Non-photo: It just wasn’t a week to take pictures, Dear Reader. But stay tuned next week. I’ve got a little surprise for you…
I had a moment in my car. I find that grief comes most acutely in the silent moments, alone and in my head. I was parked in front of my house, the breeze was going through the trees. It was so quiet, so beautiful, the sun shining down and warming a calm world.
I wondered, out loud: Don’t you hear us praying? We’re asking you to deliver us, to not let us suffer simply because we exist and others hate us for it. Are you really going to leave us here like this?
I realized how purely impious I was being in that moment, failing a fairly fundamental test of Christian faith. I felt guilty, ashamed. I thought about Grandy, how disappointed she would be at my indiscretion, how much wisdom she would give to me in that moment. She would have admonished in her first breath, taught with her second. It would have made everything better. The world would have such clarity.
So, in my pain and in my low state, I asked my next question: How could you leave me here when I need your advice now more than ever?
And the tears came.
I have had moments of grace, I have had moments of terror, and I’ve had moments of the most intense sort of grief. Grief compounded and compounded as all of this terrible year seems to fold in on itself. Introduce fear into it and it’s a cocktail for absolute disaster. Where grief is a viscous air that chokes and weakens, fear is a sharp, piercing poison that rips and then grips tightly before spreading throughout the body.
It has felt like too much. How the hell to move forward? Do I have the strength to take the advice that I’ve been so freely given to like-minded friends all week?
And can I do it with my faith intact?
I have learned two lessons this autumn that I will always keep with me:
The first I have shared with you before, and I think it still applies beautifully:
In the face of death, bring life with you.
The second is something that is counter to my usually introverted personality:
In moments of crisis, I’m at my best when I’m reaching out.
Each of us (those who are feeling anxious and fearful about the next 4 years) will have to create for ourselves a toolkit for survival. I wrote last week about becoming a “patron” to two local causes that are dear to me, and that’s because I’m programmed to think about others before I think about myself. But this week, my brain has clicked over to self-preservation. How to combat the poison trying to make its way through my system? How can I resist the onslaught myself so that way I’ll be strong enough to aid in the larger resistance to come?
This is what I wrote in my notebook this week:
- Intellectualism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read widely and ferociously.
- Art will be under attack. Therefore, I will create with purpose, intensity, and frequency.
- Journalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it with increased scrutiny (and pay for it).
- Non-Violent Radicalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will seek radical thought and apply it appropriately.
- History will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it, preserve it and teach it to my children with integrity.
- Color will be under attack. Therefore, I will be beautiful, graceful and conspicuous with my presence.
To be honest, these are things that I’ve done for my whole life (maybe not always number 4. I’m pretty square and I prefer rules over chaos). There is nothing new here. But to write them down, to reaffirm and recommit, is very powerful. It’s the perfect antidote to the fear, the perfect hit of oxygen to stop the choking. Rearticulating my values, the core of myself and how I exist in this world, is going to get me through this. My truth will be the light I bring to guard against the darkness that is coming. Stating and restating the purpose of my life and what it means will be the perfect rod and staff to comfort me in this 4-year journey through the valley.
And I will reach out my hand time and again. In moments of crisis, when I don’t think I can take anymore, then I will reach out: in service or for help. When I chose to reach out, I feel better.
I write these Quiet Thoughts because this defeat is hard, because the world feels out of sorts, and because the sun keeps managing to rise each morning. It has only been a week, and there is an unbearable nature to how this is going. The waiting is actually worse than the shock, as we are reminded with each appointment, each misstep he is already making, just how much we’ve lost and just how much more we still stand to lose. Resistance is what has been called for, but resistance requires multiple levels and types of strength. The Resistance must be made up of many, many strong individuals. This kind of strength training takes hard work. Take your time and do it well, Dear Reader. We need you.
It is a mild Friday night, Dear Reader. The last little tease of warmth before the first flurries threaten to fly this season. The farmhouse is warm, the children are sleeping, there is plenty of work to do and so little time to get it all done. I don’t know a lot of things, Dear Reader. I don’t know what’s in store for us, for sure. But here is what I do know: I’m grateful for your presence, so thankful for your readership. Thank you for spending a little bit of your time here with me each week. I wish you restful sleep this weekend, deep and healing, the kind with dreams that stir the soul. I wish you food the fills, warms, and nourishes. The kind that takes hours to slowly prepare, complex and layered with flavor, best enjoyed in the company of others and with a good, dark beer. I wish you the lingering embrace of a person you love, holding on for a breath longer than usual, letting their warmth and scent soak in for a moment. I wish you the wise words of an elder, comforting and resolved. I wish you the sweet words of a cherished one, heartwarming and intimate. Finally, I wish you a little time to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of how beautiful and important you are. You can be the solution to one of the world’s problems, Dear Reader. You are someone’s light against the darkness.
Until Monday, take care of yourself, Dear Reader.