Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lenten Challenge Week Four

In case you're wondering--and reading in real time--this is last week's challenge. Written last week, the fourth week of Lent, but posted a week late. I have been too busy to upload pictures. Yes, that busy.

I just experienced Amanda Palmer’s new song, “Machete.” Go here.

In respect, homage, and solidarity with Ms. Palmer, I’m officially announcing my artistic goal.

I will make art that leaves people sobbing in front of their keyboards because I’ve made them hear, made them think, made them uncomfortable, made them gasp for breath, and then drowned them in the beauty and complexity of this existence.

That being said, I think I inadvertently stumbled onto the right path with this Lenten challenge. I may not be busting through the conventional restrictions on art and thought in order to make my readers beautifully uncomfortable, but I’m making myself uncomfortable. That’s a good and necessary first step.

So what’s making me squirm about this project?

Ugh. I don’t even want to type it. Here goes. Spending time on myself makes me uncomfortable.

I presented this project to myself and my family as a spiritual exercise. And it is. The world has enough hate and anger and bitterness. I don’t need to foster my own anger and bitterness until they become hatred. (Driving around southwestern Florida during snowbird season every day is a perpetual lesson in how the world needs less anger.)

I held onto a lot of those negative feelings after the county commission signed away the cow field. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like pollution, I don’t like paving over paradise. I love fresh air and peace and beauty and the cycle of the seasons. So it has been amazingly good for me to find a way to retrain my mind. I’m still fundamentally the same person with the same values, but I accept that I cannot control the world, only my reactions to it.

At least on that issue.

Here’s where the time thing comes in. I had a massive book edit due Monday, so I did nothing but the absolutely necessary as a parent last week. I made sure we had food, I drove when I needed to, I spent a little quality time with the kids (albeit while doing manual labor like dishwashing). But I did not do any of the real parenting—long conversations, cheering on the homeworkers, reading before bedtime, cooking favorite meals, washing tricky laundry…

So, when I took the dog to the cow field to shoot a few photos, I felt really, really, really…uncomfortable.

I walk the dog every morning at sunrise. He’s part border collie; he NEEDS the walk. Heck, I physically needed the walk after sitting and editing eighteen to twenty hours a day. And normally my walk takes twenty minutes. So why did I feel uncomfortable taking forty minutes to walk and photograph?

I have a long list of reasons—ranging from an American work ethic that demands we do more and feel worse than the next person to our modern world doesn’t value artistic and intellectual pursuits if they don’t make money to my family needs me to work and be a parent, all the way down to I’ve gotten more practice and praise as a second banana than as the main act.

Forget that.

I’ve reached a point in my life where each moment of this journey matters so much more to me than what anyone else thinks or values. And heck yeah, my journey will include moments of art and thought and spiritual practice. 

I love these flowers. They grew in the yard when I was little.

I used to pick big handfuls, which wilted instantly, and give them to my mother.

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