Monday, November 30, 2009

I Convert to Christianity

     The moment a person decides that one thing is more true than another, and then decides to accept that, doesn't really change that person into anything better or different than they were before, at least right away.  And this is what I assume when I think about how so much paganism got mixed in with Christianity in the first place. Those Romans (and Celts and everyone else) couldn't just throw out everything that they had believed in, along with every last ceremonial practice, at the moment of their conversion, and why should they have? As we can attest, Christmas and Easter sure make for two joyful occasions that who knows what they would have looked like without all their symbolic pagan pomp attached. Stripped to the bare bones, much more like their Jewish counterparts, I imagine. And so it was with me. I couldn't just toss to the wind all my former beliefs and practices. Nor was I ready to enthusiastically embrace everything that came with my new religion. Well okay, I might be jumping the gun here a little because I only had an idea about what Christianity might mean for me in terms of my daily life, and so far as I was aware, I only knew one family who were professing Christians, and they were my daughter's best friend's family, and they had been so helpful to me as a single mother that I could hardly fault them on anything as far as their demonstration of love. But I did know that I could never join their church, as Christie had attended with them many times and they truly scared me. Plus, I had already spent a bit of time trying to undo the psychological damage that I had felt they were laying on her.  For example, sometimes she would come home crying, saying that she wasn't saved because she couldn't do certain things. Then I would have to explain to her why she shouldn't worry about it, and this on several different levels. (To answer the question as to why I let her attend in the first place--she was only 7 or 8 when she started, her attendance was sporadic, the programs consisted mostly of very shallow children's materials and games, and they served food and lots of sweets, so it was always this fun party atmosphere. It would make me feel too mean to say no.) And there was J, who, as I mentioned earlier, was also an Evangelical Christian. However, to the best of my knowledge no one else in my life that I knew of was Christian. (Woops, I forgot. My mom's husband was a much lapsed Catholic.) So, not a lot of potential influence coming from any direction. However, even though the idea scared the b'jeebies out of me, I decided rather quickly that I probably needed to pick out a church (remember, nothing was going to appeal to me at this point. I could barely even stand the idea of going to church; I just thought that maybe I should. Plus, I still had lapsed worries about building up bad Karma for so strongly disliking Christians!), and since I just happened to live in a church parsonage, and that church just happened to be the one where J attended, problem solved.

    Only J didn't seem overly excited by my conversion or by my attending his church. I think he had doubts as to whether I truly converted or was just pretending. Honestly, who could blame him for that, except that he had been in on every conversation that I had had about Christianity, and had even recommended reading materials, which I had actually read, etc., etc.. But then there was the fact that my nature was not changing hardly at all, and I was still being such a negative influence on him, i.e., he still had trouble resisting me, and I wasn't even trying to make it easy for him not to. I think his mantra was, "I'm only human, after all." And while I do think he was maybe more than a little concerned with what his fundamentalist friends might think about his dating a new convert, I think he was more afraid of what I might say or do in front of said friends, which would have, I guess, reflected poorly on his judgment. And so we continued off and on for two more years! No one knew we were seeing each other. In all honesty, he was the most secretive guy I  ever met, and as time passed I was beginning to feel more and more hurt by his not introducing me to anyone, or involving me in his campus ministry activities. It's not like either one of us was married, for goodness sakes!  Also, fortunately or unfortunately (I've never been really sure which), for the most part, during those entire four years, I kept my daughter out of our relationship, as I was never sure where it was headed. He also never seemed to be bothered by this.

     Alas, finally, and as fate would have it, just when I was beginning to decide that I had had about enough (and after I had finally met his mother, who was extremely antagonistic and disapproving), he asked me to marry him! We had argued about this a week or two earlier. In a rather heated, intense moment he had looked squarely in my face and asked (read: almost yelled), "What do you want from me?" I told him that I wanted to marry him, and he responded with, "And then what? What will you want after that?" I very calmly and quite cleverly (I thought, since I was so upset), said simply, "Anniversaries, like anyone else would want." At the moment when he asked me to marry him I had just enough left over feelings for him still lingering around in my psyche that even though I replied with so much less enthusiasm than I otherwise would have, I said yes. There he was, again in front of me, but this time on his knee offering me his mother's wedding rings from her 2nd husband who she had divorced and didn't really like. (Maybe she had given them to him to help save him from spending money he didn't have--or maybe not.) In any case, no one other than my daughter (who by this time was 11 years old) and one close friend of mine and his girlfriend came to our wedding. (And knowing that we had no one else to invite who would want to come, we kept the event very small and private. A friend and colleague of his who was an ordained minister performd the ceremony in his home. I still think even now that everyone assumed we were doing this rather quickly, and therefore something  had to be amiss! Like I said, no one knew we had been dating for four years, and J never made the effort to clarify this.) Anyway, I wore black and cried the whole time as we stood there exchanging our vows. Afterwards we took a short Labor Day weekend trip, as we both had to be back in school on Tuesday. The real "honeymoon" would come the following summer when he would take me for a two month trip overseas to Europe and to Jordan. Maybe that would make up for everything.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reading C. S. Lewis

. . . And so I began reading The Screwtape Letters. This story was an excellent treatise on understanding the human condition and the psychology of temptation from the perspective of hell. It takes the viewpoint that devils are not engaged in the pursuit of something actually called “evil,” but are more motivated by either a  fear of punishment, or else by a kind of hunger, something  rather like a corrupted ravenous passion to dominate, or make some one’s intellectual and/or emotional  life an extension of their own. It’s kind of like the very unhealthy flipside of “Love” that we are all too familiar with on the human plane.   The devil, Wormwood, would basically “feed” on his victim, destroying him from the inside out, by zeroing in on character flaws that he could use to tempt his victim into further developing those same flaws, thus moving him further away from the experience of a truer, healthier love (which is God).  The Great Divorce continued with the theme of hell, examining the nature of good and evil, saying that the two could never exist together, that it must be “either-or.”   The real sins that would more likely keep a person from Heaven, or Love, would be character flaws like false pride, possessive love, lustfulness, cynicism and doubt, self-pity, grumbling, materialism, and the like. Not the big things like, say, murder, which an individual would be far more likely to see as wrong and thus ask forgiveness for.  It would be one’s free-will, combined with one’s corrupted passions, which would keep an individual basically living in his own “hell,” until he becomes so utterly unwilling to let go of that passion that it literally “eats him up” and keeps him always separated from anyone he could not affect by his own corrupt will. We might also say that he has become so “consumed”  that he is burning up alive, or rather more realistically, living in his own hell. Pure evil is a purely corrupted passion let loose in its extreme form!  Living in eternity consumed by the flames of hell can now be seen as both symbolic and literal.. Wow! Lewis was stretching my imagination while at the same time giving me something that made sense. I had surely seen this kind of corruption of human nature in action, and I had read about it in literature from the beginning of time!  I wanted to know more about this C.  S. Lewis guy, and what else he may have written that would give me more food for thought.
Ultimately, to make a long story short, reading more Lewis (his autobiography Surprised by Joy, as well as his apologetics works) brought me eventually to the place where I could accept Jesus as God who came to earth in the body to make the ultimate sacrifice of dying in order to save me from having to keep trying to do it for myself!  I knew I needed saving from Karma, at least; I knew that I didn’t want good and evil to exist together into eternity, and that something ultimately had to work to keep them separated so that Heaven, or Paradise, could actually be experienced;  I knew that  every human being had the potential to be or do “evil,” and that coming back to earth over and over might increase the odds of that happening, not decrease them. And so in one moment I acknowledged my need and Christ’s gift, feeling in that moment of accepting this “grace” a huge relief and thankfulness! No other religious system described a god who so loved what he had created that he died for them so that in accepting him they were free; Instead, they had more or less offered up a formula for how you might do it yourself.  And good luck! (But you can have all the time in the world that you need.) On the human plane, laying down your life for someone had always been perceived as being the ultimate act of love, so why wouldn’t it be true on the Divine level? Well, I held that Grace in my heart for all about 5 seconds before my true nature took back hold of me and I thought, Oh shit! You’ve got to be kidding

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Problem of Evil (and Karma)

     (Read this entry at your own risk--I only hope it makes some kind of sense! It's a little philosophical, so sorry! ) Like I have said earlier, I was not a big fan of Christians, and so had thrown Christianity out with the same bathwater (so to speak) that I had thrown Christians. I had also tried to let loose of any preconceived ideas I had of God, and so god had become for me entirely gentle and kind and loving, and in everything, sort of like a huge essence of light and love permeating the entire universe. Everyone was traveling their own path as they eventually evolved into more perfect beings, filled with perfect love. I rested in this for awhile, but something kept nagging at me. I could never find a really good explanation as to why over the history of mankind, so few people had seemed to reach that ideal level of spirituality that would make the rest of us all so inspired that we would want to emulate it. I had read a lot of literature and a lot of history, and in no period of man's existence had there been just love and peace in the world. History and literature  both were racked with stories of war, disease, famine, poverty, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, and every form of fear and oppression that one human could put another human through.  Man has consistently stolen, cheated, and lied, hurt, and killed to get whatever he wanted. As a whole, we did not seem to be evolving towards the light so much as we were headed straight into a big black hole! And then, let's say, hypothetically, what if we lived forever as spirits, how black could those souls get, and what if they never decided to change, and how would other "good" souls escape that darkness when not in their bodies?  Plus, when a soul chose to reincarnate, how much control could there be over where and how it came back to the earth? I was having a hard time accepting that so many souls had chosen their own destinies when most people's lives sucked so much! Why would we choose all this hurt? Karma was certainly one answer. I had already gotten rid of a god who would sit back, seemingly not caring, and let all this happen, but even still it seemed we were stuck with the same problem of evil. I could easily see how a person might just throw up their hands and say that there was no god! And yet, if we were living just for the mere sake of existence, why then did mankind seem to have a moral conscious? Most of the human race had set the same standards for themselves along with appropriate penalties, and while I got it that this could be explained as social evolution (for which all guilt could be explained as well), how was it possible that the gods mankind had "created"  could show characteristics of say, a strong authoritative feminine divinity, when the culture it sprang from exhibited only oppression of women? In other words, if archetypes did exist, where did they originate?  These thoughts bothered me, and enough scholars way smarter than me had contemplated the existence or non-existence of god to make me, especially at such a young age, question how I could possibly assume I had all or any of the right answers! Afterall, I was in graduate school finding out that there was a whole bunch of stuff I didn't understand or know anything about! Wow!

     And then even Karma was wearing on me, because I noticed how few people took Karma very seriously, and just referred to it as a form of justice that would "get" people sooner or later, and so gave them a sense of fairness about life that seemed to me to be one more thing we all hoped for! And why do we so desperately want life to be fair? Think about it! We want it on just about any level of life, starting from our earliest childhood! That's why most people who don't like the Christian God don't like him: because he doesn't seem fair! And as for me, I was trying to give Karma  (which seemed much more fair!) some real serious consideration. Karma, the universal law of cause and effect, works on all levels of existence, including the physical, mental, and spiritual planes. Of course to Buddhists, the first cause is unknowable (but of course, so here we go again with the whole faith thing!), but it does get rid of the need for a Savior! This was what I found so appealing, and what I think lots of other people find too. You just have to do these eight things: have a correct mental attitude (which means dropping all specific views of everything), maintain right motive (not seek for anything), and have right speech, right action, right livelihood (which could maybe be summed up as thinking before speaking or doing!), right effort (and in the right direction), right meditation, and right discipline. (This is a whole lot of rights, and I guess Karma is the judge as to how successful anyone is.) This was a true do-it-yourselfer, and every other theory on Karma came pretty close to this one. The idea, no matter what else you believe exactly, is to get out of the Karmic cycle! But whoah! On second thought (and on not that close of an examination), this didn't seem like it would be all that easy! It was going to require way too much self-control! So if I were to decide I didn't like karma either, and that I'd throw it out with all that other dirty bathwater, I was starting to not be left with much I could live with, except for maybe the whole "live and let live" philosophy that in no time of mankind's existence did we seem willing or able to do! But, mankind has always had a strong desire to live, to persevere, to keep dreaming and building, even when he knows that it will all eventually turn to dust. And so do we just keep hoping for the best? Even in the face of all the evil man commits? It would still take a whole lot of faith to believe in that.
     These are some of the discussions that J and I would have, which would ultimately lead to my asking him what he thought the answers might be. When Tolkien came up, and how much I loved that story of good versus evil, and how little self-control was exhibited when the chance to wield great powers were at stake, and how the worst of everyone started to come out so that ultimately sides had to be taken; and how only an act of sacrificial love would save Middle Earth (like almost all  heroes journey stories, where the hero must go into the underworld, face himself or some form of evil, and either be defeated by it or return triumphant to save the day) I thought, yes, I'd like to read another author who wrote like Tolkien, even if only slightly. I was still hoping someone would point me in the direction of a real hero, or at least something I could believe in.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dating Off and On for Four Years

     J and I dated for four years off and on, though there were, it seemed, more long stretches of off than on. He was a serious flirt, and had other young women chasing after him besides me, plus he had his own classes and teaching assistantships to be concerned with. I had my coursework and teaching assistantships too, which kept me plenty busy as well; and for relief from all the stress I'd often make weekend visits back to WVa in order to keep up some semblance of a social life. When we were on he'd come over to see me and I'd make sure that my daughter would be away for the night at her best friend's house. Every now and then when we were just sitting around talking I'd ask him some question about his theological views on something or other, and he'd answer me honestly and intelligently, offering thorough explanations that wouldn't make me feel that I was being judged. However (and unfortunately), all along he was judging himself more harshly than I could ever know at the time. He not only had earned two MA degrees at a Christian seminary (one in Christian Apologetics and one in Near Eastern Antiquities), he was serving as a campus minister while he worked on another MA and PhD in ancient history at Miami University. His Christian views on dating and relationships were in direct opposition to what he was doing, and the guilt was eating him up! But God always has a plan, and the truth of the matter is that any real goodie-two-shoes Christian wouldn't have given me the time of day, nor would I have him! Anyway, during one of our conversations J suggested that I might like to read C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters and/or The Great Divorce, also by Lewis, as he knew that I was a huge Tolkien Lord of the Rings fan, and the two authors had been colleagues and friends. My daughter's 2nd grade teacher had read The Chronicles of Narnia (also by Lewis) to her class, but I had not heard of him otherwise. As J's suggested readings were both works of fiction, I thought that no harm could come from reading more mythopoetic works, as I already loved that genre. It would be nothing too overtly Christian, and nothing "preachy." Okay, no problem; I looked forward to it. How could I have known how much it would eventually shake up my whole way of thinking!

Friday, November 20, 2009


     So here's what I think. I had this whole New Age spirituality thing going on, mixed in with a bit of feminist thinking, meaning I had read Elaine Pagels and pretty much found her view of Gnostic Christianity to be appealing, as well as that of anyone else who subscribed to a theological system that could include female deities, or "God as Mother" imagery. I was heavily reading a variety of world mythologies, and marveled at any that elevated feminine aspects to the level of the divine, while otherwise still oppressing women socially and culturally. In my enthusiasm, I had hung a poster of Lilith up in my office at Miami University (in Jewish mythology she was Adam's first wife, who gets supplanted by Eve, and then roams the earth as an evil spirit, stealing children). It was seeming to me that every woman throughout the history of mankind who rebelled against the social norms of culture, or who made her spouse/lover unhappy, had to be turned into some form of evil demi-god (and be labeled a child hater, as nothing could be worse than a woman who doesn't really like kids; and you could see how I might relate to that!). And believe me, if I could have found a poster of Medusa, I would have hung her right up there on my wall beside Lilith! Okay, so I was a bit of a theological liberal. And then there was my belief in reincarnation. Well, suffice it to say that it had ceased appealing to me that getting only one chance to "get it right" or else, when so many people had suffered such oppressed lives and who were more or less on survival mode (and if you've read any theories on social evolution, you understand how regretfully real this all is), then maybe if they had another chance (or chances), they might be born into different circumstances that could be potentially more conducive to living  morally upright lives! I thought that even I, as imperfect as I was, would probably give at least some people that chance (granted, I would probably only pick out the ones I thought I could like, or who might improve themselves in my time frame according to my ideals; okay, so no one would ever appoint me as god!). But still! It made me feel like I could breathe easier and longer! And so could everyone else.  So now, enter J. This is maybe what he meant about it not being "prudent" to see me. Plus, there was the fact that he found me so doggone sexually appealing (I was still only 29 when we met), and maybe even challenging! (And he would hate it that I might point this out.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pagan Girl Meets Christian Boy in French Class

     I've always told people whenever they ask how J and I met that J won me over in our French class with his ooh la la (which I always say using my sexiest French accent!), but the truth is that along with his animal magnetism (did I mention that he's a Scorpio?) and his undeniably rediculous sense of humor, he was smart as all get out, plus he had an entire repertoire of adventure stories, as he had by this time already made four trips to the Middle East; plus he had traveled around the Mediterranean area, and had even gone into Eastern Europe. What girl wouldn't get hooked?  Especially me! I was itching to travel the world, and anytime anyone told me about an overseas trip they'd been on I'd burn with envy! So this was a huge element of attraction for me! Now, when I looked at him I saw this "man about the world." Except for one thing--he was an Evangelical Christian, and I had by this time developed a rather strong dislike (interpret: hatred) of anyone who held to any Christian belief.  For him the problem was that I was more or less a practicing pagan (who was studying Buddhism on the side), and that I didn't really care all that much for Christians (I couldn't use the hate word to his face, now could I?). So we were doomed. Two star-crossed lovers never meant to be. I'd read my tarot cards and even consulted a psychic on the matter (who, by the way, told me that J would be absolutely no good, which I disregarded, as I thought she might have said that because he was a Christian, and I supposed she wasn't; but then, everybody always finds a way to disregard anything they don't want to hear, right?). Anyway, let me just say that we saw plenty of each other all during November and December, and then after Christmas he announces to me that seeing me anymore "just wouldn't be prudent." Those were his exact words! This man, who had told me how he virtually saved a woman, as she had roamed off alone (their group was on a sightseeing daytrip), from an Arab attacker who was on leave from the Jordanian Army, lurking about this castle, no less, fending him off as the man swung a long thick chain at him in one hand while wielding a knife in the other, and while the woman's husband was nearby watching (who, by the way, developed a bit of a dislike for J after this incident; though, really, what man can stand nearby watching another man save his wife and end up feeling bitter towards him? This, in my opinion requires a huge ego!). J managed to work his way down towards their bus to where the bus driver was able to witness the now attack on J and call the police who arrived in time to save J, and take the man away (he was charged and sentenced within days of this incident--talk about quick justice!), and make a hero out of J, who thankfully survived the whole affair! This man thought it wouldn't be prudent to see me anymore! After he had already re-ignited my imagination for adventure to exotic lands where danger in the guise of dark strangers lurked within castles walls, and where the good guys truly did save damsels in distress from being sexually ravaged (okay, this I probably picked up from having read all those sappy/trashy R- rated novels!) or saved them from certain death (see any Disney fairytale for this one)!  What was not prudent about seeing me? He never told me, exactly. I had to guess.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

At Miami Univeristy, King Library

     I met J my very first semester at grad school. I had to take a reading intensive course in a modern foreign language, and so I took French. That first day the desks were all set up in a circle around the room, and I took a seat across the room over by the windows. Much to my dismay there was this guy sitting over by the door with whom I felt this unbelievable magnetic attraction! I couldn't believe I was feeling this, because in my head (and to myself) I thought I would never like a guy like that. He was very tall, somewhat overweight, and a more than a little nerdy looking with very short hair and glasses. The next day it was the same thing, only now this guy had moved over to my side of the room, sitting right next to me on my left, so close we were almost touching. I had a stack of books on Buddhism I was trying to stuff under my desk (I was interested in practicing Buddhism and so was trying to learn all I could about it). He made some comment on all those books (meant to be funny, of course) which got my full attention and made me laugh. Again I felt this magnetic energy pulling me towards him, and again I thought you've got to be kidding! Eventually we got to move our desks out of that stupid circle and put them in rows like normal people (I still dislike sitting in circles, even now when I'm the prof.). I struggled with learning French, and told my department chair that I would stand a better chance of learning it if I just moved to France! That was also an idea I found far more appealing than taking this class. The professor was extremely arrogant, and preferred teaching to the students in the class who already knew the language (I suppose, who wouldn't?)! This meant that we went flying through all the material, leaving me basically in the dust. J seemed to be having some difficulty as well, but not like I was (I found out later that he had already studied 5 other languages, and while languages were never his favorite subject, he could manage them). When I went to see this professor in his office, he made some really flippant, hateful remark that made me so mad I dropped the class. And this could have meant the end of the story with J. I never saw him outside of class and spoke to him only a little in class, as there was never much time for socializing.

     Well, one day I'm in the library (where you basically live when you're a grad student, except that I was also a mom so I tried to not be there so much). I'm sitting at a table when I look up for just a moment from whatever it was I was working on and there stood J. He asked me how I was, and I just blurted out that all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe school, and that I really needed to get a life! Good thing I wasn't really thinking, because I guess this could have been interpreted as a pick up line, only it wasn't. I was just exasperated. However, it got results, because J asked me if he could call me sometime, and I said sure, as I quickly wrote my phone number down on a scrap piece of paper and handed it over to him. A few days later he called, but as fate would have it I truly was too busy to talk, but tried assuring him that I did want to and to please call me again soon, which he did. The following Friday night he came over to my house, and whew! What an evening. There was so much raw animal magnetism surrounding us that only one thing could be done. Still, I couldn't believe it! I was not physically attracted to him, so how was it even possible that I could sexually feel something for someone that my mind could not yet feel? (I suppose, now that I think about it, guys probably experience this all the time, but I hadn't ever!) Anyway, he asked me out for Saturday night; I was all too happy to have human contact with someone other than my 7 year old daughter (though I had by then made friends with two great women who were also studying English). We drove down to Eastgate (an outer suburb of Cincinnati) for dinner and a movie (we saw Always with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter. The year was 1989). We stayed out really late, talking and laughing the whole night long. And thus began our rather tumultuous four year courtship.

Friday, November 13, 2009


     It's common for most girls to think that life will begin when they get married. I spent most of my own girlhood dreaming about who I might marry, where I'd live, and how many kids I might have, along with what I'd name them. My dad, in true fatherly fashion, and also after having me read Letters to Karen (a book of letters by a father to his daughter on the topic of marriage and how to be a good wife),  told me to take secretarial classes in high school just in case I didn't get married. I loved shorthand (it seemed like writing in secret code), hated typing (we still had manual typewriters at our school in the early 70s!), and discovered for certain that I never wanted to be a secretary! I also knew one other thing--I hated babysitting too (one of the few available jobs for young girls in school who wanted to make some legitimate cash). I got paid the going rate of 50 cents per hour, and by the time I was 15, I boldly declared to my mother in true young feminist fashion that if she ever got me another babysitting job I would never, ever have any kids when I grew up! Matter settled; another potential career (one as a stay-at-home mom) that I knew I wasn't suited for, marked off my list. I was still considering whether or not I was too tall to be an airline stewardess, though it was my poor eyesight and glasses that ended that career before it ever had a chance of getting off the ground (pun intended). I thought the whole flying and traveling thing sounded really fun!  Oh well, sigh! I didn't know if any girl could actually make money being a detective (I was a huge Nancy Drew fan), and so marriage seemed like the most viable option, though maybe with only one kid. So this was my plan right up until my parents got divorced.  End all plans!!
     Now, since this story is not about my parents' divorce and how screwed up I became, I'm going to make a long emotional story very short: I swore I would never get married. Okay, I did get married a year after graduating from high school, but that's only because I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was not at all in love with the guy. He wanted to marry me, I had become temporarily homeless, plus I was only 19 (and a little screwed up). That marriage lasted one year. It was after that that I swore off ever getting married again! And I stood my ground until I was 34. (Though I had a baby sans marriage when I was 23; but again, another thing this story is not about.)
     So I became a single mom for eleven years.  But here's the thing: I got motivated! I figured out what I wanted to be, and where I wanted my life to go, at least for the most part. I started school and then kept going. I began reading, not sappy love stories where the women got married and lived happily ever after, keeping house and doing who knows what else; I read the kind of literature that opened my eyes to a past that I had not up to then learned anything about, and to an understanding of the human condition of peoples back in time and around the globe that I might not ever be able to fully appreciate. At the same time I was also studying literary criticism, and while it also definitely expanded and challenged my thinking, I knew that I never wanted to be a critic, nor could I ever be a true academic. But I did want a bigger life! I still wanted adventure and travel, but I also wanted the chance to really experience other cultures and people. I didn't want to "sit out" life. I wanted to dance! And this is when my heart began to open up enough to let a certain young(ish) graduate student working on his PhD in ancient history take hold of my imagination so that I might eventually once again consider marriage.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Journaling is like Excavating Your Life

     An anonymous writer once said that keeping a journal is like excavating your life, that the more you write, the deeper you dig and the more you learn about yourself, uncovering the many layers before you discover the original self.  I particularly liked this analogy, not just as a writer and journaler, but as an "armchair archaeologist."  It made me think that the self could be likened to a tell (which is a mound found all around the Middle East, composed of the remains of successive settlements built  over hundreds and hundreds or more years). I have learned over the years as I have  traveled throughout the Middle East and Turkey how to (most of the time) recognize an unexcavated tell. While many tells have been excavated by archaeologists, especially since the 19th century, there are still so many more that are waiting to unearth their secrets, to say "I was once a great city full of life and commerce." Or maybe even declare itself as once having been in its glory days  an active religious center like Colossae in Asia Minor (which we know today as Turkey), where the seven churches, or cities that are mentioned in the Book of Revelations can still be identified.
     Though I am not an archaeologist by profession or otherwise, I have learned an awful lot about it in the years since I married my husband in 1993. Since the early 1980s he has been part of two excavations, one in northern Jordan close to the Syrian border, and one in central Jordan in the Kerak plateau.  I have been fortunate to have traveled with him over much of the Middle East, throughout Turkey and Greece, and most of Western Europe.  While this is not his story, nor is it in the least academic in nature, it's mine, and I've come to see it as being valid in its own right, especially  in terms of my personal observations and experiences. And like so many of the wives (or male spouses) of near eastern archaeologists, we each have our own stories to tell: of life behind-the-scenes in the dig camps, and about the variety of work done in the field, including how it is to work alongside both the natives and the other foreigners; about selling archaeology to starry-eyed college students who want and expect to have more of an "Indiana Jones" experience; about some of the gossip we've all heard about various well-known, as well as lesser-known archaeologists; about sharing slides and introducing Biblical archaeology into the local churches; about what it's like taking students on Bible Land tours to the Middle East before 9/11, and to Greece and Turkey after 9/11, plus all of the other related traveling we've done abroad, and of  the vastness of the cross-cultural experiences; and finally, how it all had to work at home.
     This is my story. I hope in telling it I dig up some yet uncovered part of myself.