We have a whole new wave of ethical decisions to make.
Confession: I have ordered such non-necessities as candy, a book, rechargeable batteries for my “candles,” and glue for the mug I broke. A coloring book. Every time a package arrives, I have a minute of joy and break from monotony. And I’ve been loving that candy, man. A dozen boxes of Sprees. I’m now down to three.
The ego wants to hang onto anything. I see that I am subconsciously looking for some way to “win” or be proud of myself during this time.
A couple of days ago, I painted a ten-foot long phoenix. I had a grand time. I hadn’t felt like an artist in so long. This grad school stuff takes almost all of me. I knelt and leaned and crawled around the living room, with coffee can lid palettes, brushes, glue, glitter. I was barefoot, and I got all sweaty and distracted.
Triumphant, I crawled out on my roof to duct tape it to the edge of the house, where it could fly.
The next morning I got up and ran downstairs to see it in the light.
It was awesome. I was awesome. People were going to be like, whoa, whoever made that is somebody! She’s encouraged the whole town! She was a really important artist, and we never knew before, but after her work during the pandemic… just wow. What a good person.
There is still a part of me waiting to be recognized for my genius.
As there is in almost all humans, I think. Maybe not the geniuses. Because they know. And they often seem pretty bummed out about it.
In the afternoon, I saw the phoenix flying up, out of the corner of my eye. I looked out, and half the tape had pulled off. It was very windy. I crawled out the window and brought Phoenix in. I added duct tape, cut holes and added twine, to secure him better. I went back onto the roof.
The kids (college kids) next door were playing music and drinking.
I was trying to somehow secure the twine to nails I put in the roof, but the phoenix was flapping around so hard, he tore himself.
I took him in and repaired him.
I didn’t go back out.
Later I thought, those were cool kids having a good time, and I am a nerd stuck at home with no friends. I don’t get to drink with my friends. I never get to do fun things, or cool things, and they might not be thinking, that lady is awesome, they might be thinking, that lady is weird. Crazy.
They had put a sign in their front yard that I figured said something about the party they were having.
Later I saw that it said, “Honk for 21st Birthday.”
Your 21st birthday in a college town with epic drinking opportunities (if you’re into that kind of thing). But you are stuck at home.
I left my phoenix on the floor the next day. I wasn’t ready to deal with him.
It’s a reasonable time to have old scripts like “I never get to do anything cool,” or “People never recognize me” brought out of storage, polished up, and employed with enthusiasm.
I chatted with a friend yesterday whose husband had a relapse. Is back on the wagon now.
I know most of us are struggling right now.
Although “mercy” can mean “forgiveness,” I don’t think of it that way. In a lot of our prayers, we say “Lord, have mercy.” The definition “grace” makes more sense to me. (I was raised Lutheran, can you tell?) After each petition, we say, please, snuggle up to us and tell us it’s okay. We are trying.
And saying we are trying is not necessary at all. We don’t have to try.
For Maundy Thursday, I washed my cat’s feet, and my own. I did the service at home, alone, with candles lit on my mantle.
And now it’s Good Friday.
When I woke up and saw how I had “stripped” my mantle, as we strip the altar, I was immediately like, oh, no. I got my plants and put them right back. As my priest said last night, we have already been stripped of so much. There is no need to do more.
It felt right last night, but today I knew I needed my pretty mantle back.
Snuggle up to us, powers of goodness and show us grace. Show us peace. Show us the place where things are okay, even if they’re not okay.
We have lost many of the mourning rituals we used to have: the wearing of black, rules about what we do when there is death. People who are Jewish have retained theirs better. It’s a good day to mourn.
And what does it mean to mourn? Not to lean into the a script of suffering…. “No one ever recognizes me,” “I would have published a book if I just tried harder,” “I don’t have the self-discipline to get anything done.” Not that. If you pay close attention to those, they will settle down.
It helps me to go deeper than words. Into pictures or emotions. Chanting. Quiet. Feeling the sadness. Feeling the loneliness. Feeling what is really there, the emotions, and not protectively detouring into pain scripts. “No one understands me.”
People do understand. Sometimes I am recognized, sometimes not. I do not control the publishing industry. Like all humans, I struggle sometimes to get things done, and other times, it’s easy.
Deeper than words may be just, “ouch, ouch, ouch.” Or old-school wailing like a paid mourner in ancient Egypt.
It will be hard to manage Easter, without the coming together and the rituals I am used to.
But it isn’t Easter today. Easter will take care of itself. Today is set aside to just hurt, and affirm yourself, or perhaps let God or your idea of God whatever I don’t know, affirm you. It does hurt. This last month has hurt all over, up and down, sideways, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and for many people, physically.
If you stick with, and really hear your “ow!” and your moans and groans, you will move naturally closer to Easter. You build speed, your emotions pushing you forward.
At Easter you can fly. At least that’s what has happened before. It could happen again.
Image: “Shiphol,” Andreas Gursky, 1994, Metropolitan Museum of Art.