Life is Gathering Material – Writers and (a little bit of) Madness

By: Jana Greene

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-CANF3z4LY

This morning, I stumbled across a movie trailer for a film that came out last April. It’s kind of a funny story, how I came across it on youtube.com, since I wasn’t really looking for movie trailers – or videos at all.

A good friend of mine is a Writer (with a capital “w”) and mentioned recently that we share an “urge” to write that is impossible to be ignored. This friend is a legit writer, with all kinds of publishing credits to her name, but she still reads my stuff. I love that about her – that she treats me like a Capital W writer.

So I am having a cup of coffee this morning and it is delicious, because it has real cream in it that was leftover in the carton from a pie I’d made on Thanksgiving. If you ask me, good coffee is all about the dairy. You could brew the crappiest coffee beans in the world and if you add real cream to it, it all tastes like Starbucks. But I digress in a big way.

I am enjoying the coffee and thinking about writers and their compulsion to write about everything (see above paragraph as Exhibit A) and how it is probably really some form of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder.  There is an reel running in a  writer’s mind at all times; a kind of narrative about people we meet and what makes them tick, and the deeper meaning in every life experience, including people who cut you off in traffic…and about what makes coffee taste good. We are forever gathering information and formulating a way to present it to the world from our points of view. Not that everyone necessarily wants to hear our points of view. I didn’t even want to hear my own  point of view for many years, which is why I drank heavily and became an alcoholic. Tons of creative people become addicts because of that dang reel of thoughts. But I digress yet again.

The crafting of words can be healing, too. If you are very authentic with your words and ask God to help you parlay his sentiments on occasion, you might even help other people. But you have to be very brave, and a little wacky.

Acting, like writing, is highly subjective. There are a few actors who I would pay good money to hear read a phone book, so convincing are they in presenting their characters. Christopher Walken is one for me – I’ve no idea why. Morgan Freeman, for obvious reason.  Another is Robert De Niro, who just happens to star in the movie I’m referencing here.

See? It all ties together (albeit loosely). Follow the bouncing ball.

The film is titled “Being Flynn”. De Niro is Jonathan Flynn, who writes brilliantly but leads a troubled life wrought with relational disaster. From the movie trailer, several things are clear. First, Flynn sees himself as a Capital W but his son feels only his absence. And second, I must see this movie.

I hesitated to write about this film about writing until I had seen it, which would make logical sense. People who live with the incessant urge to write emotionally are spontaneous creatures, and only employ logic when absolutely necessary.  We often cannot wait to record our thoughts and deeds, as writing about moment becomes obsolete after the moment passes.  And also, I found it through googling quotes about writers, which led me to watch the trailer in which De Niro’s character – who is homeless at this point – says this:

“Of course, writers – especially  poets – are particularly prone to madness.”

They are, indeed. Or are they just more honest about their inner workings, sharing the deeper meanings of each experience in such a non-refundable way? They give of themselves what can never belong exclusively to them again. Most of the time, they don’t find validation or wealth or recognition of their craft. Most of the time, what they give to the reader never pays off Capital W style.

By further researching “Being Flynn”, I found that it is a true story based on a novel entitled, “Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City: A Memior.” It is written by the  son of De Niro’s character, Nick Flynn. That’s a crazy title – and I nearly didn’t include it in this piece because I am a Christian and not supposed to endorse profanity( I’m not really supposed to use profanity in everyday life either, but sometimes I slip and I thank God that He extends grace) but I actually appreciate the author’s honesty. In keeping it real, he keeps as sane as possible and writes a story in which human kindness and goodness prevails.

Writing itself is madness in some ways, because it makes the artist most vulnerable. But it is also the antidote to madness. Because recording experience through the written word is reaching out to reality instead of losing touch with it. Everyone is a little bit mad. I’m only really afraid of people who claim to be completely sane.

“We were put on this life to help other people, Nicholas,” Flynn finally tells his son. “It’s a wonderful life. It’s a masterpiece.”

A wonderful, spiritual, maddening masterpiece.

Atheists recruit the Little Ones (Redemption Feast Blog)

By: Jana Greene

Good morning, world. Today, I am sharing my Redemption Feast piece that ran in yesterday’s Wilmingotn FAVS site.  God really did a doozy on me with this one – setting it upon my mind so strongly that I couldn’t start cooking Thanksgiving dinner until I wrote the dern thing! Sometimes He is super gentle in leading me what to write, but other times? The two-by-four approach works best 😉

It explores the trend that atheists are setting up campaigns to convince children that God is an “imaginary friend” that they should outgrow.

I hope you enjoy the article and I welcome your thoughts in the comment box. Thank you – as always – for your readership, and God bless you and your family as Christmas approaches.

Here is the link for the article below:

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/little-humans-big-faiths!

Carols for the Saturday of Awkwardness – Sing Along!

Santa says, “I’m still at the beach! Don’t rush me!”

I ought to be excited about this day.
Thanksgiving is over, but there are still plenty of leftovers. And the ominous Black Friday is finished, giving way to the Saturday of Awkwardness.

For me, every year, The Saturday of Awkwardness opens up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. There are still dishes from the feast in the sink, soaking and re-soaking – but nobody is really in the mood do finish scrubbing off the residue, much less start decorate for Christmas yet. Awkward Saturday is a 24-hour period in which nobody really knows what to do with themselves, and as a result – a sort of funk can settle over us. Our bellies are still too round to carry in boxes of ornaments from the garage; we light the short wicks on the leftover pumpkin-scented candles and hope they burn down in time for the Frazer fir candles to come out. We aren’t ready for real Christmas music quite yet. We are in full-fledged holiday-flux.

Speaking personally, The Saturday of Awkwardness can even be a little depressing. I am still tired from being on my feet preparing and cooking twelve meal items, but antsy about the upcoming holidays, which are looming ever closer like a bumbling turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on a windy morning.

How will we afford Christmas this year, without my income? Writing about my experiences may be fulfilling in some very important ways, but Santa’s workshop does not accept blog posts as payment…not even on Pay Pal! I thought that by now I would have a paying job; it has been seven months since my last employment. Seven months since I broke my ankle that resulted in the surgery that kept me down for more time.

Write, God had said. Clearer than I’d ever heard His voice. And down for the proverbial count, I did. Now, we are approaching the commemoration of the blessed birth of His Son, and I’ve written enough to fill a horn-a-plenty, but have not even generated enough income to fill a mouse’s Christmas stocking. This does not seem to be a problem to God, although I’ve tried making Him understand that the numbers just don’t work.

And then there is the whole family angle.  How will the drama play out this year? Family and Drama go together like the pilgrims and Indians who’s coming together we replicated just a couple of days ago for Thanksgiving: two very different Peoples exchanging niceties and delicious food.  But just underneath the request to pass the maize pie, someone is plotting the scalping of another before the day’s end.

The Saturday of Awkwardness makes me tired; because I know that the holidays are coming like a tsunami and I do not have the energy to dodge it. So, as I poke around the house as slow as a sloth that has participated in a competitive eating event (and won): without purpose to clean, cook, wrap, and shop or decorate the thought occurs to me: The awkward Saturday may the perfect time for resting, and maybe a little songwriting.

During the holidays, we love our festive Christmas music, and Thanksgiving has it’s oven tunes about going to Grandmother’s house (and figgy pudding…you know the one).  So I decided to write a couple of little carols the about Awkward Saturday time. They go a little like this:

(to the tune of O’Tannenbaum)

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Thanksgiving dishes in sink still lay.

Oh Saturday,

Oh Saturday,

Black Friday stole my joy away.

The reds and greens of Christmastime,

Shant’ prematurely hang in mine.

Oh Saturday

Oh Saturday

Make me a turkey sandwich.

 Or….

Joy to the world,

For crying out loud,

We just had Thanksgiving meal!

For Black Friday, You’re a fan of all

The sales, like a crazed animal,

Shopping til’ you dropped

And now your cash flow’s stopped.

And it’s still just November

Awkward Saturday.

God bless us…one and all!

Take me Higher – an Alcoholic Finds Solid Ground

By: Jana Greene

You are an alcoholic. Or an addict. There is precious little difference, really. You indulge in some substance or activity that you cannot for the life of you control. You have tried, under your own power. You simply cannot stop.

It started innocently. You got drunk, or high – maybe a little accidentally. Certainly, it was harmless. Over time, you needed to get just a little drunker or higher to achieve the same result – feeling okay in your own skin. So you start to drink a little more, to get a little higher.

But one day, you start to need the substance or activity more than you really want it.  You begin to dread coming down from it.

Who wants to come down from something? All of the great clichés espouse the glory of high

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

High achiever.

Soaring to great heights.

Your love keeps lifting me higher…..

For a while, “high” made you feel weightless, but not anymore. Now it feels unbearable because you can’t get high enough. It becomes apparent that high is a manner of deceiving yourself. You used to have direction. What happened to knowing where you are in relation to other things?

Then, the spiral. Everything is out of control.  Which way is up? It is impossible to tell as you flail about, falling.

Coming down is a bummer. But coming down from artificial heights is inevitable, and fast. It is not the gradual and glorious slow decent of a skydiver with a sturdy parachute.

No.

You must come back to earth because there is nowhere else to go, but doing so results in a free-fall, a plummet.  No parachute to catch the wind, and no wind to fill the chute if you had one at all.  And something inside you tells you that you should fall and with a hard landing.

The dual demons of entitlement and self-loathing surface in this free-fall:

You deserve to drink/ use and get away with it, because you have all of these pressures and why shouldn’t you have a little relief?

And you deserve to use and lose everything, because you are a weak and hopeless person who can’t cope with Life on Life’s terms.

That is why sharing recovery is the Highest calling for an alcoholic or addict. There is purpose in it – God makes sure that no agony goes to waste in this life.

Authentic life takes place in the venue that is grounded. Recovery can be bumpy path, but it is on solid earth, at least. It is, in the truest sense of the term, death-defying….more so than any leap. It is life worth living for any addict because an active recovery is an expedition..a wonderful journey into uncharted territory and the clarity to soak it all in.

Your active recovery is a hike in the wilderness with a pack full of provision – more than you will ever need, courtesy of God. It is helpful to know which tools are available, but even a blind search through a knapsack is better than a fall from a high cliff.

On the ground, there are people to link arms with who will pull you up when you feel like tripping, because everybody feels like tripping sometimes and everybody needs support. On the ground, it is okay for you to have weight – a fullness and purpose in your step, because you are a human being carrying around a burden of being human. But not by yourself.

Most importantly, you aren’t artificially high  in a free-fall of destruction -you can easily locate “up” . From positioning yourself on your knees in prayer, you can see in all directions. You can clearly discern that God is God and you are not. It becomes obvious that He was the wind that filled the parachute you didn’t know you had so that he can be the solid ground beneath your feet now. You are filled with gratitude for having survived, for not having to be your own higher power anymore.

So, where do you go from here?

You go out and find the ones spiraling in the air, grasping at entitlement and self-loathing as they fall. You make sure that they don’t hit the ground without knowing that the dual demons of entitlement and self-loathing are not trying to catch them, but waiting for them to destruct upon impact. Tell hurting people that there is hope because of Grace, and Grace promises that we don’t get what we “deserve” (thank God!)

That’s how you will avoid the same temptations of dangerous height – by providing the gear for others and leading the expedition. Because you are not immune; you are never immune to relapse. You must stay on your guard and ask for God’s help on the journey – each day. He is strong and full of hope and He has sent others to walk with you, victoriously.

One Day at a Time, you feel okay in your own skin. Lifted higher by real love, the Highest Power.

You are going to be just fine.

All About the Ride – Lessons from an Elderly Dog

My girl, Emmie

By: Jana Greene

I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever to the vet this morning. It’s only for a nail-trim, I told her when she balked a bit about getting into the back-seat. It was cold outside, and her old bones don’t like the cold. Finally she did her best to jump into the car, her posterior getting a little boost from me.

Along the way,  I rolled down the window so that my rearview mirror was filled with the vision of Emmie’s face behind me – full splendor, tufts of golden fur and a wide smile of teeth and gums (okay, mostly gums) and eyes squinting in the cold sunlight. She had forgotten that there was a destination involved. She was all about the ride.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, she remembered, of course. The last time we’d been here, she was extremely sick. She had suddenly developed a violent gastrointestinal issue and fever, and lost an alarming amount of weight as a result. At fifty-two pounds, she seemed all ribs and misery and the vet was not hopeful for her recovery. She was tested for all manner of parasites and disease, only to come up empty.

“She is nearly fourteen years old,” the Vet had said. As this that explained everything.

“I know,” I said in return, trying not to bawl. I know that some day, it will explain everything. But not that day.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to pray for dogs, but I disagree. As it happened, Emmie’s illness went away as suddenly as it had begun, and she rallied mystifying vigor. Within days of special food and treats, extra rubbing and loving, she perked right up. Once again, she was my shadow, following me around from room to room as I worked around the house even though it meant constant motion and achy joints. That girl is a trooper.

So, the last time we were at the vet’s office, Emmie had been poked and prodded, her old bones jostled about. She has a pretty good memory for an old lady. I had to coax her out of the car with extra-syrupy sweet talk and skritches behind the ears. She walked slowly to the door, like I’m not buying it, Mom, but I’ll follow you because I love you.

We went into the Dog Door, because our vet has a Cat Section and a Dog Section and ideally, never the twain should meet. Emmie has two brothers that just happen to be cats, cool characters the total opposite of her loopy, goofy, people-pleasingness. Two feline brothers who she is still adjusting to after five years of grafting into the family. So I think she especially appreciates the Dog Door. I know I do.

Upon setting paw inside, she developed the shakes – all over. Nervy, full-body shakes that shiver her bones (which I am pleased to report, are getting some meat on them finally). I’m too old for this crap, she is thinking.

I whispered comforts to her. But she doesn’t speak the King’s English, so she’s still not buying it.

A very nice lady in scrubs covered with a collage of cats came out to gather her. She took her leash and gently encouraged Emmie to follow. Emmie declined by digging her dragon-lady nails into the tile until ever so slowly, she disappeared into the grooming room. She turned around before the door was closed and looked at me with giant, chocolate drop eyes slightly milky with age to say, “You’re giving me to a stranger wearing cat-covered scrubs?”

But one of the amazing things about Emmie is her rally-ability. Within minutes, she was finished, neatly tapping her new mani-pedi on the same tiles she had tried digging into and with the same semi-toothless grin she displays with her head out the window.  Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever inspires me with her trust.

She just wants to be wherever I am. When I shut the door and she happens to be on the other side of it, she lays against the crack like a live draft-catcher, just to be as close as possible to her master – no matter what.

Emmie the Elderly Dog reminds me about trust and unconditional love a lot these days. I have a tendency to dig in when having to face an old obstacle; I have a pretty good memory, too.  Oh, no. I’ve been here before! Or simply, I’m too old for this crap.

But do I want to be as close as possible to The Master, no matter what? He always takes me gently by the lead. That’s the only way to keep rallying, in my experience.  Okay, Father. I’m not seeing the point in this, but I’ll follow you because I love you. And God whispers comforts, too, when I listen.

I want so badly to be loopy and goofy with God-pleasingness, following Him around even though it requires constant motion (and achyness of the soul, on occasion) – a Trooper. Sometimes I try to have my own way – to be a cool character grafted awkwardly into a family that takes some adjusting to. But other times, I can channel my inner Golden Retriever, with the Father’s help. Those are the best times, spiritually.

All about the ride.

The Flu or Something Like It

By: Jana Greene

It wasn’t the flu.

It couldn’t have been, because my husband had gotten a flu shot and he got  sick before me. The flu shot, heralded as viral kryptonite, was supposed to prevent just such an incidence as this….this plague upon the Greene Residence.

Of course there are two schools of thought on the flu shot.

Team Flu Shot, which consists of people wearing lab coats and the government (completely trustworthy, right?) insists that you MUST have the flu shot. If you don’t, you are a biological renegade, careless with your own health but worse, a phlem-ridden public nuisance volunteering to spread disease.

Team Never Been Sicker is comprised of people who have had the shot and soon thereafter became gravely ill. These folks complete every sentence pertaining to the shot with, “No, really….I’ve never been sicker!” People in this category will also tell you (with a far-away look in the eye, remembering the horror) that they will  never get another shot.. Because if you have every symptom of the legit flu, it is The Flu to you whether or not you’ve been immunized against it.

So, maybe it wasn’t the flu that my husband and I had, but it was a relative, at least. If it approached a talent agency about becoming a Flu Impersonator, it would get hired on the spot and paid top-dollar. It was a dead-ringer.

My Beloved and I lay next to each other for a week – two people madly in love with one another in bed – barely touching and saying things like, “please don’t touch me, even my hair hurts” through stuffed, red noses.

Hours became days. Bedside tables became crowded with wadded up tissues and cups sticky with Thera-flu residue. The days became a solid week, and then ten days of Imposter Flu…misery. And then, a tiny ray of hope in the form of a lapse in the constant headache.

We are starting to crawl out from under it, this monster bug.  A few days ago, I logged onto this blog and realized that I have not written since October!  What? How can that be? But there it was – bigger than Dallas – the calendar on the right-hand side of this page that chronicles blog entries with November empty.  Time flies when you are incapacitated.

So, I’m sending apologies to the blogosphere for missing out on the entire month of November (so far) and looking forward to doing some writing in earnest to make up the difference. God snuck in some inspiration for new articles in between bouts of fever and nausea, and I’m looking forward to digging in to His Word and His work, and venturing out into the world again.  Mister and Mrs. Never Been Sicker were down for a count, but not out of the game!

The plague is lifted, may the words soon follow!