Friday, August 26, 2011

The Final Stop

Let's turn the last corner on the Matronly ride through her defects and shortcomings. Mind you, this is not self-flagellation. The human condition = shortcomings, flaws. And certainly, three little blog posts aren't enough to romp through all of the Matron's.

But she's ready to move onto brighter things. Fickle that way. Sigh . . .another shortcoming.

The last hurrah here is gluttony.
Gluttony. Not a word heard much these days.

Friend to Matron: "How are you?"

Matron: "Suffering! I just feel like such a glutton."

And she would be meaning shoes, not donuts.

Shoes or books, jeans, mugs, earrings, rings, purses, scarves, vitamins, socks, tights, dog collars, combs or anything else that shines at a certain moment: BUY ME.

Because gluttony is not limited to food and drink. No, gluttony includes excessive consumption of 'wealth items.' (thanks wikipedia -- but don't tell her students that she used a less than stellar source).

Now, she wonders what exactly constitutes a 'wealth item'? And what is excessive consumption? You all know what gluttony means: too much. When that too much is ingested, the body -- without moral compass or discernment -- knows. Ugh. Too full, too fat, too floppy, too wired, too tipsy or just, well, stuffed.

But stuff is another matter entirely. How many jackets are enough? (remember this is Minnesota). Of course, a nice orange fleece that's sort of dressy will look lovely for work -- and it's SO unique. She has nothing like it. Then what about running out the door? That lovely piece is eggshell blue but also looks toasty warm; what an unusual combination! Basic black? Must have. Gray hoodie? Who in America doesn't own one?

Just yesterday, the Matron stood at her favorite thrift store (ValuThrift) and contemplated a brand new designer sweater set, white with faux pearls and very pretty, on sale for the whopping price of $4.97 -- something that probably soars close to $70 in the store. A deal! A steal! Who wouldn't take it! Now, the Matron normally DOES buy with this mind: "How much am I saving? What a steal!"

Less frequently does she ask herself if she really needs it.

But this time, she did. Her mind limped over the clothes rack. How many sweaters exactly like this one but just a different color? A quick scan popped up a pink, three blue, two black, one gray, one green, one rose with flowers, a cream with red embroidery, and a silver.

So the real question was: does she need one more color of the nearly exact same sweater (we're talking your basic 1950s button up the front, carry along for if you're cold).

It nearly KILLED her to pass up another opportunity to flaunt a good deal in front of anyone who would listen, but pass, she did. But the agony of it all -- the desire! the decision! the drama! -- made her realize just how connected she is to STUFF.

Cheap stuff, thrift stuff, organic stuff, fair trade stuff, locally grown and animal-cruelty free stuff? Sure. But all the progressive politics in the world can --and now, often do -- result in more stuff, stuff, stuff.

Gluttony. Ah, gluttony, she says with a smile, happy for the choice of pajamas and a blue or red popcorn bowl. She's not sure if that's something one gives up or is an essential part of middle-class America.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And the Fun Continues

Don't you wish you had some wine at this party?

For those new to the week, the Matron is up to her eyeballs in introspection. Be very, very glad that you do not live with her.

Yesterday, the Matron acknowledged that she has no intentions of relinquishing Magical Thinking, even though 'vainglory,' as such pleasant ruminations were known in the fourth century, is possibly a deadly sin.

Wait. Can a sin be deadly? Think about that for a minute. You sin, you die? Hmmm . . .seems like you don't sin and you die, too. So she proposes the Seven Deadly Virtues. That's not cynicism, folks. That's living in reality.

Because she would rather spend her time embodying deadly virtues than deadly sins, the Matron took a good hard look at her most tenacious, unrelenting unpleasant tendency: envy.

Friend: "I lost weight! I'd kill my toddler for her cookie, but I'm back to a size 6."

Matron: "You look great!" * inside -- Hey! I wanna lose weight too, loser (even though yours
truly does not actually NEED to lose weight, she still feels envy). Pathetic.


Neighbor: "How do you like our new car?"

Matron: "It's great!" * inside -- how she HATES the van with the peace signs and 150 thousand miles with its clumpy rods and clanks. Why can't SHE have a new car?


Parent: "Little Angel Boo just won a scholarship and placed second in state in dance, football and speech!"

Matron: "Oh that's so great!" * inside -- oh GOD her children are going to be utter failures . . .why can't one of them place somewhere, in something?


Now, please. Don't misread this as a pity fest, starring yours truly. She has a beautiful, lucky life, even and perhaps especially with its problems. She knows that. Neither is this hyperbole or an unduly harsh self-examination. The Matron, with her lovely life, is often jealous. Period. This is a fact and on that level, neither necessarily good nor bad.

But this habit, as of late, is making her unhappy.

It is unpleasant and unsatisfying to want. Wanting what other people have -- especially not even knowing you want it until someone else has it -- is not only unsatisfying but isolating. Even though part of you celebrates (yay Angel Boo!) another, hidden and lonely part, festers. It doesn't matter if the festering mess is a small bit, easily brushed up after some self-recrimination - it still exists.

Got more money, more publications, more children, more blog readers, more professional prestige, more good karma, more land, more dogs, more shoes (gasp!), more sleep, more confidence, more muscle than the Matron? She is envious.

For the Matron, envy is tied to ambition and desire -- the dreams she has of being 'just so.' This 'just so,' at least the dream, includes a lot of things which currently do not define her. Still, she aspires and as she ages those aspirations are changing from things quite material in nature to states of being and acceptance.

One of those aspirations is to shed some of the longing, release the tendency toward wanting what isn't hers, to stop comparing herself (favorably or unfavorably) to others.

Because really? The thing she tells her children is true: there is no comparison. Look in the mirror at what you were given. And that's really all there is, and even this face in the mirror exists just for the briefest snap in time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Read This Book

That is, unless you want to be thrust into the introspective state the Matron is currently occupying.

She is reading The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham (and if it wasn't 11:40 pm, she'd add a pretty picture of the cover -- hopefully words will suffice).

This is one of the most though-provoking books she has read in a long, long time. It is both uplifting and sobering. Just like life.

Yours truly is currently traipsing through a section on fourth century monk Evagrius Ponticus. She dares anyone to add Evagrius to their list of potential baby names. Anyway, long before it became stylish, Evagrius thought to spoil all fun by creating the list that preceded -- and perhaps inspired -- the seven deadly sins. He detailed these sins not as 'sins' of action, but as wrong ways of seeing and being in the world, loosely collected under the master title of "logismos." Logismos "involves choosing to see the bad -- bad in the sense of unreal, not fitting reality. Old Evagrius was a little more complex than outlining Bad Things Not to Do but instead painted an entire erroneous reality, one based on self-centered longing and flagellation.

His "traps of thinking"?

Fornication (as in obsession with body parts not love, love between a couple)
Acedia (listlessness)
Vainglory ("daydreaming about one's magnificence and imagined glory")

This list gave the Matron pause. Because she herself is writ large within it.

Vainglory? Why, one of the Matron's favorite activities is daydreaming and boy, oh boy, is she magnificent and glorious in those fantasies. Indeed, she cultivates these, exercises by them, indulges in little doses of unreality by imagining herself Famous, Rich, and Cultivated. It does not escape her that Fame is one of Merrick's most valued aspirations.

Merrick: "Mom? If I buy a winning lottery ticket will I be famous?"

Matron: "Not the dollar kind."

Merrick: "Oh. How can I get famous? Will it happen quick?"

Ah, what a good little American she's raising. Yet not only does she share Merrick's peephole into the world of plentiful attention, she actively daydreams about it. Only her fame isn't the Entertainment Tonight kind.

Instead, one of the Matron's fondest daydreams? She's at Whole Foods, at the checkout line. For some archaic reason, she writes a check or the cashier actually looks at the name on her card.

Cashier (instantly humbled and awed): "Are you Mxx Matron, the writer?"

Matron (feigning same humility): "Yes."

Cashier: the following is too long for dialogue as a cascade of accolades and admirations follow, wherein the Matron's work is noted as superb and of course, the cashier's favorite.

Sigh. All it takes is one person to make her day.

But the Matron has long been a fan of Magical Thinking, her name for this pleasure. While she's once again taking herself in hand -- or at least observing her actions --in regard to the rest of Evagrius' list, she can't help but wonder: what harm?

For the time being, she plans to stick with the Magical Thinking and maybe call it Creative Visualization (thank you, Shakti Gawain) so then it will be all right.

But envy? Another, less frivolous story. Coming tomorrow in the week of introspection.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday, Meditation

Lovely Ladies (and man -- hello neighbor!).

Thank you for your kind words last week (Jan -- see message to you in comments).

After some respite and deep tissue digging, the Matron has found strength anew. That deep tissue digging meant poking through those psychological nooks and crannies. And the Matron was humbled by what she found there.


In all honesty, the Matron has been in a contemplative phase. Introspective. Quieter than normal. Happy to not be the center of attention (trust her, that phase would be new indeed). Part of her blogging ennui was reticence. It's easy to whip out funny -- and mostly true, thank you life -- stories about children, dogs, and daily dramas, but more difficult to hit the mark when the mark feels, well, more personal.

Welcome to the week of introspection. She plans to exorcise a few demons.