From the Basement

May 20, 2010

“Go to the mattresses”

My mom recently bought new mattresses for my sister and I. Apparently, mattresses have a 10-15 year life span, and it’s advisable to get new ones at some point in that time frame. So we got new mattresses.

Two things come to mind when I hear the word mattress:

a)    a support system

b)    that quote from The Godfather – “Go to the mattreses” – that I only know because of the movie You’ve Got Mail

These two things seem inextricably interlinked at the present moment. In You’ve Got Mail, the quote is used to exhort the female protagonist to fight for her small business. So if you go to the mattresses, you’re fighting (and fighting hard) to get something. And then the second one is basic enough: a support system. A network of friends, of relationships.

Bear with me here, but let’s say that each of us has a mattress that we carry around with us. It’s our support system. Our relationships, our work maybe, our families, our privacy – whatever it is that you can collapse on at a moment’s notice. Whatever gives you rest. It’s something we fight for. It’s something we rely on, and we don’t realize how important it is until it starts breaking down.

Because the truth is, there are times when we need to get a new mattress. What used to give us support doesn’t anymore. Relationships change, wear out, and thin over time; to adapt a common adage, you go from the family you’re born with to the family you choose. Friends change, and even if friends don’t change, the nature of the friendship changes. And other things, too – the identity of being a student is a support that is two weeks away from being extinct (at least for now).

My “mattress,” as it were, is in a state of revision. And it’s a good thing. And I’m “going to the mattresses” to fight for my vision of what that could be. I can’t see it clearly yet, but I can feel it forming beneath me – and I’m choosing to trust that.

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May 17, 2010

Staying Present

I’m currently reading a book by Geneen Roth, Women Food and God, that is challenging me on one crucial thing: staying present.

I do a lot of things to avoid staying present, to avoid dealing with the pain, the anxiety. I eat compulsively; I’m an internet addict. Spending so much time on the computer gives me migraines, but I take the migraines because it saves me the knowledge of my present: that I am an almost-college-graduate living at home, unemployed.

I’m someone who considers myself to be spiritually aware. I pray, I have quiet time with God, I fervently believe in His promises. But then there are days like today – angry days, sad days, I don’t feel like worshipping days. Knowing that worship is a choice makes it all the worse, because I’m actively deciding against worship, something I usually do every day.

There is pain in my present. There are the questions – When will I get a job? How will I pay student loans? How will my continued stay with my mom affect her bills? Then, there is the shame: the shame of having done everything right (or so said one of my bosses) and still having life turned on its head … and then there is the self-doubt, the sense of failure, that I didn’t do everything I could have, that I messed up.

Trust me – when you’re sitting alone at your mom’s house all day, it is so, so much easier to drown those thoughts in food, email, and facebook. And the thing is, I know I’m drowning it out. So then I go job hunt and submit resumes and search some more and … repeat the cycle. I repeat it rather than pray over the pain. I repeat it rather than stop to self-examine.

I cannot remember the last time I stopped eating when I was full. And the last two weeks on campus were practically migraine-free; I wasn’t on my computer nearly as much. The minute I got home, the migraines kicked back up because my time on the computer shot up. (Okay, it was more than a minute later.) I noticed the difference – am I doing anything about it?

Staying present. Dealing with the emotions. Refusing to check out. Refusing to indulge in fantasy conversations or scenarios. Actively praying. Actively writing. Actually living. That is one of the greatest challenges in life. But we have to step up to that challenge. We step up or we numb ourselves. Numb living is life, but it’s a rip-off. It’s a cheap imitation of the real thing. It is so much less than we were made for.

In the gospels, Jesus says that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Abundance is not measured by how much we eat, buy, consume, fuck, risk … abundance is not something we attain. It’s something we experience when we are living in a state of contentment, peace, rest, awareness, acceptance. When we’re living in the present.

May 11, 2010

Trusting Your Gifts

Talents. Abilities. Instincts. Smarts. Whatever you call them, most everyone has some special talent (my favorite word for it). Whatever your gifting is, my question for you today is: are you walking in it? Are you doing it? Are you practicing? Are you finding a way to incorporate it into your daily life?

I believe that our gifts are given to us for a reason, but too many of us live in fear of them. Perhaps it’s a fear of failure, but perhaps it’s a fear of what will happen when you start walking in the gifting you’ve been given. Maybe you’re just afraid to hope that what you love to do is something that you could walk in every day or even – woah – get paid to do.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about jobs lately. The job hunt, the job market. Y’know – things that are pretty rough right now. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has at some point asked about the fallback, the safety job, survival. When I lead the conversation with the subject of My Writing, the person almost immediately clams up. Or they say “That’s nice. And if that doesn’t work out…?”

All this has me thinking that our culture doesn’t have its priorities straight. We value what pays rather than what edifies and, to be sure, things that are personally edifying won’t necessarily pay the bills. But I can’t help but think that our hope is drowning in our pragmatism. There’s this pervading, latent theme in conversation: it’s not that what we love can’t pay, just that it won’t pay. Too many people seem determined to pass that belief on to others. Don’t even think about pursuing something you love; it won’t pay and you’ll end up disappointed and embarassed, and then where will you be?

I am so sick of hearing that.

We learn early on to disregard our deepest desires, our giftings, our talents. When we’re little, it’s “what I want to do when I grow up!” Have you ever noticed how little kids always have an answer to that question, regardless of their level of talent/ability/opportunity in their chosen career field? But later on in life, we call the things we enjoy “hobbies.” We say “it’s called work for a reason.” And after college, we learn to look for what will pay rather than what we want. What we want might well pay – it’ll just take work and perhaps a thickness of skin that is too much to bear. (Or so we think.) And then we get lazy. We settle into that job or career or industry that wasn’t for us and still isn’t for us, but that pays the bills.

I am determined to not live in fear of my dreams. I am determined to not get lazy. But more than anything, I am determined in my belief that I was given my giftings for a reason … and why would I be given them if I wasn’t supposed to use them?

April 16, 2010

Living On Purpose

Filed under: Choices,Faith,Uncategorized — jeannablue @ 2:34 am
Tags: , ,

I recently met up with a friend who chose a very different route in life than I did. When we were 18 years old, I went off to college, eager for independence. She got married and prepared to start a family. Four years later, we found ourselves laughing in a coffeeshop. She congratulated me on the end of my college career while she rocked the baby, and I shared part of my doughnut with her two-year-old.

It’s interesting to stop and take stock of where life takes us. I’ve been listening to a relationship series by Pastor Danny Silk (hence the quote in the last post), and he talks about how couples should move with purpose, with vision – that the problem with so many couples is that they outlast their destiny.

This question of destiny applies to individuals as well as couples. Are we moving in a direction with a decided heart? Is there a purpose driving us through life? Or are we just hopping from lily pad to lily pad, following a traditional path – college –> job –> marriage –> kids –> … then what?

It reminds me of a description I once read in a book about hustling pool. The author, Jennifer Crusie, talked about how some players could see nothing more than the ball that was in front of them, whereas a strategic player would position themselves based on where they wanted to be. They played based on the unseen rather than the seen, their envisioned outcome rather than the current reality. It comes as no surprise that the players with long-range vision hustle those without vision.

I don’t want to go through life reacting to the ball that’s in front of me, focusing on the current play rather than the game. While it’s true that you can make a car trip with your lights guiding you five feet at a time, what is it that gives you the motivation to keep driving? The knowledge of a destination. That sense of purpose makes all the difference in the world.

Sometimes, what you envision doesn’t work out the way you planned. But the thing is that it’s just one play in the game that is your life. The play didn’t work out, but the game’s still yours. Right now, in that place of “now what?”, I’m discovering a freedom I never thought possible. I’m asking questions I never asked before, trusting that even when I think the car is stalled, something is happening.

My friend is driving on the road she’s chosen – her girls are growing up in front of her every single day. Interestingly enough, she says that she still occasionally wonders, “What if I’d done it differently? How would my life look?” Some people can get stuck in that spiral for years, but the question in itself isn’t harmful. In fact, it can be useful. My friend asks this question and ultimately feels content with her life, grateful for the decisions she’s made and how they’ve led her to her lifelong dream.

While I’m not a proponent of living in fear or anticipation of the future, I don’t think it hurts to take a moment, slow down, and think about how our current actions are affecting the game. Are we playing to win, or are we just biding time, hoping that it ends before we get too hurt?

Are we living on purpose?

My friend and I are about as different as they come in regards to temperament and life choices. We’d both be miserable doing what the other is doing. But we want to encourage the other as they pursue their purpose, as they live out their vision. We were uniquely created by our awesome Creator for a purpose, and we both know that His plans are too big to shoehorn into a traditional “life path.” He’s got some awesome roads for every single one of us. Me. Her. And you.

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