thankful for memories.  When my spirit is a peace, memory is just that, memory, and not a perpetual reliving of painful moments.

I wonder if this spiritual peace means I no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Suddenly I'm Up On Top of the World...

Authenticity speaks to me.

And this week it spoke to me in an unusual way.

There is a five-year-old boy who sees me as a hero.

Yep.  Me.  Flawed and broken as I am.

He loves school buses and the piano.  And he sees me working with both.

I had no clue I was a hero.  None at all.  I'm living in a world full of failure on many, many levels.  Not levels that defeat me, mind you.  But many failures not of my making. 

In spite of that, I am a hero. I love that.  Really love it.


I was invited to a piano recital.  I was SO excited to be invited.  But the time overlapped other important things.  Still, I KNEW I wanted to be there.

I brought Joe with me to E's recital.  Joe loves kids as much as I do.  We both felt a little harried and rushed, but we made it there to watch E.

And... wow!  He's amazing.  He's so small and doing all the right things at the keyboard.  He's doing things I wish I knew!

Later, we learned how important our attendance was...

Mom:  Yeah, it mattered that you were here!
Me:  I'm really glad I was.  He's so talented!
Mom:  Well, here's what happened.  We said, "it's time to start."
E: Not everyone's here.
Mom:  (looks around) I think everyone's here.
E:  No.  Not KARI!
I am SO SO SO glad we made it.  No one should ever let down the people who want them there. 

And you know what?  Being a hero's great, but it's also a little mind boggling.  I will never let down E if it's in my control to keep him happy.That's a HUGE promise!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Perception

"Unfortunately, perception is truth."
Reading that opening line in a rather lengthy treastise on the demise of relationships, I cringed a little.  In fact, I read it twice before continuing. 
"Unfortunately, perception is truth."
Perception, by its very definition, is not truth, but a personal view of reality based on sensual experience and historical data.  Truth, separated from sensory perception, is the only truth that matters.  The mistake we humans often make is that we trust our senses, and our senses repeatedly mislead us (ships look like they fall off the horizon from a certain perspective, no?).  Historical data is perhaps more reliable to "prove" a perception (we are often doomed and/or blessed to repeat our past practices, no?).
How, then, do we separate ourselves from sensory evidence?  Do we need separation from all sensation or is some actually valuable?  Ought we isolate each event from the history from which it springs?
I believe the sensory experience we have when we listen to music or watch a play or even engage in real and personal drama is critical to that experience in that moment.  I am often swept into a song or a story or an event and let emotion wash over me.  I find delight in vibrant color and strong character and authentic action.  I do not automatically love or appreciate everything containing those elements.  Writing critical papers and journaling have always been valid techniques I could use to discern whether or not a work or an event had merit beyond the sensual experience.
With a friend or lover, perhaps there's a certain value in sensual experience and historical data - or what I bring to the relationship.  Perhaps those two things even balance each other.  I know there are times I dislike Joe intensely.  Were I to trust that sensual experience, I would no longer be married to him.  Perhaps at those times I rely on our shared history, one brimming with good things certain to outweigh the momentary bad.
Fact is, truth often hides in layers of... well, crap.  Layers of misperception and emotion and misunderstanding and hurt.  I think it takes extreme effort, intense prayer, and deep understanding to find truth.  Not everyone is equipped for that kind of work. 
Would that they were.