Some Thoughts from My Vacation

I am feeling a little more settled today than yesterday. After work yesterday I went to clean the old place and leave the key. It was more of a relief than I thought it would be (I hadn’t anticipated being accused of stealing a shelf.) But hey, what’s life without surprises? It’s over. I’m out. Moving on…

My Vacation

I went on a road trip down south with my friends Tania and Kwesi, their kids and Tania’s brother James. I love, love, love a road trip! We were six in a mini van, driving 21 hours across country. First stop, Gibsland Louisiana, Tania’s hometown and proud ambush site of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. I’m serious folks. There’s a museum on main street run by the son of one of the deputy’s who took them down.

This is Mrs. Kate’s store, where Bonnie and Clyde would stop through and chat it up with the locals, including Tania’s Gramps, while they were on the run. Yes, the locals knew who they were. No, they did not turn them in because, according to Gramps, “They were good people. They would help anybody.”

The store is at the end of a very long country road with about 4 homes on it. (I’m talking miles ya’ll.) One of those homes is Tania’s grandmother’s house, where we stayed most of the week. Straight. Up. Country. Now, I may not have said this before, but I’m a city girl!! I need to be able to walk to something other than the cemetery (which we did our first morning there), but there was the church and the cemetery and nothing. No street lights. Nothing. Oh, there were bears and coyotes and all manner of creepy crawly things. But other than that, nothing. The closest town was 15 minutes away. We went to Minden daily. Some days twice. For my sanity.

I’m really just kidding about the sanity part. The quiet of the country was a serenity that is hard to find where people live busier lives. I really enjoyed it. But there were parts that freaked me out. First of all, it’s Louisiana. To me that means the occult. If people aren’t actively involved in spooky shit, they believe in it, see things, hear things, talk to things, rebuke things, take antidotes for things…I was not feeling being in an old house in the woods where people have seen apparitions from beyond the grave and such in the house. Here’s the deal with me. I have a healthy respect for the spirit world. I believe in it, and I think we need to live separately. I don’t go Ouji-ing and bothering them. I would appreciate the same respect. I have had two significant encounters with the paranormal and that’s just about enough for a lifetime. Thank you very much. No, I don’t care to share, because there’s no need for me to sound any more nutso than I already do. I really appreciated Fresh Air Lover’s July 9th post on the subject though. Made me feel less nutso.

My travel companions knew that I was scared to death and didn’t hesitate to take advantage of any and all opportunity to freak me out. Turns out the place was harmless, but I didn’t stop checking behind doors and peeking around corners until 3 or 4 days in.

The house was pretty small, and we were six. We rode together for 21 hours, lived together 24-7 for 7 days and rode back together another 21 hours. This trip really tested my capacity to live in community, which brings me to something I was processing last week. I actually forgot to take my journal with me, so I journaled on my laptop. Good thing. Now I don’t have to re-write this entry, I’ll just copy and paste it for your voyeuristic pleasure:

August 11, 2006
12:45am
Gibsland, LA

Rick told me a little later, I should be living in community. He said I
should have people around bugging me and getting under my skin because without
people I could not grow. I could not grow in God, and I could not grow as a
human. We are born into families, he said, and we are needy at first as
children because God wants us together, living among one another, not hiding
ourselves under logs like fungus. You are not a fungus, he told me, you
are a human, and you need other people in your life in order to be healthy.

I am reading Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. In this paragraph he talks about living in community. I’ve been living in community for a week now on my vacation, and I identify with the sentiments found in line 2. I have experienced moments of aggravation, annoyance, irritability and impatience. And I have experienced moments of belonging, healing, support, belly laughter, and peace. I feel like I’ve learned some things about myself, things that should help me to grow. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I am impatient. Really impatient. Among my travel companions are a 9 year old girl and an 11 year old boy. Brilliant, beautiful wonderful children. Inquisitive children. They ask lots of questions. Lots and lots and lots of questions. They want things. Lots of things. They need things. Lots of things. They are kids. I don’t have kids. I love these kids. I don’t understand how their mother still has hair on her head. And she as good kids. Great kids. Not hellions by any stretch of the imagination. In community I’ve been privy to a mother’s patience with her children around the clock for a week. I lost count of the times I would have screamed, demanded that they be quiet, told them no and never to speak of a subject again, or quite frankly smacked them. I don’t think I would have ever realized how utterly unready I am to be anybody’s parent without this experience. It’s one thing to see someone interact with their kids off and on, here and there. But around the clock in close quarters for an entire week has been eye-opening. I’ve observed so much that I admire. So much I am not.

2. I am obnoxiously opinionated. I enjoy arguing. Sometimes just for the sake of the argument. I remember loving debate in college. It never mattered which side of the argument I was on, I’d argue it to the death. It also reveals the arrogance I speak of later down the list. And as opinionated as I may be on some things, I probably lack much of the conviction about these things people may think I have. Sometimes I just want to win the argument and don’t really care that much about it. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but I can convince you that I do. Why the hell do I do this? But then there are things that I have really strong convictions about. Some of my rants are reactionary. Most of them are. Some of these convictions I hold purely because of past hurts that obviously have not healed. This makes me an absolute social ass, often.

3. I am mildly to moderately violent. I mentioned this in number one, but it has struck me to the point that it bears mentioning individually. I can see how attractive violence is to those who lack other conflict resolution skills. It is powerful tool to restore order, to regain control. And violence is not always physical. I’ve noticed too many times my urge to yell, or be short and cutting in my responses. I’ve resisted the urges quite a bit, but they come from someplace. Control is a theme that has come up a couple of times in my community vacation. It’s important for me to feel like I’m not being controlled. I’m willing to go to significant extremes not to be controlled, even if that means taking back control by whatever means necessary. More on this further down.

4. I am a bit arrogant. Maybe more than a bit. I verbalized things on this trip that I have rarely if ever uttered before. Specifically that I need to be with someone who is my intellectual peer, someone who is capable of going deep with me. I know what I mean when I say this and I really don’t mean it as a bad thing, but I’m afraid it is. I think anytime I can name the people I think I’m smarter than, that’s a problem. When I can list things I’ve done in conversations or otherwise to confirm, to myself if to no one else, that I am right about this it’s a problem. I can be a real bitch. Especially when I’m cranky and annoyed with your apparent ignorance. OK. Ignore that last statement.

5. I am quite selfish. Perhaps hopelessly selfish. I really am all about me at this point in my life. In a way, I make no apologies for this, because I am healing from a ton of crap that has festered because I have failed miserably to care for and pay attention to myself. But I am pretty self absorbed. Part of it is motivated by fear. I feel like I have to be self absorbed because there’s no one else looking out for me but me. But I miss the me that is giving and compassionate. I have lived in a place of having nothing left to give, but I think that’s different from me being the most important person in the universe. Right now, to me, I am. I don’t want to be in this boat alone, so I’ll add that I think most of us are. Great people who have changed lives for the good are those who’ve won the battle against self-absorption: Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Christ, Millie.

6. I am guilty of malicious hatred and cruelty. I already knew this about myself. I learned this in my marriage. Community gave me a place to confess it so that I can really examine it. People have different responses to being wronged. Some are hurt, some angry or apathetic. Some allow some or all of these to snowball into hatred. I’ve gotten there. More times than I want to count. “Hate is such a strong word.” Yep, it is. But it’s real and as un-nice as it is to say we hate people, I’ve found freedom in being able to call hate hate when I feel it. In community this week we’ve talked a lot about racism and reverse racism and how loving and accepting people where they are means loving and accepting the ones who hate you with or without a cause. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to focus on loving someone who hates me when I won’t admit that there are people I hate, or at least have hated at some point. Hatred, unacknowledged, turns malicious and the fruit is cruelty. I’m guilty of all the above. And as normal and human a response of hatred may be in certain circumstances, it still ain’t right. Ah, I’m so far from who I want to be.

7. I am guilty of taking pleasure in stripping another of dignity. OK, take the hatred and the arrogance and roll it up in one and this is what you get. Pride is ugly and evil. I can be down right evil. It takes a lot. I should have learned to forgive and get away from the circumstances that drove me to abject hatred and meanness, but I didn’t. I’m not proud of it. I mentioned to someone recently that revenge didn’t appeal to me. No, I’m not turned on by tit for tat. I go for the jugular, to the core of a person, to the soul. Now, that’s just wrong. I am so in need of redemption.

8. I am a hypocrite in my refusal to endure another’s attempt to strip me of mine. Given number 7, I have the nerve to be willing to fight you to the death if you dare to treat me in a manner that disregards my dignity. I will gauge out the eyes of a man who talks to me like I’m his child. What a hypocrite!

I’ve learned all this about me by living with 5 other folks for a week, traveling 42 hours in a van, halfway across the country. Other people really do force you to see yourself for who you are.

I’m so far from who I want to be.

Peace.

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6 thoughts on “Some Thoughts from My Vacation

  1. I really enjoyed this post. And let me say, that as one of the community of six, I had no idea that opportunity was even made for all of these self-revelations. I totally enjoyed your company and your conversation, and saw no signs of your struggle to abstain from violence and cutting remarks.

    That said, I am so aware of our differences in community, and this I knew before the trip. You eagerly engage in debate and respond to conflict. I go to sleep. I admire your ability to go toe-to-toe. I might as well make an appointment, because I can’t formulate the totality of what I want to say until I have stewed on it for quite some time.

    The occult: I still have yet to see any of these apparitions, but I remain hopeful. Darn! You should hear Walter talk about spirits. We’ll have to set that up next trip.

    #1. Impatient: I am ashamed to admit it, but I was actually a lot less patient with my brother and sister when they were kids than I am with my own kids. I have always claimed that this was because of my youth and inexperience. I hope that it’s not that we treat our own with more patience than others’. But the patience you see now has evolved over 11 years. I used to yell a lot. Too much.

    #4. Arrogant: I don’t think knowing the level of intellect you interact with best equates to arrogance. Thinking you’re smarter than others is not necessarily arrogance. Truth is, you may be. The question is how you then view and treat those people. And do you discount the intelligence of those less intelligent than you? Am I the same way? Is this why we love Jeopardy? I’ve always been afraid that my love of trivia stemmed from a need to be ever-smarter.

    #5. Selfish: Motherhood will cure you of that in no time. Who’s Millie?

    #7. Dignity-Stripping: At the end of the day, you’ve got the most important thing down. You KNOW you are in need of redemption. I think we’re okay as long as we always remember that. The day we forget that, I think we cease being any good on this earth.

  2. Fantastic post, Lexi.

    It’s easy to live in denial of one’s own faults. That said, I believe that the revelations of your own shortcomings actually reveal a strength of character that, perhaps out of modesty, you’ve failed to acknowledge in yourself.

    The mere fact that you recognize these things, including the profound admission that you’re “so far from who you want to be” speaks volumes about how far you’ve already come.

    I can’t say that I know many people who are as introspective or possess the fortitude as what you’ve already demonstrated.

    My applause to you, and my admiration.

  3. Whew, what a post and what introspection. I think this is great. Nothing like people to help you see yourself. Knowing yourself however is a great thing. Oh that we think of ourselves the way we are.

  4. @ Katrice

    Stuggle might be the wrong word, maybe just impulses. My impulsivity can get me into a lot of hot water, so I try to control them. I should do an assessment of the trouble this has caused me and compare it to the fun I’ve had because of it before I deem it a flaw. LOL

    And, said impulsivity is also the culprit when I go toe-to-to. I need to say what I need to say, right now. And YOU need to be available to hear it right now. I KNOW this has gotten me into hot water.

    On your holding out hope of seen an apparition, one word: Whacko! (But, you’re from Louisiana, so what more should I expect?)

    Motherhood would likely cure the impatience as well as the selfishness. One problem, I’m too impatient and selfish to even consider motherhood. Catch 22?

    On arrogance, I was waiting for someone else to make your point. Thanks. The truth is that some people actually are smarter than others. I know there are a gazillion smarter than me. I want one of THOSE guys!

    “At the end of the day…” I wonder why you guys are my friends!

    @ Andy

    Thank you. I work hard to keep a level head about my introspection. It’s easy to get arrogant even about what you call strength of character.

    I think the character flaw I detest most is self-righteousness. I know I’ve been there and will likely end up there again at some point, but that’s precisely why I am so introspective, openly introspective (is that an oxymoron?). I invite feedback so that I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m greater than I am. I still have so far to go.

    Thank you for your comments.

    @ Kwesi

    You talk like you wrote the King James Bible. LOL

    I see soooooo much of myself reflected back at me when I hang out with you. It cracks me up and burns me up at the same time. We are so much alike. Poor Tania!

  5. Ditto to what Andy said. You’ve come a long way, baby…and quite a distance many people will never travel. You see your faults and understand what they really are…and you want to change them. Most people aren’t like that. Heck, lots of people can’t even see their faults.

    As for motherhood making you more patient…I don’t know about that. I used to be very patient, understanding, and generous…now it’s all about “when do i get MY time?!” “when are you going to learn to take yourself to the bathroom?!” “When will you move out?!” Ah…guess I have to do some growing too. But retrospect can me more fun than introspect. ;P

  6. It sounds as though you know yourself really well, and that’s a start. I admire the way you’ve laid it bare here. I sometimes find myself repeating self-analysis without changing my behavior. While I feel it’s a useless cycle, that doesn’t mean I can’t veer off it. Maybe you feel this way. It may seem like a bad place to be, or like you have a lot of work to do, but some people can’t see themselves for what they are, and they never even get to a place to start changing.

    Isn’t the dignity thing revenge? Unless I read it wrong, you will humiliate someone who has tried to humiliate you. That’s better than attacking an undeserving person, though I understand if your point is that you don’t get to judge and sentence the person.

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