Search

postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Category

soul searching

the magic (and power) of words

Whether being driven to the Jitney Jungle with Mom or into the presence of God with Dad, I learned from a young age what words could do. My mother was a music major, and when she sang “Ave Maria” in the car, she opened up their magic. My father was a self-made preacher man and when he prophesied in our living room, he unhinged their power.

And while some people prefer the power, I prefer the magic of words. And believe me, there’s a world of difference.

Magic is revealed. Power is wielded. One shows itself to you. The other strips you bare — or does its best. Enlighten. Or ensnare. That’s what words can do.

And lately, against my better health and judgement, I’ve been caught up in the contagious power of words. In the feverish state of negativity running rampant right now. I’ve grown flush with fear and anxiety. Words have wielded their weight on me, and I’ve wielded out weighty ones of my own. And my recent blogs have been a result of that fever. And I’m sorry about that.

That’s not usually who I am. I’m generally an eternal optimist — an alchemist who tries to turn iron into gold. To dig around in the dark till I find the dawn. But social and news media’s words of contagious power got me.

Thank heavens a good friend recognized my symptoms, cautioned me against getting caught up, and prescribed the appropriate cure: Books.

In my cul-de-sac cult days, when things went all catawampus, I read books to escape. Words with magic to counteract the words of power being catapulted at me. Books sheltered and shielded me. They took me away from my reality.

Emily Dickinson, who self-cloistered for nearly her entire adult life, still enjoyed getting away from the four walls that both protected and penned her in. By reading.

She claimed “there is no frigate like a book/ to take us lands away,” and I agree. And what better thing to do while we’re self-cloistering (so much more poetic than “social distancing”) inside walls that protect and pen us in, than set sail on the pages of a book?

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, has been my cure. It’s helped me rediscover the sweet magic of words again, which is what I desperately needed. But it’s also helped me remember the sweet magic of this universe and my part in it.

Gilbert’s words are positive and playful and they encourage us all to find the “strange jewels” planted in our souls by the universe. Some of us will rise to the challenge of unearthing those gems, she says, and some of us are content to sit back and let them simmer unseen.

These last few weeks, sitting at home on my couch, its been easy to turn slack and cynical and to leave the magic simmering somewhere. But her words are nudging me back toward action and light.

Big Magic’s subtitle is Creative Living Beyond Fear — and that’s exactly what I need right now — a way to move beyond fear and into a positive creative state. To go on my spiritual scavenger hunt to find the words truest to me. Words of love and inspiration and persistence.

Because words are my hidden jewels. My magic. I love to twirl them like pinwheels till they flicker and flash. To sharpen and shape them into glittering strings of paper dolls prose. To fling them like stardust into the nebula of my brain and see what riches take flight.

I need to remember to play with them again. Not wallow in them. To relish in their magic, not fall beneath their power.

And if you feel the same way, I highly recommend you giving Gilbert’s Big Magic a read.

She’ll help you find and reclaim your birthright.

Fear and Self-Loathing in Lost Places

I recently discovered a little demon that had hidden itself away in my cells, quietly waiting for the perfect time to rear its ugly head and wreak havoc on my heart. It birthed itself during a quick, two-hour road trip a couple months back.

I thought that demon was long dead… thought nothing I heard about my past could do much damage anymore. I was wrong. Turns out, the demon wasn’t dead, just dormant. And turns out, it could still do a helluvalot of damage.

Ever since, I’ve been working my way through a very hard memory…

Memories. They’re never photographic and never completely accurate. They’re fuzzy and fragmented and colored by our own personal perceptions and perspectives.

This one, I kept buried for a long time. But it bubbled and bloomed under the surface. Time softened it… but in a furry, moldy, sordid, slimy sort of way. But the time has come for it to be dug up. Time to bring it into the light, dry it out, turn it to dust, and blow it away.

And y’all, I’m not talking metaphorical demons here. I was a sixteen-year-old junior when I was told I was demon-possessed.

Now I was a far-from-perfect child. I had a major crush on the butterscotch boy next door; I was writing mysteries with teenage girls with plunging necklines and music minister murderers; and I was failing my Algebra II class. But I’m pretty sure I wasn’t demon-possessed. At least, not until that night.

I recall standing in a marble entryway with a bathrobe on my lanky frame and a chip on my shoulder. To my right was a still life painting of cream roses in a shadowy vase. To my left were double oak doors, locked. Before me, my accuser, arms crossed, eyes blazing, telling me the devil was in me. Telling me I was going straight to hell.

That night, a pervasive demon of fear and self-loathing tangled itself up with my youthful defiance and climbed through the dilated pores of my freshly showered skin. To avoid my accuser’s red glare, I focused on the still life instead — the gold ochre roses captured in a burnished vase. Crashing waves of Prussian Blue smashed mercilessly into and around them. Petals broken and fallen. Plunged into oily darkness.

My accuser would remember the scene differently, I’m sure. Would remember the wayward daughter with the rebellious streak and the raging desire. The girl consumed by fire. The girl caught up in the ways of the world. The world caught up in the girl. She needed purging in the worst sort of way.

Funny thing about memories… two people remembering the same incident can have two entirely different accounts of what happened. And it doesn’t make either account less true.

With really difficult memories, the differences and disparities reveal the differences and despair in each individual. And each of us felt them… profoundly.

The facts are straightforward; the truth is not.

The fact is my parents were doing what they absolutely thought best. The fact is they did their best to raise me. The fact is they knew the world to be a dangerous place. The fact is they submerged all of us in strict doctrine and stern dogma to save us.

And the fact is I was a far-from perfect child. I was headstrong and fighting for my life. I did my best to escape them and the cult of domesticity they were raising me in. And I did. I escaped with my newly-planted demons of fear and self-loathing, with an ample serving of defiance, and I went to live with my guardian angel grandmother.

They did their best. And so did I. Those are the facts.

But the truth belongs to each individual — and we are all colored by our pasts. By our truths. And our demons. Even my father.

He confessed to me on that two-hour drive how sorry he was that he sent me to live with my grandmother.

… he was sorry for burdening her heart at her advanced age with a rebellious teenage girl.

Shame and guilt overwhelmed me. That demon of tangled up fear and self-loathing, tinged with teenage defiance tore through my gut in a blaze of ungodly glory. And it refuses to leave.

But then today I found some hope. I read a chapter from Jen Pastiloff’s On Being Human, called, “Rewrite Your Story: Memory Lost and Found.” It focuses on facing and excising your demons. Denouncing them as liars.

I took it as a sign. Especially after I soon found this little gem: “Don’t die with your music still inside of you.”

So I decided to write out my memory and sing out my sorrow. This demon is no longer allowed to hang out as a devil inside.

So I hope someone out there is listening. I want to be absolved. I need to be absolved. And I want to help absolve others. Because Toni Morrison, the greatest writer of our time, once said something I believe in wholeheartedly: The function of freedom is to free someone else.

I kept her quote taped to my writing desk for years. And now I keep it stapled in my soul.

Today, I share my memory, my song, and my freedom. And I beg you to share yours too.

Share your truth and be saved from the devils breeding somewhere deep in the darkness of your past.

The Beauty of Light on Bended Knee

The change of the speed of light causes a change in the direction of the light. And that causes… well, beauty… soul-seizing, earth-dazzling beauty.

Technically, it’s called refraction, but I prefer “Bent Light.” Refraction sounds so… stuffy. And Bent Light is anything but stuffy. It’s atmospheric poetry and brushstrokes in pastels and crayola colors. It’s sunrise and sunset and rainbow. It’s the Northern and the Southern lights. It’s all of God’s Grandeur on display.

And I, too, have recently changed speeds and directions. And I have found that my regular shiny self has definitely been bent. In fact, I am one giant cluster of Bent With A Capital B.

I’m bent at the shoulders and knees… I’m praying. A lot.

You see, I can’t seem to do it all. I can’t seem to stay caught up. Not anywhere close to caught up. My to do list stretches off into the horizon and mocks me if I dare try to cross a single thing off it. So I’m left with bent knees and distant goals.

Which leaves me frustrated. (A lot.) And impatient. (A lot.) And absolutely exhausted. (All. The. Lots.)

But then tonight, when I sat down to write about all my doubts, all my dismay, I got distracted. I got distracted from my hard-angles and angsts by the notifications from the Instagram pic I took of a sunrise this week.

A jell-o sky sunrise.

And that jell-o sky sunrise got me to thinking… thinking about the beauty of light on its knees. If light didn’t take a knee, we would never have color. We would never have promise.

God gave mankind His promise by way of the rainbow. The promise that storms would pass and the world would be profitable again. Not stale. Not flat. Not weary.  (To combine some flood narrative with some Hamlet.) The world was given depth and beauty through light on bended knee.

And let me tell you… these past few weeks, I’ve been up close and personal with some stale and flat. I’ve felt the unprofitable. And OH, how wooly (“That’s weary, Nobody gets wooly. Women get weary” — to combine some Hamlet and some Bull Durham.) But anyway…

Lord, how I’ve struggled. But in those struggles, I’ve seen the most deliciously decadent sunrises — sensory feasts for my near-starving soul. I’ve seen them nearly every morning.

I’ve seen plum sorbet daybreaks and bright jell-o skies. I’ve seen peach parfait cloud stacks and strawberry-syrup haze.

And I’m reminded that while my life might be hard right now… and my shoulders and knees may be bent way more than usual… that is a far cry from a bad thing.

I needed to be humbled. I needed to shake things up, to be shaken, to be bent.

Because, as Gerard Manley Hopkins so eloquently wrote, “the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Yes, bent light makes metaphysical masterpieces. And bent knees make metaphysical masterpieces, too.

I can’t wait to see what beautiful things are created from my soul on bended knee.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑