October 6, 2009

Back in the World

Hi. I am back from walking to Emmaus. It was so beautiful to disappear into the things that actually matter for 3 days. At the same time, it is NICE TO BE BACK IN THE WORLD. PS: I really love electronics. Over-love. I am sure it is not healthy. My monitor has lip prints and slobber all down the front.

My agent, Jacques, called to check in while I was off. I love to listen to Jacques TALK. He has a rich, deep voice and a unique way with words. I returned his call maybe two hours after I left the gorgeous mind-silence and returned to my regular, rowdy, child-infested, beloved life at home. I got a follow up email from him this morning that began, “Joshilyn, how nice to catch you yesterday in your state of considerable purity . . . “

Hee. I am not sure how considerably pure my state is, but I did get my head taken off, crap poured out, and then my head was screwed back on straight. Ye Olde Mental Illness Number has endured a Total Reset. I am starting today at my personal Craziness Ground Zero, which may not be a universal Ground Zero, but is pretty dern good for me.

(Calculating my MIN is sort of like figuring out Bagel’s age in dog years, in that a unit of my crazy is probably larger than the average loon-unit, so Ground Zero for me is probably what most people would think of, as, say 47. EVEN SO! Forty-seven is very very very good. VERY good. At Ground Zero/47, I tend to SLEEP for 3 or even 4 hours at a stretch and I while I can’t say I obsess less because my main dial seems to be perma-stuck on CONSTANTLY-OBSESS, I will say I obsess less about stupid crap and more about non-stupid uncrap that actually matters.)

The weekend was wonderful. Not going to say very much about it. No one who has been to Emmaus really talks about it much in detail... indeed the secretiveness of HOW IT WORKED was kinda a big turn off for a control freak like me. I was invited several times and went, UM NAHH, K THANKS DRIVE THROUGH. But then a couple of people I TRULY respect at my church invited me within a couple of days of each other, and so I went, and I learned the quiet on the subject of what you do over the course of the 72 hours has nothing to do with secretiveness.


If you are a Christian flavored person and peeps at your church have been talking to you about taking the walk to Emmaus, go ahead and go. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, world-view-changing thing, and when you arrive and they put the mind-controlling brain worms in, it only pinches for a second...HA! No, no. I KID! In reality, it hurts like HECK...NO, NO, I KID, I kid! You should go.

I talked with my beloved and extremely lapsed Catholic Whoodie, Miss Karen, about it for about four hours yesterday, and then, out of NOWHERE, she viciously accused me of growing as a person in the last year. My response was to hit her in the face until her nose came off, which was hard to do from all the way in Georgia when she was in NYC, but I managed. Some things require doing, time and space be damned, and recalcitrant geography can suck it.

I do NOT grow as a person. It’s trashy. We don’t do that here, remember? We only try to be kinder-gentler-lessparanoid-morejoyful-and-atpeace. We try to be kinder, every time. That we can do. AND OKAY YES, There are times and places to do all things, everything has a season, blah blah, but I maintain that the time for Growing as a Person is when you are a tofu-eating communist dwelling on a farm with no toilets, you just poo directly into the soil to help the corn grow, and you probably HEAR the corn say thank you in a peeping corn-like muppet voice, and you use the barter system because money is psychologically frightening and physically full of microscopic carnivorous weevils and you are not reading this because you gave up electricity because the aliens were using the current to put ideas about the virtues of cannibalism into your brain.

I refuse to come to that season, no matter HOW high the MIN grows. I am not judging you if you do though (she said in pious tones, looking down her long and supercilious nose). You want to grow as a person? FINE. Pass the healing crystals and Shut Up about it. Try to grow as a person QUIETLY. Over there.

It’s a vocabulary thing. GROW AS A PERSON sounds so ... GROWIER THAN THOU to me. Makes my skin try to shudder its way right off my growthsome bones and creep away, skeeved and ashamed of itself.

But Karen says I am. (I’m not. SHUT. UP.) I guess a way I can accept it being said is this: I am changing. I used to be on the fence about how much change was or is actually possible...Arlene and Burr’s essential argument on the nature of change in gods In Alabama is in many ways my own internal argument. Burr BELIEVES in change, in transformation, in being remade and renewed. Arlene? Not so much. I love the section in the car where they fuss about this for the first time in the book. Arlene says:

“You can’t stick a quarter in someone and push their nose and get any candy bar you like. People don’t work that way. I mean, sure, there is cause and effect, but it isn’t predictable.”

“So you don’t think a traumatic or even joyful event can make a difference in a person’s life? You don’t believe in revelation or epiphany?”

“Well, I think people have epiphanies, all the time. Usually they are worthless. Maybe two percent of the time, someone may decide to change some aspect of their behavior. It’s like Paul on the road to Damascus. Here’s this anal-retentive control freak who likes to run around and persecute Christians. So God knocks him down and blinds him and reams him out. So he stopped persecuting Christians. But---go read him. He was still an anal-retentive control freak. He changed his behavior, but I don’t believe people can change their essential natures. The things that happen to me just make me more me.”

And in many ways she is right. I always am me, alive in my skin, year after year. But then, I think about the girl I was 20 years ago, and that girl is pretty much dead. That’s a good thing. A wonderful thing. It must be happening too slow for me to notice? But Karen is noticing. And that feels good, too, so perhaps I will help her tape her nose back on and send her an FTD bouquet, and then going on trying-failing-trying to be kinder, to be kinder, every time.

Posted by joshilyn at October 6, 2009 10:34 AM

Dear Aliens of Emmaus,

Enclosed please find one postage-paid human-sized canister. Please use it to return Joshilyn to us immediately. This pod-Joshilyn is pretty and makes nice words, but I suspect she's growing as a person, and I am frightened.


Posted by: Mir at October 6, 2009 12:20 PM

Joss + Mir = made my morning. Thanks girls ;)

Posted by: Heather at October 6, 2009 1:06 PM

Emmaus? Is that that place out by Milledgeville with the pyramids? Just kidding. :)

Posted by: Jill W. at October 6, 2009 1:49 PM

I pink puffy <3 you for many reasons. But - THIS ONE: MIN + Emmaus + we are, who we are = my look at the world too.

My Emmaus walk was pretty spectacular (minus some of the kumbiah stuff that made my skin crawl) - and it makes me sad the nature of the walk doesn't let you repeat it - unless you are volunteering or leading.

I am ready to have the crap poured out again.

Welcome to the hippy commune - even if you don't want to be here!

Posted by: Mit at October 6, 2009 6:22 PM

I have been and it was lovely and serene. But I was disappointed that it wasn't "life changing" for me. Which is why they don't tell you schedules and plans beforehand--so you don't expect life-changing. But I expected life changing all on my own.

My faith has grown by the books I read and the company I keep--far more than a one-time event.

I do have to say that I would have never gone if I knew about the irritating De Colores song. Which I hate, hate, HATE with a fiery passion! Perhaps if there were a speaker who created a parallel between De Colores and Satan, it WOULD have been life-changing.

We'll never know.

Posted by: Nicole Amsler at October 6, 2009 6:31 PM

Being of the non-Christian flavor, I think the walking and quiet and nature sounds very nice. I'll have to take your word about the rest.

And regarding growing as a person? Well, okay, do it if you want, and it's good to be kinder and nicer, and I can encourage that.

But not so much that you stop writing wonderful, funny, snarky, touching, altogether-human books. If you start writing "I Feel Good and So Can You!" books? Well, I'll buy them.

But I won't read them.

Posted by: Fran at October 6, 2009 9:50 PM

HA! Would it surprise you to know I think of myself as a writer of Christian fiction, Fran? HEE. Always have seen myself that way.

I find it both backwardsly charming and sad and ironic that the book of mine I think is the MOST Chritian -- certainly theamtically -- is the one that I get the most letters about from wildly offended Christians.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 6, 2009 10:00 PM

I was going to say De Colores, until I read Nicole's comment. I went to the very same retreat camp you did several years ago, and once as a kitchen volunteer. Don't know that I would call it life-changing, but still a nice, quiet, reflective weekend. Suffice it to say that I'm glad you had a good time and are changing for the better... it's a lifelong process in my opinion.

Posted by: Carol at October 6, 2009 10:03 PM

NO, not the Brain Worms! AWRReeuugh! I first could almost hear Checkhov screaming, but then I also recalled the perhaps-related Bore Worms from Flash Gordon, which were also velly innerestin', in and of themselves.

Quiet, contemplative nature is delightful, but I like to be by myself, with nobody else cluttering up and wrecking the whole atmosphere for me.

Posted by: Brigitte at October 7, 2009 7:42 AM

Your growth is so unwieldy it trudged its way up north and is currently slinking through the Lincoln Tunnel. I expect it to bust through my office window at any moment. Shall I set out a glue trap to catch it?

Posted by: Karen Abbott at October 7, 2009 2:21 PM

I'm so glad you had that experience and enjoyed it! I made my Via de Cristo in 1995 - I can't believe it was that long ago - and for me it was life-changing. Like you I fought going and finally went just to get them off my back LOL It has made all the difference in the serenity of my life since then. Hugs!

Posted by: Jill Cooper at October 7, 2009 9:43 PM

Actually, I did know that, Joss. I read some of your earlier blog posts, so I am up to speed on that.

But you avoid the whole overwhelmingly-preachy style and your characters are multi-layered and human and real. That's why I can sell you to lots of folks, not just the Christian-flavored sorts!

Posted by: Fran at October 7, 2009 9:52 PM

Aw thanks what a lovely compliment.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 7, 2009 10:54 PM

Aw thanks what a lovely compliment.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 7, 2009 10:54 PM

I must know what this Emmaus thing is!

I think that all the things we go through sort of sharpen us and make us a clearer version of ourselves. Maybe that's because I believe that God knows exactly who I am and I'm in this world to figure it out for myself, so each time I go through some kind of refining fire I break off little bits of Not Me and uncover bits of Me.

Posted by: Heather Cook at October 9, 2009 12:27 PM

Said only as you can... understood and accepted as only we who love you can. Frighteningly honest and true and chillingly close to personal experience. If only these growth periods could happen at the same time for all of us...and if only we could learn the lesson the FIRST time. sigh.
thank you for the reminder- and the accountability.

Posted by: linda sands at October 12, 2009 11:57 AM