Thursday, December 08, 2005

All One Thing

Today was a good day. After fearing for a while yesterday that I'd succombed to the sickness around here, it turns out I was just exhausted from a sleepless night the night before. D is improved, though not 100%. And E still ran a low-grade fever today. I'm a bit worried about him because he now has three spots. They look like bites. One on his face, one on his arm, and one on his belly. He's vaccinated for chickenpox, but it's still possible for him to get a very mild case. It's always suspicious when spots show up two or three days after the onset of a fever.

I feel funny writing about health stuff here. I don't want to sound like "Aunt Hilda." You know, the old woman who only has her health to talk about. I've been thinking a lot about what I subtitled my blog--"a space set apart for writing as a spiritual discipline." I was walking along at the University today, thinking, "Does my family's health qualify as 'writing as a spiritual discipline?'" And I believe the answer is, yes. It does. For me.

This was something I learned from doing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius a few years ago. (Here is a helpful description of the Exercises.) I have not done the 30-day retreat, but was fortunate to go through the Retreat of the Every Day (19th Annotation) over a nine-month period. One of the things I learned through that experience was that nothing happens outside of God. Which is to say, all of life's experiences can serve as a source for theology. It is all apiece.

For me, this insight was transformative. At the time, I was very in love with the idea of being a writer. Unfortunately, I saw most of my life as a threat to my Life as a Writer. Everything that didn't seem to directly inspire me or feed into my work became a threat to the work ever happening at all.

As I lived into the notion that everything was connected, then I stopped compartmentalizing my life. Expectations, required roles (marriage partner, parent, employee, etc) were not antagonistic to being a writer. If everything is of apiece, then all of those roles (and more) were a part of my being a writer.

When everything seemed to threaten my Life as a Writer, then I felt I always had to reject life. When I stopped seeing life as a threat to art, I could finally embrace the fullness of life.

Part of the fullness of life is a family who gets the flu.

One of my favorite articles about theology is written in an interview/dialogue format in the book Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside. During the interview (between two women: the editor of the book Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary D. Pellauer), there are numerous interruptions recorded including a doorbell ring and a child crying. Here is one of my favorite parts of the interview:

[Child's crying interrupts conversation.]

SBT: This tape is going to be a mess with children crying and all these interruptions.

MP: Actually, I want to see that left in. Interruptibility is one of the conditions with which women have to come to terms to do theology. It's not one of the things you learn in theological school, about how to do theology with a child crying in the background or coming in with a Mickey Mouse toy, or whatever.

SBT: Yes, interruptibility is key, and its methodologically key.

MP: It's also parallel to what we've been saying about the healing processes. Periods of denial in a person's recovery process are part of it. You have to allow for this interruption. It's not a process that happens between 9:00 and 12:00, or all day, or in a continuous series. Healing is interruptible.

One thing I appreciate about this excerpt is the way the latest interruption (of the child crying) leads into two theological insights: one, that for women interruptibility is a methodological key to doing theology at all; and two, the realization that interruptibility is a part of the healing process itself!

This excerpt has been so important for me in informing my life as a theologian in school. Like my experience with the spiritual exercises, it reminds me that my life is not in competition with my theological work, but it is all apiece.

So all that to say, you're going to have to read about my family's sickness every now and then. :)

By the way, just as I finished writing this, the telephone rang. It was a boy from E's class who's been worried about E's absence. Just as I answered the phone, a child began crying out in the hallway of our apartment building. E's on the phone now, the child is still crying, and I'm writing after the interruption. You see?

No comments: