Thursday, January 08, 2009


I have been thinking about this flatness issue - how, even when life is actually going quite well, I feel flat. Not exactly unhappy - more like "nothing", not depressed but not excited about anything. I don't hate or love my life, I kind of "nothing" my life.

And I have a feeling that thinking like the post below may be part of the problem. It's an outline of what I hoped to achieve last year and how I did.

I have been reading a remarkable book: Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. It is, quite honestly, the best and most helpful religious book I have read for a long time and possibly the most helpful I've ever read. A book which acknowledges modern theology and biblical criticism yet shows a deep faith and sense of relationship with God is surprisingly rare. Most Christian books, in my humble opinion, are either too naive about the Bible (taking the content and interpretations too much for granted) or rapidly become a dry-as-dust textual analysis. This one is truly unusual.

One of the points he makes is that Jesus' parables were generally subversive of both the common wisdom of his day and the common wisdom of our own day. Human beings are inclined to live according to a kind of "performance principle". Our culture values certain things - especially achievement, money and appearance. We base our self-worth and our satisfaction with life on how we measure up. Have I accomplished as much as other people of similar talent and background? Do I earn as much? Do I have a nice house? Am I considered attractive and sexy?

It's a world of endless comparisons. If I am not the prettiest girl in the room, but I am prettier than some, then I am "okay". I judge myself to be acceptable. Am I a good mother? Well, I'm not an alpha-mother who rules the playgroup, but I'm definitely not the worst - not that like that bad mother over there. Am I successful? Well, I'm not curing cancer or anything, but I'm not a failure, either.

Actually, I am quite hung up on the achievement thing. One of the reasons I hate doing IVF is that it fails the majority of the time and the reward is kind of random. It's not just the pain of infertilty and the sadness of lost embryos - it also feels demeaning to keep trying and failing. Like everyone else's body works great and mine is failing me.

Even faith can go this way. I can see God as someone whose requirements I must satisfy. I can ask myself if I believe enough, or correctly, and get all anxious and preoccupied about whether I am getting it right. God can become, instead of a liberator, a new kind of tyranny.

This life I live feels like a performance. Have I done enough? Have I achieved enough? I try very hard, but the results are often not what I hoped. I feel confronted by my own mediocrity. I judge myself harshly. And yet, when I do succeed, the whole thing is usually much less exciting ande fulfilling than I thought it would be. So much anxious striving, often for not much satisfaction.

Somehow, I need to break free of this performance thing. What I need is, not to accomplish more, but a kind of reorientation.

I would like to enjoy my life more. I have been thinking hard about this and,somehow, I feel like the answer lies in getting away from the performance - in focusing on enjoying the days as they unwind, appreciating the little things, the sunshine on my face, the cool breeze, the company of people I love.

I kind of get in my own way. For instance - my faith is so plagued by a feeling that I ought to be working harder at it. I know that what I really need is to view the whole thing as, not about believing or being good, but about a deepening relationship with God. Seeking and knowing God and allowing myself to be transformed by that relationship. But I just seem to go round and round. I wanted to be part of a church community, but I get hung up on what they think of me instead of taking the time involved in really listening to them and appreciating them as they are. I ask myself if I am a "good" mother, when actually I should just focus on enjoying my time with my son.

I need to stop trying so hard and being so obsessed with myself and start really listening to people. To slow down, not bustle around to accomplish things, but live mindfully, fully, knowing that all flesh is as grass.

Very little that I do or achieve will survive this short life of mine, but I can make the days I have more real to me. I can feel more alive - alive to God, alive to myself, and alive to other people.

So, where do I start?


Blogger Sailor said...

Seems to me, you've made a great start by recognizing the things you feel are getting in the way of the relationship you want to have with God.

Too much of the time, I do the same, I wonder if we all do to some extent? I don't know, but it seems that it'd be pretty common, really, isn't this just one more way of seeing how our humanity gets in the way of what we really should be focused on? Kids, and family, and God?

Hugs, and good luck on your search!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

This is very insightful stuff, Em. Lots of wisdom here.

Thing is, the world we live in kinda pushes us in that 'performance' direction, and just 'walking away from it' will likely carry some cost, that we'll have to decide, at a more 'down-and-dirty' level, whether we want to pay, or not. . .

But I am absolutely with you on the value of living more 'in the moment' - with God, and with the people He's given into our lives. If we can really do that, there's a lot of unanticipated joy there, I think. . .

7:11 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

There's so much here, I'm not sure what to say. But I feel like I need to say something.

Reorientation is key. Jesus was all about a new way of thinking, as you said, "allowing myself to be transformed by that relationship." The kingdom of God IS about liberation, not about tyranny. Jesus' death, that whole sacrifice idea, was about "setting captives free."

I wish I had some great advice. It's good you are asking these questions and that at least you know what you want. The next step is, as you said, reorienting your thinking process. Less performance, more real-ness.

Not that it's easy.

10:32 AM  

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