Raw Edges and Strong Cores

At some point in May, I had the idea for this post, but tabled it. I had other ideas to pursue and  knew I would eventually get around to writing it. Then, June happened and with it the return of all four kiddos being home each and everyday. The first week, I tried to write, but didn’t make it to the laptop until late at night. I figured I would take a break and let the summer be what it was going to be. Maybe I would even pursue that niggling idea of vlogging that was in the back of my brain.

Then, after a month, every single day felt like drudgery and stress resonated inside of me. At the end of the day, I would feel this incompleteness even though I had done many things. I knew that my writing, my voice, was too pent up, but I didn’t want to sit down to do it. I told myself that I was simply waiting for the children to return to school. This didn’t last long as an excuse, because soon it was apparent that I needed to write – something, anything. Yet, I held off, knowing that the inevitable writing also brings about the inevitable bleeding. Cathartic bleeding it is, but bleeding none the less.

So here I am, sitting, ready to bleed before you.

Raw Edges

I was trying to be healthy, slicing the fruits and vegetables early in the week, prepping healthy meals and snacks.

It was drudgery.

Why didn’t The Man create vegetables pre-sliced? I mean, fruit I don’t mind slicing, because it is enticing to the palate. But vegetables? No, those are no fun. As I moved from cauliflower to carrots, I reminded myself of how awful the baby carrots are and that the real thing is so much better and tastier.

It was utter drudgery.

I watched as I peeled the damn things and tried to remember the advice about everyday tasks given by Thomas Moore. If you look deep enough, sit still enough with them, then you can peel back their mundaneness into significance by seeing the metaphor, the imagery of soulfulness.

“Mumbo-jumbo.” I thought to myself sardonically. “Be more zen.” I then chastised myself.

Okay, so what could peeling carrots stand for in the soulful life. I ruminated peel after peel.

Carrots don’t have thick skin or rinds. They are firm from the inside out. Strong, if you will. Strong and ugly. I mean, we don’t have to peel a carrot in order to eat it, but it will never stop looking (or tasting) much like dirt if we don’t. I wonder if the strong among us don’t taste like dirt until something or someone comes along that sloughs off the ugliness.

“Hmmm. Not a bad little metaphor.” I smiled to myself. “What else?”

I sat with it. I wasn’t coming up with anything else at all. Yet, as I sloughed off layer after layer of the carrots, getting rid of the dirt divets and knotty elements, I felt less drudgery. In fact, something cathartic was taking place, something similar to how I feel when I write.

Strong Cores

A shedding of the dirt of life, smoothing of rough edges – that’s what was happening.

Yes, this was very similar to writing for me. Underneath everything, I find in myself strength when writing.

And so, as I return to writing early (before the summer ends). I remember carrots and that sitting down at this page is not all bleeding, but rather exfoliation. A scrubbing, unburdening, cleansing act of the soul to reveal my strong core.

Candidly,

Ash

The Little Engine that Couldn’t

I don’t exactly know what happened in my life to make me so sensitive to other’s opinions and feelings. Maybe I was just hardwired that way? Or was it programming?

I’ve often leaned towards programming. Biblical verses come to mind specifically. “He (God) must increase. I must decrease.” and “Let nothing be done of selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Then, there is the story of the Good Samaritan who helps an injured man on the side of the road, while others simply pass him by, which totally villainizes the two men who wanted nothing to do with the injured man.

The other day, I was sorting through our board books to see what we had, because, with a paper-shredding son with autism and an almost 2-year-old, there is no such thing as too many board books. I stumbled upon my favorite story from childhood – “The Little Engine that Could.” Of course, this needed to be read to all children within the vicinity so I began out loud with my best narrative voice. As my three youngest children gathered round I felt that small glow in my heart that reading brings. (Is it just me or is reading to your child not one of the best things ever?!?! Okay, I know. It’s probably just me.)

Of course, as the story unfolded, I realized that the story was really only a repeat of the good Samaritan story from the Bible. Mortified, I listened to myself characterize the weary and dreadful voice of the old engine, who will not stop to help. My heart sunk further as I listened to my haughty version of the busy, strong engine turning down the opportunity to help the broken engine. Finally, the spry, naïve voice of the Little Engine that Could emerged on the scene. The hero of the story takes up the cause of the broken engine, regardless of practicality and with sheer will muscles the heavy load over the mountain.

“How wonderful.” I say dryly.

And what’s not to love? The underdog saves the day. The ugly, unlikeable characters fates are untold so that we may use our magnificent imaginations to prescribe their (likely) tumultuous futures. All of the good little children on the other side of the mountain get their toys and candy and all manner of spoils.

Here’s the thing.

Each of those engines had his own story too. Perhaps the old engine was weary from hauling his lifetime engine partner to his engine-grave. Yes, I know that sounds far fetched, but let’s humanize theses engines for a minute. Let’s say the old engine is an older women who has cared for her husband through 20 years of dementia, only to bury him that very morning. Should she really stop to help yet another person? Could she even carry their burden 10 feet, let alone up a mountain?

I don’t know. Only she does.

And the busy, strong engine – what if she or he was on their way to other children, not necessarily good or bad, but downtrodden and without hope? Perhaps this engine isn’t bringing the spoils of toys and candy, but rather simple food and water. Should this strong and hurried really stop to facilitate the export of toys and candy? What about the other children, not necessarily good or bad, who live over in the next valley and are starving? What about them? I mean, at the end of the story, the children who receive the toys and candy didn’t seem to be particularly hurting for shelter and food.

Then, there is the broken down engine who needs help. Perhaps he is a wonderful engine that is just having a bad day, but also, quite possibly, he didn’t fill up his gas tank before leaving. Not only that, but it isn’t even his first offense. In fact, what if this particular engine is on the verge of decommission, because of his lack of responsibility? Or maybe he is just having a bad day. Who knows?

Not me, that’s who. Only he knows if he did his best.

Lastly, the engine that could! Should he really take on a load that he is unsure he can carry? Yes, risk  and strong-will are important, but so is wisdom. Perhaps conventional wisdom would tell him to go for help instead of risking the load of wonders for the good little children.

I don’t know, but this story is full of striking metaphors – spoken and unspoken.

What is the point of my long diatribe?

There is a time for risk and fortitude of spirit, as well as a time for asking for help. There is a time to admit we make mistakes. There is a time to say we are too weary to help. There is a time for helping those in the greatest need AND a time for helping those with less need. There is a time for befriending and time for instructing for improvement – and those don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

There is a time for everything.

Helping ourselves and helping others, knowing the difference and what is needed in each moment – those are the lessons I want my children to have.

So perhaps I’ll write a story about “The Little Engine who Called for Help” and “The Weary Engine would Couldn’t” and “The Strong Engine who Stayed on Task.” These stories could be read alongside “The Little Engine that Could”.

Perhaps the world will be a better place once all the little engines are represented. Perhaps the children of the world, neither good or bad, will choose their path wisely.

Perhaps, we can teach our children well. Perhaps, our children can teach us too.

 

 

 

Ten Things about Me

  1. I am an idea geyser. For real, give me a topic and I will spout of ideas for hours. One day, I was driving down the road with my husband and we passed an automotive repair shop. I said, “I wish more women were mechanics.” Then, I proceeded to outline a future non-profit that would teach women in need various trades – electricians, plumbers, mechanics, etc. It would be called Maintenance Mavens. Seriously, these ideas are everyday occurrences for me.
  2. Make love, not war. I totally have opinions. Everybody has opinions. I just don’t really think they are worth fighting about. In fact, I’ll concede my opinion simply to make peace. Sometimes people think this makes me wishy-washy, but truly NOTHING is so important that it should destroy our friendship.
  3. I am a metaphorical gypsy. I say metaphorical simply because I’m not much of a traveler. I mean, I’d LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to travel. I just don’t have money to travel. Anyway, metaphorically, I’m a gypsy. I move from one idea, one opportunity, one adventure, one skill to the next. I never stick with anything that long, which is probably why I’m good at quite a few things and excellent at….
  4. It’s immaterial. Long ago, long ago in a galaxy far away….in high school, I wanted to be rich and famous. Then, somewhere between graduation and getting married, I ceased caring. My house is not pretty and I don’t have a lot of things. Sure, I’d like nice things, but its not worth 80 hour work weeks for me or my husband. I’d take poor over powerful.
  5. I have lost dreams. I sang. At recess, I sang. No foursquare for me…I’d just walk around singing. That was my dream. I’m not really sure if I gave up on it or if I couldn’t hack it or if I stopped wanting it. I just know that it feels lost, as in missing. I miss it – the singing. I was even pretty damn good at it.
  6. I am absent-minded. For real, on the Fourth of July, I left my phone on top of the car. My husband drove to work the next morning with it there. It fell off about two miles from my house. My ten-year-old used Find My Phone and we went and discovered it in the middle of the road, completely in tact. Perhaps this would make me insanely lucky….if only my other absent-minded stories ended this way. *sniff, sniff* We will save those bad boys for another day…
  7. My inner dialogue isn’t kind. My therapist blames my parents. I blame my perfectionism. Either way, my natural inclination if anything (and I mean anything) goes wrong is that I’ve fucked up. It’s me, not you. I’m the mess. Sad, but true. I wish I could change it, but did you know that you can’t? Seriously, psychologists disproved the whole “you can change your thoughts” idea years ago. Research has proven that our thought patterns are largely formed by the age of eight. The new trend in therapy and psychology is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (vs. cognitive behavioral therapy). The idea is that we can’t change our thoughts, but we can change how we respond to them.
  8. I am open-hearted. I really like people and I want them to succeed and be happy. I don’t assume that the rest of the world is out to get me. So yeah, I’ll let a total stranger borrow my phone and then, I will probably be screwed when they steal it. Oh well, it’s only material.
  9. Authenticity is paramount. Seriously, being forced to do anything = death. Probably, this is the reason I’m always pursuing some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor.  I can’t sell things to people, because I’d be like “This item is pretty good, but I wouldn’t buy it so you probably shouldn’t either.” I also can’t pretend to like a bad idea or be in a good mood.
  10. I heart Giraffes. Awhile ago, I discovered that Giraffes eat Acacia trees. Not really that significant, except that Acacia trees have thorns! Would you eat thorns? Me either. This completely fascinates me and so now I’m obsessed with Giraffes. I mean, who can turn thorns (pain!) into energy? Giraffes, that’s who!!!

Beauty in the Mess

Recently, I’ve been trying to look at household chores from a different angle, because, honestly, this begrudging hostility that I’ve been using for a decade is about to undo me.

I need something new.

For a month, the new perspective I tried was to look at my chores from a metaphorical perspective, each room having a symbolic meaning. In the laundry room, there is renewal and restoration. As I wash my clothes, I am giving not only my image renewal and fresh appearance, but my heart and soul renewal. In the kitchen, there is comfort and communion with others, nurturing. As I wash the dishes, I am preparing myself for comfort and connection. This is all deep and meaningful and I’m sure it has some validity.

But I still hate my chores.

This morning, I was reading from an older gentleman’s work. He was describing how old farms always bring him such nostalgia no matter how ill-kept they are. Even in disrepair and destruction,, they hold beauty. It reminded me of all the reclaimed wood, rustic and vintage elements that Joanna Gaines uses in her designs. We can love the old and ugly in our homes so that they can become beauty.

As I read this, I looked at my atrociously maintained master bathroom and I tried to find beauty. Truly, the toilet has not been cleaned in four months. It’s disgusting. Clothes are strewn everywhere and about 4 square inches are unlittered on my generously-sized vanity. Where is the beauty here?

I couldn’t see it.

As I’m writing this, my laptop sits on mounds of unopened mail and shards of children’s homework and artwork. Next to me sit Lysol wipes and a box of hair color. It’s utter chaos – that’s what I see.

How do you see the beauty in the mess? All I see is a giant pile of overwhelm. I want so desperately to know the secret, to look at the areas of my home and know the value – to see the moments of joy instead of the drudgery of chores.

I often come to the conclusion that I’m just not one of those people who loves to clean and organize. Are there people who love those things? According to Pinterest there are! What is their secret? I.e. Please tell me their exact myers-briggs personality types so that I can see how much of myself I will have to change in order to become an enthusiast of chores.

Maybe when I know the answers, I’ll repost this as a series with all of my enlightenment. Until then, I’ll be folding laundry with ill temper.