life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Saturday, June 23, 2007

finding peace amid rapidly truncating options


Hanging out on the porch with oldest daughter Rachael, June 2007

...in other words, watching your big fat world shrink. there is a parallel for what has happened in my own life over the past few years or so and what is happening in the world at large. this is so often the case that i have ceased to wonder at it, and only rarely stop to comment on the phenomenon.

the health is not good. it is a result of long ago choices that were ill-conceived and momentarily self-serving. while the popular culture of my youth espoused chemical pleasures and lack of remorse, my own experience was a grueling dedication to succeed physically and mentally but with no more thought than anyone of what might be happening within my own body, that would later require a reckoning.

the same might be said of our earth. long ago, or maybe not so long ago, the world began spinning on its axis at a much faster rate. or so it seemed. we reached out across miles of wilderness to grasp at whatever we wanted. if we saw it we calculated its effect on us and made the decision to go after profit as a matter of course. we did not stop to visit other options. profit equalled progress. students of history and social systems foretold the nasty outcomes and estimated the length of time we had left to adjust our behavior to avoid them. we as a society of individuals largely ignored them, save for a few feel-good celebrations of our existence and the good of sharing the seemingly unstoppable wealth here on dear mother earth.


Delivering a water quality report to Rural Water Board Members, Barbour County, Alabama, 1987. At the time weighing about 90 lbs., funny how piling on the layers of clothing hides that so well... typical trick of the anorexic, along with wearing things that fit too loosely.

it does not matter that those of us who were aware of impending climate and societal changes that would be brought about by over-reaching on so many levels knew they were coming and tried to do something about that. we will reap what we all have sown. and that's ok in my book. it is fine to be challenged, perhaps especially by ourselves. we who foretold --if we were all that smart --should be out in the forefront, continuing to feed back to those who struggle to understand just how we are supposed to continue to function in the face of a shrinking planet's growth pains the hows and wherefores of our continued existence. we should not cease to be scientists just because it's starting to get downright wicked and hot up there in the crow's nest, and because the mists of doubt and distaste that are rolling in obscure the horizon that was clear not so very long ago. we now see what we foresaw --what makes that so difficult to discern? we must now see beyond that horizon, and press on to the future that awaits.

i welcome that extreme of categorical oblivion. it is true that some of us see bliss in the hardest press of faith. to us the journey is the most pleasant option --to hell with the outcomes. when we find ourselves struggling with the present, we know that if we look up and outward, we will find the present disintegrating and our future ahead of us once more. continued effort will only yield a difference. it is up to us to choose whether to press on, or to succomb to our own ineptitude and lack of vision.

to apply this to myself is my own personal challenge. the damage wrought in youth by ignorance and inattention to my health at times just kicks my ass. lupus is a disintegrating disease. i refuse to acknowledge the damage without a hefty dose of envisioning renewal. that philosophy is largely what has kept me going forward... and has kept me largely able to deal with this drug-free. the time may soon come when i will have to consider those options. i am searching for ways to continue to avoid them, and am presently considering a somewhat radical change in my activity pattern.
Age 26, 87 lbs. and hanging over the edge. Note the loose-fitting clothing trick.

so for now, more palatable to me than drugs is facing my propensity to overdo and undereat. for the past ten years i have avoided strenuous exercise because of the rush of adrenaline and appetite suppression that accompanies it. i know these are learned psychological reactions, not normal ones, but apparently these do not go away even after years of therapy and healthy eating. in past years whenever i have picked up ballet and modern dance exercise the weight always plummets. this was the trick i used in youth that kept me hovering between 88 and 93 lbs until i was over 30. and my doctors eventually convinced me that "you can kill yourself alot quicker by not eating than by overeating. you need to get used to what you consider fat --and embrace it." so i did, so that hopefully my children would still have a mother when they graduated from college. i haven't weighed myself in over a decade, since i threw away the scales. and my husband, the gourmet, assures that i eat wholesome, regular meals regularly, watching constantly for signs of avoidance like ribs and hip bones that look more like sticks and plowshares than the inner supports for a human being. with his help i have been able to survive and care for my children.

Precious moments

but i am heavier and softer than i can possibly stand --even with all the mental tricks I can utilize --or can reconcile even given my warped sense of what is and is not "fat," and i believe the stress on my legs and the circulation problems that are being exhibited must be aggravated by the extra weight and lack of muscle tone. ok, we are probably talking about less than 10 pounds here. to some that is laughable. but i am a tiny person, and the niggling suspicion driven by daily pain is, shouldn't i do something? and perhaps it isn't the weight so much as the tone. my arms feel like pudding, my legs are starting to look like my 75-year-old mother's --fine for her, untenable for me. surely a moderate amount of exercise, beyond the walking and stretching that i allow myself to do, would help. so the question now is, how to find middle ground? it is easier to understand how to solve the world's consumption problems than my own. i find i have no knowledge whatsoever of what constitutes middle ground in an exercise regimen. this is exacerbated by the fact that when i work out, i have no sense of time or stress. i am carried aloft by the chemicals my own body generates that are akin to a dose of methamphetamine for an addict. i know when that happens i will swallow it whole and press on until i can feel nothing but the light and air that surrounds me. and so it is only afterwards that i may realize i went too far, and by then the damage has been done. this happened so much in the past that i can ill afford to do any more damage, and so i stopped exercising, rather than collapse one day before my kids were grown and still needed me.
Dance class, 1983.

so my prayer today is for middle ground. i don't believe this is the answer for the earth --i believe that concerted effort toward conservation and cutting back on economic fortitude is the only thing that will stem the tide of environmental backlash. but i could be wrong... in that, too, the answer may be "everything in moderation," as it seems to be in my own life, and so often is the case. then again, the answer could be in the definition of what constitutes "middle ground." perhaps that might be found by looking at the earth overall --in which case, extreme measures should still be taken by the most developed countries, so that the overall result the world over is moderation, buffering, slowing down to a less dizzying pattern of growth, renewal, and faith in the future --reaching toward the light, yet never losing conscious contact with our feet upon the ground.


2 comments:

Kelly Joyce Neff said...

Dear Susannah,
I have been following your many postings over at Plain and Modest Dress (dear lady you are a treasure of erudition and common sense!) and found both this and your website.

You and your little family are in my prayers.

May the Lord bless you,
kelly

susannaheanes said...

thank you. i have added your "no idle hands" blog to my list of favorites here. i look forward to keeping up with your projects & ruminations. it was awfully nice hearing from you.

susannah