The reason this blog is titled “Attention Please” is because isolation and apathy has sucked at my life so frequently that I dare not count. I don’t want to know how many days or years I have wasted with a mindset that gets stuck on a groove that repeats: “Forget about it. This is all there is.”
On the other hand, during better days and better phases of life – I delight in being exactly who I am. “God don’t make no junk” is a catch phrase used by Glenmary Missioners – a Catholic Missionary group in America’s Appalachian region.
And, that deepest part of my being – that place where I feel like a five year old girl pumping her little Mary Jane shoes on a swing, full of hope and abandon that a girl can reach the sky – that part of me only surfaces when I pay attention to what is beautiful in my world. It is where Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit and the Communion of the Saints set up camp and without any condition, always, ALWAYS catches me when I fall.
And I fall. A lot.
And then I quit.
I get moody, I get anxious, I get depressed, I get cranky,
and I quit.
I isolate myself, I become unfriendly, sullen, forgetful. And. Guess what – when I’m ready to come out of these lonely patches – the world has moved on with its beauty, and I feel left behind.
So – by writing here I force myself to find beauty and faith and grace and the world. Amazingly, so far life has not been so cold as to not invite me back to its party.
There is so much goodness in the world, and I need help believing that being open to relationships and getting into the muddy waters of work and life really is what God expects of me. It’s not a calling – it’s an expectation. It’s pretty much same rule in every religion: “Go love each other.” So, that is where this blog is coming from: a tendency to live in isolation, and thankfulness that a am frequently given a new lease on life.
A friend of my challenged me to enter an essay to NPR that is themed : “This I Believe.” Maybe you have read or heard some of the other essays. So, this is what I wrote, and then soon after started this blog which is about paying attention to grace, and to each other.
Je ne sais pas
“Je ne sais pas.”
Last night, I said it no less than fifteen times to my thirteen year old son.
I. Don’t. Know.
At the time, I was trying to get rid of a headache by resting in his room with his younger brothers’ stuffed rooster on my forehead. He said: “Mom. You have no idea how weird you are.” I thought, “Surely I am not the only middle-aged mother lying down right now. Somewhere, another mom is trying to muster energy to find something to eat before getting a kid to his swim lesson.” He did have a point about the stuffed rooster though.
Just before his “you are so weird” comment, I’d been thinking about a young woman from Mass the previous Sunday. I didn’t recognize her but, when we exchanged a sign of peace, she said, “You’re Carol’s daughter, right?” I said yes. Calmly. Without huge waves of remorse, guilt, sadness, pain, tears, dry mouth or sinus pressure. Just, “Yes, I’m Kate and Carol’s my mom.”
Three springs ago my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in the following August. I’m fairly sure that this young woman was a student worker in my mother’s theatre costume shop. But then, they may have volunteered together at the soup kitchen. Je ne sais pas. I don’t know.
I’ll tell you what I believe at this stage of the game: There is little point in trying to control the effects of intense grief. My three sons have been a fortunate distraction from the pain of watching my mother suffer and letting her go. But nothing—no amount of busyness or radical love for my family – has succeeded in getting me to this point. At first, I thought of her nearly every minute of every day. I sometimes still see her, feel her, smell her at every turn. She is in her art, her handwriting, a bird in the yard, a song on the radio, the smell of pot roast – the list is long and often surprising and strange. Sometimes that stinks. Sometimes it feels great.
I think my mother would support me in saying over and over again: Je ne sais pas. There’s freedom in saying “I don’t know” to this whatever “this” is: “When can I get contacts mom?” or “Can I fix my godsons’ sadness?” or “Where in the world do I know that young lady from and how does she know my mother’s name?”
So, how am I coping three years later?
Je ne sais pas.
What I realized that Sunday a few weeks ago is that I finally arrived to this gentler type of grief on the wings of ordinary life. My mom taught me to trust everyday grace more than any other force in my life. So, I’m guessing that it’s okay to see the Holy Spirit in a muddy toad and pesky questions and, sometimes, faking sleep with a stuffed rooster on my head is as good a solution as any.