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Monday, April 26, 2010

My hope is in divine discontent

I went to the supermarket with my dad today, to stop at the bank and to get some on-sale ice cream for the strawberries we cut up yesterday. The car smelled like gasoline and springtime and the factory and cologne, and we talked about politics and talk radio on the way there. My bank statement reminded me that I keep forgetting to tithe. It's raining now. It didn't rain when I was babysitting earlier, and I was glad, because instead I got to push her on the swings and teach her knock-knock jokes. I couldn't remember any, so we sang songs instead.

I wonder, if I just keep writing about little nothings, maybe something true will come out.

I want to write things that are true. But every time I examine myself or my past from where I am now, I'm very afraid that what I'm saying is trite and cheap and a waste. Or, simply untrue. Because I don't know myself, never have and never will.

I'm writing instead about Virginia Woolf, in a tacky exposé with Word 2005's gaudy WordArt headings. She wrote the most terrible suicide note to her husband, who, despite what some base biographical criticism alludes to, was very good to her.

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

Isn't that terrible? It has a certain grace to it, a subtle deprecation and a flair of martyrdom. But it's also full of hollow compliments and artificial apologies. So direct, and so condescending, but still artfully sentimental. It was a different time then, of course. I don't know much about her husband, or much about Woolf, which I guess makes it a good thing that I'm writing about her, learning more about her. Perhaps I shouldn't have started with her Wikipedia article.

I am, slightly afraid. I love Lily Briscoe. I think, I am Lily Briscoe, maybe not in her essentials, but in her most outward and shallow trappings. They say that Lily Briscoe was Woolf's "Mary Sue" character. I feel such an inexplicable admiration for Virginia Woolf, with her absurdist cynicism and feminist insistences. And so the more I learn, the more I love Woolf, the more I discover that she was a fearsome woman, and what does that say about me for admiring her so? I felt similarly after finishing I Capture the Castle, that this person I identified with turned out to be so monstrous.

But for all I know I am nothing like Lily Briscoe. Or Virginia Woolf.

I watched a Youtube video today about being yourself. It was nice and positive and encouraging, and I allowed myself to suspend my disbelief and wonder, what if it's true? What if you just need to accept who you are, and that's the key to limitless confidence and wisdom and sanctification? When I suspend disbelief, I go all out, you see. But no, it's all lies, nearly all of it is.

Forget the fact that I'm tall with frizzy brown hair, poor hearing and eyesight, and back problems. Forget that I laugh too much and too loudly, that I frown too often and am decidedly melancholy. That stuff doesn't matter. Trappings of my personage; that's not who I am. What's important is my character, and my soul. I would say, that's all that matters. Really matters. In my self-referential scheme of things that matter. Bah, semantics. If my soul were beautiful, I could withstand anything. Anything. I'm misting over in bitterness of the perfection that I can so clearly picture but never ever see in real life. I must accept the fact that I am sin-full.

But if being myself means not fussing over the fact that I am prideful and lazy and self-absorbed and fearful, then I want nothing to do with being myself. I should very much like to be someone, anyone else. I want not to feel badly about my flaws, to throw up my hands helplessly and say, "This is who I am. Yeah, I'm terrible. That's okay." It's not okay. I'm supposed to change. I'm supposed to want to change. I do want to change. But it's a slow, painful, tedious process. And so it sounds tempting sometimes, to "accept yourself and all your flaws and live life loud!" Oh, optimism. I hate you.

I don't mean to be so jaded. There is hope, I know that. God has been and will be so good to me. But oh, there are so many lies that make my heart hurt when I realize they aren't true. How can I content myself to be myself when myself is what I know it to be? Oh, Jesus, how did You bear it all?

Oh, I hadn't meant to sit here extroverting nothing of import for so long. Eyes wide open all the time just like a drug store, in the city where she walks the streets at night, time keeps ticking like the ocean through a sieve. Hi. Hello. I hope you are well.

1 comment:

Caitriona aka Catherine said...

Be yourself, you can't be anybody else.

You are being shaped and molded by The Potter. That means that we (because I am being shaped and molded too) will be pounded, spun around at lightning speed, squeezed and fired. It is painful but remember, it is not just any potter but The Master making us useful for His purposes.