Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Brightness


It is difficult to recreate the relationships made in those late teen/early twenties years, when there was plenty of time and opportunity to pour your energy into developing friendships. The bonds I formed in college were tight and sturdy. My friends and I lived together and affirmed one another no matter what the real truths may have been (“He totally still has feelings for you,” “That haircut is perfect for your face shape,” “Your professor is way too demanding!”). We were loyal and invested and aware of every minute detail in each others’ personal dramas. Sure, there were squabbles and painful periods of miscommunication but overall, the permanent impact our indelible connection had on each of us was overwhelmingly positive and fortifying.

After graduation, we physically dispersed into marriages, full-time jobs, and various dingy apartment buildings. We spoke often and got together as much as possible. I longed for the security their comforting presence provided me – me, the new wife insecure in her role as an adult. We laughed mostly, at ourselves and the embarrassing debacles we all seemed prone to stumble into. They were my safety net beneath a tenuous transformation from a silly and self-indulgent girl into a woman with consequential responsibilities. I missed them fiercely when, after having a baby, I was sucked into the timeless abyss of motherhood where phone calls, lunch dates, and rented movies are near constantly interrupted and the attention required for keeping up and staying entwined must be conserved for meeting the needs of husbands and children. Although frightening, a break was necessary if I was ever to take ownership of the very isolation that would draw me into the totality of parenthood. I had to reconfigure a self-appraisal that read, “I am actually just like you, all ambitious and culturally relevant…only with a kid” until it accurately represented my irrefutable reality: I was first and foremost (as unromantic as it sounds) a “mom.”

Eventually, I let go - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that over time, my restlessness was forcibly pried from out of me by way of countless frustrating scenarios involving trantruming toddlers, long and lonely afternoons, an insurmountable amount of chores, and sibling rivalries, all wearing down skewed expectations. Eventually, I accepted my life for what it was and in doing so found purpose and meaning within it. All was quiet for a while; we drifted off, my friends and I, into unexplored new challenges we could only take on solo. But in the aftermath, when we finally resurfaced after months and years of diving deeper, and deeper still, under shallow preoccupations, we were able to reconnect on a whole new level. We met again, ready to share and encourage, within the context of our strengthened faith, layered and tested. We knew, of course, the answers lay outside of us and so we pointed one another in the direction of Christ Jesus. I, who once reserved all of my public references to God for Sunday mornings, found His name in my mouth during most of my conversations, on random weekdays, and in reference to everyone and everything because everyone and everything I now viewed in light of our salvation.

Last Saturday, Kara flew in from Arkansas and Jen drove up from Indianapolis. My sister-in-law, Paige, walked on over from the down the street and Beth, sweet Beth, her hands and her heart filled with three tiny sons, joined us in spirit. It had been seven years since all of us were last together. We made a pilgrimage to our alma mater where antiseptic hallways, dorm room windows, and the smell of textbooks brought back memories sharp and lucid- unearthed emotions we’d left buried in that urban scholastic hotbed of stress, pie-in-the-sky aspirations, and an intensive sort of camaraderie never again to be duplicated in the bigger world outside. Later that night, we laughed hard like we used to. Time froze on my living room couch. We were nineteen and thirty-four simultaneously, taken aback by the swiftness of a decade-and-a- half passing right under our noses, while we were busy trying to make good on at least a few of the promises we had made to ourselves when we were refreshingly, naively, idealistic. After we hugged and they departed, I began looking critically at my past; feeling pleased with some parts and disappointed by quite a few others. I wrestled with the fragility and temporalness of my existance on this earth. “Why am I so doubtful, so skittish, so pensive? Why did I bypass so many chances to bring hope and encouragement to others? Why had I been vain and selfish and cynical? Why am I still frightened and unnerved by a mysterious future?”

When my priest, known and respected for telling it exactly like it is, started his homily with, “You have to be patient with yourself,” I nearly wept. I had been all bunched up and in a tizzy over my already committed and potential failures and I wanted, oh boy, what I longed for, was rest. I needed to accept for myself what I was more than ready to recognize in my dear and true companions, taking two steps forward, three steps back, then dusting off and starting all over again: that there is grace and redemption to be found in just keeping at it, regardless of our foibles along the way. Return O Lord: How long? And be entreated concerning your servants, wrote Moses in the Psalms. We are filled with Your mercy in the morning, and in all our days we greatly rejoiced and were glad; Gladden us in return for the days You humbled us, For the years we saw evil things. And behold Your servants and Your works, And guide their sons; and let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the works of our hands. The notes in my Orthodox Study Bible reveal the following about these verses, so passionate in their entreaty for significance and substance within our transience:

Psalm 89 is a morning prayer designed to keep one focused on the Lord rather than on this temporal life and its hopelessness. For He exists outside of time, and is therefore our only refuge. Every morning is an opportunity to return to Him in repentance, and He is very patient, because a thousand years in His sight are like yesterday, which has passed, and like a watch in the night. He is very patient, because He does not will that anyone should perish. Therefore, when we focus on the Lord every morning, we look for His return at the Second Coming, and for His mercy, joy, enlightenment, and prosperity throughout each day.

You are patient, You are patient, life is fleeting. Be my refuge, my compass, my brightness. Amen.

7 comments:

Meadowlark Days said...

Thanks for sharing this. In May I saw a dear college roommate that I'd not seen in a decade, as well as a dear high school friend who is now a Catholic nun. I was very blessed by our visits, amazed at these women who've known me since my teen years.
~Kristina from OC

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful group of ladies you all are!
I'm wondering if you think that "resurfacing" and reconnecting has anything to do with getting more sleep once out of the infant phase?? This is one of your articles I'll be coming back to, to understand it better, and to hopefully realize that I have resurfaced as well!
Love,
Janine

paige maddex said...

You are patient, life is fleeting. - How beautiful - how appropriate.

I loved last weekend - my sides were sore from laughing.

Holly said...

Ok...Our Priests have a lot in common, or we have a lot in common...He keeps telling me to be patient with myself. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one.

Love from Michigan.

Hope

Molly Sabourin said...

Janine,

I think you are exactly right about the "resurfacing" stage of motherhood. Those infant years, at least for me, were so physically and emotionally intensive and it wasn't until recently (my "baby" is now three years old) that I have been able to come up for air and look ahead at another stage just as challenging, but in totally different ways. I wrote NOTHING, for example, for a solid eight years and then suddenly, after the newness and shock of it all had settled, I had SO MUCH (obviously :) ) to say and reflect on.

Orthodox Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
::Sylvia:: said...

What a beautiful reunion! Thanks again for helping us see "the light at the end of the tunnel", sometimes I feel so guilty for not enjoying every moment of my little one's infant stage. It's nice to know other Orthodox moms feel the same way sometimes!