Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Feeling better already...

A few cups of tea. Some furious journal writing. Exercise.
Good conversation. Deep sleep. And I'm feeling much better.
Hear my deep sigh. Inhale. Wait. Exhale. Wait. Repeat.

This life thing is no joke!

One sad cashier at the local Trader Joe's told me that his good friend drowned last Thursday.

After nearly a year of being unable to find work, one friend's financial equilibrium is nearly at a point of becoming severely compromised.

The sister of a friend in Spain has cancer. Serious cancer. Undergoing chemo. Praying to avoid amputation.

Many other accounts of cancer and chemo in the lives of friends and their families. Too many to tell here.

A local teenage driver is recovering from a car accident in which she was thrown from her car, hit by the car, and than the car landed on top of her after it flipped over. She has been in the hospital for over a month. (Wear your seatbelts, folks. It's that simple.)

And I complain that I have to get up from the computer to go downstairs and vacuum the family room again because no one else will do it. I complain because I have to walk the dog and cook dinner and drive my kids to tennis and piano lessons. I complain for so many reasons... most of which seem mighty small after hearing these sorrowful accounts recently.

But when I think of the devastation of war and illness and poverty and loneliness and violence and abandonment and cancer and drowning death and car accidents, I am forced to step away from the distorted mirror I've been gazing into of late, to extinguish the candles on my pity cake with a bucket of water, and get back to the business of giving thanks with a grateful heart for the countless blessings I have been given.

With that in mind, I will share a brief list of things I am grateful for on this chilly Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte:

* A trip today to a local Latino market, Compare. Walking thru, picking out yummy foods and drinks, all the while talking to and laughing with my new friend, Mary Anna, and her gorgeous son, Jacob.

* Time on the tennis court with my son today. He is quite the gifted player and handsome young man. But I suspect that I am somewhat biased.

* My daughter's increased proficiency on the piano and guitar. It is a joy to hear her playing again. My sweet girl has had some real challenges over the past 18 months, but she is rebounding with strength and poise and grace - and I am ridiculously proud of her.

* My newly developed love for art journaling. Thick, juicy watercolor paper, big fat markers, glue sticks, cut-up magazines, watercolor and acrylic paint on my fingers and under my fingernails - it's a wonder-filled way to spend a few hours at the dining room table.

* An upcoming visit from Lisa, my Ohio-based buddy. There will be much tea drinking, walking, and late night chatter. And some art making as well, I suspect.

* Sunshine after rain.

* Our bright red teapot filled with hot Tega Rooibos tea.

* Sharing that tea with my children while we sit at the table and read.

* My brand new organic pillow. It is wonderful to wake up in the morning with my nose NOT stuffed or running or otherwise making my morning miserable.

* Dr Bronner's peppermint soap.

* Friendship, especially the kind that lasts and deepens and keeps no record of wrongs.

* Good books with endings that do not disappoint.

* My upcoming return to the university: I am taking a beginning italian class at a local community college this summer. I haven't been a geeky student for over a decade. I am thrilled. Gonna get a new pocket protector one of these days! I'll be taking that class with the aforementioned, Mary Anna. We both love Italian music - I am partial to Andrea Bocelli, but she knows many other Italian singers and has shared some of them with me. Che bella la musica italiana! My goal is to be able to speak well enough to communicate freely on my next trip to Italy. Not sure when that will be, but I'll be ready whenever it happens.

* I am healthy. I am at peace. I am loved.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A volcano eruption in Charlotte...

My life is a mess. I am a mess. An utter and total disaster. Not because anything in my family or house or neighborhood has changed in the past 24 hours, but because I have changed. I am changing. I am looking at and listening to myself in new ways, in old ways, in ways I neither need nor care to define.

Some old stuff has been brought to the surface again. Old feelings. Old dreams. They are dreams and feelings and wishes and yearnings that I thought I'd successfully gotten over or past or around, only to find that it's all still there. Whatever the hell "it" is.

Like the one in Iceland, this volcano of emotions has roared back to life and is spewing ash and lava and dust and messiness all over my life. Mind, soul, and spiritual travel have come to a full stop because I've been thrown off my normal flight path. Into new ways of thinking, of looking at my life, of sharing who I am with the people I know and love.

I find that I'm crying a lot more these days. And journaling almost non-stop. And fervently praying for an end to the eruption. But also sitting in and with it and getting burned and cleansed and clear. Very clear. Clear about who I am and what I want and who I am not and what I no longer want.

I've been told countless times in recent years to "be yourself. tell the truth. stop holding back. live passionately. be real. take better care of yourself. be happy." Heck, just this week, I bought a little wall hanging that speaks of living passionately and not holding anything back. It hangs neatly next to the door in my kitchen that leads to my garage and out into the world.

One thing I know for sure is that if I did all those things, if I gave in and allowed myself to be true to my dreams and my desires, if I ever walked out of my kitchen and got into my minivan with all those words of advice and encouragement in mind and actually followed through on them... I hesitate to even finish that statement in public. Well, let me say this, if I did all that stuff, I wouldn't be sitting here at my computer in Charlotte, North Carolina on a late April night. Not hardly. Not even close.

Not long ago, I was walking through a market in Spain with a friend of mine who lives in a situation where he never has to cook for himself. I asked him if he ever has the desire to cook. He said, "When those feelings come up, Gail, I sit down and wait for them pass." I laughed. But I also shuddered - because those words describe what I do every single day of my life.

Every day that I feel the urge to grab my passport and head for the airport,
Every day that I feel the urge to say what I really think and ask for what I really want,
Every day that I feel the urge to yell and scream and curse somebody out and punch somebody in the face,
Every day that I feel the urge to eat and drink myself into oblivion,
Every day that I feel the urge to NOT take care of anyone or anything other than myself,
Every day that I feel the urge to NOT cook or clean or drive anybody anywhere,
Every day that I feel the urge to NOT be good and kind and patient and polite,
every one of those days - which coincidentally turns out to be every day -
I sit down and breathe and wait a while until the feelings pass.

And they do pass.
Most of the time.
Every now and then.
But never for long.
Never for long.

Well, I'd better go and figure out what to do with all this hot lava that seems to be flowing from my eyes down onto my shirt and into my journal.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One of those weeks...

You know how some weeks are calm and quiet?
Easy and simple?
Relaxed and restful?
Everything goes according to plan?

You know how sometimes you have a week when
you get through all your to-do lists,
answer all your emails, return all your phone calls,
pay all the bills, prepare all the lessons,
exercise everyday and eat well all week long?

Well, this past week was NOT one of those weeks.

(Just so you know - I have NEVER had one of those weeks.
But this week was even more unlike those weeks than ever.)

I'm not saying that it was a bad week. It was a fantastic week.
The Rosecliff Rascals at the waterfalls, Chimney Rock, NC.
I am proud to be the baby of the group!

It started off a week ago yesterday, when I left my home and went away for what we dubbed "The First Annual Brownes Pond Lane Women's Weekend Away." One of the women on my street owns a gorgeous log cabin up on Lake Adger. The six of us sat around eating and drinking and talking and laughing - and then we hiked for a couple of hours on Saturday to burn off all the lemon tart we'd eaten on Friday night.

Then we ate and drank some more and talked and told stories until the week hours of Sunday morning. Other than the small scorpion I saw in the bathroom on Sunday morning (who knew there were scorpions in North Carolina???) , I managed to avoid running into any non-human critters. Of the human kind, there were far too many! I'd love to go back up to that house and spend a weekend alone and in silence. It is the perfect place to sneak off to for deep solitude and rest.

The lake glistened as the sun went down.
A completely unaltered photo...
(Who am I kidding? I don't alter any of my photos.
I don't even know how...)

Then on Monday, a dear, dear friend of mine, a friend I met when Kristiana, now 16, was only six weeks old, drove all the way down to Charlotte from Connecticut with her three children and her mother. We ate and drank and sat by their hotel pool and talked and laughed and bowled and walked and ate some more and watched the kids play tennis and ping pong and a form of mini-golf.

Daniel goes for a strike...

And between all that, I interpreted at the funeral of the husband of a friend of mine, prepared for and taught a class at a local senior living community, took my daughter to her piano lesson, shopped at the supermarket, cooked, cleaned, took my son to his tennis lesson and clinic, took my daughter to her volunteer job, took my children to youth group at the church, and performed a host of other tasks too numerous, mundane, and vitally important to the maintenance of my household to list here.

The crew enjoying ice cream and Karen taking a photo from the other side...

It was a fantastic week. But it was a week that kept me away from the gym (truly disturbing considering all the eating I have done in the past week!!!), from my study, from my desk, from my journal (gasp!), and from a time of connection with my own soul.

I could tell you that my body is exhausted - and it is.
But what is most pressing for me now is that my soul is also tired and in need to rest.
So I'm gonna take a few more days to regroup, after which I will emerge from my cocoon with more stories.

Yes, it was one of those weeks...
and I loved (nearly) every minute of it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Confessions of a Turtle Hunter

Our family loves turtles. It's a group love affair. When we see them, we all smile. We watch them with focused concentration until they disappear under the surface of the water or under a bush. When we see them swimming in ponds or climbing up on logs sticking up out of water, we stop and stare and take photos. When we see them crossing roads, we stop and pick them up and carry them to safety. Once we were on the off ramp of a local highway, speeding along at 60 miles per hour, and we saw a turtle. A big one. On the off ramp. If there wasn't a line of cars following closely, we would have stopped, and one of us would almost definitely have been killed trying to protect that turtle.

Two weeks ago, I left home for an early morning stroll to Starbucks. Backpack on. Camera at hand. As I passed two nearby ponds, I spotted a few of our favorite mobile home residents - turtles, I mean. 

The funniest thing about taking these pictures was that as soon as I closed the lens and put my camera back into its pouch, the turtles slipped into the water and out of sight. Within seconds of being captured in these images, my hard-covered friends faded from view.

Which got me to thinking... how many of my friends, my human friends, that is, are like my turtle friends?

* Some of them cluster together and bask together in the sunlight of the friendships they share in a group. I once attended a conference for bloggers out in San Francisco, and most of the folks there were fantastically open and friendly. But there were also a few cliques, gaggles of gals who,when I approached, tried to join the conversation or asked what they were talking about, they disappeared, dispersed, ran and hid.

* Then there are the danger-seekers. The ones who separate from the group and cross through dangerous territory into still more dangerous territory. Just as I do when I see a turtle crossing a four lane road, I wonder about my fearless friends, "Where are you going? What do you think you are going to find on the other side of the road that doesn't exist where you already are?" And like the nosy interloper I am wont to be, I intervene, intercede, and try to rescue people that have not asked me - or anyone - to save them. Not surprisingly, those people scurry away as quickly as their turtle-icious legs will carry them.

* Some of them remain at a distance, never allowing me to get too close, and as soon as I reach out with an email or attempt to make contact by text or telephone, they disappear under the water line. Perhaps they are afraid I will do them harm or capture them and put them into a tank and deprive them of their precious freedom. Truly, I come in peace.

* But I save my best hunting, haunting, and manipulating skills for the people in my life who allow me to get close for a while and then pull back and choose to stay hidden in their shells. Unwilling to accept that everyone has as much right as I do to withdraw, to withhold, to pull back, to hold back, to be elusive, to be alone, I prod and probe and pick and pull and beg and plead and pester until, you guessed it, the friend in question retreats into the shell that each of us has been given in order to protect our soft underbellies, our tender and sweet spots.

* The turtles I like best, however, the ones I am most proud to have come to know, are the ones that are firm on the outside, soft on the inside, the ones that feel soft in my hands, and firm in my mouth. The outer shell of these turtles falls to small pieces with the slightest pressure from my teeth, and the insides slide smoothly across my tongue and down my throat.

Have you ever eaten a turtle? Have you?
My favorites are the ones made with milk chocolate and pecans.
No dark chocolate for me.
Did you think I was talking about eating a turtle, a real turtle?

* Seriously, from the many turtle types that have crept and crawled across the road that is my life, I am learning the most important lesson of my life: to mind my own business. One of my new favorite sayings is this: "It's not my story. It's your story."

I want some friends to be more attentive, more responsive, more available to me and for me. I want my children to act and look and speak and perform certain things in a certain way by a certain time. Same thing with my husband, my mother, my three brothers, my neighbors, my pastors (who are destined to become my ex-pastors!), and nearly everybody in my life.

But it's their story; it is NOT my story.

I have given up chasing the turtle-friends that want to hide.

I have given up rescuing the wounded and sick ones.

I have given up trying to join teams of turtles that turn and dive underwater when I approach.

I have given up protecting the thrill-seekers.

To all my turtle friends out there, please forgive me for any and everything I have done to cause you harm or make you feel endangered. My turtle hunting days are behind me. I say it again: I come in peace.

Here's my current story: I have turned my turtle-friend-people hunting skills to the far more enjoyable and rewarding pursuit of turtle statues and turtle welcome mats. Here are two I found in Rome a couple of years ago.

Traveling mercies to all my shell-bound buddies.
Take good care of your hides, I mean, your shells.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"With all that good stuff you put in..."

My mother tells the story of cooking a meal when she was a young girl. Her mother was talking her through the recipe, and she was doing her best to follow directions. Because it was early in her long and delicious cooking days, my mother was unsure about the success of the outcome of her labor. When she expressed her concern about her endeavor with her father, he asked her what ingredients she had put into the simmering pots. After hearing her lengthy and detailed answer, he is reported to have said, "With all that good stuff you put in, how can it not be good?"

With that uplifting and encouraging tale in mind, my daughter and I set our hearts and hands on the task of producing our first ice cream cake for my husband's birthday a few weeks ago.
A very short list of ingredients: ice cream, cookies, peppermint sprinkles.
A very short list of instructions: Let the ice cream melt. Crush the cookies. Layer the cookie crumbs in the bottom of a spring form pan. Pour some peppermint sprinkles onto the cookie crumbs. Pour or spoon the melted ice cream onto that layer. Sprinkle another layer of cookie crumbs on top of the ice cream. Refreeze overnight. Remove the sides of the spring form pan - carefully. Gaze at the cake with wonder and delight. Enjoy!

First, the cake.
Then the mesmerized, gawking, drooling, pleading, impatient onlooker.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't like to cook. Fortunately, this recipe didn't involve any cooking. Anyone who knows my dislike of cooking ought to know that I almost never follow recipes very closely. I respond to the precision of carefully drafted recipes with a teenager's spirit of rebellion; I rail noisily against the person who arrogantly and blithely put together a formula that I, a blindly obedient follower, am meant to follow. "Not so much," I say out loud to the cookbook lying smug and silent on the counter. I boldly and defiantly add a little bit of this and a little bit of that in order to make the resulting dish my own original creation, rather than simply a recreation of someone else's work. This ice cream cake project was no exception to that pattern. Notice the addition in the photo below... who doesn't love a good sugar-softened fresh strawberry or two or ten?

It was the best birthday cake ever!
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your recipe with me.
Thank you, Robin, for lending me your pan.
We were some happy cake eaters that Friday night.

The next day after lunch, I opened the freezer with the intention of having a hunk of ice cream cake for a midday sweet snack. No cake. What? How could those greedy rascals eat the entire cake in one night? In anger and frustration, I called out, "Where is the ice cream cake? Is it really all gone?" Kristiana answered: "It's in the fridge." WHAT? In the fridge? Sure enough, some late night sugar-high cake eater had put the cake in the fridge and not in the freezer.

I was livid.

Until I remembered my grandfather's comment: "With all that good stuff you put in, how can it not be good?" The ingredients were the same, after all. Only the temperature and consistency had changed. So I quickly overcame my ire and tucked in for a hearty helping of "ice cream cake soup."

Notice the spoon and open book.
Who doesn't like a good dessert soup while reading on a warm late March afternoon?

While I sat at the counter eating that sweet, milky, crunchy, drippy delight, I was reminded of other areas of my life that have gone through similar transformations: my marriage, my mothering, my friendships, and my varied experiences of faith. Years and years of pouring in sweet, nutritious, heart-healthy ingredients. Stirring. Passing the mixtures over the stove and into the oven of life: heated conversations, hot topics, the smoldering embers of illness, coals that might flare up again at any moment. The tepid indifference of some who in one fiery moment swore undying love and support, but in the end proved to be distant and lukewarm. The soul-chilling estrangement from loved ones. The cold days and frigid nights of non-existent conversation and connection. Always, the outcome is unique, unpredictable, impossible to recreate.

Some relationships have turned out of the muffin pans of my life perfectly it seems and feel more like works of art to be stared at and put on display for all the world to see than joy-filled treasures that are meant to be thoroughly consumed and enjoyed. Others never form completely, so when it's time to take them out of the pan and enjoy them, they lose their shape and fall to messy pieces.

Most of the time, when I ponder all that I have poured into my dearly beloved and cherished relationships - emails and text messages sent and received, phone calls shared, letters and postcards and care packages that have crossed many miles and several oceans, and best of all, the time spent together eating veggie burgers and key lime pie, drinking chamomile tea and lemon drop martinis, laughing, shopping, walking, staying up late into the night telling riotous stories, going to (sometimes AWFUL) movies, creating art and art journals and jewelry and cards and bookmarks, and sharing travel, food, wine, book, movie, and music recommendations - I cannot help but smile and remember my grandfather's words yet again: "With all that good stuff you put in, how can it not be good?"

PS. I apologize if the cooking metaphor has gone a little too far, but I am nothing if not excessively and repreatedly compelled to drawing comparisons out a little bit too far...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Allergic to My Life

Spring has sprung here in Charlotte. Flowers are in bloom. Trees are budding wide, veiny leaves. And pollen is absolutely everywhere: on cars, on the recycling bins at the curb, on the street, on the sidewalks, in parking lots, on the deck tables and chairs, on the grill, in my garage, inside my car, on the windowsills of my house. Absolutely everywhere.

What a lovely image of my husband's windshield.
Here's a shot of the back window of my minivan.

The pollen is so thick on some cars, it looks like a light dusting of snow. The pollen is so thick on the floor of my garage that it looks like we are producing and packaging cocaine on the premises. Although, I suppose if we were drug manufacturers and dealers, we would do a better job of keeping the stuff on the table and not letting it spill onto the floor and fill the tread of my tires. And if we were drug manufacturers and dealers, I could - under no circumstances - sneeze in the garage as often as I have over these past couple of weeks. I would blow our profits away - literally and figuratively.

The truth is that there has been some drug trafficking going on in our house. My son and I have our hits carefully timed: every 24 hours, we each take a tablet of powdery release on our tongues. Sometimes I get it first; sometimes he gets it first. I never thought I would be a drug addict, and I certainly never imagined that I would introduce such a habit to my children. But over the past week, my son and I have taken on a 10 milligram daily hit of loratadine - otherwise known as Claritin. Ah, the sweet, light, life-affirming taste of it. Melting gently on my tongue.

Within minutes, my eyes stop watering, my sneezes stop, my ears clear up. And I'm feeling mighty fine.
I lay back on my pillow, close my eyes, and listen to the buzzing in my ears start to fade.

Pollen season sucks.
Sort of.

The best part about pollen season is the realization that winter is over. Winter's rain and snow have had the desired effect - and new life bursts up from the recently hard, red soil. Bare branches inhale the warm air and exhale buds and leaves. Daffodils bloom. Tulip stems serve as a tasty and colorful treat for the deer that pass through the neighborhood. We haven't seen a tulip flower in years around here. I'm dying to know what my neighbor three houses away is doing to protect her tulips. I would imagine that she doesn't do anything at all: the deer start at my end of the cul-de-sac, and by the time they reach her house, their bellies are full.

These beautiful little blooms on the side of our driveway make all my itchiness and sneeziness worthwhile.
And these too...

I put my finger there in order to grant a bit of perspective on how tiny these yellow roses are. There are hundreds of them at the end of the driveway. Absolutely spectacular.

Here's the thing: other than one day of tulip and daffodil bulb-planting with Steve and the kids three years ago, I had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. I didn't plant those roses or the other flowers. I didn't plant any of the trees that surround us on all sides. I certainly did not order the pollen dust to fly everywhere, including INSIDE my minivan. (I suppose I should have closed the windows when I went into Barnes and Noble. But still...)

I didn't have anything to do with the production of Claritin either. Nor did I earn any of the money that allowed me to purchase it.

But, despite the sneezing fits that convulse me at various points during the day causing me to think that I am indeed allergic to my life, I am grateful for every little polleny, dusty, sneezy, sniffly, aching head, nosebleed in the middle of the night moment of it.

Sorrow may last for the winter - in the darkness and gloom and gray, rainy days. Sorrow may even extend into these early, pollen-coated days of spring.

But when the flowers sprout up, when the Japanese maple spreads it lush red leaves, when the crepe myrtle trees and the pear trees and the apple trees and my heart and mind and soul and friendships explode with new buds and blooms and colors and fragrance, that's when the joy returns. We made it through yet another winter. Glory be!

Well, I'd better go. It's time for me and my son to take our daily hit.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

An emotional week...

One friend is spending this Easter weekend at home with his recently widowed mother. Another is off to a distant continent with the goal of returning with two dearly loved daughters in order to reunite them with their mother. Yet another is going to New York where she will take her daughter to try on wedding dresses, even as her daughter fights the ravages of chemotherapy. One sister-friend begins yet another month of searching for a job to support her family, the tenth month of searching. The people of Haiti and Chile continue to dig themselves out from the ruins of two powerful earthquakes. Much closer to home, right here in North Carolina, the ravages of recent tornadoes are being battled. And in the north, as flood waters rise high, hope drains low. 

There is much work to be done. Cleaning up. Wiping down. Dusting off hope. Reining in sorrow. And many, many tears to be shed. There is so much suffering. All around us. And among us. And, most of all, within us.

In this week of Easter, the week many refer to as Holy Week, I find myself on the verge of tears quite regularly. Once again, Henri Nouwen's words are exactly on target. This time they come from, Walk with Jesus: Stations of the Cross. In the book, Nouwen writes responses to paintings of Latin American people. In the painting for today, there are several Nicaraguan women weeping. He wrote: 

These Nicaraguan women weep over the destruction of their people, their land, and their homes. Their children, whom they nursed and brought up with tenderness and affection, suddenly lie dead before them. Their husbands, with whom they shared life's hardness and beauty, are suddenly taken away to unknown destinations. Their land is ruined, their crops burned, and their houses bombed. And so they weep. Their tears are tears that well up from their innermost being. There are no words, explanation, no arguments, no meaningful reflection. War, violence, murder, and destruction need tears, many tears... 

The world would be better with more such tears and fewer answers. They well up from a place beyond bitterness, resentment, and vengefulness. They are shed as an offering of "useless" love, as an expression of solidarity, as a true act of non-violence.

Our world does not mourn much. Even when there are so many reasons to mourn. As wars explode, as people die from violence and starvation, natural disasters and technical failures, as works made by human hands with great skill and devotion are stolen, damaged, or destroyed, and as our planet becomes an increasingly threatened place in the universe, we begin to worry about solutions, but we seldom stop to mourn the loss of what was dear to us. 

If we want to mourn for Jesus, we have to mourn for the suffering humanity that Jesus came to heal. If we are truly sad because of the suffering and pain which He suffered, we will include in our sadness all of the men, women, and children who suffer in our present world. If we cry over the death of The Innocent Holy One of Nazareth, our tears must be able to reach the millions of innocents who have suffered over the long history of the human race.

How appropriate on so many levels, and perfectly timed. Just over eighteen months ago, I stood and wept with Nicaraguan women as they told stories of the loss of their loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods. I have wept for the loss of, the illnesses in, and the poverty of spirit suffered by my own loved ones. And this week, as I think of  and pray for those threatened by violence and revenge because of drug use and addiction, as I think of the family members here in Charlotte killed by the husband and father of the family (whose bodies were left to decompose for nearly two weeks in their house) while the ten-year-old daughter went to school anyway, fearing for her life, as I stand in support of a dear friend in prison, and rejoice with the couple whose runaway daughter recently returned home - I am moved to tears again and again. 

Usually, I apologize for my crying, my deeply felt emotions. I hate to cause discomfort for the people who see me weep, who have to endure my wet, dripping messiness. I go into another room to blow my nose and wipe my eyes. I smile sheepishly and humbly when people tease me about how easily I cry and tell me to not be such a cry baby. And I plead for forgiveness for their uneasiness with my blubbering.

But the truth, as Nouwen writes, is that I need to stop apologizing for my tears. I need to allow the tears to flow, not only for myself and those that I know, but for all peoples everywhere who are in pain. We need to mourn more, not less. We need to feel the sorrow that is not our own if we expect anyone to feel or share the sorrow that is ours. We need to sit in hospital waiting rooms with the families of the sick and dying. We need to sit in the ruins of fallen homes and schools. We need to hear bombs flying over our heads and our homes and walk past destroyed homes and stores and universities and museums and churches. We need to hear the wailing of bereaved mothers and grieving grandparents. We need to see the caskets of soldiers coming off of planes and out of hearses. 

I believe that it is our refusal, our unwillingness to feel the pain of others, to put ourselves in their places, that allows us to condone the hoisting of guns and the dropping of bombs, to blame others for their own misery even if it is not entirely their fault, to refuse to offer assistance to the poor, the homeless, the needy, and to accuse those that do help of condoning laziness or dependence. Our determination not to be bothered with the needs and sorrows of others leads us to anesthetize ourselves with alcohol, drugs, food, television, shopping, anger, and fear-mongering. We yell and scream and taunt and threaten and hit and shoot and kill. Then we refuse to look at what we have wrought. We refuse to acknowledge the damage we have inflicted and continue to inflict on one another in the name of God and the greater good and democracy and freedom of choice and our constitutional rights and and whatever else we cloak ourselves in so that we can sleep at night, comfortably swathed our arrogance and greed and phony self-righteousness.

And, above all, we adamantly refuse to weep.

Yes, it has been an emotional week. I am anxiously awaiting the birth of newly hatched hope and joy that Resurrection morning brings every year, and along with it a determination to dig in my heels and refuse to bow to despair and fear.

I hope and pray and expect and promise that I will never stop weeping.