Lowering the Bar

The house is (mostly) clean now. I’ve moved acrylic paints and sewing frames upstairs to the new studio/”cabin” — as E. calls it. He’s nestled in now on my old purple couch watching war movies. It is odd to have the house to ourselves again. It’s not that we needed the space, but it does make it easier for us to be more conscious about how we use our time. No more television in the bedroom. Sleep hygiene is a thing. A thing I am not very good at observing.

It’s evening again — upside-down day again — but Leonard is lying here beside me as though it makes no difference at all. The birds, though, they know. There’s no singing. Instead, I hear the neighbor puttering around in his garage. It’s kind of cozy, I suppose. But it’s not birdsong.

Easter seems to sneak up on me as much as any other holiday. After living here more than a quarter of a century, how is it I still forget to plan for all of the bank holidays now? I set out to go to the store yesterday for dog food when E. reminded me it was Good Friday. In Norwegian it’s Long Friday, which makes a lot more sense to me, considering how I doubt Jesus would have described the day as “good”. Everyone goes back to work on Tuesday. Sunburned from skiing, if they’re lucky.

Me? No skiing for me. But I feel my body longing for a good sweat. Lying on the beach with a book, dripping into my eyes and my cleavage, until I feel compelled to throw myself into the surf. What I wouldn’t give for a good summer day right now. Or this year at all, since travel still won’t be a possibility for us. Rogaland summers aren’t always warm. I’m trying to be optimistic, and planning on giving surfing another go this year now that I’m off blood thinners.

But I will take what comes and most of all be grateful for my health. Mental and physical. Things are rolling evenly these days in terms of my mood. I can’t describe how relaxing that is. Not having to second guess my sanity. And today — though I have “gone soft” in more ways than one over the past couple of months — getting dressed this morning I didn’t hate my body. I know that voice in my head is due back any minute to tell me I’m disgusting and weak and irresponsible — but it helps to notice the peace in its absence.

It astounds me really that there are people in the world who live their whole lives without those hateful voices in their heads. I envy those people. Not just for my own sake, but considering that I would have been a better partner, a better mother had I not assumed there was a state of perfection that we could all achieve somehow. If we worked hard enough at it. Had discipline. Were pure of heart. It’s frightening what we pass on to other people in our lives in our pursuit to be “good”.

I went to Christian camps for several years as a pre-teen. The bar was high for “good”. I remember once we were sitting in the morning assembly and the pastor asked us to imagine that soldiers entered the room and said they were going to shoot all the Christians. To imagine the soldiers then asked all the Christians to stand: Would you stand? the pastor asked. Who asks ten-year-olds what they would do under those circumstances? Some ten-year-olds are deep thinkers. Some think more deeply than 30-year-old pastors. Some of them have experienced violence in a way that does not make this question as fantastical as one might assume. People set the bar extremely high. In so many ways. Suck it up, move on, forgive and forget, be a paragon to succeed in the world.

Sometimes I wonder about the chicken and egg situation when it comes to my “intense” personality. My deep thinking.

I have a handful of nightmares from my childhood that I remember vividly even today. Some I find difficult to talk about. But one was about the hoof-footed Devil from an illustration in the Children’s Bible my mother would read to me before bed. He tempted Jesus to throw himself off the mountaintop. I don’t remember exactly what the Devil wanted from me. I just remember the electric-cold-sweat-fear that I can still sense on the edge of my consciousness.

About ten years ago, I actually went on eBay to buy a copy of that old brown-covered Children’s Bible. It’s in awful condition, but it is on the shelf in the living room with all the other Bibles and theology books. Sometimes I worry if I lose my mind at the end, like my Grandmother did, that those illustrations will torment me. The writing finger of God. The three boys who would not burn. The soldiers killing all the babies in their mothers’ arms.

I’m not sure why I slid over onto this topic. It wasn’t my intention. Easter is supposed to be about renewal.

Sometimes it is difficult to renew and move forward without kicking off what’s stuck to your shoes.

the kale is still green 
after a winter’s neglect
its leaves press against
the glass that kept it alive
its stem reaching from the rot

4 Comments

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  1. Yea, we talk about the “baggage” we carry around, but that’s rather polite. What’s stuck to our shoes – more accurate I think.

    Near three days with Sun in a row. I almost forgot what rain looks like. Then clouds cinched there belt. Almost. All of me wants Spring Sun.

  2. I was also raised in a Christian fundamentalist household and, as you can imagine, I resonate with much of this.

    • It’s sad how the same thing that brings many comfort damages others. Hope you’ve sorted through the good stuff.

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