what we're about

Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Friday, November 30, 2012

On Embodiment

In a comment on this post by Jessica, I prefaced a statement about my sleep habits by saying: "I am much more mortal, embodied, and human than I realized when I was 18...."  And then this morning, as I clicked through some links from Sarah Bessey, I found this article that put into words (ironically) some of my own struggle with using words.  And all of this made me think about embodiment.

Before I wrote this, I washed the dishes.  I put my hands in hot, soapy water, and wiped a dishrag over ceramic plates and cups.  I scrubbed a wood cutting board that smelled of the onions chopped on its surface.  I drained the water from the sink, then brought my cast iron pans over from the stove to coax the debris of breakfast cooking off their surfaces - eggs from one, bacon from the other.  I rinsed coffee grounds out of my french press.  I wiped the counters and the stovetop.

After the dishes, I took care of a diaper, left to soak before I started the dishes.  There's little that's more embodied than a dirty cloth diaper, waiting to be swished, rinsed, scrubbed, wrung out, and dropped in a pail with other diapers to await wash day.

This, here, is life.  The thoughts that I think about it in my head are not life.  The abstractions and lessons and principles that I take from it are not life.  This is life.

Embodied.  Rinsing eggs off of cast iron.  Wringing toilet water out of cotton.

I struggle with how to use the words that I have been given, because I want life to embody the abstraction of my words, instead of using the abstraction of words to convey the embodiment of life.  When I kept copious journals as a teen, they weren't so much for the purpose of pouring out life as it was, but for rationalizing life as it was with the big things that I thought life should mean.  They were for wrangling, bending, and obfuscating, not for expressing clearly.  As a coping mechanism for an emotional teen, this isn't the end of the world, but now as an adult I struggle with the place of words (which I love) in my life.  I would still like to use them to construct what I think that my life should be, instead of conveying what my life is.  I want to skip ahead.  I want to use abstraction to justify, excuse, or rationalize life.  But over and over I have heard a call to embody.  To use words to show things as they are.  I hope that in the future, this space will do a better job with that.

And now everything that I need to learn in life (embodied in my child) has woken up from his nap.  So long!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Days and Years

Five years ago, I was 19.  The beginning of the school year in 2007 marked the end of a golden summer, full of the relative independence of young adulthood at home, fun work at a coffee shop, and a solid group of friends. Although a major tragedy in the life of a close friend knocked me flat in August, and in the upheaval I made the decision not to go back to school for a year, I still spent the autumn and early winter working at my coffee shop, talking to my now-distant friends by text and telephone almost every day, and travelling to see them at every opportunity.  The next year I planned to go back to Bible college, then maybe to California to finish my Bachelor's degree, then maybe somewhere else for more school, or for some mission work.

Five years later, I am sitting in the living room of our small apartment in Notre Dame, IN.  I'm married to a physicist who is working on his Ph.D at the University of Notre Dame.  My 8 month old son is playing happily on the floor with our neighbor's 23 month old daughter.  I'm babysitting her so that they can attend the football game this afternoon.  I need to get the dishes done soon and tidy up the apartment so that my little family doesn't go crazy from the disorder soon.  And I need to make food for tomorrow.  I do have the Bible college degree to my name, but only one semester - so far - put in of that Bachelor's degree.

Five years is all that it took to turn a 19 year old student, unbeholden to place or person, into a 24 year old wife and mother, with a little house to keep and friends' children to babysit.  I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised by this; after all, as I look back I can see that five years worth of stuff has taken place.  I met Landon, married him, worked, went back to school, and had Christopher.  The surprise isn't that a lot has happened in five years, it's that I didn't feel those years go by.  It's only in being brought up short by the strangeness of my comfort and contentedness in a situation radically different from where I was at 19 that I feel the movement of time in years, years which seem suddenly to move more quickly than days.  Days I can feel passing, stretching out before me to the horizon, then collecting themselves into weeks and months behind me.  They move slowly towards me, and I can feel the weight of the ones that will pass before the ones on the horizon reach me.  Years, however, seem suddenly to be rushing underneath me, flashing by almost too quickly to note each one.  As I live my daily life, I have no sense of them going by.  One year seems always to be the same as another - only filled with different weather, new locations, and unique days and months - until suddenly they have piled up behind me with frightening suddenness.   

Is this how it always is, I wonder?  Or could it be that as the years pile up behind me they will slow down in front of me to be like the days?  Will I someday cease to feel them like a constant rhythm around me, and instead feel them passing one by one?  Or will they always be invisible until they are gone?