If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings. (Shakespeare’s Macbeth I-iii)
There’s been a knocking at my ribs. I could easily point to the amount of cleaning, shopping, wrapping, baking, entertaining I’ve done, but that would not be an honest explanation of why I haven’t been writing. The truth is, I’ve been afraid to. I have struggled with the honesty of writing.
Eleven days before Christmas a troubled youth killed 26 people at an elementary school in Connecticut, mostly children. I saw the news blurb pop up on my Yahoo page at the end of the school day and later as I sat sharing some pre-shopping appetizers with Eric at a restaurant, I heard more on television. The pictures of the little angels and their protective teachers which hit the airwaves over the next couple of days were mixed with debates on gun control, mental illness, and school security. I returned to work at my own high school just two and a half days later barraged with school notices, meetings, and discussions so sadly troubling to be faced with at this holy time of the year.
Through it all, I’ve felt myself putting on armor, shielding myself with insistence that the evil found in this world does not compare to the goodness of humanity. The stories of conflict, pain, and suffering are those the world focuses more upon. People are drawn to the horrors in life and are much too complacent and unappreciative of the beauties and joys to be found in our world. This I tell myself, all the while grieving for the loss of innocence...all the while, demanding that I hang onto hope and faith that I am not as naive as I sound.
Writing gives me a choice, to wallow or to find whatever sliver of goodness I can find. And maybe that’s why I haven’t taken time to write. I’ve been afraid I’ll only wallow. Because, truth be told, I could do that quite easily. I feel deeply and I’m a strange mix of confidence and insecurity. Perhaps you’ve noticed.
My Mom-in-law died a month ago. I’ve thought of her every day, each time I pass the pool float in the garage or open a drawer and see my bathing suit. I won’t sit next to her at her backyard pool next summer. I thought of her when I was out shopping for Christmas. I saw things I thought she might like and then realized I couldn’t buy them for her any longer. I made crabmeat rollups for our Christmas Eve buffet and thought of how she’d enjoyed those, and prepared our favorite needham candies knowing there’d be no playful fighting over how many she would go home with at the end of the evening. In watching my own parents age, half way through their 80s, I never really thought I’d be saying goodbye to Barbara at the age of 67.
My Dad’s sister, my Aunt Vera also died a few weeks ago. She was 80. She always reminded me of my Gram who died when I was 17. I gave a lot of thought to how she’d been the only girl with several brothers in her family and I smiled with tears remembering how much I had enjoyed my aunt over the years. I may only have had four visits with her--at ages 8, 17, 18, and 29 but she’d touched my life in an honest way. Seeing this matriarch die so soon after another prompted me to realize my own role with my daughters and nieces, son and nephews, teen students at school, and former students I am blessed to have in my life now, months or years after they’ve left my classroom. It’s a daunting thought to think I’m being placed in that role now, that I’m quickly becoming one of the oldest women in the family, but I suppose it’s true.
I know that I’ll forever have help as I make my way through this uncertain world. I am lovingly supported by my family and friends. But I’m talking about another. God was with me when my Mom answered the phone the other day, when I closed my eyes and embraced her voice and her happy laugh. God was with me when Dad called to share with me their happiness and appreciation for the little box of cookies I sent to them after they could not make it down for Christmas. God was with me that evening when Sharon, my dear friend from college, a friend I’d regrettably lost touch with a few years ago, called me to reconnect. God is with me now as I clumsily return to the blank page, filling it with sputtered words of emotion seeking rationale, insight, and wisdom. He is one who set up these three very important, unexpected phone calls for me this month. Three calls, each of which strengthened me and returned to me the energy and the needed reminders of who I am and how I will make my way through this life.
The words are on the page. The writing may need reorganization and revision, but the honesty has fought its way to the surface. The knocking at my ribs has quieted.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20