“Grace changes us and the change is painful.” Flannery O’Connor
Grace: A favor rendered by one who need not do so.
I wasn’t going to post this evening. I am tired and honestly, I had researched a lot of material on the psychological aspects of feeling lost, but my notes were scattered and I didn’t want to sound sloppy.
Let’s throw out neatness tonight.
Haven’t been able to sleep very well, lately. Maybe it’s the moving around I’ve done this summer, constantly living in other people’s spaces, but I keep waking up, confused. Where am I? What am I doing tomorrow? Is it time to get up?
Last night, I woke up from a dream where a friend of mine was frantically telling me something important, some pressing issue they were dealing with. I wanted to help, so I woke up, reached for my glasses and started to write down what they were saying. However, upon opening my eyes wider, the words dissipated into the fog of wakefulness. I started to cry. The first thought was to text someone. I ended up texting my mother.
“I’m starting to have anxiety about my age”
I woke up this morning and saw the text, scratched my head and thought, Oh Boy. Another strange text message to my mother. She won’t be surprised. She didn’t reply. Best not to feed one’s anxiety by acknowledgement, right?
A constant pressing in. That’s what it feels like. And when someone you know, who’s your age, is facing a serious condition, you think, that could be me. Why is this happening. Dreams of people running in and out of your room, trying to communicate something to you. Wait! Let me help! But you can’t. You’re just as lost as they are, whoever they are.
Sometimes, in the middle of the darkest hour, confusion huddles so close and wants your whole body that it’s hard to breathe, let alone see the leaves on the various trees in the lost-forest you find yourself in.
So you drive to work. You answer phone calls. Deal with the bank. The angry consumer. Whatever it is. Traffic. And at once you forget the self in the maze, and you forget the old-confusion with the new-confusion of daily life.
But there’s the return again. To the room. To the reality of a friend’s struggle. To the seconds ticking by. And the other confusion rushes in.
Life sometimes feels so overwhelmingly busy, grabbing for your attention. You get tired, tired and hopeless.
Grace, a little skunk, walks by.
There’s a skunk that lives outside my house. I’ve noticed it now for a couple of weeks as I sit in my car drinking a beer at night. I like watching it rustle around in the bushes.
So simple. Isn’t it? To just breathe? And yet so difficult to remember.
As I was watching the skunk do whatever it is skunks do, I thought, I’m so lucky to be here.
Messy. Unheard. Crossing dream into reality into dream, feeling heavy and lost.
I want to demand I get what I want. Why? Do we ever know the bigger picture?
I was running my route around the long island sound. I was listening to someone sing “your grace is sufficient.”
The sun was setting. I have been complaining in my head all day.
I sat down, sweating, wanting to cry.
But it’s hard to be grateful, happy, positive.
Why? I thought. Why? The mess takes delight in changing you.
I just want to know. What is going to happen?
Just then, the skunk, possibly a different one, walked by. I laughed. It said, Surprise!
Love the dark, forest-covered self. Even the shadows, where the changes take place. And count the grace as a way to move through you. Change you.
What selves we hold on to are painful ones, but they are the ones we know. Grace breaks them open, builds new selves. In a mess and usually in a lost-forest. Because when we begin being transformed, our orientation, our sense of control and knowingness, sinks into the mud, leaves us standing unaware of what-we-will-be, pushing through the soil. Through sickness, maybe. Through anxiety–shaken earth, unhinging–the old sheds into the new.
I don’t deserve the surprise, or the sunset, or the smallest prayer. Because I see them, at first, in the distance with eyes of suspicion, fear, worry.
I’m alive and I’m being given-to in a way I can’t explain, or understand, just yet.
What will become of my fear?
Hold on, it said. I’m building a wider forest in which to wander. But look, notice the leaves, the creature-joys, and the mess where, eventually, you’ll make love to the new self.
I found this in a prayer, written long ago. Someone had it on their website, but it doesn’t say the author. I like the idea of the wanderer, going off, willingly or not, into a distant place–and Grace brings forth what is needed, what we don’t know we need, yet,
I am always going into the far country…and you are always bringing forth the best robe.