|(I took a picture of this tree the same time last year after Maddie’s diagnosis)|
Maddie is still working on her latest chapter of the story of her last year. I guess the both of us have been having writer’s block of some sort. But while I was just out surfing, I had this thought about how when the waves wash over me, they wash everything else away and difficulties that materialized on land suddenly seem so much less puzzling. Then it got me thinking about Avalon’s approaching baptism and just like the waves, this story built up right in front of me.
Last week Scott and I took a baptism class in a room with hard wood floors and soft, old books. There was a movie. The kind you turn to your friend and whisper about because the teacher has left and it’s more boring than even the dustiest book in the classroom and, therefore, necessary to make fun of. Although, I was the only one turning and muttering to their spouse “That’s what she said!” when the actor playing the priest said “The experience feels so invigorating.”
Afterwards, we were interviewed by a deacon who looked like that guy Old Man Sid in Big Daddy; perfectly combed white hair and beard, hopeful blue eyes, tiny glasses, button-up sweater, ironed khakis. He asked us to share our two favorite commandments and, after seventeen years of exclusive Catholic schooling, I couldn’t, for the life of me, think of any. Luckily Scott blurted out The Golden Rule before things got awkward. So the deacon went on talking about how Scott was close, but how maybe he meant Thou Shall Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self. I was sitting there trying really hard not to choke on the Skittles I was inhaling when the deacon, repositioning his small glasses back to the bridge of his nose, slid us a card to take home. It read: How is God asking me to show His love in the world today? I didn’t have any inside jokes in my head; couldn’t muster any way to refute it.
“If you wake up trying to do this, even for ten days, you will see a major difference in your life,” the deacon said.
I’ve heard similar things about anti-depressants and running and eliminating dairy from your diet. I’d been finding reasons not to look God straight in the face all night, again. After all that schooling and opening my heart to something unthinkable and “Thou Shall Honor the Sabbath!” and then the cancer diagnosis of my youngest sister, I feel a little rebellion was inevitable. Although, amongst those dusty books and that hopeful old deacon with kind eyes I knew it was time to move on from that behavior too. Life does not seem to present itself to me as a perfect little package with a requested interior. My understanding of God was inevitably going to need to evolve past: I’ll pray, be acceptably nice and have a good relationship with you and you’ll make sure no harm ever comes to my inner circle.
The very next day I made sure to compliment a new mother on her baby even though I felt shy and she seemed completely unaffected by it. I held my tongue when Scott told me, at the last minute, that he was going to be late. I noticed the hair that was growing inside of my neighbor Woody’s ears while he was talking about his broken car carburetor, but then offered to take him to his appointments the next day. I introduced myself to this kid Jack I’d been surfing with for a little while now so he’d feel welcomed and his skills as a surfer, appreciated. I complimented this grouchy man with skin like a spotted snake without any egocentric hesitations about what he’d think of me even though he absolutely ignored me with a spiteful pleasure.
And finally I got it.
The mirror reflected back, the holy water fell, the card or the higher power or the love we call God worked its magic.
I was afraid to make meaningful connections with new people because I was insecure about myself. I was thinking I couldn’t help because I needed help. And somehow, without acknowledging it, I was trying to get God to carry all of this for me because I felt too incapable of carrying it myself.
Rumi says “Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.” And treasures, of course, are hard to find. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me until now, but I’m glad that didn’t keep me from looking.
p.s. thank you all for your support of Maddie and her stories. You are all amazing.