The Social Animal

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I want to keep a quiet heart like Elisabeth Elliot did

but

to keep one I have to have one first, I gather.

It’s not easy.

(I add to the noise in the world, sometimes,

while wishing I hadn’t.

And sometimes I just soak in the static because

Breaking!

You won’t believe it!

Outrageous!

Fools!

Idiots!

Look over here!

Click, click, click on it.

Oh! and

please, pay

no attention to the Man behind the curtain

unless you mean to buy

something

from him).

 

 

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A War for Peace

It’s here: The Season.  I swore I’d never be one of those people who got caught up in all the mindless busyness of modern American holidays, the hand-wringing over recycled wrapping paper, gluten-free finger foods, and gargantuan expectations.

I wasn’t during our years in India.  And I wasn’t before that, when my kids were very small.  But since we’ve been back in the U.S. (three years now), I’ve felt holiday insanity sneaking up on me.

Have you seen the movie Alien?  I don’t recommend it, but I’ll just say that the raging fever of consumerism and ubiquitous Pinterest Faerie Land Photos feel to me like the hideous thing that attaches itself to the guy’s face in order to lay its eggs in him at the beginning of that movie.  (Since I’ll  never be able to un-see that particular scene, you might as well see it, too).

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And just like in the movie, this craziness means war. A war for peace. And I’m gearing up.

I just got done cancelling the kids’ jujitsu for the entire month of December (boom).  And we only have one more piano lesson before we shut down the semester (hooah!).  I’m saying no to math.

And you know what else?

I’m saying no to perfect because it doesn’t exist (except in the Person for whom all the fuss exists).

But I’m saying yes to our Advent readings, to my sister and her family staying with us for a week, to a Christmas concert with friends, to fires in the fireplace, to Crock Pot chili.

I’m saying yes to shopping on Amazon and wrapping the boxes as they get here and sticking to the budget as much as possible.

I’m saying yes to donating to our favorite causes, even if it’s only a little bit, and to sharing coffee with our neighbor whose husband died a month ago.

In short, we’re going to have a White Space Christmas season, if not a White Christmas, exactly.  I’m finding that it takes guts to carve out time for nothing, but I just strapped on my flak vest.

I dare you to join me.

 

The Muse

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This is one of those days when words don’t fit.

Sit and wait and tap and think

but silence sits under too-bright images (those blurs one sees

on the way to the beach) and there’s the painful, everything pulse,

which is less peaceful than the nothing.

What does one do at a wasteful time such as this?

She looks at dogs.

~For my niece, Maddy, who is a writer.

Going On An (Information) Diet–Starving Distraction to Gain Peace

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I’ve been thinking a lot about peace these days, what it means to me and my family, how to hang on to it over the long-haul.  I’m a Christian, so I understand peace to be, ultimately, about the Prince of Peace, Jesus.  He’s who we’re singing about in all those carols this time of year, and remembering that helps me to breathe in the midst of the season’s festivities.  Entering into and nurturing a relationship with him is, I’ve discovered, the starting point to a fundamentally different kind of (peace-filled) existence.

Still, we all do things–year round–that sabotage our personal peace, things that end up affecting not just ourselves but our families and friends as well.  The number one way I work against myself in my quest to maintain a peaceful heart and home?

I consume too much media. 

We’ve all heard it; the human brain can store only so much information.  Yet never before have we humans had the ability to access as many important facts, hybrid lies, complete lies, and useless info-bits at the click of a button.  And I have a confession:  I love it.  Even if I can see that some Internet “fact” is a lie, it’s all good.  In that case, I can bookmark it, text it to my sister, and get the particular pleasure of discussing just how much of a lie said fact is.

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But a funny thing happens to me after too much engagement online, whether it’s social media, news websites, or blogs–I find that I can’t concentrate on my real life, and I get anxious.  The actual goings-on of my day get upstaged by the vague chatter in my brain as it tries to process enough (mostly mindless) info to last me a month, maybe a year.  I lose patience when my son tries to tell me about some world he discovered in Minecraft because I don’t have the mental space to receive One More Piece of Info.  This is sad because often he uses the sharing of factoids to jump-start deeper, more meaningful conversations with me.  I know all this.  Still, when he starts in, my brain screams no mas.

And then, when it’s dark news stories I’ve been consuming, I find myself replaying horrifying scenes in my mind, ad infinitum.  Even though I know that most of the time, a). I don’t have all the facts in order to ascertain the complete truth in a news story, and, b). I can’t help the situation, other than to pray, still I can’t shut the fretting off.  Then, as I worry about things I can’t change, I’m rendered useless to effect change in the ways I can.

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Now, since I have no plans to go permanently dark on the Internet (I work from home, after all), I’ve had to come up with other ways to mitigate the effects of media on my mind and in my home.  I’m not always faithful to stick to my resolution since information is to me like molten lava cake is to others.  Still, these things have helped:

I limit my exposure to social media.  I’m not a member of 50 different sites so I don’t have a ton of checking to do anyway.  When I do want to check a social site, I give myself two minutes or less on it if I don’t have any notifications that indicate something’s changed.  And if something has changed, I try to limit myself to ten minutes, tops.

I consume very little news.  Virtually none, to be honest.  It’s impossible to avoid headlines and I find that I can sort-of stay up on major events that way.  But any more info than a casual glance affords is too much for my anxious heart.  I try to pray for local, national, and world issues as they come to my mind but I do not spend time thinking about things over which I have no control.  This is a biggie for me.

Is my heart a perfect oasis of peace these days?  No.  Do I spend too much time thinking about things that have no real bearing on my actual life?  Sometimes.  But I’m working on it and it’s making a difference.

Is there any chance that cutting back on media consumption might help you too?

Earth

This morning I returned to earth at 9:21 a.m.  The sounds of a made-in-the-eighties cartoon pressed through the doors of my bedroom, elbowing past the hum of my floor fan, and tapped my subconscious on the shoulder.  One of the dogs had curled himself next to me, wedging me on my side.  I suppose it was my tingling right arm that brought me back in the end.  I felt for the dog’s back and pushed him over, sitting up halfway. I blinked away eleven hours.

The first day of getting back to things.

It has been eighteen days since I’ve truly slept, paid attention to the kids, written, or been quiet for that matter.  I’m worn.  Every day I’ve spent with family (first husband’s, then mine) has been a gift.  I am reminded that, other than my faith, my family is really all I need in the end.  And if I had the choice to surround myself with my sisters and their children on a more permanent basis, I would.  I’d wrap them around me like a mink coat, aware of the luxury.

But I am a girl who longs for quiet, who craves routine.  These things are important for my long-term survival.  I’m ready to slip back into the familiar warp and weft of my life, such as it is.  Ready for the odd moment of fruitful nothing.

Husband leaves for Africa next week so life won’t be strictly normal in the days to come.  But I will spend many night hours staring and thinking hard and writing when he’s gone.  When he arrives home he’ll recognize me.  I’ll have put myself back together, one word at a time, and returned to earth for a longer stay.