Musings

We’re Not Out of the Woods

Maybe it’s some hereditary pathological optimism thing from my Mom. Maybe I’m just naive like Little Red Riding Hood from Into the Woods, and I can’t get past my “The woods are just trees. The trees are just wood. I have no fear, nor anyone should.” attitude. Maybe it’s because I spent so much of my childhood in the woods and it feels more, well, natural. Whatever the reason, the phrase “out of the woods” bugs me.

“Out of the woods” means out of danger. Throughout folklore the forest is considered a place of darkness and evil. That’s where the witch’s sweets house was in Hansel and Gretel. It’s where the wolf always lives. But I take issue with this. The first problem is calling the woods bad in the first place. Found on Pinterest, original artist unknownThe forest is a place of wonder. Yes, it’s where the villain often lurks, but without it there would be no story. A place itself isn’t good or bad. I think we have a habit of labeling things we don’t understand or identify with as “bad.” Bad things happen everywhere. Some areas of the city are more crime prone, but that isn’t the buildings fault. Let’s stop blaming our surroundings for our problems.

When someone is “out of the woods,” they relax. Since the struggle is over, they stop paying close attention to their surroundings. While enjoying life is a wonderful thing, and I think it’s how we are meant to live, you can’t let your guard down. You’re in the clear. You can see everything plainly, so you don’t have to try as hard. But I know from experience that there are still dangers in a clearing. You don’t pay attention to your footing, and it’s easy to step in a hole. This isn’t to say that I don’t think you should relax. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Instead of fighting and struggling during those times when you are “in the woods,” look around. Enjoy the life surrounding you. Look for the good in all of your circumstances. Be careful of the thorns and snakes, but don’t live your life paranoid about something you may never run into. Enjoy the wildflowers and the big open sky of the meadow, but just as you kept lookout for dangers in the forest, don’t let your guard down once you step into the clearing. There are still snakes and thorns; They just look different here. They are sneakier.

In life you run into many situations. If you don’t allow yourself to find the joys and the “happy thoughts” in all places, it will be harder to enjoy them in the obvious ones.

Books and Movies, Musings

This Is Real Life, And It Is An Epic

Every heart has a story to tell
Some dreams have wings, some are torn at the seams
and just sit there on the shelf
If you were to walk in my shoes
You’d see we are all the same
So find the love inside yourself
Cause every heart has a story to tell
This is my heart
This is my story to tell

I really love Pandora. I have found two of my favorite songs by using it. This is the chorus of Every Heart, and it perfectly exemplifies something that’s been rolling around in my brain for a while. I touched on it several months ago, but I think this is an idea that warrants a closer look.

Stories are incredibly powerful things, and I’m not really sure how to describe them. What *is* a story? If pressed for a short answer, I would say it’s a string of related thoughts having to do with and describing an event. But they are so much more than that. They are life. I don’t just mean stories from 10660227_730463573675003_2572696761722264010_nhistory either. But my life is nothing like a storybook. It’s boring. All I do is go to work, eat, and hang out at home. Stop. I mean it. That is no way to talk about an epic masterpiece.

What do you look for in a strong character? You look for complexity, depth, emotion. You look for things that make it real. To the characters in stories, their world is just as real to them as ours is to us. You sit in McDonalds and drink a Dr. Pepper. They sit in an inn and drink a pint (“They come in pints?”) It’s kind of like what I say about the news. Just because something bad is reported on tv doesn’t mean it is a common thing. In fact, if it were common, it wouldn’t be worth noting. [Note: This isn’t strictly true, especially in cases regarding social justice issues.  I’m referring to things like buildings collapsing or people finding anacondas in their bathrooms.] Stories don’t often dwell on the mundane parts of a character’s life. They skim over the irellevent stuff and focus on the important details. We have the luxury of seeing only the good bits. The character doesn’t get that. They have to work their way through life, and they don’t know the outcome. Just like us. They don’t know which details are the important ones, they can make a guess, but there’s no way to know for sure. Just like us. 

But what’s the point of telling your story if you don’t know where it’s going to end? What’s the point of waiting? Do you read the last page of a book before you even begin reading the first chapter? I used to think that my story was boring. I grew up in a fairly normal family. Nothing exceptionally tragic has ever happened. But two things happen when you begin telling your tale.

You find out what makes you special. If you never talk about your life with other people, they can’t give you feedback and tell you how weird you are. I knew having 5 siblings wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know living in 5 different states was remarkable. My dad was in the military, moving was normal until I talked to people who had lived in the same state, same town, or even the same house, their entire lives. 

 You find out that you are not alone. Whatever you think may make you an outcast, or unloveable, or weird, someone else is dealing with too. But until you start talking and opening up, both of you will think you are the only person that feels that way. This is why we have fandoms. If we didn’t talk about loving Firefly, we would think we were the only ones obsessing over a bunch of space cowboys. If we didn’t talk about the damage that fundamentalist mindsets do, people would keep getting hurt by them and think they were the ones in the wrong. But since we talk about it, we can find each other.

When you look at your life as a story, it’s easier to see personal progress. As I said in A Bubbling Brook, a well written character changes. You may not catch it, change often happens gradually. There isn’t always an ultimatum.  Just like in a story, you notice those in real life. That sudden instant of realization. Sure, these moments may be turning points, but you don’t just turn without preparing. If you did that while driving, you’d flip the car. If you do that while singing, your voice will probably crack. Without your consent or knowledge, your life so far is leading up to something. Don’t speak disparagingly about what will be your success story. 

Camp

Return of the Fire Breathing Pidgezilla, Part II

Seeing girls grow is one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. One of my cabin girls started the week with red beads on her swimsuit,warning the lifeguards that she was a weak swimmer. She worked hard all week in swimming lessons. On Friday she ran into the cabin at the end of second activity and told me she had passed the swim test. I just about burst, I was so proud of her.

DSCF2112I taught nature to the Pathfinders by myself for the first time this year. I’ve assisted this class twice now, and it’s kind of included in my CILT majors. To be honest though, Grackle, the activities director, had more confidence in me than I did.

Pathfinders are seriously awesome. They are bouncy, fun-loving, and if you can win them over, you have a best friend. They also have had somewhere between 7 and 9 years to build up a huge capacity of energy. Sometimes we don’t have enough girls or enough classes for them to choose their activities. Sometimes nature is not an optional class. Most of the girls were fine with this, and probably would have taken nature anyway. Then in one of my classes, I DSCF2041only had one girl out of the four who didn’t scream bloody murder at some point.

One day near the end of week two, as we were walking through the woods I had an idea, and it was kind of the theme for my whole time at camp. One of the girls said “I’m not going any further. This is outside of my comfort zone. I have boundaries.” At the beginning of camp I felt exactly the same way. But then I realised, ” Comfort zones are like muscles. When you exercise a muscle, the fibers break, but they grow back. The new tissue takes up more room, and your muscles get bigger. Comfort zones are like that too. You break them a little bit, and they grow back bigger.” This was mostly over their heads, and I’m not sure how scientifically accurate it is, but a couple of them were begging me to go “just a little” further down the trail, so I didn’t have a chance to explain further. They still screamed every now and again, but even the squealers were much deeper in the woods than they had ever been before. Sometimes I still employed trick I figured out. Start belting ‘Love is an Open Door’ and they will stop whatever they are doing and join you. Dance along with it? You’ve got full on celebrity status and a herd of very short groupies. By the end of the week, this was mostly just for fun.

The campers weren’t the only girls stretching their comfort zones. You know what though? The more room you have, the more fun you can have. You know what else? I’m done telling God “I’m not going any further. This is outside of my comfort zone. I have boundaries.” In fact– take me deeper into the woods.

Camp

Return of the Fire Breathing Pidgezilla, Part I

I’ll be honest, I’ve not had an easy time putting together this post. I’m not sure what it is, but camp was hard this year. Everything about it. I’ve started and restarted writing about it half a dozen times. By the facts everything went DSCF1975swimmingly. But for some reason, I’m having a really hard time putting together a coherent post about it.

First I wouldn’t miss camp for the world, then I was ok with missing a week, then I wasn’t planning on going at all. Then my plans fell through, a date was wrong, and I didn’t get the job. I was confused. How did I go from adamant about going to not even planning to go to camp? Maybe I’ve grown? I don’t know, really. I think perhaps camp had been a kind of crutch. I’m really not sure how to describe it. I’m learning that I am incredibly loyal, to the point of blindness. Don’t get me wrong, camp is a great thing, but I think I had become so loyal to NeKaMo that I was potentially missing other opportunities. When I opened myself up to other ideas, it kind of threw me off. Funny how that works.

When it came time to pack, I was such an emotional wreck that once I got my stuff together I just laid on my bed and cried for a couple of hours before finally falling asleep. The drive down to Truman Lake with a friend was fun, and relaxed me quite a bit, but I was still tense. Actually, I spent a lot of time over the two weeks in some state of stressed. But it was a really beautiful time too. One night, after doing something that some would consider– eh-hem– rule bendy, I came back to the cabin, where my girls had been asleep for hours, and wrote.

A night of the starsDSCF1917
Full of laughter and joy
 
A night when they burbled
And spilled over
And rained down
 
A night when the moon hid her face
When she turned a blind eye
And let the small ones have their fun
And they danced with joy
And had their frolic
 
Their joy drifted down
Falling on heads uplifted
Watching their dance
Drinking their joy
Words were made for nights like these

DSCF2062One afternoon I sat with Robin during free time while she worked on something in the rec hall. She asked “How ya doin’ Pidge?” in her usual perky, but incredibly sincere, Robinish way and I thought about it for a moment before simply answering, “Happy.” Yes, I was stressed a lot of the time, but I wasn’t just thinking of at camp. In general, I’m happier than I was last time I talked to her.
Robin and I seem to have a way of surprising each other every time we talk. This time it was her turn.  “I can tell. You aren’t as mopy as you were last year.” I thought I was going to be the one shocking her. I didn’t feel mopy last year, and I did this year. I also didn’t think she would remember much about me from last year. I’ve been finding out that people actually do remember me a lot more often than I thought they did.

How did I get yet another nickname? What happens when you throw Pigeon and a handful of squeally, panicky, Pathfinders on a nature trail? Who is worse about staying on task, Pigeon, or a camper? These questions an more answered in the next addition of  “Return of the Fire Breathing Pidgezilla!”

Books and Movies, Musings, Short

A Boring Character

I often find myself in a position of slight self pity because I don’t have an epic story. I have grown up in a Christian family, I was saved at a young age. I don’t have one of those dramatic testimonies. I am making peace with that. It’s a work in progress. The fact that even someone who isn’t all that bad still needs Jesus is what I have to keep reminding myself of.

But this lack of back-story has also made me frustrated for other reasons. If I were a character in a story, I would not get to be the one that goes off to battle, even though she is a woman. That is always a character that has some tragic back-story.

Eowyn was an orphan raised in her uncle’s court. She went through the pain of losing her parents and her cousin, having her brother exiled and seeing her uncle become poisoned and possessed. She was able to go off to war with the army. She did what no man could do.

Then I think of Maid Marian. In the BBC version of the story,  as the sheriff’s daughter, she was raised as a lady. She didn’t have rough life. It wasn’t until Robin left and Sir Guy took over that Marian became an interesting character. Nothing happened to her. She saw what was happening to others and acted. She took care of the townspeople. It wasn’t her own pain that provoked her to action, but someone else’s. She ended up saving lives and kicking some bad guy booty, all with no other reason other than that it needed doing. I could do that.

I just have to keep reminding myself that my story is just getting started. So far it hasn’t been very dramatic, but I’m not even 20 years into it yet. I can’t let this slow time get me stuck. There is a lot of time left for a good story.

Books and Movies, Musings

Fairytales

Reclined at the desk, devouring a toasty sweet potato, listening to the rain on the skylights above, I think about how life isn’t poetic.

No matter how I describe it, I’m still just eating dinner on a rainy night, wishing I had adventure in my life. I’m basically sulking right now. I want to do something awesome. I want to write something awesome. At the moment, it’s just not happening. My life is pretty boring right now. I don’t have many friends, and the ones I do have I don’t get to see very often. I have lots of ideas to write about, but then I sit down to write and I draw a blank.

I want to travel. I want to be a nomad. I’m too still. I need to move. My books aren’t enough, I need to live these adventures I pore over. I know they happen somewhere, but where?

I feel like Belle at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. Consumed with books, living in a quirky house, waiting for life to begin while the world lives on around her, and brunette. I don’t exactly want to be captured by a monster, but that would be ok. I’ve always wondered how I would get along in a situation like that. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t just bury my face in my bed and cry like Belle does. There would be broken glass and probably blood. Actually, there would most definitely be blood, although I don’t know if it would be my captures or my own. Probably both. I would try to escape, but if I didn’t make it I would beat the stuffing out of the fool who caught me. If I didn’t win, and that’s a big if, I might pass out from blood loss.

But that’s not going to happen. Because life isn’t a fairytale. Not in this dimension. Maybe there is a dimension where there are still dragons. In that dimension I would probably be in the same situation as I am now, except with giant lizards. That wouldn’t help much. Even if the existence of dragons meant we were primitive and lived in conditions similar to the Middle Ages, I would just go about my business cleaning and cooking, probably wishing I could learn, but being a woman and a serf (or the other dimension equivalent) I won’t have the opportunity. I’m probably married to an old guy there. That’s kind of a disgusting thought. To make it even worse, I would know that somewhere, maybe somewhere close, there are glorious battles and vicious beasts. I’d like to think I’d be like Eowyn and go out to fight anyway, but in reality that kind of stuff didn’t happen all that often, and not to commoners.

I guess that’s why I like stories like Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Brave, and Lord of the Rings. People, specifically women, living their quaint little lives and then something terrible happens. Whether it’s war, a family crisis, or marriage, something happens to shake them. Part of me doesn’t want something terrible to happen. But, then, nothing big happens without tragedy. Tragedy hurts though. I don’t want to hurt. But, I need adventure. True adventure only happens with pain, or the threat of pain.

That’s where I am right now. I’m just past opening credits and we are still establishing the world. Something is about to happen, there is just no way to know when.