Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dear friend

I've been thinking a lot about our conversation and wondering if I could have had a better response, wishing that I knew more theology or could speak better about who god is or what our lives are about or why these things happen. I'm no C.S. Lewis and honestly have no aspirations to be and my guess is that you don't want deep book-ish theology right now. But I want to offer you something, even if it's just my own mutterings to myself.

Your situation, it's really really shitty.

And I'm not sure why the shit hit the fan now and not five years ago, and I'm really not sure why it's happening to you rather than your college roommate or anyone for that matter. I don't have the Why's figured out and I'm not sure if I will in my lifetime - the pursuit drives me a little batty and makes me wonder if god is a little monstrous. I don't think god is monstrous.

Last spring, I heard a man address a crowd of soon-to-be grad school graduates. The man was dying of cancer, a battle he'd been waging for a few years which I had witnessed only from afar. That morning, the toll of the battle was apparent. His wife assisted him to his seat at the front of the hall - he was too weak to stand for his address - and his wife was even prepared to read his remarks should he not have the strength to finish. I can't tell you the details of his address - his sermon, really - not for lack of paying attention. I was truly captivated in the beauty of the moment because he talked about that passage in 2 Corinthians, where Paul talks about being hard-pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. How there is a treasure in all of this brokenness, that there is life in this death, that there is hope that we will not be abandoned, we will not be destroyed. And here was this man before me, too weak to stand, barely able to make it through the morning, battered and bruised from the years of cancer - here was that jar of clay, in the flesh, fragile, vulnerable, broken - proclaiming a hope that can face even the darkest days, that can face even death.

I don't know what all that means - again, I'm a little weak on my systematics. But the little I do know seems to indicate that Jesus of the gospels is on the side of the broken, the poor, the people on the edge. And the gospels seem to tell the story of someone willing to wade into all of this shittiness, someone who rolls up his sleeves, gets his hands dirty. Someone who will sit and have a glass of wine with you and let you spew your heart out. There is no wand that waves away the horrible awful pain of grief, of sadness, of anger. I'm not sure how to untangle the mess of despair, of loneliness, of uncertainty. I'm really not even sure if I can tell you how life will emerge from death, especially this particular wound. Who knows how it will heal?

It is my hope - beyond all hope - that comfort will find you, that hope will breathe into your soul, that compassion will wrap its way around your heart.

And in the meantime, you will not be destroyed, you will not be abandoned.

And in the meantime, this is shitty.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

late fragment
by Raymond Carver

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just a hint of melancholy

My hands feel dry, a little crackly. From washing dishes, and I'm too stuck in my chair to get some hand lotion. Haven's Lullaby list plays on repeat - I'm finding solace in the dixie chicks, ben harper, and damien rice tonight.

I don't know about you, but these days I feel like everything is coming undone, that the economic crisis has unraveled not just our economy but so many other things. Rips, tears, fissures, broken people, broken bodies, broken relationships, institutions, the earth. Things fall apart, indeed.

For the first time since Haven was born, I am feeling the loss of time to myself. She is wonderful, don't get me wrong, but I'm craving some space, just a little solace to mend my hands, to feed my soul. And that is the challenge these days - the moments are rare when I feel completely alone, or even if alone, free of responsibility. I trust that this is a phase - that life with an infant is particularly demanding compared to other times in parenthood. But how do I do that now? Even when she was younger, I had long quiet nursing sessions with Haven that allowed me some time to think and reflect. She is now much more active, alert and has finessed the art of nursing to a brisk 15 minutes. How do I make that time for myself - time that is quiet, slow, allows for that space of reflection? Especially now, especially at this time.

Time to remember that not all things are falling apart. There are engagements (yay Olivia and Chris!), there are new discoveries (like left feet and rolling over), there are citrus blossoms, walks with good friends, long conversations, and good food for dinner.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A foot in the mouth

I'm amazed with the speed at which Haven is developing. It seems like each week, if not each day, she adds a new skill to her repertoire.

Take the progression of hand to mouth coordination. At Christmas time, when we were home visiting my family, she was just beginning to hold on to something if it came in contact with her hand. As the new year started, we watched as she gradually learned how to grab things, usually with both hands. By the end of January, she was pretty well accomplished at holding onto something with both hands and very carefully maneuvering the object to her wide open mouth. In February, she worked at picking up the speed of her hand to mouth coordination and a couple of weeks ago finally showed some interest in the rubber squeaky blocks that my sister gave her for Christmas. She now loves the blocks, loves to grab them with both hands and then just gnaw the squeak out of it. She is also now able to grab things with one hand, rather than having to use both, and she is extremely proficient - and now surprisingly quick - at putting ALL objects into her mouth. Amazing!

Her latest discovery, and most entertaining, has been the discovery this past week of her left foot. It began with just simply finding the foot, grabbing on to it, hanging on for dear life as it kicked away. But I think even more exciting than finding her foot has been the discovery that she can grab her foot and insert it, just like everything else, into her mouth. Such great fun, I tell you!

We are now waiting for her to discover her right foot. Not sure when (or if) that will happen, but I'm sure it will be just as exciting for her when she realizes that she has more than one of these appendages.