Monday, September 14, 2015

Notes on Irrigation

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it.
It enriches the necessary competencies
that daily life requires and provides;
and in this respect,
it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

- C.S. Lewis

So, what'll we discuss? The amazing weather? Football? What I'm reading?

I bet you've guessed that the correct answer is: All of the above.

Thank you for your kind words re: last Monday's post. On that note, please understand that when you gush about something I've written, you all really back me into a corner where I cower idly, sipping coffee & wondering what in the world do I blog about now? So, here we go; I guess we'll see, won't we?

I think it's smart to begin with the weather & my thoughts on LSU's victory over Mississippi State. The reality of being a Louisiana resident is that the cool September weather is a tease in much the same way the sparks of greatness I saw in LSU's football team are as likely to fizzle & sputter as they are to erupt in flames, flames that will consume Alabama come November.

Sorry. I got a little carried away with my metaphor. Noteworthy sparks I saw Saturday evening include: a QB who threw no interceptions, didn't fumble the ball, & made no dumb, I'm-so-nervous-I-can't-think-straight decisions, Leonard Fournette, & a true freshman defensive end named Arden Key. With a name like Arden Key, he can run for the Senate, go work for NASA, or be a star DE for LSU; the possibilities are endless. It's not impossible that I might one day write a book featuring a character named Arden Key.

At present, Saturdays in the fall are interesting, to say the least. The truth of the matter is that a part of me wants to be alone all day Saturday. There, I said it. When I woke Saturday morning, my college days were on my mind due to the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on Friday. I was a senior in college in 2001, & oh goodness, my existence was ridiculously blissful  & carefree. For example, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when I woke my priorities were these: skip the two classes I had on Tuesdays that semester so I could attend a Matchbox 20 concert in Shreveport that evening, & then get caught up on my sleep by the end of the week so I'd be fresh for the trip to Baton Rouge Saturday to watch LSU play Auburn. Times were tough, obviously.

Aside from my English degree, I left college with a deep & abiding love for college football. As an undergraduate, I attended Louisiana College, a tiny private school in the middle of Louisiana. Baton Rouge was a short drive from campus, & I spent many Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. When I wasn't in Baton Rouge on game day, I was lounging in front of the TV at my parents' house, or melded to the bed in my dorm room, or glued to a friend's couch, attempting to explain why I should not be the person to leave the house to get everyone some food.

After I left college, little changed about my Saturdays. The trips to Tiger Stadium were less frequent, but about that time Trey bought a fifty inch TV, so that kind of evened the score. Plus, Trey & I were getting older & the drunken, sweaty crowds we found so exhilarating in our youth became less enticing when compared with a comfortable couch, bottled water that doesn't cost ten dollars, & a clean restroom you don't have to stand in line to use. Plus, rarely does anyone sweat on you or spill their beer on you when you watch football from the comfort of your own home.

The last time I was in Tiger Stadium, I was eight months pregnant with Reagan. I'd have never agreed to go had it not been for the generous offer of a friend who had two tickets in a suite. We watched LSU beat Alabama from the comfort of the suite. I believe that was the last time they defeated the Tide. Maybe it's me; maybe they need me there, you know? (I'm kidding, but when I was younger I was weird & superstitious about game day . . . like if I shaved my legs & they lost, well, I just threw my razor away & that was that for the rest of the season.)

Despite having a full-time job & living alone & paying bills & basically adulting successfully for a few years before I got married, I used to *occasionally* feel pathetic for never leaving my couch on Saturdays in the fall. I realize now that I was a complete fool for feeling that way.

This past Saturday was, well, kind of hellish for a few intense hours around our house. Trey rose early to go shoot with his shooting buddies. I woke to one epic mess after another. At one point, I think I actually said (to whom I was speaking I don't know because I don't think either of the kids were in the room), "Is it too much to ask to sit & drink one hot cup of coffee & watch a few minutes of GameDay? Is that too much to ask?!" I do think the dog, who's usually at my heels, scampered away at some point during my rhetorical rant.

Here's what I handled &/or cleaned off the surfaces of our home before noon on Saturday: human waste in various forms, dog waste in various forms, human blood, dog vomit, sunscreen, blue ink, glue, diaper cream, milk, & toothpaste. Don't believe the lie that we teach gendered behavior, that it is a social construct rather than the result of actual differences in the two genders. Boys are different from girls. For example, girls tend to squirt toothpaste in the sink. It's messy & wasteful, yes, but not too difficult to clean. Boys like it on the walls & the concrete floors. They like to smear.

There was one phrase on my mind Saturday when Trey returned from his morning of shooting : RUN AWAY. The problem was that if I drove around in my car eating ice cream & listening to Michael Buble all afternoon as I wanted to do, I would miss all the great football, which was sort of the reason for my horrible, horrible mood in the first place.

Trey assumed I'd want to get outside & exercise because the weather was so nice. That would've normally been appealing to me, except that I'd spent every moment since waking on my feet, cleaning/diapering/scrubbing/screaming/etc., & not even the lovely weather was enough to entice me to get off my rear-end & back on my feet once I sat down and had MY FIRST cup of coffee at one in the afternoon. That, ladies & gentlemen, is the surest sign a day has begun horribly.

Between the awfulness of the morning & the LSU game, I was convinced I had the flu Saturday night. I even took my temperature at one point. Thankfully, when that second field goal veered away from the goalpost, I realized the aching & the headache I'd been nursing all day were from tension. Imagine that.

Okay, so apparently this week's blog is going to be the therapy session I needed after Saturday's many emotional ups & downs. What I haven't told you (because it fills me with shame) is that Reagan's Bible verse for the upcoming week is Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another."

Friday night, I erased last week's verse & wrote the new verse on her chalkboard that's propped in the window in the kitchen. Paul didn't have any kids. I wonder if he had been a father, perhaps he'd have added, "Be kind to one another . . . even when you've had no coffee & you spend all morning on your knees scrubbing diaper cream & toothpaste & blue ink from the surfaces of your home."

Obviously I spent some time Saturday & in the days since comparing & contrasting Saturdays of yore to Saturdays as they typically unfold now. Believe it or not, despite the late hour at which LSU's victory was secured Saturday,  I stayed up & read in the hopes of growing sleepy. The book club is reading Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah for the month of September. It's quite a shift from Harry Potter. I believe Ms. Hannah's books are classified as women's fiction.

I was excited to begin Winter Garden. I've heard good things about Kristin Hannah's writing. I am curious about fiction that's classified as women's fiction. I've read a few explanations of what that means, as I've grown ever curious about fiction classifications. What I am gathering from the first hundred or so pages of Winter Garden is that women's fiction is highly introspective. This book is told in third person; it alternates the perspective of two sisters, Meredith & Nina.

You're unlikely to find car chases, gunfights, or magic spells in women's fiction. What you will find is realistic, often gut-wrenching stuff, & the inner monologue of the characters who're grappling with the gritty stuff of life. These sisters are dealing with the death of their father, their emotionally distant (Russian) mother, & the unraveling of their marriages. I kind of love the backstory of the mother, Anya, because she grew up in Leningrad & many of the references she makes are familiar to me because of my obsession with The Bronze Horseman, which is set in Leningrad during WWII. I am certain there is a great deal Meredith, Nina, & I don't yet know about their mother, & so I shall continue reading.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning I was struck by the oddity of my finally unwinding after the day's many tension-filled moments by reading a book that is, well, not all rainbows & sunshine. These women lose their father & have a non-existent relationship with their mother. Meredith has two grown daughters who're away at college, while Nina has no children because she chose the nomadic life of a photojournalist. I am enjoying their intertwined stories, but at times their reality is too much reality for me.

Every night for the last week, I've climbed in bed & returned to Meredith & Nina's emotional turmoil. The book is well written, & the mystery of their mother's secrets keeps me turning the pages, but goodness, it's odd that I look forward to this escape as I prefer my reality to either of theirs - toothpaste & all. In a handful of years, I'll wish toothpaste on the wall was my big problem.

I know that some who read this blog usually spend Saturdays alone. You may prefer it that way, but you may not (either way, sit on your couch & watch football all day long for me one Saturday, okay?). When I write, I often think of the myriad of circumstances in which readers might find themselves. In the same way reading often does, writing, if you're writing for an audience, encourages you to slip into another's skin.

I'd like to say this, to whomever's reading: whatever it is you wish was different about your current station in life, there's someone who's a little jealous of you. I see this in Meredith & Nina. Meredith married her childhood sweetheart, had kids, & stayed close to home to take over the family business; Nina left home, married a handsome foreigner, & has no kids. Sometimes, when I'm in the middle of an epic rant re:something my kids have done, or I am pouting because I miss every second of GameDay & have had no coffee despite being awake for hours, I think about the source of my anger: my kids . . . my two healthy kids, who are drawn to the toothpaste like a moth to a flame because they are young & curious.

It's human nature to bemoan our reality, our particular station in life, from time to time. The grass is always greener, you know? There are two things I suggest as antidotes for this tendency. First, read. Read, read, read. I came across the above Lewis quote & I just clapped I loved it so much. Literature . . .  irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. I swoon.

Countless times I have read a book I didn't know I wanted to read, needed to read, until I got down to the business of reading the words. This is the beauty of a book club; if you're a dedicated member, as I totally am, you read the book each month, whatever it is, & you keep going even if you think it's awful so you can have a detailed list of all the awfulness when the book club meets. More often than not, if you push through & keep reading, you're rewarded tenfold for your effort.

Second, go to church. A foundational principle of Christian teaching is to put yourself in someone else's shoes, to shove yourself & your complaints aside & see life through their eyes.  One of the things I love about our particular church family is the diversity of our members, & the opportunities for the young to spend time with the old, for the married to spend time with the unmarried & the widowed, for the mature Christians to spend time with those who're babes in Christ.

Sometimes when I'm in church, & I'm struggling with Henry because he's loud or he's making a mess with whatever food I've brought to placate him, I look around at the people in the pews. I'm never far from a widow, or a mother whose children are grown & gone. I realize that while I sometimes envy the quiet stillness that typifies their time spent in church, they may well envy the bouncing boy preventing me from hearing the sermon.

When your inner monologue is reduced to woe & misery, you need a new set of eyes; yours are dry & it's time to irrigate. Find them in a book; let a capable author show you something about the world through the eyes of someone years younger, or years older, than you, someone dealing with a loss you've never experienced, or climbing a mountain (either literally or metaphorically) you've never climbed.

When you're seated in church, look around at the faces of the people with whom you worship. Church is perhaps the one place where people of all ages, all educational backgrounds, all races, & all economic classes are routinely gathered, united with one sacred purpose. You may envy some their station in life, but they may well be envious of some aspect of your life, be it your house full of kids, or your money, or your perceived status in the congregation, or the car you drive, or the way you can sing, or something else you'd never imagine someone coveting. Let go of whatever thoughts you have that aren't characterized by gratitude for what you do have & a desire to learn from those who're different from you. I use this phrase sparingly, but I think now is a good time: Bloom where you're planted. I'll add that in order to bloom, you must irrigate. You see what I did there?

So, read & go to church. This is my recipe for warding off selfish, covetous, unproductive thoughts, as well as a full-blown pity party.

I don't have a theme for this blog, but if I did, I guess that might be it: read & go to church. And drink coffee.

And Geaux Tigers.


No comments:

Post a Comment