Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Challenge - Part 4

So we have reached the point in the story where everything goes wrong. The best intentions and the excitement of new challenges has tapered off. Now is when the dirge plays and our heroine walks alone with her thoughts or runs home (or away from home), devours a pint of Ben & Jerry's while watching sad movies, wistfully thinking about what went wrong.

What went wrong was a day spent out of the house not cooking. A faulty weekly menu that had us eating bread for every meal: toast & eggs for breakfast, pb&j sandwiches for lunch, soup and grilled sandwiches for dinner. It was running out of bread and not wanting to bake any more. It was scrounging around the next day for something to eat for lunch. It was getting home late from running errands. It was hungry children who did not like what I hastily pulled together from the fridge. It was hungry children who did not appreciate the 20 minutes I spent cooking Irish Oatmeal for St. Patrick's Day breakfast. It was the new bread recipe that failed. It was the surmounting disappointment and discontent over the many things I had wanted to do this week besides cooking. It was the dirty dishes piling up and the bread dough needing to be made and the beans to be sorted. Ack!!!

Husband put the children to bed. I washed dishes and grumbled. I mixed the flour and the yeast and the water and the honey into a dough-like substance while thinking of nothing at all. I pulled out the beans and thought about Bible study from earlier that night and Jesus as the "good shepherd." I thought about all the people who made the movie The Gospel of John and I prayed for them. I thought about the sadness I will feel when we get to the part where He lays down His life for mine. I ran my fingers through the tiny black beans and my thoughts slowed down, my breathing slowed down. I thought about my children and my husband perhaps enjoying these beans in tomorrow's dinner. I thought about how whenever I make something for someone, I think of them with each stitch or each stir. I pray for them and bless them all the while.

As I sorted beans, I thought about something my husband said the night before, about mirror neurons. He often watches/listens to TED Talks on his Ipod. One of the recent ones was by VS Ramachandran, "The neurons that shaped civilization." (watch it below) Ramachandran says we can see someone else scratch their arm or their head and "feel" the same sensations in our brains. The touch receptors in our skin keep us from being confused about whose skin is being touched. The only thing that gets in our way of truly feeling someone else's body is our skin. If you remove the skin by numbing it, for instance, you dissolve the barrier in your mind. But what if we simply remember a touch? Is it possible to feel it again?

I thought about how many times I watched and helped my mother sort beans, the sound they made as she would drop them by handfuls into the metal colander. Standing together by the sink time and again, we would talk about things I can't remember now. I can see her and her hands so clearly in my mind. They looked so much like mine do now. Through these mirror neurons, could our movements become intertwined? Could we but touch except for the skin and time?

Together we sort.

Photo by jmccammon

My reverie is broken by my oldest daughter walking into the room. "What are you doing?" she asks.

"Sorting beans."


I begin to explain about dirt, mechanical separation, the lack of a human factor. She begins to help pick out a piece of grit here, a broken bean there. We stand together now, just as my mother and I did then, talking about things I don't remember now, and the circle is complete.

The lamentation ends. The story moves on. Our heroine is emboldened by these insights to once more make another meal, change another diaper, do another load of laundry. What seemed impossible an hour ago, is doable now. A connection is made, a memory, a blessing, a gift. You certainly can't get that from a can opener. I guess slow is better.


  1. Great blogging today. Sorry about what went wrong, but I'm sure you can get right back to it! The part about mirror neurons and feeling the other person feeling their own skin; that, was cool! It made me think about bodywork and craniosacral therapy, and choosing to feel unobtrusively, the sensation and movement in someone else is body working therapeutically. Far out.

    First post!

  2. That was just lovely, Jenn.
    Good perspective.

  3. I'm breathing slower just reading your post. Thanks, Jennifer!


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