This may seem obvious, but to set goals, we have to stop and think. About what we want, whether we’ve given up in the face of obstacles, fear, longing, all that human stuff. It seems possible to me that most folks are like me, and need goals to put flavor in life. If you disagree, please speak up. Might make a great discussion.
At any rate, in the last week of 2021, I spent all the time I had on considering. One thing that had been bothering me was that my marketing ability was so ineffective with my books. I’d spent twenty years in the public relations profession, but my writing was the world’s best hidden secret. A lady at church even said, “I didn’t know you were a writer. You need to speak up.” Not good. I read yesterday that the best marketing tool to sell books is to write a good one, and go for word of mouth promotion. See, I already knew that. So why so tight-lipped? (Lord, please don’t let it be false humility.)
Another was that I wasn’t getting as much time with my adult children and grandchildren as I wanted. A couple live clear on the other side of the county, so that complicates the situation, but I’m a pretty smart cookie. I can figure it out. And I’m the one with the most flexible time, thus the opportunity to plan to be together. Got on that one this week.
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Just one more thing. One big, lofty goal seems like a great idea, no matter how old you are. There’s this award for Christian fiction writers, called the Carol Award. I’m going to win that award, maybe next year.
Be careful about buying stuff or accepting stuff. I suggest this because I am becoming gray haired, and there’s no place else to put all these things I’ve acquired over the years. Don’t buy me any stuff, please. Alot of the stuff I have, I bought. A lot I didn’t. Either way, it takes up space and because what I haven’t already thrown away has memories attached, I keep it.
I have old stuff. Like the little pink ceramic cradle my dad gave my mom when I was born, in the last century. I have congratulatory stuff, like the courtesy trophy I won for being nice to bus drivers and cafeteria ladies in high school. I have pictures of relatives who were born in the century before the one I was born in. I have boxes full of stuff I wrote here and there. I have the black velvet dress with the oriental writing that Bake brought me when he served in the Navy in Vietnam. I have phony flowers and a phony otter statue that commemorates my first novel. I have more jewelry than one woman could wear in a lifetime. I have hurricane lanterns just in case the lights go out, which they haven’t in a real long time. I have trinkets kids gave me when I was a teacher. I have pillows I saved for company, left from the ones I gave away to immigrants. I have an inukshuk we brought home from our trip to Alaska, and you probably don’t even know or care what that is. My hutch is overflowing with china, crystal glasses, blown glass and tea cups. I even have the ashes of a dog I loved in a box with her picture on it.
Some stuff I’ve thrown away. Like my wedding dress, yellowed with age. I think I threw away about forty tons of old clothes and shoes. I threw away my tennis racquet since I can’t run on phony knees, and the shoe skates I bought with my first babysitting money, for the same reason. I’ve thrown away great loads of writing I thought was so good at the time. I’ve donated a whole library full of books. And that’s only counting my stuff. If I get started on Bake’s, this will be a tome instead of a blog. (Boxes and boxes of cds, just sayin’)
Now you may wonder why I even bring this up. Well, there’s the dusting and washing. But that’s not the lion’s part. One of these days I’m headed for heaven. After that, I can envision our Laura, holding up my Helen Keller/Annie Sullvian hands figure to the tune of “What in the …. is this?” I can see our John toss my little angel from Chewy into the dumpster without a thought. I can watch Maryann hoard fishing poles and delve into the myriad of journals in my study looking for the gold that I’m not sure is there.
Gosh, maybe stuff’s not that bad. Maybe that exercise will be good for my progeny, or at least a lesson in not procuring stuff.
Get ready, this one’s going to be long. I’ve been reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and I came upon this section under affection that helps me deal with people in my life. I hope since I’m not getting paid I can share it with whatever public I have, and I hope it helps some of you, too. Get ready for a huge quote:
“It would be absurd to say that [King] Lear is lacking in Affection. In so far as Affection is need-love he is half-crazy with it. Unless, in his own way, he loved his daughtrs he would not so desperately desire their love. The most unlovable parent (or child) may be full of such ravenous love. But it works to their own misery and everyone’ else’s. The situation becomes suffocating. If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved – their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamorous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity — produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit. They seal up the very fountain for which they are thirsty. If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more, petrifies us again. And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else. If my boy really loved me he would see how selfish his father is … if my brother loved me he woudl make a party with me against my sister … if you loved me you wouldn’t let me be treated like this …
And all the while they remain unaware of the real road. ‘If you would be loved, be lovable,’ said Ovid. That cheery old reprobate only meant, ‘If you want to attract the girls you must be attractive,’ but his maxim has a wider application. The amorist was wiser in his generation than Mr. Pontifex and King Lear.
The really surprising thing is not that these insatiable demands made by the unlovable are sometimes made in vain, but that they are so often met. Sometimes one sees a woman’s girlhood, youth, and long years of her maturity up to the verge of old age all spent in tending, obeying, caressing, and perhaps supporting, a maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough. The sacrifice — but there are two opinions about that — may be beautiful; the old woman who exacts it is not.
The ‘built-in’ or unmerited character of Affection thus invites a hideous misinterpretation. So does its ease and informality.
We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simpy have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their eleders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question ‘Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?’ Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?
If you asked any of these insufferable people — they are not all parents of course — why they behaved that way at home, they woud reply, ‘Oh, hang it all, one comes home to relax. A chap can’t be always on his best behaviour. If a man can’t be himself in his own house, where can he? Of course we don’t want Company Manners at home. We’re a happy family. We can say anything to one another here. No one minds. We all understand.’
Once again it is so nearly true yet so fatally wrong. Affection is an affair of old clothes, and ease, of the unguarded moment, of liberties which would be ill-bred if we took them with strangers. But old clothes are one thing; to wear the same shirt till it stank would be another. There are proper clothes for a garden party; but the clothes for home must be proper too, in their own different way. Simlarly there is a distinction between public and domestic courtesy. The root princple of both is the same: ‘that no one give any kind of preference to himself.’ But the more public the occasion, the more our obedience to this principle has been ‘taped’ or formalised. There are ‘rules’ of good manners. The more intimate the occasion, the less the formalisation; but not therefore the less need of courtesy. On the contrary, Affection at its best practices a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind. In public a ritual would do. At home you must have the reality which that ritual represented, or else the deafening triumphs of the greatest egoist present. …
‘We can say anything to one another.’ The truth behind this is that Affection at its best can say whatever Affection at its best wishes to say, regardless of the rules that govern public courtesy; for Affection at its best wishes neither to wound nor to himiliate nor to domineer. You may address the wife of your bosom as ‘Pig!’ when she has inadvertently drunk your cocktail as well as her own. You may roar down the story which your father is telling once too often. You may tease and hoax and banter. You can say, “Shut up. I want to read.” You can do anything in the right tone and at the right moment — the tone and moment which are not intended to, and will not, hurt. The better the Affection the more unerringly it knows which these are (every love has its art of love). But the domestic Rudesby means something quite different when he claims liberty to say ‘anything’. Having a very imperfect sort of Affection himself, or perhaps at that moment none, he arrogates to himself the beautiful liberties which only the fullest Afffection has a right to or knows how to manage. He then uses them spitefully in obedience to his resentments; or ruthlessly in obedience to his egoism; or at best stupidly, lacking the art. And all the time he may have a clear conscience. He knows that Affection takes liberties. He is taking liberties. Therefore (he concludes) he is being affectionate. Resent anything and he will say that the defect of love is on your side. He is hurt. He has been misunderstood.
He then sometimes avenges himself by getting on his high horse and becoming elaboratley ‘polite’. The implication is of course, ‘Oh! So we are not to be intimate: We are to behave like mere acquaintaneces? I had hoped — but no matter. have it your way..’ ”
As you breathe a sigh of relief, I call a halt. Lewis doesn’t acutally say how to deal with someone like this in your life, but I think if we chew on it a while, that will become clear. Thinking this through should do me a world of good, and I hope that it will also do some of you a world of good. Have a nice, thoughtful day.
How’s that for a broad subject? Perhaps a little narrowing is in order.
The older I get the more I think I don’t know anything about anything. Now there’s the topic.
I’m a writer, at least most days. Sometimes I get published, and sometimes I don’t. Am I still a writer when I don’t? Should I just smile and wash the dishes instead? And since the Bible says what pleases God is when we love each other, care for widows, orphans, immigrants, and so on; are slow to anger, etc., does writing – or any other occupation – even matter? Maybe I should just smile and feed an orphan. I don’t know. My mentor, Ethel Herr, who now looks at Jesus face-to-face, said our books can reach love, acceptance, etc. to a whole lot more people than our small circles of influence. So if I glue my face to my computer and knuckle down, what happens to the hubs, the kids, the friends? Ecclesiastes even says the writing of books is endless.
Maybe it’s about balance. Except, my days can blow up in a phone call. Sometimes the writing bite is huge, and sometimes the relationship bite is huge. Wait, am I starting to see something here?
Or how about truth and grace? I used to think telling the truth could hurt the people I love or cause them to get real angry. So I didn’t bother with telling it, thinking I was giving them grace. I guess I have learned one thing. Grace isn’t grace without truth, and truth isn’t truth without grace. Only, now I have to figure out how to tell the truth in grace, and I don’t even think I’m capable of figuring that out. Wretched woman that I am.
Maybe what’s really going on is that my plans aren’t God’s plans, and my understanding of life, or any part thereof, is way smaller than God’s understanding. What to do? What if I consider interruptions, not interruptions, but redirecting from on high? But wait, am I just making excuses? What if when I don’t have a clue what to do, I ask God? What if He doesn’t answer? Reminds me of when the grownups used to say, “We’ll see.”
Okay, here I go again. I used to come up with great ideas and go into implementation phase before checking in with Him. I’d look over my shoulder, having left Him in the dust, and say something like, “What do you think, God?” He put up with that for a lot of years. Over time, I found myself confused and exhausted a lot. What’s the verse, “Come to Me, you who are weary,” etc.? I finally noticed the “Come to Me” part of the verse. Take it from an old broad, it’s much better to check in first, get your marching orders, and then strike out. If there are no marching orders, stay put. That’s easy. Writing this conclusion at Christmastime seems supremely appropriate, now that I think about it. Merry Christmas, every one!
It’s my sister’s fault. (Does this type look really small?)
So, she told me about this set up where you dress based on your personality. You do your hair and makeup that way, too. I took the test. OK, it hit me right on the money. It said I’m a crash bar person. I like to get on with it. True that.
So I watched the videos, and they made sense. So I cleaned out my closet and got some new colors of Crocs and styles of clothes. Then I got a new haircut that moves and changed my makeup away from old lady makeup. I feel good, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. (Hear the song?)
People are saying, “Hey, you look good.” I’m responding, “I’m having a late midlife crisis.” I guess midlife really is determined by how long you plan to live. I do not plan to live to 140, so mine’s late.
Now, how much does this matter? It’s a good idea to put your best foot forward, and my foot is looking a lot nicer, especially in the dusty rose Crocs. However, I’m still me, a daughter of God, and inveterate crashbar person. I still put my pants on one leg at a time, albeit in deeply colored pants. I may, however, be loving my neighbor a little more than I used to because spending a little love on myself makes it easier to spend some on my buddies.