The last time I went to the used bookstore I came home with a title I never intended to buy. It was on one of the carts out in front of the store where the books were marked down to 45 cents, and there was a sign above the cart that said “50 % off.”
I figured for just 23 cents I could afford to take a chance.
I’m not sure I like the book, and I may not finish it. I’m still glad I picked it up. A quote grabbed me, and I needed both the affirmation the quote offers, and the prompt to dig deeper.
“…suddenly, you feel a large drop on your right arm. Is it raining? You look up. The sky is deceptively sunny: only a handful of clouds linger here and there. Seconds later, another drop. Then, with the sun still perched in the sky, you are drenched in a shower of rain. This is how memories invade me, abruptly and unexpectedly.”
I’ve lived this over and over again since losing Bill. The memories roll in unbidden and the tears pour down like the drenching rain the author describes, reminding me, again, what a two-edged sword this is for me. The grief is painful enough; the angst I feel over the outpouring of emotion adds to the burden.
In the world I grew up in the cultural norm was to squelch, to rein in, to hide painful emotions. I remember sitting in church when I was five or six, waiting for a family funeral to start, and asking my mother why one of my uncles was not in attendance. “He had to stay home,” she told me. “He was afraid he’d go to pieces.” Those who wept openly were regarded with horror, embarrassment, shame and reproach.
I’ve done it to myself. Standing in front of the megalith with the photo of Bill and I at the front of Epcot, I’ve admonished myself (more than once), “You can’t cry! You’re at Disney World!!”
It’s time to trade that mistaken perception in on a model that works.
In the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner hears of a threat to burn down the building in which she is scheduled to speak that day. “Then I will speak upon the ashes,” she replies.
Far better than ignoring, denying, and otherwise failing to express our grief (or any other emotion we’re feeling) – and, I’ve learned, necessary for me – is facing and being present to what is. “Speaking upon the ashes,” in whatever form that takes.
As my friend Anne Brock acknowledged in one of her Instagram comments last week, sometimes we don’t even know what’s causing the tears; all we can do – all we need to do – is be present to what is, to allow ourselves the grace and the space to sit on the ash heap and weep. So she did. (You can read more of Anne’s writing here).
I’ve noticed if I’m not fully present to what is – not able to “speak upon the ashes” – it’s impossible for me to move forward in an authentic and life-giving way. I have to acknowledge and embrace my reality before I can take the next step – before my heart and spirit open up enough to see the gifts, graces, and opportunities for growth and change that lie in and beyond the ashes.
If your world is falling apart – “going to pieces,” as my mother would say – or has already burned to the ground, Dear Reader, “Speak upon the ashes.” Stand and face (or sit and weep over) – be fully present – to what is. That is where hope is born.
“When I was silent and still, not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.
My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke…
Now, Lord, what do I hope for?
My hope is in you.”
Psalm 39:2, 3, 7 NIV
Important Scheduling Note: I so appreciate each of you traveling with me on this grand blogging adventure; I wanted you to be the first to know about some scheduling changes for the blog. There are some Big Things looming in the course of the next few weeks. I likely won’t have the time or the bandwidth to post every week. I will post as often as I can – and when there are important things to share – but plan on an every other week post for now.