It was hard to get this week going. I have this thinking routine at 6 AM as my alarm does it’s horrid noise and I lay and brainstorm reasons I really, truly, do actually need to get up. First, I say to myself: GET UP. Sarah, just GET UP. I’m not very nice about it. And then I watch Luke who is a light-like-a-feather kind of sleeper and I think GET UP so you don’t get him up, first. Wouldn’t that be kind of sad, if he got the day going when you are the morning bird who decided to do the early morning things? And then I try to do what they do in my yoga class and take invigorating breaths. And when that doesn’t work I try to say more hardcore things to myself like, “Don’t think about it, just do it!” But really, I cannot stop thinking about how cozy my covers are. And then, I get stuck in my covers. I tell Luke it’s quite the paralyzing spell and the reason my alarm keeps bleeping. Luke puts in earplugs and tells me I sleep at 500 degrees Kelvin so he’s not sure what the cozy spell is all about when furnace is the word that comes to mind. Hey, at least he’s not stealing my covers.
Additionally, we’ve experienced some deeper heartache with our former church community and we feel lonely. I had a mentor in Waco who always said these off-the cuff sounding things but they were totally fitting. Like, “Oh, honey, that would just make me want to pull the covers over my head.” As these past two weeks have been challenging for both of us, I can’t help but think of her words. I have added it to my 6 AM morning talk. I really do just need the covers over ALL of me, right now. Whole body cover-up, please.
In my defense the beginning of the week looked like this:
Finally, even with the snow outside and the covers inside and my heavier than usual heart, I did get up. I did get the day going. And sometimes, this is the brave part. The getting up. I used to think this about the fierce and tiny souls I’d see in my little yellow counseling room, I’d think, How do they even get up? And then if the time was right, I’d tell it to them, too. I’d say, “All of that? All of that sad and mad and afraid? I am impressed you got your day going, Sister.” Sigh. I miss those tiny, fierce people. They were always teaching me.
So, the little spot of grief on my heart isn’t the only spot of grief in this world, is it? Circling around social media is this tenderly true quote:
It does hurt, everywhere. Suffering, like joy, knows no bounds. It’s so universal which is why this quote makes so much melancholy sense. And if you scroll through, or flip open, or turn on, there will be waves. Not just a spot, waves. You know. And you, like me, will probably not have any really very good answers. And you, like me and like the tiny souls in my counseling room, will also feel a shred of sad, mad or afraid. Or, you might have to go write in the basement like Luke who is writing a 30 page paper on all the easy things like the Christian response to violence and the intersection of Islam and Christianity.
So, Luke is running to the basement to write, I am running to the covers to cozy, and also mulling over this NPR piece called “French Parents Try to Explain The Inexplicable to their Kids.” Flannery O’Conner says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say. ” Her logic is brilliant in relationship, too. Couldn’t we also say, “I don’t acknowledge the worst parts of me until my spouse reflects them back?” Or, “I don’t know what I believe until I try and teach my kids?” Or, perhaps more telling, “I don’t know what I believe until I see my kids model it?” In the same way that Flannery’s words were windows to her deeper parts, our people are the windows to ours.
The article explains how French parents are attempting to help their children find a place for the horror. They may not know what to say, but they’re learning. This fumbling, effort-full engagement is hopeful, to me. It’s not perfect, but it’s there. I remembering scouring the news when Sandy Hook happened looking for a similar story. I get people were helpful and kind and standing together. But what are the adults saying? What were the kids learning? In my clinical work, I’ve always held to the truth that children are excellent investigators but poorer detectives. They pick up clues like no one’s business. True intuits, they are. But when it comes to putting together the evidence they need some help. Otherwise, their conclusions get wonky and irreversible. With our help and over time, we can grow our children’s hearts and minds in a better way. We can take a stance with our little people and say, “Yes, I think I’ve found a place for these hard, hard clues.” When it comes to experiencing pain, there is nothing as definitive as the people holding our hands. And when you are family, you hold each other’s.
This is why I betcha Flannery would tell you that her stories were her greatest teachers. I betcha French mamas and daddies that are doing this- this squeezing tight and drying eyes and drawing picture after picture of crying Eiffel towers would say that they are learning quite a bit, too. In real, true, transformative, spiritual relationship we help each other grasp the hard truths about ourselves and the world. We give. We give. We give. We give. We give up control and give in to community. No wonder parenting is, perhaps, the best metaphor for sacrifice: it’s this kind of giving in. “Thisgiving,” if you will.
This is how people become reflective, courageous and trustworthy. My colleagues might say integrated. Brene would say whole-hearted. My dear friend Sarah says transformed. Scripture uses the word ‘koinonia‘ or the practice of fellowship and partnership. And then together, we hope. With candles, with flowers, with linked arms, with prayers, with Church, with poems, with Jesus, with words, with stories. With the these things that shape us, namely each other, somehow, someway we make a way for gratitude. This kind of giving makes way for Thanksgiving.
So, this Thanksgiving, whatever your spot of grief may be, do not blanket yourself. Do not cover up. Find your people. Listen well. Share well. Give up, give in, give of. Give Thanks.