an upward spiral, generally speaking

Posted by on October 27, 2010


The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
flows into a pure soul the way that light
rushes into a transparent object.
The more love that it finds, the more it gives
itself; so that, as we grow clear and open,
the more complete the joy of heaven is.
And the more souls who resonate together,
the greater the intensity of their love,
and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.

Dante Alighieri
Translation by Stephen Mitchell

* * *

Today I am unusually and acutely aware of a muscle that runs from my shoulder to my neck, because, for the third day now, it is giving me pain. It feels like a strip of tough rubber inside of me and I cannot turn my now-stiff neck in any direction very comfortably. And like everyone else, I am having sinus trouble due to the wacky October weather, complete with tornado warnings and unbelievable wind all day yesterday.

I’ve been trying to minimize all of this, pull myself together, and go about my day as if I felt normal, because I can’t just lie around drinking tea and reading a novel, like I would like to. But I have to admit that being physically uncomfortable is a distraction, and I have been doing some spacey things. Yesterday I took Esme to her preschool an hour earlier than she is supposed to arrive. I marched us in, realized my mistake as soon as I surveyed the room and saw that the kids were about to sit down for their lunch, and marched right back out, feeling sheepish. I drove right back home–so convenient, you know–and then an hour later put both kids right back into the car and headed back. Later that afternoon, my eighteen month-old made it abundantly clear that she was not on board with my plan to take it easy for the rest of the afternoon. She did this in a non-verbal fashion by standing at the front door, wedging her fingers in the cracks, and making a a pulling motion while screaming as if desperate to be released from an intolerable imprisonment. So, I decided that it might be a good time to go to the library and inquire about replacing the library card which I thought was lost after the said eighteen month-old had gotten into my purse and wallet and scattered its contents around before I noticed and was able to swiftly retreive them from the four corners of the apartment. But although all of the plastic miscellany–such as the “My Panera” card which I have not activated and intend never to activate–had been safely returned to my wallet, my library card, which I value only less than my debit card and drivers license, was nowhere to be found. So with an attitude of non-resistance, I just quickly assumed that my toddler had hidden it in a place that would probably not reveal itself until moving day, and I resigned myself to getting the card replaced without any fuss.

Well, I was at the help desk of the library serenely inquiring about replacing a lost library card when it presented itself unambiguously in the fold of my wallet. Where had it been the last ten times I looked? The woman at the desk kind of blinked at me, then explained in what I thought was an overly articulate manner how to go about paying my fines down at the computerized check-out station. She was kind enough to escort me there, even though it was only ten paces away, and point out the visually conspicuous piece of equipment where I could swipe my credit card.

Unflattering evidence of my distracted state continued this morning when I found an envelope in our house that I remember distinctly dropping in the mail slot of our community rector. It contained a check for the annual community fee we pay to live in student housing. Only, if the envelope is here in my house, then what, I ask, did I put into my rector’s mailbox? Hopefully it wasn’t anything too weird. I guess I’ll find out when the very understanding secretary calls me back later today.

This morning I would like nothing more than to visit my chiropractor and cry. Trouble is, my chiropractor lives over 1,000 miles away. That would be my dad, the now retired chiropractor. I’m pretty sure that I cannot afford anyone else right now. And an unknown, local chiropractor might be made to feel awkward if I started crying on his or her adjustment table.

Hopefully my neck problem will just resolve itself without any intervention or treatment. Most likely it will. And in general, I am just a person who lives my life between my ears, so to speak, lost in thought, so I cannot blame all of my spacey incidents on physical discomfort, although it certainly doesn’t facilitate wallet organization or timely bill paying.

And lately, I have entered into another struggle–one consciously welcomed on top of all the ordinary, unbidden ones. I have decided to struggle for a more childlike faith in God, or, as Dante puts it, a greater clarity and openness with God. I do this realizing that, in the last ten or maybe even fifteen years, because of a series of little hurts and stumbles and fears, I have been gradually lowering the volume on the child’s voice inside of me that would proclaim that God is taking good care of me and can be trusted with whatever is happening to me and around me. I have been tinting the windows a little bit more each year and inching the door shut, thinking it was just a bit naive to really and truly trust that God was competent to manage my life. This was something that only a relatively sheltered, non-adult citizen of this world could really believe. By the time you reach thirty, even if life has gone decently for you, it is hard to keep believing that a banquet table is being set for you somewhere, in a grassy pasture, beside the still waters, with angels protecting you from stubbing your toe, and so forth. Now it is taking all of my adult resources to raise the volume on that belief again–really raise it until it is the clearest voice within. As it turns out, there is nothing wimpy or naive at all about struggling to trust and believe God in a post-Christian–often really shitty– world. It is rather an ongoing struggle to surrender everything, from moment to moment.

Poetry Wednesday

  1. Kris Livovich
    October 28, 2010

    "nothing wimpy or naive at all" Your last few sentences resonated so deeply for me. We (and my husband especially) have been struggling with that feeling of being naive for trusting God. There is this feeling as a young 20something that the world is an amazing place, that we only need trust God and it will turn out. Lilies of the field and all that.

    I know Molly has been encouraging your writing, and from a non-professional point of view, please write!

    This will go into his Needs to be read NOW file.

  2. Jenny Schroedel
    October 28, 2010

    Oh Julia!

    Everytime I read one of your posts I feel as if you are with me, and it is a great comfort. Like you, my mind has been terribly foggy. Also, I love what you wrote about struggling to open your heart more to God! It's all true, Julia. This world can, indeed, be very shitty. There are no guarantees. And yet, He does make us lay down in green pastures. He does prepare a place for us at his table and in his home. I can hardly wait to get there and feast with you.

  3. Julia
    October 28, 2010

    Thanks so much for these comments, Kris and Jenny.

  4. Molly Sabourin
    October 30, 2010

    Julia, Julia,

    First of all, that photo: Well, it's just cool – super cool. And the poem is so up my alley as well. I got lost in this post, not in an "I don't get it," sort of way but in an "I'm enthralled by your narrative genius" fasion.

    I was cynical in my twenties with great big ideas on how things (faith) should be, which was "not lame." I've had my butt kicked and pride bruised enough times since then to warrent adopting, ever increasingly, that simpler "child-like" faith you describe. And you are so right, there's nothing easy or weak about it. It takes a great deal of courage to forsake a longing for answers and explanations in order to embrace the often foolish looking mystery of love and acceptance.

    peace to you!