Monthly Archives: January 2012

self | 52 :: week 1

urban reflection

My first self-portrait for this year’s photo project after my little urban date with myself yesterday.

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little reminders | popularity

little reminders

This is a new series I’m starting. From time to time I’ll be posting words and images to keep me focussed and remind myself of important truths.

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Filed under 2012, littlereminders, optimism, truth

selfless

In yesterday’s post, I had a short list of ways I’m going to allow myself to blossom this coming year. The last point, ongrowing in community, is a sticking point for me. My introverted, occasionallyshy nature doesn’t easily translate to community- and friendship-building. I amfar too comfortable at home alone with my kids. 

It’s destroying me.

I know it. And I’madmitting it here because I need to make myself accountable. 

I believe strongly that we are meant to live in community with one another. It isn’t only that we are social animals: I believe that Jesus Christ calls us to live in community. But that’s easier said than done in an age of nuclear families and single-family dwellings. The fact is that if I am going to exist in community – if my family is going to live in community with other families – we will need to be inventive. Or, perhaps not inventive, but retrospective. Community is hardly a new idea. We don’t need to invent ways of living in community, only re-imagine the manner of its expression and the form of its experience.


community...

I read this last week and I’ll be re-reading it for thenext few months. It is time to embrace community, to allow myself to grow withothers, to express and experience greater love and encouragement. It is time tomake – and be – friends, not just occasionally but with regularity and incommonplace and reliable ways.

My photo project for this year, self|52 is part photographic exercise, part impetus to become more in tune with my identity. The upshot is, I need to become more comfortable with others and more comfortable with myself. And I’m already finding myself occasionally struggling with my role and function in our family…

It sort of begs the question: who am I comfortable around? Is there anyone?

It’s two sides of the same coin. How can I be comfortable in community, in authentic, genuine, sincere, open-hearted, loving relationship with others if I’m not sure of who I am, or at least, confident that I am expressing myself honestly?

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I think about the term “selfless”. We – particularly we in the church – use this word as though it is a good thing. It’s good to be totally without self.

No way. I cannot buy that. Giving of self: yes. Willing and able to pour ourselves into serving others: absolutely. Accepting of the will of God to direct our lives, to inform ourselves: without question. But selfless? No. 

Who am I, if not a child of God? Am I really so presumptuous as to say that the person, the individual, unique and blessed, that She created in crafting this soul is so worthless that I can cast it aside and be ‘selfless’? No.

Luke 10:27(b) reads: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Until earlier this year, I had always interpreted these words only as an exhortation to treat others well. But in February I realized that such a reading is unnecessarily limited.

If Jesus loves me, shouldn’t I love me, too?

And if I’m lovable, shouldn’t I share myself with others? Shouldn’t I share my life and my thoughts and my love and my passion and my realness with other living, thinking, loving, passionate, real people? Shouldn’t I welcome them and welcome the opportunity to be with them, to grow with them?






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Isn’t it deliciously ironic that I am best able to realize and express the need for community when I’m given time to myself? 

Balance.
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I need to exist in relationship with others. Too often I’ve heard truths about myself – about what and who I am, from the people who surround me, who love me, who see my own realness – which I had not seen before. My first step on this existential journey is to acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I cannot merely reflect on myself: I need to see myself reflected in the people around me.

It’s probably going to be uncomfortable. I’m not just a homebody, I’m actually prone to agoraphobia and anxiety issues. So it’s going to be seriously uncomfortable at times. But it needs doing, and I know – without question – that I’ll be happier for it.

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self|52

In December, I participated in the December Photo Project where we were challenged to post a daily photo from December 1st to 24th. As a new year begins, many people are participating in another year of Project 365, where a photo is posted daily for the entire year.

I like the challenge of these projects but I also know from my experience with the DPP that getting a good shot, downloading it, editing it, uploading and posting it is simply not going to happen every day. Once a week, though: that I can do. 
As I undergo a year of existential change and growth, reflecting on identity and the notion of self will be an ongoing practice. With that in mind, I’m embarking on my own photo project: self|52. Every week during 2012 I will post a self-portrait I’ve taken. My aim is to challenge myself both as a burgeoning photographer and philosopher. How will I use this medium to reflect my identity? What is the state of my concept of self and how can I depict that?
Want to join? I’ve created a Flickr group here and I also encourage you to comment and link to your self-portraits, wherever you may be posting them. I’d love to see your reflections on yourself.
self52 button

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blossom

My word for 2011 is blossom.

For months now, I’ve known that I am in a season of change. In retrospect, it began over a year ago with dreading my hair, though I didn’t realize it at the time. It is proving to be a season of spiritual change as I reflect and re-evaluate my faith and my vision of the church, of what the church is meant to be and how I fit into it and how that affects and effects my relationship with God. It’s a season of emotional and existential change as I reflect on my identity, my role in our family, my role in society at large. I have been meditating on what and how I contribute, on the value of what I do, on balancing my desires for my children, my family, and myself. I have been struggling with how to balance what I do with what I think, my full-time mothering with my feminism.

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It’s complicated. It’s challenging. At times it’s a little heartbreaking, when my ideals appear to exist in conflict with one another and I need to reconcile them. And finding space in which to delve into these matters, giving myself the mental space to deal with it all is incredibly difficult. Small-space living as a family of four is snug and cozy, but it does come with a few drawbacks, and the premium placed on solitude is one of them.

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I’ve staked out some space at a Starbucks a few blocks from our apartment – my beloved Bridgehead is closed today, and I need space, tea, and free wi-fi. Jon is home with the girls. They are fine without me there (I am very grateful, for a whole host of reasons, that at very-nearly 8 months old, I am no longer Bubby’s sole food-source). I have time and the ability to think.
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Why ‘blossom’? I considered other words. I considered ‘bloom’, ‘bud’, ‘sprout’… But I settled on blossom.

blos·som   [blosuhhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngm]noun Botany .
1.the flower of a plant, especially of one producing an ediblefruit.
1.the flower of a plant, especially of one producing an ediblefruit.
2.the state of flowering: The apple tree is in blossomverb (used without object)3.Botany . to produce or yield blossoms.
4.to flourish; develop (often followed by into  or out ): a writerof commercial jingles who blossomed out into an importantcomposer.
5.(of a parachute) to open.
andfrom the World English Dictionary:

3.
(of plants) to come into flower
4.
to develop or come to a promising stage: youth had blossomed
into maturity
I have been resisting the change I feel happening. I have been holding onto fear and turning away from the bravery and vulnerability I need to face in order to allow that change to happen. But I can’t resist any longer. For that reason, I briefly considered claiming the word ‘brave’ but decided against it. I know that I need to be brave, but simply saying that I’m going to be brave without pointing to why I will be brave, without looking toward what will come of that bravery will not help me. I need to accept the challenge and move forward into change. Bravery is merely one of the tools I need to take me there. The mark on which my eye is laid is to blossom.

In blossoming, what will be comes out of what is. What is – the beginning, the genesis, the bud – is good, and it is beautiful and sweet and dear, but what will be – the blossom – is its destiny. It is what is meant to be. It is what must be. It is, literally, necessary for fruition.

I have been tucked inside for too long. I have been curled unto myself, holding within the potential for beauty, for the bearing of fruit. I’ve resisted the blooming, afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of not succeeding the way I presume that I should. Afraid of disappointing myself, my family. Afraid of over-extending myself. Afraid of being challenged. Afraid of changing into someone I don’t recognize, not because who I might become would be so terrible but because I think that I am comfortable.

But I’m not. I’m not comfortable. I am frustrated. I’m not frustrated in my life – my family, my husband, my children, our life together, is life-giving and sustaining – but frustrated in my production. I have been soaking up goodness, wisdom, thought, reflection, ideas, beauty for ages: the time has come to contribute. It’s time to  own my voice. 

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Some of the ways I am going to blossom are:

*voicing my needs 
*allowing and forcing myself to embrace discomfort
*accepting that things which have been may be coming to an end in order make space for what will be
*acknowledging and embracing that my faith and my past expressions of it are changing and I have to allow that change to happen
*using my innate and developing creativity to contribute to the global conversation as well as contribute to the family purse
*growing in community

I hope you’ll come with me on this journey to blossoming. 

And then the day came, 
when the risk
to remain tight 
in a bud 
was more painful 
than the risk 
it took 
to Blossom.
Risk – Anaïs Nin

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new

I remember one year when I was about 12 or 13 years old I wrote up a list of New Year’s resolutions on a piece of decorative paper, rolled it up in a scroll and tied it with a ribbon. Knowing myself, I imagine that list contained resolutions like, “Study even harder; be more organized; clean my room” and, assuredly, “Stop biting my fingernails”. Every day, for about a week, I opened up the scroll and regarded the list and steeled myself to better adhere to those resolutions. After a week, maybe ten days, I’d stopped looking at it. A few months later I found it amongst the random crap that had accumulated in piles around my room (so much for cleaning my room, eh?) and, grudgingly, admitted to myself that I just wasn’t a resolution sort of person and chucked the list out.

cup game
In my pre-and early teen years, New Year’s Eve was a big deal. There was a trio of families – our family with two girls, our friends down the street with two girls and a family in the next neighbourhood with two boys – who  spent a lot of time together. The parents were all friends and the kids – to one extent or another as the years went on – were friends and of an age, too. Every year the parents all went to the same New Year’s Eve party, and once about half of the kids had passed about 12 years old, we six kids all spent the evening together in one of the family homes.

It was fun. I remember the year we turned our basement into a giant fort, with walls and blanket-roofs and doors and spent the entire night down there. I remember the year the youngest child, a girl 5 years my junior, got sick and we pulled out the convertible couch and all lay together on it after she’d finished being sick in the powder room. I remember watching old musicals – The Sound of Music was in heavy rotation – and rollerblading around and around the unfinished basement of the boys’ home. New Year’s Eve, in those years, was a night of possibility and freedom. We were giddy with it.

Belly bump - 36w 5days

As the years passed, though, NYE lost its shine. To me it became just an arbitrary date, a day when, culturally, the expectation was for something momentous and exciting to happen, a night of glamour and fun and parties and kisses at midnight but none of which ever happened for me. December 31 was just another very cold night in Ottawa. Another night when I had nowhere to go and nothing special to do. For the most part I was perfectly happy to stay home on my own or with my family – I’m naturally a homebody – but I felt the pull of filling the cultural expectation of something BIG.

dandelion fluff!
Now, with not only marriage but also two children under my belt, I’m not looking to go out on NYE for a night of big excitement and partying, and I’m certainly not looking to find some stranger to kiss at midnight (though I never actually did, sitcoms and movies had me convinced that I was supposed to want to do so). In the past few years, New Year’s Eve has been a bit of a non-starter in our home. This year, however, I find myself feeling very differently about this night.

The fact is that tonight is an entirely arbitrary date. The changing of the year could just as easily happen in March or July or any other day. In the church liturgical year, the changing of the year begins in November at the commencement of Advent. Tonight is no different than any other night.

Except…

Investigating the wrapping bag

Except that we choose it to be so. Except that we, in deciding that tomorrow begins a new year, imbue tonight with greater purpose and significance than last night or tomorrow night. Tonight we begin anew.

We don’t, of course. We don’t begin entirely fresh and new. The laundry that is half-finished will still need to be folded and put away, the bills that are unpaid will still need reckoning, the projects on needles will still await their stitches. We do not leave behind that which is unfinished simply because we have begun a new year. But we can choose to leave behind the things which are completed, the things which have transpired in our past days. We can choose – or at least try – to detach ourselves from what has been, and move forward into what will be with a clear mind and with intention.

Fortune cookie

What is special about tonight is not that I or any other person may choose to start fresh tomorrow morning. No, what is special about tonight is that so many of the people on this blue world of ourselves will do so. There is a common purpose in New Year’s Eve. Every person with a Gregorian calendar is, tonight, aware that tomorrow we begin a new year of days.

snow forest

So I am making resolutions this year. I am setting goals. I am claiming a word for myself to mark my year and use as a metre for my growth. I have chosen that tonight is special, arbitrary though that may be. Tonight is the last day of this year. A year of good and ill, a year of stress and joy, a year of death and birth. Like the leaves of the trees in this season, the year has served its purpose, fostering growth and change and newness, and now the year is spent, dry and brittle in its age. Tomorrow this year will fall to earth, be buried in the snow and decay, nourishing the new year as it buds.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 
― L.M. Montgomery

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