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Month: December 2011

The “Less Fortunate”: My Theory vs Your Theory

My theories can stand up to your theories, boxing gloves raised. Or I can feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, help the ill, visit those in prison.

Maybe your path is to educate about poverty, explain how folks arrived there, describe the terrible difficulty in getting out. Maybe my path lies in handing out food packets to my neighbors in need, as my sister does. Or, as my other sister does, employing those who come to her in need of work. Or—what kind of sense does THAT make?—facilitating a writing group for the homeless.

The answer lies in the question, which is not, what are you supposed to do, but what am I supposed to do?

here’s to creative synthesis

(the title of this post uses quotes around “Less Fortunate” because it is often a misstatement that relies on econominc status to define someone, but I’m not sure the quotes are coming through)

“Do Not Be Afraid” or What the Hell: Go Ahead, Be Afraid

Here’s the truth: I am afraid. All the time, I fear . . . constantly. In circumstances without justification, I tremble. That’s who I am. I used to deny this about myself. I pretended it wasn’t true. Buck up, I ordered my quaking self. Get over it. Tossing my head, I stomped down the hallway, refusing to acknowledge that this FRIGHTENED me. Ultimately, I beat myself up about this aspect of myself that has been true as long as I can remember.

Now, I say: yeah, that’s you. Of course you’re afraid—you’re first reaction is always fear. That’s okay. Go ahead, do what needs to be done, afraid or not. Or sometimes I circle ‘round. Give myself time to recover from my first, fearful, reaction. Waiting for the fear to subside, creating room for the more-considered reaction to push through.

From the outside, these reactions might look the same—the job gets done—but they are worlds apart. Because the problem with the first approach is that it’s too easy to logically justify not doing what scares you. Welllllll . . . your clever brain says as the fear begins billowing inside of you, it isn’t that important. No one cares about this but you. It won’t make a difference in the world, the world will keep turning, and, besides, you have so many things on your agenda that need to get done. Don’t worry about it.

Thus do the very small, crucially important things that God puts in your path get blown off.

Fear wins.

“Do Not Be Afraid?” Hell, I’m Piglet. I am the fount of fear. I will be afraid. I just won’t let it overcome me. I will keep moving into the next thing—which will scare me, until it doesn’t, then I’ll move into the next thing, which will scare me, until . . .

Maybe I’m not “supposed” to be afraid, but I am. Only when I began acknowledging this truth about myself was I able to more successfully do what needed to be done.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

“Do Not Be Afraid”

“Do Not Be Afraid”

That’s my sister’s theme for Christmas. She picks a theme every year and, at Christmas dinner, we each talk about our thoughts on the theme. This year, I’ve brought Piglet as a theme visual aide. (A stuffed Piglet, Pooh Bear’s most faithful friend.) I love Piglet, he is the most nervous thing. I am Piglet. That will be the gist of my talk.

I can’t tell you the rest of it, because I haven’t yet shared it with my family. Or as they say in the TV industry, stay tuned. In the meantime, love your self, love your life, love, love, love. That’s the ticket to a Happy Christmas.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Grinch or Jesus?

Why would we
create a season of joy
then scowl and purse our lips
when those
not “us”
“Happy Holidays!”
“Merry Christmas!”
The “reason for the season” is Jesus’s
Given to us freely,
yet we can’t share?
The flash of a delighted child’s eye.
An early Christmas morn with your granny, sipping coffee together in the dark.
The imagination that fills out Charlie Brown’s tree.
Can’t we, at least at Christmas,
love one another?

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

“The check or the email?”

A friend who’d read my blog entry about my book asked: “So, what did you decide – the check or the email?”

It reminded me of when someone is telling a story to make a point and I’m listening not to the message but to the plot and they get to the end and I ask, “So . . . what happened to the chicken?”

My friend was responding to the entry I wrote about trying to decide which affected me more, the large check I got for sales of my cross book, or the email I received sharing the impact the book had on one person’s relationship with God.

The answer, I told her, must be neither. I must walk looking at God. Take this step looking at God, take that step looking at God. Don’t be distracted by the circus twirling plates on the sideline—just look at God.

Truth is, it wouldn’t do me any good to pant after money, anyway. Stubborn, dedicated to being my own person, call it what you will—I don’t do commercial very well. When I was full-throttle into the crosses, I’d occasionally come up with a process for making many crosses of the same, popular style. Right away, I’d stall, never implementing the idea. Finally I realized that it was the coming of creativity that motivated me. Assembly-line it, and I lost interest. Same with my writing. As my agent put it before he resigned from representing me, “I haven’t been successful in getting you to write anything that will sell.”

More seductive is panting after spirituality. Being earnest, caring, patient, accepting, trying to plant those footsteps in just the right way—it’s all good, until I find myself easing into awareness of my presentation, my impact. Sometimes when I look back on how important I’ve been about God, it makes me wince.

So, this blog that began with a tribute to Billy Preston—here we go round in circles, nothing from nothing—continues to roll. Walking my own tightrope, constructed of my own efforts to respond tp what I hear, hoping not to step on yours.

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Fear or Assistance: You Need Me for WHAT?

I have trouble staying in relationship with needy people.

I’m not talking about female friends who’ve just broken up with the man of their dreams. I’m talking about people who need a ride to the Social Security Office. Those who need someone to visit them in jail. Those who ask if maybe they could stay in my spare bedroom. Those who telephone when they’ve commenced to strangle someone, and you’re the only person they know to call.

Whenever these requests arrive, I pause. Inside that brief moment, I feel the hesitancy inside myself. When a request moves too quickly to the personal, my standard reply is, “Let me think about it.” Perhaps I should be saying, “Let me pray about it,” but that’s not accurate. I can feel myself thinking, frantically: how do I get out of this?

Thankfully, that moment of panic is becoming shorter. The dissolving agent is my remembering to whom I’m talking. I know this person. No, I don’t know ALL about them, but we’ve spent enough time together for me to see that they are no different from the rest of us. There is no need to fear the request, or the requestor.

I hate to say it, but when I remember who I’m talking to, love and caring begins to seep out of me. “Wait right there,” I say to the man whose hands may have been around another’s throat—“I’ll send someone who knows you.”

To me, that is the important point. If it is within my power to help someone else see my friend as a person, to get past the stereotypes, the categories, the predictable assumptions, I will take it. If I can participate in intercepting the known narrative, the inexorable unscrolling of a bad outcome, I will have done what is asked of me.

If you need me for that, please—don’t hesitate to call.

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Gifts Unknowingly Given

I didn’t know what cool was until my stepsister Elise came into my life.

Christmas of my eighth grade, I weighed eighty pounds. I know this because my new school required a photo id, and the plastic-encased id included my weight. My new father had moved us to a new city, and I’d fallen into a group of friends, but I don’t remember ever starting a conversation with a one of them. I was quiet, smart, invisible.

My new step-sister—whom I did not know other than as an exotic, popular girl older than me—mailed us Christmas gifts. Her gifts were hidden, along with the presents from Santa, in the closet of my mother’s bedroom. One quiet afternoon, I dug into the closet. It was the only time I’d ever sneaked into the gifts, and the only one I opened was the present from Elise.

She’d sent me rock-and-roll forty-fives, two of them. I was entranced. Turning the records over in my hands, careful not to smudge the vinyl, I read the names. Popular tunes, I’d heard them on the radio. Music. As if she thought I were cool enough to want such records. As if she thought I had something to play them on. She had more faith in me than I did in myself, I thought crouched in the closet.

I re-wrapped the records. And opened them again on Christmas morning.

I thought of this recently as I shopped for a Christmas gift for Elise’s daughter. What, I wondered, could I get her that she’d open and think, hunh, look at that? Something just a bit older than she expected, that was my only choice, since I have no idea what is cool. Never have, never will.

These days, when I see Elise, she says to me, “It’s so you, to do it your own way.”

Would I have ever arrived at such a place except she thought I was already there?

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

The Affirmation of the Tribe, or Following God?

Yesterday, I was sent two things in connection with my book, “Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God.” One, a heartfelt “Thank you!” for writing a book that spoke directly to a reader who’d been twirling around the cross for a while, wondering why it called to her. The other was a check. A big check.

Which meant more to me?

Easy, you say: the acknowledgment that your book had a spiritual impact on another soul slogging alongside you on the winding path towards God.

Pardon me, but if it were so easy, I wouldn’t be asking the question.

My mouth dropped open when I saw the check. The payment was from Paraclete Press, the publisher, for royalties earned by the book, something I get from time to time, but not in this quantity.

When I received the email from the reader, I savored it. I re-read it. I responded to it. I read it out loud to my husband. I copied it and put it in my cross scrapbook.

The check I deposited.

Here is my problem: it is so hard for me not to measure success by the money that something attracts. Money, after all, is our currency of appreciation: the more I like something, the more money I’m willing to give you for it. So, for the book to earn lots of money (okay, “lots” in my universe, which is probably peanuts in your universe) means it was liked a lot. Community affirmation, if you will. Or physical units I can stack up and eyeball, musing to myself: maybe you aren’t so worthless as a writer after all.

The email from the reader? All that means is that I am a follower of God.

I have a funky little essay coming out soon in the literary journal, Hotel Amerika. They aren’t paying me a dime . . . I don’t think. And who remembers whether Barrelhouse paid me anything? Yet, it is one of my favorite publications. So, it isn’t even about money. It’s about acceptance, admiration, belonging and achievement. Even if you find your readership, your “tribe,” you still have to decide: which means more to you? The affirmation of the tribe, or following God?

I know what the answer’s SUPPOSED to be. So as I undertake a new writing venture, let me plant my foot in that direction, keeping my eyes searching forward, arms out for balance, walking the highwire toward God.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Thomas Aubrey Hill Prewitt: A Found Poem

When all of my friends and
loved ones
exuberated at the birth of
my grandbaby,
I saved their words
and found a poem.
The words are now tucked
in a handmade book
to be delivered
Here they are:

Thomas Aubrey Hill Prewitt: A Found Poem

Babies take their own time coming into our world
wander around New Orleans,
people pretend not to notice
holding on tight
on the roof of the world—
what a fine way
to welcome a baby.

Now it’s time to get down to business.

A big baby
all those prenatal vitamins
some historical record
tall like his grandpaw Tom
married to a chef,
devoted to the baby.

Saint Thomas
heralding the arrival
preserves on biscuits for breakfast
close to heaven for a Southern girl
spoil him rotten

The mama falls asleep and the baby falls asleep
that close snuggly comfort
pleased with existence
a beautiful name
tired parents
joy joy joy
who dat!
born in NOLA in June
love his hair do
the start of some really big fun
give that baby a hug!

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt |