Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love and Commitment by Carolyn

One of the most difficult - and most valuable - lessons I learned in my adult life is that love is an action verb. During one of the times I was not feeling much love for my late husband, I read in a Bible study that love is not a feeling, it is an action. That the times when "that loving feeling" is not present are the times that it is most important to behave in a way that shows love. That seems counter-intuitive to our modern society which prescribes that if the feeling of love has gone, or if your spouse is not making you completely and totally happy, or if your life together is not easy, you should cut your losses and end your union. I once subscribed to that way of thinking and ended my first marriage without much thought to the commitment I had made. I was determined not to give up so easily the second time. So I was willing to try the idea that I should act as if I loved my husband in spite of how difficult it had become and see what happened. I won't go into the details here, but suffice it to say that when I acted as if I loved him the feeling of love returned, stronger than ever. That feeling of love brought on by my actions of love enabled me to live out my commitment to him through some very difficult circumstances. That feeling of love now allows me to look back on the last months of our marriage with the knowledge that, at least in the end, I lived up to my vows of "for better or worse, in sickness and in health."

This week I have seen the idea that love is an action verb come to life again. My sister's husband has been very ill for a while. Through his illness, my sister has devoted herself to caring for him completely. She has fought his battles, endured unpleasant situations, and ministered to his needs unselfishly. His wish was to see the end of his life at home rather than in a hospital. She made that possible for him. In the last few days I have had the privilege of seeing my matter-of-fact, no-nonsense sister caring for her dying husband in ways that she would never have dreamed she would have to do, and doing it with love and tenderness. Her love for him was spoken more clearly in her actions than it could ever be in any words. She has demonstrated her commitment to him and their 33-year marriage by her tender, ferocious care of him even in these worst of times. Throughout their life together, and especially at the end, she lived up to her vows of "for better or worse, in sickness and in health".

That is what love is - not a feeling, but a commitment to action.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Set Free by Andrea

"I must write it all out, at any cost.  Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living."-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

For most of my young adult life, I was a guilty prisoner of the ideology that one had to journal daily for the process to be meaningful (to whom exactly, I am not sure).  I unconsciously subscribed to some unwritten rule that one had to record the minutia of everyday life- to do anything less would leave an indelible mark of being undisciplined for all to see. At this I failed.  I just could not keep up. From where did these unrealistic beliefs and unattainable practices come?  I do not know.  I do remember, however, the day I was freed.

Unlike the rest of the first world, I was not a member of the Order of Oprah.  I rarely watched television and The O Show even less.  One day, for whatever reason, I turned on the show just as the star was sharing about the catharsis of journaling, a practice in which she had engaged since her teen years.  I felt a heaviness come over me because I once again felt that urge to be more deliberate about capturing life in words.  Then a guest therapist commented that one ought to write, and to write as needed.  In those few seconds, I was set free!  I was given permission to create my own habit of writing.  Why had this not occurred to me?

The more I read and learn about the teaching of writing, the more I learn that all writers- those who do it for publication and those who write for their own sanity- have specially crafted habits of mind and practice.  There are as many ways folks go about the art of writing as there are folks writing.

I have journaled "consistently" for almost two decades now.  It is my catharsis (as well as cleaning, but that's a post for another time). I am able to purge or to cultivate.  I am able to delve deeply into my thought life.  I am able to see my life from outside of myself. I am able to temper my zeal, contain my anger, work out my anxieties. I am able to care for myself.

I knew the power of the pen despite my attempt to fit into the proverbial "box".  I know what it is to live under the tyranny of ought to and should, to fear getting it wrong.  So I write and teach to free other would-be journalers, writers, authors.

Live free and write!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Word Nerd by Carolyn

Call me a nerd. A word nerd, even.
Words have always held a fascination for me. They call to me from a printed page. They lodge in my brain and sing to me when my thoughts should be focused on something else. Most of them are orderly and well behaved.
I can manipulate them as I wish, making them do my bidding. I can craft them to inform, to amuse, to exhort, to narrate a story, to evoke a feeling. In fact, I puff myself up, thinking I know all the rules about words and that I am an advanced word handler (sort of like a lion tamer with a whip and a chair). However, words occasionally refuse to play by the rules. They jump up and down to get my attention, but then run away, just out of my reach. These words taunt me with my total lack of mastery over them. They take on a life of their own in my mind, running in circles, doing back-flips, and playing freeze tag with each other.
I profess that I want to conquer them, to bend them to my will. But is that true? Would I really ever want to be able to totally control words? Don't I secretly enjoy being mesmerized, befuddled, and intrigued by them? Don't I revel in the power of words to make me laugh, cry, gasp with amazement? I am guessing that words will continue to hold sway over me as long as I live, and I secretly wouldn't want to have it any other way.