Saturday, December 15, 2007

Preparing Space. Letting Go. Shedding.

“Why is there so much Lent in Advent? In this season of joy, why do I bump up against my wounds? The wise ones who journey with me remind me that there are cycles of shedding before there is conception, that birthing is painful and messy and loud, and that we find it so hard to let go, to open so that new life can emerge.” Jan L. Richardson, Night Visions

Preparing a space. Letting go. Shedding. Before me lies a table full of photos of a young girl. Me. I see my 2nd birthday; my fifth; another one or two. I think I look dorky. Sullen. Goofy. I think I look brilliant. Wise and beautiful. God’s perfect creation. One in need of constant shedding and letting go.

It is time to start letting go of resentments toward the imperfections of my childhood. I know that I was cared for although not always well. My parents were, after all, human—just like me. I was clothed in handmade creations. Were they made out of love or necessity or possibly both? At age eight, I fell off my bicycle and broke my front teeth and split my lip so badly that it would droop for several years until my mother took me for plastic surgery. Ironically, I appear to be most proud of my school picture taken after my teeth were broken for it is the only picture that bears my signature. The pictures are tiny and could easily have been lost over the years. I am grateful to see my young handwriting testifying to the spunk I had even in my brokenness.

I am grateful for the table full of pictures that I did not think existed. They show me that someone saw to it that my life was documented—perfectly & imprecisely. The school photos. A few snapshots. The glamour girl with my sixties “fall” (i.e. fake hair). A new bike at Christmas. The dangerous sled ride being pulled behind a mini-bike by my father. The trip to Niagara Falls that I wasn’t quite sure we had taken. My dad’s semi-truck. Skipper the dog. My cousin, Vicki who snuck olives from the table with me. My sophisticated sister and my skinny brother before he grew into his ears ☺. Mother holding me on the day I was born.

These photos are helping me shed that which I no longer need. They are marking the time to let love back in. My mother was a woman filled with imperfection. My father was often absent for long periods of time. Together, however, they raised three amazing children. “Good genes,” we’ve always said. “Good hearts” is probably more like it. This, of course, makes me think of my own children. May they grow up well in spite of me AND because of me. I love them the best I can…just as my parents loved me. Yes, it is a time of preparing space. Letting Go. Shedding. It is the time of Advent.

photo: Mom & Me


storyteller said...

Your personal reflections make me want to dig out my old photos and look through them. There aren't many of me as a little tyke because times were hard, money scarce, my dad ill and out of work, and I was the 3rd kid after all ... so nothing was new. But there might be a few. I remember one with my dad teaching me to somersault on the lawn.

Most of the pictures of me start in Jr Hi when my sister (4 years my senior) received a Brownie Hawkeye camera and started taking pictures (paying for film and development with money she earned working part-time after school as a waitress). Reading of your broken tooth reminded me of a dare with ugly consequences. A friend across the street jumped off the roof of his dad's pick-up truck and encouraged me to do likewise.

After climbing up and looking down, I decided I'd pass ... but he decided to give me a push, forgetting that he’d left the passenger door ajar. As luck would have it, my feet caught on the open door and I landed in the concrete driveway … literally on my face. I might have broken an arm if I’d managed to get them in front of me to break my fall. It’s amazing I didn’t suffer serious injury (though some might attribute some “quirky strangeness” in my makeup to this mishap).

As I ran home, I had to cross the busy street we lived on ... and it's the only time I can remember traffic stopping to let me pass. I must have been a bloody mess. My mom greeted me at the back door (we weren't allowed to use the front door ... it was for company) and had me stay outside while she got a washcloth and first aid supplies because she had just mopped the kitchen floor and didn't want to do it again. There was no trip to the doctor to be checked out because there was no money to spare (and no insurance coverage). I remember spending months with ugly scabs all over my face, but missed no school. Staying home was never an option for the one "healthy" kid in the family.

It’s funny how one story begets another. Like you, I know both parents loved me. They did the best they could with what they had and raised 3 productive and responsible kids after all.
Hugs and blessings,

Abbey of the Arts said...

I love that you found all these photos of yourself and the journey we are sharing in letting go and reclaiming.

Dianna Woolley said...

A good reflection - I loved the photo. Beautiful mother and child - complete with combed hair and lipstick. I seem to remember a similar shot of myself holding my baby girl also. Except the mother in your photo was 35 I think and I was all of 21 - egads, what was I thinking!! I'm glad I wasn't, thinking, that is. With no thought or fear I plunged right into motherhood and have amazing children in spite of myself!

I agree with you that there's lots of Lent in Advent.

Dianna Woolley said...

...and I guess I was really agreeing with the author's quote from "Night Visions" re lent and advent:)

Anonymous said...

Dear Lucy, I loved this post. It really resonated with me. It really comes down to doing the best we can with the knowledge and resources that one has at the time and knowing this applying this knowledge to our past relationships especially with our parents and theirs with us, our siblings, spouces and children and then applying that knowledge thoughtfully to our present relationships and then hopefully carrying that to our future relationships. It's about loving and forgiving ourselves first and this then naturally leading to loving and forgiving others...the perfectly imperfect people in our lives. This also applies to our Ultimate relationship with our Creator. Love, Pamela

Anonymous said...

You know what I love about bloggers who are really open and honest like you, Lucy - you let us all catch a glimpse (and more) of the spiritual work that's taking place. I've been really busy lately, and so tonight spent some time catching up on all your posts since early December, and really felt like I could see a process unfolding. Then when I read this quote from Jan L. Richardson (whom I don't know), the essence of it reminded me of something I had come across elsewhere. I found it, and it was this, from a little Advent daily reflection book called "Daybreaks" by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI:

"Advent should not be confused with Lent. The crimson-purple of Advent is not the black-purple of Lent. The former symbolizes yearning and longing, the latter repentence. The spirituality of Advent is about carrying tension without prematurely resolving it so that we do not short-circuit the fullness that comes from respecting love's rhythms. Only when there is enough heat will there be unity. To give birth to what's divine requires the slow patience of gestation."

Carrying the tensions, like Jan bumping up against wounds. Not giving birth to a resolution prematurely. Cycles, rhythms. Gestation periods. It's like you are showing us the real spiritual work of Advent, and not just giving lip-service to the themes of waiting and longing.

The Dream said...

Wonderful, Lucy! Thank you for sharing these words from your heart and the wonderful photos. Isn't it wonderful that we can re-invent ourselves? That we are able to be forgiven and to forgive others? When I give myself a break and give others a break, I know that God is working overtime in my life. You're cool.