Sunday, February 2, 2014

Praying with the Theotokos

Did you know Dave Sedaris, among other writers, gets up daily to journal the previous days events?

I used to keep this kind of laundry list, scribed with wit from my own head. Sometimes, it was less than wit and more negativity, but I kept it. Last year, I planned to keep it again, only with Thanksgivings. I failed. I quite blogging in the late winter. January brought a fractured pelvis, which hurts, darn-it. February brought my younger sister's cancer diagnosis. That hurts worse, and like my fracture, intensified before I intuited the awfulness of the diagnosis. A lyric from an 90's Christian band, Prayer Chain, haunts when I think of this. "It takes years to get here/ It takes years to get back/ All your feelings some streaming down your leg."

March I was traveling as the security of my employment was unraveling. The politics of education are bad everywhere. They are horrific in Pennsylvania. Is it a truism yet that when the folks at the top are unhappy, they just pass it down to everyone else? The environment at my school was toxic. I was glad to work from Indiana since I wanted nothing to do with the fear and insecurity and, being in another state, I could pursue a similar position without breaking the non-compete clause in my contract.  Still my heart was wounded for so many friends there.

April I was starting heal and went for a run, only to have another stress fracture.

May Our car exploded. Literally blew the pins and rods like bullets through its engine, on the way to trade it in for another car. We'd hedged every financial bet and played it close, so close that by the time we called the dealership to say, we'd still be buying the car, we were just stuck on the side of the road. The salesman said someone else bought it.

We bought a suburu. It saved my life ten days later. Technically, I think God was in control, but practically, I hit a bear during a business trip. It was rainy, dark and almost ten pm. My husband and I were chatting  (yes, I had my blue tooth in and both hands on the wheel, going the speed limit in a calm unwinding with him at the end of the day) when a large mammal ran out in front of me and I heard the POP. I pulled over enough to avoid getting whacked by semis on the snug mountainside area. Fluids diverse, colorful, viscous, pooled where the front of my car was crunched. I stood under brewing clouds and lightening crying out in anger, towards my God.

It was a bear. I became bear-slayer, bear-bane. The story is famous by now.

I lost my job within two days. My daughter lost a friend.

In June I took up cycling. I broke my wrist trying to stop for the Amtrak at seven am one Monday morning. But, I got another job. Officially I had been out of contract for one week.

After that, it got better. I had plenty to be thankful for as we had reliable transportation, local employment, my sister seemed to be improving, another sister was planning marriage, kids were healthy, I was finding balance in my writing and work. I met new and wonderful people.

I did not stop to journal, but I prayed each morning, long litanies for loved ones with cancer, MS, depression, divorce, spiritual trouble,  mental illness, loneliness. I read Scripture. I want it to be the music in my head.

I sang it. I sang Waterdeep's rendition of Psalm 131 all the time: "I have calmed and quieted my soul. O Israel trust in the Lord, from this time forth and forevermore."

But the unwieldy spring, the harsh communication of my writing mentor, the pain of life mingled with the memory of writing about someone I was learning to love, to trust, the Theotokos, kept me in a state of disarray. My spiritual father was telling me to pray with her, to turn to her as I parented through these bad times. Oh, yes we all have them, my mentor wrote in an email when the paper after my sister's surgery turned out sloppy and disorganized. Get it together, pray it together, do something, I kept thinking. Pray with Mary, truly a sister in salvation and Mother exemplar to us all.

I couldn't. I almost couldn't write. I nearly did not return to my studies at Chatham University.

Now, here I am a year later. I am writing about something different now, something as important and personal as building a relationship with the Mother of God. For a long time, I've been thinking about the failure to journal daily, even to keep a bit of a list of what happened, for story's sake, and to pray with her. Nothing I churned out last semester had the personal intimacy and affection I'd hope to cultivate. I'm back. I'm hoping that story goes on and I can journal it, and pray with her. How are these linked? I'm not even sure. Writers often say they write to read what they think. Ditto. We shall see.

For now, I'm just going to end with Julian of Norwich's words, "All will be well. All manner of things shall be well."