Confession: I need to work on dismounting from our vehicle. I am wearing boots these days, and trying to keep my skirt off the slush-spattered lower lip of the van, and it makes an odd and clumsy falling out.
There are twinkle lights on my mantel again and Baby Jesus is snug in his hay. Nativities spot my house, and paper snowflakes hang on the windows against the night.
One year ago my heart broke, and I am still recovering. I don’t know if you realize that or not. In the past three months now, the world I see has turned topsy-turvy and right-side-up. Pieces of healing have come in moments of stunning grace: in the most astonishing places: in the sacred and the secular and the ordinary: in the longed for places and scheduled sessions and unexpected meltdowns. I cannot speak about most of it. I don’t mean not here, but not at all; I cry.
But I can tell you what I can.
I went to a Supper in order to taste the Christ, I was so hungry for him. So very hungry, so in need after months of vacuity, and when I received the bread he was suddenly there, in me, and my soul cracked open.
Finding him – he himself, his own overwhelming presence – I found at last my posture toward him. At last.
It is Christmas and I am losing again.
My foster son has been transitioning out of my home for many weeks, with all the accompanying drama and upheaval and need. The hand tucked through my arm after he has been horrible at dinner, the shy grin when his eyes are supposed to be closed in prayer. I keep telling everyone how different this is from last time, how we knew from the beginning that he was going home again and how open his family has been and how he has been enrolled in our Christian school and so we will see him often, often… and all of this is very true, very appropriate, but it does not explain why my heart is beating funny.
I had images taken and I saw it pulsing there in real time, throbbing in endless precise working motion, the brave and tender valves fluttering over and over, waving in the current and clamping closed, waving in the current and clamping closed, always the same little dance, over and over, and I felt so sorry for it. When the rest of the body works hard, it must follow suit. When the legs race, or the lungs, or the brain. Hard and hard. Harder and harder. Most of the time I do not even notice. Not for one moment of my life will it be allowed to rest.
We filled out paperwork for the relicensure of our home, and answered questions. What age and number of children do you feel most qualified to care for? What needs are you willing to take? I have begun to dream again, when I thought my dreaming days were done.
Somewhere along the line, we became foster parents – instead of adoptive parents like we always imagined. We are passionate about giving families a second chance whenever possible. We are the landing ground, the rehab station, the halfway house. This we did not foresee. We are willing to do either, but for now we are called to do one.
I became not only a foster mom, but a fire wife. I became it in my heart and I stopped fighting it. Someday I will have to tell you what that means.
One weekend I listened to a man talk about media and the terrible things it does to the brain and it was the best teaching and I left with no categories for any of it: the words, the books, the blog, the medium. What does it mean? I paused to reflect and found that when I am silent, I continue silent and it is not good. The words are paths I follow out, and this is the place where I share the words. I am a false being to you, someone you do not really know unless you know. But I am not talking for you here, I am talking for myself because it is a path I follow out, one syllable after another, footstep upon footstep, light enough for the next, choosing to be as little false as I can.
I am trying to find words for things there are not words for yet and it takes hours. I am tired and I am lost and I am not doing good work, and then I am. And then I am not.
This is hard for me to admit, but I went from being a no-medications girl in June to a four-medications girl in December, because longstanding grief does terrible things to the self: the body carries the burden and the systems tip, and the heart.
I looked into my heart and I saw with my eyes closed the place where the pain sits, and I took its measure and felt its weight and I cried while she spoke. I began to accept that hard place and what it has done for me. It is not all of me but it is a part of me.
Pictures of myself have come unbidden to my eyes. I am not what I want to be. I am a really nice person, and then I catch a look through someone else’s eyes and they are seeing a demanding person, a perfectionist and it has to be right and it has to be done now. This is not what I want to be, but it is a part of who I am. They are seeing a fearful person always apologizing, always explaining. They are seeing a person with discomforts and limits and boundaries. This is not what I want to be, but it is a part of who I am.
We are always apologizing for the wrong things, like an old woman leaning very near to whisper a horsey whiskery apology for the tic in her eye while her unbearable garlic and pea green breath blasts you between the nostrils. I am so sorry for my tic I know it must be really hard to be close to me, she breathes.
We none of us can smell ourselves.
My son came home and left again. When I drive away I leave him in the cold on the mountain and I hope to God the stoves light and the shelters warm. I am not the mother I want to be, but I am a mother. I remember the guilt of tucking someone else’s son into bed, last spring, and being a fool and a hypocrite because someone else was doing the same for mine: my own: my son: far away on a mountain. Someone was touching my son’s hair and comforting his fears while I was doing the same for a stranger. Why, Lord Jesus?
Sometimes a mother takes our head against her breast and speaks life and we are broken together beyond recovery and also, we are going to make it.
I want to get rid of all the extra things in my life and focus only on the meanings. Only on the real parts and not on the fluff and the clutter. I want to rejoice and grieve and thank and heal and die and live and be born and see the rooms grow. I want to worship, more than anything else. I understand my posture now, but each day I must bend again and speak my word to him until I am whole, on the other side.
It is Christmas. We each have something we need, and something we give.