Sunday, November 14, 2010

Northstar (and life) notes.

First, before I forget, let me mention (not for the first or the last time, I'm sure) how much I love, love, love winter light. Also, to be technically correct, late fall light. Maybe it's the warmth of it and the way it falls in such contrast to the coolness of the air--beautiful for the same reason that the flame-colored leaves are beautiful in the chill winds of the season. I feel such joy when I see it slanting through the light curtain on the front door, falling into the mirror or onto a pair of cold-weather boots shed in the hallway.

Now, notes:

She mentioned the passage which says, among other things, to "love your neighbor as yourself," and pointed out that this is written as a simile--comparing a thing it is assumed that we know to another thing which it is assumed that we do not know: here, how to love our neighbor (assumed that we don't know) equated with how we supposedly love ourselves. The thing is that we don't really understand what loving ourselves means, or how we should go about doing that. If I really understood this, I probably wouldn't eat a half of a pint of Ben & Jerry's in one sitting, for example, or lie in bed until 11 am for no reason whatsoever. And it occurred to me (through some prompting) that really loving yourself well does not equate to giving yourself whatever you want whenever you want it (exhibit A: Ben & Jerry's), or smoothing over every discomfort that arises without addressing the real issue at hand at any given time. Therefore it follows, at least according to the verse above and also to the Golden Rule, that loving others well does not mean giving them whatever they want, making nice, and smoothing over all things unpleasant. Loving well isn't necessarily comfortable--it is just good and healthy. And it is rewarding.

At one point someone asked, in response to something Theresa had said about controlling our thoughts, whether controlling one's thoughts is actually possible. I had a difficult time following her response, possibly because the immediate answer in my mind was a resounding "yes." I had been practicing this for years when a metaphor was dropped into my lap as I read (forgive me) Eat, Pray, Love a couple of years ago. Gilbert had the same disbelieving question: how can a person control their own thoughts? Surely, she thought, such a thing is impossible. A friend helped her realize that your mind is like a port; your mind is your own safe harbor. Can you control what ships approach and ask to enter? Maybe not at first. But what you can control is what ships you welcome, embrace, unload and savor and revisit, and what ships you turn away immediately. If you habitually rebel every time your boss corrects you, then yes, the next time your boss corrects you you are probably going to rebel. But your choice when this happens is whether to embrace that feeling, to get into an imaginary (or audible) argument and storm out and meet up with your best friend for a beer-soaked bitch session, or whether to remind yourself that you aren't perfect, that everyone needs correction sometimes. Or even if your boss is legitimately out of line, to remind yourself that you can handle it, that it isn't worth ruining your day, that you shouldn't give him/her such control over your emotions. Because, after all, the only person responsible for your emotions is you. And you are the master of your own mind.

The next miniature revelation I had related to limits and boundaries. There was a psalm up on the overhead projector which I didn't write down but which made reference to boundaries falling in pleasing places. (I'm sorry, that's as specific as my memory gets.) I then had a realization that has been quite long in coming: often my feelings of being trapped come from the fact that I have been throwing myself like a moth battering a window up against the completely reasonable and incontrovertible walls of existence: time or money or body or law, which set impassable boundaries around us all. It is simple fact that limits do and will exist for each of us, and hurling ourselves against these kinds of limits is never going to be healthy or comfortable or pleasant. If I eat nothing but cheeseburgers or chips, my health will suffer. There isn't really anything uncertain about that. Or if I spend all of my money recklessly, I will suffer. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to play twelve hours of video games or watch as much tv or waste as much time online and still take care of my bodily or emotional needs like sleep and exercise and community. There isn't anything bad about any of the above limits (particularly considering that when you stop and pay attention, you just may find that there is very little that is actually enjoyable or rewarding in any meaningful way about consuming junk food or spending money or watching tv), but they're really going to seem terrible--and I am really going to feel put-upon and sorry for myself--if I spend all of my energy throwing myself against them. That is, of course, something that I have thus far spent a lot of my life doing.
Now I'm hoping to teach myself to stop leaping with disdain over the clear, even, peaceful path that winds along within spitting distance of those walls, because I am tired of picking my bruised and bitter and angry self up off the ground in preparation for my next utterly imbecilic rally and attack. Maybe I could learn to stroll and maybe I could remember that it is human nature (or, at least, it is my nature) to hate and to rebel against any imposed boundaries. Boundaries that I choose, on the other hand, make me feel (and make me be) strong and secure.


  1. I love that last paragraph so much. Love love love love. <3 You're my favorite bestest friend.

  2. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Love!