Monday, October 29, 2007

Your idea vs. God's idea

Okay, so obviously, we need to shift the posting schedule a bit. I have a new small group, which I’m excited about because it means more new people to offend (I’ve already asked them which swear words I can use and if I’m allowed to flip people off in the room), and it meets on Sunday nights, making it hard to get a GIPIAN (is THAT what my blog acronym looks like? Ha! That makes you all GIPIANers! Hee hee hee) Sunday post on time.

So Sunday posting will now become Monday postings. Sometime on Monday.

I haven’t been doing the Enforced Secret Joys for a few weeks because #1 – I kept forgetting to put them in and #2 – Not a lot was overtly joyful outside of the obvious elements in the individual blogs.

But here we go, we’ll put it at the top. Enforced Secret Joy #53: this site What’s so joyful about it? Well, just observe the hours and hours of fun you can have.

I am not the type to talk about potentially good news in my personal or professional life, because every time I say even the slightest fragment of a sentence that starts with “I met a…” or “They’re sending paperwork over on….” POOF, it all goes up in smoke. Like, EVERY SINGLE TIME. So let’s do a substitute, shall we? Let’s pretend that instead of me ever wanting to be a screenwriter, I’ve always wanted to be….a lumberjack!

And I’ve been pursuing my dream of chopping down trees ever since I was 16, and I’ve been chopping something down every day, working on my craft, not letting the fact that I’m a chick, or that I’m in California (a state not known for its lumberjacking industry) stop me. God has given me this amazing gift for tree chopping, for log rolling, for cross saw cutting, and even though lumberjacking is a secular occupation, I’m gonna somehow use my gifts to be the proverbial salt and light to the tree world. Okay?

Now, let’s say that I was close to my flannel clad goal of winning the Women’s Underhand Chop Competition at the Lumberjack World Championships held in Hayward Wisconsin. This is something I’ve wanted very very badly, and I’ve worked for years and years to make it to the championships, and every time it looked like I was close, I landed in fifth place, I twisted my wrist, my flight was late and I didn’t make it to the match on time or something. But this time, THIS TIME, everything feels like it’s lining up how it’s supposed to.

So I want to win. I REALLY really want to win. And so, as any good little Christian would/should do, I send out the all call to my peeps to please pray to whatever Deity they believe in that my skills would be enough, that circumstances would unfold the right way enough, that Amy Winning The Underhand Chop Competition is in God’s plan for me.

I’ve already blogged before about the conflicting schools of thought about praying for what you want versus praying for how to be. But what’s weighing on my mind this go around is that it’s okay for what you want to happen if it’s God’s idea, but it’s not okay to pray for if it’s my idea.

Does that make sense? I don’t think so, let’s rephrase. We all know that God can and does use secular events for his own purposes, so the foreman who crushes your self esteem and calls you “The Bowlegged Wonder From Bama” as you studied 90 Foot Speed Climbing under him for three years was there so your skin (and hamstrings) could toughen and tighten and withstand future attacks from rotten personalities like him. There was no way you could change him into being a nicer person, and you weren’t praying to study under a jackhole like him in the first place, but that wasn’t why God put him in your life. Now, years later, you understand God’s plan, and you say, “Yay, niftykins, God! Thanks for looking out for me!”

But here we are, staring the Women’s Underhand Chop Competition right in the face, and MY idea is that I win it, achieve my goal, and move on to the higher plane of lumberjacking, where I can give God the glory, nab a Mountain Dew endorsement, give talks around the world about how you too can accomplish your goals and dreams through the glory of Christ, la la la (yes, this is where the metaphor breaks down, because I’m obviously not in screenwriting for the publicity, just work with me people, please.)

But I can’t help but feel that because it was MY idea to win the competition, that it’s not something God wants for me, and therefore, I shouldn’t pray to win it, nor should I ask for prayer to win it.

That anything, plan, goal, dream, wish, desire, that I come up with is going to be inferior to what God comes up with for me. I can’t tell you how many times in church I’ve heard the pastor say something to that effect, that God has bigger designs in mind than anything your troglodyte brain can come up with. Which means that all those missionaries and justice workers trying to bust up the international human trafficking circles just aren’t dreaming BIG enough, snerk.

So what do you do? Wait on God to do all the work? That can’t be it, you gotta do SOMETHING, right? So what, I practice chopping, spinning, cutting, and wait to be divinely struck with the next step (enter the championships)? Is that what I do?

When do you know how what YOU want is what GOD wants for you too? ‘Cause I’m guessing we should be praying for things that God wants to give us (and why is He waiting to give them to us, by the way? Because we have to put in a formal request? I am so READY to win this contest, God. HONESTLY. Consider this my formal memo to You.)

Oh sure, we can always hearken back to Tulip’s talk, and we should pursue “goodness, righteousness, and holiness” blah blah abstract concept, no grounding in reality blah.

See, my whole thing is that I hate wasting time. My time, or anyone else’s, and ESPECIALLY God’s. So I don’t wanna bug Him praying for stuff that He doesn’t want me to pray for. (Or for stuff that He has no intention of ever giving me, but that grumble grumble topic is its own blog entry for later.)

It’s like there’s two ways to pray:

Option #1 – Please oh please oh please let me do my absolute best to win the Women’s Underhand Chop Competition, and let my absolute best be enough to win.

Option #2 – Please let me reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control regardless if I do or don’t win.

Except I don’t know a single person out there who prays like Option #2. You kinda wanna kick Option #2 in the teeth, because that’s just dripping with sanctimonious bullhonkey. That’s not a real person. That’s an ideal concept that nobody can live up to. Sure, I can ACT like I’m Option #2. But that wouldn’t be me. That wouldn’t be real.

Oh, I bet I know the answer. It’s Counselor Gladys favorite comeback, “It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.”

Option #3: Dear God, because I am human, and an annoying little brattykins, I’m praying please oh please oh please let me do my absolute best to win the Women’s Underhand Chop Competition, and let my absolute best be enough to win. But please let me reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control regardless if I do or don’t win. And please forgive me if/when I don’t completely embody those lovely spiritual gifts. Because, dammit, I’m trying. Honestly. Love, Amy The Writer.

Your post wouldn't be on time either...

If you went to the 11:30pm showing of "Nightmare Before Christmas" last night. In 3-D. The SING A LONG version!

Tons o fun has put me behind, the post will be up sometime today.

Meanwhile, enjoy this cat. Because I did:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fighting a case of the blahs

Been thinking about stuff, but nothing resembling a coherent blog entry, so check back next week and maybe things will be different. Blah.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Connecting, I think.

I got the email a few weeks ago. Geraldine, the acquaintance from Act One who referred my blood donating adventures to little Hudson and Abella, sent me an email asking me if I would come volunteer at a weekend camp she was running for kids with brain tumors and their families.

Now we all know I’m not a fan of kids, regardless if they have brain tumors or not (notable exceptions include my niece Bug, and I’m sure she’s gonna start irritating me any day now, and baby Hazel, who I’m sure will start annoying me as soon as she learns how to talk.) In fact, one of the reasons I was so stoked to be able to donate blood to Hudson and Abella was because I could help them without having to be in the same room as them.

Giggly once asked me if I was absolutely sure I didn’t want to have kids. Yes, I am absolutely sure I don’t want to have kids. I don’t understand why my certainty isn’t more applauded in society. I’m doing my part to reduce the earth’s carbon imprint! I’m being a responsible human being by not bringing a child into this world because I can’t provide the same comfort and care of living that my parents gave me. And honestly, if I don’t have any grace for myself, if I’ve been known to literally slap my own hands if they wander towards the refrigerator one too many times, how on earth could I possibly have the patience, grace and love to raise a squirt who will have half my DNA. Seriously, folks, you do NOT want a squirt who has any of my characteristics running rampant across this earth. I’m doing everyone a HUGE favor, and I don’t understand why that’s considered a bad thing, that I’m not embracing what my gender was designed to do. Thank you, religion. You suck. Love, Amy The Writer.

But to tell Geraldine, “Um, no, I’m not gonna help you and your brain tumor kids camp” would reach a new level of Grinchy Bitchiness that even I’m not capable of, so I emailed back and said, “Well, okay, but you know I’m not a fan of kids right?” Geraldine replied, “There really is no pressure, though I might exert some to make you a fan of kids. You won't escape the weekend with out a few of them getting to your heart!”

But see, Geraldine likes kids. She’s got five of them.

When I was telling my parents what I was going to be doing for the upcoming weekend, my dad, The Great Stoic Wonder Whom I Love Very Very Much, instantly reacted with these words, “You’re gonna do WHAT!? WHY would you wanna do THAT!? Oh come on, Amy, it’s gonna be DEPRESSING!”

(Anyone who wonders where my cynical nature comes from should wonder no longer.)

“Dad, it’s not a hospice situation. They’re not going to camp to die, they’re going to camp to laugh, play, have fun, all that stuff.”

“Are you getting paid?” “No, it’s not about that.” “You’re not gonna get anything out of it!” And I reminded the Great Stoic Wonder Whom I Love Very Very Much that there are things you do in life because it’s not about you, it’s about you serving other people. He settles down after that, but to hear all those Grinchy Bitchy thoughts that had been running around my head come out of his mouth shifts my perspective slightly, and I head into the weekend thinking, Okay, I’m here to serve. I’m here to serve. It’s God’s joke that He’s calling me to serve kids, and I don’t like it very much, but fine. I’m going to be obedient and do it. It’s a pain in the ass, and I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me that’s clearly hoping I’ll be rewarded not with warm fuzzy feelings of Do Goodism, but something more tangible in the form of meeting a hot guy, my heart has been so bruised this year, but now that I’ve gone and said it, it’s not gonna happen, so okay fine, I’m here to serve, I’m here to serve, I can’t WAIT to serve.

Here is a picture of where I slept for the weekend, and the infamous Greeny Meany sleeping bag (last used when I did gutouts in New Orleans last year.) If you’re thinking it looks a little grim, you are correct, and you’re not even seeing the gal who slept five feet away from me who snored very very loudly.

You’re also not seeing my breath frosting in the air, because it was COLD. We were at a camp that’s about five miles away from Idyllwild, where I was at the Act Two retreat in September. It was damn chilly for a lot of the time. I’m a fan of cold weather, but even I thought it was chillier than chilly.

Geraldine, thank God did take me seriously, and kept me doing admin paperwork behind the scenes stuff, as opposed to playing with the kids. I checked families in, I escorted the jovial Director of the Neural Tumors Program at Childrens Hospital around from group of kids to groups of kids, and listened to him answer questions I never thought could be asked, “Are they working on a way to reattach my optic nerve (since they had to cut it to get at my tumor.)” I learned all about proton therapy, when you should and shouldn’t use gamma knife treatments, what Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis looks like (like frosting on the brain), and it was all very fascinating.

And it really wasn’t about me, it was about the kids and the families getting a chance to interact and play with kids that look just like them, and have the same issues as them. I did have one little 21 month old continually coming over to me to give me imaginary marbles (perhaps he sensed I was missing a few?) He wanted to be picked up, so I did, thinking a-ha! Here’s your chance to be maternal! Pick up the child, and warm fuzzy maternal feelings will flow! Your Grinchy heart will melt, and little children all over the world will flock to you the way forest critters flocked to Snow White and helped her clean the Seven Dwarves house! This is the lesson God wanted you to learn! Embrace it! Embrace it all!

And then the 21 month old grabbed the pen hanging from a lanyard around my neck and whacked my head with it. So I put him down, safe and secure in the knowledge that I still I don’t want to have kids.

But the entire weekend, I’m searching for connection. Why am I here (besides the obvious you’re here to serve. ) Isn’t there some big lesson God wants me to learn here? Isn’t there some connection He wants me to make? Who or what am I supposed to connect with? I’m not a parent, I don’t have a brain tumor, I’m not good with kids if they do or don’t have brain tumors. That pretty much distances me from just about everyone else at this camp.

Hudson and Abella are here, I get to meet them and their parents. They’re adorable, of course, and I even play a few rounds of soccer with Hudson. Seeing as how he’s three, his idea of soccer is throwing the soccer ball at the volleyball net and shouting “GOAL!” But I can handle it. And because I want a picture to show Mom and Dad of the kid I donate blood for, I whip out my camera and ask Hudson if I can take a picture.

Here’s the little guy. You can tell he’s grown up with cameras shoved in his face all the time, because he totally struck that pose without me coaxing anything out of him. He’s absolutely adorable, and pretty damn brave with everything he’s been through, though he has no idea what that word means. And as I looked at him through the viewfinder, this thought hit me, a part of me is running around in you, little man.

And maybe that’s all the connection I needed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Amy The Overthinker

I had a job interview this week. It was to be the assistant to a Life Coach, let’s see, what to call him, what to call him, gosh, I hope I’m not giving anything away but let’s call him Mr. Crazypants.

There are certain stereotypes that anyone who doesn’t live in California thinks people from California are like. People in California are WEIRD, they’re New Agey, they shop at that Whole Foods place, they do yoga, they carry around small dogs, they talk about their feelings far too much and far too freely. They have wackadoo theories about plastic containers. Mr. Crazypants was mostly all of that, except for the New Agey part (He’s a Jew from New York.) And the yoga part (he’s got a bad knee, he can’t bend down, he makes you pick up everything that falls on the floor.) And the talking about his feelings far too freely part (he’s all about analyzing YOUR feelings.) But he did have a small dog, a three and a half pound Maltese named, uh, Mr. Crazypants Cute Dog. And he shops at Whole Foods. And refuses to use plastic containers.

I knew even before meeting Mr. Crazypants at the Whole Foods in Pasadena (which he later changed to the Westin Hotel, RUH ROH!) that I didn’t really want this job. An assistant to a Life Coach? How is this going to advance my screenwriting career, except as possibly a B storyline in a TV spec I write someday? But I also recognized that I needed to go through with the interview in order to not make the person who recommended me for the job look bad. Because I like her, I want to remain professionally friendly with her. She might give me a job someday. And she’s not crazy.

And I don’t think that God is steering me towards this job because he wants me to be the proverbial salt and light to Mr. Crazypants. I think God’s probably sitting on the couch with the bag o’ popcorn, munching away and elbowing the angels, “Check it, Mr. Crazypants just asked her to get in his car at the Westin Hotel. Gosh, I sure hope she represents herself in a way that reflects My glory.”

The interview turned into an eight hour day riding around Pasadena with Mr. Crazypants, holding Mr. Crazypants Cute Dog while he looked at places to live, listening in on phone conversations he had in the car with people who were designing promotional material for him, listening to his side of phone coaching sessions he was having with clients, trying very hard not to laugh as he sang to the dog, “My dooooooooogie loves his weeeeeeeeeeeenie!”

But part of the time was Mr. Crazypants taking me through the initial steps of a Life Coaching session. He did a shitload of intentional leading, where he would say things like, “I’m about to give you a profound piece of advice” and “I’m psychic, you know.” (Why he didn’t sense that I had no intention of taking the job, I don’t know. Maybe he thought he could change my mind with the profound piece of advice.)

The profound piece of advice was my Word. Everyone he coaches has a Word, and your relationship to your Word is what you will deal with, either successfully, or unsuccessfully through your life. Other peoples Words have been Recognition, Respect, Selling, etc.

My Word is Understanding, and Mr. Crazypants says that a large part of pain in my past has stemmed from people not understanding me, and that I spend a lot of my life trying to make sense of the world, and making sure people understand me. Well, um, yeah, most writers are misunderstood, and write to make sense of the world as they see it, thanks.

“Your needing to Understand is you pushing Understanding away,” Mr. Crazypants says, “It’s going to be very hard for you to find a man who navigates as freely as you do,” Wha-huh? “Promise me that if we never see each other again, that you won’t settle in a relationship, that you won’t lower your standards. You are better off being alone for the rest of your life. I know this makes you sad. But it’s better for you to be alone than for you to be alone in the relationship. Because that’s what it’s felt like for you, hasn’t it?”

And I would dismiss most of this as Standard Advice For Chicks except that he drops a paper napkin on the floor, hands me a putter and some golf balls, and tells me to land the golf ball on the napkin. He asks me to grade my shots on a scale of 1 to 10, and since the first shot is way long (Sorry Dad. Never was much of a golfer), I gave myself a 2. The correct answer, if any of you ever have to do the Golf Exercise in front of a Life Coach, is that the first shot is always a 10, because it’s the FIRST shot. “You’re so judgmental,” he says, though technically, he asked me to judge myself, “You’re so lovely to everyone else and such a dick to yourself.”

Oh, I wish I could direct him to this entry, and the Grace and Truth scale, and how I’m forever stuck on the Truth side, because I don’t understand the concept of grace for myself. But in Mr. Crazypants’ world, any answer longer than five words is me falling into the Understanding trap, of me needing to explain myself, when apparently he already knows everything there is to know about me.

We go a couple more rounds with the golf balls, where I get closer, but never quite on the napkin, and Mr. Crazypants says I’m an Overthinker on top of being an Understander, and I need to focus on the process, not on the goal. “Be in the moment,” he says, as Mr. Crazypants Cute Dog humps a stuffed animal in the corner. “How do you do that?” I say, carefully counting my words to make sure it’s not too many. “Let go of the questions,” Mr. Crazypants says.

Ah yes, Let Go. One of my favorite platitudes of all time. Mr. Crazypants isn’t telling me anything I don’t know already, but I still don’t know how to put into practice. And he won’t tell me, because I guess the answers would come if I either had $15,000 to complete the course, or if I agreed to work for him. Neither of which I’m doing.

But the Overthinker/Understander thing bugs. Where’s the line between Thinking and Overthinking? I mean, obviously we have to think about things, right? I have to think in order to fill in the details on my outline. I have to think of solutions to plot holes in my other outline. I have to figure out how to juggle two temp agencies where I can chart a course in steady employment without missing out on any cool assignments because I took the other assignment first.

Ah hell. This is ALL Overthinking, isn’t it. What would life be like if I didn’t think so much? Um, I think I’d be drunk. Like, all the time. Hmmmm, I wonder if that’s a feasible option. What shape is my liver in these days? If I haven’t been drinking in awhile, do the bad parts of my liver rebound?