Bright sadness

Lent is called the season of Bright Sadness, because it is a time of both celebration and mourning.

That about sums up life right now. 

We have had so many things to celebrate lately.  Band gigs, debate victories, a piano recital, another Eagle Scout very close to his wings, more speech and debate excitement this weekend, daffodils blooming, sun occasionally shining, friends visiting, and everyone home and around the table.  Many, many reasons to celebrate.

But woven between all the celebration is a season of struggling.  The kind of struggle that has me flying awake at one in the morning, heart racing and mind frantic.  It takes me a long time to settle back down to sleep,  and it has me praying and breathing, breathing and praying, holding tightly to the ancient prayers that do not depend on my eloquence or my ability to know what I need.  I am incapable of eloquence and knowing right now.

This morning I woke feeling not quite so done in, and I headed out to drop my son off for his college classes.  As an aside:  car problems have ALWAYS figured into the despairing times of our life.  They themselves don't cause despair; they are just the waves erroding the cliffs, the bleach ridding the world of color.  And so when the drive shaft of our son's rather wonky truck was found to be falling out on the road on Sunday morning?  No surprise.  It was more of a, "Of course the drive shaft is there.  That makes sense" moment.

But back to my morning drive.  The car had no gas, and gas costs $3.84 a gallon, and we were pretty far from the gas station, and we were running late.  My response to these facts showed that I was fraying at the edges.  It was not just a need for gas, or even a fear of running out of gas; my response had that decidedly falling off the cliffs of insanity feel to it, a revved up, you never! you always! ring to it.  It showed the infrastructure of my mind for the shaking, weak and weary place that it is.  Fortunately my passenger was merciful; he even pumped the gas, and I could breathe again. 

But I do not like feeling so frail, so vulnerable, so easily rattled.

A few months ago, I visited the local Russian Orthodox Church.  At one point, the congregation lined up and each person had their forehead anointed with oil.  When I got to the front of the line, Fr. James asked me, "Do you know why we anoint your head with oil?  Well, in the scriptures we are called to anoint the sick with oil...and we are all sick, aren't we, Diane?"

And I wept. 

To have someone acknowledge that he knows I am "sick", that it is not a surprise or a disappointment or an inconvenience to him, overwhelmed me. 

The next time I visited, he asked me again if I knew why...and I said, "Yes, but would you please tell me again?"  Like a toddler with their favorite story, I needed to hear that good news one more time.  Pretty please.

So for now, as we are struggling with things that don't come down to circumstances or other people, but sadly come down to our own selves and our lifetime of choices, it is a deep comfort to remember grace.  God's grace, to be given as well as received, not deserved and yet freely given, the grace that slows my heart rate, steadies my breathing, and wills me back to sleep until the morning light. 


I am sick.  Anoint me with oil.


Unknown said…
I am breathless.

Grace and peace to you, my friend.

Carol in Oregon
Di said…
Love you, Carol. I think it is time we meet in some dingy cafe in Winnemucca, don't you think?

Unknown said…
There is a pancake house that isn't bad in Winnemucca, six hours from me. In a heartbeat.
Alison said…
Oh the times of the dark hours that feel so long...I'm glad you can find some peace in these fragile days.

Be gentle with yourself. As someone wrote to me once, be gentle with your soul...
Di said…

Four And A Half Hours from ME.

I am there.

John can be there.

Say the word.

elizabeth said…
I hear this; I've been 'home' in the Orthodox church for over 6 years now and I am still glad to have such comfort. Love to you.
Janice said…
Beautiful Diane, well said.
DebD said…
that was lovely Diane... I have tears in my eyes. Yes, I am sick and broken too and I need Christ to make me whole. I see that this Lenten journey is particularly difficult for you. I know you're not Orthodox, but would you consider praying the Akathist to Jesus, Light to Those in Darkness by Fr. L. Farley? I'm praying it once a week and will add your name to my list.

Praying that your Paschal joy will be even sweeter after the difficult struggles.
stephseef said…
Can't stop crying. The ugly cry.

Love you so much.
Anonymous said…
Praying for you dear one.
I love the story about your visits to the Orthodox church. What a beautiful reminder of our true need for Christ. How often we forget and get it backwards.
Linda said…
He brought you to mind when I woke up yesterday. I prayed for you. This is so perfectly written Diane. It comes from your heart and resonates in my own.
My prayer these days has been "Jesus Christ have mercy on me." Sometimes it is all we can manage.
chris said…
hi Di,

so sorry! i also feel a bit torn. sometimes it seems to me in a way presumptuous to comfort someone who, like you, is going through such a hard time; maybe the best thing i can do is just to grieve with and pray for you. but, then, how can i not want to comfort you in your trials?

anyway, in the hope that i'm not being presumptuous, here's something i thank God for, and take comfort from, and perhaps you too will find it comforting: however frail, vulnerable, and easily rattled you may be, you are *alive*--open to joy, and open to grace. i went through a rough patch many years ago, after my mum died. i would never at the time have described myself as frail, or vulnerable, or rattled; i didn't have trouble making rational decisions, or sleeping at night. but that was because i had (at a deep and not conscious level) shut down emotionally--giving up joy along with grief. i wasn't visibly struggling, but i was in a deathly place, and one that it is very easy to get stuck in for a long time. you're in a really hard place, but you are also in the land of the living, which is no small thing!

don't know whether this is consoling, but i hope so, and i'm praying that, in your trials, you will draw strength from the knowledge that God has wrapped you up in His grace...

much love,

Di said…
Thanks, all, for your comments.

Deb, I copied out the Akathist you suggested. Wow. Very powerful. Thank you.

Chris, your words are unbelievably consoling. It is good to remember the alternative...and to rejoice in the ability to hit the struggle head on. Thank you for taking the risk and sending your encouragement. Spot on.

Stephie, love you, too!


Kathie said…
I have to say yes with Chris. I was in the same place. Shut down for 3 yrs and 7 months. That deadly response only delays, and complicates, the agony of grief you are going through now.

It is true - we are all sick - what a comfort and relief to have your need acknowledged.

Praying these verses for you from Isa 61:
a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

Sending much love to you Di.
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