The last couple of weeks, I’ve been truly struggling; mentally, I feel about 100 years old.
It occurred to me yesterday, how emotionally and spiritually strung out I’ve been. How too many days, even weeks, of living in that state have a way of aging a soul. There’s no other way to put it. I’m near the end of my rope, reserves depleted. And I haven’t been doing the things that mean restoration for me. As John told Gabriel a few days ago when I spent the day in bed (half sick, half exhausted): “Mommy’s making rope.”
So it’s time to think about how I got here. 1) There were circumstances beyond my control. 2) There’s the reality of my person—intensely emotional yet reticent, at times easily overwhelmed. And then there’s the piece of the puzzle I might actually be able to do something about: 3) my choices.
As I look backward and inward and forward I see the the imprudence of many a well-intentioned thought gone astray. I tell myself I can take on more; I can be just a little bit stronger. Trouble is, not enough rope. Which is to say, I’m only a skinny little strand. A rope is a twist and a knot of hundreds of filaments all wound up together—some chosen, some not, but all in it together all the same.
But where does a girl start? I was stuck (though watching this entrancing video about a dozen times with Gabriel did offer a good deal of solace). When you reach the point of desperation, it’s hard to be rational. I have this annoying way of asking for what I need and then making excuses when someone (usually my husband, but often my friends) tries to give me exactly what I asked for. I am an intuitive sort, always reading people’s feelings (sometimes projecting my feelings onto them). When I know that helping me out with the kids so that I can have some time to myself may be a real sacrifice for John (when I know he’s got his own needs and a stack of work ten feet high and I can sense his reluctance to break out of his own habits to help me change mine), it’s Hard to let him do it. Hard to receive the gift. Hard hard hard.
And it’s not just receiving what others have to give. There’s also the grace and endurance to receive what a day will bring.
Let’s take yesterday. I attended the open house of a new therapy option for Jonah in the morning and rushed home to put G to nap so that J and I could keep a playdate we’d scheduled weeks ago. I wanted to nap. I wanted to read. I wanted to do laundry. I wanted to do anything but go to the park for an hour. Which is kind of ridiculous, because I needed the fresh air, and come to find out, I needed to make a new friend—the mother of J’s friend, with whom I had a delightful time talking and felt a real kinship.
I’d made plans to go to Vespers alone in the evening. About the time I was dreading the playdate, I couldn’t imagine having the strength to get in the car and drive for a half hour to attend a forty-five minute service and drive another half hour home. But like I said, that real connection I made at the park moved me forward, and as I was standing amidst a crowd of about five other parishioners singing the prayers of the Church it magically (mystically, reasonably) occurred to me: “This is where I know who I am.”
So there’s my start, which is more than a start. It’s a way, and somehow I’d forgotten. How is it that we are actually capable of forgetting who we are? Boggles the mind.
There’s also this to consider (from a note Flannery O’Connor included in the second edition of Wise Blood): “Does one’s integrity lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man.” Not that I could tell you what that means, exactly. But the sense of it has lodged itself into my psyche. I’ll let you know what comes of it.