Category Archives: philosophy

words and affirmations

I sometimes have dreams as I am falling asleep, in that odd twilight before I am fully asleep, when my brain is still capable of conscious thought, but the subconscious starts to take over.

In that twilight I sometimes have panic attacks, or vivid dreams. In my dreams, vividness is usually bad. But fortunately because I am still slightly awake, I can wake myself out of the dream fairly quickly.

Last night I dreamed I was in the middle of the bottle dance scene from Fiddler on the Roof – all the Jewish men dressed in black, dancing around with bottles on their head, then the music got wilder, as in the movie, but instead of setting down the bottles and changing to the next part of the dance, the men all changed, suddenly there were bright clothes and familiar, but undefinable, faces. I thought I knew them all, but I could not actually point out who any of them were. They broke their bottles and began scratching words into my skin, wherever there was room.

bad mom, bad wife, bad woman

diet failure, sickly, weak, lazy

ugly, unlovable

loser, incapable

disappointment

failure, hopeless

bad

I could not see the words as much as I could feel them, all cut into my skin, my arms, my legs, my chest – pushing my dress up, shoving my neckline aside to make more room for the words, stinging, bleeding words.  Everyone was crowding up to me, pushing others aside to get to me.

And I just stood their, still and quiet, crying.

And then I was not seeing it from my eyes in the dream, but watching it, watching all the bright people, and me, in my pretty white ‘Thelma Lou’ dress, the one all covered in purple and pink flowers, covered in all those words. This all takes much longer to tell than it took to see. It all was very quick. It was slow and quick; dream speed. And I willed myself to move, to shake off all the people with their broken glass and their labels. And in the dream I started flailing my arms, fighting them off, and watching the dream, I shook inside my brain and woke myself up just as my dream self was starting to chase off the people.

I was in bed.

I curled against Luke with a whimper, and he wrapped his arms around me, shhhhhh, I’ve got you, I love you.

Safe with Luke, who builds me up, who creates me with words –

beautiful, precious,

talented, creative,

good cook, good wife, good mom, helpmate,

worth more than jewels,

kind, beloved,

light.

 

But the other words are still there. They did not come from my dream, and they did not brush off when I shook off the dream.


I wrote that a few years ago. Some dreams have to be told. that one burned in me all day until I got a chance to write it.
Words mean a lot to me. Harsh, hateful, judgemental words cut me deep.

We went to the Renaissance Faire this weekend. I got dozens of compliments on my purple, pixie cut hair. I felt giddy each time. I couldn’t help but smile, every single time anyone mentioned it.
I wrote a comment on a blog today, about an experience i’d had, and the writer responded calling me ‘courageous’. I smiled and almost cried and felt very silly. i just got a comment saying something i wrote was ‘well written’. Well written! I wrote well!
Yes!

I feel silly, for being so happy when people affirm my unusual hair choice, or say i was courageous, or that ‘from what i see, you seem like a really nice person’ (from a new twitter friend), or that i wrote well. I almost want to squelch that little glow. After all, it can be dangerous to accept what others say about you. It can be really dangerous to rely on other people for affirmation.

But when you have been controlled and hurt by words, and wrong expectations, and judgments of your heart and motives, any little affirmation of your choices and efforts are like a healing balm – if you allow yourself to feel them, to admit you need the healing and that, in a sense, you are worthy of it.
I allow myself to accept compliments, instead of deflecting them. And, when i can, i give them to myself. I call myself strong words:

I am brave. I am smart. I am a writer. I am passionate and I am angry and I am healing and I am not sure who I am, exactly, but I know I am not weak or worthless.
I have depression. I get unfairly angry at times. I worry a lot. Those are strong words too, because they are true, and they help me to heal and change into the person i want to be. But the real strength in them come from the fact that i choose to take them on myself, to help me heal and not to burden myself. I know they don’t mean ‘i am a bad person’, as i so frequently say when i am spent and sad and speaking from the dark places inside.

I used to think that to be humble, I had to think i was worthless. That to help others, I had to think they were better and worthier than me. That to be a good mom, i had to always put myself aside and serve everyone like a willing, doting slave.

But i think humility is not self-deprecation, and helping others and parenting from a place of strength, of conscious decisions and a healthy mind, is better for everyone involved than slavish dependency on constantly serving and finding my identity in my children and others.  I have my own identity, and from there I can help others and raise my children to be their own, strong people.

i wonder sometimes if i’m just very vain and self centered. but i think i’m just finding my voice, my identity, and my strength. The old cuts are healing into scars that are part of who I am, but don’t have to define me any more. I am learning to accept both the good and difficult words about myself.

While we’re on the subject of words, Defeating the Dragons is doing a series on learning (or reclaiming) certain words, as a part of healing and growing, called Learning the Words. In fact, it’s part of why i was thinking of that old piece about words that cut me and had to dust it up and reflect on it again. There are some good posts in the Learning the Words series so far, and i saw a few people tweeting their ideas, so i am excited to read the upcoming posts too. I hope to write something to submit this week, because I’m a little obsessed with words. they shape how we talk and think about ourselves, the world, and our lives, and therefore how we feel, act, and live.

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Twenty-Five

Today I have completed twenty-five years of life. I’ve been excited about the presents and in denial about being a quarter of a century old. But last night as I put my birthday pie into the refrigerator to chill, I couldn’t deny it any longer. Twenty-five years, and life is not quite what I had meant for it to be.
I am turning twenty-five and I am not yet a novelist, I do not have a college degree, I’m questioning the faith I grew up with and instead of being rock solid in it, I have short hair, only two kids, and read Nietszche for enlightenment and entertainment. I am looking for truth and kindness and it’s leading me to read atheists  nihilists, pagans, and (even worse to my former self) liberal christians!
I feel, in turns, both empowered and bereft.
When our first child was born three and a half years ago, I started questioning spanking and eventually conflict-based parenting altogether.
The book Grace Based parenting offered a few answers, but inspired even more questions.
I’ve been wrestling with things like women’s role in a family and a church, hell, homosexuality, evolution, the Bible, and everything else I thought I would always be certain on.
Twenty-five years old and what do I have to show for it but a half finished novel, a faith deconstructed, and a mind full of questions?

But there were problems in my faith. Legalism, accidental self-righteousness, a life based more on avoiding sin than on freedom or love.
I thought I could paper over the problems with a bit of extra kindness, charity, and non-violent parenting. Just a little sprucing up and it would be as good as new. Only I kept noticing buckles in the walls.
I thought I could simply gut the house, put up new interior walls with a bit of Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans and interpreting scriptures through understanding the culture in which they were written.
But there were still questions, still problems.
And I’ve torn it down. With my bare hands I tore down my house – foolish woman.

And I wept.
I wept because I am twenty-five, and the house I thought would protect me forever didn’t offer true protection in the end, and there were still the bits of broken glass and splinters of wood to clear out of the dirt, and no one is going to understand unless they too have torn down their faith in a search for truth.
And after weeping, I slept. Then I woke up. Twenty-five years old, with the whole universe open to me and to my search for truth and I danced on the ruins, in the now open place, a woman dancing under the sun.
Maybe I will never have a solid house to barricade myself inside with the truth, but I will have freedom and I will hunt for the truth myself.
I am twenty-five, I am my own person, I will live and love and think. Maybe one day I will build again, but for now I camp in the space of questions, questions as infinite as the stars and I am full of questions and starlight.
Happy birthday to me. This is my gift to myself: space to question.

The Great and Perilous Day of Judgment

And lo when they stand before the throne in the great and perilous day of judgment, the judge will separate  them, and to those on his left he will say, you did not spank your children. You did not punish them for throwing a fit when you were at walmart.

And they will reply, ‘but my children were exhausted and we were out too late so I showed understanding’

But he will say to them ‘ I wanted you to teach holiness and provide a witness of perfection. Depart from me for I love you but do not like you right now never knew you.

 And he will say ‘you showed leniency in forcing people to conform to scripture. You accepted homosexuals, and those with gender confusion. You supported those seeking unholy matrimony and put red equals signs on your web pages. Do you not know that to  identify with those who do wrong is as the sin of eating with tax collectors and prostitutes?’

Then he will say, ‘Depart from me for I never knew you.’

And to others he will say, ‘you did not push little children to forgive their abusers immediately and face-to-face. It would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck than to allow any little one to delay in forgiving his molestor. Depart from me you stumbling stones’

And they will say ‘But, Lord, we believed in you and followed you”

But he will say, “if you did these things, obviously you were not truly mine”.
And they will depart and burn in Hades forever for their evil deeds.

If anyone does not condemn these sins, he too deserves the fires of hell.

My List: a plan of study, and what I am reading and learning right now

I love learning. Love it. I collect knowledge, I adore logic, I devour stories, and I enjoy good writing.
I want to know new languages, play an instrument, and in general be “accomplished” – although with no netting of purses or painting of screens.

I’m a fast reader, and learn well through books, so i excelled at homeschooling. I got a pretty good education, but I didn’t get much of art instruction/history/appreciation, or music either, after i began homeschool in the seventh grade. A mom can only do so much, I know, but I sure love The Arts. I might wouldn’t have ever gotten enough anyways. Literature, i got a lot of – i devoured classics both for school and in my spare time. Jane Austen, Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien – all fun reading.
I liked my science, but as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that it was very religious and that though it talked a little about secular theories like evolution and the big bang, the information my books presented on those subjects were more like straw men designed to demonstrate how untrue the theories were.
History, I got a decent bit, but of course there’s always more history to learn about.
Math? I did Saxon, I did college algebra, I DID MY TIME! and I am quite done with math for now. (spoken like a true Liberal Arts Student, eh?)

Aside from math, i’m nowhere near done learning. There are subjects i feel deficient in, and others I simply want to learn.
Here is my loose plan of study, with resources mentioned where i have something figured out. I tackle whatever i want, whenever i have the time and the inkling. I’m a SAHM, so I can read when kids are playing or watching tv, and at night when my husband lays them down to sleep.

If anyone has books or additional subjects to recommend, i welcome the suggestions.

Things I want to study and am studying (in no particular order):

Music: Play Guitar – I own a guitar, a chordbook, and have found songs to learn. I look things up on you-tube when i am stuck. I need to set aside time several times a week to practice, instead of once every several weeks. I took music appreciation in college; but I would like to read about and listen to more classical music. Also, we take the boys to concerts at the local university a few times a year.

Languages: French and German – working on this regularly on my duolingo app – a very good language app. For English speakers, it has Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian.

Science – not sure what resources to use –  I want to study evolution – there are obvious gaps in my education because of my christian curriculum. I want to find a mainstream biology course, and study evolution, and also to study the big bang. What is the name of that branch of science, anyone? Also i know a little about evolution because I watch Dinosaur Train with my 2 and 3 year olds (for that matter, I am also well informed on the various kinds of train locomotives…).

Philosophy. – not sure what resource to use. I never took philosophy in college. I know a bit, Luke took it and told me about things, and when reading I come across concepts and ideas, but i would like to go through a book or course and have all the basics in one place. Thinking of just buying something like ‘Philosophy Made Simple
I also am reading some of Nietzche’s writings, and plan to read other philosophers later. Preferably AFTER I study basic philosophy, so the concepts will be familiar already.

Drawing – I have a little book to start with, one of those step by step things. My drawing has always been pathetic. handwriting too, but that’s a lost cause. …being a child naturally gifted at school, anything that was very difficult I thought i just couldn’t do. So i figured i was simply incapable of drawing, though if it isn’t bragging, i’ve always had an eye for color. and once i was homeschooled, there was really no art education (my mom does more art now with my younger siblings, ah the perils of being an older child! but good for them!). I have bought a ‘how to draw’ book, and am giving it another shot. I would rather finger paint. i love fingerpainting. but i really want to be able to draw so i am trying and wincing at my feeble attempts…

Art history. I have Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting and am reading through it. Fascinating stuff! Also, I want to get a good biography of Vincent Van Gogh, as i loved the Doctor Who episode about him, and my son loves the style of painting. Also there are a few art documentaries in my Netflix Queue.

Writing: I continue to read good books and blogs, and I am blogging/writing, both here and privately. Furthermore, I am writing a novel, which i wrote a huge chunk of during NaNoWriMo 2013. I’m slacking, but I hope to get a finished draft by June. (yeah that’s gonna happen…) Also i will read On Writing Well, by Zinsser again, within the next few years. I read most of it during a Nonfiction Writing class and it is AMAZING.

Literature: I would like to read some literary criticism of Harry Potter, because I love Harry Potter, and because I struggled with literary criticism in college. I was used to reading literature for pleasure, but not used to analyzing it. I would like to learn how to do that. And obviously i’ll continue reading excellent books. Some of the books on my to-read list are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chosen, more Agatha Christie, and Les Miserables (in english, but perhaps someday in French! recommend a translation, anybody?). I will probably re-read The Iliad and The Odyssey (gotta be the Robert Fitzgerald translation!) soon simply because i love them so much and it’s been a couple years. There’s a huge list of things i want to read and re-read, to me ‘literature’ is mostly entertainment 😀

History: no particular resource. I simply read whatever book strikes my fancy. there’s no time or place i am burning to study right now. I would like to watch some of the documentaries I’ve spotted on netflix.

Geography: I am embarrassed to admit that i still don’t know where all the states in the US are, and i certainly don’t know all the countries of the world. I would like to get a world and state puzzle, to help me learn them.

Other: I am learning about Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. Currently reading The Way I See It by Temple Grandin, and The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Stock Kranowitz.

some of the other books in my library basket: An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, and Stitches by David Small (a memoir told as a graphic novel, it is really well done! I recommend it but it gets pretty dark and depressing at times).

Recently read on my Kindle: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, and Why I am Not a Christian, by Richard Carrier

Netflix faves: Doctor Who, Merlin, Dance Academy, and Avatar (unfortunately i am all caught up on all of those! but i love to rewatch things.)

This is an ever-growing list, but it’s quite a list for now and I feel like I’m already making a good start at it. and hey, my husband will have suggestions of books to buy me for every special occasion for years to come.

So, anyone have a book I just HAVE to read, a suggestion for a resource to help my studies, or another subject I ought to tackle? What sorts on things are on your ‘list’ to study?

On reading Nietzsche (and becoming a heretic to myself)

I’m reading ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ for the first time.
I read a little of Nietzsche in college and found his writing fresh and brilliant, but also confusing and frightening. I didn’t read much beyond the assignment, partially from the exhaustion of school and partially the exhaustion of strange new ideas.
Prior to college all I knew about him was that he was an old philosopher who was possibly crazy and who was against everything the bible stands for.

I don’t think that is true, although he was certainly a subversive thinker.
And okay, he may have been a little bit mad, and was definitely against the organized religion of the time. I dare say he’d be against a lot of the organized religion today. But I don’t find it frightening any more, I welcome it. I am better able to understand him now, and I think he is a proper genius.

Nietzsche – through the prophet Zarathustra – puts words to nebulous thoughts, concerns, and hopes that have been floating in my head for years, unexpressed and not quite understood.
I don’t understand everything he says… And this is where i want to say ‘and i don’t agree with it all’, but frankly, whether I agree with it or not is not very relevant. Why should I form an immediate opinion on such new thoughts?
My beliefs are changing, shifting, evolving. I used to hold everything I read up to the standards of truth I held in my mind – standards created by the Bible – or by what I was taught was important in the Bible but which I now know many people who do love the bible do not agree with.
Now I still examine what I read – especially things telling me how I should act – but in this examination I try to focus more on logic and kindness, than on how much I agree with what I read. I read with less arguing and more taking things in, letting people speak to me. Digestion comes after tasting.

I read stories from all sorts of people, from different ideologies, with different experiences.
And I learn.
Sometimes, I allow the stories to change my mind.
Sometimes, the stories touch things in my mind and soul I didn’t know were there.
Instead of shutting up others voices – shutting myself off – for fear I will be swayed and tricked away from my absolute truth, I let my mind be open to ideas. Slowly, slowly I’ve realized there can be more truth, and more ways of understanding the truth in this massive universe than just the truth I was taught as a young child and clung to ferociously.
This is why I am ready for Zarathustra now. This is why Nietzsche’s genius frightened me before.
I wasn’t ready.
Now I read and recognize my own self, now I see myself more clearly, and understand how I view the world.
At least i understand it a little more.

So many new ideas jumble inside my head but I am not afraid of them anymore. At least not so much.
If I am seeking truth, I will find it, don’t you expect?
If I cling to my truths with a closed mind, insisting anything new must be not-true because it us new to me, then how will my understanding grow? It will wither inside and nothing new will come in to take it’s place.
So I take in new thoughts and fight the old part of myself that thought knowledge must be sanctified, certified kosher, to be consumed.

Here’s to new thoughts and to the overcomers.

“But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra