If you were my therapist--asking what I'm thinking or learning, or how I'm being led--I would tell you I'm thinking about pain and rage. I'm thinking about everyone's pain and rage, but it's easiest (safest) to write about my own, knowing I am--to a certain extent--everyone. I am him, and her, and you.
I'm just figuring out: I know very little about managing my pain. I'm talking about inner, not physical, pain. My parents didn't offer much help in this regard. I know they did the very best they could with what they had. Also, in all fairness, no one else has offered much help, either.
I'm forty years old. I know I'm responsible for my own behavior, that I have choices regarding all of my behavior. I know I'm lacking some tools in my toolbox but that they can be acquired. I didn't know these things for the longest time.
A friend said to me: "You're more than your emotions, you know." His words penetrated my consciousness like an arrow shot out of the dark. I received them immediately and as truth, but with surprise. That was a year ago, maybe: an important moment in this leg of my journey.
I'm more than my emotions. In times of conflict, I don't have to fight. I don't have to flee. I don't have to be anyone's doormat, ever. (I've never chosen that last scenario, anyway, but know how it works.) I have the option to say: "I'm going to take a break from this and come back to it when we're able to have a civilized conversation." As I've written before, that option feels unnatural, even painful, to me. But I'll choose it over and over until I've learned it...because I don't want any of my children, at forty, to have to pay someone to learn something (s)he should be learning from me.
And, now. Advent.
My friend Sharon asked me to go with her to a Blue Christmas service held on the first night of Advent. I took Clementine, my five-year-old daughter, with me. I took her mostly because she had dance class until shortly before the service, but given that her mamaw had flown to heaven at the end of May, I wondered if there would be takeaways for her.
A Blue Christmas service makes space for sadness at Christmastime. It acknowledges that grief is part of the human experience and that Jesus, having suffered Himself, understands. I watched my little daughter write: "I miss Mamaw," on a piece of paper; cry real tears; light one candle; and carry another candle from darkness into light. I hadn't imagined that the service would hold so much meaning for her.
I could use more of this, I thought, in my life. If I have to wait--if I have to, for example, take a step back from conflict--I would prefer to do so in an atmosphere like this. I would like for someone to stand beside me, wordless, in my darkness. I would like for someone to pass me a candle...or the peace. I would like for someone to acknowledge my pain. These things would go a long way, I think, toward diffusing my rage.