Finally, Part Three

February 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Committed

Yep, still talking about this.

I finished Committed last night just before bed.  I let it settle in my mind.  I avoided circular obsessive thoughts about it – circular, obsessive thoughts are usually how I handle most things from something someone said that day to mortgage payments to the last few sentences of whatever book I have just read (thank you, Codependent No More).

Amazing how I was able to sleep when I took some deep breaths and let it go.  I’ll think about it tomorrow.  I never tell myself I’ll think about it tomorrow.  I always just think about it until tomorrow.  This typically evolves into some kind of extreme emotion by morning – what Gilbert quotes the Gottman’s as calling “flooding.”

That being said, I don’t have any stunning perspective or revelation now that I have finished the book.  I merely have some quotes that struck me as notable.  So notable that I didn’t just underline them in the book like a maniac, I actually copied them down into my journal.

“My mother herself had probably given up long ago trying to draw tidy ultimate conclusions about her own existence, having abandoned (as so many of us must do, after a certain age) the luxuriously innocent fantasy that one is entitled to have unmixed feelings about one’s own life.” – pg. 201, Committed

Me of excessive and obsessive thought who feels passionately one way or another on almost EVERY topic found this relieving.  Lately, I have felt passionately about opposing thoughts – as in I feel BOTH sides passionately and have felt that this means there is something wrong with me.  Apparently what I have seen as the ultimate sin – a conflict of beliefs and ideas and feelings – are just the growing pains of adulthood.

“If there is one indignity I shall never endure gracefully, it is watching people mess around with my most cherished personal narratives about them.” – pg. 206, Committed

Yes! This enrages me! And that is ridiculous.  Gilbert may profess to never endure it gracefully, but that is definitely an aspect of my character I want to learn to change.  It was roughly around this point of my reading that Annie Lennox started singing “Fool on the Hill” with Paul McCartney in the front row of the audience on TV and I decided that there will be sins I can’t kick, feelings I can’t change, that I will take to my grave.  But enduring other people being themselves, even if it is not how I view them, gracefully is something I would like to be able to do sometime.  The thoughts and the song and Annie Lennox may be unrelated, but forever in my mind they will be synonymously seared into my brain… don’t be a fool, summon your grace.

There was also a bit about porcupines that intrigued me.  It’s a blurb Gilbert writes about another author’s work, Deborah Luepnitz’s Schopenhauer’s Porcupines:

“[…] Arthur Schopenhauer told about the essential dilemma of modern human intimacy.  Schopenhauer believed that humans, in their love relationships, were like porcupines out on a cold winter night.  In order to keep from freezing, the animals huddle close together.  But as soon as they are near enough to provide critical warmth, they get poked by each other’s quills.  Reflexively, to stop the pain and irritation of too much closeness, the porcupines separate.  But once they separate, they become cold again. The chill sends them back toward each other once more, only to be impaled all over again by each other’s quills.  So they retreat again.  And then approach again.  Endlessly.  ‘And the cycle repeats,’ Deborah wrote, ‘as they struggle to find a comfortable distance between entanglement and freezing.’ ” – pg. 223, Committed

I read that and immediately thought of heroine and addiction.  No, I’m not a heroine addict.  But I’ve seen them in action.  And if I’m to be honest I have a tendency to feel like one in regards to the people I care about the most – all of whom I can count on fewer fingers than I have on one hand.

Gilbert’s book is lovely.  I’m sorry I sharked her memoir and made it all about me.  I hope if she ever stumbles across this blog, she will take it with a grain of salt and not see me as a pirate of some kind.  I recommend reading this book, regardless of what you thought about the more famous Eat, Pray, Love.

If I’m to get one over all message from ALL of my reading this weekend/ week, it is this:

be gentle

I really needed to get this message.

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Things I Learned in a Weekend…

February 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

… But will take longer to undo.

CommittedThis is a Part Two post to my review of Committed as well as a response to Codependent No More.

Saying “I am not in control of that” is not the same as being helpless.

Counting is not productive.

Trying harder sometimes doesn’t offer results, but rather drives you a little nuts.

 

codependent_no_moreI am allowed to have contradicting feelings as long as I am honest about both and do not bury the less favorable/ moral one.  A feeling is not a decision.  But bottling feelings and under-reacting to things that hurt your feelings can turn into a very foolish and very public behavioral issue similar to a train wreck or a volcano that kills an entire village.

“What am I to conclude when my grandmother says that the happiest decision of her life was giving up everything for her husband and children but then says – in the very next breath – that she doesn’t want me making the same choice? I’m not really sure how to reconcile this, except to believe that somehow both these statements are true and authentic, even as they seem to utterly contradict on another. I believe that a woman who has lived as long as my grandmother should be allowed some contradictions and mysteries. Like most of us, this woman contains multitudes. Besides, when it comes to the subject of women and marriage, easy conclusions are difficult to come by, and enigmas litter the road in every direction.” – from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed.

I can’t control other peoples’ thoughts and feelings.  Nor, if I’m to be honest do I want to.  What I decide for them takes away from me making healthy decisions for myself.

Other people making a decision I do not like is not a slight on me as a human.  I am still in tact.  I can say my piece in peace without expecting them to bend to my will.  In fact, I want to enjoy the freedom of talking out my feelings knowing that it does not change the outcome of life.  My words won’t make or break the world and the people in it.  I am not that powerful.  I don’t want to be that powerful.  I want other people to feel comfortable making their decisions based on what they need.  Would I like for them to consider my feelings when they choose to follow that decision? Yes.  Do I want my feelings to be the basis of their decision? No.  God, no.

What I want and what I need are allowed to be out of sync sometimes, as long as I take time to process my wants and needs in a calm manner without panic – without drama – and without superfluous descriptions.  As a writer I am apt to take a small situation and find the epic, extraordinary, or devastation in it.  As a survivor I take big things that may actually be epic, extraordinary, or devastating, and belittle them – act as though they are nothing.  (Someone dies, I roll with the punches.  Someone says something irritating, I come out swinging.  It doesn’t make sense.  It has been a long running joke among many of my friends that I’m the girl you need at a funeral.  I’m the girl you need in a physical crisis, on the battlefield even.  Put me in a room of people having a good time, and suddenly I’m twitchy.)

These are things I used to know, and for various reasons, I have lost sight of.  These are things that I need to remind myself daily, if not hourly.

So my newest truth above all – there is no shame in reading self-help books and memoirs by people who have a very different world view from yourself.  There is no shame in believing that, “this woman should not be condemned or judged for wanting what she wants.”  In fact that’s a very beautiful belief.

Finding balance is the hard part.  When does what you want step on what someone else wants and needs?  When does what you want need to be suppressed and when does it warrant being spoken?  My understanding of this balance is erratic at best.

Making a very open attempt to find this balance has been interesting too (I say this as though I’m well seasoned at the effort that I’ve been making for a whole of four days).  I am diving into all this for myself.  Go back a few blog posts and you may notice my sanity attempting to escape me.  Yet, it hasn’t just begun to calm me, it’s helped me stop and smell the roses.

Roses that, though not real physical red petals and thorny stems, are more present than I supposed.

Roses like: I actually get more done when I am busy acting instead of busy reacting.  Roses like: when I attempt to be as direct as I once was my husband attempts to woo me like he once did.  This is nice.  I’ll take that rose.  Yet, I am not being direct so that he will woo me, I am being direct because I need to be, the wooing is just a happy accident.  And, for once, wanting to be wooed doesn’t sound like an act of selfishness – it sounds like an act of being feminine.  Yes, I’ll admit that typing those words were difficult, that in that admission I nearly panicked.

I don’t have all the answers.  In fact, I have pretty much no answers.  The only answer that I do have is that I hope to be less self-destructive this year than last year.  I hope to be more open, but less vulnerable.

This year, I plan to internalize something that’s been hanging in my own Grandmother’s kitchen my whole life…

God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.

Be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet.  And, I’m not done reading this book!

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Committed – Part One

February 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

CommittedTitle: Committed

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Genre: Non-fiction of some kind. In a bookstore it would go in the memoir section, I’m sure – but it’s so much more than that.

I’m aware that when one decides to follow a book reviewing blog, they don’t expect the posts to start turning into self-aware sob stories.  However, I cannot fully digest a book without it becoming part of me and my psyche and putting  a little bit of pressure on my world view and myself.

When I read Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago, you may or may not remember my indignation.  I was so irritated.  This woman was so flippant! How dare she walk out on her marriage and go gallivanting and call that spiritual growth!  I loved Gilbert’s writing style, I loved her way with words, but all I could think was, “What a selfish whore.”

That was unfair.  I see that.

I’m reading Committed now.  A friend had told me Gilbert would redeem herself in my eyes in this book.  I was skeptical.  How could I ever see eye to eye with this woman?

But that’s the thing.  I don’t see eye to eye with her.  But now, I’m ok with that.  Not because of this book, though, I’m sure that helps; but because of me.  I’ve come to realize some things about myself in the very short time that it has been 2014.

I have a very intense moral code.  So intense, it is probably filled with much higher expectations for life than is humanly obtainable.  Stepping outside of this moral code in the past has left me trembling.  It terrifies me, because, simply:

I fall short.  It is impossible to live up to it.

I expect others to live up to it.  If we all strive to live up to it then maybe we can have a chance in hell of making it.

We don’t.

I see this now.

Yes, that makes me a hypocrite, I suppose.  Often.

Yes, that means that deep down I hate myself for not being able to live up to my beliefs.  Even saying this is in contradiction with my beliefs… I believe the whole bible to be true and even the bible says that we all fall short of the glory of God.  I believe in being a strong, independent, secure human.  Both of those things are in contradiction with me hating myself for falling short.

You see, it’s not just me being unforgiving of others.  I am completely unforgiving with myself too.  Especially when what I perceive as truth, and what I believe is right, is the polar opposite of what I want.

I was taught that my wants were frivolous nuisances to be disregarded.  Bury them.  Pretend they’re not there.  Doing what you *should* do is far more important than doing what you want.  Wants are things that destroy people, families, cities, empires.  Look at history – use your brain.  Don’t feel, use logic.

Somewhere in that teaching, there’s a logical fallacy.  Like Gilbert’s ice cream purchases correlating with drownings example – which made me laugh out loud.  (Statistically where there are higher ice cream purchases, there are more drownings.  Obviously, this does not mean that buying ice cream will increase your chance of drowning yourself, that would be a logical fallacy – yet, that’s exactly the kind of logic that has been ingrained in me.)

Now, 10 days away from 30, I feel a strong urge to fix this problem.

This is not something that can be fixed in 10 days.

Shockingly, despite my looming 10 day notice, I find myself a little at peace while reading Elizabeth Gilbert – author whose views I have previously found revolting – has spent page after page talking about forgiveness.

Things I have always been really cranky about – HOW does someone behave THAT way – she spells out.  Instead of just saying, “It happens,” she takes great descriptive pains that only an eloquent writer could take to tell me how.  To explain.  Pages 108-110 left me in tears.  Finally, I see why people have been so angered by my judgement.  Finally, I see why I have no right to judge.

I was wrong.  I’m sorry.

I’m not sure how this will effect my future decisions.  But at least I can start to not hate myself, whatever they might be.  Yay for mid-life crisis number two (and I’m not even mid-life yet, am I?).

I’m not finished reading yet, but I’m sure I will be soon.  I have so much to say and think about this book and there will be a second post on it in the future.

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