Now where did January off and run to?

January 30th, 2011 § 36

Greetings my dear neglected readers,

Apologies. I’ve been preoccupied. Trying to tame the dark, mysterious, difficult monster that is my winter quarter 2011. He’s still running wild.

When I review the last four weeks of my life, I acknowledge that there have been gem-like moments. A wine bar and a sunset on the roof here, lunch with a friend and rocking a baby to sleep there. I’m profoundly grateful that these moments of beauty found a way to sneak themselves into my hurry.

But the unfortunate truth is I’ve spent the better portion of my quarter feeling absolutely smothered by life. I arrive at the end of each week feeling shell-shocked and sucked dry.

My days are stretched at the seams with things I know, at some level, I love. Or at least I used to. But this quarter, I haven’t quite figured out how to access the joy I previously gleaned from it all.

So I go to class and work and women’s bible study.

I write grant proposals for far away places and rehearse my Vagina Monologue.

I grocery shop  for my small army (Caitlin and I literally purchased 30 pounds of meat for dinners last week) and exercise five days a week (I know, I know..it sounds like a joke. But more on that later.)

I hurry from meeting to meeting, office hour to office hour, coffee date to coffee date.

I run to expired parking meters like a crazy woman.

Occasionally, I sit.

And wonder how each day can feel all at once so unnervingly frenetic and absurdly mechanical.

Viral

January 17th, 2011 § 46

The past ten days have been the sickest I’ve had in a long time.

Which is saying something, considering I averaged a new illness about once every three weeks last quarter.

But this bout is different.

Throatier. And more miserable. And longer-lasting.

This illness has been night after night of interrupted sleep due to 3 a.m. ear aches and mucus-obstructed sinus passages.

This is the kind of illness that really beats you down.

I, of course, have done everything in my power to fight back—consuming copious amounts of grapefruit and nasal decongestant. I drank enough tea to fill a small swimming pool.

And still, the misery continues.

But somewhere around day eight, I grew tired of this fight.

I didn’t have any fight left in me.

I had done everything right, and the virus was still winning.

So I surrendered to the illness.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m still consuming copious amounts of grapefruit and sleeping enough to convince someone I’m in my first trimester of pregnancy. I’m still drinking tea, and being gentle with myself.

I’m just tired of the fight metaphor.

From this point forward, I have only energy enough to treat myself well.

I’m done attacking and fighting and combating the mucus-filled hostility of this illness, which has found such a comfortable little resting place in the network of my sinuses the last week and a half.

So my dear Illness,

I understand you’ve come for a stay.

Do your thing, and then be on your way.

Please and thank you,

Anna Clauson

Written Word

January 3rd, 2011 § 40

I’ve come to understand literacy as a profound gift.

Thousand and thousands and thousands of people in our world are without access to the gift that is reading, and yet a staggeringly large amount of people who can read, don’t.

This worries me.

I know that, as a people, we are stressed and busy and chronically overtired.

But we’re also distressingly lazy and fast approaching a collective image-induced coma.

I’m quite certain that if every literate person doubled the amount of reading they do in a single year, our world would be a more alive, invigorated, imaginative place.

But if we’re being honest, it’s not just an issue of volume.

It’s not only about reading more, but about choosing material that challenges and changes and opens us to new paradigms and ways of understanding. I’m trying to be better about choosing reading material that requires a greater degree of discipline. Because I know when I interact with words that force me out of autopilot, they linger longer and penetrate deeper. Not only is this deeply edifying, it’s the perfect anecdote when my mind creeps a little too close to vegetative.

Here are a few of the words I gnawed on in year 2010:

The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis: I feel like I bring this book up in conversation at least once a week. Admittedly, it’s the only of Lewis’ non-fiction I’ve ever finished, but I read it for the third time this year, and the book never ceases to astound me in its brilliance. Lewis’ words transformed the way I understand God’s love, and I’m certain this book will remain one of those I feel compelled to pull off the shelf and read every few years.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller: So…it’s a little known fact among a few of my housemates that I have ornate, completely illegitimate visions of the life that Don and I will share together when he falls madly in love with me. But seriously now, I so enjoyed this book. The idea of Story comes up a lot in my areas of study. What are the components of a story? What makes a good story? Why are we as humans so drawn to Story? And Miller’s book explores these questions in the context of living a meaningful, purposed life. A quick, lovely little read.

Insecure at Last: A Political Memoir by Eve Ensler: I absolutely adore Eve Ensler as a playwright and an advocate working to stop violence against women around the world, and I’m super excited to perform in her Vagina Monolgues in the coming months. As a buddhist, bisexual, radical feminist, liberal, there is a large portion of people in my life who would be reviled at the thought of even touching Ensler’s book. The irony is she raises some really basic, profound questions about security and about what makes our world safe. While she and I approach the world from very different places, we share an affinity for the idea that real strength is actually found in vulnerability, and that aggression in our lives and in our world is most always a sign of insecurity that remains unacknowledged and unaddressed.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid: This is an angry book. I read it quickly for a class last spring, and I’m still thinking upon Kincaid’s words. A description of the tourist experience told from the perspective of a native Antiguan, this book still has me wrestling with the ways in which travel and an exploding tourist industry easily becomes a delicately cloaked form of Imperialism. Short, eloquent, and incredibly provocative.

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William T. Cavanaugh: More than anything I’ve read in years, this book changed me. In 115 pages of academic essay, Cavanaugh intersects economic theory with Christian theology in a fresh, powerfully intellectual way. Returning home from my own life-changing studying abroad experience, this book spoke to me like you wouldn’t believe! For anyone with a deep, unarticulated sense that Jesus, his life, teaching, and resurrection must mean something crazy profound for our world system and for our individual participation in it, this book is for you.

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