Monday hit so hard last week that I have been plum tuckered out. The past couple of nights, I have laid still in bed while the rest of me runs around in circles. In quiet desperation, I sift through the things I know and feel while praying for peace to roll in. This is what has come to mind:
Eerie, right? My sister sent this quote to me a year or so ago and it came to me one evening, late last week. I don’t know the context or coinage, but it pulled together a day that had come undone. I was more than heavy. More than burdened. My bones strained with some serious heartache I had taken in! And sometimes, a simple statement of what’s at hand brings comfort. I kept my eyes popped open and looked at the ceiling. Luke slept beside me. Whenever I’m restless and preoccupied in the wee hours it takes embarrassing amounts of self-control to refrain from poking him and whispering: “Are you awake?!?” I figured I’d keep my bone-strain to myself. Besides, most things sound crazy at two in the morning- especially this.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a strange relationship with sadness. Some people are more okay with heartache than others. I’ve just always longed for things to be right. For some people the rightness is a justice thing or a peace thing or a connection thing. But for me, the rightness is a joy thing. This sadness MUST turn to joy, I think. And to make this shift, I better feel the stuff of sadness. Not feel it just in my world, but feel it with other people, too. Feel it as best I can. I don’t know why I’ve felt that pull but I have for most of my life. And in my yearning, I’ve found an uncompromising sincerity in suffering. It’s hard to fake a single thing when a screaming loss hollows out life. I have grown to honor the dimension and depth of the emotion and in turn, I’ve learned to sit with it a bit more fully than I used to.
When I was a little girl, I was close to my grandmother. I called her and still call her “Nanny.” I loved the way she read to me, listened to me, prayed with me and tucked me in at night. Unfortunately, my Nanny lived in London and our visits were infrequent. I longed for the warmth of her company.
To remedy my homesickness for Nanny, I would rewind to the Mary Poppins “Feed the Birds” scene. For those of you that have seen it, it’s really quite pathetic. An old homeless woman covered in rags sings a melancholy song on a gray London street. For whatever reason, my nanny sang this song often too, and to watch the video transported me—I felt close (but not close enough) and it was entirely bittersweet. I would boohoo my little seven year old self in front of the TV, and then feel, well, much better. The sadness rolled through me just as it was. I would squeeze my eyes: imissherimissherimissher. So, I missed her. I played the bird scene maybe a time or two more and then wiped my tears. And you know what? For whatever reason, life was richer for the rest of the afternoon. And each time I saw Nanny, I loved her more.
So, I suppose it’s not a surprise that I have picked listening to the bone-creaking, earth-shattering stories as a vocation. The sacred mystery will always allure me. I’ll tell you what though, we don’t burn out because we care too much, we burn out because we don’t let the sadness roll on through. If we don’t turn on the melancholy music, feel the pressure in our bones and crycrycrycry we will crust over.
We must grieve the reality of life to know, really know, that all is grace. This is the gift. That the joy story and sorrow story are a lot closer than we think. They actually go together. So, let us be graceful. Let us be people of light and joy. But more than that, let us be people who are authentic- who dig deep enough to find a bedrock to stand on. We will find truth. (listen!):
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
And I want to feel it. Deep. In. My. Bones.
(Quote from Kahil Gibran’s poem: “On Joy and Sorrow”)