The Day I Should Have Stayed Home (A Retrospective Tale of Woe)

It's been a while since I've sat down to write a blog post. The reason is that I have way too much to say. I don't know where to start. So I'm just going to start wherever. A while back I went to a writing and illustration conference. I was not in a great frame of mind at the time. Let me take this moment to state that I am a very up and down person. I have a tendency to either feel extremely hopeful, like anything is possible, or to feel like almost nothing is possible, like crossing the room to get a glass of water may take too much energy. I'm not exaggerating at all here. So, at the time I went to the writing and illustration conference I was in the “It's hard to get a glass of water” frame of mind. In retrospect it would have been a great idea to stay home. 

For me, sometimes community is a bad thing and isolation is healing. Yeah, I know—I've never heard anyone say this.

I'm going to take a break from this story to tell you something else. I hear people say that community is good and that isolation is bad. By community they usually mean interacting with a group of people—maybe a Sunday school class or church group, a neighborhood cookout, a community dinner, a cocktail party, a book club, or a writing and illustration conference…For me,  sometimes community is a bad thing and isolation is healing. Yeah, I know—I've never heard anyone say this. But listen, if I'm feeling really low and I can tell that my thoughts are altogether a little off kilter, the last thing I should do is insert myself into “community”. I have tested this theory at least a thousand times. I have gone to the social function in the name of "community is good and isolation is bad" and guess what? It does NOT go well. It isn't enjoyable (for anyone involved). It isn't helpful. I like to get my head straight BEFORE entering into that kind of community. And I get my head straight by means of isolation—going for walks and praying, and talking to my very oldest, dearest friends, on the phone (but not all at once because that would be weird and awkward). So…sometimes, community is bad and isolation is good. 

Back to the writing and illustration conference. To say I walked into this in a low, sad state of mind really doesn't do it justice. So, it won't surprise you when I say it didn't go well.  

It occurs to me that this is going to be a very long story. So for now I'm going to leave you with this little illustration of how I was feeling heading into community on the day I should have stayed home.


Disclaimer: The writing and illustration conference itself was a really great thing—well organized by thoughtful people, full of helpful information. But when a person in a bad frame of mind (in this case me) walks into a good thing, it is a bad thing. I've drawn a few little illustrations of this point. One is of me, in a rotten frame of mind, walking into a Happiness/Cotton Candy Convention. One is of me walking into a Fantastic Hats Shop, and one (just for kicks) is me walking into Narnia. You can tell that even in the Narnia scenario, things just weren't going to go well. 

©amygrimes_happiness and cotton candy.jpg
©amygrimes_fantastic hats shop.jpg

The Incredible Shrinking Czar

Those of you who know me fairly well may or may not remember that I love Shrinky Dinks. They're these plastic papers that you can color, cut out and shrink in the oven. In the end they look kind of like stained-glass...but more like stained plastic. Anyway, they've been around a long time and if you ever find them in a store you'll see that the Shrinky Dink company has clearly spent zero dollars on packaging design in the last forty years or so.

I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven...

A few years ago I found this amazing book on the Russian Czars and naturally I decided to put that history into Shrinky Dink format. I told the history from the time of Catherine the Great until…I can't remember which Czar I ended with. I think I stopped when I lost interest, or maybe when I realized there was absolutely no reason to shrinky dink the czars. I remember watching Paul the First shrink in the oven, and as he shrunk I told my kids his very sad story.

Poor Paul the First was the son of Catherine the Great, and she was not impressed with him. She didn't let him make any decisions himself. He didn't even get to decorate his own castle (but he did have a castle, so we can't feel too sorry for him). When Paul grew up he became riddled with fear that he would one day be assassinated—not a groundless fear since LOTS of his predecessors had been assassinated. So He came up with a plan. He built a castle fortress with big drawbridges and he and his family and his most trusted advisors closed themselves inside. Paul was safe at last! Until maybe a day later when his most trusted advisors assassinated him. Poor Paul the First!!

...a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough...

I can relate to Paul. Sometimes I long for a fortress. A place to hide. The idea of somehow locking all the bad stuff, and even the unknown, outside sounds wonderful. And in various ways I do arrange my life carefully, trying to make a fortress that will work. But over and over again my carefully crafted fortresses fail me. They don't fail all the time, but they all fail sometimes. And a fortress that fails sometimes is not good enough. God is the only one who never fails. I definitely don't mean that He always does what I want. He doesn't always rescue me from pain, like the fortress  me and Paul the First had in mind, but He does rescue me from fear. And He gives me courage so that I don't have to hide while life passes me by.

~ Amy

A Place At The Table

You know that feeling when you walk into the lunchroom in junior high or high school, and you hope there will be a place for you to sit? I'm not talking about a vacant seat. There will definitely be one of those somewhere, because most likely the school has figured out how many students are enrolled and they've bought enough chairs. I'm talking about a place to sit where you are welcome. A non-hostile environment where you won't be an outsider or a nuisance or a nobody.

...I said I wanted to be a rabbit.

I frequently refer to myself as a "quirky bird". I have always been this way. I remember this one time in five year old kindergarten when we sat in a circle and each kid was asked to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. I don't remember the other kids' answers but I imagine some wanted to be teachers and firemen/women and police officers and doctors and nurses. Things like that. I do remember when it was my turn I said I wanted to be a rabbit. This is where my memory gets foggy again. How did my teacher respond? Did she go along with my plan to become another species when I grew up or did she correct me? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure I was the only one who answered like that. I was convinced that I could become a rabbit, and that in fact the transformation had already begun. I remember wondering if anyone had noticed…Well, I'm grown up now and not a rabbit, and don't plan on becoming one, but I continue to have an unusual perspective.

You're one of us.

I had a wonderful dream many years ago that still comes to my mind pretty often. I dreamt I was outside at night. It felt like summer. The grass was green and stars were out, and I could hear the sound of a fair and see the ferris wheel just over the hill. I was barefoot. A group of unusual looking people walked up to me. I talked to them and said, "Who are you people?" One of them answered, "We're the Luna People. We only come out at night. You're one of us." And I remember
feeling so incredibly relieved that I belonged with these people. I had a place.

there is a place for them at God's table.

So many people feel out of place or worse—like they have no place in this world. Maybe it's because they are quirky birds who want to become rabbits when they grow up. Or maybe it's for some totally other reason. But the truth is that everyone was once an idea in God's mind. And because they came from Him they belong in Him and with Him. I hope that people feeling alone will hold on tight to the truth that there is a place for them at God's table. And their Luna People do exist even if they haven't met them yet!

~ Amy 💚