Whew. It's been awhile. I have been in a familiar place, described best as a place where my fingers cannot connect with my head, making it extremely difficult to order the thoughts of my head into logically written sentences. This usually means that my voice isn't doing a good job of communicating either. Stress, burn-out, depression, wandering--all things East of Eden--away from the bright and into the babbling.
Not to say that every day has been without joy--that's just not true. There's a little girl whose crooked smile and full cheeks rush me to the forefront of delight. There's a patient who randomly, and suprisingly, asked me to dance with her. There are friends who call me and make me laugh and feel loved.
Still, my words are not orderly and my thoughts are not connected. I need my fingers to work for writing is sometimes the only way that I can knead out all the knots.
And so, I try:
Thanksgiving came, Christmas came, and they came with mixed emotions. I love family and I love seeing my daughter interact with my family, but traveling with her is hard and a source of anxiety. Also, I had this feeling, sitting in the brush of my thoughts, that I think I can name "anticipatory grief." That's not a new term, nor my term; it is a common feeling of the people involved with hospice care, patient or loved one alike. I like to borrow and add to Gregory Maguire's line, "No one is exempt from grief," by adding the word.
I saw, during the holidays, my family that is still here and still present, but I saw too their aging. These reunions will not always be as they are now. Who knows when they will change, but they will change.
The two emotions of joy and grief, juxtaposed together, are, I think normal, but I think too that feeling them both at the same time makes me feel guilty about not devoting full thought to either one. I could get lost in grief, and sometimes feel as though I should, but I know that I want to enjoy the present and not get lost in the future. I would love to stay in joy's field, but I know that that is not a realistic, nor healthy position either. But balance, achieving that balance, oh...
One of the things my mom would say to me, one of the many things that she said to me that she probably thinks I didn't hear, was concerning nativity scenes. "Everyone should be looking at Jesus, not looking out as though they were on stage." I might have tinkered with the setup of a few nativities that I saw this season. Sheep, wise men, shepherd boy, look at that baby! Stephanie, look at that baby!
Another thing my mom taught me was the poem, "The Swing," by Robert Louis Stevenson. I've been able to recite it as long as I can remember. It came to me as I was pushing that cute baby in the playground swing the other day. How do you like to go up in the swing, up in the air so blue? Oh, I think it the pleasantest thing, ever a child can do! Even though the playground swing is a little low for my adult legs, I confess to still loving the activity--the controlled freefall, the wind in my hair, the soothing rocking motion the arched path creates.
As I rocked my sweet to sleep the other night, I realized that the motion was similar. Back and forth, back and forth, soothing, taming, turning focus inward to the connect between her eyes and mine--the process giving us both a sense of peace.
Back and forth, back and forth, I swayed with the woman whose skeleton is nearly visible, singing, as she directed me to do, giving us accompaniment to our dance. She held on and quietly sang along, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..."
I will keep looking to the face of Jesus, gratefully knowing that he too joins with me, whether I rock, or dance, or stomp, or cry along the way, as I search for clarity and for comfort, and for the garden of peace.