Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some Quick Takes, because my brain is rot.

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In the past two weeks my children have been to school once, on a two hour delay. I like having them home. I prefer being snowed in to wanting to go out and having nothing to do. It's a different kind of "stuck at home." There's some psychology at work that says it's good and right to be where you are, because there is no other option. Options, for whatever reason, create dissatisfaction in me.

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This morning, I caught my boys looking up dirty words in the dictionary. Actually, I didn't catch them; my daughter, always on the alert for wrongdoing, let me know. But it has come to this: rather than getting angry, I said, "Give me that book." And then I got a little tickled myself, because can you believe these words are written right there in Webster? And then I asked my kids if they now understood the meaning of the words they looked up, but they were none the wiser because they don't yet know the meanings of the words that comprised the definitions. What kind of fun is it to look up the word "copulation?" No fun at all (unless you have an inkling of what it means).

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Watched a dumb movie the other night: "Motherhood" with Uma Thurman playing the anxious and entitled, New York City hippy-mom, who... writes a blog. I sort of enjoyed Uma Thurman in the "Kill Bill" movies (though I wouldn't necessarily recommend them). But it's sort of ironic that after slicing up roughly a thousand kung-fu guys without breaking a sweat in Kill Bill, Uma Thurman can't make it through a day of motherhood without freaking out. Every scene finds her panting and sweating and running from kid pick-ups, to the party store, to sample sales, to her blog, and there is not one thing she does that doesn't exhaust her.

I rented the movie because I'd read an interview with Thurman in which she discussed how this movie presents a side of motherhood that's not often represented in movies. It was supposed to be a motherhood reality check. And yet the movie was one cliche after another. Are there really that many women out there sweating away at their laptops writing something like: "Do I really have to lose my brain to be a mom?" And if there are, let me hang up this blog right now! (see title)

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Another movie, "Bright Star" about the life and romance of the poet John Keats, had more to like. Jane Campion directed and I can't decide if I like the way she sensualizes everything or not. On one hand, a chaste love affair (Keat's relationship with Fanny Brawne) can be very sexy. The first close-up of their enmeshed palms squashed together in the evening sun, made me think, "Hmmm...holding hands is titillating." The second or third made me think, "Nice try, Jane Campion," which I guess is to be expected. One does not remain satisfied with holding hands for long, and especially not in a movie. Which is not to say that I wanted Fanny and Keats to get it on. Just wished Jane Campion could get over the sensual hand-holding.

In any case, the rest of the movie contained enough empire waist skirts, leather button back chairs, lavender flowers, stolen kisses, and evening sun to please any romantic.

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And another movie (in case I need to justify my lack of blogable material lately) "Spirited Away," I thought was wonderful. It's rated PG, and had some material that my kids found disturbing, but it was a good kind of disturbing, a good kind of scary. In one of the early scenes, the heroine's parents enter a magical world where they discover piles of delicious food. They begin eating and can't stop. They eat so much they turn into pigs. I've had that very dream--the one where I can't stop eating and food keeps appearing, the dieter's nightmare (or delight). My kids were all worried about it though, and they generally like a bit of violence in their stories and play.

Juxtapose this disturbing material with say, the average Saturday morning cartoon, where everybody has an angry face and speaks disrespectfully and whips out the laser gun at the first threat of, well, anything, and I'll take the over-eating parents. There was plenty of fantasy in "Spirited Away" but also a good portion of "message." Gluttony is a serious threat to anyone, whereas space badguys and ninja turtles...

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Concerning Japanimation, I just remembered that I used to set my alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. so that I could get up and watch "Robotech" before going to school (until my parents found out).

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Existential Crisis reading "In This House of Brede," regarding a passage about voluntary poverty and not having as opposed to having: We are not extravagant people really. We own one car, shop thrift, have three bedrooms, one full bath and a random second potty (for seven people). Sometimes things feel tight, but most of what we need, we get, and then some. My attitude towards 'things' tends to be, when you see a good deal, it's an act of poverty to get it rather than to wait until you need it and pay full price. I tend to hoard things and stockpile, especially when I can get things thrift for less than a dollar. This is especially true for clothes and shoes.

Anyway, I was looking through my closet the other day and thought "Why do I have all this stuff?" and I couldn't answer "because I need it." The answer was more like, "because I never know when I might need it" and it gives me pleasure to have... an occasional pleasure. I've found several pairs of very nice shoes, designer shoes, high heels that I take out and try on, but don't really wear. Found them at Goodwill or somesuch, and thought I should get them for... someday. But they suddenly felt like a burden. All of it felt like a burden.

My closet would be diminished by about two-thirds if it only contained the things I actually wear. And I had a compulsion to just empty it, for the sake of poverty, but I couldn't do it. It was my "rich young man" moment because this stuff, harmless as I've always considered it to be, a good even, has somehow become part of my identity, or my imagined identity rather, even as it prohibits my true freedom. The 'things' contain their own promise that is not Heaven. It is the promise of the someday future me that is not really me at all; the someday future life that is not my life; the option of something else that creates internal dissatisfaction.

It's a thought to chew on.

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More on poverty:

Pedge called not long ago to tell me about a homily she heard on The Feast of the Presentation. Mary and Joseph go to the temple to present the Baby Jesus, and in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord, they brought two turtledoves to offer for sacrifice. There were wealthier families, who had lambs to bring as offering, but the Holy Family was humble and poor and had only the two turtledoves—and yet they also brought with them the Lamb of God.

And so it happens, that everything that matters happens on the “poverty” level—or in the least expected, often humiliating aspects of our lives. We are poor, we have nothing, but we have recourse to the Lamb of God.

I can see areas where this is occuring in my life, and areas in which it is not (see above).

***
It might be interesting to point out that the blonde woman on the far right in the picture on the masthead is my mom circa 1968 or so. I remember looking at this picture, which was in the student newspaper at her college (which is also my alma mater), and thinking that I wanted to be her.

12 comments:

Ellie said...

*tilts head*

I don't think I've ever heard In This House of Brede, a book about life in a Benedictine convent, told primarily from the viewpoint of a woman who entered at 42, described quite so ... simplistically: ""In This House of Brede" about voluntary poverty and not having as opposed to having." Or maybe 'baldly' is the word I'm looking for.

Voluntary poverty? I suppose I would say the book, and the act of entering religious life, is more about giving our treasure to God, as opposed to not having any at all. All our treasure, not merely the fiscal sort. I've never seen that book as being about giving up material goods at all, come to think. Interesting. They (the nuns) have, after all, all they need.

This Heavenly Life said...

I've been wondering about that picture...and I can see you wanting to be her. Surrounded by fun friends, smiling and accepted and (probably) understood. I'd want to be her too :)

Your point about having options is right on. When my choice is taken away, I find much more to be pleased about with what I DO have before me. Maybe this translates, too, over to having more 'things' than we need. If I had less junk junking up my life, would I therefore be happier with the lack of options?

And yet, I tend to think your stockpile of unworn high-heels says more about a good, healthy be-prepared mentality than an I'm-saving-these-for-my-someday-future-self-mentality. Still good stuff to chew on, either way.

BettyDuffy said...

Oops! Ellie, that was a typo. I meant to say the crisis was about voluntary poverty rather than the book was about it. I was responding to a particular passage in which the novice mistress explains the "Conversion of Manners" which is one of the vows the nuns of Brede take. They don't take a vow of poverty, but the conversion of manners concerns not having, as opposed to having, self-effacement as opposed to self-aggrandizement, and so on. Everything one might think of as a good, is "converted." I didn't explain that very well the first time. You are correct that the book as a whole is about so much more. A rich, rich book.


Heavenly, I think this is a good place to be on the night before Ash Wednesday--in a mood to declutter. Now, if I could turn that mood into a conviction.

kate said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Lucy

http://toddlergirls.net

Young Mom said...

I looked up all the swear words in the dictionary as a teen, I wonder if I would know what they meant yet if I hadn't.

JMB said...

After a particularly social season of my life I gave up shopping for myself one Lent. It was the hardest thing that I had ever done during Lent (besides not smoking one year when I smoked). My problem was not so much hording, because I was constantly weeding out my closet and giving stuff away, my problem was "event" shopping, and mindless "I'm so bored with my life" shopping. Lent is wonderful because it gives you an opportunity to really scrutinize your bad habits and then you get 6 weeks to change! Anyone can do anything for 6 weeks.

JMB said...

Obviously I can't spell today, too hungry:)

kate said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Lucy

http://toddlergirls.net

Ellie said...

I was startled into commenting *smile* because I was surprised (being more or less familiar with you, in a blog-world fashion) that you would distill that book quite like that. Thanks for sharing what you'd meant to say.

TS said...

JMB writes, "Anyone can do anything for 6 weeks."

Then I don't know why I seem to peak around day 3 of Lent.

mrsdarwin said...

Betty, I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I reflexively thought the blonde in the photo was you -- even though I know that you're about my age and you've posted pictures of yourself as a teen and even though I've seen pix of my own mother in photos of the same vintage and style as the above. (The woman next to your mother looks very like mine, as a matter of fact.) So, my apologies for that -- I don't think of you of old! It's just that you write so movingly of your past that's been put away -- it seems like a different era for you, and I guess I just looked at the picture as a reflection of such.

BettyDuffy said...

Mrs. D, people who see me every day thought that picture was of me. I'm not offended. We really do look alike--and the newpaper clippings are deceiving. They all yellow quickly.