Sunny morning. R. and G. warned me that my neck was getting burnt by the sun so I covered it with my sweater. “We look out for each other,” they said. I sat listening to the crows and an electric saw in the distance for most of the hour…Garth and Pierre came heading up the hill on their daily walk. “How is it that your outfits match completely–except for your shoelaces?” I asked them as I take stock of their matching horn rimmed sunglasses, black shirt and shorts, haircuts. “Well, after 30 years, it’s no secret, we shop together,” one of them told me.
“Let me ask you something…How do you stay together 30 years?” I ask, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“It just happens,” Pierre said.
“It just happens? What do you mean, it just happens…” I can’t believe it.
Garth strokes Pierre’s chest, “Honey, it feels just like yesterday, doesn’t it? The spark is still there.” A pause. “Lavender helps…Do you want some lavender?” he offers me a piece. “It seems early for lavender…early June…I don’t know the lavender schedule.”
I take a piece of lavender and inhale the spicy scent.
“How long have you been knitting?” Pierre asks me.
“Almost 4 years…”
“See?” Pierre says. “It’s a metaphor.”
“It just happens. I just show up,” I say, laughing, getting his point.
“Work, it’s all work,” they say continuing up the hill.
I have spent the week surprised at the rawness of the places that have opened up inside me since the memory of my siblings’ deaths returned in full force…It’s something about the bench, this hour of knitting meditation is working on me, opening up all these places in my subconsious where I haven’t let go. Subtidal, I keep telling myself. It’s as if my psyche has been sitting in a tub with water and bubble bath up to its armpits, and suddenly the tub has drained, revealing everything, especially those parts that I keep carefully concealed from myself…the anger, the insecurity, the doubt. I tell myself–the subtidal zone contains the most vibrant life, it teems with sea creatures–some of them poisonous but also the Dr. Seuss fish that hum. These deep places of the heart give rise to rage and fear but also creativity and passionate love. I’m choosing to adopt the compassionate curiosity of a scientist who peers into the depths, who wonders at the movements there, who witnesses the life and growth.
I tried to pray earlier this morning, to force faith and nice feelings of trust. It didn’t work. People who try to explain the suffering of small children or the random accidents that happen in the language of faith make me nauseous. I can’t stomach it. So.
Later, I go to Adoration, a funny thing that Catholics do, and I am flooded with love. A love that wants to push its way into all my pores, my lungs, my belly. I’m breathing and drinking love, love, love. I’m sitting in a waterfall that keeps pouring over me, and I don’t want to move but I finally do after about 2 hours. So the question for me isn’t whether I believe in Love, in God. I know, experientially in my body that God exists the way I feel the sunshine on my neck, the pavement under my feet. The question is whether I believe in a God who is loving and competent. Or is God loving and just really, really bad at running the Universe? Maybe falling asleep at the wheel from time to time–say when earthquakes wipe out entire villages, or when my baby brother dies of AIDS?
Big breath. I don’t get any answers, I just get powerhosed with more love. I don’t think there’s an answer this side of death that could satisfy, make the heartache go away. But I know that I don’t want to play God, to try to control everything from a lonely tower where I’ve shut myself up to avoid pain of heartache and loss.* And this is what I hear: Trust is a process just like Spring is a process. Don’t try to trust me all at once for everything. Just trust me with what’s in front of you, one step at a time. Above all, don’t be hard on yourself. Faith is not unwaivering trust, it’s being present and honest and staying in the relationship with the questions unanswered and the heartache. Our relationship is not going to end just because you’re upset. It spans years of highs and lows. And this is what I know: I am held by Love. I can doubt all I want but I can’t doubt this ocean of Love that I live and move and breathe in. I can give God notice, play Goddess instead, and try to control everything (a surefire path to misery), or I can surrender to that which I do not understand, a love and a wisdom that’s far beyond me…Those are my choices.*
And I can’t help it, can’t help but love a Universe that inspires fish that hum, platypuses, walruses, pugs, and knits to the sea. I just can’t help it, can’t suppress this wild, inexplicable joy that bubbles up in what’s left of my tattered little heart, despite everything.
*I’ve just reread “The Terror of Randomness” from the book Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, and it speaks to these things more eloquently than I ever could…