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Friday, December 05, 2008

The Hugability of Monsters

Playing with our nearly 4 year boy the other day up in the kid's bedroom. For now, they still share it although the day will likely soon come when older sister and younger brother will need their own space. I'll be saddened when this era is over. Their bedroom is an upstairs room in our house with the fun of angled ceilings and dormers and a small door that goes to attic space which I converted to a toy closet. It was our bedroom when we first moved into the house as it is the largest room outside of the living room. It's carpeted now and painted 6 different colors. Yes, I said "six" and that doesn't count white for the trim.

Our first attempt on painting the room was a blend of pale yellow on the multi-faceted ceiling and a pastel purle on two facing walls. Later, we found this little rug our daughter picked out that had rainbow stripes of bold colors. Green, orange, blue, red, purple and yellow. And there you go. The North faciling wall (which has a big dormer in it) is a lime green with the sides of the dormer painted bright orange. The wall you enter the room (west) is bright blue. The South wall is red. The East wall, formerly pale purple had to be upgraded with a more vibrant purple after the other colors overpowered it. The ceiling and various associated slants remain the original yellow. The old ceiling fan had it's blades removed and each of the four painted to match one of the colors of the room. And despite predictions, it doesn't just look like an ugly brown when it is spinning.

Currently, the room is draped with sheets tied together and bungied to various door-knobs, furniture and hooks. Mattresses have been cast on the floor and the kids have been sleeping this way for a week. I started the whole thing a week ago. Of course now with an achy back I'm the one who has the hardest time getting in and out of their space to get clothes out of drawers or read books before bedtime or feed the gecko that now shares the room with them.

So I was up there playing with Ben and he was imagining and drawing on a Magna-Doodle. I'm mostly lying around on a mattress trying to play in the least mobile way possible. He draws an adorable "nice monster" on the doodle. The next thing you know, the monster has arrived at the door of the bedroom. I feign fear and scramble to hide in the tent. Ben assures me "It's okay, he's a nice monster" and runs to the door to hug the invisible arrival. As he wanders back across the room after this friendly greeting he adds casually "You can hug him. He's not gooey."

And so I do.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Flexibility and Pain

The cold is here again. No fun. My right hip joint is becoming an ever more vocal constant companion. Sometimes it enlists my lower back to assist in its campaign. There are days when it feels like the area from my knees to the bottom of my rib cage is slowly hardening like a tree trunk, becoming more fibrous and less flexible with each passing season.

The pain itself isn’t intense, just fairly constant and most definitely tiresome. Kind of like a toothache or if something kept putting pressure on a bad bruise. Muscles tense up to protect the deteriorating joint, and the unbalanced tension puts pressure on my back. It takes conscious effort to bend and twist without messing something up.

I used to do yoga, but truthfully, it seemed that the increased range of motion I was gaining was actually allowing me to move my leg in ways that would trigger greater pain. But now everything seems to be locking up and I know that yoga would probably help if I could do it without injuring myself. I think I realize better now that yoga is dangerous when performed with a Western competitive goal oriented mindset. Maybe I could practice it more appropriately.

So my body is losing flexibility due to pain. Conversely, my spirit seems to be experiencing discomfort as a result of greater mental flexibility. The status quo is safe if nothing else. When you try to cut yourself loose from the constraints of your personal traditions, you discover a few things. Number one – you discover how deeply the roots of that thought system are engrained. It’s hard to move out of the comfort of the way you’ve always thought, even if you considered yourself an open minded person. But sometimes change happens like a subtle erosion and one day you realize that sand has washed out from under your feet while you stood there watching the waves.
“I don’t know where to begin” he said.

“Try” she advised him. “There is no right way to explain things.”

“There’s just so much background that leads up to what’s going on now.”

“Then say something – one sentence. Tell a little piece of the story and maybe the rest will start to flow out.”

He sat and breathed a few times, thinking. “I’ve left where I’ve been, but I don’t know yet where I’m going” he said, looking frustrated.

“Sounds like an adventure” she replied, smiling. “I think that’s the way most of them start.”

“I have no security anymore in anything. Anything I think or feel or believe.”

“Do any of us?”

“What is this crap with you, are you trying to play arm-chair therapist?”

“Fine. Don’t tell me anything. Or tell me everything. I’ll listen if you want to talk and keep quiet. Or we can just forget about it.”

He sat silent for a moment. “Okay. Over a series of years, little bits and pieces of what I believed about life and truth and faith have eroded away. Or been chipped away. At first, you think it’s just a refining process of stripping away some excess and incidental spiritual baggage. Then at some point you realize the whole foundation has been compromised and you’re afraid the floor is going to collapse out from underneath you.”

He said this all while staring down at his hands. It came out in a rush. He paused and looked up into her eyes. She simply returned his gaze.

“I can’t imagine going back to the way I used to think. Life was simpler that way, but I think it would turn my stomach to go back to living in that world.”

He looked at her again and still received no response but a patient stare.

“I fought this for a while, lived in denial, kept my mind busy, ignored the changes going on. But now I can’t. Something seems to be prodding me in a new direction. I think the message I’m hearing now is that I need to be centered, not grounded.”

She finally spoke. “Interesting distinction. And one that is much more significant than it initially sounds like.”

“Yeah. It is. Kind of a whole different approach really.” He looked off into the distance. “But there is no blueprint I know of for this kind of spirituality. I don’t know where to get guidance.”

“But I think you do. You’re just scared to follow it.”

“I don’t know. I gotta think about that.”