Monthly Archives: December 2011

a final prayer for 2011

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

Thomas Merton
(1915 – 1968)

Tagged ,

A second epiphany from last night

I’ve had several conversations this holiday that have generally started out with, “AGH Jennifer I need to talk to you about [fill in the blank]!”  Sometimes I feel a bit like a fraud counseling people because I don’t feel like I’ve been successful at much of anything myself. (This is also why I don’t think I can write anything meaningful.)  But then again, perhaps the key to wise counsel is the ability to listen well and the willingness to let go of my helpfulness, for after all the other person is the one who must act in the end.  My experience certainly informs my listening, but not necessarily the counsel I give, for it’s quite impossible for me to experience EVERYTHING before being able to counsel a person in a specific situation!

I’ve realized today that I am kind of pulling a Moses about the whole counseling/helping professions in general thing. I want a burning bush. I am clinging stubbornly to my demento-Calvinist determination and demanding to know if I am on the right path before I take another step. I want a guarantee that I’m not going to blow my life up again.  (And I am reminded again, “Who has control over that, my child?”) And then the excuses start coming: Who am I to help anyone? I haven’t even attained a semblance of healthiness myself. I am too self-absorbed, too stubborn, too unstable, too [fill in the blank] to do this.  Which is probably true, but that doesn’t mean God can’t change that rather quickly if I would just get the hell out of His way. And therein lies the rub.

I still really suck at writing titles.

The muse visited me last night.

Letting go
of bitterness
of shame
of sorrow
of disappointment
of anger
of fear
of it, of him, of you
so I can take hold of
myself and I AM

in my true heart of hearts

and deep of my soul

let the nails in thy hands

bridge all gaps, fill each hole

Ready or Not?

Just because a day is not a day for me without a needlessly philosophical question…

Can one be ready for something without knowing it?  More to the point…can one be ready for something for which she does not want to be ready?

Blast from the Past

On Tuesday I went to visit my previous school on what I thought was their last day of class before winter break. (It turns out I really suck at reading a calendar…they still had one more day.  So much for my plan to be minimally disruptive.)

For some reason, I felt a little apprehensive going back, and I’m still trying to put my finger on why.  Part of me is still a bit shaken from leaving my most recent school, but LSH felt like coming home, which is bittersweet and ironic and [fill in Alanis Morissette song title] because last year I couldn’t wait to come home from there.  Through all the ups and downs, Lima left a mark on me, even though sometimes I hardly recognize the person I was last year.  It’s kind of strange, because last year I was so much more outwardly shiny and generous to others and patently unkind to myself in the dark and now…well, I am far less generous to others and a bit less unkind to myself, I suppose.  A lot has happened in the last eight months to enact that reversal; I’m not sure yet that I like it, but I also don’t think that I’ve reached true equilibrium yet, so I’m not too concerned.

I will also confess that, yes, I was concerned about how I would be welcomed.  I told just a few teachers that I would be visiting so I could be sure to catch them during prep, and one student who happened to ask on Sunday how I was doing and that I should come back.  I think maybe I had some residual guilt that I had somehow abandoned them/my calling, and maybe a teensy bit of glittering-image concerning how I would answer the question, “So what are you doing now?” (Taking pictures, selling makeup, exercising, and generally behaving like an upper-middle class postgraduate vagrant, thank you.)

When I got there, I went the back way through the offices like I still worked there.  I could still picture coming there for my interview almost two years ago, and now I knew the school like the back of my hand.  I was catching up with some of the administrators when students started filtering through the halls before lunch.  I saw a few double takes and puzzled looks, and then one of my most outgoing students from last semester recognized me and flew into the office with his arms out.  (I think if he had been twice his actual weight I probably would have fallen over, but fortunately Marcus is quite svelte.)  The bell rang, and I went out into the hall with the intention of calling on the teacher’s lounge first.  Not so much.  I stood in place for about five minutes and received about ten thousand hugs in that time, after which I decided to just make a circuit of the cafeteria first before seeing the staff.

I’ve visited my own high school several times, perhaps for longer after graduation than most other people.  And every year the detachment grew, and I think now that my brother has graduated my pilgrimages have run their course.  I kind of felt the same way visiting LSH.  Many things changed over the summer in terms of school structure and staff, but mostly there was just a general sense of unbelonging.  Not in a bad way, just in the sense that I’ve moved on.  When I got back, David asked if I missed it.  I’ll be swift to admit that I don’t miss grading. Managing. Passing back papers. Waking up at the buttcrack of dawn. Being exhausted all the time. I miss planning a little. I miss teaching a little. I miss the staff more than a little. I do, however, miss this a lot…

.The curious sartorial choices of children these days.

The occasional intellectual initiative, or at least the appearance thereof. (To give them credit, they were legitimately working despite having a sub and a manic former teacher prancing around the room. Well, I was the only one prancing. Anyway.)

But especially paragons of academic engagement such as these:

And this.

These girls asked me to do their senior pictures and/or baby portraits, which I am strongly considering and planning. I remember being pretty devastated when I found out she was pregnant this summer, but I guess for them my optimism remains undimmed. It was heartening to hear about a student from last year who took my class twice and failed both times, though he adored me for whatever reason, and is now applying himself better in a colleague’s class.  (Don’t know how he’s doing in bio, though!)  I think senior year has a certain cachet to it that gives students a certain maturity, as in, get it right or don’t graduate.  I promised to be there for graduation this spring, and am rather looking forward to it, as I had not a few juniors last year who will (fingers crossed) walk this year.  Oh teaching, the quintessential exercise in delayed gratification…

So now I am just slightly confused by why I was able/willing to give (and receive?) so much more in a place that I eventually decided was “too far from my support system” than I was here, among friends, family, and community.  Maybe because there, I had nothing else but work to which to give my time, attention, and energy, and so I didn’t feel the resentment creeping in around the edges.  (I also became a lot more dependent on other people and circumstances to feel good, which I had to unlearn rather painfully throughout the year.)  Whereas my life here is much richer, though still haunted by self-deprivation in certain respects, and I realized that there were things I would rather be doing.  How wise it to follow that particular instinct?  I don’t know, only time will tell.

And it turned out to be really good to go somewhere I loved and was loved as truly as I knew how.


Last Page

…no apologies, no comments, it is what it is.

“Wow, you’ve been through a lot,” David exhaled as the car reached the end of the dirt driveway.

“Crazy, isn’t it?” Jessica stopped the car, and Dinah stirred from her place on Jessica’s lap, where she had napped the entire drive.  Jessica undid her seatbelt and cradled Dinah under her right arm like a football.  “It was weird at first, not being able to Shift, but then I realized that I couldn’t keep trying to be something that I’m not. And eventually I didn’t need to. Charley taught me that. Here, I want you to meet him.”

They stepped out of the car and she led the way past several buildings and fenced paddocks, greeting a few stray dogs and donkeys in the yard, until they reached the edge of an open field. There were a few dozen horses scattered throughout the field, munching on grass or contemplating equine mysteries. A large bay cut away from the herd as soon as Jessica stopped walking and made a beeline for her and David.

She offered her hand for the bay to sniff, but Charley had other ideas. He ambled leisurely toward David and firmly hip-checked him. For the first time since he had seen her that day, Jessica tensed and Dinah curled up defensively with a soft hiss.

“Hey,” she said sternly. “Be nice. We have a guest.” As she said it, she realized the problem was hers, that for all her supposed detachment she still wanted to get into David’s emotional space and gauge his response to her, just as Charley was imposing on his physical space and waiting for his reaction.

David stood his ground, however, and pushed against Charley’s flank to steady himself. The horse snorted in surprise and Jessica knew she had to regain control over her intentions. She breathed in and wiggled her toes in her boots, tensing then relaxing the muscles of her legs from the ankles to where they met her body. I am me and no one else. I am here and nowhere else.

As she did this, Charley turned toward her and pushed his muzzle under her chin. She scratched behind his ears and whispered, “I am here. Thank you.” Pulling back a bit, she held Dinah up for Charley’s inspection.

“Charley, this is Dinah. We’ve been waiting for her, haven’t we?” The kitten looked ludicrously small beside Charley’s enormous head. The horse stood stock still as the kitten stretched a paw toward his face, then relaxed as Dinah withdrew.  She mewed in protest as Charley blew a whuff of air in her face.

Jessica smiled at them and tucked Dinah into her half-zipped sweatshirt. “I guess these two—well, all three of us, really—need to get acquainted.”  Bracing herself against Charley’s withers, she swung herself lightly onto his back. He started gently, and she patted his neck soothingly.  “Hey, hey, it’s still me.” She turned to David. “You coming?”

Oh Baby

I don't have any good pictures of teeny-tiny humans, so I am borrowing this one from the very talented Mrs. Cuccarese!

In church today we asked the question, “What does a peasant baby say about the nature of God?”  And in the extended silence that followed, the idea of God as a baby really burrowed deep into my heart.

So many of us, myself included, see God primarily in light of our parent figures.  Which, for me, means I am always trying to impress him with my latest accomplishment, or taking him for granted, or pouting because I haven’t gotten what I want.

But to see God as a baby?  A baby is unjudging, uncorrupted, unconditionally accepting, and wants nothing more than to cuddle and smile and blow raspberries.  (I think this is maybe why I like babies so much.  And they’re pretty stinkin’ cute, of course.)  What if God came as a baby to invite me to approach him as I would a tiny human, with all honesty and no pretensions or aspirations, just a desire to have and to hold and be in communion with him?  Now that would be amazing.

And then we hit the verse in Romans: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29)

If God is an implacable parent, then Jesus must be the unattainable sibling ideal, right?  But if God is a baby, he has a smile and gurgle for everyone, not just the rich ones, not just the pretty ones, not just the religious ones.  Can I be like that?  I hope so, and maybe that’s why Jesus came aas a baby in the first place.

On to the Next One

“Before long, what I had initially thought was ‘time filler’ became the next chapter of my life.”

Again, I was a bad English major and failed to cite my source! I copied this into my journal on the last day of school last year, after reflecting on what I wanted to be and do, little knowing that in six months my life would look so very different.
I just accepted a position as an associate photographer with Mia Jade Wedding Photojournalism, and I am booking portrait and event sessions on my own as well. I am going on another FAMinar with the Association of Bridal Consultants to do some more networking and learn about the industry, and will try to connect with a consultant with whom I can intern for awhile. I am reheating my Mary Kay consultant work from when I put it on ice earlier in the fall. And behind all this I am writing as though my life depends on it, nothing lengthy, just blog posts and such. I don’t expect to carry on all of these endeavors indefinitely since history has shown that I am not nearly as good a multitasker as I assume I am.

Revisiting the rule of three posited by my colleague last year, what three things do I want to spend the majority of my time doing well? Having actually explored some different options this time, right now the answer is: participate in church life, take photos, and write. That may change in time and I think I am better able to understand and accept that fluidity now than I was before. But for now, this is what I most want to do, and I pray that I may do so well.

If journaling were an Olympic sport…

…I would have at least a silver medal.  (I think gold must go to my Ai-Ren, who at the tender age of almost-22, has finished 29 journals. O_o Obviously she takes far more studious notes during sermons than I do.  Now all I do is knit.)

You can see all my journals, except for the two most recent and a little one that I forgot to photograph, in the slideshow at the end if you have lots of time and stalkerish tendencies.  Otherwise, some highlights:

  • The earliest dated entry is 12/25/1997, written in the dalmatian diary I received (surprise!) for Christmas that year.  I know that an earlier diary existed at one point, but its whereabouts are unknown.  (I suspect it may be in a landfill.)
  • I was fairly inconsistent in my journaling (see timeline) until about 2004.  Part of this is due to pre-adolescent spasticity, and part of is due to the existence of my histrionic Xanga, into which I chose to pour most of ramblings in early high school.
  • From 2/8/2004 onward, there is no discernible break in the journaling.
  • The period from September 2009 until present (Sneaky Hate Vortex) saw a decrease in the frequency and length of journaling, but I don’t think I ever went more than a month without writing.
  • Omitting the inconsistent journaling periods, the average lifespan of my journals is 204.4 days, or 6.8 months.
  • February seems to be the most common starting date for my journals, and those first entries usually resemble, “Bitch bitch bitch it’s Valentine’s Day and boys won’t talk to me so I’m going to write a stupid entry about it in my stupid journal and feel proud of my woebegoneness.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How fitting that the only topic on which I can write an overly detailed Pioneer Woman-esque entry is journaling.

I once drove past a church sign that said, “Never put a period where God has put a comma.”  I pointed this out to a dear friend who pointed out dryly, “Never put a comma where God has put a period.”

Lord, now would be a great time to let me know if that’s a comma or a period.  Or whether you follow the rules of punctuation at all.  Which you probably don’t anyway. [sigh]

[Edit the next morning] Is it an elipsis…because if it is, that’s really cute, Lord.  Really.  Simply…adorable.