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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hunger Games, Keep Your Eyes Open, and the Origin of Pain

A couple of years ago, I read an amazing review of "The Hunger Games," so I bought it and devoured it. When I told my friends about the book, it embarrassed me to describe the premise, but I assured them, "It's amazing. I couldn't put it down." My husband cocked his eye at me and I realized how ridiculous the "children killing children in post-apocalyptic North America" theme seemed. I explained Panem and the districts to my (avid reader) sister-in-law, Stacey, and she also eyed me suspiciously. But I professed despite the looks because the work was so compelling. I read all three books in the trilogy in a matter of weeks. The world crafting is genius and, while dark, the books demand to be read because the protagonist, Katniss, is the person we all wish to be. She is nurturing, sacrificing, selfless, resourceful, and strong. All while being vulnerable, open, and loving. We swallow the difficulty of watching/reading about starving children being forced to kill one another because we find everything in the main character to embrace and cheer for. The metaphors and cliches abound, but it's authentic and raw. 

The soundtrack to "The Hunger Games" is equally compelling. Needtobreathe is a contemporary Christian band that successfully leaped to popular radio in the past. Their song from the sound track has followed. "Keep Your Eyes Open" resounds on Hits1. A line from the song strikes me as particularly profound. They sing, "Pain is just a place the will has been broken." I've turned this over in my mind since the first time I heard it. I've tried to reconcile the idea that weakness opens the door for pain. Do we feel pain because of cracks in our resolute strength or because of our inherent humanity? Is emotional pain caused by something internal rather than external? Is it a matter of perspective? Is it subjective?  

No. Circumstances create pain. People in our lives create pain. Words create pain. Bee stings create pain. These things all originate externally and they all create visceral pain. It isn't a crack in our will. It isn't weakness. It comes from outside us and doesn't define us. Limit us. Reduce us. It exists because it is real. Not imagined, extrapolated, or assumed. If we feel pain, it's because something has hurt us. So, I love The Hunger Games Trilogy, the soundtrack, and the pause it forces. But I love the human spirit more. Our resilience and how the written word can cause millions to stop and pause. Consider the unthinkable. Pontificate our values. Push us to think. All of the controversy surrounding The Hunger Games simply reiterates the point of literature. To cause us to pause. Consider. And think of something outside of ourselves.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Capturing butterflies and escaping the ordinary.

Thoughts, ideas, reminders, epiphanies are like butterflies. They flitter around you and if you don't capture them, they're gone. We've all been driving, listening to someone else, showering, mowing the lawn...and an idea hits us. Or a reminder of something we've been meaning to do. A birthday or event we've forgotten. For me, it's words and ideas. I'll be making dinner or folding laundry or driving home and an idea smacks me in the face. It can be for a blog post or a poem or a new perspective for a book I'm working on. Sometimes the ideas are jumbled. Sometimes they come in blocks of clarity. Simple ideas. Sometimes the blog post topics seem common sense. Sometimes prolific. Every once in a while, they appear basic but profound. And sometimes irrelevant. But they fly around my mind and I try to capture them. They can be beautiful like Monarch Butterflies with striking colors, but seemingly reverent and incapable of capture. Sometimes my ideas are like moths. Benign. Bothersome. Gray and petulant.

What inevitably happens is that by the time I get home or regain control of my computer from my kids, the idea is gone. Vanished. The imprint of its existence a nagging shadow in the back of my mind. This escape is frustrating because I believe these tiny pieces carry with them realization. Truth. Or an insight into my soul and who I truly am. Because they aren't forced. They appear out of nowhere from my subconscious and demand to be heard. If I ignore them, they disappear and I'm left with a tugging ache trying to recall them.

These thoughts and epiphanies are so honest because they're unsummoned. We don't force them. This often happens when we're debating something important to us. Nothing betrays our intricacies as much as the banter we pontificate in trying to prove a point. Nothing betrays who we truly are as much as the arguments we propound when confronted with the weaknesses in the things we hold dear. Believe in. In this world of banality, there is nothing more sacred. These moments of clarity that appear either when we're doing the mundane or when pushed to our philosophical limits force us to set aside the irrelevant and allow ourselves to realize and embrace all that is important to to us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Pain Demands to be Felt"- Part 2

In January, I devoured the incredible, The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green.  If you haven't read the book, you must. It was written for Young Adults but it is profound. Mr. Green succinctly declares, "Pain demands to be felt." The quote forced me to put the novel down (only for a moment because it's so amazing!) and reflect. Please check out that post here: Pain Demands to be FeltI've thought about that quote often and even resounded it with friends. Last night, I experienced it. 

In my January post, I described ignoring difficult and painful issues: "Trying to forget the pain gnawing at them. Trying to push it into a deep place where it won't be felt. Trying to numb it. But like inflatables you can't sink in a pool, no matter how long you try to hold it down, pain will pop right back up. With a splash." 

Last night, I sucked in a whole splash of pain. My dad told me recently that my mom is now on a puree diet. For those of you fortunate to not know what that means, my sweet mama is now being spoon-fed her meal in a baby-food consistency. What looked like meatloaf is now a brown mush. It's food. It's nutrition. And she opens her mouth and slowly swallows it like a baby bird. But if you showed a pureed meal to most people, they would turn their noses up. For my mom, it's a mark of digression. One more progression in this awful disease they call Frontal-Temporal Dementia.

I heard these words from my dad. Absorbed these words. But didn't allow myself to truly comprehend these words. Because in the busy world of suburbia with its bus stops, errands, meal-planning, and the wonderful bliss of life, such things halt you. Like a horse on a break-out run being yanked ninety degrees by the bit. At first, you sense but don't appreciate the change in direction. Then, as Mr. Green precisely averred, the pain will demand to be felt. And it slapped me in the face. Hard. And this morning, the sting hit me again with the tender bruise left in its wake.

I can only hope that my words move readers in a fraction of the way Mr. Green's provoked me. Forced me to allow myself to mourn the incremental loss of my sweet mama. That by discussing the difficult issues we face that we'll find release in confronting them. Even if the confrontation leaves us feeling broken. Because the pain demands to be felt.