Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Lunch with God

On Monday afternoon, I got angry. Throughout the day I found myself running into the ladies room for short spurts of tears, and then cleaned myself up and returned to my desk. I don’t like to work this way but the heavy load demands it at the moment. In the shower this morning, as I was crying, again, over the loss of our family dog, I started to shake my head in disbelief. How could the Universe let this happen?

At lunch time, I went to my favorite little sandwich shop and took a seat in Trinity Churchyard near Alexander Hamilton. I've been going to Trinity a lot during lunch lately. Last night I didn't sleep too well and I thought a walk over to Trinity might help me clear my head. And then something very odd happened, as if Hamilton's feisty spirit and his inability to ignore injustice inspired me. I was tearing up behind my sunglasses and then this burst of anger came to the forefront of my mind. It was a little un-nerving because I am not at all an angry person by nature. Anger, mine or anyone else’s, makes me very nervous. Without being able to stop it, I began to have a stern conversation with God, silently.

“I really hope you’re happy because now you’ve really done it. You have screwed up royally here. It wasn’t enough to have my apartment building catch fire, have me almost get trapped inside, and then destroy most of my belongings with smoke. You had to take my dog, too? Really? You must be really proud of yourself up there, divine and content, messing with all of us down here. My sister’s crying. My brother-in-law’s crying. I’m crying. I accept that most of the losses that I’ve had in my life were timely. Sebastian’s was not. He was only 7! Our last dog lived to be 17! A full decade longer! I hate to say it, God, but you were wrong on this one. Completely wrong. I must emphatically disagree with you; it was not Sebastian’s time yet. You pulled the plug on him way too early and I’m really pissed off at you for that. We needed some more years with him. He deserved some more years with us. I really hope the next time something like this comes up, you think a little bit harder about what you’re doing. And by the way, I have had more than my fair share of sadness this month. Actually, I’ve had enough for the remainder of the year, maybe for the remainder of the next few years so you are really going to have to back off. I’m sick of going through boxes of tissues in a day. I’m sick of feeling disappointed and sad and frustrated and scared. There’s a big ol’ lesson in all of this for me. I get it. I hear you. 'Nothing is permanent.' Fine. 'We have to be flexible.' Got it. 'We need to accept that with great love must also come great loss.' Check. 'Some days, we’re the pigeon and some days we’re the statue.' I understand that, and I’m telling you I’ve reached my quota of statue days. Enough!”

And then I let out a big, big sigh. I looked over at Alexander Hamilton, and then around at the other people sitting near me having lunch. And though my thoughts just now raged inside my mind, it seems that no one else heard me. Except God. He heard me. I knew he did, and I think he’s a little ashamed of his recent behavior toward me. And he should be. The piling up of this month’s events was really uncalled for. Whew – that was scary but it felt great. I needed to get that out.

As I got back onto Broadway and headed North, I found my smile again. I even laughed a little. I just yelled at God – really yelled at him. (I’ve never yelled at anyone like that ever. Actually, I can’t even remember the last time I raised my voice. I was probably a teenager!) Tiny little me, 5’2”, 110-pound me, just yelled at the Creator of the Universe. And he listened. He didn’t try to deny my grief or anger or sadness. He didn’t try to make it better or soothe my weary mind. He showed up and just listened. He eeked out a very small “I’m sorry” and I whispered back “I accept your apology.”

We have a funny relationship, God and I. Throughout my life I have at times adored him and doubted him. Sometimes I have flat out walked away and left him in the dust. And then I realized that I wanted him back, and when I peeked around the corner of faith again, a little embarrassed that I stormed off, there he was. Right where I left him. Waiting patiently, just like Sebastian would wait for us to get home. They're more alike than I realized. Animals are more virtuous that we recognize - they might be the closest we ever get to a holy presence on Earth. I think God and I are going to be okay now. And I think Sebastian is okay, too.

As I got closer to my office, I felt that awful terrible weight from Sunday lift off my heart slightly. It’s still there. I got over my apartment and belongings going up in smoke, though I really miss Sebastian, and always, always will. I miss knowing that he’s not in the world anymore. That I won’t be able to hug him again, or take him for a walk, or rub his cute little belly. I would have liked just one more hug, and sadly that wish will not be fulfilled until I cross over to where he is now. Waiting for us, as he always was here on Earth. God better make sure Sebastian’s up there, well taken care of, and ready for me to take him for his walk when we all get back together again.

My friend, Amy, is a conflict resolution and trauma expert. I spent a long time on the phone with her on Sunday night, talking through what I’ve been feeling this month. She refers to this process of grief as the glass of water analogy. We can think of difficult times as being a specific amount of water and ourselves as glasses. Each time we encounter something difficult, the respective amount of water gets poured into our glass. I could have dealt with any one of the sad circumstances from this month, but putting them all together within 3 weeks' times was just too much and my glass has overflowed with sadness.

The overflow happens sometimes, and as my pal, Laura, said to me "it sucks and it's okay to feel like it sucks for a while." Eventually the only thing to do is to sop up the excess water and start to empty our glass, even it’s just one little teaspoon at a time. The love and support from my friends and family this month has been such an amazing source of strength, and they're helping me bail out the water from my glass. It’s going to take me a little time to get that glass emptied but I am 100% committed to getting it done. Alison Krauss, one of my favorite musicians, sings a song that goes “Just get me through December, A promise I’ll remember, Get me through December, So I can start again.” Her December is my September, and I am almost through it. After a very long, sad month, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

The photo above is not my own. It can be found here.

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