three word

I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word for #oneword365, the details of which can be read about here. 1 I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t quite focus on the word I’ve chosen all throughout the year, but I do find enough to mediate on and enough to challenge me that it seems worthwhile anyhow.

This year? This year, I have no damn idea what my one word is going to be. It’s annoying me, like woah.

I’ve certainly had words occur to me. In no particular order, three have stood out:

Immanuel.

Humility.

Kaizen.

I started with Immanuel, but something about that seemed too safe. God with us. God with me. Very comforting and certainly a needful reminder on a daily basis and most particularly when panic attacks strike, but I’ve spent the last few years bogged down in my anxiety and how it’s affected me and I am just over it. I want to move on. 2

Humility. Okay. Less safe. More, um, humbling. Not a bad dose of medicine for me, all in all. But it dovetails too much with Immanuel only in a “more of you, less of me” sort of way. 3

And then I landed on kaizen, which got me fairly excited. For those who don’t know, kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement? Sign me up!

As I look ahead into 2017, there’s so much I want to improve, some of which has already been in a state of improvement. I’m going back to school. I want to improve my mind, and yes, my socioeconomic status. I am – and have been since well before the turn of the year, thankyouverymuch! – determined to get back on track with healthy living and eating. As of this writing, I can honestly say that working out has become a regular part of my routine several days a week. I want to improve my relationships, to get to know my new friends on a deeper level and to rediscover my old friends, getting to know them as the people they’ve become in the years of our separation and to allow them to get to know the person I’ve become in the meantime.

Even if that person is sometimes usually a neurotic, self-absorbed mess.

I felt pretty good about kaizen, from the time it occurred to me on December 31, right up until I went forward after the church service on January 1, and received a word of prophecy. I babbled something, not about my #oneword dilemma, and the woman I was speaking to just looked at me and said, “You’re not a mother, but you have this incredibly comforting nurturing presence. Just by being in the room, you bring comfort to people.”

And then she prayed over me. “Immanuel. God with you. God within you. God all around you. God as your rearguard.”

And I was like, dang, maybe Immanuel is my One Word?

The upshot is that I still don’t have a single One Word for 2017. As the proud recipient of not only a Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, but also an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosis, this does not thrill me. I feel like I haven’t got 2017 nailed down in my mind and at this point, we’ve lost a whole five days and how many more of the remaining 360 will I spend feeling all untethered and incomplete?

Don’t worry. I know how ridiculous that sounds. I mean, I still feel that way, but I get that it sounds a bit unhinged.

I have written and subsequently deleted several iterations of this post, hoping to find clarity through writing as I often do. And I have told myself what I recently told a friend: “Do whatever you want! Your One Word is for you and no one else’s opinion matters!” The problem is that my opinion very much matters to me and in my opinion, I should have a One Word and it should be a One Word, not a three word.

And now I’ve just sort of blown my own damn mind, because “three word” just reminded me of part of what I read to the husband today during our commute:

“Note this for now: the principle of one is lonely; the principle of two is oppositional and moves you toward preference; the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative.”

Fr. Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance

So maybe it’s okay to have a three word. Maybe I can embrace humility, Immanuel and kaizen all in the same year.

At this present moment, that’s the first thing that has made total sense to me in this whole exercise. And with that frayed and unglued corner of my mind feeling a bit more settled and secured, I think I am for my rest for now. Doubtless I’ll have something to write about any or all of these words in the future, but that will come when it will, if it does.

Just now, I feel a bit more whole. And I will take what I can get.

  1. the details of OneWord, that is. The details of my past words are scattered across the interwebs, but to summarize: focus, hope, adventure, abundance
  2. Wanting to and actually being able to not being the same things. I do get the sense I have a lot more to process before it’s all said and done.
  3. Give me any topic and I can probably find a way to relate it to my mental illness in about half a second, flat. It’s a gift. A terrible, pointless gift.

tentative faith

A few years ago, when my Generalized Anxiety Disorder first became A Thing, one of my few defenses against a panic attack was, of all things, the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.

I’m not a Dune fan. Like most of the epic fantasy/SciFi novels of yesteryear, I feel it lacks a great deal in relatable characters, respect for women, plot and pacing. Not necessarily in that order.

But I like the Litany Against Fear, not least because of the power of this interpretation from the ever marvelous Zen Pencils. I did and do resonate with the words of the Litany to a certain extent.

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to think. I’m not one of those people who is always quick on her feet and can debate a point at the drop of a hat, but when given time and space to mull things over, I tend to arrive at conclusions I have no trouble defending because I’ve thought over every angle I’m able to conceive of. (My friends with quirky minds who arrive at places I’ve never considered and make points that have never occurred to me probably think I’m hopelessly slow, but that’s beside the point.)

Anyhow. I’ve lived in my mind for the whole of my life and was rather smug in my pre-crippling-anxiety days about my ability to process with logic rather than emotion and with facts rather than feelings.

But fear is the mind-killer.

That’s true. I hate it. But it’s true.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I’ve been obliterated. A lot. It sucks. A lot.

I have raged against this more times than I can count, for all the good it does me. I have cried out that my mind has always been a place of order and reason and it’s really just not comprehensible that I have zero control over the primitive fear side now, no matter how logical I am still capable of being.

This solves nothing.

I’ve tried to embrace the rest of the Litany Against Fear. Tried to face fear and to permit it to pass over me and through me. I think the implicit lie is that fear can’t really touch you if you have this acceptance of fear passing over you mixed with a rejection of the fear even as it’s passing through you. Like you should be able to endure fear without it leaving any lasting marks. Or maybe there is a perfect mix and I haven’t mastered it.

Fear does touch me as it washes over and through me. As much as I’d like to be so, I am not immune.

And so I’ve started holding to a different creed. One that relies less on my own strength of mind and will.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior

The most difficult but also probably the most beautiful thing about this to me is that it’s a choice and an invitation. Not from a loving God to me but from me to a loving God.

Letting fear pass over and through me is like being pummeled by waves and hoping I can somehow weather it. Allowing God to have control over the situation and having faith that he really does have control of the situation is walking on the motherfucking water.

I said I’m a sinker and that’s true. Left to my own devices.

I think that’s pride. I think that’s self-reliance, and I’ve been humbled over and over with how weak and not in control I really am, so to that end, let me drown! Let me sink until all my struggle is gone out of me and all that’s left to me is the hope of salvation.

It’s not comfortable imagery. Not peaceful. But it takes one giant leap outside my self and my unwarranted pride and that’s probably going to be the thing that salvages anything worthwhile I might have within me to offer to the world.

Not me. Not my mind. Not my logic. Just my hope and faith. Just my tentative faith as I try to keep my eyes above the waves.

barn door diy

Ever since we moved into our house a bit more than a year ago and realized that we wouldn’t be able to knock the wall between the front room and the rest of the main floor down, I’ve wanted to get a barn door put in. This desire reached something of a fever pitch once we got the cats and it became my life’s work to keep an eye on them so that I could get them trained on which surface were and were not appropriate for them to be on1.

The husband was not on board until just recently, when I was finally able to explain to him my desire that it be something of a work of art in its own right, and not just an elaborate means to herd the cats out of rooms where I don’t want them.

Once I finally had him caught up to my vision of the thing, he became very enthusiastic. Squabbles ensued as we debated what, exactly, we were going to do to make it beautiful. That we would burn something into the door was not up for question. Which images we would use totally was. I was initially in favor of using either some elaborate Celtic knotwork or the Aperture Science logo, as either of those things would fit with the existing decor2. The husband said no, we needed something to do with welcoming people to the house on the one side, since it’s the first thing they’ll see when the enter the house.

“Speak friend and enter?” I suggested.

In Elvish script, we agreed. And thus the project began with my trying to figure out how to get the Elvish script loaded as a font and then there was some more trial and error to actually get the correct sequence of things entered on the keyboard.

Elvish Translations

After that, we put together the imaged we wanted using GIMP and then saved the files to a flash drive before taking ourselves off to a local copy shop to get everything printed on a wide format printer.

print out

Once that was done (and the boards and hardware for hanging the door were purchased), I set about cutting out a giant stencil using the paper print outs and an exacto knife. Thank God for audio books, because that part was a wee bit tedious.

ready to stencil

While I was doing that, the husband was assembling the door, which also seemed tedious to me, but I don’t have any patience for that sort of thing at all, so I’m very glad he does.

Then, of course, it was time for tracing, which was probably the easiest part of the whole process, and the final thing to complete before we were ready to BURN.

ready to burn

Burning was extremely pleasant. Since the boards are a lovely blue pine, the smoke the wafted up was fragrant and even soothing. The burning itself was something of an aid in the constant struggle against anxiety. It was almost like having a really big, slightly dangerous adult coloring book (I may have burned my fingers once or twice, being careless with the tools).

burning

We set up in our living room and would listen to either audio books or something on television that didn’t require any concentration3. While our friends from Chicago were in town, we would all hang out and talk and take turns burning. Talk about your wild and crazy parties.

Once both sides were done – oh, have I not mentioned the other side? – the husband hauled it out back and sanded the whole thing, paying special attention to any areas where we accidentally got outside the lines. Then we gave it one more once-over to darken any spots that needed it.

About a month after beginning, we got the barn door hardware up (purchased as a kit from a hardware store, rather than making our own, though we considered that) and mounted the door.

BEHOLD the final product in all its glory!

Speak Friend and Enter

Tolkien's "Speak Friend and Enter" in Elvish & White Tree of Gondor & Celtic Knotwork Barn Door Far View

Life before death - Strength before weakness - Journey before destination

Life before death - Strength before weakness - Journey before destination

Why yes, I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan, thank you for noticing.4

And that’s it! By far, it was one of the most enjoyable projects we’ve done since moving in (see the floors, paint [ALL OF THE PAINT EVEN THE CEILINGS], trim, ceiling fan and window treatments for examples of other projects that have occurred), and I’m planning on using some of the leftover pine scraps to create some smaller art pieces both for myself and possibly for other people.

But that’ll be a post for another day.

  1. Dining room table and kitchen counters, no. Couches, fine. Floors, I suppose. If you must.
  2. I guess we’re a little eclectic, but it works for us!
  3. Did a Friends marathon for many of the hours spent burning, but also some comedians
  4. Since the door is so light, the husband and I joked about cosplaying as Bridge 4 members, using the door as the bridge. Probably we won’t do this, but I feel like we would be forever known as the door people.