Sunday, March 15, 2009

maps, constancy, and wanderlust

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park in Montana
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I got out my Atlas from the car yesterday to look at. I don't know why but I've always loved looking at maps. Maybe it's because I moved so many times across the United States, and whenever we'd move we'd drive and stop at various national parks and places along the way. The Corn Palace. The Grand Canyon. The Black Hills of South Dakota. During these trips I'd look at the Atlas and read the names of cities and look at all the parks and various places to stop along the route. I loved how the West was so open without so many cities. Most of my youthful traveling was done in the western half of the U.S. and I only have made my way to the eastern U.S. as an adult, and even there not so much. But I've been in every state in the western half of the U.S.!

So I may be going camping somewhere soon, and that was my main motive for getting out the Atlas, but just seeing it on my counter brings wanderlust to my heart. I love road trips. I love traveling and seeing the way the landscape changes. And when I sit still for too long I get antsy and I long so deeply in my soul for fresh air, for change, for something new. Some people like constancy. Some people get the same drink at Starbuck's every single time - a grande mocha, or a Venti nonfat iced mocha. I'm not one of those people. I have a regular drink but I like to change it up. Sometimes I'll get tea. Sometimes I'll get a super caramely Frappuccino. Usually I get a grande nonfat nowhip mocha but sometimes I'll go for a marble mocha or a mocha with a shot of hazelnut.

I love variety and I get incredibly bored with constancy. Sometimes this is true also for my heart. My heart has wanderlust that plays out as dissatisfaction with the status quo. That doesn't mean a cheating heart, but a heart that just can not seem to rest and stay. I see the unraveling thread of the hem of the pants, and focus incessantly on that. Will the thread unravel the whole garment, unless it's stopped? I seem to think so, but maybe that idea is merely an illusion. A story. Who knows what will happen, really?

I am learning, or trying to, to sit still and be, and accept that which I cannot change. To sit in my discomfort. And let me tell you it is an incredible amount of discomfort to sit in, when it's been a way of life to take charge and give orders and lead and guide and help and show the way. My heart is afraid of making the wrong choice. Sometimes leadership and a teaching role is necessary, but other times it's not. In loving others, how hard it is sometimes for me to truly accept them and love them and listen. At church today, Pastor Al talked about how we often have our own headset on our ears, and when people talk, we don't really listen. We have our responses all formulated before they even stop speaking. That's been the case with my interaction with some people, but it's also been the case for me. My dad was an incredibly good listener, but I never really learned that skill very well - especially in the challenging conversations where it matters most that we hear not just through our filter, but to understand what the other person really means - sometimes they don't have the right words, and it takes teasing it out to figure out what their heart is trying to convey through words. We do both ourselves and others a disservice by just taking things at face value sometimes.

So I am learning and seeking the way within myself to sit with 'what is,' to accept the love that is in my life, to accept people for who they are regardless of the future, and to try not to react and over-react and push away when what I really want is to love and be loved. Boy, I tell you, growing up with the back-and-forthness between parents, across the country, with new friends every couple years, that kind of youth experience does not make it easy to know the way to form intimate and deep relationships that can make it through challenging times. Sometimes the way is just to be there, and to show constancy, even when it seems easier to get the map out and wander down another path.

Byron Katie talks about Loving What Is (also the title of her book), which is the ability to not constantly try to change other people, but to recognize that which bothers us in other people is merely a projection of the things we don't like in ourselves. And since we can't change others, we can only work on changing ourselves and accepting other people. She also says she doesn't make decisions anymore, but she finds that she just starts to do some things and not other things. The decisions sort of make themselves. She goes inside, to ask herself, is this something I want and that resonates with my heart and soul? And the answer becomes clear.

Changing our thinking can end our suffering, because every single thing that causes emotional suffering - according to Katie - is caused by our attachment to a thought. And researchers at (I believe) University of Washington Medical Center have showed recently that her method (The Work) is effective to the 0.001 level (statistically significant) at improving...something or other - they presented the results briefly at the conference I attended but I honestly can't remmeber what they measured - maybe depression, or mood or self-analysis of whatever situation?) At any rate, according to the researchers it matches up with the latest research in cognitive psychology about how literally changing our thinking improves depression and other issues. I am going to start doing The Work more, but I'm so impatient. I want to change instantly and be better at the things I fail at! But I am trying to accept the timeline of God's healing of my heart is not always that which I wish it to be. I am on the path. Love is the way.


jess said...

Sounds a lot like stuff I've been thinking about lately, i.e. the connection between an attachment to thoughts and emotional suffering.

God is all over that concept too. One of my favorite verses: 2 Cor. 10:5 ... we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Unknown said...

Have you ever read or heard of Byron Katie? Check out - she is AMAZING!!!!! She talks all about how our attachment to thoughts causes all the suffering (or most of it). We replay events in our minds 1000-fold over and it's our memories and thoughts that cause much more suffering than the event itself.