Friday, January 4, 2013

the third day

pulling lights from the tree always gets me. on the one hand, i'm anxious to pack it all away and get on to the work of January. yet as i wrap one unlit strand after another around my elbow and put them in the box for another year, it often feels like the light is dimming inside me along with those from my tree, one twinkle at a time.

of course this is ridiculous. there is plenty of light inside me somewhere, but lately, it feels like i am almost choosing not to let it out. 

on new year's eve as i left the grocery store, a woman walked through the doors with a smile stretching so wide across her face that i looked around to see what could be so delightful. turns out, nothing — she was simply smiling. i huddled to myself against the wind and aimed for the car, wondering just what could make someone walk around that happy, all the time. i was also well aware that my expression would bring a passerby the exact opposite question to mind: why would someone frown so?

i spent that day as i often do on the last day of the year, taking stock of the things i have done and ought not to have done, understanding that i am not as right or as true as i sometimes think i am. the last few months of 2012 found me using angry words against the very people i love most, distancing my children and friends, and the reality of that leaves me feeling mired in the weight of me

in all of my thinking, i promised myself i would make the changes in this new year that would make me more loving, less critical, less judgmental. no longer would the glass be half full. and i would tell the truth when i screwed up, not making excuses for my bungling of so many situations. not anymore. 

on the first day of this new year, it took me exactly two hours to learn that even in truth telling, i will always be a bit broken. sometimes, like in the past couple of days, it feels like most of me feels broken, shattered into minute shards like the ornaments that fell from my tree this year, and most often from my own doing. on other days, somehow, i'm cracked, but the cracks hold together.

i spent the second day of 2013 second-guessing every decision i have made, pretty much in my life, praying that surely it is not in my DNA to hurt others, over and over again. and if it is, asking how i might go about deleting this fatal flaw.

a good friend who knows my heart and life very well said she sees much light in me. she didn't know that i had wrangled with those very words, that image of myself, as i began this post five days before. she says that none of us is all good or all bad. we are mixed up parts of both, and everyone has days when the light does not show through.

like any strand of Christmas lights, some of the bulbs do burn out. i have spent hours, sometimes, going through a strand to find that one defective piece, removing one bulb after another until i just throw the whole thing out and start over. but i can't throw my whole self out because half the light in me seems at best, dim in these early days of 2013.

on the third day of the new year, i went about my way, walking the dog, checking off the details of my work day. i've said before that when you work at church, God is pretty much in every corner. so there is no escaping the broken pieces of self, nor more than you can escape the light that flickers, even in the shadows of a darkened nave. God is there and watching, waiting i think, for those calls for help.

at the end of the day, i sat with my friend/priest/boss and we talked it all through. i cried a bit. we prayed a good long prayer, me saying right out loud that i wasn't really sure it would work. he said, yes, in his experience, prayer worked in even those most extreme situations, to bring about reconciliation of self, of others torn apart. so we closed our eyes and prayed for light. for love. for healing. 

i was late picking the dog up from doggie day care. as i waited for the kennel worker to bring him to me, i overheard a woman on the phone explaining that she would get to work as soon as she could, but she was in a domestic situation and was uncertain of how she would get there.

she had just dropped her dog off at the kennel for the first time, uncertain, too, of when she would be able to get him. she was about my age, a soft face and graying ponytail, and there was something about her that showed great beauty.

sometime in me wavered, but i heard myself say:

do you need a ride somewhere? where do you work?

at a gas station, not far from here, she said.

so a few minutes later, the dog and i invited donna into our car. the dog licked her, and she talked about her own dog, a pug, she had rescued not long ago, and how he was going blind.

he is in good hands, i told her. the best. they will care well for him.

as we drove down the dark highway toward the quick mart, she spoke of being escorted by police from her home earlier that day, the same place where her fiancĂ© had tried to kill her in october. he'd been in jail but had posted bond and showed up. she called the police, left all of her belongings except for the dog and walked out with no place to go.

she had left him before, sleeping in her car in 23 degree weather, so as not to be hurt again. but she did go back. until yesterday. his court date was to be this morning, and she was to testify. 

he thinks if i'm dead i can't testify against him, she said, and i felt my throat catch, my own trivial self-inflicted problems fading. this was a woman's life. her life.

i'm intelligent and educated and embarrassed that i have gotten myself into this situation, she said. things like this don't happen to me.

they happen to anybody. this is not your fault, i told her.

as we pulled into the lighted parking lot of her work, i told her about the shelter for women in her situation, a place where she could find food, clothing, shelter and support. the police had told her about it, but she didn't know how to contact them, so i offered to get the number. she wrote the number of the gas station on a sheet of paper, squeezed my hand and disappeared into the busy quick mart to begin her job overnight job.

at home i found the number, reading online that: 
• One woman is abused every minute in the United States*
• that it takes seven attempts for a victim to successfully leave her abuser*

i thought of all the women right in my town who died in the last year at the hand of someone who was supposed to love them, one of them in a shopping center i frequent. i have been distanced from this world, i think, but on the third day of this year, a beautiful woman in the midst of this very crisis shared a ride and conversation with me.

later on, i called donna, giving her the number. she had tried to leave him five times, she said.

it's finally time to do it for good, i told her. don't be a statistic. and she promised she would call right away. 

God put you in my life today, she said. 

no, i said, He put you in mine.

in the night as i tossed, still selfishly worrying about my own petty problems, i prayed for donna, that she did make that call, and that soon, she would find new light. 


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