Monday, February 20, 2017

Up-twist of grace

I'm coming up on eleven years of being the Perverse Lutheran. In the name of all things flexible, I usually celebrate my blog anniversary on Transfiguration Sunday, a shifting target based on counting back from Easter and Ash Wednesday. This year it falls on February 26, but I'm writing a bit earlier. It's President's Day, I'm not at work, and I've returned to a favorite haunt of mine from a decade ago--Panera in the morning. A Cinnamon Crunch bagel, hazelnut coffee mixed with decaf, and enforced focus on the computer. No--not the computer--it's actually enforced focus on myself.

And since it looks like there's about to be a lot of conversation at the table next to me, I'm adding headphones to the enforced focus strategy. And strangely, music of Messiaen turning up in one of the various feeds Spotify inscrutably customizes for me. (Specifically, Olivier Messiaen, Fete des belles eaux, 11/14: Oraison, if you need to know.)

I'm smiling. Seriously surreal here.

It's an unusually warm day in February. We've had a couple days of this and according to the internet will enjoy a few more until the weather reverts to something more seasonably miserable. There are people here in shorts, and not just kids. Old guys.

The spring-like respite arrived just in time, and honestly, the sunshine matters even more than the balmy air. Life comes with long grey stretches, and when the skies reflect that despair back at you, it's hard to keep going. I find myself looking for hits of something interesting, in politics and Twitter and the reality TV show that is currently standing in for the federal government. It's an unfolding story, both banal and fascinating. But it's not my story.

That story, my story, on this blog, has been one of trying to look at day-to-day life with questions, from different angles--not the conventional ones, and usually, finding an up-twist to end with.

("Up-twist to end with." I like the rhythm of that. Also the vowels.)

But in these gray days--of life as well as sky--that up-twist has seemed--false, even offensive, because it does not seem truly felt. My questing, perverse soul is wrapped in anger, about what God does not cure, about what people fail to understand.

Watching ALS take away one thing after another from my 30-year-old son is not what's supposed to be happening right now. He's supposed to be sailing into the prime of his life. But life can and will throw anything at us regardless of "supposed to" or even "what we deserve." So a wide wave of warm, sinking grief washes over me, and it's very hard to stand up, twist up, and find something positive.

But the weather is warm. Yesterday was full of glorious music in an over-gilded, old-time, overly bright Catholic church. And the bracelet on my wrist says "grace." It's a brown clay bead given to me a while back by that same 30-year-old son, as he began to interpret his ALS at a blog called "Gronk Finding Grace," and as he called family and friends to his side as the Gronk's Grace team, for support and fundraisers and fun, even on this difficult journey.

It's harder to be him, and to be his wife, than most of us can know.

This brown clay bead originally came on an elastic cord for 24/7 wearing on the wrist. I have since had it made into an actual bracelet with a clasp and interesting earth-toned beads. I've broken it twice since having it made. The first time was probably related to the way it was put together, or so said the person who repaired it. The second time was entirely my fault--accidentally yanked it off my wrist along with my watch.

Grace--small-g grace. An appropriate subject when looking back on eleven years of Lutheran blogging.

Clay grace. Brown, modest, lowercase grace. Etsy-bead grace. Broken grace.

There's a period after the word grace on my bracelet, as in grace, the end. Or grace, enough.

A few warm days of spring-like weather, then back to winter, Ash Wednesday, the promise of Easter.


Thursday, February 02, 2017

That thing

We need a name for it.

That thing where you wake up at three a.m. and think, why am I awake, and then, with a sinking feeling in your forehead mashed under the pillow, remember that Donald Trump is president—president of the United States, all of them. And white nationalists think this is great and other people from the great middle of the country also think it's great, at last they've got someone on their side, and you think, how did this happen? How? And you think about racism and misogyny, whiteness and white male-ness and women who don't trust women to lead but do think they lie. And how so much is being made of this word "elite," and yeah, there are elites maybe who are out of touch with ordinary people, but "educated" and "knowledgeable" are not synonyms for elite, they're good things. And facts are not matters of feeling, and the earth really is warming, people need health insurance, automation has killed more jobs than trade deals, and, and, and--

Donald J. Trump is president. Also, Paul Ryan is spineless, and only John McCain can save us because Democrats just don't have the votes. Despite getting almost 3 million more of them in November.

That thing.

We have "resist," which makes a good t-shirt, a good coffee mug, and it seems like the thing to do, always, ongoing, in whatever way you can. With a scowl and clenched teeth, and daily calls to congressional offices.

But my teeth hurt, phone calls are frustrating until you get through and then if you're shy and you're sure you're the umpteenth person they've heard from, there's the nerves of rushing through your little piece, telling your little story, when really, don't they know? Why would anyone with an ounce of sense vote to confirm Betsy DeVos? Or that Pruitt guy for the EPA?

There's that thing where you start to wonder why you care so much, why this is tearing you up and why all your friends are depressed. Are we all sore losers? Embarrassed to be us, liberals, progressives? People who look to the authorities--the kind with knowledge and experience, not the strong-arm authoritarian kind.

There's that thing where you can hardly stand to watch the president on television because of the deep sense of shame you feel for the country. What about that thing where you keep watching because you can't take your eyes off the news? Because surely worse stuff will happen if you don't keep watching, if you don't personally keep an eye on it. Or worse stuff will happen and what if we all stop noticing, or caring, and can no longer tell the difference between living in a country that aspires to liberty and justice for all and living in a country that supports liberty and justice only for those people who already have them. Don't We, the People, have a shared vision anymore? Is the category "We, the People" actually growing smaller?

Here's what I think: the name for all this is love of country.

The name for all this is human kindness, the old-fashioned term for being careful with your speech so as not to offend those who have not offended you (but who perhaps have been treated in an offensive way by history, by government, by us).

The name for this thing: American values, American ideals, America.

You and me, tossing and turning at 3 a.m.