My friend Susan posted a comment to my February 18th Lent post that moved me. Suz and I played volleyball together at Liberty, and I feel — like I do about so many of those girls I played with — as though we grew up together. Surviving ages 18-22 in each other’s company, away from home, binds you to one another like little else.
Suz wrote that she wants to hold on to her daughters and be present with them, but the day just seems to get away from her. And before she’s had a chance to act on her intentions, the day is done. In her letting go category, she mentioned the word “despair,” which is the exact word I’ve been thinking about lately.
Last year, I read Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, and it profoundly challenged me. It’s a somewhat dense book that you really have to wade through at times because the concepts are simultaneously very new and very old and always very relevant. Even though I read the book months ago, I’m still hanging on to so many passages. In fact, after I completed the book, I spent a whole day at the Coronado Library typing up underlined sentence after underlined sentence and I keep them on my computer. I’ve quoted her endlessly since.
Norris talks about the seasons in her life when she has been overcome with this cloud that just hangs over her life and renders her numb or depressed or despairing. Some of this she attributes to the “demon” of acedia, originally one of the deadly sins that is still commonly named and experienced among monastics. She likened her writing life and her married life, and ultimately the caring for her terminally ill husband, to the daily life of the monk who must begin anew each day and who often finds despair in that infinite task. Somehow that book reached inside me, a very new mother and a very new author, and gave words to my propensity for escapism and numbness and the general blahs. Kathleen, if you’re out there, you saved me! You really did.
And now, I find myself circling back to some of those same feelings, and I know I need to be proactive in caring for myself and my soul. Perhaps, more proactive than I’ve been lately. That’s part of despair, isn’t it. It lulls you and then you realize your life has lost some of the luster you love and crave.
I cried at my Growth Group on Tuesday night when I said I didn’t want a single day to go by that I didn’t appreciate the gift that my babies are to me. Some days I just lose track of myself and of them, like what Susan was saying, and I forget how magical it is that they are mine and I am theirs.
Additionally, Steve has been gone two of the last three weeks, and I always feel a little more spiny and ruffled and vulnerable when he’s away. I feel his absence for myself and I also feel it for the babies, which makes it a double hit. I was buoyed by all the help I got this week, all those who reach out to me even when I don’t know to reach out to them. I think of all those military wives/mothers who are far from friends and family, and I wonder how they do it.
Every year for Lent my church invites a handful of us to write devotions that are posted on the church’s website. This year I wrote three: “Trouble on the Parade Route” (Feb 21), “When Life Doesn’t Resolve” (Feb 22), and “Unspokens” (Feb 23) that you can read at http://www.diveintoflood.com/impactblog/archives/category/impact/resources/lent2010/page/2. I’m especially resonating with “When Life Doesn’t Resolve” today because I want so badly to give you a clean resolution to this post, but it’s not in me. I guess what I will say with certainty (maybe this is a resolution of sorts) is that God’s invitation for me today is to participate. The despair makes me want to check out. But God is inviting me to participate. In healing. In grieving. In beauty. In truth. I don’t know how any of these big feelings in me will resolve or what it will take to get to the other side of them, but I just know I have to participate. Those are my marching orders.
I’d really love to know how you participate, how you handle those creeping feelings that seem to blow in like a cloud-cover and hang over your soul. Where do you turn when you feel that way? What helps to let the sun in? How do you choose to participate in your life even when you don’t feel like it?