Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Compare and Contrast on LOVE, English Lit style...

 As some of my facebook friends already know by my recent status update, I watched Jane Eyre today.  That would be the 2011 version, with Mia Waska-whatever-her-last-name-is, and Michael Fassbender.  I can remember his last name because I keep seeing trailers for all his upcoming independent films every time I visit a Denver Landmark theater.  One of the new movies is even rated NC-17...say it with me...ooh.  The movie is appropriately named, Shame.  Hmm.  Gonna be skipping that. 

Anyway, Jane Eyre...

I must say I really enjoyed the film.  I was never much of a Charlotte Bronte fan growing up.  Emily had all my morose attention steadfastly fixed on Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.  Looking back, I think it was just my crush on Lawrence Olivier which started it all.  I grew up watching black and white movies, first on AMC, back when the channel used to play classic movies all the time, and then on Turner Classic Movies.  Probably weird for a kid, but my dad loved classic movies and introduced me to some amazing films.  I saw the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights before I read it, and grumpy, dramatic and dark Heathcliff won my 12 year old heart completely.  By the time I went off to college, I had practically memorized the entire dreary, written masterpiece.  I found it completely fitting that Stephanie Myers had Bella read and discuss Wuthering Heights in her vampire SAGA...only Cathy and Heathcliff's melodrama could match those vampire/werewolf/human teenagers.  More on that in a minute.

I was required to read Jane Eyre in college and vaguely remember writing a paper on the material.  My most vivid memory is reading my paper to the class and mispronouncing St John's name, which led my professor to conclude I hadn't thoroughly read the book.  Hmm, I did skim some...I had a full classload and found my sociology classes to be much more time consuming. If you are unsure how I could mispronounce that name, then you clearly skimmed the book in English Lit too.  (Hint- "Sin-Jun".  Okay, I feel I am completely offending all my British friends right now, so no more talk about his name.)   I did end up with a B on the paper and put the book back on my bookshelf where it stayed, for sixteen years, until my mom decided to bring it to me this past August.  I have not re-read it yet.  But I am intrigued now.  Where I found Rochester to be mean and strange when I was twenty, I now see him in a different light.  Great character study there.

Heathcliff's jealous rant at the end of the story has stayed with me all these years, since I first heard the words out of Lawrence Olivier's mouth:

  "'And I pray one prayer--I repeat it till my tongue stiffens--Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you--haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'"
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 16

I think Bella should have screamed those last lines as she ran across the square in Italy attempting to save Edward's life.  But the words are very dark, echoing of a selfish love, a love that only looks at what SELF is losing, not what the loved one is losing in death.  Very true of Cathy and Heathcliff's love.  I must give Bella credit here though, she was willing to die to SAVE Edward's life.  She put his well-being above her own.

I will not give away the story, but in Jane Eyre, Rochester sacrifices himself bravely on more than one occasion. Where Heathcliff's words above froze me in melodramatic angst, Rochester's words to Jane won my heart with their simplicity and respect for her:

" Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go to Ireland, with all that distance between us, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly. "

Yes, I like Rochester very much.  Some will say his love was selfish also at points, but we are all selfish at times in love, aren't we?  I am no longer a Wuthering Heights fan.  As Edward points out in Eclipse, Cathy and Heathcliff are mean, selfish and small...their love for one another seems to be their only redeeming quality.  But I feel their love does not redeem them at all, for it is pure selfishness, wanting only to own the other.  No giving, only taking.  That is not an admirable love. 

This is true and lasting love:
" 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  I Cor 13:4-7.

I see that in Jane Eyre, whatever version you choose to watch or read.  Good stuff.  

My brain is tired now.  Off to watch my second Netflix DVD, The Adjustment Bureau.  Heard great things about this one.  Peace dear readers.  :)


Monday, November 28, 2011

"What must I do?"

As I sit here sick and refusing to go to the doctor because I do not want another round of antibiotics thrown at me due to the fact all we do in this country is pharmaceuticaly medicate every problem, I have lots of time to think. (Yes, I did make up a word in that last sentence.  Can you guess which one?)  The recent resurrection of a painfully missed friendship has been causing lots of deep thinking.  Friend and I were supposed to have breakfast together this morning, but I had to cancel on her because of the above-mentioned dumb illness.  I am trying every natural cure I can concoct or buy, so if you have any suggestions to throw my way, I would love to hear them.  For the record, even though I do not let the medical industry do all it can to help me, I am not just grandstanding for the ethical slant of it. I have taken so many antibiotics over the past two years I have been living with an awful indigestion of sorts where my stomach becomes instantly nauseous if I consume more than three bites of anything at one sitting.  I do believe this effect was from the antibiotics, and it has only gotten better in the last three months. Plus, steroids make me suicidal, doubly so if I try to use bathroom cleaning products while taking them.  Yes, that last sentence was strange.  The point is the chemicals mess with my head and emotions. So I really do not want to be nauseous again or drive myself off a cliff. 

Back to deep thinking.

I have come to realize over the past few months that I struggle with anxiety and fear of change in big ways.  This was a huge revelation to me, but if you ask my husband or close friends, they would say, "Meh, known it for years", and shrug their shoulders in a distanced, resigned sort of way.  Maybe learning things about yourself is hard.  Or perhaps I live in denial a lot.  That is probably closer to the truth.  I find it strange that I  have moved all over the country so many times and loathe change the way I do.  I guess the adrenaline rush of moving and the excitement of a new place carried me through those times.  I have officially lived in this house longer than anywhere else since before I left for college, and I adore the comfort and peaceful familiarity of it.  I love the Denver area.  I am always missing the ocean, but Denver feels like home now.  The thought of moving NOW fills me with dread unspeakable.  Back to that whole "fear of change' bit.

I breathe and thrive in the constant.  But life is about change, and we all die if we don't change.  "Story" doesn't happen until a character changes in some way.  Course, we all die through change also- aging, disease, all those things we fear.  Change is unavoidable.  Sometimes change is the best thing for us.  Yet I avoid change like it's a week old Tupperware container of yogurt from Maise's lunchbox I must open and wash...just the thought of the SMELL is enough to send me running in the other direction.

I am reminded of a Donald Miller quote I, well, quote, often:

 “Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn't all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."

Yep, that's me.   Comfort and order, even when my comfort isn't all that comfortable...even when it chafes at me and that still, small voice inside tells me there is so much MORE for me if I will just be brave.  I don't even need to have Frodo's bravery when standing on Mount Doom.  His trembling, "What must I do?", while clutching the newly found Ring of Power at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring will do for me for now.  After all, bravery grows with each courageous step, doesn't it? 

My first courageous step is going to the doctor, not for the dumb sickness, but for all the other health issues I face on a daily basis.  If you know me even a little bit, you probably know I fear doctors like they are Civil War surgeons in Gone With the Wind about to amputate my leg without morphine.  Yes, I know...stupid, irrational fear.  But are fears ever really that rational?  I had enough of doctors in my childhood to last me my whole life.  But when Ron came home from his grandfather's funeral, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I need you to go to the doctor and find out why you feel bad so much", I knew my Frodo moment had come. Time to be brave.  Face my fears.

I write about change and bravery a lot, I hope I am not boring you with the same topics.  But these thoughts are constant on my heart, so I must speak of them. Now I leave this post in your hands:  What are you going to do brave today?  What have you been putting off or avoiding that you know in your heart you need to do?  What action will make you step out of fear, procrastination or apathy today and cause you to embrace who you are meant to be?  Share it with me brave with me.

Peace dear readers...going to go down some Theri-flu now.  :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bella becomes a hero.

I have decided to write a review for the SAGA.  Well, the newest movie in the SAGA, Breaking Dawn.  If you do not know what movie SAGA I am referring to, you must have spent the last week catching mountain goats in the Urals.  SAGA must be in all caps here because not since Leia found out Luke was her brother has there been such hormonal angst in a movie series.  I am a Tolkien girl myself, finding the bravery and sacrificial love of his stories to be much more satisfying to my soul than watching Bella sit in a chair for three months because Edward dumped her.  I know, Team Edward is about to chuck werewolf hairballs at me right now- Edward wasn't dumping her, he was trying to allow her to be safe and have a normal life...blah blah blah.  Whatever.  Her behavior was not healthy, no matter how much you try to play the "Bella lost her mythological soulmate boyfriend forever" card.  When Aragorn told Eowyn he couldn't love her in the way she sought, she rode off into battle and killed the one "whom no man can kill", the Lord of the Nazgul, Witch-King of Angmar, effectively winning the Battle of Minas Tirith.  Seriously, there are better fictional role models for our daughters. 

However, a good story is about character transformation.  Hint- a good life is all about that too.  Donald Miller said it well:

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ” 

Bella changes in this final installment.  She learns what sacrificial love truly is.  She has always been sacrifical, since page one of Book one, willing to die for those she loves.  However, she has such low self-worth in the beginning of the series that one really gets the impression she is willing to sacrifice herself because she believes everyone else around her is more worthy of life than she is.   That's not exactly sacrificial love, it is more an unhealthy view of self. 

This is where the SPOILERS start- if you are unfamiliar with the storyline of the books and want to be surprised if you go see the film, please stop reading now.  If you have read the series, you know what is going to happen in the movie- the movie sticks very close to the book storyline.   There's the disclaimer- do not send me hate emails for the spoiling the movie for you.  Smile and wink.

In Part one of Breaking Dawn, Edward and Bella get married and finally consummate their relationship.  Kudos to Myers who has always insisted on keeping her main characters as virgins until marriage throughout the series.  Bella does try on several occasions to change that, but Edward does not relent.  Whatever your stance on sexually active teenagers, if you are a parent I am sure the thought of a NON-sexually active teenage son or daughter is a sigh of relief, yes?  So, Bella and Edward become one, and he doesn't actually kill her in the process...some bruises and a completely broken bed, but she's still alive. 

And becomes pregnant with their child.

Now do not even ask me how this is possible from a scientific standpoint, as half of this procreating pair is a mythical dead creature.  Myers just expects us to go with this storyline quietly.  She makes the rules in her vampire/werewolf universe and we are just along for the ride.  But Bella is pregnant and in Forks VampireLand, the gestation period is short- Bella is full term in about 3 months.

Edward freaks.  Well, everyone freaks.  They have no idea WHAT is inside of her. Edward wants Carlisle to perform an abortion because he feels whatever is inside of Bella is going to kill her. But Bella will have nothing of it.  She loves the child- she insists it is a child- from the instant she finds out she is pregnant.  And she loves the child fiercely. 

She endures great pain during her pregnancy- the baby is incredibly strong and sucks all the nutrients out of Bella's body.  She is literally starving to death, and by the time she gives birth she looks like a Concentration Camp survivor.  The fetus breaks her ribs as it grows inside of her.  But she doesn't just endure physical pain, she also must face the disapproval and anger of those who love her and feel she is making the absolutely wrong choice by allowing the child to live.  She doesn't waver from her decision even slightly.  The love she has for this unborn child becomes her entire life, and she is willing to die to bring the baby into the world.  Bella has finally found sacrificial love, not in an unhealthy or unworthy way, but in the framework  of being willing to die for another BECAUSE of love.

And she does die right after birth.

Of course, this is a vampire story and she doesn't stay dead.  But she is willing, isn't that the point?

Bella became a hero in my book this time around.  You could say she found the love every parent has for their child, but I would disagree.  Knowing from the beginning that giving birth to a child will most likely kill you is not a situation most of us will ever face.  I have known women who have faced that exact scenario and moved forward bravely, willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their child.  They are heroes to me also- even more so because they are real, not just stories in a book.

The Bible says, "Greater love has no man than this, that he will lay down his life for a friend."  Substitute "friend" for whomever you will- child, wife, husband, father...enemy.  Wow, we won't go there on that last one.  If you want further illumination on selflessly loving an enemy, in fiction form, go read Ted Dekker's The Bride Collector.  It is the best in fiction form on that topic I have found.

Bella finds herself during this installment of the series.  She becomes brave for a reason outside of herself and her own desires, and in my opinion, STORY has begun.  All the rest before this has just been backstory, the build-up to Bella's character transformation.  The transformation has come slowly, as it usually does with us in real life too.  The elements were all inside of her from the beginning- her loyalty, bravery in the face of dangerous circumstances, and willingness to sacrifice herself for another.  But those elements were small and twisted at the start, with conflicting and confused motives.  Again, just like us.  Then life happened, Bella chose to jump into it, and all the dormant things inside her came to life, growing strong as she became who she is meant to be.  It is her story now, she is no longer just a bystander in her own life.

What about you?  Has your story begun yet?  Are you an extra in your own life or are you an active participant, finding your strength and realizing what you are willing to sacrifice everything for?  Just a thought for you to ponder.

So, go see the movie or don't.  But in my humble opinion, this one actually has something good and redeeming about it.  Course, it is still a vampire and werewolf story, so stay away if such things don't interest you.  But please think about your own story.  And jump into it.

Peace dear readers. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

You are real, so be real.

These words froze me this morning:

 “What we really need is somebody who loves us so much we don’t worry about death, or about [anything for that matter]… We need this; we need this so we can love other people purely and not for selfish gain, we need this so we can see everybody as equals, we need this so our relationships can be sincere, we need this so we can stop kicking ourselves around, we need this so we can lose all self-awareness and find ourselves for the first time, not by realizing some dream, but by being told who we are by the only Being who has the authority to know, by that I mean the Creator.”

They are by Donald Miller, and if you have known me or been my facebook friend for more than five minutes, you know he is my favorite author.  I usually distinguish him as my favorite non-fiction author, but honestly, you could take away all my novels and leave me with Miller's words and I would be content.  I can make up stories in my head all day long, but I can't match his graceful realness. 

Back to the words-
 The death part hit close to home this morning, as we are still grieving the passing of Ron's grandpa on Saturday.  I can't seem to stop crying, but tears are a blessing.  But the words spoke to me about my entire past week, the past several months even.  I have wondered lately if I am loving others with selfish motives.  Do I have sincere relationships?  But the big question...Who am I?  Really and honestly?

I have been pushing hard for my dreams lately.  And encouraging those around me to do the same.  I am painfully aware of the truth that if I am a writer than I should have something to show for it.  Like a little cash in the bank from a publishing house.  Something besides this blog, although thank you to my seven public followers.  I am a writer, that is who I am.  But without writing accomplishments, am I really a writer?  What determines who I am? 

I know why I am a writer, that is an easy question to answer- because I love words.  Adore words.  Words go deep into my soul.  A favorite quote from Hemmingway:

 “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

I love all words.  Big thousand dollar doozies and simple ones that soothe a mind.  I don't know what they all mean, and probably won't get the spelling correct much, but they are my world. 

So am I a writer because I write?  Or because I have sought words thirstily since I was a kid?  It sounds pretty foolish to even guess the first one when put that way, doesn't it?

I didn't learn a love for words, I believe I was born with it.  My parents did encourage reading, but that didn't even do it.  It's part of my DNA.  

Or perhaps I am asking another question really.  Are we what we do?  Or do we "do" because of who we are?  Hmm. 

There is worth in what we do, and probably quite a bit of non-worth and destruction as well.  But we do not have value because of the end result, the product of our "doing".  We have value because of who we are.  Society- especially American society- will tell us otherwise.  You are what you do and what you have.  Ask a homemaker what she does for a living and watch her wilt.  She does not have much worth in a career and power-oriented society. 

God's way is better.  I reflect on this even as I think of Ron's grandpa.  I will not be at the funeral, but I have a good grasp on what will probably be said about him.  He was a father, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather.  He could pick up almost any instrument with strings- guitar, banjo, mandolin- and play it as if he should be up on a stage.  He served our country bravely in war.  He had seven children, four sons and three daughters.  He was loved dearly.  He was Scottish, descended from nobility.

Will his career be mentioned?  Perhaps.  But the focus will more likely be that he was a hard and dedicated worker, and raised sons and grandsons with the same mettle.

Wallace Lee Lumsden was not a product of what he did.  But what he did accomplish in his life- he was literally the patriarch of his family- was because of what God placed inside of him.  He did because he was.  

I will realize my dreams of being published someday.  But at that moment, I will not suddenly become me.  My accomplishment will stem from who I am.

And Donald Miller is right on- God made me.  The closer I am to him, the freer I will be to be ME. You know that feeling deep in your heart when the one dearest to you believes in you, you feel can accomplish anything, right?  Imagine that feeling blown up to a million, coursing through your veins, as the one who crafted you into being cheers you into your true calling.  Amazing thought, yes?

I will end with another quote by Miller:

“No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?"

It's your story.  BE.  Ask God who you are.  You already know it deep in your soul anyway.  Don't just "do".  What a waste of our lives if we just do for eighty years.  Be who you are and the doing will come.

I feel this post was disjointed, and I am not completely sure I said what I set out in my mind beforehand.  But these are the words that came.  It was a long post- thank you for hanging in there. Give feedback please- on here or on facebook.  I want opinions on this.

Peace dear readers.  And go hug someone you love is fleeting.