Monday, April 13, 2009

Scissors, Paper, God

I had a box of them. Mary Poppins, with Jane and Michael, Samantha from Bewitched, the perfunctory bridal party so many girls in the early 60's had. On and on. I can't remember what others were there but, unlike my limited Barbie collection (didn't Barbie cost an astronomical amount of money in the `60's?), I could actually perform The Sound of Music with my paper dolls because I had enough of them.

Then I discovered my mother's wrapping paper and starting making clothes for them with whatever didn't reek too much of mistletoe.

It would not surprise you to know, then, that I still love cutting things out of magazines and catalogues.

The point of the Third Step, which is the same for all 12-step programs ("Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the will of God as I understood God") is to first make some decisions about God or a higher power and then cast one's fate to it.

My sponsor and I have had several conversations now that have hinged on me playing God. The first was my rage at having relapsed. The second came up in a conversation about how to approach the Dreaded Fourth Step ("Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"). "How could I have two crazy bosses in a row? It must have been me." After the first go-around of being so angry at myself for relapsing, I caught myself. Who am I to say it was me or it was them? Who am I to say I was naive and unable to establish an adult relationship with either of them? Those are judgment calls. Is someone who will tuck her nightgown into sweatpants and run out to the deli in the rain really in a position to make judgments about herself, let alone anyone else?

Let alone my fondness for paper dolls.

I'm sure I've written about my Catholic School Girl Concept of God, which is best sung to the tune, "You Better Not Pout". My sponsor is all too familiar with it. I've tried a buddy God I called Ralph for a while. I've tried to integrate myself back into the Church. I've tried various saints. And then I relapse. Or feel crummy about wasting my life with online games. Or watch a marathon of America's Next Top Model, God save me.

When I first went into the Rooms, I made what is known there as a "God box". It can be anything -- a paper bag, a shoe box, a jar, whatever. The idea is that when something Big happens (a fight with a friend, a resentment, a decision to be made: whatever troubles the waters), you write it down and stick it in the vessel of choice. I, of course, saw this as an opportunity to play paper dolls.

That God box, made from an oatmeal container 11 years ago, is dusty, faded, fraying and heavy. I really want this abstinence to be a new beginning so part of my Third Step was making a new God box. I had the good karma box for it -- the box from the Ralph Lauren Romance perfume my father gave me for Christmas -- and stacks of unread magazines and catalogues. It was time to go to work.

It's been an interesting and sometimes moving several days because of it.

My first God box was about my relationship with God. The new one is about 1) God's relationship with me, and 2) proof that there is a God. Swan Lake, for instance, is proof of the Sublime. So are the Rockies that are my soul's cradle. Venice, flowers, my sense of being from Somewhere, the Hubble Telescope, Barack Obama, the fierceness and love of bears, Jane Austen -- proof. I'm sorry, my Agnostics, but these aren't random items for me.

Then there's the matter of God's relationship with me, which has been missing since the days I used to hold hands with guardian angel, probably pre-First Confession when God gets wicked on kids. "Be Yourself -- Everyone Else Is Taken," God tells me. "Love is patient, love is kind," he assures me. Buddhas laugh; a wounded angel is carried by ordinary boys; a black Edmund Gorey Lab carries a banner that says, "We belong together."

The project got me humming The Mills Brothers. I wasn't surprised when the chorus of "Paper Doll" echoed my sense of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.

I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal

And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes

Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

When I come home at night she will be waiting
She'll be the truest doll in all this world

I'd rather have a Paper Doll to call my own

Than have a fickle-minded real live girl

I'm interested in seeing what the compassionate, monogamous, cheerleader of a God will do for me.


Anonymous said...

Playing with paper dolls and cut-outs. Hmm... perhaps you should seek more work? Or at least get out more?

April said...

I like the idea of a box to contain the BIG stuff that happens. I may make one of my own... but it won't be a god box. I'm one of those agnostics that you referred to. I think it might be soothing to cut out paper images and glue them to a box of some sort. I don't have a perfume box, but I'll find something suitable. Hmm... thanks for the idea...

Annimal said...

I am making a pilgrimage to Bear Butte, near Sturgis SD and intend to leave a medicine bag. I want my prayer to be different than the last 37 years (please God, just make me thin). But, I don't know what I want my prayer to be.
When I take out the weight factor, what do I need that I don't have?
hmm...self-love, self-respect?
Maybe I'll include a paper doll. She needs a big smile and a flowered dress.

Laura N said...

I'm glad you are making a new God box. The fresh start is a lovely idea. And your list of Sublime Proof is wonderful!

I hope you are having a hopeful & happy week.

Cindy said...

I now use a box that one of my Victoria's Secret perfume sets came in. Those are my favorite boxes. I also made a gratitude can from a coffe can once because I went through the notes that were stuffed in my God box and found that many of the things I'd worried about or written about had been resolved so I moved them to the Gratitude can. I have always loved paper dolls!!

Bea said...

"the God of my understanding." Phooey. I do not understand God. And how am I to stuff the great "I Am" into a box? By the by, the "great I Am" always reminds me of the "great and powerful Oz." Hope this all works out for you. I have been trying to pin God down for years, but They are wily and will not be held fast. God Bless.

Frances Kuffel said...

I think "The God of my understanding" isn't the same as "as I understand God". The former seems static, solid, dogma. The latter seems much more a decision or process, mercurial, open-ended. The God of MY understanding is taking notes and keeping score, if He notices me at all. The God I understand is someone I can talk to, demand things of, rant at, turn to, see, hear, smell & trust.

Does this help, or even make sense?

Love the idea of a gratitudes box...& that we share a penchant for the good karma of perfume boxes. LOL

April said...

Hi Frances,
This is a business note...
Your link to your psychology today blog is wrong (to many http's).
Also, I'm curious...
Did Psychology Today choose the photo to run with your blog or did you? I wonder why it is an old photo that doesn't reflect your current struggle...
I am glad to find another spot to read your thoughts. You continue to make me think...

Frances Kuffel said...

Psychology Today chose the photo. I'm ambivalent about it as well. SOOO much has changed since it was taken, the majority of it for the better. On the other hand, I continue to change from month to month & am not looking very spiffy very often, married as I am to shedding dogs & the computer. I think there are enough photos of me around to check out the real story.

Gotta fix that URL...

Unknown said...

I wondered about the picture too, so I'm glad someone asked.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why it is an old photo that doesn't reflect your current struggle...Because the editors at 'Psychology Today' think people are more likely to read pieces written by a slim woman than a fat one?

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