Monday, 3 April 2017

On Keeping Silent

It's already April and I haven't been writing.

I'm not really sure why. Although it seems ridiculous to write about not writing, I think it's probably the only way I'll begin to understand what's going on.

For me, writing is like bleeding. It comes naturally but at cost. Like donating blood, there's great satisfaction in the hope that it can do someone else some good. But give away too much and I find myself in need of a transfusion.

That's when I stop writing and increase my reading. I'm reading all sorts at the moment - on mortality and capitalism, Italian fiction and parenting books. The bible, obviously. Porter magazine and Shooter literary journals. A multifaceted patchwork of inspiration. In much the same way as when I started this blog [newly married and unemployed], I'm finding things and people that help me feel my way through the changes. It's lovely and complex. A metamorphosis.

And I think I want a chrysalis - a little cocoon of safety and silence to do my growing in. I don't always want everyone to know all the things I'm experiencing. I don't want to give away everything for free. I want to reserve some things for the people who care to ask, the people who make themselves essential by being present and supportive in whatever ways they can manage.

Therein lies the tension. Authenticity verses intimacy. Because I don't know how to write from a place that isn't personal, and I don't think I want to either. I want to offer a voice that side-steps pretence and says something real. Otherwise, what's the point? Isn't the world noisy enough?

I'm learning a balance. I'm learning that leaving some things unsaid, some tweets unanswered, stepping back from the self-imposed treadmill of updates and taking time out - this is not necessarily the death of authenticity. This is sanity. Time away from blogging, time away from Facebook over this past Lent, time with family or a wonderful book - not in order to unearth some cosmic lesson to be shared with the world, but for its own sake - these things are life-giving. 

I am learning to let myself have different levels of permeability and transparency, and maybe forgo some adulation in the process. I think I've been writing a little like I'm a product on display in a shop window - letting it all hang out and hoping other people will respond positively to what I'm offering. I've been treating myself like a brand or a resource - indiscriminately exploiting every thought and emotion for the sake of having something to say as I attempt to live into this idea of myself as a "writer". 

Which is okay for a season. But it's not sustainable. And it's also not relevant in the long-term, when what really matters is my standing with / identity in God.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16v5-6 (NIV)

I want instead to be a well-built house, a solid structure. I have windows and doors and walls. You can see in. You might even be able to come in. But there are integral boundaries that hold me together, and not everyone has the keys.

I am learning I can be open and still guard the intimacies that should stay where they belong - in the secret places of my life in the real world.

Friday, 10 February 2017

On Belonging

I remember taking this photo. I remember the feeling, our flat becoming home. I wrote about it. Belonging.

I went back to London this week - I had to. Baby and me were going crazy; we had to get out. Out of the house, out of the town. It was wonderful - it felt like a great escape.

I am always trying to outrun my inner-awkwardness: the bits of me that feel like they don't fit the way they should. The dreams that are preposterous. The tongue that is too sharp. The loves that are overwhelming. The intellect that gets bored and frustrated. The faith that is both fundamental and nebulous.

Going to London this week felt like an escape, but it wasn't. It was life - part of my life. It was spontaneous and ambitious and I've been congratulated for the accomplishment, but I was just doing what was right for me. I had to go. It wasn't so much about being in a particular place. It was more about reclaiming a particular frame of mind.

I want to be at home in my life. 

I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm trying to say. I just know that I need to keep this north star of authenticity. I need to keep allowing myself to be myself. I need to accept the things that make me different, the ways of being in / thinking about the world that are uncommon and isolating and special to me. 

It is so much easier said than done. There are so many comparisons that tug at me every day, decisions I second-guess and expectations I struggle to navigate. Especially now. In some ways, I feel like a teenager again - with peer pressure and body anxiety, relationships in flux and the future looming large.

Maybe this is too much for the internet. Maybe all I've accomplished is wasting the time I should have spent sleeping - I will be up again before too long. But then again, maybe I'm not the only who feels they don't quite fit. And if that makes two of us, we can take heart - we belong after all.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Clichés

Some people seem to think Christmas is for children - I'm realising that now I have one. It comes across in the comments people make, the excitement they project onto our first Christmas with a baby.

I understand it to a degree. Christmas, as it's been envisaged in recent times, is primarily child-centric. The Santa Claus and presents are best if you're little. Children bypass the cooking, the shopping, the family politics and everything else that can make the season difficult for adults. It's uncomplicated and magical. A fantasy.

But I don't celebrate that Christmas. The Christmas I celebrate is very much for adults. For grown-ups who stand at the edge of the transition into another year and wonder what on earth is ahead and how we will manage it. For the ones who are aware of the world we live in, the realities of shadow and fear, but resolve to live lives of love with calm, glad hearts anyway.

I celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. The great rescue mission to realign humanity with our best selves, to make us whole in all things and proclaim us loved for better or worse. And I celebrate the second advent, the one we don't talk about much. The Jesus who isn't meek and mild, a helpless babe. The Jesus who is Judge and King, Ancient of Days, returning victor, righting everything eternally.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

Isaiah 9v6-7

We live in the in-between. The Christmas story is not over yet, and we are not forgotten. It's a hope that is so easy to overlook. But for those of us who see it, our celebration is year-long and better with every passing day.
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