Thursday, November 20, 2014

NaBloPoMo: The Source of My Strength

There were two pieces of writing for this week's Autobiographical Literacies class, one of which was to write about an animal with which we bonded, the other of which was a response to the following prompt: Consider Thomas's comments and directions in Thinking About Memoir, about writing from loss. Respond to Thomas's prompts on page 93 about strength. Write two pages entitled "The Source of My Strength."

The Source of My Strength

Thomas writes that her formerly tight-as-a-drum abdomen is the source of her strength (93). I’m spending some time trying to dissect what she means by this assertion, and I come to this conclusion: The source of her – and my, and anyone else’s – strength is that which allows us to extricate ourselves from a difficult situation. The situation can be physical, mental, emotional, whatever; it can be momentary or last longer than we think it should. In Thomas’ case, her abdominal muscles got her out of a tight spot (in that she was wedged between various dogs and sore). I’m trying to define a singular source of my strength, and I’m having difficulty – as I seem to encounter lots of, when it comes to this course.

It probably says something about my religiosity and Catholicism that the first thing I thought of was my husband (who would not appreciate being called a “thing,” although he would likely agree with it, too). I never thought I’d get married; or, rather, I was ambivalent about marriage, not because I had had bad experiences with it (parents married 45 years; both sets of grandparents married more than 50 years; one aunt and uncle married more than 25 years, another aunt and uncle more than 20 years…I believe my father has a cousin who was divorced, but I can’t think of anyone else in my family who has been divorced). Rather, it was not something I felt called to do – I figured if it happened, it happened, and if not, that was okay too. My husband changed my mind in all of that, though, and relatively quickly, I might add. (18 months after we met, we married.) My husband is the first man with whom I’d been romantically involved that had made me reconsider some of my choices; he steadied me in terms of preparing for my future, career, and retirement, aspects of life that don’t sound especially romantic, I suppose, but which are, I think, at least partly the result of maturity.

I think that was it: My husband matured and steadied me in a very necessary way. (And high time, I can hear my mother add.)

Yet that doesn’t feel entirely right, somehow. My husband is certainly a source of my strength, in the same way my religious beliefs are. However: My Catholicism somehow also isn’t the central part of my strength, although it’s certainly very important. You know how there are people who say they’re Catholic (or another religion), yet perhaps only go to services twice a year? (I heard one priest say that he was tempted to say, “See you at Christmas!” during the Easter homily, and “See you at Easter!” during the Christmas homily, to the large numbers of parishioners who only attended these holy days.)

No, indeed: My husband and I attend Mass weekly and on all Holy Days of Obligation; we’ve gotten all the sacraments for which we’re currently eligible. We don’t skip Mass because we’re tired or it’s rainy or it’s on vacation or, as one friend once did, the church was too crowded. There are aspects of doctrine with which I disagree or struggle, but I believe in Catholic dogma. Mass keeps me focused; it’s a reprieve, a weekly hour in which I don’t have to worry about the outside world. It’s an hour for myself.

I think I’ve stumbled on it: It’s writing. Writing is the source of my strength because, as I’ve mentioned previously and elsewhere, writing is the best means I have to ruminate, to percolate, to work out how I think and feel about things. This blog post is an example; I had to work my way through several possibilities in order to determine what a source of strength is. My husband is a source of strength (an admitted cliché) because he has helped me prevent being in unpleasant professional and financial tight spots, or at least is helping to prepare myself to minimize these tight spots, allowing me to be able to extricate myself from potential future problems. My faith allows me to clear my mind, to recalibrate myself, to remind myself that I need to be patient with people, damnit, regardless of their idiocy. (When I’m king…) But the writing – the writing lets me clear my head in a way that I’m not sure anything else does to the same extent. I can talk my way through my anger, anxiety, frustration, confusion – it’s like a form of praying, how I make sense of the world, and how I get out of tight spots.

Work Cited:
Thomas, Abigail. Thinking About Memoir. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2008. Print.

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