The Meeting Well

Where the quotidian meets the divine

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Measurable Loss

“In increments both measurable and not, our childhood is stolen from us– not always in one momentous event but often in a series of small robberies, which add up to the same loss.” – John Irving

This past year of my life is one of endings: my grandmother died; my mother died; my husband and I moved to a new state, which is the first time I have ever moved away from my hometown. The year has consisted of several momentous events, one right after the other.

I feel like the bridge spanning my childhood to my adult life has been torched, never to be rebuilt.

I am sure this is overly dramatic. Nothing changes all at once. Those small robberies begin very early in life and continue to accrue. My childhood was no different.

In spite of all the loss, I am grateful for many blessings. I still have my dad. I am grateful that I am married to a loving and gentle man, and that I do not have to face these things alone. I am grateful for the nearly three decades I got to spend with these two beautiful women. Twenty-nine feels young for such loss, but I imagine how much harder it would have been at nineteen or nine. I take none of those precious years for granted.

One era ends and another begins. I do not know what the next chapters will hold. Though they begin with grief, I do not believe the sorrow will endure. In its place will come bittersweetness, and perhaps, there will even be room for moments of joy.

This Moment

Earlier today, I was listening to an episode of the podcast “Becoming a Healing Presence” with Dr. Albert Rossi on Ancient Faith Radio. The podcast was titled “Grief”, and consisted of an interview with an Orthodox Seminarian from Uganda. The entire interview was very interesting, and discussed the differences in the cultural experiences of grief and mourning in Uganda and the United States.

What caught my attention most, however, was not something this young man said about grief or death. It was the way he began the interview:

“I thank God for this moment.”

What a profound statement.

We hear a lot about affirmations and meditations and mantra in today’s mainstream culture. As Orthodox Christians, we speak a lot about the prayer of the heart, the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer. While noetic prayer is the ultimate prayer practice, for those of us just beginning to pray or struggling to pray or still unsure of how to pray, a simple statement of gratitude to God for the present moment is a powerful reminder to us.

I thank God for this moment:

I do not allow myself to wallow in shame over the past and its sins.

I do not allow myself to be robbed of this singular moment with fears about the future.

In moments of great joy, I approach this triumph with the realization that God willed this amazing opportunity for us.

In moments of great sorrow, I praise God who still reigns, who will redeem even the most bitter suffering.

In moments of monotony and ordinariness, I remember that God grants me each and every breath, and not to take even the most tedious aspects of my life for granted.

I thank God for another moment to repent, to pray, and to seek His will.

Thank you, God, for this moment, whether great or small, whether I find it in exuberance or desperation, for I believe everything is sent by you for my salvation. Perhaps with a grateful, meek, and humble heart, one day I will understand exactly what this means.

Journeys

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
The first time I ever read this poem was in college. With the self-assurance only a teenager could possess, I fell in love with this poem. It became my anthem, my anchor, the manifesto I would return to in those years in the moments of doubt and uncertainty.
This poem was later shared with me by a counselor in college, who told me to consider how necessary it is to separate from one’s family of origin. He encouraged me to move away from home, to learn good judgment by making many mistakes, and to finally find myself in the world.
I am swiftly approaching thirty. That “new voice” has yet to appear, and if it did, I am not sure it would be “recognised as my own.” And I don’t know if those stars have burned themselves out by now, or if the cloud cover is simply too thick to penetrate.
There is one thing I do know.
I would cherish the opportunity to hear my mom’s voice again, to ask for her advice. To know everything she experienced and learned and regretted and rejoiced in for her too short sixty years on this earth.
Perhaps if I continue on this journey, those stars will eventually sear through the smokey sky. One day, I may hear my voice with clarity, and if I am very, very fortunate, just maybe I will hear her voice, too, whispering to my soul.

On Beginning

I don’t know how to begin.

All my life, I have loved the excitement of a fresh start. The potential, the unknown, the hope that this time all will be different. The promise of change.

This month, I will attempt to make many changes in my life. Today, I promised myself I would begin.

But I don’t want to.

Where there once was excitement, there is only dullness. In place of energy, tiredness. I never knew it was possible to feel both dull and emotionally raw at the same time, but here I am.

My mother died three weeks ago. My grandmother died six months ago.

I guess this is what they call grief. I have no clear understanding of it to define it as anything.

I feel hollow. Lost. Confused. My days seem aimless. Empty.

It is very tempting to stay here. To hide in the hollow expanse of my feelings. If not to lay down and die, too, then to at least curl up and hibernate for a season or two.

Everything feels like a struggle.

But I begin anyway. Why?

Because God still gives me the gift of breath, and it is my turn to go on. Because even though I feel hopeless, I know- I believe- there is still hope.

Because my heart wants to contract and become smaller, and I cannot let that happen. Because through all the pain, I must continue to love and be loved.

I begin to pray. I begin to care for myself. I begin to write.

I begin without expectation, and so I begin without fear.

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