Fooling Myself

“One of the elders said: Either fly as far as you can from men, or else, laughing at the world and the men who are in it, make yourself a fool in many things.” — from Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton

This passage struck me from this morning’s prayer. How much energy do I put into not being a fool? To what extent do I long to have it all together, to be competent, to be successful, to stay on top of it all?

And how often does God say to me, smiling, in prayer, “So, how’s that working for you?” When I make plans, God laughs.

Okay, so I need to lighten up. My worries, my tendency lately to be dour and overly serious, my preoccupation with my own limitations, are all refusals to accept God’s grace and go it on my own.

“So, how’s that working for you?

Either way, I end up a fool. So I might as well get a hearty laugh at myself and the game even as I play it.

Cutting the Gordian Knot

I’ve been tied up in knots for the past two days or so.

A line from a Kelly Clarkson song sort of set me right. Helped me see how to cut the knot.

“You never thought of anyone else
You just saw your pain “

Yeah, that was me all day yesterday. After five evenings in Pittsburgh with my career angst as my main traveling companion, I came home all tied up. With my hands wringing over my own insecurities, they weren’t available to reach out to the person I love. Preoccupation made me blind and lame and then made me unable to resist being hurt and defensive when that fact was pointed out to me. An agrument spun me into an even tighter cocoon of self-absorption. Begetting even more arguments. Followed by more wound-licking and self-absorption. A gordian knot of a negative spiral.

I had lost my ability to see clearly. And I should have known better. I know with my head what to do. I understand with my brain that prayer and meditation are meant to get me out of my own way so that I can be present to others. But, frustratingly, some part of me refused, still resists, and I don’t know why. I know better.

“You just saw your pain.”

Yeah. That’s me. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Out Of Place

I’m sitting here half-working from the Beehive Coffee House on the South Side of Pittsburgh. I am out of place here amongst the hipsters and the too-carefully-honed bohemian aesthetic. The art for sale on the walls is the kind I like — makes me want to take out my pens and play around. Coffee’s okay. People are smoking. A boisterous D&D game going on a few tables behind me. Their unabashed geekitude in the midst of the hiply pierced eyebrow and inked-neck crowd makes me and my Christian T-shirt feel not so incredibly out of place.

But I am out of place. I am not home. My sense of dislocation is like a dull ache that can be diluted by activity but never dispersed completely. I know that I cannot get out of town earlier than my scheduled flight tomorrow. I know that my wife is having a stressful week without me, the kids miss me and are acting out, and I am simply not there. During the day I am busy with work and so I do not notice, but at night in the room, reading internet news and flipping through hotel cable channels, nothing holds my interest. Everything feels empty.

Two large, darkly dressed ladies walk up to me and query, “Nano?” Apparently I look like I am set for a NaNoWriMo meeting. I look like a blogger. Guys with ill-advised facial hair and even worse posture shuffle by me to kibitz with the Palladins and Dwarfs hooting it up in the imaginary dungeon behind me.

I am sitting here with a belly full of too much Lebanese food. Papers about process architecture and Malaysian agriculture scattered around me with torn up junk mail and a pile of unused art supplies, patiently waiting for me to finish whatever I think I need to finish before I am freed up to play. I subtract an hour from the time on my cell phone and realize it’s another hour and a half before I can call and pray with the kids for bedtime.

It occurs to me that sitting in a hipster haven saying Hail Marys into a cell phone might stand out a bit. But the dude with the ponytail in front of me is knitting a purple scarf, so what the Hell.

I wandered through the Mattress Factory before making the puzzling cross town trip to the South Side involving three bridges and the same tunnel twice. From room to room at the Mattress Factory I had to envy the focus and certainty of purpose that comes with filling a whole room with art that you will just dismantle in a few short months. You got to have a vision and know what you’re doing. Certainty of purpose and focus are what I am lacking. What am I doing here? Am I trying to be a hipster? The art on the walls is no better than what I do, but it’s Big. On Big canvases. Bold and assertive splotches and squggles. I do splotches and squiggles, but don’t have the certainty of purpose to do it on a big ass canvas and put a $1000 price tag on it. I play at art. Timidly.

I feel like I am playing too at being a consultant. My heart’s not in it. I don’t want to travel. And though I am a social person, I hate networking. I have only a few of the Habits Of A Successful Person. I don’t give a damn Who Moved My Cheese.

I just want to go home. And the hours aren’t moving fast enough.