The thoughts, they've built up again.
I'm thinking about guilt and failure and grace, and I'm also thinking about how I want to live. We all have our things that we chew on, set on a shelf for a while, and then return to. I suppose these are mine.
Our "visit" to North America has rambled along until we are getting to the point when we are preparing to roll up the rugs and go. We're not quite there yet, but getting there. Leaving has many stages. One stage is regret.
There are many things I thought I would be capable of in this visit. As it turns out, I have limits that I didn't understand prior to this escapade into the West. I have failed to do all the things I wanted to do, see all the people that I wanted to see.
(Oh, failure, you old friend.)
I entered my twenties believing I was capable of just about anything. That I could accomplish all my own "shoulds" as well as everybody else's "shoulds". Many times over I have protected my sense of capability with bared teeth. I will not fail! I can do everything! Just let me try one! more! time!
Lately the urgency is simmering down. I am simplifying away from shoulding myself to death and into taking honest stock of my resources. There are many things I cannot do, no matter how valuable it would be to the world if I could do them. Leafy is a good example for me. No matter how many times people try to tell him he is a superhero, he is dead honest. "I'm NOT Superman. I'm just Leafy." Jeez.
Letting people down is the part of being human that I hate the very most. But I can either hold myself hostage over it or throw my hands up. I will let people down.
Husband, I will let you down. Friends, I will let you down. Children, I will definitely let you down. Holding myself rigid against the possibility is as futile as a thin paper filter against a deluge of water.
I can't dive wholeheartedly into the why's of my strangeness. Why does it seem so wrong to not accomplish every outing, every visit, everything that people would like, that I would like? I don't know why. I don't know what I think it's all about. I can only be perfectly honest and put it out here: I've found a lot of freedom in simply acknowledging that I will let the human race down. My uncurled fists allow the love of God to flow back into them.
I see these tendencies in my daughter. This, more than anything, has me trying to be more decisive about which values I will allow into my life.
My sweet girl is crippled with sadness if she transgresses. Cause and effect is usually pretty simple in our house. If you hurt someone, need to tell them sorry and they need to endeavor to forgive you. But YaYa often becomes so treadmarked by the fact that she did something wrong that she doesn't get to the saying sorry part at all. Or she says it so many times that it loses its meaning and becomes a dirge.
I want to teach her that saying sorry carries a mighty power. Confession is a crack of light in the darkest parts of our hearts, the parts we guard with bared teeth. Only light can change them.
Saying sorry--to your brother if you hit him, to your husband if you blame him, to God for panicking rather than trusting--sends a cleaver through despair. I acknowledge that I am frail and when I say sorry I can receive love in return.
This is the true story of my faith, the true story of believing in something that says that your teacher, your God, died so that you aren't swallowed up in the death knell of guilt.
The writhing pile of snakes is stilled. It's done. It's over. Walk away from it.
That's what I tell YaYa, anyways. Walk away from it, daughter. It's over, you don't need to wallow in it anymore. Confession is half of it.
The other half is grace. I have bad boundaries, so I often feel obligated to say yes to everything. If I say no, there may be a day or so of self-castigation in order. But now I'm learning the fine art of saying no. This is where grace comes in. I think our human programming leads us back to feeling as though we have to deserve every bit of slack we are cut. This has led me to make some ridiculous rules for myself. Like I can relax and give myself grace if I'm pregnant, if Chinua is out of town, if I'm sick or if I'm living in India (maybe not even then.) If not, if I'm unpregnant in America with my fine husband lurking around the house, well, I'd better be pulling my weight.
In special circumstances I hold nice things out in front of myself. Whatever I need, I offer myself. More sleep? Some fun playing with the kids? A chapter of a really good book? Sure!
I think life would work a lot better if I would just allow grace for myself all the time. Same for you. Life demands a lot, especially if we're giving it our best shot. And there are deep deep pools of grace for us. We would be fools to ignore them. And the thing about drawing it in is that it becomes so much easier to give to other people. There's so much less fuming involved.
So take a bath, turn off the phone, drink some chai, eat some frozen yogurt or a samosa. Run lotion into your skin, draw beautiful spirals on a perfect piece of paper, watch egrets on a branch, sit by the waves and let them sparkle into your brain. Say no when you need to say no, say yes when you know you can do it gladly.
(Chinua took this photo of me. I especially like the fact that I have a tiny skimboarder under my chin.)