"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stack of Friends

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I have started to refer to them as "my friends".  A little weird?  Maybe.  

Some evenings, my family giggles and tells me to "go have some time with your friends"... and I sit in my chair and pick up 'a friend'.  

These friends sit there stacked on my table... bought with love and care with saved, special birthday money or Christmas gifts---  my books.  My stack of "friends".  

I am realizing more and more what a relief I feel when I read.  ...and, in particular, when I read books that challenge me; books that are truly 'beyond me'.  I like a book that is just a bit difficult for me to understand.  It strangely relaxes my mind and moves me to think in ways that are refreshing.  Funny? Maybe.  I don't know.  

I have noted this phenomenon to other people and some look at me, smile in a way that communicates---"yep, I totally get you."  Others have different friends... the piano, the paint brush, the computer, their tvs, cds, or their hiking boots.  

Don't get me wrong.  I love LOVE real, human friends more.  There is profoundly more relief in my soul and more fulfillment when I sit with a human friend and talk about life, love, you, me, and God. These are the friends I treasure most, to be sure!  

But, I can't lie... I do like a good, long "conversation" with an author...  Okay... enough of that.  

One friend I am 'talking with' right now is a book entitled, Anatomy of the Soul, by Curt Thompson. And, I am loving our conversation!  This book is a life-giving, hope infusing look at the brain and our minds.  Curt Thompson writes about our redeeming God, who has set-up our brains for redemption and renewal. With salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we really are given the mind of Christ and can be renewed day-by-day.   Did you know that your very brain has been wired in such a way that those habits you hate in yourself, those responses you don't understand and are frustrated with, ...even those memories you loath... they all can be renewed and redeemed---made beautiful for His Kingdom?  I stand amazed at Dr. Thompson's way of integrating Scripture, science and psychology in a hope-filled way.  

If you know me well, you will know that I have always said, "I don't have many memories from my childhood".  This is what my husband has heard for over 20 years.  And, in one very real way, it is true.  I can't articulate the facts of my childhood very well at all.  ..where I schooled.  ...what house or where I lived.  ...the teacher's name ...or the specific 10th birthday party.  I don't seem to have much access to these facts at this point.  These feel like 'lost years'.  

Until...  until my friend Dr. Curt Thompson suggested I sit and try to remember in a different way.  He suggests in one of his exercises...   
"Start by thinking of your earliest memories.  Record it and continue to write as much as you can from the first decade of life.  Do not become overwhelmed by trying to write about later events or keeping strict chronological order.  Simply record what comes to mind---paying close attention to sensations, feelings, images, colors, and the like—not just facts." (excerpt from his autobiography exercise) 
So, I decided to start this process last week.  I set aside some moments of quiet and solitude.  I only began with age 0-6...  really believing there was nothing much there.  I was astonished when I sat and thought of these year; looking specifically for sensations, feelings, images and color.  OH! my!  all sorts of "memories" came to mind.  I filled a few journal pages.  Dr. Thompson suggests that our brains hold memories in a myriad of ways--- smell, sights, sounds, etc.  And, most of these memories are not necessarily transferred to the chronological, facts, part of our brains.  Don't worry about the facts, he writes.  

As I sat and remembered, I saw many things.  White and green.  Yellow.  Cold snow and scary tall trees.  I remembered many things.  Mostly happy.  Which, if I am honest, surprised me!  I saw beautiful, surprisingly happy memories of green fields, swimming pools, a swing set and white! (the vanilla ice cream acquired in magical-never-ending-supply from a little white hut at the club my grandparents belonged to).   I saw snow and snow ice cream.  I saw a yellow bedroom and a friendly neighbor.  I remembered a long, tree covered, cool walk to the school bus.  There were also sensations I remembered as I sat quietly... gleeful, magical, happy and profoundly sad.   Multi-colored.  Multi-sensory.  

I am remembering.  And, I stand amazed.  Thanks, Curt.  ...my husband and children are loving hearing these, too. Which is good fun!   

Believe me, if I am honest, this journey hasn't and won't be all fun and games.  I know.  I truly feel a bit of trepidation and am hesitant about the idea of sitting to remembering the next decade--- those hard, sad years, the 'trauma' years that have 'defined' me for most of my life.  But, for some time now, I have been intrigued by the idea of multi-colored memories (thanks, Disney's 2015 "Inside Out" for this beautiful image!).  For years (even before Disney), I have been praying and on a hopeful search for the happy in the midst of the sad.  ...believing there must be both.  If both live in our mundane every day---why wouldn't it not be true of my age 10?  Curt Thompson agrees with me, I think, and is showing me a way forward in the search.

I am grateful for this new 'friend' from my stack---who is teaching me a bit about my brain and my God.   ...another step in knowing and being known.

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