Betty Duffy

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I prayed for detachment from the internet, and I got it. I go through phases where I think there are just too many voices out there. I get online, I flip through a few, I lose my bearings, I wonder what I'm doing here. There are so many teachers, so many gurus positing inspiring new ways to see the world, and yet usually I leave the internet feeling purged rather than nourished, and purged not in the good way--but like any ideas I had about my own writing, or my own purpose are spirited away--to where?

There are so many hairs to split and straw men to battle. People have very clear ideas about what is a sin, and what isn't--and none of them agree. The pink blogs tell me how to put my life together, and there's always some turd somewhere else maligning my sense of order.

So I wonder sometimes about the goodness of adding my own voice to whatever it is the internet is. I'm not asking for affirmation or encouragement. But I don't feel "on message" at the moment. I'm happy with my life, and I don't know what to make of yours.

I picked up Wendell Berry's "What Are People For?" this evening, and felt a palpable relief at reading truly nourishing words, words that accrue meaning the more I think about them. I want to do more of that kind of reading. So maybe it helps that I feel dumbstruck. I can't read well when I'm formulating my own message.

My sister was in town last week from Guam. She came to spend time with my granny (we call her Mimi), who has cancer, the aggressive kind, and she's already 89 years-old. It was one of those calls--if you're going to make a 24 hour flight to commemorate someone's life, is it better to do so while the person is still alive, or to come for a funeral? Unable to afford doing both, my sister decided to come while Mimi was still alive.

Almost immediately after my sister's arrival, Mimi was hospitalized with pneumonia. All of last week was caught up in soaking in every minute of my sister's trip home, and also visiting the hospital, and getting Mimi back to my parents' house for rest and recovery. She's there now, and doing well.

But my sister has returned to Guam, and I'm sad.

My daughter is preparing for her school play The Cheese Stands Alone, in which she will play "Blue Cheese." Her costume: a blue sweat suit.

Blue cheese is my absolute favorite.

The more you spend on a thing, the more you expect from it; maybe not a rule of life, but certainly true of a mattress. If your mattress is the culmination of twelve years of speculation, two years of saving, four weeks of research, and three days of shopping, damn the thing if it doesn't perform.

We sent our mattress back to the store. All ye who said "Don't fall for the pillow top," were correct. The very first night I rolled into my husband's wake, and spent a fretful night dreaming I'd fallen into a financial abyss with a twenty-year guarantee.

The mattress issue, then, became a question: Do we order the bed of roses, the bed of lettuce, or the bed of nails?

I've heard proponents of the bed of roses camp speak out from every financial bracket, saying, "It's your bed. It's your marriage. It's your good night's sleep. It's an investment in many good things, and it's worth every penny you spend on it." My husband speaks from this point of view.

I tend naturally towards the bed of lettuce camp, thinking to get a practical, firm, multi-coil mattress, with no frills for a couple hundred. But my dissatisfaction with everything I tried made me feel bad about myself, like maybe I need to sleep on the wood floor for the rest of my life (the bed of nails) to do penance.

Our mattress question led me to the confessional, where I was told for the first time, ever, in my entire life, that I'm too high strung. That I need to relax, that buying a mattress is not buying Heaven or Hell. Can you afford the mattress? Will it make your husband happy if you quit fault-finding and stressing out? Close your eyes, pass the checkbook, and thank God for the blessing of comfort and a good night's sleep.

So we sleep on a bed of roses, and it's heavenly.

My cousin Rachel is ENGAGED! I'm her grouchy matron of honor ("You haven't been a maid for a long time," she says). My husband and I really like weddings. We like dancing and drinking and making fun of people while we eat.

And it's a cowboy boot wedding. I like boots.

But best is that she found a good, good man. I'm so happy for her I could cry.


Lizzie said...

I think I need to pray for detachment from the internet too. Yes, I have been hugely blessed by it but it's too much of a life-sucker for my soul's good (and my son's).
You and your sister's posts today made me cry thinking of family and home. My parents have just moved (yesterday) from the beautiful family home of 40 years due to my dad's ill health...It's heartbreaking but good for them. All sorts of emotions though as there have been 5 family deaths over the last year too - most of them unexpected so it's a tough time at the moment for everyone in our clan!
God bless - please don't stop writing. You have no idea how much your writing blesses me (selfish, I know)

Julia said...

I think the ONLY reason to write a blog is to put in words what God puts in your heart.

What others think of it, whether it's useful or not, and how big your audience is is totally irrelevant. If God is in your work, He will get the eyes that need to see it to your page.

As for the internet as input -- meh. Make lists by category (almost-always nutritious, quirky and thought-provoking, dabbling in feeling connected, people-too-absorbed-in-their-own-sphere-of-influence, breath of fresh air, etc.) and cycle through them the way housewives of old did their chores. You don't need to keep up with the pundits any more than you need to keep up with the Joneses.

BTW, you fall in the 'breath of fresh air' category for me.

Peter and Nancy said...

I find that I need to make sure I have balance too, between books vs. the internet. And the kids. Heh. I am going to avoid plenty of internet exposure in the run-up to the election, though, because it makes me depressed about the state of public discourse in our country.

For something fun to read, but also filled with insight about humanity and divinity (and which treats Christian people with respect!), there's a great series of books by Susan Hill. Often the books that say "featuring Inspector So-and-So" turn me off, but not hers.

So happy to hear about your upcoming matronly duties! My sister isn't married, but is such a fantastic woman -- I think I would be happier for her on her wedding day than I even was for my own.

BettyDuffy said...

Oh, I won't stop writing. It's too much a part of my way of being. I think I need to categorize how you do, Julia. And also, do my writing, before I read online. I'm going back to pen and paper, so I'm not lured.

Nancy, I'll look for the Susan Hill book. I need a good read. Though I've been enjoying a re-read of Middlemarch lately. It's SO good.

And agree about being happier than for my own wedding. There's something about the wait that makes it even more special.

MrsDarwin said...

I'm so happy for your cousin Rachel, and for you. I love a family wedding. Then she'll have babies, and the goodness will increase exponentially.

Cut back on the internet if you will, but don't stop reading me. :) I'll make the same promise for you.

BettyDuffy said...

No way Mrs.D would I quit reading you. My friends online are the very best thing about the internet.

Theresa said...

I am told pen to paper is THE BEST form of writing. I know my best expression of myself are those words that slip out onto a scrap of paper and are filed in a box with my journals.

I know what you mean about the internet. Bittersweet wretched thing that it is.

Best of Luck!

owen swain said...

I've come gone from keeping a blog so many times I can no longer count. As it happens I am back again and hoping this time to stick with it. Part of it is finding ones own voice, or in my case voice and drawing/painting, putting it out there and letting it find its own readership even if it seems like what I choose to do is not for the masses, as it were. I'm not as interested in reading another re-hash or pop-commentary on what's trending among Catholics as I am in finding authentic voices. You have one and that's why I kept reading your blog even when I wasn't keeping my own. What I have to do is preach to the choir, i.e. myself and remind myself that my small voice is authentic just stay with it.

Charming Disarray said...

Oh my gosh. I need to pray for detachment from the internet. Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

I love what you write, please keep doing it.

Karen Edmisten said...

"I get online, I flip through a few, I lose my bearings, I wonder what I'm doing here."

Oh, BettyBettyBetty ... how do you read my mind? I surf, I get paralyzed, wash, rinse, repeat ....

And Wendell Berry is a gift.

Maureen said...

I enjoy your blog. I hope you get a comfortable mattress!!