I’m action oriented. I like solvable problems. Someone is sick? Let’s get them some medicine. Something is broken? Let’s take it apart and fix it. Let’s make a list, check it off, get it done. I don’t even enjoy TV shows that refuse to come to a tidy conclusion in 45 minutes. Solve the crime, catch the criminal, wrap it up for god’s sake. Please, please don’t drag it out for the season.
Unfortunately, life does not wrap up in 45 minute intervals. Sometimes things drag on for many, many seasons. Three years ago my mother died suddenly. I was devastated. I stumbled around for weeks with my newborn twins, just trying to find my way through my house. I couldn’t function. Eventually, in a moment of clarity, I decided I needed help. I shuffled off to my new therapist with a notepad and a fresh pen, ready to take notes on my next steps. I was ready to read whatever she suggested, practice yoga and breathing techniques, participate in woo-woo rituals. Anything to feel better.
The therapist told me that there was nothing I could do but sit in my grief until it subsided. No, she could offer no timeline. No, not even an estimate. I blinked at her for a full five minutes, trying to decide whether to fire her or just kill her. I’d come to her for help, I’d DONE something dammit, and she was telling me that there was no help for me, nothing more I could do. I’d have to wait.
I didn’t know how to do wait. After all, isn’t waiting something that happens while you do nothing? Waiting is like stopping – it’s a non-action action. I suck at non-action. But really, my choices were pretty limited. I could wait, or I could stomp around filling up the time with frenetic and useless action in an effort to avoid admitting that there was nothing I could do but wait. I’ll let you guess which I chose.
Lately, I’ve been given the chance to practice waiting again. It still sucks. I’m still pretty terrible at it, but I think I might be catching on. It turns out waiting is more like trusting than it is like stopping. This is a dilemma. I’m bad at waiting but I’m an abject failure when it comes to trusting.
I blame it on church. More specifically, the church of my childhood. I was taught that God was a grand puppet master who had everything all worked out ahead of time and just put us through the paces so we’d know who was in charge.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Expressions like these bring me within a hair’s breadth of atheism. Because, if this is true, what kind of God is it that comes up with such crappy, hurtful plans? Couldn’t a good God come up with a plan in which young mothers don’t die, children don’t get sick, families don’t starve? Who is interested in a God who won’t try at least that hard? Certainly not me. If I have to trust in that God, or in nothing at all, I come down firmly in the latter camp.
Thankfully, those aren’t my only two choices. Several years ago, at a friend’s funeral, the pastor got up in front of a packed church, looked out over the people of diverse faith, and no faith at all, and said, “I do not think this was part of God’s plan. I do not think God plans tragedy. But I do think God can use even tragedy for good.”
“Yes,” I thought, “I think perhaps that much is true.”
I still think so. On my good days.
On my good days I can imagine that there is some wonderful magic at work in the universe. Some Grand Artist knitting together every dropped stitch in my life, every bit of grief, every bit of fear, every bit of sickness, and creating something amazing, something I’d never have been able to make on my own by following my own little myopic pattern.
But knitting takes time, and on my bad days, I’m still just an impatient girl. I’m still guilty of stomping around, making a ruckus, creating a mess by worrying and sighing and spinning in circles. I want to know how it’s going to turn out. I want to know when. I want to know SOMETHING.
“Be still and know absolutely nothing” is what I’ve been using lately to get me through. It kinda takes the pressure off. Sets the bar realitistically low. And frankly, it’s about all I can handle. I don’t have to have any answers. I don’t have to solve any problems. All I have to do is the work that is before me, the normal, everyday work, and then stop. Sit. On my hands if necessary. Let the magic happen. Let the knitting continue without chasing the ball of yarn around the room, or off the nearest cliff.