Dynamic Woman — Changing Times
Finding your best self: I just dropped in…
Seeking my best self, “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Remember that ditty? I had a flashback to the Sixties when writer and educator David Dark challenged those who, in their quest to be widely read and greatly admired, evade the hard work of discovery. He exhorted us to dig more deeply into our attention collection. “Have you experienced your experience yet?” he asked.
We sat on uncomfortable chairs in the majestic chapel on the campus of Calvin College, light glinting off warm wood wall paneling, pens chasing furiously across notebook pages dense with run on sentences, the length of which were completely inadequate to capture the inner workings of the Dark mind.
Finding your best self is slow work
Dark suggested we take time to narrate our own lives, to listen for our voice in the stories others tell. In an I Heard the Owl Call My Name, moment, I heard my own voice reflected in “What’s It All About, Alfie” existential despair.
To prepare for the Festival of Faith and Writing, I was watching a small film, Something, Anything. Stretched out in 90 degree weather, in Arizona, on an overstuffed leather couch that squeaks, I emerged from a heated stupor when the main character Peggy popped the exact same question I had asked at her age, one I’d never heard anyone else voice before. What is the point of pouring your life out in menial labor to raise the next generation, only to have them turn around and do the very same, et cetera, and so on, and so forth? (My words not Peggy’s, but same concern.)
Peggy’s question was prompted by the death of her dream that marriage and family would provide all the meaning she needed to make sense of her life. (I’m glad I didn’t wait for an answer to that question before I had my kids, or I wouldn’t have grandkids.)
In the film, Peggy raises other good questions that serve her well. She doesn’t see the point of managing stuff, so she begins a liturgy of divestment. In the process, she makes a happy discovery that is best framed by Dark’s companion question. “What patterns of avoidance exist in what you love?” Living a life of stuff management is a great way to avoid experiencing love.
Like all good preachers I have ever heard, let me repeat that.
Living a life of stuff management is a great way to avoid experiencing love.
“Open up the book of what happened.” Dark urged us. “We live in a world of hurry up and matter that can pull us away from our best self. The writer attends and serves ideas that come slowly. ” Finding our best self is slow, painful work. It’s a call to more contemplation, more honesty with ourselves and others, more intimate conversations.
“Have the courage for self-discovery. Search for the truth about yourself that is too terrible to bear,” said memoirist Dani Shapiro. Shapiro has authored multiple memoirs, so apparently self-discovery is not only slow and painful, it’s an ongoing process.
So, that was my week. How was your week?
© Sydney Avey