One Year Later

For most of the past year, God and I haven’t really been on cordial speaking terms. Or any sort of speaking terms, really.

Perhaps it would be better to start at the beginning, though.

It’s been a few weeks shy of one year since my miscarriage, and for nearly 11 months, I’ve sobbed and shamed and begged and bristled and masked and raged. For the first few weeks, I wondered why? with such fierce dedication that my eyes would glaze over as I contemplated the many possible reasons for my miscarriage. These are some of the best answers I could come up with:

  1. Karmic retribution. Honestly, this is the first idea I had. I haven’t always treated people with utmost kindness, so maybe miscarrying was nature’s way of restoring the pain balance.
  2. Faulty organs. This is entirely likely; I’m a 70-year-old man trapped in a twenty-something girl’s body. Had my gall bladder out at 17, then my appendix, several stress fractures, and chronic heartburn that often brings tears to my eyes. Oh, and kidney stones. So, you know, it’s highly possible that my reproductive organs just suck.
  3. Margaritas and half marathons. I’m pretty over these reasons at this point; I’m approximately 97% certain that neither contributed to my miscarriage (though closely preceding it), because science tends to rule these out as far as early-termination causes go. But still. That three percent.
  4. God. Somehow, His “scheme” for me involved body-wracking pain, vomiting in the front yard before school on a Monday in May, and an entirely new realm of self-doubt and contempt, the likes of which I’d never before experienced.

Then, I forgot. For a few months, I moved on. I convinced myself the moment had passed, I resumed drinking and eating like a normal human being, I threw myself into harvest and farm work; I feigned happiness so that others wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.

Next, I wrote. In October, I penned this post in hopes that the memories and feelings I was trying so hard to repress would experience some sort of cathartic release and I truly would be able to move on.

After that, I spent a tiny fortune on ovulation predictor kits and several days each month “symptom searching” on pregnancy forums for the earliest signs of conception. (If I could go back in time two months and kick my own ass, I would.) I wanted to believe the miscarriage was a mistake, that God would realize this and we would quickly be granted another chance.

And over the course of those eleven-ish months, my rage simmered slowly but steadily.

***

Let me be quite honest: I’ve never “heard” from God. I’ve never felt like I have a direct pathway to Him, never prayed and received some sort of instant clarity or feelings of peace afterward. I’ve always envied people who have this kind of relationship with God — they speak as though the relationship is so simple, so effortless, so readily available. And yet — I haven’t had that. Maybe it’s because my brain never stops “talking” . . . maybe I can’t be silent enough, for long enough, to hear what He has to say. Maybe my faith is too weak.

Maybe I’m not deserving. That is the hardest truth to admit, but likely the most accurate.

***

On weekends when I’m in Jetmore, I sing in the choir loft of my church, even though Zack really wishes I would sit next to him. I don’t tell him that I must sing in that loft because the harmonies, the feelings of servitude, the thrumming notes of the guitar, are the closest I feel to God. I don’t say that I must sing in the choir loft as a sort of penance for whatever crimes against God and mankind I’ve committed. I don’t tell him that I must sing in the choir because the notes from my lips make me feel worthy for just a little while.

I believe in God, and His teachings, and His love. I truly do. But for eleven months, I can’t say that I’ve trusted in God. It’s hard for me to trust His plans when I know that at any moment, those plans could contain heartbreak and grief and overwhelming disappointment. It’s hard to trust Him when I know that He is acutely aware of every self-loathing thought my brain has ever entertained, and still, He chooses to drop a miscarriage bomb on me, leading to months of renewed hatred for a body that I’ve detested since I was fourteen years old.

And for all those reading this post with a look of horror on their faces, ready to douse me in holy water, I want to know: If we can’t be mad at God, then are we truly in a relationship with Him? If we can’t scream at Him, and doubt Him sometimes, and question Him often — is it real?

***

Miscarriage ruined me, for months. I hated my body for failing me. I hated myself for the numerous ways I’d mistreated people over the years, surely coming back full-karmic-circle. I hated the excitement I’d secretly built, the dreams I’d secretly savored, the plans I’d secretly formed. And, to be honest, I blamed and begrudged God for all of the above. After all — doesn’t everything happen according to His plan?

Yes; it is clear in writing this, and reflecting upon the past year, that miscarriage ruined me.

But it is time to pick up those splintered fragments of my soul, long past time to give up that grudge I hold so well. It is time.

God, if you’re reading this . . .

 

 

 

. . . I’m ready to forgive. You, and me.

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WOI: Sister, Sister

When we were six and eight, we built a fort between our beds, using the coveted, reversible horse blanket. Our beds were only four feet apart, you see, and the blanket was plenty big enough to drape over both twin mattresses. We’d turn off the lights in the room, pull down the shades on the windows, and stuff every pillow and stuffed animal we had into that dark tunnel between beds, where we’d tell each other stories or read by the narrow beams of miniature flashlights.

When we were eight and ten, we read American Girl magazines and books like they were going out of style. She was drawn to Molly, of the WWII era; and I was obsessed with Felicity, who dwelled in colonial New England and shared my love of horses. We would play school with the dolls, and read their stories, and dream together about how different our lives would be had we been born decades, even centuries, ago.

When we were sixteen and eighteen, we bickered spitefully — about everything. But when I was treated like dirt by petty girls on the track team, she took up arms for me, my she-knight in shining armor. Nobody could listen to me scream, I hate you! and still come to my rescue when others tore me down; nobody, except for her.

Some sisters are admirably (and possibly sickeningly?) close growing up — they plait each other’s hair, they play together peacefully, they hold hands on the sidewalk that leads into the school building. My sister and I? We were not that idyllic pair. Sure, there are many memories from our youth that are pleasant and peaceable; but for every good moment of sisterhood, there’s at least one or two moments of intense sibling rivalry.

Brianne was born just 18 months before I came along, you see. We were close enough in age that we should have had a great deal in common — but we fought like hellions, instead. Looking back, I can’t tell if this is due to our many differences, or our many similarities; at any rate, I can tell you that as middle children, we both ran a completely unnecessary but nonetheless grueling race to distinguish ourselves in our parents’ eyes. (Again: completely unnecessary. Dad told me a few years ago that I’m his favorite.)

Mom always worried that we would regret those years of fighting as children; she’d sigh with exasperation, sometimes with tears in her eyes, and she’d say My sisters and I never fought like this! I don’t understand why you two can’t get along!

Well, Mom, I have to tell you — I don’t regret the fighting all that much. That childhood/teenage sparring produced resilience and stubbornness, two characteristics I value most in my sister.

sisters 2

“Do something that really embodies your relationship.” Nailed it. Photo creds: Steve Coleman.

Things you should know about Brianne:

  1. She’s resilient, and stubborn as hell. Nobody — I mean, nobody — can change Brianne’s mind when she knows that she is right. And, while this is often a major pain in the butt when discussing anything even remotely political, these traits are responsible for her success as a human being. On top of this, I’ve never known my sister to be swayed by popular opinion or peer pressure; she stays the course and does what she knows to be right, ethical, and appropriate.
  2. She’s not tied up in body-bashing. Our world is full of girls who are increasingly concerned with their outward appearance, and who put themselves down repeatedly and publicly. It’s socially acceptable for girls to condemn themselves, and others, based on the numbers they see on their scales or the number of blemishes on their faces. Brianne is refreshingly unapologetic about her appearance, and doesn’t allow me to get negative about my insecurities in front of her. She’s supportive and embracing, not hypercritical — and that’s about as beautiful as it gets, friends.
  3. She’s chasing her dreams. We live in a world of sell-outs. We’re told to “dream big!” as kids, but as we advance through the school system, those dreams become more and more stifled by societal pressures to land a respectable job, earn piles of money, and meet expectations that have been predetermined based on our gender. Brianne, however, defies this sell-out norm. She earned her MFA in acting, and has relentlessly pursued her dream of becoming a stage actress in the big cities that comprise the Northeast. Her road has been dotted with disappointments and near misses and flat-out no‘s, but she trudges on.

My sister probably doesn’t know she’s an idol to me (I’m sure I’ve never told her), but she is. She forces me to look for the positive or encouraging or possible in even the worst situations. She challenges me to stay true to my dreams, never giving me the opportunity to make excuses for shoddy work or mediocre effort. She persists, she encourages, she inspires.

She is my sister, and I couldn’t live without her.

New Series: Women of Interest

As this school year comes to a close and I watch my first group of seniors prepare to take flight — or dive-bomb — into The World, I’ve caught myself reflecting on my own life experiences, especially with regards to who I am and how I became this individual. Not surprisingly, during these times of reflection, I’ve realized that my life is filled with some phenomenal, noteworthy women who have had a significant “say” in the human I’ve become.

These women have nurtured me. They’ve held my hand as I’ve wept, they’ve encouraged me to do the unthinkable, they’ve questioned the integrity of my choices when I needed a guiding light.

These women have taught me. They’ve critiqued my writing, they’ve answered questions with questions, they’ve challenged me to consider concepts and problems from a multitude of perspectives before arriving at conclusions.

These women have inspired me. They’ve shown me what it means to be courageous and compassionate and considerate; they’ve demonstrated what it means to live with integrity; they’ve personified grace and morality and power.

Because these women have given me so much, I will give them the best I can in return, and thanksgiving: My words.

Stay tuned.