Edge of What?

I meant to have a summer post; September, October, November posts. I’m not sure where they went. Too much looking over the edge. I had bronchitis in the summer; lost three weeks work. My trauma got retriggered last spring and slogging through it, writing got stuck. That makes sense when I’m writing about things connected to what triggered me.

Last week, my counselor and I talked about managing joy. Setting boundaries to pace it. I trigger to joy too. That probably sounds odd to people who don’t have trauma issues or overwhelm easily. I’ve been doing well aside from the ongoing pain issues from life and last year’s injury.

I have good neighbours and coworkers. Patient family. I’ve been receiving compliments in my writing groups. Those trigger me like joy. processing what it feels like is exhausting. I’ve been practicing listening to my body when it needs to rest, and not pushing it too hard, too often.

At Thanksgiving, visiting family and long-time friends I’ve missed is one place I found joy and some overload. The driving was hard on my neck and back; almost 3,000 km by the time I got home. Travel and work pain hangs at 8/10 most days and sleeping is the worst. I roll over onto the pinched nerve and muscle aches and can’t get back to sleep. I’m behind on writing and reading homework. Have gone to zero music nights. I work. I sleep. I work again, and I will edit this again today in the hope I will actually post it.

Last summer, the layers of life catching up with me. June, one year past Jack’s death and funeral, one year past my fall at work the week after his funeral. Wishing so much for ongoing relationship with his children that may not come. I got through the memorial in late May, and tipped over into early June. Longing for connection, I talked briefly to Jack’s boys, who I’d still like to know and love through their life. Their lives are just forming and his death rocked them badly.

Me too. I think it all caught up with me. Old stress and new. I’ve been writing on faith this year. Not a lot, but begun. And then June, six years away from church, working on healing, an email arrived announcing the annual meeting of the denomination my ex-husband and I attended. Life and memoir at a point looking back to faith, church.

I probably shouldn’t have watched it. Realistically I’d stayed away needing to heal. I was naive thinking I was ready. This was their first, post-Covid Synod with delegates meeting in person rather than handing off to a Board for decision. I felt for them. They had a collected Agenda, a long list of topics, 2016 on; the same year I left my ex. A tough list including use and misuse of power, racism, safe church ministry, restructuring, new graduates or candidates for ministry, and ‘celebration’ of 25th year of women’s leadership and ordination. The kicker though was a report committee with the long title “A Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Theology of Human Sexuality”. I naively thought myself far enough past abuse to be curious about these topics and what they’d say.

For the whole of my 36 years married, many of the above topics weighed on me in different ways. I wanted to hear them say they were looking seriously at the damages that had been done in the various areas, places they’ve dealt with, maybe even seeing the ways they overlap, the reasons people have spoken up on struggles within their church contexts. I wanted to hear the positive things they would put in place for the future. I wanted to hope.

I wasn’t prepared for the way it hit me; the video sessions, discussions, debate. My body shifted back to places if abuse, heard words weaving in and out, tone and texture off somehow. Tones too familiar, words felt misused. Memories of abuse, of 2016 leaving my house, my family, my church and my friends. Things I’ve been writing about the last few years aiming at memoir. And getting through the last two years upstream against pandemic and death. All the years life and death tugged me this way and that. Logic, not logic, love that isn’t love. Rules black and white to my colours. I know this place. It isn’t good.

And grief, so much grief. I listened, repeated, repeated again. Synod swirled around like a sinkhole drowning the ground.

July, I got sick, recuperated, reminisced. Not from Covid or Jack or the loss of my mom. But faith, church, marriage, fear. Synod bled into past, danger, divorce. I caught Bronchitis, first time in seven years. I was raw. Sat in sunshine, wrote memoir, bundled to cold. I’ve been working again five years, taken no sick time until this last year. Now my third leave from work – two bereavements and this, my health giving in. Not Covid they said, an infection in my lungs. Bronchitis.

I coughed and I slept. Watched synod again. A four-day course for writing cheered me a bit. I wrote quite a lot. I rested some more. Most time I spent sleeping. Remembering the past. I’d often get sick, ‘stress flu’, just from life, anger, abuse, judgements and pain.

I haven’t missed that, don’t want want it again. I’m doing quite well since I left, I am told. Starting to do better from the pain of last year. More strong than I realize, not bitter or unkind. Good friends help me listen. Coworkers keep me sane. They watch over me. I’m lucky. I’ve been blessed many ways.

What happened this year with Synod, raises more pain and grief, but I hope also joys. I am finding new understanding with family and friends. I spoke with my ex, several coffees and meals. Curious if he saw Synod. “Not interested,” he said. I showed him my memoir. One story, that’s all. “Have to start my rebuttal,” he joked, “but good that we talk”.

I don’t know what this year brings, but I hope it brings love built in tough places, strong connections and faith. I want Jack to be proud. He said I am strong. He valued my faith, my loyalty, being kind. Looking back, looking forward, it’s the one place I stayed through all of life’s messes. Allowing questions of faith. God at my side.

I’m no better or worse than most people, I think. I ask the hard questions. I’m hard on myself. But I sense open spaces for kindnesses learned, more space given to listening to myself and to others. Some panic, but less fear. I’m practicing brave.

Not stupidly standing too close to the edge. But I’ll look to the distance, that not-quite-seen shore, trust God for answers, the right moment to ask. Walk, enjoy the earth, breath and creatures, examples of rest.

Time again to write. One day my words may mean something. I hope they bring life.

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Your River

May 31st. The end of the month. I’ve made it this far; not all well, not all good moments and ones that I’m proud of, but I’m here. Closer to where I want to be.

Your river.

This isn’t it. Not yet. But it is Ervine Creek. My feet in its waters. Tentative. We came here 2017. Brought your canoe down the long stone rough steps. Some peace in remembering.

I feel closer to God, closer to you, closer to myself. I want to walk in the waters until they take all my tears. I want to lower my body into the waves, more than my feet. All of me. Hear the ripples caress me. But it’s too close to last year when I’d follow you down. I’ll get there. Determined. I’ll get there. I will.

Grief has it’s burdens and living is one. I doubted my strength, that I’d see my way through. Every day has been a decision. I balance and weigh. Choosing to walk places of memory. It hurts. I won’t deny it.

I can smell the little white flowers I passed on the path. Bushes or shrubs. I never remember the name. I stopped to take it in. A second and third breath.

Cardinals sang and flew a bit closer before flying away. A seagull took one long pass down the river and another back up. A morning not wasted doing nothing but listening to the heart of the river, the creatures and myself.

At the top of the steps I met a woman and dog. We spoke for a moment of the reasons I came. Faith and belief. She’s Anglican. Smiled when I told her I talk to the light. It’s him she is certain. I thanked her for that. If I understood Morse code would I know what he said? Is it better not knowing?

How often I leave my thoughts to dangle. Mellow in the sun. June was a month of hurdles. Still thinking on those.

Home sick, a whole week. This is new.

July 15, 2022

Gratitude

I came away with questions for myself. Looking back from this week at ways I’d interact. Look slowly and kindly. Allow I had my faults. Not the ones screamed at me, but choices, habits, fears sit close upon memory and I want to look at them. Mainly because I’m writing. Memoir. Pieces of myself, my story. They are part of it, the story.

Sometimes I think my main goal must be to see how many unused drafts I can stare at in my Drafts folder; fifteen so far. The small paragraph above is one of them. Dated January 9, 2022, it resonates hope. While I have no recollection of the week in question, my encouragement to myself in these words is to look at and look past faults, choices, habits and fears., reasons I have used to let things sit, because doing so is who I am and moving beyond is breaking a terrible rule.

February brought an email accepting a poem for a local publication; online this year again as pandemic changes brought about more blog than paper publication of items. March brought another opportunity for essay to be included in an anthology on Gratitude. That one was hard. I fought with it as I fought the topic the past two years in memoir, struggling with what to say. You can’t always repeat thoughts of pain and sorrow. After a while they get wearing even to the writer. Time, as they say, bring change, allows perspective, optimism or hope. I don’t like flogging that last one either. The whole topic reminds me of days in very good mental health groups as both participant and support where I’d struggle with our common leave-taking. Expression of gratitude.

I love the gratitude of walking among trees, sitting by streams, icecream in two flavour stacks on a double cone. The tangible moments that tug at my heart, add colour to the day, draw out my senses, calling like echoes of remembrance to places within. Words are not needed for gratitude, and though I talk to the wind, the sky and the birds, it’s not required by any of us. My favourite memories are smiles and looks that share some moment of grace. The world open up and suddenly a space holds its breath, allowing the wait. Yes, these are the moments I value the most.

And this, at best, is where I sat two silent months waiting for what, I did not know. Some call it writer’s block. Perhaps, at times. But I found so many words bursting within for other places, nowhere at all. They just didn’t fit, and I’ve learned not to force them, though it is hard to sit. My time increased at work, just touching 28 hours. Enough to keep me full-time. Not enough to keep me afloat. I think perhaps writing stalls in the places of loss, where I haven’t chosen career, haven’t braved the risk of siren’s call ‘Monetize Your Blog – three easy steps.” No. I’m pretty sure it’s more than three, and nothing wrong with doing so for those with a plan to earn a living in this way. I’m a bit off topic, but connected still.

Readiness – to write, to paint, to aim for a career – it may need more gratitude than I’ve let myself feel. I joke with fellow writers, once again ‘this year’ is the year I will risk, will submit, will step past the barricade and allow myself to be .. what? There lies the issue. I don’t know what, and a lifetime of habit has taught me to be small, and not even that. One ongoing conversation a decade back questioned the reasons within relationship, to significant other, I fought the judgement I was too big and too small. Not significant enough, but too high and mighty for his daily mood. A bad fit. A poor example, a multitude of labels, and ultimately as my mother assessed it, just the wrong personality for him.

Gratitude. I learned something this year. Looked it up. Not just in my favourite etymology site, which simply defines it as ‘pleasing, thankful’, but in heart’s home, curiosity. This time wanting to know how my love saw it, what it meant in the good places I’d found recent years, encouraged to find myself and grow, being loved as I did. And so, I asked our favourite Google how gratitude was seen in the Hebrew meaning. I found myself among trees, sitting by streams, letting memory ache with the longing of joy, places I’d touched, but not this past year. Places I need to go again, to listen to the wind, let water bugs curl in the waves by my feet. Let this place speak to me its words of tender care. A moment of grief in a lifetime of love.

I am not stuck. I may not always move forward well, but slow, like a turtle or the snails I sat by two summers past, I will get where I’m going. In writing. In life. The moments of connection with present memories allow space for me to listen and to learn. The Hebrew form of gratefulness, like I found with my love, who worked hard with me at relationship, and announced it with a smile, “we worked through some tuff stuff and built a strong relationship”. Yes, Jack, we did, and celebrated it along the way with simple smiles.

Gratitude. I looked it up. I found the Hebrew meaning in several sites, two words ‘hakarat hatov’ with their translation into English. Something beautiful to read. I like the phrase and I like the story I found in one site giving more, an example that touches my heart. Harakat hatov ‘to recognize the good’. It is a gift I will hold onto and learn to live well. And the story, possibly urban legend, about a performance by Itzhak Perlman used to demonstrate what it means.

It seems to be that year, gratitude wants to smile. I’ll wait, I’ll listen and know the good is there. What else is there to say, but thank you for this day.

For those who wish to read the story, I’ll link it here. Enjoy if you will or just wait for your own moment of gratitude, your example, your breeze.

https://jewishcamp.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Gratitude_-_Mussar_Institute.pdf