Friday, April 27, 2007

Upon having returned from Sam Hill

I would say I'm back, but that would be pretty presumptuous considering not more than a handful of people care one way or the other whether I blog. And of that handful, fully half primarily visit this site for its links to bloggers who have a habit of actually posting.

I can't say precisely why I checked out of Blog World. By checked out, I mean not writing or reading any posts. My sister-friend JT would tell me when a particularly funny post somewhere cracked her up, like BigMama's encounter with a rude pedicurist. (Ironically, JT started blog reading because I kept sending her links insisting You Must Read This.)

And My Friend Erin With Four Kids keeps me up-to-date on major events in the lives of bloggy people she knows I care about. For good measure, she also lets me know when other bloggers -- those I hadn't gotten to know -- are going through tragedy. Erin is one of the most tender-hearted people I know, so she really goes there and digs in when others are hurting. She tells me I should read something because it's heartbreaking-but-inspiring writing. I usually don't read it, though, not if I wasn't already emotionally invested in that person's life on some level.

I ask myself why that is, and what comes to mind is ... an oyster. Sometimes I'm a mother hen (are they really that nurturing?) and other times I'm an oyster. A five-foot-eleven-inch oyster with freakishly long toes and a knuckle-popping habit. During, shall we say, the season of the oyster, when I get an intrusion of bad news that doesn't involve my immediate world, I protect myself by not examining it too closely. Instead, I begin to segregate it from the rest of my life, turning it over and over inside without letting it get imbedded too deeply. Present but separate.

The analogy breaks down, of course, when one considers this process in an actual oyster produces a pearl, while in me it produces ... uhm. I'll get back to you on that one. It also makes me less than exemplar in the arena of current events. Which is -- if I may use the word again -- ironic. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't ever get involved in the lives of strangers. I'm really not. But there are times, for better or worse, I'm compelled to tighten my focus considerably.

Look, I was a newspaper editor for seven years. Nearly every day I perused the Associated Press Wire, often reading the worst news I could imagine: children left in scorching cars to die, genocide, rape, abuse of power here and abroad. I went to the occasional murder scene where, once, people gathered in the street told me, "when you get angry enough, it just happens" as if I should understand why someone ends an argument with a gun.

When I left that job, which I loved, I traded in the 24-hour news cycle for the When-It-Really-Matters cycle. I felt like I had filled up on so much bad news in inverted-pyramid form, it would take at least seven more years to unload it. So I let my Newsweek subscription lapse. I don't watch Dateline or CNN. I read Slate online to keep abreast of the most major events. And, of course, my circle of friends keeps me grounded in the 21st century.

All that said, it wasn't because I was reading too much (or any) sad news that I took leave of Blog World. I think it's more because I developed a habit somewhere in the past two years of just stepping away from things from time to time.

Roy and I lived without television for most of the years of our marriage. We've had the cable hooked up for about a year or so now, and as much as I enjoy access to certain shows, I'm beginning to think we ought to disconnect again. I vegged out last night. Oh, sure it would take super-human strength not to watch the very first episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (her hair was brown! staked vampires didn't disintegrate immediately! Xander was thin!), but I should have just gone to bed. Then of course it was continued to the next episode, so I had to watch. Had. to. Then I felt guilty because I had put off reading my Bible. News flash: Zechariah at 1:30 in the morning isn't easy reading. My priorities aren't reflecting well in my time allotment.

I do the same thing with books. I love getting lost in fiction. But no doubt at lot of that time would be more wisely spent elsewhere. God is clearly telling me I need to step away from certain things, and in the process move closer to him.

Last night, when I groggily opened up to Zechariah, this opened my eyes wide: "Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you.'

It strikes me that it's all good and well to check out of reading or watching or blogging for a while, but if I'm not also in the process returning to him, it really doesn't matter.