The Audacity of Faith

Cover of "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts ...

Cover via Amazon

I started this blog on Oct 11 2009.  I’d wanted to do it for ages, needing to speak out.  I was computer illiterate, didn’t have internet connection, and internet cafes terrified me.  Everything terrified me, mind you.

But the pressure of needing to speak out got so great that one day I just did it.  I had thought the whole thing would be impossibly  difficult, but it was pretty much the same as when I first used an electric drill.  I was scared of this

I was so scared of doing something wrong that I deleted my post by mistake, so my very first post was lost to the world.  Alas.  I couldn’t remember what I had said, either.  Something about that I had spent 6 years not wanting to be in the world, wanting to hide from it, after going bankrupt.

Not wanting people in my life.  Stay away from me.  But life beckoned though my fear, and I succeeded with my second post, heart thudding, hands shaking!  It was a most amazing feeling of release.  I didn’t know how I was going to let people know that I and my blog were alive, but I felt certain that my days of being so alone in the world were drawing to a close.

It was a small but somehow also giant step.  I have been isolated a lot in my life and especially in the preceding year.   I hadn’t wanted to be around people, just wanted to be safe from anyone being able to hurt me ever again.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with the world.  Didn’t watch current movies, didn’t participate in anything.

I could feel myself slam all my doors shut if anybody got too close.  It felt as if my life was shutting down piece by piece.  It was really scary in some ways, feeling that my life was over.  It wasn’t, though, and starting my blog, the first risk I had taken in a long time, was like some part of me responding to the stirrings of spring.

From that point on, even though my financial situation was probably the worst it had ever been (and would get worse before it got better), and my heart had been misbehaving, sometimes quite painfully, somehow I felt sure that things would work out.   The audacity of faith.   Obama used the term The Audacity of Hope.  But I think when hope is audacious it has become faith.

And mine, even though sometimes I wasn’t conscious of it, was very audacious.  Biding its time.

The Forest and the Trees

Have you always understood what it means to say “can’t see the forest for the trees”?  It eluded me for ages and then one day – an aha moment worthy of Oprah.   It means of course that you can’t see the big picture because the small one – the snapshot of your present experience – is taking up all your vision.  Because it’s uncomfortable.

So a person can have had a whopping crisis in their lives, and come face to intolerable face with the truth of how disempowered they actually are; their life splattered all over the place.  It’s so terrifying and alarming and difficult to deal with that they can’t see that the crisis is part of a bigger picture.

Which may actually be about having taken a big leap towards empowerment.  Because crises wake you up to your truth.  And once you see it you can deal with it.   Once you’ve done that effectively you don’t go back, you move forwards to a life of better quality.   If you keep going back, you haven’t dealt effectively.  Well, that’s what I believe, anyway.

However, dealing with it gets you stuck with snapshot tree vision often, as well, let me tell you.  Dealing with your nasty situation can take up all your focus and energy.  It can be frustrating, maddening, scary, you name it.   Pretty much the only way to see if what’s happening is part of a bigger, better picture is to stop sometimes and look back.

Then you can see.  OMG look at the difference!   I thought I was safe and in control before the crisis, but I wasn’t.   I let people walk all over me, I never stood up for myself, I was inarticulate, didn’t understand anything about life or people, I was a slave to my mother’s will, blind to what I was doing to myself.   Emotionally disabled.   And so on.  Essentially you see what your foundation used to be.

You also see how the snapshot is still about wrestling with “not enough”, but the bigger picture is about having put your heart and soul into rebuilding a foundation that is strong enough to sustain what you’ve always dreamed of doing with your life.  It’s so exciting to get that panoramic view of your life and it somehow gives you courage to gird your loins for the next round of dealing with your demons.  Bring them on baby!   It fills up your hope and faith buckets.

No Country for Old Men and Pandora’s Box

I’m reading No Country For Old Men.   It’s so beautifully written.   Nothing is over-explained, and the characterizations are amazing.   I adore the main character, Sheriff Bell.   The title, I guess, is about how the criminal element was bad enough when he was young, but it still was comprehensible, it wasn’t evil.   Now, when he’s an older man, the crimes committed against other humans are beyond evil.   Miraculously, he doesn’t lose his warmth and sensitivity to that in life which is good.

I guess many people have a No Country part of their life, some element in which the world looks or is alien and inhospitable.   The challenge is to find a way not to let it overwhelm you.

I’ve often gotten irritated with people who say just look at the bright side, don’t worry be happy.   “Positive thinking will change your life.”   It strikes me as untruthful at some level, unreal; feels more like denial than a real coming to terms with what’s troubling them.    It always comes accompanied with a kind of smugness too, a saintliness that just doesn’t ring true.

And there’s also the very real possibility that they plain don’t want to hear what’s going on with you.   Not really.   And probably that’s because they’re terrified of opening up their own Pandora’s Box, and they’re afraid you’ll lead them right to it.   Do not stop, go straight to jail.

But on the other hand, it doesn’t work burying yourself in what’s troubling you either.   Then you just become a whingey whiny gloom and doom person who everybody avoids and with good reason.   And you hate yourself, along with the whole human race.   Many people seem to think those are the only two options.

I woke up this morning thinking, where’s the balance?   I guess it’s different for everyone, but for me it lies in listening to myself and taking seriously that part of me which is troubled.   It’s no use trying to talk myself out of what’s scaring me, or joking about it – because it doesn’t work.   You just push all the stuff you’re scared to look at under the surface.

When a child comes to you troubled, you don’t dismiss her, you don’t lecture her.   You hold her, you let her talk, cry, do whatever she needs to do.   You let her know that she’s safe and you love her and you’ll protect her, help her figure things out.   You embrace her, but within that embrace you give her space.   You let her know that you think the world of her.   You take all the pressure of the world away, and let her have the experience of unconditional love.

Out of that embrace she will emerge when she’s ready.   Then she’ll want to hear what you have to say about a strategy to help her resolve whatever’s troubling her.   Furthermore, she’ll naturally start seeing anew that in her world which is exciting, she’ll want to engage.   Happens with boy children too, I’m not excluding them!   Just using he/she all the time is clumsy.

I’ve seen it work with real children, and it works for me as an inner dialogue.    My whole childhood and young adulthood was characterized by people not bothering to listen to me.    It just caused a lo9t of real pain and confusion, so I’ve done that experience, thanks.    No more for me.    I want to be conscious of what’s bothering me.      And I also want to be able to remain conscious of that in my world which is wonderful.    This kind of inner dialogue lets me have both.    I’m always reassured at some level with “real”.   When things are packed away or covered up I get real uneasy.

I prefer to look at the stuff that bothers me, even when it terrifies me.   Pandora’s Box, once it’s opened, can be terrifying.   All sorts of ghosts and things that you didn’t even know existed come whooshing out at you.   It’s horrifying to see that your life is out of control in ways you’ve seen in others but never imagined was true for you.

But challenging as it is to face those ghosts, they have much more power when you can’t see them than when you expose them to the light.    Better to let them out because you will get through the terror to a place when they can’t bother you any more, they have no power to hold you hostage.

I prefer to try and live my life like Sheriff Bell, at a real level and metaphorically.   He sees what is terrifying to him, and he deals with it.   But he doesn’t let it poison his entire world.   At least I hope he doesn’t.   I haven’t finished the book yet, and didn’t see the movie.   Well no matter how his fictional life ends, I won’t let mine end badly.

And as to Pandora’s Box, I read the other day that the last item to emerge from it was Hope.

America’s Voices of Discontent

I’ve submitted 7 articles to SearchWarp, and have been enjoying the enthusiastic response I’ve had.  I’ve had  3,777  page views as of this moment, and the comments I’ve received have been generous and full of praise.   Americans don’t hold back on their enthusiasm; they let it out, and they’re articulate about it.  I so love them for that.  There are some really great writers there, too.

Some, however, are very staunch Christians, and whilst I try to understand respect their beliefs, I can’t always relate to them.  And there are plenty of times I get judgmental and angry.  That’s about me, though.

A few days ago I read an article which called for all Christians in America to band together to vote the current administration out.  It said that the problem in America now is the government, and that what was needed was to “clean house”.  The article went on to say that America needed to be returned to its Christian origins.  It was written from the heart, and with great passion.  That much was clear.  The author truly believed what they were saying.

Well, thanks to the sane input from another writer, I learned that America’s origins weren’t Christian.  So that’s that. It was founded on principles of equality etc.

Yesterday I got a reply to a query I wrote re “cleaning house” – namely that the author meant vote out the current administration, because it lacks “Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, humility, justice, and love” (Freudianly, “tolerance” is absent!).  Furthermore, the author believed that the current administration has brought America to its knees!  The O word (Obama) wasn’t mentioned, by the way.

Whooee, my buttons got pressed!   Oh yes, they did.  I cursed freedom of speech, I pointed fingers (all in the privacy of my home, I’ll have you know) I jumped up and down.  Intolerance personified, I.

Having let some of the steam out, I replied, hopefully with a degree of sanity and dignity.  Probably not as much as I wanted.  Probably did as much finger-pointing as the people I was criticizing.

This morning I saw how the article had frightened me – which accounts for my anger.  I get so uneasy when religion is mixed up with politics, in the sense of people using their “spirituality” and their “special connection with God” as justification for making inflammatory accusations which don’t have a factual base.   The term “clean house” is uncomfortable rhetoric for me.  Sweeping out the dirt.   Scary stuff.  When the “dirt” is the Barack Obama administration, perhaps you can understand my fear and rage.   But perhaps the author wasn’t coming from that place at all.

They believed that the principles  of Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, humility, justice, and love are absent in the Obama administration, and seemed to draw the conclusion that they’re exclusively Christian.   Well, of course, they’re not.  They may be principles that Christians subscribe to, but so do all decent human beings, regardless of their religion or their beliefs.

To think that God only loves Christians is absurd.  What about the rest of us?

And lets’ face it, many Christians go to church, say their prayers, do good deeds and abuse their wives or husbands or their children, or are consumed by greed.  George Bush is a Christian, isn’t he?  The blood of how many innocent people is on his hands?   Christianity is a convenient mantle to hide a multitude of sins.

But it’s not really fair to target Christians in this way, because since the beginning of time, religion has been a convenient mantle to hide a multitude of sins.

What frightened and frustrated me  the most about the article wasn’t really the Christian thing, but  that the author truly believed  the current administration has brought America to its knees.  I was gobsmacked by that.  It takes a very long time to bring a great power to its knees.  Rome wasn’t built in a day nor was it destroyed in a day.  Whatever problems America has now are the result of past administrations – and how Americans have lived their lives.

Sigh.

Now that the euphoria of Obama’s election is well and truly over, all the fear of losing status quo, the terror of losing ground, the underlying racism, it’s all going to rise to the surface.   All the anger and resentments will spill over.

That would be fine if only we could recognize it for what it is, and deal with it in a personal capacity, within the realm of our own lives, be accountable for ourselves.  But generally we don’t.  All those pent-up emotions and frustrations get displaced and projected onto an administration, or the new President, the new leader.   Under the name of religion, and apparently with God’s blessing.

The voices of discontent that are emerging in America now, they’re not the voices of sanity and reason.  They’re the voices of people terrified of losing a safe place in the world.  I feel empathy for them, but I find myself asking the question: where have they been all these years when so many other Americans have had no safety at all in their world?  Did they care what the administration was doing to those people?

Life is the great equalizer, you can’t run from it forever.  What goes around comes around.  It’s inevitable.   If only we didn’t resist the change when it happens.

If only it wasn’t so scary.

If only we weren’t human and fallible!

Without hope I have nothing

I have to be so vigilant, to make sure that I don’t mistake the shadow of my past for my present reality, and that I don’t allow my pig-parent to have any authority – the part of me that tells my life is over, things have got too bad for me to ever recover.  I’m too poor, I’m sliding down a slippery slope into a hole I’ll never be able to get out of.

This part of me is still so strong, and it makes my life seem unbearable.  Without hope, what do I have?  None.  I can’t let it be my truth.  I can’t afford to.

I feel vulnerable today.  Sore that it’s taken me all this time to dismantle all the crap I believed was true about me – it all fits into the category of worthless and undeserving, but that category has a million sub-categories, it’s like a disease, invading every fibre of my being, mind, body and spirit, causing every part of me to distort or dis-function.

Usually seeing it so clearly makes me angry. Today I just feel sore.  I ache for the infant, the child, the young girl, the young woman, the woman that I was who was trapped inside the cage of her own ignorance about her deservability.  Like a bird trapped in a cage, flying manically from one side to the other, flinging itself against the bars.  Bruised, injured by its own desperate bid for freedom.

Intellectually – and sometimes in a way that’s deeper, I know that every second of my life has value, but sometimes it’s hard not to see how much of it has just been wasted.  It’s been such a long journey to even get to a place where I could accept responsibility for my own destiny, let alone do all the work needed so I could function properly and healthily, and do something meaningful with my life and the things that come naturally to me.  I’m just sore today.