Primitive Feelings and the Minnesota State Fair

They canceled the Minnesota State Fair last week. I pretty much assumed they would, though it was no fun to see it in print, after a week of canceled summer camps and winding down work with my biggest client, who is putting our contract on pause while the pandemic plays out.

It seemed like nothing felt good Friday. I had been frustrated that our biggest camp is taking so long to make a decision about July, wishing for clarity. Then I got clarity on the Fair and I wished for optimism and hope. I don’t even know if I want my kids going to their big camp in July – I just want so badly to think that a joyful, carefree summer is available to them.

I thought about the anger and frustration and despair I’ve heard from friends this week. In moments of candor, with their guard down, setting aside the veneer they use on video conference calls, setting aside, “I’m fine” for a few minutes and saying, “I’m over this.” Or, “I can’t live like this anymore,” or “How can the governor keep us from <<fill in the blank>>.” Righteous indignation, helplessness, rage and fear that have mostly avoided me as I fret about my own income and balancing the box-checking of homeschool and the well-being of the entire family, crystallized in grief at the loss of a year at the Fair.

We have newly become a Fair family – this would have been only our fourth year going. But we love it. We love to get there at 8 am and leave at 10 pm, dancing down the Midway at dusk, eating fried Twinkies, corn dogs and ice cream wrapped in cotton candy, covered in Fruity Pebbles. Last year my son entered a portrait of Drake in the crop art competition, and this year he’s working on a masked Charlie Brown, while my daughter went all out on a WWI Trench Warfare diorama to put in the K-12 competition. It is a day of “sure, why not, let’s go for it,” so different than the boundaries and structure we live with every day. And we look forward to it all year.

Anna’s third grade project, a Trench Warfare diorama she wanted to enter into a State Fair competition

As I sat feeling my sad feelings Friday, proud of myself for letting them in and not running from them, I saw another headline about 94,000 Americans dead from the Corona virus. I have not spent time feeling sad about that. I am ashamed of myself for that. There is so much pain, and I didn’t let grief in until I lost the Fair.

I went to my stack of Father Clay books for insight, and I latched on to this one about balancing our “primitive desires” and our adult mind. The example he uses is mostly about sex, which is a bit dissonant, but I stand by this selection. I am balancing my feelings, my childlike urges toward tantrums, and my adult mind telling me to follow directions, do what the experts say and be grateful.

Telling me to be grateful. I am grateful. I am also a million other things. I swear, somewhere in there is a grief over the unfathomable 94,000 deaths. For right now, it is all coming out in my feelings about the Fair and my primitive need for crop art. That’s okay. I can feel that and wear my mask and keep putting one foot in front of the other and loving my people fiercely and working to count all people as my people.

Help me to rejoice

We are surrounded by love, the love we name God. That love holds us, embraces us, cradles us, looks at us tenderly and with compassion. That love lives deep within our souls and bubbles up with powerful, healing energy.

Gracious love, the journey through live is so difficult, so complicated, and there are so many twists and turns. Help me to realize the need for the wisdom of your love, for the strength of your love. Help me to accept myself as a human person, someone with all the primitive desires and drives and needs. Help me understand that these are part of your gifts to us.

Gracious love, help my mind to grow too. These primitive drives need direction. They need to be channeled so that they can become a power for good. Help me not to identify with all of these primitive drives and act only out of them.
As my mind develops and grows, help me not to become identified with my mind only. When I do this, I look down on all the things that I think are less or no good or bad in me. I repress them and push them deep down inside myself, so that I don’t even know they are there. Then they will do their damage, all through very sneaky ways.

Help me to rejoice in the primitive drives that I have and come in the mind that you gave me. Help them to come together so that these drives may be strong and safely directed.

Loving God, this is all so difficult. It takes so long and is so painful. We make so many mistakes along the way. Help us to understand this, as we struggle to be patient with ourselves, and open ourselves to the power and wisdom that is love.

Loving God, we put our trust in you. Then we don’t have to be certain so much anymore.

God bless you.

Excerpted from the homily “Pride, Arrogance and Violence” in Surrounded by Love, (c) 2005

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