Thursday, November 25, 2010


Sometimes I write about things I think I have a good understanding of. Other days I write about things that confound me, or that I'm struggling with. Today I suppose I'm writing about both of these things at the same time. As seems so often the case, I feel a confluence of events/things/ideas are coming to me at one time. As is also usually the case, I'm not certain what to do with all of these things coming together right now.

I've been contemplating forgiveness lately. And not in the abstract way I often contemplate things. For the first time in my recent memory, I've really wanted to forgive someone, and yet I can't seem to find my way. I know my own ability to forgive would bring me healing, and being able to let go would be living into the way I think God intends for me to live this short life I've been given. Still, here I sit, unable to really forgive and move beyond the bitterness.

In the past week, I have come to understand that God is speaking to me about this. The message has come across in different forms and through different people, but it may as well as be a burning bush; it is increasingly evident.

I got together with an old friend this past Monday. We hadn't seen one another in quite awhile. I really enjoyed the time I had with him. He has always understood me, and always seen the best in me, even when I couldn't quite see it or feel it for myself. We talked old times and new times. As our conversation turned more serious, I confessed to him that I was struggling with being able to forgive my ex-husband for his infidelity and a host of other things. I insisted to my friend that my ex wasn't even sorry, how could I be expected to really be able to forgive him when he had never bothered to apologize, or to even be completely honest with me? My old friend listened quietly, and then said, "It's going to hurt for a long time, but if you are who I know you are, you have to open your heart again and forgive him." His words brought me to tears, but still I find myself stuck in this place of sadness and not just a little bit of anger. At least part of my own stuck-ness is that I struggle with forgiving myself for the parts I have played in my own drama, whether with my ex-husband or with others around me.

Just to be certain I got the message, a few days later my ex-husband showed up at my office. To say this was unusual is an understatement. We haven't had a real conversation in months, perhaps a year or more. Our last months under the same roof were ones filled with minimal interaction, we only spoke to one another when forced to. Once he left our home, and I discovered his betrayal was not just imagined, we rarely spoke at all. Most of our interaction was via text message, and was only the most basic of communication, the "when are you picking up the kids?" kind of interaction.

My ex-husband stopped by my office, and I wasn't clear why. Eventually after chatting with me for awhile, he said he was sorry, sorry that he caused me pain and he understood why I was so upset with him. I think his motivations were slightly less than pure, but still, I can no longer complain that he has failed to apologize. I can't use his lack of repentance as an excuse any longer for my own refusal to forgive him, to forgive myself.

In the midst of all of my self-imposed angst over forgiving my ex-husband, I have considered the hypocrisy in my own inability to forgive. After all how many times have I screwed up? And yet I still come to the table. I still ask for and receive the absolution so freely offered by a God I believe loves me again and again even when I'm not sorry, and I don't get it right. I've hurt so many people in my lifetime, and I've felt the relief and joy of being forgiven so many times.

Later that day I was listening to a guy sing a song that was simple, and yet so expressed where I find myself this strange place of seeking forgiveness for myself and yet being unable or unwilling to forgive another. It's an exile of sorts. Perhaps a self-created one, but still it feels a bit like exile. Knowing what needs to happen, knowing who I am and knowing what I value demands that I forgive, and still I seem determined to remain in my current place of separation. I'm not clear where the answer lies. I'm hopeful that I will get to that place in my journey where I will forgive freely, where I will judge less harshly, if at all, where I will seek to understand rather than be understood.

"You are my strength, and I am weak.
You are my strength, and I am weak.
You are my strength, and I am weak.
Maranatha. Maranatha. Maranatha.

I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
Does it move you? Does it move you? Does it move you?

I've fucked it up so many times.
I've fucked it up so many times.
I've fucked it up so many times.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

I've found my home in Babylon.
I've found my home in Babylon.
I've found my home in Babylon.
Here in exile. Here in exile. Here in exile."

"Maranatha" - Padraig O Tuama

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thank you

A confession: Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday of the year. In fact, to be honest, I dread the coming of Thanksgiving every year.

I have a lot of not-so-fond memories of Thanksgiving. On a day so many spend with their families, I can recall spending more than one Thanksgiving alone as a child. In my late teens and twenties, I worked very diligently to create a family for Thanksgiving. I made elaborate meals and traveled to friends' homes in other states, and still I felt some sense of loss on this holiday. A day people traditionally spend with their families seemed to highlight my alone-ness, my separateness from others.

Four years ago at Thanksgiving time was when I was first confronted rather head-on with my husband's infidelity. Last year I insisted my ex-husband move from our home at Thanksgiving time. The holiday has not been especially happy for me in either my distant or my recent memory.

It isn't that I'm not thankful or don't love the idea of a holiday that is centered on being grateful. In fact, I would characterize myself as someone who often sees the gifts in life, and is abundantly thankful for them. I find myself saying to God multiple times a day a simple, "thank you." And in the past few years I have started to recognize the value in telling the people in my life that I love them and am thankful for their lives. Gratitude is a huge part of my life nowadays. And I'm...well...I'm thankful for that, too.

Tonight I spent some time with an old friend. She and I have known each other since we were 5 or 6 years old. Our current lives are vastly different, and yet our histories are very much the same. As we talked about our families, both of which have been difficult to contend with since we were little girls, she expressed how hard it is to let go of the hurt when there is an expectation that you "be happy" at holiday celebrations with the family that has hurt you so intensely in the past. As I listened to her words, I realized what I am truly thankful for this year. It's really very simple. It's clarity. And it's the grace to let go of all of those old expectations so I can fully open my hands and accept all the blessings in and around and through my life now.

Yes, my family of origin has continually been a disappointment to me. And it's not getting any better. It's true, I have lived through a divorce in the past 18 months, and I still struggle with feeling bitter and sad about it. My job, on some days, is incredibly painful and difficult. I continue to struggle with my weight and my insecurity about my weight. I don't know where I'm headed in many ways. My friends are people who struggle with their own families, addictions, conflicts and issues. And yet...and still...

There are more and more days when I feel really good. Those days and times when I realize that I have created my own family - one centered around love and goodness and laughter and compassion. There are times when I look at the two little people sleeping in my bed and see very clearly that they are healthy, inquisitive, funny and loving. Over and over, I have laughed, loud and long, with the people I work with about whatever serious stuff we are confronting. There are those moments when I understand that all the pain I see and feel for these kids pales in comparison to the joy I see and feel when a child is adopted or loved or cared for. There are days when I know that my weight will again come under control, but that perhaps giving myself a little time and gentleness is what is called for in this moment. There is the hour I confront that I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been. I've been to some incredible places, and I've known and loved some wonderful people, and I've been known and loved by some even more wonderful people. But mostly today I am thankful for conversations like the one I had tonight. To be able to listen to someone's struggle and realize that this is what I know to love my sister. I know how to hear what she cannot say and to bear witness to the fact that she is here: a strong, compassionate and beautiful woman.

Out of the ruins of a family who could not love her, she is here, and so am I - and she is thankful for her incredible life and the grace of the Divine, and so am I.

For whatever inexplicable reasons, God has loved me and cared for me in more ways than I can possibly know in my lifetime. Life, as it is ever unfolding, is good and full and amazing. And all I know to say is "thank you."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My boy

This Sunday I'm having my little one, my son, baptized into the community that has already accepted him (and us) into their midst. Last year when my daughter asked to go through this ritual, I knew that she had reasons for wanting to do this. She had seen many children baptized, and she had thought about it. Even though she was only six years old, she seemed to grasp some of the weight of her decision.

Last year when my daughter was baptized, I decided, that as a family, I wanted both of my children to be able to share in the Eucharist - receiving the bread and wineat the table. So despite the fact that my son had not yet been baptized, I let him begin receiving communion. My reasoning, faulty it may be, was that as a family, we had all been attending the church for nearly a year and together we would go to the table to receive what was being offered and to give what we offer - the love of Christ, fellowship with a new family, our own thanksgiving for the blessings of our common life.

For the past few months, my son has mentioned that he wants now to do what his sister did a year ago. At first I sort of let the conversation drift around and didn't really question him or talk with him much about it. I offered the typical momism..."OK, we'll see." As he has grown more and more sure of himself recently, I finally told him I would mention it to our priest and move forward. He was pleased, and for the past week he has gotten downright excited about what was to come.

My son is in many ways me, in male form. My son, since the night before his birth, has not been an easy child. His entrance into this world was rocky. After a simple, and full 39 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, I was preparing for bed. I had put our 2 and 1/2 year old daughter to bed in her toddler bed, fed the dogs and was ready to heave my large belly into bed. I had been assured by my doctor a day earlier, that I was still probably a week or so away from delivering. My son, unlike my daughter, was in the right position to be delivered naturally, and I was living in that slow period of waiting for his arrival. As I crawled into bed, I decided to make one last trip to the bathroom. And then in dramatic fashion when I stood up, my water broke. I was stunned. And a little unnerved. I wasn't ready for this new adventure just yet.

Regardless of my preparations, the contractions started, and pretty soon I found myself in a hospital room. We arrived there around midnight, and I assumed that by morning I would be holding my son. My expectations were not immediately met. I labored through the night and the next morning...and the next afternoon...finally my doctor came to me and said, the baby was in distress each time I contracted, and that he was not going to come on his own, that they wanted to perform a c section. I was so tired by the time this development happened, I quickly consented, and was ready to meet this child. I recall very clearly the moment of my son's was silent. He didn't cry. He was blue. I was frightened. Within a minute he was screaming and bright pink. I remember crying in relief. He was here, he was alive and by all accounts he was healthy, and born on his due date, after 21 hours of labor.

My daughter, as an infant and toddler, was affectionate, loving and happy most days. My son was not really any of these things. He was an adorable baby, and not at all a fussy infant...but he had his quirks that were clear early on. He didn't take to people the way his sister did. He was cautious and sometimes seemingly anxious about situations and events. He resisted change, and was only content if we were following our ordinary routine. And to complicate things further, he had health issues that landed him in a doctor's office or hospital often from birth until he was over 2 years old.

And yet...and still...I have always understood him. He is so much who and how I was at his age, and his life has healed me in so many ways. I recall feeling the way he often seems to feel. Not entirely trusting people around me, not having an innate ability to show affection to those around me. As he ages and learns to express himself and to accept the love of those around him, I am continually amazed by this boy.

By far the best part of today was seeing how much he has changed and grown in just a few, short years. He was excited, loving and happy. And he was able to express those feelings openly to the people around him. Shortly after he was baptized, he ran into my arms and said, "that was awesome mom." I told him how I proud of him I was. He is in all ways, my child.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things left unsaid

As is common for me, I've come crashing back to earth. I tend to be reactionary, emotional and a little crazy. The past month has been ripe with new ideas, new people and excitement for me. In a way, I feel as if for a moment I left behind all of the wreckage of my personal life for bigger things. But, still I know myself well enough, and perhaps even accept myself enough, to feel it coming on and I'm ready to listen to what the lessons are this time around. About a week ago, I could feel this "spell" a-coming on. So what's eating me?

I'm not entirely sure. I think part of it has to do with trying to figure out some balance with my ex-husband, and still feeling ill-equipped to get it all ironed out in my mind. To my chagrin, I've discovered that some days I miss him. That seems strange to me, to even say those words, but it's true. Not that I've said those words out loud to anyone. It might be that I think it's strange because I chose this road. I made the decision that both of us feared. In the end, I decided for both of us that we would no longer be together. As I was getting misty-eyed listening to some Amy Grant last night, a line from one of her songs struck me, "the road of life is rugged, any road you choose, when I find the other side...I'll wait for you."

I suppose I didn't really get how hard this would be. To be alone. To feel alone. I find myself feeling sad that no one is "waiting for me" anywhere. And yet, I don't feel ready or able to love someone the way I loved my husband. I don't feel ready to admit my own neediness. In many ways he was my first, my only. It still hurts too much. The loss is still fresh in so many ways. I find myself envying those around me who move onward and upward so quickly. My fears are too great. I find myself silent.

I sat in the emergency room with my daughter Friday night after she experienced an allergic reaction to something. I called her dad on my way to the ER. I'm not certain what I was hoping for. Regardless he asked me to call him when it was over and let him know what was going on. The difference for me this time is that I was just left sad. So many words left unsaid.

Back when our son was an infant and I was sitting in hospital rooms with him - holding him for hours, quieting his tears, pacing the hallways, praying that he would be all right - I was alone then, too. My ex-husband hasn't changed in the past year. Back then I was so consumed with anger at him for not being who I wanted him to be in those moments, I could barely look at him. And yet, I was quiet.

And just so I don't appear the martyr, I don't believe he ever meant anything by not being present. I think he figured I had it handled. After all I never let myself crumble with him. I was stoic, in control and edgy when it came to our children and their crises. Even now, I'm not certain how to talk about being scared. I expected him to know, to understand, to see past my bravado. And when he didn't or couldn't, I was angry.

I still recall with more than a little bitterness the night I labored with our son. We left for the hospital around 10pm after my water broke unexpectedly. My parents met us and took our sleepy little girl home with them. I was determined to have our son naturally. As the hours came and went, I grew more and more scared. I was in pain, my labor wasn't progressing and I was becoming increasingly tired. In the midst of all this, my husband decided to "take a break" and left me alone for 3 hours. I had a mini-breakdown. Here I was, in a hospital room, in intense labor with our child and completely and totally alone. And yet, when he returned, I said very little. Some days I believe that was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

There are so many things I never said. And so I feel sad today. I wonder if any of those things would have made a difference for us. I've made tough decisions. And while I can't honestly say I regret those decisions, I also am still left full of sorrow in some ways that I had to make them. So many things left unsaid.