Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sit Still

It was a perfect day. Sunny and warm, and I will always remember that specific shade of buttery, cheerful yellow on the daffodils in the banquet room. There were about a hundred people there for dinner; I will always remember the mirth and joy I felt having everyone together in that one room. I felt beautiful, and I thought he was so, so handsome. After dinner, we told everyone why they were really there by executing probably the best practical joke I’ve ever formulated. They thought it was the rehearsal dinner, and even though none of them were really “in the wedding,” we still got them to show up. As a good friend said afterwards, “I was at a rehearsal dinner, and a wedding broke out!” Yes, we had a surprise wedding. It really was great fun.

I changed into my dress and walked the aisle. I felt beautiful, and I thought he was so handsome. (I will always remember that.) I cried during my vows. “You may kiss the bride.” And then he turned to the audience and pumped his fist in the air. They laughed. And I laughed. I threw my head back and laughed.

One month shy of six years later, and it is a dramatically different scene. “Oh my God. Oh, Jesus. Oh my God, what am I going to do?” Screaming and sobbing into my pillow so I wouldn’t wake the baby, and he is on his knees beside the bed with his head in his hands. My sobs pour out of me in a constant stream of waves and convulsions; his sound like choking, stops and starts and stops and starts. It feels like time is frozen, but simultaneously somehow, unraveling all around us.

He eventually stands up. I look at his face and instead of a person, I see a pile of rubble. I study my hands, which are shaking and numb and ghostly white. I look back to him, blink, and say calmly, “I’m in shock.”
It is terrifying and wondrous how one moment can so dramatically change reality. How fragile reality is.
By some absolute miracle, the sun rose the next day. Every moment was tenuous that day and for days afterwards. Weeks, really. I had no idea what to do next, and so I waited. There were two things I knew to guard: my daughter, and my self-respect. Because anyone who has been through this will tell you that you cling to your self-respect like a lifeline, when so many people seem to have a different opinion about what you should do and they bring their own fears and junk into the middle of your situation as if you don’t already have a shitload of your own, thank-you-so-very-much. So you push these things aside and you just look into your own eyes. And when my self-respect (or conscience, or holy spirit, or what-have-you) said, “It’s time,” I knew it was time. And so I went through the big D and I don’t mean Dallas. And let me tell you that it is something you travel through. Not to. Not around. You go through a divorce.

And then it was time to survey the damage. Except, here’s the thing. I am a woman of action. I’m not super interested in details; I’m not good at puzzles. If it takes too long, it simply loses my interest and I set it aside for something new. My shattered heart – this was the jagged puzzle to end all puzzles, and so probably the best way to describe what I did with it…I kind of swept it up into one big, moderately tidy pile. Sometimes I would sit and look at it, and sigh, overwhelmed and at a total loss as to what to do with it. Then, as is my way, I found something else to do. This new thing had been a long time in coming, and as such, it will always remain and yield good dividends. This is grace; this is God working good in the midst of my (our) imperfect world. But when I do something, I do it. And man, I did this new thing. I jumped in with both feet. I went all in. And running full blast, I stumbled over that rubble. Smack! I fell down hard, right in the middle of that shattered mess that I had swept up just months before.

And guess what? I was already pretty banged up before this whole thing started, and as we all know, when you fall and you’re already injured – it hurts worse. It hurts like a mo’ fo’. It can make your head spin. So I think it’s best to just sit still for a minute. I’m going to be kind to me, and absorb the calmness that I myself can create. If you want to sit down with me; or if you have stumbled as well and you find yourself on the ground, and you want to resist the urge to stand in your mess and prance around flapping your arms and wringing your hands and pretending that it’s not a mess; if you want to be still and authentic and courageously, if haltingly, vulnerable…then we will have something in common. We can survey the mess, and we can sort through it for the valuables. Maybe I will cry, or you will. We will definitely laugh. And I will practice letting go – letting me be me, and letting you be you. I will practice taking this world as it is, and not as I want it to be…or that’s how it goes anyway, I think.

So, here are some questions…

In your life, what part of the healing process is passive? And what part is active? How do you participate in your healing, and how do you find yourself just receiving?

I sincerely value your insights.


Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert,
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


  1. I want to meet you at Guillermo's the next time I'm in town. Save these thoughts as best you can until then, and we shall delve like we've never delved before. Reading this conjured up many memories of the four of us (Mercy, that sounds like a really cheap way to make this about me) and so it was shockingly visceral to hear your heart this morning. Thank you for sharing. It was, as always, very beautiful. Few days go by where I don't think about you. Miss you like crazy. I'll bring my bass, you bring your guitar, and we can split a bottle of wine somewhere and engage in a dance of wits and transparency.

  2. Tears Rachel. Beautiful. I won't offer any great insights on answers-because Lord knows, folks mean well, but I have heard enough from others for the last 6 years since Ryan's diagnosis than anyone should ever have to endure in a lifetime. That said, my "tidy pile" was getting bombarded by waves and scattered and shifted constantly. The waves just kept coming with no letting up. I wasn't afforded the luxury of selecting a time to "deal" with it all and address issues in my relationship with my husband, needs of my own; all I could do was try to put out immediate fires that were EVERYWHERE with no let up to the waves. Sometimes the waves pushed me off my raft and scattered my essentials and left me scrambling to grab them back up again, barely able to catch breath before the next wave hit. The last couple of years have afforded me the ability to notice that there are breaks between waves, the sun does come out, and I have finally been able to delve into the "piles" that have collected. I have learned that my healing pace is not linear. I have learned that I need to say things out loud and let them fly away from my heart to leave me lighter. I sometimes walk with my face up to the sky to feel the sun, or the rain while others put up umbrellas and run for cover. I learned that in any given situation, "this too shall pass" and "God never gives me what I can't handle, because I can do all things through him". I try to honour my feelings when I feel them. If I wanted to stand in the shower and cry, I do. I run...a lot. I take deep breaths and steps back instead of jumping straight in. And I find over the last year that beyond the rational logic of understanding I am not in control of life-I know what that means for me. I try to be present in the moment to be proactive for the marathon. My prayer has moved from "help me God, I am not going to make it", to "help me be where I need to be, at the right time, with receptive ears to hear what your purpose is, the eyes to see it as truth, the heart/will to do whatever it takes to get there, and the right words that need to be said those around me". And most days I feel like I am doing all right, so I try to remember that when another wave rises up to smack me out of my daydream. "This too shall pass so bring it" I luvya girl.