Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck

So, remember when I was all lit about about the book When We Were on Fire?

And I invited all of you to read it and join me for a giant book club discussion over lattes and scones at the world’s biggest Starbucks which might just be in my imagination and an ethereal dream?

I’m still pretty fired up about this memoir.

(No pun intended.)  (Okay, yes it was.)  (It always is.)

Addie Zierman has become one of my favorite authors and contemporary theologians, and (…wait for it…) she invited me to write a guest post on her blog, to her audience, for the people who call her well-written and wise.

Today is the debut: Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck.

Please go to Addie’s blog, and give yourself the pleasure of a virtual stroll.  Give her some love.

And order her book.

 

No Socks.

When I get overwhelmed, and sometimes I do, especially in December, my house is the first thing to go.

No, the mail. The mail is the first thing to go. It’s just a long, cold walk to the mailbox, and so I don’t go. And then there’s the dishes. We’re out of cups.
And then there’s the Christmas stuff that’s out and mostly up but still a little bit strewn about and waiting for a verdict. And the fall stuff that’s waiting to be put away.  And the 500-piece puzzle set up on my dining room table, with one fraction of the bottom border complete. It’s been out for three weeks now.  And there’s the laundry. Who can tell what’s clean and what’s not? All I know is this for sure: nobody has socks to wear.

When depression is winning, breakfast sits on the table for days.

If you are picturing an episode of Hoarders right now, then I will humbly let you, believing in my heart that I don’t really need a referral for their assistance.

I had a complete meltdown on Saturday night. Shortness of breath, shaking hands, reaching out for help.

“Tricia, what is bothering you most right now?”
“I can’t find socks.” It all came down to socks.

‘No socks’ makes me feel like things are out of control, and ‘out of control’ follows the same neuropathway every time. There’s just some kind of connection that causes this crazy rush of adrenaline and fight-or-flight response. It all goes back to watching my husband die, when I remember doing everything I could and still not saving him, when so much was out of control and gone forever. It all goes back to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And this time, it came down to socks.

I almost called to cancel my appointment with my housekeeper. Surely she wouldn’t want to step into this chaos. Who can deep clean when you can’t find flat surfaces? I mean, great day, who even cares about deep cleaning this place? Just dishes would be great. And socks.

“I’m not a housekeeper. I’m not good at this,” I toss into the great void, believing these words to be true.

A voice of wisdom says to me, via text, “So what if you’re not good at it? Is that what we’re called to be good at? Who cares about dishes in the sink, Tricia? Show me the verse where it says you have to be neat and tidy. Oh, that’s right – I’m pretty sure the Pharisees quoted it.”

A point there. Proverbs 31 can get mightily misconstrued, but there’s nothing in there about dishes and laundry, I don’t think. Not in my version. And I might not want to read your version.

I choose Mary over Martha any day.

So I didn’t cancel. Please come and help me, sweet housekeeper and fairy princess of goodness. I never professed to be good at this; if I wrote a blog on cleaning and organization, then we’d all be hard pressed to find my credibility. But this mess? Help, please.

Here’s the thing about humility: when you admit you can’t do it, sometimes somebody comes to help you.

My dishes are done. My bed is made. Socks are henceforth in the washer. And it looks like it will all be okay.

You Let Me Impose

“SHE DIED ON a Monday during spring break of our senior year. After her funeral, I immediately went back to school because she had begged me to do so. It was the beginning of a new quarter. In most of my classes, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say what we had done over the break. “My name is Cheryl,” I said. “I went to Mexico.”

I lied not to protect myself, but because it would have been rude not to. To express loss on that level is to cross a boundary, to violate personal space, to impose emotion in a nonemotional place.

We did not always treat grief this way. Nearly every culture has a history, and some still have a practice, of mourning rituals, many of which involve changes in the dress or appearance of those in grief. The wearing of black clothing or mourning jewelry, hair cutting, and body sacrification or ritual tattooing all made the grief-stricken immediately visible to the people around them. Although it is true that these practices were sometimes ridiculously restrictive and not always in the best interest of the mourner, it is also true that they gave us something of value. They imposed evidence of loss on a community and forced that community to acknowledge it. If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t — if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live — well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease.

We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.”

 

~ Cheryl Strayed

 

Thank you for bearing witness, for not averting your eyes.

You have let me into your personal space,

you have let me cross the boundary and talk about what isn’t talked about,

you have accepted my imposition,

  you have made room for my emotion.

As you have read, you have helped me.

You are a form of active listening.