After by far the most tumultuous summer of my life, I'm trying to get my brain back in gear for teaching. I came in to the classroom this afternoon and it's quite the struggle. My mind is just in too many places right now.
For one, I'm moving. On Thursday morning, I'll be able to move in to my new apartment in Agassiz. That's astoundingly stressful. I haven't lived alone for a decade now, and here I am moving into a little apartment away from my family. I'm terrified.
For two, BC's rolling out its new curriculum. Almost every course is like a fresh start. As a result, I'm suffering from flashes of imposter syndrome, where I keep expecting people to come through the door and say, "I found you out! You don't know what you're doing! You don't belong here! Get out of this classroom right now, you fraud!"
For three, umm... isn't that enough?
I could have used a summer that felt a little more like a Bebel Gilberto track.
I'm spending the next week or so in my hometown of sorts, Victoria BC.
I say "hometown of sorts" because I don't know many people here anymore. Beyond my immediate family, most of my friends have moved to other locales. Despite my many years at UVic for my undergrad, and a few summers at UVic for my graduate degree, I haven't really built up many regularly-maintained friendships here. It's hard to see a city as my hometown when I can so easily wander the streets with such anonymity.
So I'm trying to find some other ways to enjoy the town. Yesterday, I attended a MeetUp with Victoria Verse, a little poetry group here in town that weekly meets at a coffee shop to write some poetry. This week's goal was to write some sonnets. I felt this might be useful for me because I'm teaching Writing 12 this year, and meeting with some writers might help me get my own creative juices flowing a little.
Which it did. Here's the sonnet I wrote:
The poem describes the terrifying moment last summer when I dragged our dog, Rosita, underneath our pickup after she jumped out of the box. Fortunately, she's in good shape now, despite many scars on her legs and belly. I'm happy that I will likely get to live with her when I move to Agassiz on the 1st.
I haven't had a hometown, really, since I moved from Victoria. When I move to Agassiz, I will have lived in most of the small communities in the Upper Fraser Valley: 6 years in Hope, 1½ in Harrison Hot Springs, 1½ in Chilliwack, and now Agassiz for a few. However, I don't think any of these have gotten to constitute as a "hometown." In my last few locales, I haven't really gotten to know the people who live around me. I've isolated myself from my communities for this reason or that reason.
Self-isolation isn't necessarily a problem on its own. However, I feel like I need to do a far better job at "getting out there" in the community, even if I don't know if I'm going to live there for very long. I'm glad to have things like MeetUp for learning about different groups because I spent so many years in organizations that arranged my friend groups for me: churches, schools, and universities gather semi-likeminded people together so your friend pool is significantly smaller. I'm going to have to learn how to extrovert as I step out on my own. Again.
This time, I've worked my way through a couple more non-fiction relationship/self-help books, but I've determined that a novel is next.
Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy
A good humour book with some serious undertones, as all good humour works. The serious chapters, however, were the best. FINISHED READING JUNE 30
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (audiobook)
I may be an English teacher, but that doesn't mean I've read all of the canon. Some parts of the English Literature canon have been tough to stomach; 1984 has always been a rather daunting book. So I listened to it and I'm better for it. However, as I said in the video, I think Huxley's Brave New World dystopia is more accurate and complete. FINISHED READING/LISTENING JULY 4 2016.
David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (audiobook)
I have loved practically everything I've ever read from David Sedaris. This was, as always, packed with caustic, observant commentary. My favorite section was a brief article entitled "I Brake for Traditional Marriage." Wow. Just wow. FINISHED LISTENING JULY 7 2016.
Nina W. Brown's Coping with Infuriating, Mean, Critical People: The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern
Brown's book was interesting for multiple reasons, most importantly its focus on the self and what it calls "healthy narcissism." The book is very careful to make sure that the reader cannot just blame others for what might very well be their own problem. If you're hoping to read about others' narcissism, the book pushes you to first and continually confront your own narcissistic characteristics. FINISHED READING JULY 11 2016.
Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (audiobook)
I didn't know anything about Catch-22 when I first saw it on the audiobook list at the library. I just knew that it was a classic and it was very long. The audiobook was an excellent way to soak up the text and hear its many social and out-of-order layers. An excellent listen, and I look forward to feeling like I have the time to read it properly one day. FINISHED LISTENING JULY 21 2016
John Gottman's Why Marriages Succeed or Fail
My Family Justice Counsellor recommended this to me, so I picked up a copy. An excellent read I kind-of wish I'd read years and years ago. I'm going to keep a copy on hand for reference. I talked a little about reading it here. FINISHED READING AUGUST 8 2016
Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg's Get Out Of Your Own Way
Another self-help reference text. The chapters are short and well organized, and each follows a predictable pattern that makes it easy to take on. I started reading it a few months ago, but only finished it in August. Again, a book I'll most certainly keep on my shelf. FINISHED READING AUGUST 13 2016
Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior
I read my novels slowly. This wasn't my favorite Kingsolver text, but it was pretty good. Sometimes I felt it tried a little too hard, but I might be too jaded right now. If anything, it gave me a little more appreciation for understanding how it feels to be a woman who has made decisions based on others' expectations, or based on fear. Dellarobia's journey to independence was the part of the story that I most connected with. FINISHED READING AUGUST 18 2016
A few months ago, while I was reading Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, I came across his summary of John Gottman's marriage studies. In response, I posted the following to Twitter:
I believe I was referring to this general section of Emotional Intelligence:
This was a rather frustrating section of the book to read. I saw my own experience written so clearly that it really hit home how predictable the pattern was in my own marital breakdown. Although I had originally thought I was experiencing something unique, in reality I was experiencing what millions of couples have experienced over the years. I didn't have the energy to do much more with it at the time, but I felt a little less alone.
Two days ago, I had a meeting with a Family Justice Counsellor. It was a good meeting that helped give me a little more direction in this separation process. The counsellor recommended John Gottman's work, saying that it might be useful to read it even though my marriage itself is over. She said, "You're still a family, even if you're living in different places. The ideas in Gottman's work might be useful for communication even when you're separated."
So I meandered down to Nugget's Used Books and bought a copy of Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: and how you can make yours last.
It's got 231 pages. I'm currently at 119.
And blammity-blammity, wowee-zowee, this is some convicting shit.
I have often been accused of being defensive and been very frustrated with feeling like I can't defend myself without digging myself into a hole. Although I'd recently seen a clear explanation of defensiveness's destruction a few weeks ago, this section from Gottman hit hard about just how my I-think-I'm-doing-the-right-thing behaviour was actually something that dug me deeper and deeper into a hole. Gottman writes,
And then, a few pages later, there was this description of "stonewalling." And my heart sank.
Because I did it. I flooded, I stonewalled. I chose to stonewall and decided that I was doing the right thing, trying to be "neutral," trying to put off the discussion until things had calmed down, until I could think clearly. Instead, it was the final nail in my marriage, the act that shut it down more than anything else, the act that solidified the negative thoughts that bounced back and forth for the months that followed.
I'm still amazed that I can pick up a published book and read my own experiences in it. It seems so... petty. I feel, I should be better than that, or I should have known better. It's humbling to see just how normal it is because it means that if I'd made different decisions, different choices, and maintained things better, there's a good chance that I could have cut a lot of this off a long time ago and maybe continued to have a positive relationship with my ex-wife. But I didn't. And we're done.
I'm a really average, normal guy.
Normalcy is the stepping-off point for my new life.
Today, as I rushed through Abbotsford to a job interview, I saw this sign for what appears to be a razed Bar and Grill: "JESUS IS LORD OVER ABBOTSFORD." Even though I was in a rush to get to the interview on time, I felt that I needed to talk about this one. So I did (embedded below).
Seriously. God's obsession with human politics in the Holy Land is absurdly provincial, weirdly local, and entirely irrelevant to people today, or even then. Clearly, the Old Testament is a political text intended to propagandize for particular political ends.
As I mentioned in the video [deleted] above, this bugged me while I was growing up. It was a strange contradiction to me to see how God seemed so political on such a small [provincial] scale while he also happened to run the entire universe. The largeness of God and the minuteness of his prejudices were a contradiction that I never really sorted out, no matter which apologetics I adopted.
What God cares about these sort of politics? From Judges 3,
It just seems unnecessarily petty for a God of the Universe to use tactics like this.
Or how about this, from 1 Chronicles 11 in the KJV?
This is a whole bunch of political jibber-jabber. Why does God need to be involved in any of this? The answer is that He doesn't need to be there. All the characters would do just fine without the presence of a provincial, political, warrior god.
Again, it seems rather peevish of God to care about this. Such an omnipotent God wouldn't be very concerned about who smiteth who, or who rebuilds a city, right?
I love maps and pored over the maps in my Bibles for many hours in my youth. What about this map?
There we see a line dividing two nations. At some times, God liked one of them; at other times, God liked the other one. There's no way to get around the politics of this: clearly the writers of the texts would have a bias towards their own nation. Note that Jerusalem is on the "Judah" side of the line; guess which nation was usually favoured by God? And wouldn't the omnipotent God understand that political borders constantly shift, that they're arbitrary delineations of human tribal social organizations? I'd like to think that God wouldn't even notice our borders, but instead look directly at our hearts.
Again, this bugged me. And it still does. It seems strange to think that political decisions in the United States of America are often based on an interpretation of a 2000 year old political text from a different continent.
No matter what a person believes, I think it's important to have a clear idea of what type of a being they're worshipping. I, for one, was never at peace with the provincial god who takes sides in battles and sends "his people" to be slaves in other countries. This made it easy to adopt more "ecumenical" approaches to Christianity, ones that focused on unity and personal religious experience. Unfortunately for my faith's sake, that made my faith so subjective that I couldn't seem to reconcile aligning myself with the organizations any longer.
Even though I don't believe in that God anymore, the God I once worshipped was way bigger than the God of the Bible.
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