Snuck off to mass again. I got excited when I saw "Be not afraid" in the hymn list for the morning. That was my favorite song when I was nine years old at Catholic elementary school. It's got a beautiful melody, and the words are great for anxious kids like myself.
"Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me, and I will give you rest... You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. Know that I am with you through it all."
I started crying, because what a thought, God with you in the dark. Yes, the logical dilemma still exists that plenty of people die of thirst in barren deserts, feeling no sense of God's accompaniment. I felt very little during mine. But I like the thought, retroactively, of not having been alone.
"Resurrections are real, in this life, and in the life to come," the priest reiterated at least twice in his sermon. I feel that now. I agree again. I see that in my life, and my friends' lives, after waiting long-ass amounts of time for a number of things. I've been browsing engagement rings on Etsy, delighted and joyous to be doing so. My friend Ann is marrying one of the best men I've ever met, after waiting 30 years for him. My friend Megan is marrying another one, and my friend Sarah is in love with yet another one.
I don't know what resurrection looks like after this, it feels like too great of a mystery for us to try putting almost any words to. But if these resurrections happening here are real, why wouldn't there be more. (A quote comes to mind, "Love and the good life are needful for right belief." I hate the words "right" and "belief" next to each other, but I like it in the sense of, no one should be expected to believe anything during a time of suffering, and deeply true perspectives only flow from love and goodness.)
I was thinking all this while driving, right before the NPR announcer began telling the story of a famous pianist who lost movement in one hand because of nerve damage. "This is from the album he released after he underwent surgery, called Two Hands." The song was Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, which I walked up the aisle to at my first wedding.
Radical acceptance of suffering is a key to living life well. I've read that in a ton of places, and I know that's a central tenet of both Buddhism and Christianity, but I thought "life is suffering" meant "numb yourself" or "don't fight for joy."
Life is not all suffering - there is a lot of good, and there are even moments of beauty, connection, and light in the midst of the darkest struggles. But feeling the yuck emotions like disappointment, sadness, anger, grief - that's the part everybody naturally runs from, and this is actually what gets in the way of us loving others and ourselves well in the long run. (Not that we aren't going to struggle with this until we die; we all feel "let this cup pass from me" and I don't know if that ever becomes easy.)
To be a good parent, you have to be willing to feel your child's pain, have to let them make mistakes, have to set them free. That's radical acceptance of suffering. You have to cry when they are bullied as young kids. You feel all the emotions of being dumped alongside them when they are hurt by their first girlfriend or boyfriend. You have to watch and manage your protectiveness as, later in life, they marry a flawed human who is bound to hurt them many times over the course of sixty years together.
To be a good spouse, you have to suffer with your partner, mirror their emotions even when they affect you in ways that don't feel "up." "Mourn with those who mourn" is getting at this. The symbol of the cross is getting at this.
Heck, to be a good grown-up child is to let your parents suffer for and with you! I find I hide my struggles and emotions so as to not cause the ones I love more pain, but I have to be willing to suffer from their suffering about my suffering... :-) We are so connected; we are all one, and the pain always bounces.
"Be it unto me." I'd get a tattoo of that, if I were to get one of anything.
One of my professors complimented my writing last week. He said I'm "on another level." It made me feel good, because "My self-confidence is still down here," I replied, and my hand was 3 inches off the floor. Today my other favorite professor read us a poem to kick off class, as he always does. These two lines by David Whyte stood out as to why I don't feel like A Writer anymore: what is true to the
pattern does not need to be explained. and then why, at other times, I do: everything has its own
voice to make itself heard.
I wrote in my notebook, "I'm gifted with words, but I'm not A Writer." I don't understand thesis sentences and correct structure, and nothing in me wants to. I'm not enamoured by the process, or by wearing writerly clothes, or reading books on writing, the way people who are truly following their bliss feel and do. I don't have that feeling, "This book is burning inside me, just waiting to be written!"
My friend Jenny said she writes by ear, and that's what I do as well, but mostly I just feel too tired, and a little lazy. I don't want to do the hard parts, show up every day, blah blah blah like Real Writers do. I did have a dream a couple of months ago that I was talking to an editor and said "I'm going to write soon, but I need to spend more time resting on the third floor of this artsy brick building."
I'm lacking a good mentor, and a good role model (I
do get excited when I read Elizabeth Gilbert). I like documenting the experiences in my life that stand out and move me, and communicating it in ways that are worth other people spending their precious time on to read. I did want to be the next L.M. Montgomery when I was little, and childhood dreams count for something. It's just still not time. And I'd rather write one great book at age 60 than ten mediocre ones over the course of my life; that alone feels like a good place to be.