Sunday, January 07, 2007

(For Joe)

Christmas is over, finally. It ended badly. But then it started out pretty badly. I have had trouble focusing the last year or two, not able to cope with the outer chaos that my inner chaos has generated, holding on to the few things that really require me to make a deadline, and watching the rest of it slide out of my control.

One of the things that has been lost is my mooring in time. I've never been very good at coping with time, or keeping an eye on the calendar. I'm the person who always realizes a day or two after the fact that someone had a birthday I meant to mark. And Lent and Advent, which have always meant a lot to me -- the recognition that any truth worth having is worth waiting for in sorrow and repentance and anticipation -- have fallen through my fingers. This Advent was no exception.

I stare at the things I can see, which are mostly me, myself, and I. I did try to hook up with volunteer jobs when I moved: the Samaritan group I tried to join can't get my paperwork from my old Samaritan group straightened out [and of course it's all about the paperwork -- it's as if the Feds have taken over], and my city library branch, which is just far enough away that getting there might qualify as exercise, never called back -- because, it turns out, they are about to install a completely new computer system, and saw no point in training people on the old one. [Side note: the librarian who gave me the application, who encouraged me to come in, and who shamefacedly explained the lack of response, is the first person I ran into here who was clearly "All in the Family". What is it about books?]

Anyway, here is something I sent to the Toasted BearMind early last month, when the weight of this terribly empty season first began to lie heavy upon me:

a while back I posted something about how being a human being means "partaking of the suffering in the world, and I have by-passed most of it for most of my life. Intellectually I know that I am still better off than 99% of the world and that the little cross I have been given to bear, heavily as it weighs upon me, is just one infinitesimal drop in the unending ocean of human suffering -- but it doesn't make that little cross of mine any easier to bear. For me."
We each suffer from the weight of our own cross, and at the moments that it threatens to weigh us down entirely, we are least able to see what weighs others down, which should liberate us from our conviction of being at the bottom.

I found myself admitting again that I was at the bottom tonight, sitting alone at my dinner table and knowing that in only a few days my family will celebrate Christmas without me. Is it the same as being a refugee or the victim of sectarian violence? Of course not, but it is the suffering that has been doled out to me. And I could only ask that the hands into which I have committed the mess I have made of my life, and the lives of those I love, might also lift me up. Again. My experience, to date, has been that when I can in fact admit that I have hit the bottom, I always find him there.
Experience trumps knowledge every time: I couldn't begin to count the number of times I have heard well-intentioned people talk about those who suffer at the holidays -- and like so many other well-intentioned people, I had never really known what they were talking about. Well, now I know.
This is a long, convoluted, internal way of saying that your own cross is all you are asked to carry. Seek no further. Strength to go further will, I trust, come in time.
Bless you.

Well, yes. So Christmas didn't start very well, And before it there was Thanksgiving, and my taking the absence of my children out on the children present, whose lack of tact I might have forgiven if it were not so far from what my own children have been brought up to. And then the terrible emptiness on the ride back from Boston, having put my daughter on her flight to college. It's not so far, but it felt like my life had time to empty out to the very bottom of the barrel in the course of the drive. Then all those Sundays when I could not bring myself to go to church, a church not mine, not full of people who looked forward to what I could bring them, not waiting for my voice, not aware that I was there, was Someone. Are we not all Someone?

Flash forward to Christmas itself.

I did manage not to lash out at my nieces and nephews, but I also found myself crying myself to sleep most nights, in my solitude under a well-known but Christmas-strange roof... twenty years of my own life packed up and put away. And then the incredible rush to see all three of them together. And the crash again at finding myself back within the same four lonely walls. Up, down. Up, down. The man who could not find his tears, and wondered what their disappearance might portend, finds that all those lost tears have been returned to him, a hundredfold. Most of the time I have my hands full with my own suffering. Even the suffering of everyone else has become part of what goads me... no longer really theirs, just something I have caused. How myopic can I have become, not to see that I am still the cosseted child I have spent most of my life becoming?

A long Christmas season. A last New Year's Eve party, held off until this Friday after, to allow everyone to get over their hangovers and get ready to build up a new one. A really lovely party, among the kind people who have taken me in and taken me on in the last four months, in spite of my rough edges and confusion. Hugs and concern -- really all a hurting soul could ask for, and even in my spiny state, I could see that this was blessing.

But stronger still the feeling that it was the night before Epiphany; the kings were en route, and I was getting sloshed and hugged and smiling bravely at all the brave efforts to cheer me up. [God, did my despair really show so clearly?] Christmas was over, the slaughter of the innocents was now well behind us, and apparently it was time for the slaughter of the not-so-innocent.

There is an awful moment when a boat runs aground, especially if the ground it grinds into is not something as forgiving as sand, and sometimes even if it is. The sound says it all: something has gone seriously awry here, and you may not be able to make it better. As you listen to the rocks move into the structure of the boat, the sound says quite clearly: this could be permanent damage. This damage may be total.

That was what the end of Christmas felt like.

Forget for the moment that what the Magi brought to the stable along with the symbols of kingship and divinity was resinous oil for anointing the dead. They still arrived in high hopes and knelt in adoration. I finally made it to church this morning, and found myself kneeling, thinking of the kings whose feast had come and gone in church without being marked, as it fell on Saturday, but here and now we were whisking on to Christ's baptism.

Wait a minute!
Let's go back to that moment in the stable one more time... Let's have a little epiphany.

Here is my epiphany, as I struggle to get all the numbers and agreements in order to present to a judge sometime next month, or the month after, when all the legal profession has had an opportunity to batten on us: I wanted to call up and speak to the woman with whom I had spent half my life, I wanted to speak to her of our life together, and how it still means the world to me. And I can't. Oh, I can call all right. But the voice that answers is small and tight and self-controlled. It is a new voice, a voice that has had the love crushed out of it, and by the hands [the feet?] it trusted most. There is no going back, there is even, as Lot's wife and Orpheus could both tell you, not even really any looking back without disaster.

But how it hurts to have to admit that she was right: "You blew it." I did. My blind need trumped all her offers of continued love, and now I look back at what I hold in my hands some six months later, some nine months later, going on a year later, and I say: what is this that I have chosen? A world where I cannot even find a path, where every signal seems crossed or ambiguous, where, let's face it, I am cross and ambiguous. A world that too closely resembles what you carry inside you can only be described as hell.

Oh, to know that half a life had a residue of concern and caring, just enough to allow a normal conversation that went somewhere beyond the nuts and bolts of the upcoming feast of the legal fraternity. "Consummation devoutly to be wished." How to walk into court to finally sever all ties grown thick and strong over the lifetimes of our children, and not feel that I am walking on my own grave... as indeed I am quite sure I will be.
Well, you make your bed and then you lie in it.

If only I had known, when I first heard those words, so many decades ago, what they would come to mean for me. Well, it is just as well that we cannot see our path ahead. But I for one would rather see little further ahead, stumble a little less, have a little more light, maybe even have someone offer a "lamp to my feet."

Well, all this just to remind people that the guy who wrote Big Words about freedom a month ago has been cut down to size.

All it took was time.
So, think of me as the new year hits the road.
Some of us are feeling more like road kill than drivers.

What I say is: the new year has to be better than the one just past.
Jesus, I hope so. Don't you?
Hang in there, my brothers.

From the sublime to the ridiculous--
or maybe it's from the ridiculous to the ridiculous. Your choice.
(an old draft posting filed and forgotten when Christmas was only in the mall...)

People from San Antonio, TX, San Diego, CA, and Genoa [I], and Maastricht [NL], came looking for Tagame. While the folks that came calling in November from "Paris, France," Innsbruck [AU], Dormagen [D], Zwolle [NL], some unnamed town in Italy, and Luxembourg were in fact all looking for M. Sagat, there were mysterious visits from folks in Buenos Aires, Ankara, Catalunya, Bilbao, and Belgium without regard to him, and brief visits from Birmingham, AL, Curitiba [Brazil], Guizhou, China, Trinidad-and-Tobago, and Alexandria, Egypt. Someone checked in from Toshiba Canada; perhaps they turned on the guys from Shell Canada and the University of Alberta who came looking for "bear ruined choirs." Now, why didn't I think of that one?

The internet is a dangerous place; a seemingly straightforward search takes you the oddest places, in this case... here.

Someone in Atlanta, GA got to the "Obtusity" post with: "What does hoof-and-mouth disease look like in children?"
And what can one say about the poor fellow inReston, VA, who asked the internet, "Who said 'man proposes, but God disposes'?" and got sent here instead of to Thomas a Kempis whose Imitation of Christ (homo proponit, sed Deus disponit) came long before me, in 1420. Innocents looking for information on what one can only assume was Harriet Beecher Stowe got my Tom of Finland post by asking for "Uncle Tom's Cabin." On the other hand, can you imagine the disappointment of the poor guy in Houston, TX, who googled "erect black penis" and wound up here? It's a hard life...

Joe the Bear sent me someone from the Michigan State Government, and Bigg brought me visits from Madrid and the American Century Services Corporation, whoever they are. Well, if you don't have anything better to do, try locating the DVD of "God and Gays: Bridging the Gap." If you have the folding green, buy it. Donate it to you library. Try a visit to: And tell them "Joe" sent you. I don't think they want to hear about me..

1 comment:

  1. Sweet Troll,
    I await the time when I might feel as you seem to now, that I will have made a big mistake. Perhaps I will get there, too. But still, the truth is better than a lie, more painful, perhaps, but it is the only way.

    Co-dependent one that i am, it will (I imagine) be a challenge for me to "get a life", since I've spent most of the time I've had living the life others have laid out. But I'm willing to risk it.

    Thank you for being a pioneer in territory where I have yet to go.

    Shalom and Cheers, Joe.