Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Am Thrashing -- I Have Not Given Up

image property of Mandy Steward
I don't know what to say.

I've been having some profound misgivings about this faith I've sewn my heart to. The questions aren't new, really. They've been around since the beginning, since I said yes to Jesus more than ten years ago. It's just now that I'm being honest about them.

Maybe you have nagging doubts of your own. I think most people who declare themselves Christian must. I don't know how a person couldn't. But I guess it comes back to that honesty thing.

I don't trust God.

There, I said it. I want to trust him, but I don't.

The gospel has stopped making sense to me.  I am quickly losing the ability to see it as a story of purest love.  Instead, I'm struggling with the knowledge I'm supposed to swallow the fact that the loving God who is supposed to be all strength and glory is powerless to save the people who haven't happened to fall in with his kid? I know it's a narrow road and all, but we're talking a sizable percentage of history's population suffering eternal torment on a seeming technicality.

I have a hard time with that.

When I look closer at the Word, sifting for meaning, for comfort, I find myself confronted with language that is unsettlingly familiar to the justifications my abusers spoke when they smacked and shoved and kicked me into submission. They said it was my fault; that if I wasn't so bad, wasn't such a problem, then they wouldn't have to do all that. And while much of the Bible's archaic abusive language is in Old Testament, isn't God supposed to be the same yesterday, today, and forever?

I have a hard time with that, too. A very hard time. 

I'm honored to be writing (and thrashing) over at Mandy Steward's blog today to help celebrate the release of and start a conversation about her book.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Running in the Desert

wildness becomes her. #365days #365daysof31 #tajselfie #iamthrashing
I feel them, hairline etchings pressing into me, splitting what was from what is from what might be. The tips of my hair split, too, from how I wrench a comb through every day and every day, and I wonder what all this is for, this combing and smoothing down and the shadow scraped over twin lids.

Why is it called "putting on your face"?  Why can't the face I have be enough?

The others tell me to be quiet, to quit asking so many questions.

So I lace my fingers and settle them into my lap and listen to the truth handed down from those who know better and try to smile and nod in rhythm with the rest of the flock.

But it's no time at all before my fingers are clutching at one another, my arm muscles straining, trembling at the effort it takes to stop these hands from flying apart and up and my mouth from shouting "What is it that makes your knowledge better than mine" and my legs from dashing down the aisle of the whitewashed building that knew it had better put on its face, too, otherwise someone might get the wrong idea.

In the bathroom, cold water runs its way from the tap and I slap some on my face and splutter at its ice, watching my makeup run down black in the mirror. I help it, smear the mascara and it looks like war paint now. I could be a wild heathen if my hair wasn't pinned so tight.

So I yank out the pins and toss them away and shake down this mane of mine that everyone says they covet, but also say is too big or frizzy or short or long and couldn't I just fix it right, please?

Tears salt my war paint and I am tired of trying so hard and pinning my hair meekly down and getting it wrong anyway.

I am tired of being wrong. When will this woman that is me, that is breathing here and now, be enough?

I let them put the bit in my mouth, took it willingly. They said it would lead me along the way, but it's only cut ever deeper into the tender of my gums and why can no one see the bleeding? It's cutting deep into my God-breathed soul.

I seize a tissue from its box, bend my head and blot the tears and spoiled mascara away. And as shuddering sigh quakes through me, I feel another hand cupping the back of my neck with a tenderness that shatters me. I feel fingers tendriling my splint ends and too-much hair. A breath whispers against the arch of my ear, wafts against my curls, but when I lift my eyes from the graying tissue to the mirror there is no one but me and my ruined face.

I sigh again, a breath of disappointment.

And then I hear the words, "Hello, sweet one."

I close my eyes and pose the question to the empty/not-empty bathroom, "Who are you?"

"I am yours. I am here. I am inside.  I am Love. I am the living lion. I am wild."

"Wild?" I ask, leaning in.

"Wild," She said.  I feel Her take my hand from within and tug.  "Shall we run together through the wilderness, you and I?"

"Do I know you?"

"I have known you for ever."  The tug comes again, and I can feel grime from her hand slide against my palm.  A musky scent rises from nowhere, acrid and soft and my breath quickens.

"But I thought you were supposed to be . . . different."  I look at the sink, at the soap.

She laughs and I hear the howling of wolves and the song of the whales and raven's caw in it.  "I am."

"I'd better not, then," I say, heart sinkng.

"No," She said.  "Listen again.  I AM."

My soul rumbles, screams, screaming for release.  I cannot pin it back, crush it down like my hair, like I have always, always, always done.  I allow the cracking open.  Life rages forth as an ocean.  My vision pulses, and light sings from nowhere and everywhere and I can feel its heat on my skin, and it scalds and sears and seals.

"Oh," I rasp, nearly choking on the joy rising up and rising up.  "It's You.  I've sung to You."

"Yes," She says.  "Come.  Let's run."

We are running in the desert.  I have never breathed so deep as when I am breathless with all this holy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15: Why Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day?

Today is October 15.  In the global babyloss community, this is an important day.  Today, many of us gather in remembrance of our babies gone too soon, celebrating and grieving together.  We speak the names of our babies aloud to ourselves and to one another, and we light a candle at seven o'clock in the evening to represent the brief but brilliant light of our babies' lives.

To one who has not been touched in some way by the death of a child before, during, or soon after birth, this day might seem a bit odd, or even silly.  Why designate a day to hold such a somber weight?  Can't we all just get on with things already?

And I find myself wondering, too, on my second October 15 babyloss remembrance day -- why?  Why do we do this?  Are we masochistically opening old wounds that should have healed by now when we commemorate our babies on this day?

I cannot speak for everyone in the babyloss community, obviously.  We all grieve and remember and heal in our own ways and out our speeds.  But here are some of the reasons I think celebrating October 15 is important for those who have been affected by babyloss, be it as a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle, cousin, clergy, medical staff, or friend.

Because October 15 makes the invisible visible.  I think that one of the hardest challenges after Eve died and was born was how invisible her death was.  My body, other than no longer being pregnant, did not look any different.  I had no scars, no gaping wounds, no cast or stitches or bruises or anything.  And I found myself longing for some physical marker that would tell people that she'd lived and that she'd died, and that I would never, ever be the same.  And shockingly, very few people know how often babyloss occurs.  October 15 helps to spread awareness of this very real fact.

Because our culture does not embrace healthy grieving.  We westerners are afraid of pain, I think, and of death.  Which is a bit odd, because both of which are inevitable in this life.  Eventually, we will hurt.  Eventually, we will lose and mourn and grieve.  And yet, when those around us are going through grief, we try to either ignore them or hurry them along.  We are not comfortable with the uncomfortable, and we do our best to make it go away fast.  But grief exists for a reason.  It is helpful, and normal, and healthy, and needed.  October 15 reminds us that is is okay to hurt and long for one that death has taken from us, even years and years later.  Because grief?  It is evidence of love.  And love is nothing but good.

Because our pain matters.  It does.  This pain, for many of us (perhaps most or even all of us) in the babyloss community, it has changed us forever.  The people we were?  Babyloss took them away forever.  We look the same, but we are not the same.  And in my opinion, that's not a bad thing.  Moreover, pain is pain.  That the fact that many others in this world are enduring worse pain does not make our own pain illegitimate.  October 15 invites us to abandon useless comparison and support each other in our hurting places.

Because our babies lived.  I suppose that October 15 is a day that commemorates the too-soon deaths of countless babies claimed by miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, SIDS, chromosomal abnormalities, and more.  But I think that October 15 is so much more.  On October 15, I remember that no only did my sweet Eve die, but I remember that she lived.  I remember that she moved strong within me.  I remember how her kicks were the sweetest thing that I had ever felt.  I remember how the fact that my body could house such a miracle as new and growing life made every day into a sacred in-between place of magic and profound mystery.  I remember that knowing her made me a mother, even though my arms will never be filled with her life-filled body as they are with her brother's.  I remember that she mattered.  That she matters still.  And that I am not the same because of her.  My daughter, as brief a flicker as her life was, gave me countless gifts that I treasure today and forever.  

Today is October 15.  Tonight, I will light a candle at seven o'clock PM.  I will sit with my memories and with my missing-of-her, because those things are little more distant now that it's been nearly two years since Eve's stillbirth.  But just because there is a little more space does not mean that the grief does not linger still.  I will never and can never forget my daughter.  Today, she will feel a little more near, and while that will be hard it will also be beautiful.  

If you are the mother or father of a baby gone too soon, may your October 15 be gentle.  And if you are the friend or family member of a baby who is loved and wanted and no longer here, thank you for remembering with us -- it means more than words can say.  And if you are new to the knowledge that 25% of all babies don't make it out of pregnancy alive, I thank you for bearing witness to the reality of babyloss.  

I am grateful that we can do this grief thing together.  I'm not sure that I could have survived if it was any other way.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wild Woman Emerging

emerging.#365days #365daysof31 #tajselfie
Quite a few of you asked, after reading this post, "What does it look like to howl in the wild?"  I have wondered myself.  Here is the beginning of a response...

Who am I in the wildlands?  What am I once the Lion has laid his claws into me for the gentle agony and stripped off these frozen scales, leaving me pink and bloody as a newborn soul?

I fear that once his sharpened love pierces my shell this tepid skin will deflate and bely all my empty.

But I hope that instead he'll loose a wild woman.  One who is not afraid to own her mind, to drip paint messy, to not shrink back and let others build her heart up into iron clad stone. 

Her hair and her words will fly, her heart will pulse with the beat of the cosmos, and generations of chains locked by those who should have loved will crumble into power.  She will kick her moccasin in its dust and grin and care nothing for deepening wrinkles and sagging skin because she is -- for the first time in all these eons of dark -- free.

Fear can claim no purchase.

She flaps her feathers and dances with the Lion of the joy that is mending all at last.

reading.   #amreading

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Not-End of Grief

Day 202 / Fallen

It's that time of the year again.

The leaves turn amber, and the calender veers toward November, and suddenly I am seeing her dates everywhere.  Events, meetings, and more are scheduled on the day she died, and the day she was born.

And every time, it shocks me.  An electric current running through my bones, and my breath catches and my insides twist, and that part of me that is hollow because of her absence echoes more loudly.

I thought that the first year of grief, of not-having-her, would be the worst.  But now, as we stare down what would have been her second birthday, I am not so sure.

Because last year, I was distracted.  My arms were full, at last, of the sweetest bundle of baby boy I could ever have hoped for.  My eyes were on him, rightly so, and so when her day came my mama soul was too busy (and exhausted) to mark it well.

But now, he has grown up a bit and we're all sleeping a lot more, and suddenly I find myself thinking that this is going to be our hardest year, because it will be the first year when we have the space to fully feel her missing presence.

I am not looking forward to this.

And, somehow, I am.  Because although it burns, this pain is proof of her life, and of my love for both my children.

I don't know how to end this.  Perhaps because I am out of practice, because I haven't written of my daughter in quite some time.  Or perhaps because there is no ending.  There is no neat answer for the grief that stretches out before me, threading its coarse but vibrant color through the tapestry that is the remainder of my life, because the only thing that could snap that thread short is Eve returning to our family in living flesh.  And that is an impossibility.

So I will not-end this post by saying that I cling to hope, that I always remember and miss her, and that her life has made me a better mother to her brother, to our precious, precious boy who somehow became a toddler in the blink of an eye.

The road goes ever on, and I have no choice but to walk it or to stop and sit and deny her life and death and the hole in my heart that can heal but never close.

I'd rather walk, though the path is steep and winding.  Let's walk together.