Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

After rereading last week's post, I am amazed at my stunning lack of gratitude. True, I get caught up in the seeming futility of life and wonder what it's all about. But then there are moments like this, sitting in our little library, wrapping paper and bows strewn about on a card table, my daughter home from grad school, reading peacefully on the couch and my husband sketching in the armchair next to the warm fire. Kate's orange tabby walks in and jumps on the couch. Victorian carols waft up from the radio. Through our window, I can see the western sky streaked with lavender and pink. In a few days, our whole family will gather to exchange gifts and love.

I don't want to sound corny by saying this is the meaning of Christmas. Maybe it's that the meaning of Christmas is the meaning of life. You know - family, home and hearth. Something I have to be thankful for every breathing minute of my life. And sometimes I forget. I think of the despairing young man I spoke to this morning. He fears the uncertainty of life, where everything you love and believe in can be snatched from you in a heartbeat. In losing The Way, I felt a small taste of that. Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind, and it's unavoidable in this life, faces that recurring possibility. Loss, birth, life, loss, birth, life and so the cycle goes on. The trick is to live each moment and be grateful for it.

My daughter took a course on happiness and the law last semester and found she scored high on the happiness scale. What distinguished her from her fellow students was and is her capacity for gratitude. She has not had an easy life, caught between the warring factions of post-cult parents. And yet, she is thankful. Thankful to have parents who love her so much to fight over her.

Peace has fallen on our households and the children are grown. We have all moved on. There is so much to be thankful for. May each of you who read my blog (and I'm exceedingly thankful for you and your kind comments) may you have a lovely holiday and have a moment to catch your breath and count the numerous blessings around and in you and the world.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Not?

Yesterday I stopped by the Hickory Stick Bookshop. It was buzzing with browsers, Christmas shoppers and fans of local author Wendell Minor who was signing his latest children’s book. There was rousing blue grass music on guitars and several people I knew - particularly four from a book group I belonged to that met once a month at this bookstore. How odd that we should all cross paths at once, we said. Bizarre. Serendipity. Lovely.

We started talking and it wasn’t long before one of us blurted out the question of the day - why do we write? (That would be me.) Robert, a retired journalist, answered without missing a beat - “because I love literature.” He loves to read it, write it, teach it, think about it. He loves it. Davyne, a dynamic poet and inspiration of the group, said she wrote because she couldn’t live without it. She would go mad, she said. It helped her make sense of the world and herself and other people. Cara, an attractive anthropology professor, left before I could query her.

So that left me. Why did I write? Why did I do anything for that matter? I just started swimming at the Y again and those questions have been popping up. It's always a danger sign for me, these questions of why. It's a refrain of the season - why do I do anything when there's so much horror in the world? Then again, there's beauty - the soft lapping of the pool water under my hands and the splash between my feet.

One of my therapists always encouraged me to ask "how" instead of "why." I've tried but despair keeps chasing me like a wolf nipping at my heels. The answers my friends offered apply as much to life as to writing. We do, we live because we choose to, because we love it. We participate in life because otherwise we'd go insane. Living helps make sense out of life.

I don't know if any of you saw the Flash Mob YouTube video of the Hallejulah Chorus being sung in the mall food court but it was quite extraordinary. Every day people, like you and me, vulnerable and loveable, raising their voices into the void. I sobbed when I saw it. My husband thought it strange that I should have such a reaction. But it's the season, see. We're all just doing the best we can, even when we don't know why.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fallen Angels

My mentor, Don Snyder, recently wrote to me about the publishing world. Seems that violent sex is still in high demand. One of his students just published a book about a serial rapist who goes around attacking women with a coke bottle (let your imagination fill in the rest.) This book is the only one of his many students' works to "make it" in the last ten years. So what does that tell us? What it tells me is that the marketplace has not changed….a lot. The law of supply and demand plays out. People want violence, the media provides violence.

Then again, Don wrote the screenplay for "Fallen Angels," a beloved Hallmark Christmas movie. (It will be airing on Hallmark Channel again this year all through the holidays, especially on Xmas Day at 8am and 6pm.) That tells me that decent movies and plays are still in high demand,too. Is it the holidays that actually do bring out the best in us or is there an undercurrent of love that exists there all year round?

Rough sex and violence - some of us have experienced enough of that to last a lifetime- why write about it and pollute the earth even further? We worry about keeping the environment clean and saving the planet. What about the environment of our minds? What about saving each other? If we contribute to the mental pollution of human beings, then, in my opinion, the earth doesn't stand much of a chance.

There I go again, sounding like Tiny Tim from "A Christmas Story" (my favorite holiday movie….next to "Fallen Angel.") I'm not sure my own books, "Losing the Way" and "Walkaway" have enough sex and violence in them to make it in this marketplace but I worry that I'm doing my own share of polluting. I mean, who wants to hear about a young girl corrupted by a cult? But this story bears witness to the truth, my truth, and the truth sets us free, or so said Jesus. Plus, it has a happy ending.

I remember how much The Doctor used to enjoy teaching Christian Family and Sex. He showed us raunchy pornography movies "just to expose us to what the devil was up to." Remember the one with the two lesbians and the German Shepherd? Once when I visited him in his motorcoach he had a folder of obscene photos spread out over his desk. He said he was doing "research." Some research. In my experience, Wierwille was a polluter, not a savior. I don't think there are any saviors out there. We're it, gang. And we get what we're asking for.