This post is going to have a lot of poem drafts, and they probably won’t be award-winning quality. I find it a lot easier to write about this experience through poems, so that’s how I’ve been journaling it. I think that writing about this will be easier by using what I’ve already journaled.
The weekend before I left for Boston, we found out my Grandma Kathleen was dying. I think I got the call on Friday. In the early hours of Monday morning, she was gone.
There are a lot of things I need to write about.
I need to finish up the Boston trip. I need to write about how on Saturday (or Friday–it’s a blur) two weeks ago today I got the call that my grandma was dying. I need to write about the funeral. I need to write about coming back to school. I need to write about the graduate school I chose.
But every time I open a blog entry to write, I feel overwhelmed. I am tired. I have too many things that need saying, and I’d rather do homework.
Once I write about it, it’ll be true. It’s stupid, because I’m not in Boston anymore, and I’ve made my decision, and she is dead, and the words won’t change any of that. But they will change a little of me.
It’s so strange being back in Georgia where it’s warm and sunny and people are stressing about the last six weeks of school and everything’s falling together in an avalanche of stuff and I can count on a few fingers the number of people who have asked me about the funeral or how I am but for the most part everything keeps turning and I am tired.
I will be upping my arthritis medication today and I am tired.
I haven’t touched my manuscript in weeks and I am tired.
I need to post those entries and I am tired.
My grandma is dead and I am tired.
That’s all for now.
“If you do not like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror, break your face.” – Persian poem
I am increasingly convinced that I will not be happy if my life is about the American dream. To be honest, the thought of a white picket fence and a steady job is somewhat terrifying (not to mention a husband and kids with no desire to move beyond their city, much less their country, which is something that seems inevitably attached to the West’s perception of a stable, wealthy life). I knew this a bit before I studied abroad, but since I came back I’m struck again and again with the feeling that this is a haven, a stop, and I really belong somewhere else.
I’m terrified that the monotony, the obsession with one’s self that pervades American culture, the lukewarm contentment and deep dissatisfaction will lull over me. I’m terrified that one day I’ll look in the mirror and see someone who doesn’t care enough to even be aware of another’s suffering.
I started crying today when reading about children in Afghanistan. I longed to coax a smile out of just one child again, to tease that old look out of their eyes and make them grin.
I want to be the sort of person who brings God’s love and healing to hard places even if she has to break her face to do it.
I’ve been thinking for a while about the meaning of the word “okay.” It’s odd, because that word is fairly nonchalant, but in my experience can be the most comforting and appropriate thing to say to someone when they’re in pain.
When I was seeing a therapist last fall, one of the things she had to tell me almost every week was this: “Just take a deep breath and tell yourself, ‘It’s okay.'” I started walking around with that in my head like a playlist on repeat. It’s okay, it’s okay.
Of course, it wasn’t really (nonchalantly) okay. I was trying to cope with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, with surgeries and with some pretty serious depression. But saying that to myself seemed to help. Those times when someone would put their arms around me and say the most comforting things had the word “okay” in their gestures or in their speech.
Normally when I am trying to comfort someone going through something–diagnosed with RA or something else–my go-to phrase is, “You’re going to be okay.” When I say this, I mean: Everything will be okay. Maybe not today, but eventually.
But today I couldn’t say that to someone.
This is what I wrote last year around 9/11. It’s still on my heart. Originally posted on livejournal on 9/11/11.
I’ve shared my story in the past. So this isn’t a story directly related to 9/11, but it is a story that’s been on my heart all week. Three stories, actually.
We–my mom, sister and I–were sitting in a nice restaurant in Central Asia, with native people, and we had just finished a fantastic traditional meal. My sister asked our friends to share one bit of their culture that they would like Westerners to know. They thought for a few minutes, and then began to go around the table. Most of them talked about women’s rights and about hospitality.
One man shared a story with us. There is an old tradition, he says. When two people (families or towns) are warring, it used to be that a woman could stop the war. She would bake bread in her home, and then take it to a woman in the other side. The people would cease fighting, because the woman had been so brave and had earned so much respect.
My sister asked if an American woman brings bread, can the war stop? We all laughed. No, they said, because the terrorists do not honor tradition.
The image of that tradition is beautiful and horrifying to me, as I think of a little woman in her chadar, clutching bread still warm from the oven, going into war with a silent gift of peace.
(Originally posted on April 05, 2012)
A few weeks ago, I was attending Reading Family Church, which is my church-away-from-home. This particular service was unusual because the pastor had decided to split time between normal worship/sermon and a time for people to go up and be prayed over by various church leaders.
Like I mentioned in earlier posts, emotionally engaged has been incredibly exhausting for me for the past while. To cope with this (especially in an wonderfully engaging congregation like Reading Family), normally while I’m at church I have the Me and then I have the Me With Garbage At A Deeper Level We’ll Just Keep This Bit Locked Up. Not like pretending to worship, because I really do. It’s just that there’s another part of me I’m talking down, like, “That’s too heavy to deal with right now, so I’m just going to worry about that later.”
So the second half of the service comes around, and I wasn’t planning to go up. Then the pastor talked about the crippled man who Jesus commanded to stretch out his hand and be healed, and I was like, “Well, I think that might be my cue.” But I was still hesitating because I just didn’t want to risk opening that door. I watched most of the church go up, and was wishing I could go pray for all those people with their problems, but I found myself really averse to being prayed over. And in my heart over and over I felt like God was saying, “Why? Why won’t you let me bless you?”
(Originally posted on April 04, 2012)
Before we go on: Who had less belief? The friends who could not comprehend God letting bad stuff happen, or Job, the man who questioned God outright? The man who lost everything and demands an answer, or the men who appear have all the answers?
God didn’t get on to Job about talking. I used to think that. But when I read it now, I really do think God was inviting a discussion. He never sounds upset or angry—if anything, he only gently rebukes Job by giving him a wider perspective. But he does outright call the friends idiots. So I’d say Job has more faith. Spoiler alert, but my theory is supported because after Job and God talk, God says He’ll forgive Job’s friends if Job will pray for them.
So I guess it’s okay to wrestle with hard questions, instead of hiding from the questions behind liberalism and false righteousness.
But now on to the main point: In the face of God’s defense—which isn’t so much a defense of the action, but more a testimony of God’s character—how do you go on believing?