Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Five Words

Almost two months ago, Jay did a post riffing on five words that describe her, and offered to provide five words to any readers who would like to try the same exercise. Here, at long last, is my post--and the same deal applies, any of my readers who want words need only ask. Just as a teaser, Umami Girl would clearly draw "pizza," Ergo "quirky," and C-Belle "perverse."

1. Fear. When I first saw this word, I was afraid that Jay thinks I am ruled by fear. I was afraid that I talk too much about my fears, or that I am in fact ruled by them.

All joking aside, this word knocked me for a loop. Once I recovered, I realized that I have been living with pretty steady fear for seven years. In March of 2002 M.'s heart condition was diagnosed. In July of 2005 R.'s diabetes came to light. And since August of last year I have lived with fear as a constant companion, to one chest-clutching degree or another. It makes me think of two things: 1) Anne Lamott said that after she had her son her loose belly lay on the bed next to her, "like a puppy" 2) In "Falsettos" Whizzer sings of Death that he's "a funny pal with a weird sort of talent. He puts his arms around my neck and walks me to the bed. He pins me up against the wall and kisses me like crazy." We have these undesirable companions in life that we learn to live with. I'm not fond of Fear, but if he ever goes away he'll leave a space in my life that I may have to work to fill.

2. Faith is a gift that was given to me by two people (in addition to God): my grandmother and my husband. Grammie taught me my Sunday school songs and Bible stories, made me say my prayers at bedtime and modeled an uncomplicated and unshaken belief in God. In college R. showed me that Catholic Intellectual was not an oxymoron, as I had previously been led to believe. After we were married, I got to know many wonderful men and women who helped me to understand the nature of the Eucharist, which of course is what brought me to the Church; but they also introduced me to my personal favorite thing about Catholicism, which is the Blessed Mother. Mary and the feminine principle are shunted aside like something embarrassing in most Protestant theology (which is one of many reasons the disingenuous blather of The Da Vinci Code is so infuriating), but in my faith she has pride of place. I love having her to hear my prayers. I have a "cradle Catholic" friend who told me she has trouble with this--"It's like, why would you talk to the nurse when you could go to the doctor?"--and it made me wonder if she has ever met a doctor, or perhaps I should be going to her doctor...but that's another post.

3. Family. My parents taught me that family is everything, and it is.

4. Voice. This my favorite. I have a new job, a tiny little job doing voice overs for business-to-business podcasts. It's a very satisfying use of two God-given gifts (a pleasant-sounding voice and the ability to read ahead a little) and a few learned skills (breath control, modulation, expression); it only takes a few minutes at a time and I can do it whenever my parents are available to watch the baby, which is almost always. Perhaps the best thing about this job, though, is that it caused my mother to have a revelation: "I was telling P___ [her hairdresser] that this voiceover job is an outgrowth of the one thing you did in life without our input, the one thing that was not our idea, and we didn't really support: acting." She's half right, or a third right: it's a magical combination of acting, singing and reading. They are all about using my voice, or listening to someone else's.

Because yes, I make very little distinction between oral voices and written ones. I have not given up on this whole published-writer thing. Before I bailed on the creative writing program at supersecret college (to which, let me marvel, I had applied and been accepted, but still felt unworthy to stick with. Sorry, a lot of prepositions there.), my professor told us to write an Ars Poetica. Mine began, "My greatest fear? That I could lose my voice." My masters thesis? Song and birdsong as ars poetica in the poems of Emily Dickinson.

"I love to talk, I nearly live to sing," that poem also said.

5. Water. My sister- and brother-in-law are going to Fiji next month, and I am not jealous. Why? Because, as M. so memorably said to a nice old lady last year in Barbados, "I like my ocean better." And my rivers, and my streams and creeks. Do I like where I live because it's close to the beach, or do I like the beach because it's close to where I live? Hard to say, because as with singing and writing, I have "home" and "water" mixed up. It was a wrench for me to go live in DC for four years after I got married, and yes I am aware of the Potomac. I like my rivers better. I wrote a poem about this too. It was perhaps the last poem I wrote, because I am not a genius and thus cannot write good poems when I'm happy. The gist of it was that I had to have the reception on the water, so I could show R. to the river as proof that he was worth going away for.

Now I have both R. and water, and I can look at the intricate beauty of the river and submit to the awesome power of the sea. I know few better ways to bolster my faith.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Oh,these are marvelous, as I knew they would be.

I was afraid (!) that you had that reaction to my offering of "fear", and in the weeks since, I have wondered if I should have checked with you. I decided that I trusted you and our friendship enough to believe that you would come to me if I had hurt you. I wish, though, that I had explained my reasoning. I have never been aware of your fear, even though I was privileged to be a companion on a recent journey through that valley. You carry it with such grace that I never notice it. I wanted to honor your ability to act on the faith rather than the fear.

So, just the opposite of what you were imagining I was thinking. Perhaps I should have given you "courage" (which I always hear in my head as if Bert Lahr were saying it), but it felt like an assumption. I have always been a bit weirded out when people tell me I'm brave, because whatever it is that I did seemed to me to be the only option I had - as you say, we all have undesirable companions we learn to live with.