This is the actual Week of Unhappy Anniversaries: Bill’s death, our wedding day, and his funeral. It’s always difficult for me. The events of these days are seared into my consciousness and there is no way for me to forget, unsee or unfeel them. But is there a point at which honestly naming your reality crosses the line and becomes instead a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Doom? If I openly acknowledge that these are sad and difficult days – if I name the elephant in the room – does that automatically guarantee that everything is going to be difficult and sad?
Am I the only one on the planet asking these questions? Does everyone else pretty much have this all figured out? Or is this just me making Mount Everest out of a dust mote when there’s not really anything to figure out at all?
I suspect it’s my grief talking. And my mother.
“Don’t get carried away!” I heard it at least a million and one times. Sometimes that’s all she would say, but most times I got the full treatment: “Don’t get carried away! There might not be anyone to carry you back.” She wasn’t being cruel or intentionally trying to stifle or scare me; this was a direct result of the way her stiff British upper-lip ancestors had raised her. But hearing those words over and over conditioned me to be wary of strong emotional reactions – including and especially mine – and I think that’s at the heart of what makes these unhappy anniversaries so difficult for me to navigate. The depth of emotion I experience when these days roll around stirs up all those old fears. What if I do get “carried away” in all this raw emotion? What if I can’t put the genie back in the bottle, the toothpaste back in the tube?
I didn’t fully understand at the time why I was asking, but I think that’s what was behind the question I posed in last week’s blog post: “where is the Holy in this wild kingdom of emotion?” I was looking for reassurance that I wasn’t going to get overwhelmed by all the memories and the roller coaster of feelings they produce.
What I found was that the Holy is right there with me, in all of it. Here’s a couple of the places I sensed it.
Before I retired from the congregation I served, we celebrated Epiphany (in the Christian tradition this is the story of the Magi following the star to the place where Jesus was born, usually observed on January 6) by passing out stars with words on them. People were encouraged to think about their word, pray over it, and see how God might be speaking to them through their word during the course of the year. (I stole – I mean “borrowed” – this idea from Rev. Marci Glass; if you’re curious you can read more here on Marci’s blog). I found the discipline so meaningful, I still email Marci every year and ask her to choose a word for me, and this year my word is ‘feeling’. (Yeah, I know. Now you’ve got that song stuck in your head, too). I’ve been making my way through the concordance in the back of my Bible looking up every feeling word I come to, in alphabetical order. On Tuesday, the anniversary of the day Bill completed the earthly portion of his life, the reference was from Jeremiah 31:
“…They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back… The maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow…” Jeremiah 31:9a, 13, NIV
And it felt as though we were occupying Holy Ground and sacred space when we all gathered to share a meal and memories that evening. (The Oreo Beignets I had for dessert were divine).
Do you ever get “carried away” emotionally – or otherwise? Or do you always try to stay in control?
If you do get carried away from time to time, what is that like for you? Does it feel good to get things out and clear the air, or do you find it uncomfortable or overwhelming or scary?
I asked about the wild things and places in last week’s post. Where have you sensed the Holy in the everyday moments of your life this week?