November 2009

Can it really be November? I’m still making mistakes writing “2008” on my checks! Maybe that’s a sign that I don’t want to let the past go and yet…it’s gone. The sunlight too will appear at different hours now, darkness arriving by 5:00, maybe even 4:30. Turn on that SAD light!

We’ll cherish this November as Jerry’s daughter and son-in-law will visit for a week. Joe hasn’t been here since 1989. Wow will things look different! We’ve seen them, of course. Last year at a grandson’s wedding; and the year before that during a conference in Florida. Katy was here three years ago. But Joe will see lots of changes. That’s what my brother Craig and his wife Barb noted during their quick trip here last week. The windmills, yes; but also the size of our roses, the height of the trees planted through the years. And they hadn’t met either Bo or Cici before so that was a huge change.

Cici left the family portrait we tried to take of my brother’s visit; but this morning as Jerry was finishing up his doe tag duties the dogs were exiled to the house and watched attentively to make sure he didn’t do anything wrong. Note the stain glass iris. It was made by Ken Tedder of the couple who shared our airplane crash all those years ago.

I helped with the does too, but came back inside to finish final edits for An Absence so Great and responded to queries from the copy editor. This is always a crunch time and it usually comes as I’m also working on the next book (I’ll be in Spokane for a few days this month, researching and I corresponded with my new editor at Zondervan where my huge leap of faith has settled with my first contemporary book due out sometime next year. I’ll keep you posted); and preparing for this weekend’s event at Morning Song Acres and next weekend at The Nature of Words in Bend I feel honored to be participating in both.

I also posted a water color painting done by Jeanney McArthur, a local artist and librarian at the Sherman Public School Library where I serve on the board. Jerry selected the matting and frame and had the inscription added by Jeanney “She of Many Stories” which Jeanney had titled it. Jerry wanted it where it could be seen. All those words around it, all those book titles…I guess I am surrounded by my words. I have to say I was stunned to see it. She of Many Stories looks better than how I see myself.

Deciding where to hang the portrait in the house has been an issue. It would be best in my office where it wouldn’t look so, well, “out there.” But Jerry likes to look at it and he says we should hang it in the living room. We’ll see. I’m not sure how I’ll feel looking at a painting of myself everyday. I somehow don’t feel worthy of such recognition though when I think of it as art, honoring a fellow artist’s work, well, then it doesn’t seem so bold. Jeanney’s work is worthy; it’s the subject I’m struggling about.

Might be better to have it behind me, looking over my shoulder while I write.

I’ve been thinking a lot of late about worthiness. I’ve read two books on my new Kindle. Sway: The irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior and Immunity to Change. Off the Kindle, SAIL Simply an Inspired Life by Mary Anne Radmacher and Jonathan Lockwood Huie also graced my days. In part I’ve been researching the topic of this weekend’s workshop: Do Talented People Sabotage Themselves? It’s one of the issues I’ve been considering in my last two books and it seems to be a constant issue in my own life. When I was counseling people, that question hovered over the talented people I saw (which is all of them!) shrouded them in uncertainty and self-doubt.

Freud had an opinion. “There are no mistakes,” he wrote. But perhaps early childhood educators have a more refined grasp of the issue as they know that every behavior is meant to meet a need. Often, it’s protection. A child acts out because he fears he’ll go unnoticed, will disappear.

As adults it might look like we over eat because we’re somehow taking care of ourselves, feeding a sadness or fear; or we eat too little, become anorexic as a way to take care of ourselves. Our addictions are ways of avoiding pain, or perhaps fearing the loss of something so great we can’t imagine life without it and so we make choices that eventually change our brain chemistry and instead of using a substance to protect ourselves the substance takes control of us.

What the authors of the first two books mention is that fear of loss, the inability to recognize that a commitment needs to be changed (stop digging the hole deeper!) and attributed value (that can cloud our judgment or assessment of the facts) appear to be leading contenders for why we sometimes do irrational things. The SAIL book has the subtitle: Consciously choosing unbounded happiness in Good Times and Bad and it really is about choices. The other two books address some of the science of change and irrational behavior; SAIL talks about the stories we tell ourselves and how we can tell ourselves new stories. Naturally, I’m drawn to the SAIL book J

What I’ve taken from them all though, is the importance of valuing ourselves. An example given was a story of a virtuoso violinist who wore a baseball cap, sloppy shirt and jeans at Grand Central Station while playing his 5 million dollar Stratavarius (is that how that’s spelled?) violin to see if anyone paid him heed. No one did. Oh, one woman stood aghast because she recognized him. He commands thousands of audience members when he’s in a concert hall dressed as one would “expect.” People discounted his work because they attributed less value to him based on how he was dressed and the setting he was in.

The opposite, attributing great value where none exists, can also bring us down as charlatans take advantage of people because we attribute great value to their opinion or station in life. It’s the Emperor has no clothes sort of scenario. But we are often pulled toward ignoring those “facts” because we are emotionally engaged in trying not to lose face or perhaps discounting our own opinion. Ask any young person in love to predict their future with their new found beau and despite their parents or best friends opposite opinion, they’ll seek out the behaviors that affirm their value attributed to the loved one. When the break up comes, they’re devastated: but their parents and roommates saw it coming but then they weren’t emotionally engaged.

It’s that quality, attributed value, that I suspect often catches up with talented people who may reach the top but then discount the value of their efforts and so then do something to bring them back “where they truly belong.”

While I’m not “at the top” I do understand that sense of being in a place where I don’t think I deserve. A water color portrait comes to mind.

And yet it was Paul who said in all things be happy, find joy. To do that, I think we do have to attribute value in the right places. It isn’t arrogance to acknowledge a talent or a skill. It’s arrogance when we propose that our talent or skill outweighs that of another, has more value. Humility isn’t ignoring or demeaning a talent or skill either; it’s living in such a way that the talking about our talent or skill is not the primary subject in our relationships with others. At least that’s my definition.

I have my work cut out for me interweaving understandings of irresistible pulls toward irrational behavior (was coming to Starvation Point irrational? Yes! But then I wouldn’t be here writing to you now) and at the same time identifying the ways my own behavior keeps me from moving forward as it protects, keeps me safe from the painful losses I hope to avoid. And yet, as one of the authors of SAIL noted, “We would never be conscious of Joy if there were no suffering.”

My best behavior today? Be grateful that sometimes irrational behavior does lead us to joys we could never imagine. Maybe because we find a way to place the value on God’s leading and trust that God knows the route even if we’re still trying to load the destination it into our GPS.

November is a month for gratitude sharing. I have much to be grateful for. I hope our paths cross sometime before the end of the year but if not, know that I am grateful for your willingness to visit my site and share this journey. Only one month left of this year. Imagine the possibilities of joy.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Warmly, Jane