Posts Tagged 'Healing'

Cry Like a Girl

Sorry girls, but let me try and explain…

Last week I found myself in tears as a young Canadian couple took the gold medal in the Ice Dance with an utterly mesmerizing performance. I know nothing at all about figure skating, but it was immediately clear that something special was going down. Extreme, extraordinary, romantic! The cameras swept the audience finding face after stunned face, and more than a few eyes as red as my own. I was a bit surprised at my reaction, but secretly pleased to discover that I had a soft side after all.

When I wept for Ozzie Gold in the aerial skiing the following day I was a little more surprised at my reaction. When I cried over the speed skating, the slalom, and the biathlon I felt frankly unnerved. But it took an outpouring of emotion over the bobsled – (the bobsled? really?) – to awaken me to the thought that perhaps this wasn’t about the Winter Olympics at all. Maybe, just maybe, it’s me…

Blokes are deep, as you know. I just didn’t realise I was! Last week I wrote about the raw joy of humour in dark moments. The tougher it gets, the louder you laugh. But unexpectedly I am learning that the pain that so refines laughter also distils tears. There is a well of sadness in me that is getting awfully close to the surface. All it takes is a memory, or a smell (what is it with smells and emotions?) or a simple phrase in conversation. In an instant I can feel I’m working on two levels at once: heading one way on the surface, but pulling in a different direction deeper down. Like a rip in the surf.

So, back to the bobsled. By sheer coincidence I happened to meet a young man from Canada this week, a bobsledder no less. Built like a truck, he kindly mowed my lawn and caused me to reflect that there is nothing intrinsically heartrending about bobsled. I know well enough what my tears are all about. A favourite poet captures it with a raw tenderness that has stayed with me since school. (When I say favourite poet, it’s pretty much a two-horse race for me: Gerard Manley Hopkins and Spike Milligan. I imagine you will know who this is).

Spring and Fall: To a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

I know also that I mourn for more than just myself. Within my own sadness I hear the tears we all shed; a communal grief. I cry for everything that is not as it should be. I weep especially for those close to me, and most especially for those who grieve because of me.

Joy and sorrow are so very different; and it’s too simple to think of them as mere opposites. Nor are they inseparably bound in each other as some suggest. I think there is a joy that knows no sorrow; and there are sorrowful people for whom life holds no joy. Laughter connects improbables, but tears are shed when life is all too predictable. Humour is very abstract; it deals with the highly unlikely and the downright impossible. Sorrow, however, is grounded in loss: the most concrete reality I can think off.  Joy and Sorrow.  One comes naturally to me; it’s as simple as breathing. The other I must befriend and learn to understand. One is public: the bigger the audience the better! The other is intensely private. One is a familiar companion, the other a stranger in my home; but not unwelcome. I’m grateful for both.


An Embarrassing Secret…

There’s an embarrassing secret on the back seat of my car. I find myself furtively slipping inside our front door hoping I won’t be seen. When my teenage daughter arrives home an hour later I dash to move my secret possessions into the walk-in closet so I won’t be caught.

Walking sticks. My shameful secret is an upgrade, on medical advice, from two timber canes to a pair of awkward, grey, elbow crutches. I liked to believe the canes gave me an air of old world sophistication! Gone is the shiny lacquer on wooden handles, gone the opportunity to pretend that my two timber sticks were more accessories than mobility aids. Now we have grey plastic and hospital grade aluminium; the latest evidence of a year long and undiagnosed health crisis. An intrusive ‘click-creak’ announces my every step to the world.

I find it hard to look my family in the eye, and with many friends I am the same. Instead, I drift towards the company of complete strangers behind shop counters; people whose eyes won’t alarm me with that hint of question, or pity, or disbelief, or fear, or hesitancy, or embarrassment, or – worst of all – the fixed stare that refuses to glance down and confirm the reality of my aluminium props.

How absurd! I really do make too much of all this don’t you think? Well, maybe. But then perhaps you’ve never experienced this vaguely ‘animal’ sense of walking on all fours. Perhaps you’ve never felt overwhelmed by the vast distances to be walked inside an airport terminal. And perhaps you’ve never been offered a senior’s discount at Mitre 10. I’m 47!

The odd thing is that I find myself largely at peace. I have, it’s true, shed my own tears. I have cried in doctors’ rooms, in my pastor’s office, and in secret places. I cried when I used one cane, I cried more when I needed two. But I am OK. No, I am much more than “OK”. I am at peace with God and full of gratitude for life in all its depth. I love life. I have a sense of joy that I don’t understand. I love being alive and I see the hand of the Almighty wherever I look.

There are times, though, where I feel awkward around people. I feel compelled to explain what cannot be explained, and to provide for them the very answers I don’t need. A subtle and widening gap is openning. It seems to me that my own contentment is not always shared by those around me. The language of the church movement I am privileged to serve is faith filled, successful and relentlessly upward. In contrast my year long journey through waiting rooms, doctor’s practices and hospital corridors has been progressively downward. I find it has been hard for some of my brothers to walk with me. I have not always been able to respond with a sturdy confidence about my future, and my hesitation leads to an awkwardness in the conversations that follow. One or two friends have even stopped ringing up; and because I don’t know what to say to them I don’t ring either. I miss their company very much: I have a ache to be in touch – in fact ‘touch’ is all I need. Opinions, concern, advice, even prayers: none of these things matter nearly as much as simple presence, even the vaguely absent presence of text messages and the web that we are all so used to.

I have great faith for the future; but I don’t know what the future looks like. What I do understand well is that Christ is the inseparable companion on my path. I feel I have paid a price to learn this, and I would not lose this knowledge at any cost.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

And, after all, with these plastic and aluminium contraptions I am making much firmer and faster progress on the pathway of triumph!

October 2009.

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Rejoice! from 2009

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