messages in the mirror

Dear One,

Tonight as I was driving home I came upon the portion of the road where they are doing all that roadwork.  Expansion.  Ugh.  I’m already disgusted with myself about it, because I’m sure it will only take a few months after the road widening is done that I will be thankful for the extra space on the roads. I will forget my indignation at the trees cut down and habitats destroyed and become complacent.  Double ugh.  But I digress.

I looked at those homes sitting on the side of the road.  No telling how long they have been there.  With families that have loved living on a country highway.  Children who had memorized exactly how many steps it took to check the mailbox by the road.  Mamas who could tell the time of day by the cars and buses that passed by.  Families that sat on their porches and waved at the passersby.  A good life.  Content.

And now, their yards have been violated.  Ripped into.  These homes now only have a fraction of what they did before, the black plastic marking and separating what is left of their space from what once was. Fences lay all askew and the grass is non-existent.  And all they can do is sit and accept.  No one will want their precious home now.  Selling it isn’t even an option.  It’s hopeless.

I gazed upon the torn down trees and gutted earth, and I thought of you.  How you must feel like these families do.  Your heart torn into, at first slowly, and then not with one or two, but with three big rips.  What your life once was, ripped into pieces.  And what you are left with–much, much less than it was.  Devastated.  Hopeless.  I imagined that was how your heart must ache.

The tears you hold back.  The words you don’t say.  The mask you must wear and the burdens you feel you must carry alone.  All of it wearing you thin and making everything that happens seem more.  More than you can handle.  More than you can cope with.  More than you can bear.

Until you find yourself searching for a lap to crawl into.  Somewhere to curl into a ball and be safe.  A place to hide from all that has gone before.  And from all that could yet still come.  A place to be.  Or not be.  Darkness.  Quiet.

My Mama would say, “At least nobody’s shooting bullets at us.”  Some days that was as good as it seemed to get, and she’d take it.  It’s hard to hear those words and take heart in them now, isn’t it?  Daddy’s wisdom seems far, far away, the echoes of his words so distant, they are unintelligible.  It’s enough to make one feel lost, without those who have always guided and loved and offered sanctuary.  It’s enough to make one just want to quit.

When Mess Cat was headed back to her life from before the HospitalStay last year–the same yet so different–after Mama was gone and we were left to figure things out on our own, she took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I want you to do me a favor.”  I nodded through the tears.  “Remember these words.  ‘Yes.  Thank you.’  When someone offers to help or whatever, you say those words.  Okay?”  I nodded again.

I need you to nod now.  Those words.  Can you say them?  Can you let people help?  And if the offers aren’t there, will you please let those around you know what you need?  And if you don’t even know yourself, will you tell them THAT?  That you don’t know what you need, but you are.  In.  Need.  And when they offer to come and sit in the dark with you, will you say these words?  Yes.  Thank you.  When they call you on the phone will you pick it up?  Will you say, I need help?  Not “I’m fine.  I’m okay.  Doing all right.”  Take off the mask and let them in.

Life was not meant to be lived alone.  We were not meant to walk the path with no one at our side.   It’s lonely and it’s dark and there are shadows and noises that can be frightening.  As Leroy said today, we all are on a journey that there is no blueprint for.  No map.  There’s no book that tells any of us exactly how to get through this without it being messy and hard and broken and filled with longing and hurt.  Because there is no such thing.  It’s going to be all of those things.  For a long time to come.  Grief is all of those things and more.  Period.  There are no buts.

I have hope that you, me, we all can get through this.  Leroy said we can, and he’s never been less than truthful with me.  I want you to do this.  Go look in the mirror.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Now look yourself in the eyes.  And tell yourself these things and begin to believe them.

*I am enough.

No matter how you interpret the behavior and thoughts of others, take off the filter that tells you it’s all because you are not enough. 

*I am loved. 

Because you are.  By so many.  Now go and love yourself.

*I can do this.  I can.  One step at a time.  With the help of others.  I can.

You can.  It won’t be easy.  The path you take may not look like Mama’s or Daddy’s or anyone else you love.  But it will be your path and you will make it and get through this.  You won’t ever be able to shake all of the pain off your heart, but you can and will be able to see beyond it.  Eventually.  Just take it one moment at a time.  One small task.  Some days getting up and getting dressed is enough of an accomplishment for the day. 

And as you hear those words, do these things:

*Cry.  Speak.  Let it all out. 

Holding it in will only break you further.  Tears are good.  Letting it out will make room for the good stuff.  And one day, please Lord, there will be plenty of good to fill you up. 

*Give grace freely.

To others.  To yourself. Hurt happens, but you don’t have to let it linger in your heart.  Work through it and give grace.  Especially to yourself. 

*Seek joy. 

In a memory.  In a word.  In a smile.  In a song on the radio.  Look for it.  You have to look to find it, joy is not likely to walk up and bop you on the head like little Bunny FuFu and those field mice.  Ah, there’s a joyful memory right there.  Remember that song?  And the rabbit named Little Bunny FuFu that Daddy brought home for us? 

Those houses on the road.  I don’t know what their future holds.  Nor do I know what yours or mine will be.  Maybe we all will be reinvented, so that we can be okay, we can have a life where we are, in this new way we find ourselves, able to be and do with a little less than we had before. Somehow making the best of what we have now.

And that’s a Mama-ism right there–Do the best you can with what you have at the moment.

Maybe we’re not as lost as we feel.  Maybe we learned more than we thought we did.  And maybe Leroy’s right.  Maybe we will be okay.  I want all of this and more.  For you.  For me. For all of us.

Love.  Love.  Love.  Always.

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