Thursday, July 1, 2010

Being Offline and Coming Back

I've not posted much the last three months for a variety of reasons. None of those reasons has been lack of subject matter or emotions. Indeed, it would be fair to say that there has been an excess of emotion, too raw and immediate to share for one like me who tends to be considerate in just about every respect. I think this is the part of me that my daughter has criticized several times in the past - what I interpret as her interpretation of a lack of emotional authenticity or depth on my part.

The word that comes to me is restraint. I think that I am a person of restraint, a restraint that arises naturally out of the core of who I am, when it comes to how my actions impact others. On the other hand, when my actions have impacted me alone, I have lived episodes of intense extremes and excess, gulping and grasping as many experiences as I could, as quickly as I could. And of course, the passage of time has ameliorated many of those excesses, dampened them simply because as one gains people and things in one's life, one loses discretionary time.

Herb and I have been a unique couple that way. He claims a self-named family motto of "Nihil nisi ad excessum," Latin, meaning "Nothing, if not to excess," and that family motto became his and mine for many years. When we got into pinball, we would play literally all day at a local pinball parlor without stopping to eat. The same thing with bowling, when we once played from the time the bowling alley opened until it closed, and our fingers were swollen from grasping the 16-lb bowling balls. When I paired with Herb, it was hard for me to remember restraint, because he always encouraged me to "go for it."

Upon reflection, I recall that even as a child, I didn't do much emotional falling apart when things saddened, angered or frustrated me. I was always concerned about the effect of my potential emotional outbursts on the people around me, about how my responses would make them feel. I remember having bouts of anger and people knowing that I was angry, because I tended to stay angry for a long time. My youth was filled with sarcasm and sharp, well aimed words. That's why Margaret Atwood's early poetry (see Power Politics, an early book of poetry) really spoke to me. But I don't recall any tantrums or eruptions, which I admit might be selective memory. I believe that my mother and my brother have different memories of a scary, angry girl.

So, from my perspective, it doesn't feel like I am "stuffing" my emotions. I think that this containment of my emotions is part of the way in which I experience my "self," which I would describe as very self-contained, self-reliant and self-defined. I think this is related to eating the mango from the pit and never the mango meat that has been sliced and served to everyone else by me. It has been fewer than ten years that I have allowed myself the luxury of tasting from the mango meat, because my inclination is always to offer the meat to the rest of the family first.

Yet I have always had a capacity for joy and spontaneous enjoyment of the smallest things. I laugh loudly and often and even giggle. My urge every time I complete the journey into the center of a labyrinth is to break out into a dance like the Peanuts dog character, Snoopy, jumping into the air for the pure joy of being at the center.

Well, I'm coming back. I expect to be posting again regularly, and I'm thrilled to have my voice back in this forum. I've been through some health adventures with Herb, which I'll tell about later. There have been a plethora of church meetings for which I've had heavy work assignments before, during and after. I've talked about them in other forums such as Facebook, Twitter, the HoB/D listserv, and various meetings where I've given presentations and reports, etc. I certainly have had no shortage of words in the past three months that I haven't posted here regularly. I've missed all of you terribly.

from Power Politics, an excerpt from a favorite poem:

We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.
The things we say are 
true; it is our crooked 
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.

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