Rachel’s Holiday and Self-Deception

I don’t often choose to write about a book…but I recently finished reading “Rachel’s Holiday” which I loved.
It is an easy read but gave me plenty to think about. I read it at a time when I had been mulling on a concept Richard Rohr calls “compulsive blindness” and how ‘a lack of self-perception means we often act at cross-purposes to our best interest’.

6. 2014 Rachel's Holiday

The story starts with Rachel’s life in New York where she is caught up in sex, drugs and “rock ‘n’ roll”.  She has a wonderful boyfriend, Luke, but one night of too many pills, a mistaken suicide attempt and a hospital visit mean Rachel finds herself being taken back to Ireland by her parents and being put in rehab. It is not the relaxing detoxification, “holiday” that Rachel was expecting. The main story weaves her experiences in rehab (Cloisters) with her life in New York, particularly her relationship with Luke and how drugs destroyed it.

Rachel’s character is unlikeable but endearing and I found that Marian Keyes’ sensitive style allowed what could have been a depressing book to be both thought provoking and “laugh-out-loud” hilarious; a wonderful combination.

The reason the book has stayed with me, however, is the clever way that Keyes conveys Rachel’s self-deception by telling the story through Rachel’s eyes. By doing this, the reader is also misguided into not initially realising quite how bad of an addict Rachel actually is.

All this has had me thinking that in some way we are all “conditioned, programmed, wounded, addicted, habituated” by our unique life stories and that when we don’t recognise the truth about our lives, thoughts and feelings, we became part of the problem. If we do not take ownership and responsibility for our way of thinking or how “our grid” distorts reality for us, then our mind perverts reality and we become addicted to ourselves and justify our reactions. We locate ourselves inside our little world or what David Foster Wallace called “our skull sized kingdom” and we quickly take on a sense of identity and power by believing our own self-serving illusions. When one lives a lie one invariably begins to feel distant from others, and worse yet, oneself (this clearly happened with Rachel).

Any idealised persona does not choose to see evil in itself, so it always disguises it as good. The self-deceived self invariably presents its own selfishness as something like prudence, common sense, justice, or “I am doing this for your good,” when it is actually manifesting fear, control, manipulation, or even vengeance
Adapted from “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr

The moral of the story is perhaps if one wants deep meaningful relationships, one must be real with others but most of all with oneself. As Rachel started seeing herself for what she was and her self-consructed world as self-serving, she also began a new relationship with herself. In the same way, as we learn to trust and bring our own “shadow-selves” into the light we are likely to grow and flourish and more likely to experience real relationships and love as we never have before.


Life-Giving Friendship

Why did you do all this for me?‘ he asked.
I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’
You have been my friend,‘ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

4. 2014 Life-Giving Friendship - Spiders Web Blackrock

None of us can make it through this life alone
Needing someone isn’t shameful

I am celebrating this today

Resisting, hiding, fighting myself
My friends saw me, they knew my need
They carried me
They knew me better than I knew myself
As trusted companions they chose for me
Their presence allowed me to catch a fresh vision
Of my personal history still being written
In simple, understated ways and with transforming words,
My friends reminded me that I am not alone on the journey

With a lump rising in my throat, my heart is truly in thankful

Kindred spirits walk this journey with me
Life-giving women
Who understand and encourage me
They have joined me in my story
Outsiders have become family
Offering hope

Needing and emptiness has become good
Creating a space for God to enter and love me through others

4. 2014 Life-Giving Friendship -Heather's Birthday  Feet

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow”.
William Shakespeare

50 Years Loved

3. 2014 50 Years Loved - March 6th - 50th Napkin Ring 1

I believe that deep down most peoples’ worst fear is that we will live ordinary lives that have no significance.

Or perhaps it is just mine…

Nonetheless, I have come to realise that continually asking myself the question “what am I to with the rest of my life”? is a problem.

By relentlessly asking this of myself I essentially I become more self-focused – as I try harder to do things that make me ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of myself, God, my family and friends. I am sure there is more I need to do in order to have value and be considered significant in the world, in my community and in my family. I have fallen prey to the lie that God is expecting something more from me or with-holding something from me until I live up to a standard, give of myself enough, behave or perform in a certain way. Perhaps that is why this prayer of Robert Farrar Capon’s resounds with me and makes me smile:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.”

Intellectually I believe in God’s unwavering acceptance but I have realised that this ever present question, as well as my daily actions, thought patterns and concerns mean that in my heart I don’t believe I am accepted and lovable unless I am doing something.

As I approach my 50th birthday I am asking that “as I received Christ, so may I now walk in Him” (My paraphrase – Colossians 2:6). I am asking to walk one step at a time in faith – not needing to figure out for myself what my future holds but trusting that His all-sufficient grace will lead me forward at the appropriate time. This is the Gospel I need to preach to myself daily as I embrace this time of space and rest is a gift.

Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted
Brennan Manning

3. 50 Years Loved  1 Leopard Creek Deck

My word of the Year: Nourish

2012 Figs 1   2012 Figs 3 Sometime before January the word nourish hit my heart hard as my word for 2014. I have had my years of ‘breathing’ & ‘waiting’ but it strikes me that this year is going to be about more about intentionally searching out, feeding and aligning my heart with His. When the word chose me – I was not aware of the action it implied, instead my starving soul, longing for something deeply, sensed Hope in the word. Dry and parched my heart responded to the restoration implied and it settled there.

 Meditating on the concept of nourishing I began to realise that with the choice of this word I am acknowledging, something has shifted. As a verb, it involves participation and action. My word for last year, waiting was more passive. In my shattered state and burn-out mode even the thought of “choosing” would have sunk me. So, while this is just a glimmer on the horizon, it has stirred something within me and there is a sense of anticipation and excitement about actively desiring to care for my heart….

2012 Figs 2

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean

Elizabeth David “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine”

Living Art

24. 2013. Living Art - Studio 1  24. 2013. Living Art - Studio 2
Dirtying myself with my paints this week has got me thinking a bit about the parallels between my personal art and faith journeys. Both narratives are wrapped up in childhood feelings of insecurity and all the ways I just ‘know’ I don’t make the mark. In many ways my art illustrates my faith journey as it reveals my flesh and yet contained in it is also the glory of my Creator’s heart towards me.
24. 2013. Living Art - Studio 3
As I paint I have to choose to put aside my fears and desire to perform well and to just allow the paint to ‘be’. The process enlivens me regardless of the result. It opens up something within my heart and connects me to something larger than myself. As a chose to ignore my anxieties and believe instead in the potential within me, something restorative is released. The art I produce is far from perfect, under a professional critique it probably wouldn’t stand up, but in it there is Life.
24. 2013. Living Art - Still Life Lemons24. 2013. Living Art - Chair Heidi 2
Occasionally a piece painted is noticeably worthy and acclaimed by a few around me but for the most part, the trusting and creating is more about me than the need for any beauty to be outwardly recognised.

Each time I step out and trust I was created for something more, I am inwardly transformed… and being created into His masterpiece.

Emily Freeman has this same message (and so much more) in her book “A Million Little Ways”, reminding us we need to “turn down the volume on our inner critic and move into the world with the courage to be who we most deeply are”. She says when we do something sacred is released.
24. 2013. Living Art

In every part of my life I am learning to live with the anticipation that something is alive and being created as I step towards the Light.