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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
Having a Conversation

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Can I Trust You On This Journey?

Ok, it's been a hell of a long time. Months in fact. Almost 4. Does that reflect any hardness in my life? I don't think so. It's just incipient laziness I fear, accumulated chores and "have-to's" in my life (my husband calls it the chain saw of "should--oughta-oughta"), and trying to tie up this crazed YA novel I've written called "The Father of Lies" (check out John; 8:44 for source) about a bipolar teenaged girl in Salem during the witch trials of 1692.
In some ways it is a natural choice for me. Being brought up by wildly liberal parents; suffering the experience of being very different in a small New England town in the 1950's; and talking about the McCarthy hearings with my family and our hatred of the lies told--it makes sense for me to dive into such a messy and horrific period of history to write about lies. And Lidda, the 14 year-old bipolar girl, knows that the accusing girls are lying; but how to reveal this without being accused of being a witch herself? Which brings me to "People of the Lie" (Scott Peck) and truth-telling.
I know this is meant to be a blog about my experiences growing up with the divine, and my gradual embrace of all that that meant and still means to me. I am not abandoning it. I just feel compelled today to talk about lying and truth-telling, having just read a funny and biting article by Ed Spivey Jr. in "Sojourners Magazine" about Luntz, the right-wing commentator, and the lies he spins. He's the one who coined "Clear Skies Initiative" for the Bush's administration loosening of laws governing pollution; he's the one who advised Republican politicians before the Iraq war to always preface their remarks with "9/11". Among other things. And here we are again! Watching BP (standing for either, "Billionaire Polluters" as one political operative said, or, "Broken Promises,") lie about what did and didn't happen when Deep Water Horizons blew up. Do you think there are guys in suits who sit around gleaming offices coining these terms for horrendous and damaging items in our world? I mean, really--Deep Water Horizons! It sounds like a resort in Jamaica (probably far away from gang warfare and all of that uncomfortable nastiness) where couples can drink heavily, couple enthusiastically, and lie in bed to all hours of the day.
A Roumanian minister once wrote, "The Bible is not the truth. It is the truth about the truth. And that truth is Jesus." I like that. It speaks of mystery and our need to contain mystery and try to define it. Which always gets us into trouble. So why do we seem to have so much trouble actually telling the truth in our encounters with the world? (Excuse me please for generalizing.) I'm guessing that it's because truth makes us uncomfortable. That it calls us to make significant changes in our lives. That it requires us to relate to people in a different way.
I think this is one of the things that happens when we suffer deeply, when our hearts get broken. I'm not sure when yours got broken, but mine did five years ago when someone I loved--and love--beyond expression became seriously ill. Almost mortally ill. And I had to confront the reality that I was so not in control of events. I could read up on this illness; I could take extensive notes about treatments; I could phone everyone I knew in the universe--and some outside of it--to ask for help. But in the end, the healing of my beloved was not in my hands. What a shock that was.
And one night as I lay despairing about what our fate might be, I "heard" a voice inside--or more accurately, I felt a knowing within--which said; "Read Romans 5." Yeah, I thought, that's real helpful. What the hell IS Romans 5? Although I did know my Bible enough to know it was one of Paul's letters--obviously to the Romans. So, wiping my smarmy nose and drying my tears, I turned on the light and plucked up my old Sunday School blue copy of the New Testament. Paging through, this is what I found (Romans 5: v.3-5) "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Wow. How's THAT for a prayer answer? Talk about the right words at the right time. I must have a lot of character by now, that's for sure. But I have never forgotten that night--the black despair I slid into, like some evil amusement park ride; my fear that I was losing control of my own sanity; and then the solid march of these words across the page, spreading over me like a warm blanket. My heart slowed. My spirits rose. I knew that whatever happened, I was not alone in this suffering. I had company.
I realize this blog post is pretty much all over the place. But that's ok. Because I have decided to invite you into the messiness that is me, that is my life. For when we pretend that our lives aren't messy, that we have the answers, then we are liars. And that pushes people away. So maybe this does circle around in the way I was always told picture books should circle around; telling the truth about who we are--my telling you that my heart got broken and that I am grateful for that--throws out a fine but strong line to you. And whoever else might want to come along for the ride.
Someone once said of women (I think it might have been Margaret Mead?) that the big difference between women is between those who have had children and those who have not had children. I don't think that's it, not really. I think the big difference between all of us is in whether your heart has been broken. And whether you can tell the truth about your cracked organ to the rest of the world. That's the kind of truth-telling we are in desperate need of, that the writer Mary Karr speaks to in "Lit." It's the kind of truth-telling that opens our cracked organs to compassion and to the knowledge that there is no such thing as "us" and "them." It is all us.