Sunday, January 25, 2009

for the curious

I did eventually finish that essay about co-dependency. There are some areas where I'd like to edit it a bit, but I am too lazy at present. It is what it is, and it is quite long so I won't feel bad if you don't read it:

Amy Nee

The word “attachment,” as used by Simone Weil, presents my mind with a series of metaphors. Attachment is a black hole that expects all the world to fall into the consumptive abyss of me. Or else, it is for me to find something or someone (oh special someone!) into whom I disappear completely, and become free of responsibility. Attachment is like a woman looking at her lover and thinking, “he is mine,” or even, “I am his.” In either case entering the illusion of a dissolution of boundaries, ceasing to see what is—two distinct beings able to think/feel/act independently—and fixating on a false image of her own creation. An amorphous mass that feels and thinks and believes what the perceiver feels and thinks and believes, all in alignment, all defiant to the idea that they are only reality because that is the label the perceiver has given. It’s what she believes, oblivious to the possibility that it may be a deviation from or distortion of what is true.

Attachment is a major player in the modern American conceptualization of romantic love. That may be over-generalizing; to be fair, attachment has played a major role in my conceptualization it of romantic love. It approaches surreptitiously in the guise of affection, loyalty, commitment—presumably acceptable attributes in a healthy relationship—it cranks up emotion and dulls intellect. I’ve found that I’ve a tendency, when fond of a person, to begin forming him into an idol; casting the multitude of concepts he put me in mind of into a single image, his. The clumsy representation tumbles over the person, hiding him from my view and overwhelming me in its bulky shadow so that I too am hidden. When the one to whom you are making yourself known has been transformed from a person, to a god that encapsulates what is both most desirable and most intimidating, is it any wonder that instead of bringing to the table self-revelation, I hide in other-imitation? In the presence of the divine, my manifest destiny becomes only to be pleasing; any other ambition or defining lines are dissolved in the ocean of attachment. There are those times too, when the part of god is designated to me, at which point the roles are reversed, and there is an expectation that the other ought to always be in agreement in order to be a worthy lover, or should I say worshiper?

Misconceptions of love are not the only illusions that attachment weaves. It can surface in many aspects of life coloring belief and behaviors in its chosen hues. I see it very much in association with the desire to possess, and the accompanying notion that to grab hold of something and own it makes that thing, or the one who has it, more complete. What that thing is can vary depending on the seekers fancy. For some it may take the form of information, for others money, or artistic ability, or another person. I have discovered this feeling of restless dissatisfaction in myself even when I’ve hiked to the ridge of a mountain, surveyed a beautiful view and thought, “if only I could capture this.” It was not enough to savor the sight of peaks robed in reaching trees and surrounded by yawning valleys, multitudes of colors blending and contrasting, I felt that I could only truly enjoy it if I could wrap my arms around it. It is the same feeling that swells up when I hear beautiful music and ache, not only because of its beauty, but because I cannot play it. It isn’t mine, so I am diminished, and the full-figured notes fall flat. A fine line exists between appreciation and attachment, the latter demanding that the object which enraptures be a package that can be put in my pocket. Thus the object of affection is severely diminished and the attempt at satisfaction brings only self-defeat.

Detachment, I think, is acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, and recognizing that things aren’t necessarily what they appear to be in your own eyes. At the same time, it involves the ability to accept your own ideas as worthwhile, even when not perfectly in alignment with another’s. Great difficulty can arise when trying to parse out what is mine and what is another’s. I believe that even within the realm of healthy detachment I can allow myself to be influenced by those I respect, without being passively submissive.
There were times (there still are) that if I found my own thoughts and feelings contradicted those that I perceived in a beloved authority, then—ashamed of and frustrated by my internal dissonance—I would dismiss what was mine and resolve to replace it with what was “right”. I was so attached to the beliefs of others. Detachment allows me to think for myself. When appropriate, I can choose to sacrifice what I would like for myself, replacing it with what another would like, so long as I recognize that I am doing it because I want to, not because I need to keep them close to me.

The shape I am today is the result of countless exchanges—extractions, additions, alterations—between myself and those around me. I am a compilation. The repertoire of music that composes the soundtrack of my life is always being edited; making room for a new melody that I heard from someone else, a clear note that resonated from the wilderness, and making changes to old tunes that are no longer in harmony.
It’s all very confusing. In fact, the more I think about it, the more intricately wound the web appears. If there is an “objective reality” possible to be ascertained—a me that is “most me,” a belief that is unadulterated, a truth that is intrinsically, unerringly true--it is not something that I can clearly see. It is a great mystery. Often I cannot even honestly say I recognize when I am viewing the fabricated illusions of attachment and when I am catching a glimpse of that presumably more accurate reality offered by detachment. For now I try to remain ever mindful of the words of Epictetus,

“People and things are not what we want them to be
nor what they seem to be.
They are what they are.”

I only hope that St. Paul’s implication was accurate when he said that as I put childish things behind me, what is now seen dimly will one day be clear. Perhaps that day will be when I learn more truly what it means to love.

Friday, January 16, 2009

about "love"

I tend to take issue with the way this word is bandied about, by others and myself. It's something that's on my mind often and has of late been almost overwhelmingly so. This is partly to do with the environment in which I work. A couple of weeks ago, for staff training in a class on Co-dependency, I was assigned to write a reflection on the quote:

"Attachment is the great fabricator
of illusions;
reality can be attained only by someone
who is detached."

-Simone Weil

The reflective essay is due on Wednesday, I've yet to write it. I have however, written some sort of poem things.

If you love me,
don't say that you will change for me.
Don't do it for me.
If you do, you'll expect something in return,
and I may not want to give it.
Then, you'll focus on the disappointment of me
and fail to see what you've achieved.
When you change for yourself, you can be happy with the results
and freely choose
with whom you wish to share them.
Then you have a gift to give. A free gift
(because that's what gifts are).
If you choose to share with me,
Thank you.

* * *

Let's try this;
I will say, "I love you"
and not wait for you to repeat it
You will hear "love"
not as a claim of ownership
nor sign of increasing expectations
just a word
expressing that to me you are:
a treasure-
of priceless value,
of infinite mystery-
a dear friend
a constant challenge
a lot of fun
your own, not mine
Let's try this;
"I love you."

* * *

I do not want to fall in love.
"Hopelessly in--"
"Helplessly in--"
Hopeless? Helpless? No, thank you.

I do not want to disappear into,
to get lost in someone,
nor for them to lose themselves in me--
or find themselves there for that matter.

I want to walk
wide-open-eyed to love,
to walk deciding everyday
that the other is the one I want most to be beside.

* * *

I could walk away from you
you could walk away from me
but you've chose for now that you will be
walking next to me

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hopefully, November will have less typos...


Election day, and I began in a panic. Before going to bed last night--far later than I'd planned--I checked my voters registration notice. My breath stopped. Somehow, I'd never noticed the fine print: "more information are not registered to vote." For awhile I considered not even going to the polling booth. My thoughts attacked me. How stupid, stupid, stupid. Only a fool would miss her opportunity to vote in a historic election because of a careless oversight. I was embarrassed, angry, and deeply disappointed. [Note: I did get to vote]

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." -Descartes


The lighting outside is really remarkable--I love the sky after a rain. Cracks of light--accentuated by broken gray clouds--illuminate the autumn leaves; transforming them to shimmery gold slivers, gently waving in the cool fresh breeze. The wakening air and radiant scene are juxtaposed by the still staleness of the kitchen; pale walls dimly lit by an energy saving bulb, the drone of appliances, and M typing on her laptop. With the back door open just enough for me to lean against its frame, I sip a cup of hot tea and straddle two worlds. This has been a strenuous week, I am relieved by the arrival of a Friday with no plans.


...This morning I was like a kid at Christmas getting ready to come out here [to camp AJ for the Healing Rain "Survival Week"]--jumping up and down while I packed--I listened to a This American Life called "The Break Up"...Sunday was beautiful. I was so ready for the weekend and so happy to have nothing planned except church and coffee with my crew...


The rain kept waking me as it altered it's rhythm throughout the night. It began falling fast and hard and I felt like an asshole for being in a tent beneath a shelter while everyone else was exposed to the elements...It's been a wonderful week but I'm with the women when they say, "I'm glad this is the last day."

...We are all so tired. I spent much of the day on the verge of tears for no reason other than exhaustion. But we accomplished much. We built a bridge. We did a lot, but above all, we built a bridge and treated each other with love--walking zombies of grouchy love...One picture that's imprinted; turning to look behind me on the geocache hike--the forest nearly bare of leaves, except those that carpet the ground, the air draped with a silky mist; orange, gray and brown--I'd turned because S spoke to me,
"Thank you for making this happen," she said, "I didn't want to come but I've had a great time."
I've had a great time. I feel love and loved. Also, my heart wants to break, thinking about decisions and relationships and all that I stand to lose by changing and all that I stand to lose by staying the same. But I won't think about that tonight. I'll think about that tomorrow.


Driving past the Vineyard, on my way home from St. Thomas, I thought of my investment there. I remembered the feeling of anticipating a walk with Z after services, to hang out with T, and then to hang out with Z himself as he tried to pry me open and find a warm place to rest. I put so much energy and emotion into that fellowship, into that man, now I hardly think of them...

"I like to leave things unfinished sometimes, so I've an excuse as to why they don't meet my would be nice to finish though."


"Everything's changing and I don't feel the same."

A and I are in the process of packing up Berea House to move to Forest St...I'm in my bed and wishing my mind was ready to sleep. It is active enough to keep me awake but too somniferously inclined to properly process my thoughts. Ever since camp, I've been blearily watching myself travel through a series of mental shifts. At this point, I almost feel reluctant to get in the way of whatever is transpiring up there; better to stay on task and attentive to the tangible, pressingly present aspects of my life...

I'm reconsidering Palestine; feeling the confusion dissipate when I let myself say, "I think the time may not be right."

My iPod has been stuck on Alyson Krauss for almost an hour. Now she's singing, "Baby, now that I've found you I won't let you go..." and the weaker part of me is wishing I had someone to hold.

I've so much to be grateful for.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.



...Preparing for the new and leaving the old, combined with our usual tasks of work and other responsibilities, has been a non-stop task. We spent our first night on Forest St. Sunday. With only a few days in I already feel more of a sense of belonging in the quirky, crumbling "treehouse" than I ever did in the cookie-cutter mansion on Commerce Dr. My mind is buzzing with crafts and creations for decorating and I feel right at home cooking in the kitchen, squished in the tiny space between the sink and our waist-high, square-top stove...


Happy Thanksgiving. I'm enjoying this slow quiet morning with A. It will be strange to ever live with someone else...

...One thing that continues to linger in my mind: A few nights ago, Tuesday, we had a guest speaker at HR. He's the man L bought a motorcycle from...He was unabashedly pro-Jesus and I was amazed at the respect L had for him considering his stance on "deliverance" vs. "recovery." I think that what resonates with L is sincerity--this man's sincerity certainly moved me. I was determined to get home and get in the word, to re-examine the space I was in spiritually--but first I had to make M cake and enjoy being with her for our last night as roomies, then there was stuff to do on the house, dinner at HR, A's sister arriving,and now Thanksgiving Day. In a few hours I will be going to work and staying until tomorrow morning.


...I doubt there are many jobs from which a person can come home after an overnight shift and say, "that was fun."


Last night MB came over--truly the world shines brighter with her in it--we all went to the Paddy Wagon and laughed and drank for hours. It was the most fun I've ever had at that place.

Monday, January 12, 2009

By request, October


I woke up feeling sad again this morning. This seems to be becoming a trend...

As I moved through my morning routine I determined not to let my mood get the best of me. The tools I've gained from Healing Rain over the past year were doing little to help curb my negative thoughts and relieve the burning pit devouring my stomach. So, I drew on something deeper; I sang. Beginning in the shower, I sang praises, "I will enter his courts with thanksgiving in my heart," and petitions, "draw me close to you," and proclamations, " Lord, you are more precious than silver," and while the sense of sadness remained, hope and thanks enveloped it. Even when my car refused to start, I was confounded but at peace...A middle aged woman from AAA with straight, bleached-blond hair jumped my battery and told me to have a blessed day. I thanked her, and I did.

Still sad but not lost...I am determined to not ignore my melancholy. I am determined to not exalt it, but to acknowledge and except it; to listen to and learn from it. Many people to whom my heart is connected experience pain. I share this pain now, and will likely always share it in waves; swelling cresting and settling. To always experience it at the crest would be debilitating, to always remain settled would be inhuman...

...I am willing to accept that (though there are many other factors involved) the swelling sadness has been triggered by T's imminent departure and intensified by the frustration that as we stood together winnowing corn, captivated by the kernels cascading from one steel container to another, I said almost nothing...and when I was walking away, I didn't look back until I knew I was out of sight.


My ears are still ringing from last night.

With A back home my life is tied to hers again...A's active and pleasantly invasive presence feeds another part of me and helps distract me from extensive brooding. As cliche as it sounds, recent conversations with A & M and even spiritual pursuits...have been encouraging me to, "give love a chance." This includes being more open to receiving it, even in unexpected forms, as well as being more open to extending it.

I think one of the things that has been so my inability to conduct myself with the openness and confidence I try to encourage in others. At the opportunity for vulnerability, I shrink. In the aftermath, I nearly withered. Weakness did not "reappear" it has been ever present, only it lifted the veil that had me almost fooled. My lack was felt like a fresh wound I couldn't reach. I am grateful for it as a reminder...

...[Last night] it became quite clear to me that I do not like when strange men feel at liberty to touch me in a way that indicates a relationship of intimate familiarity. Though it seemed to be the 'modus operandi" of the dance floor, this was not behavior I felt compelled to adapt to and learn from. By engaging in this behavior I would not be opening myself to connect with my fellow humans--nor were they doing so with me--the behavior was confined to submission to impulse and the desire for, though doubtful acquisition of, personal gratification. I wonder what value, if any, could be found in becoming lost in the moment. The energy, the pounding music, the sea of bodies in motion, there was an element to this I enjoyed; singing along with familiar music and unreservedly jumping and swaying...even while appearing as one with the crowd though, I felt waves of isolation. At the peak of these waves, my movement would slow as I scanned the room. Capturing images of faces, some in blurred motion, some still and looking for something, I wondered to them, "what are you thinking?" "what are you feeling?" "what are you hoping to find?" and then I returned to my own body, shielding it from idly groping hands. I covered my wandering eyes with dark glasses.

...The trouble with idolatry is it takes all the joy out of loving...

...I read a quote the other day, the author of which I cannot recall that says, "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."

Can it be that in seeking perfection I am overlooking all that this imperfect world has to offer?


...I've also had a mind to write about Poppa; his openness and continuous learning. This idea was inspired by listening to the Woodsong Radio Hour on Sunday night. Dar Williams was the guest...I remembered my first encounter with DW. P had a habit, when we worked at the KK office, of going to the library and checking out cd's. He did not often borrow cd's of music he was familiar with. Rather, he would make selections based on album covers and titles that caught his interest. The selections introduced him to a broad range of music that was not limited to time or culture or genre.

...I'm so grateful for K. Last night we had the first meeting of the book club we'd been scheming about for months. We are reading Life of Pi and it is intoxicating...


...Driving away from Wal-Mart I encountered a man. He had a neat silver goatee, straight smooth hairs forming a triangle, mating the long gray ponytail hanging down his back. His skin was a dark orange-ish tone, his eyes barely peeking through narrow lids. His features were soft and tranquil, body bundled in bulky clothes...he sat calmly beneath a bold red stop sign, holding his own cardboard sign that read: "Homeless, need help, God bless." Attached to this was a smaller white piece of paper with the words, "need socks."
I pulled into a nearby McDonald's and approached him. In my mind I imagined words--full sentences even--that I would use to connect myself to this man and to learn his story. I timidly approached, five dollars folded in the palm of one hand. He rose to meet me.
"Hi." I said, extending the money and smiling shyly.
"God bless you," he said.
We nodded to each other and I walked away. I did not feel warm and fuzzy, I felt disappointed with myself. Another transaction, not unlike that with the cashier and Wal-mart, and I continued in my bubble. Had it been L or D in my place, we'd know his name, where he was from, how he came here...all I know is his face, the warmth of his smile, the surprising softness of his fingers as they brushed against mine, accepting the bill.


Though many may consider this idea a dead end career-wise, or at best a foolish whim; to me it feels like a path of freedom, joy and peace. I am exultant, weightless...The pragmatic corner of my mind is saying, "Don't get too excited, plans fail, ideas change." While agreeing with the cautious corner of my psyche, the prevailing portion of my spirit is lifted hope, and cheerful expectation.

"I must say a word about fear. It's life's only true opponent. only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary...It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never fought the opponent who defeated you."

-The Life of Pi, Yann Martel


"Time is an illusion that only makes us pant."

-TLP, Yann Martel


...About driving vs. cycling (motor or bike). I often dreamily assert that I prefer the latter, while I consistently choose the former. Though there are several practical reasons for this--shelter from elements, ability to transport more than me, safety--there is an equally significant psychological reason that I've only recently realized. Exposure. The cyclist is so exposed. Even more, in fact, than the pedestrian because the cyclist dares to impose herself right onto the same playing field as the motorist. What audacity! The nerve! The vulnerability. Bottom lines, this is why I continue to crawl into the shell of my Ford Escape. There, my boundaries are clearly outlined. There, my form is easily hidden.


...For the first time in what appears to have been over two years I checked my Flickr account. The old comments on photos that I took stirred memory of sweet moments and of old hopes, yet unrealized. What tomorrow will bring, I don't know. Tonight, sleep.


Something strange happened today. I did not get out of bed until almost 1pm. The cold medicine I took likely had something to do with that. In addition, I realized as my brain slowly began working, that cold medicine was mixing with the small glass of wine I'd consumed nearly an hour earlier. I don't like to sleep in late, not to mention right through the morning and into the afternoon. In the shower I began to work on my thinking, "what matters is not how late you slept but that you're awake now. Don't focus on the hours 'lost' but those yet to be lived." Sounds silly, I know, but working on my thinking works for me. My day does not begin with an arbitrary hour, it begins with me...

"We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are."
-7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"...Isn't just looking upon this world already something of an invention?...The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?"
-TLP, Martel


Today is the last day of my October fast--I bumped it up a day early--I am so relieved. It's a bit disgusting to me how begrudgingly I've engaged in this discipline; the sense of entitlement I have toward consumption.


I've decided to go in an hour late to work this morning but still woke at the usual time. With no rush, I've had the opportunity for calisthenics and prayers, grooming, and eating a good breakfast with coffee while reading yesterday's copy of the Wall Street Journal. (India's struggling with the weight of their growing middle class, the U.S. is working towards new resolutions in Afghanistan and fudging formerly improving relations in Syria). This is a glorious way to start a day.


...When I finally fell asleep I dreamed I was staying in a house across from a very large lake. On the opposite bank there were rows of cannons and they were firing on dozens of people parachuting from old fashion bomber planes. The parachuters kept coming, the air was thick with them, and the cannons kept shooting. The violence escalated to a scene of bizarre acts of carnage, old men turning cranks into the faces of other old men and many other surprise attacks and cruelties that I don't remember. I don't want to remember. No one could answer me when I would ask, why? Why is this happening? There were other elements to the dream, but they are only vague images.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fast-forward to January

I'm growing a bit weary of this retro-active posting. A new year has begun and it's time for me to keep pace with the present.

Last night I finished a short essay for a staff training class on co-dependency and thought that I would include it here as a peace offering to any readers who may have noticed I'm long overdue on posting (Bobby, I'm thinking that's probably you). I'll state up front, I am not entirely satisfied with the following piece of writing, but it communicates a little of where my mind has taken to wandering as of late.

The question that the essay below is responding to was something to the effect of, "what person or thing do you consistently worry over--what benefit/harm would result from detaching--what benefit/harm has been the result of being attached?"

Amy Nee

To Be Right (or Left?)

The person in my life who I find most troubling is me. More specifically, it is the manifestation of me who feels a need to be right, always. Writing this, attempting to explain my thoughts about and feelings toward this aspect of myself, I feel conflicted. It would be wrong to say I dislike her, that I want nothing to do with her. The cliché statement, “we have a love/hate relationship” comes to mind. I hate when she stands so close, with her preoccupying presence, that she blocks my view of others. I love when she prompts me to realize that in trying to hold my ground I’ve blindly been stepping on someone else’s feet. I love when she points out the difference between an impulsive craving and a true desire. I hate when she builds walls around me and discourages me from taking a risk; from leaping into, learning from, and loving through the unknown. Much of the time, I don’t know how I feel.

Her presence is particularly powerful in the presence of those whose good opinion I covet, or those for whom I feel a sense of charitable responsibility. It is manifested through a nagging inclination to perform perfectly. Not that I need to know the most facts or to win every argument, but that my thoughts, feelings and behaviors are at all times appropriate. If I make a mistake, I must learn the lesson, show that I know it, and never repeat the err. I need to be right because of those that look to me as an example. If (when) I stumble, I risk causing others to stumble too. I need to be right, because when I’m not, I may injure another, and I may lose a little of myself. I need to be right because “right” is “good.” Because, I am Amy Nee, and Amy Nee is “good.”

Here, I must halt and redirect the course of this essay. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the desire for “rightness” is not so much at the heart of my agitation as the weights with which I balance right vs. wrong. I do care about how my actions affect other people and how the consequences of those actions affect the me of the next moment. I don’t want to stop caring. I don’t want to stop being cared for. I do want to be free of feeling the need to protect and prove myself. I want to make decisions based on principles that are appropriate to the moment and not reliant on what I perceive another’s expectations to be or on “shoulds” that I’ve developed over the years.

In light of this alteration, perhaps the greatest risk of detachment is the identity crisis I would inevitably experience. Following the old way has frequently rewarded me with favor in the eyes of men, women and children. To detach from the compulsion to be right could leave me bereft of others approval. Not to mention if I detach from this, I have no sense of security, no foundation, and am left to discern my course through questioning, careful examination, counsel, and experimentation. No easy answers. Even answers achieved, at the moment of realization, instantly transform themselves to a question.

On the other hand, a foundation built on ideas I accept because they are “what I’ve always believed” or behaviors I perform because “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” no longer feels secure. Over the course of my life, when uncertain, the test for whether or not an idea was valid was if it was held by peers and elders I respect and love. The edge of uncertainty however, does not diminish but sharpens as new people enter my life whose actions bear good fruit but whose beliefs vary in shade and texture from those with which I am familiar.

The person who troubles me most is me, because I am straddling the fence; ill at ease and irritated with myself until both feet rest on one side. Getting off the fence would mean learning to become comfortable with disagreement, and not knowing; humbling myself to choose a path—even if it means disappointment or discomfort—and not sit in the middle of the road contemplating whether it is preferable to turn to the right or the left. In the meantime, I live. I find ways to love and reasons to laugh. I listen to others and myself. I try to find quiet from others and myself to listen for who else may have something to say. Sometimes I with I could just go back. Go back to answers that, though often not easy, were accessible. I know that I can’t. Even if I could, I wouldn’t.

What I desire to detach myself from is this tentative mode of living spurred by reluctance to miss the mark, coupled with a near-sighted view of what and where the mark may be. I feel that this course has contributed to an unhealthy type of detachment. In my heart, I want what is deep. I want closeness, passion, dedication. In my life, I choose careful distance, measured emotion, half-hearted efforts. But I am not finished yet, and a new year is just beginning.