Thank you, Candace Payne, for reminding me that joy in simple things brings the light.
My husband insisted I watch this. I’d ignored it on Facebook because it looked dorky, and actually, it kinda is, but therein lies the charm.
It made me remember to be myself, to pay attention to small things, like talking to a 5-year-old sharing her Disneyland trip for her birthday. She told me about a naked human climbing up into the air, right after she explained about a donkey doing something, and I got confused, and asked, “A naked donkey climbed into the air?”
And she did this:
And all I wanted to do was say other silly things just so I could see that face. Makes me laugh now, just thinking about it. I probably didn’t hear right, but who cares. Listening to her code-switch between Spanish and English made my day. She and her mother were a spot of grace-filled sunshine today.
I can’t cry. It’s like the sorrow is hiding, and now panic hovers on the edges, like not feeling constant sorrow means I’m giving up, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, or what I’m supposed to do because my adult son has vanished and people keep saying the fact that his body hasn’t been found is a good thing.
I get it. But I also wonder if he just did a good job of hiding himself.
I suppose this is where I should tie things up neatly with something light, but
Yesterday started out a little cloudy, but manageable, and then I had an encounter with someone who made me cry. It was nothing monumental; he was just not as kind as he could have been, and since I’m raw these days, it doesn’t take much to undo me. It was the culmination of several unmindful things this person has said to me that was my undoing.
My friend witnessed my distress, and told me, “Just because someone hands you a bag of crap it doesn’t mean you have to keep holding it.” The word picture was perfect; I let it go. Because, y’know, gross.
One day later, we talked about the situation, and when she saw I’d taken her advice, she asked me how I was able to let things go because she was still mad at this guy, and then asked if I could just explain the process I go through.
I always think I should say, The Holy Spirit enables me, or it’s all Jesus.
But I believe it all comes down to conscious choice. I choose what I focus on.
I have the Holy Spirit, which gives me peace and guidance, but I have the choice to shut all that out.
I want to be careful here because I am not a mindless automaton, but the Holy Spirit’s power is a real thing in my life.
I guess it’s a matter of surrender and trust. When I choose the higher path, I’m trusting that I don’t need to retaliate or be bitter.
I can’t figure out how exactly God works in us so that forgiveness and grace becomes part of our regular menu, because frankly, I have forgiven some very hard things that I couldn’t have done without the Holy Spirit. But walking gracefully is a choice. (And if you’ve seen me walk, you know this is a figurative statement!)
I promised her I would blog about it, and I half-suspect she’s asked this as a means of getting my mind off my worries about my son. She wants something practical to try for herself; I don’t know if I can do that yet. This will be a process, I think.
First a disclaimer: I have not let everything go.
And my way of doing it is just that: my way of doing it.
Letting go of something is like getting undressed, only your clothes are disposable.
Off comes the shirt(s) over your head, mussing your hair. Hair shirt! Of course. Because you’re the only one suffering when you hold onto a hurt, right? Into the wastebasket.
The shoes and socks and pants–everything, into the bin.
Just like the process of getting undressed is done one thing at a time, so it goes with letting go of what hurts.
You don’t just jump out of your clothes, and it’s rare that you can just shrug a hurt off.
Not only must you take them off, you must choose where to put them. If you put the clothes into the laundry basket, then you obviously expect to put them back on. So: trash.
Shirt: I take off the first layer by thinking: my stuff or his/hers?
If it’s mine, I own it. (To the best of my ability. Sometimes I get this wrong.)
If it’s the other person’s, I toss it, and move to step 2.
Pants: I seriously consider the other person. What path is this person walking? What’s going on in his/her life that would prompt what s/he did or said?
Shoes & socks: I put myself in that person’s shoes. How would I feel in similar circumstances?
How would I want to be treated? Do I want to be forgiven when I’m a jerk? (yes, please. lol)
Dear beloved friend: if you were trying to get my mind off things, you done good. It worked. Thank you.
And I’m going to take time every day to focus on something I have control over. Thank you for that, too.
Today has been difficult.
More than three weeks since I last positively knew Jake was safe.
When I eat, I think, “Is Jake hungry?”
When I go to bed, I think, “Where is Jake sleeping?”
When it’s hot outside, I think, “Does Jake have water?”
He can’t borrow a phone. Is he disoriented?
Is he all right?
Is he all right?
I can’t turn it off.
If this had happened during the time he’d kept me at arm’s length, I wouldn’t even know he was missing.
But he texted, called, or visited nearly every day from late February onward.
I am bereft of the son I just got back.
I wonder if this is the beginning of a long, dark summer.
Today’s a bit of ok. I’m gliding on the surface, not dwelling on what freaks me out. I’m dwelling instead on this:
“Beneath the garments of the world is joy.
A miracle is a gift of light, not a gift of worldly goodies. It shines through the world I see. Each new crack in the scenery tells me there is something else going on behind this play I think I’m in.”
–Hugh Prather, Spiritual Notes to Myself
Beneath the garments of the world. Huh.
I find that incredibly moving.
I was reading back over my journal from the past year, and this date last year I was grieving over the rift in Jake’s and my relationship. Here, incredibly, is what I wrote that holds true right this second, if I could just remember it:
“Here is what I know: I am not in control here. He’s God’s, not mine. I can trust that whatever happens, I will be ok, and so will Jake. I don’t know where the wind blows. I know tiny human things.”
What finally gave me peace: Matthew 9: 16-17.
Our old relationship could not work. We must be transformed in God’s image.
Last year at a Mother’s Day banquet, a speaker said, “We mothers get in the way because we don’t let go.”
I’m sick with worry for legitimate reasons, yet I recognize he must find his own path without me.
I do not like this place I’m in, Sam I am.
Last year for Mother’s Day, Jake dropped off flowers when I wasn’t home. He told Tom, “Give these to your wife.”
I did laugh. I was delighted to be remembered. He came by! Scowling and sullen, but present, if only for a wee moment.
And when he apologized for the past two and a half years, he just kept bringing me flowers. I’d already forgiven him.
Eventually he got it, I think. I don’t know. I hope so.
More than ever I understand that the past doesn’t matter. Only right now matters. I am in the perfect place. I can’t be anywhere else. I ache with mother empties. I don’t know what’s wrong with my son. But.
Everything’s led here, and if I truly believe God has this, then all is well even in the tumult.
When I wrote my memoir, I prefaced it with a story called Babes in the Wood, a story about two tiny children who were left by ruffians out in the woods to die. I learned to read on this story and others like it; my mother was big on folk tales. The abandonment resonated in me because my mother and her sisters had put 5 of us children into foster care. I’ve thought of the story as a harbinger that my mother unconsciously used to warn me of the dangers I would face, and lately I’ve been revisiting this from the standpoint of a mom.
I have been reading a book on Gestalt psychology, and I am struck by the idea of transactional analysis. I don’t know if I created a steadfast narrative of how life is when I was a child, and I don’t know how much weight I will give this theory. But I think it’s interesting that my earliest memory of reading is of a book about abandonment. And now I wonder what my sons’ narratives are, and how I contributed to them.
I’ve fought all their lives to break the chains of abandonment in our family story. Is Jake’s wandering in the figurative wilderness part of our family narrative?
I’m also reading books about baseball and I’m pretty sure that baseball is saving my sanity.
I went to my very first major league baseball game in April, when the Padres played the Cardinals. Tom, my husband, answered every one of my baffled questions with patience and delight. (I’ve never been interested in baseball, and was only there because I knew how much he would love it. It was the Cards, after all.) I asked about acronyms and stats and weird rules. (Dude. The infield fly?)
It was the infield fly that got me. It sounded like a bizarre rule, and it reminded me of English and how wretched its rules can be. English delights me, so of course baseball would, too. I have to know everything. So: books. heh
So now I’m on a search for my favorite player. Tom wants to get me a jersey, which I have never been remotely attracted to before and now must have. I’m leaning toward Molina, the Cardinals’ catcher. (Has to be Cards; I’m married to a St. Louis guy.)
The stats are my favorite, which is hilarious. Stats=math, and I am accustomed to giving it the stink eye.
So the obsession is engaging a different part of my brain and it helps me not to wallow in grief and fear. I confess, too, that it makes me laugh a little to think of the line, “How ’bout them Dodgers?”
I feel a certain tenderness toward people who witness when grief visits me unexpectedly. Grief is a rude fellow, with no appreciation for proper timing; he gives no figs about propriety in any circumstance that I’ve noticed.
Mostly people look like they feel cornered.
One guy asked about the situation and the minute he heard the catch in my voice he put his hand up and said, “No, no. You don’t have to explain.” Sheer panic in his voice. It’s ridiculously endearing. I don’t know, maybe it should annoy me that I can’t express myself to people, but it really doesn’t. This isn’t about me. It’s about my son.
Tonight I heard that Jake was seen by a woman who visited the Circle K in Imperial. Apparently he (or someone who looks like him) asked to use her phone. She refused, which I understand. Jake’s big, and he may look scruffy.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that she didn’t call the police when she learned he was a reported missing person.
If you’re not directly affected by things like this, it may not really strike you as necessary. You don’t know the anguish. None of us do unless we’re in it. Grace!
I am only able to be in this place because of my husband. He said, “Honey, we don’t know that this was Jake. You have to be prepared for a roller coaster till we find Jake.”
Actually: much longer conversation than that. I was a basket case. I’m getting better at truncation, eh.
So today I was helped by two angels in disguise: both passed out flyers and their paths intersected while they were helping me. Just regular people who give a damn. This is why I have hope. Love will find a way.
It’s weird how some things stall you in your writing, and other things rip you wide open.
When my son disappeared 20 days ago, the first report I wrote for law enforcement was three pages long. It had bullet points for easy reading, but still. Three pages. But how can you know how to properly track someone if you don’t know the little things?
It took me several drafts to pare it down to the essentials so I could fit them onto a flyer with his picture.
Along with a physical description:
Missing. Gave all his things away. Call me.
I continue bleeding words onto a page of updates. I don’t know who gives a crap about what steps I’ve taken–I’m not really sure I myself care–but I’m compelled to keep track or I will feel like I’ve done nothing.
The words are a trickle on my Facebook page now, and now, well. Here I am. The list is maybe not so important. But this has substance.
This, I think, is better than sending emails to the ether. Better than Facebook messages to my son that withhold that precious “seen” checkmark. Better than editing the updates page with TO DOs and DONEs.
At 1:06am today I woke with a snap, Jake’s slurred voice in my head saying, “Where are you?”
I got dressed and drove to the house where he was staying before he vanished. Convinced he had spoken to me in a dream, in a stupor, helpless. Shined a light in the window.
Sniffed around the window and front door for a dead body odor. I’m not crazy, but that’s crazy behavior. Who sniffs windows?
And why? Dead people don’t slur.
Reminder to Stacy: You have no control over things you can’t control.
In all the encounters I’ve had over the last 20 days, only two have been negative.
One man lectured me via text about children who don’t want to talk to their parents and how we need to accept that. I engaged at first, then realized I don’t care what he thinks he knows.
Another man messaged one of Jake’s friends on Facebook, saying that my son was found living in my basement.
Someone actually did that. Part of me accepts that this is just a dopey person who doesn’t realize how callous that was.
Maybe thinks he’s funny.
The other part…well.
Perhaps he will call me with his theory and we can talk.
It’s only been 20 days.
When does it become valid?
Why does it seem invalid?
I make it by grace.
Grace, by U2
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything
Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
What I find fascinating is how each flaw is exhibited in people, and why.
For example, The Martyr Complex. Someone with this flaw is convinced that s/he’s persecuted, and believes that s/he’s been robbed of choice. This can be because of childhood abuse, or it can be a coping mechanism a person developed under any number of circumstances. What’s fascinating is that the flaw has a polar opposite; in this case, it’s selflessness. What I’m playing with is how both poles live in us (and our characters).
My main character’s chief flaw is Self-Destruction. She’s homeless and alcoholic, and she fiercely guards both of these things because she feels like she has control over them. The opposite pole of self-destruction is sacrifice; this ties in neatly with martyrdom, which is her shadow because she is unaware of it.
I find it’s much easier to craft characters by starting with their flaws. Flawed people are more interesting, and we expect them to let us down, so hints of nobility surprise us. I think those hints give us hope for our own selves, that there might be something redeeming in our own persons that makes us lovable.
I see that gratitude starts with what you look for–and with the effort you’re willing to expend looking for the good. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have to close my eyes and first refocus mentally before I can see beauty with my eyes open.
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
Yet his dear treasure
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flow’r.
(Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light led me to this poem when I was a teenager.)
A gift painted:
This painting hung on the wall at Michael’s for about five years, and I wanted it from the moment I saw it. I asked if I could buy it when the store first opened, and was told that displayed art in the frame section was not for sale. So every time I went in to Michael’s– (which was often; it is a crack den) –I stood and stared longingly at it.
One day I saw that the painting had been moved and there was a price tag for $39.99 on it. With some trepidation and a whole lot of wild hope, I found a salesperson and asked if the price was for the painting or the frame, and she said, “Oh, for the painting. You want it?”
I did not squeal, but I think my “Yes!” startled her.
I recently decided to connect with other writers because I really need to mix with my kind. I need to be around those people who are obsessed with the craft–talking about it, writing about it, learning about it. And I need to connect with people who want to make a difference in the world in any small way. So I have been posting more regularly on Linkedin and Twitter, and one person made me realize that I was on the right path. She’s made me feel appreciated and valued, which has encouraged me to keep doing my small thing in this tiny corner of the universe.
Kristol, you’re a light in the darkness, and I thank you for nominating me for the Lighthouse Award. You’ve made a difference in my perspective in just the short time I’ve known you. Thank you.
Nominees, here are the sweet and simple rules:
Display the award certificate on your blog.
Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
Share three ways that you like to help other people.
There is no limit to the number of people you can nominate.
Don’t forget to have fun!
3 help-y things I like to do:
I help people find short-cuts. (On the road, I know the route with the fewest stoplights or left-hand turns because I hate circuitous routes. This impatience leads me to find short-cuts in every arena, not just on the road. This, I realize, is also a sign of laziness. And people do not always want to know these amazing short-cuts. lol)
I help people find their voices in writing. I am able to set myself aside–my opinions, my voice, my knowledge, all of that Stacy-stuff–and I help people express what’s inside them in their own words. I thank God for this gift, and I hope to develop this skill to its fullest potential.
I help people find THAT book. You know when you’re looking for a book that’s about that one thing, or that book that your sister read to you when you were in 1st grade, or any book that is about [insert your pet subject]? Sometimes I have the book (and give it to you via Bookcrossing) and other times I point you in the right direction, like I did in this post about romance authors’ pseudonyms.
Tammy, my critique partner for 18 years. She inspires me and helps me stay focused.
And Mandy Eve Barnett. Oh, what a blog. Get your coffee or tea and go browse. Time well spent.