just one girl chasing the obvious

Operating Instructions

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“I heard someone say once that forgiveness
is having given up all hope of having had a better past.”
–Anne Lamott

Rainy days always make me feel twelve again, hiding in my room with Vivaldi and another round of reading “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle,” the window cracked and a comforter, alone but not the least bit lonely. Once, when I was eight, I climbed up on the roof of our shed in a rainstorm just as it was passing and prayed to God that if it would just come back for a few more minutes, I’d never stop believing in something bigger than me. I think those last few returning drops in that sunshower sealed the deal, and I haven’t really ever been able to shake the feeling.

When I was fifteen, I wanted to kill myself. I sat down with intentions, and a blade. Stared it down and then wept and cried until it seemed like someone reached into my brain and said I wasn’t to blame for all the misery and loneliness I felt. Things were going to be ok. I waited for that whisper again so many times. When the loneliness, the regret, wrapped around me again and again. I think sometimes I’m still waiting. I haven’t been to church in so long. I don’t know what I would do there. I sometimes imagine myself sitting silently in the back, reciting the familiar liturgy, saying the same soft prayers I knew as a child, the stained glass of my grandmother’s church, the red velvet cushions, the bibles thick and gilded on the side, paper thin sheets of scripture pressed tightly as our hands, the flickering of candles in a dim corner, the organ music reverberating in the deep ceiling, intricate and wide as the hull of a great vessel gone to sea.

When our baby died earlier this year, it was like those last few ropes that tethered me to my life were splitting, the knot loosened and frayed.  I wondered what it would be like to stop on the bridge on the way to work each day and jump into the oncoming highway traffic. I kept waiting for a wrong turn, or a slippery edge. I haven’t thought about that for a while now. The pain gets easier, as it always does. Things fade a little. Time is good like that. Reliable.

I finished reading “Operating Instructions” today. Lamot always gets her hooks in me with the first few lines of everything. It doesn’t seem to matter what page. I wonder how she can be so astonished by her own faith, and yet so devoted to it. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand. But I think, at least, that I can work on living up to the idea of giving up hope of having had a better past. I’m working on this now, having finally started talking to my mother again. The thing is, all this time, I thought I was waiting for an apology, but when I got it, nothing changed. I was still pissed off. Still righteous and bleeding. I’ve been feeding this anger and resentment for so long, I wasn’t sure I could stop. I’m still not entirely sure. But I’m trying. I’m letting her into my life a little at a time. It feels dangerous, like wading out into the ocean, knowing how to swim but unsure that the sharks have been fed today. I’m doing the best I can. (Please pray for me).

I am supposed to be feeling some kind of mother glow. Some kind of nesting, instinctual excitement. I am supposed to, but I don’t. Not the way most people seem to think I should. People keep asking me how I’m feeling. The best I can do is good, fine. I’m still waiting, in a way, for you to seem real. For you to live. Even though I know that is all I can hope for. Some of us don’t get much time. I keep thinking of Matthew, who died last year, after twelve years getting only to see some of the seventh grade. I wonder if he ever kissed a girl. I try not to think of him, but lately, his face keeps floating back to me. His head swollen and scarred above his beautiful, silent eyes. I asked my students to make a short autobiographical film at the beginning of school that year. I think I still have him on tape, putting on a brave face and telling the camera he gets through life with a smile. He grinned then, trying hard to keep us from seeing how tired, how sick and tired he was, from the cancer in his body. I think maybe I have put the cameras away because I am afraid I will have to delete what I have left of him, of someone else.

A woman at my work lost her husband unexpectedly last year. It happened just after I lost my first pregnancy. She stopped me in the hallway not long ago to ask if she could borrow my cameras. When I said yes, she explained that she had her own, but that it contained a short film of her husband just before he died, and she didn’t want to use it. She walked away then, and I could see the tears starting up behind her eyes.

The mystery of this still leaves me scratching my head, that a baby was made in my body, grew on my milk, and lives here in the house with the kitty and me. It’s too big to comprehend: Pammy said the other day that the thing happening in her body is so bizarre, so unthinkable, that trying to accept it is like being eight years old again with someone explaining to her that the light from the star she is staring at took twenty years to reach her. All she can do is to stand there staring at the star with a kind of fearful wonder, waiting for the information to make sense.–Lamott

In a way, this is how I feel too. I am waiting for the information to make sense. Waiting, as I lie awake in the early morning when I have no earthly need to be awake, for you to make your movements known, for something like prayer to take away the last of the self pity and replace it with something new, something solid and whole and beautiful.

I am still waiting to look up and find myself floating in the wide arc of something–alone but not lonely.


Written by ms. m

September 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] your best isn’t good enough, but that’s ok September 29, 2010 // 1 I keep thinking about Matthew. […]

  2. […] I was doing a better job, I would have written the assignment with them, showing how hard it is, how difficult, to get at what we are trying to […]

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