Chapter 15: Love, Sortof

To my daughters:

Hi Kittens.

I don’t have the time or the word count to waste, so here it goes.  This world is going to try very hard to get you to believe that God didn’t create you whole, it’s my job to help teach you to call “bullshit!”  Here are few theories I’ve field tested for you, I hope they spare you some of the UTIs, pregnancy scares, and broken marriage vows.

Sex does not equal power, or love.

For me, physical intimacy was a game, and the prize of winning (or losing) the match felt as real as the first fifteen minutes after an oxy dose.  You’re a Little Christ, you’re divine; power already pulses through every cell and membrane in your beautiful bodies.  Tender touches feel nice, but I dare you to find something as electrifying as True Love.

You don’t need a back-up plan.

For young girls whose fathers failed them, this one will mean more.  Your father hasn’t left you so it may not resonate.  Still, it’s a good one.  You can use it in your best friend’s room in college when shit hits your fans.  No number of men waiting in the hallway will help ease the hurt of the one you dismissed.

The sting of a lover leaving will never ache more than the pain of losing yourself, so stay near to her.  I will teach you how to do this as you grow.  It involves lots of journaling Truths and Joys, yoga, prayer/meditation, dancing, and “failure.”

You are wanted.

You are wanted.  You are wanted.  I pray that Daddy and I have shown you this.  I hope that, in our desire to raise loving humans, we don’t accidentally raise ashamed & insecure humans.  It’s hard sometimes, when all four of you kids are insulting my vegetarian bolognese in varied choral arrangements at the dinner table.  But even then, I want you there with us.  Mostly.  Love you.  Stop yelling.

Do not move in with the man who hurts you (the man you let hurt you).

This may seem logical to you, and if so, then I have succeeded as a parent.  It was not something that occurred to a younger Claire, because the hot chaos felt a lot like the fires in which I was forged.  The insults and rejection sounded truer than the alone-ness.  I pray your fires here at home don’t feel so hot.

Before you cheat on your husband (or wife), call me.

It can be distracting and fun to imagine how life would look with someone who compliments your make-up and opens your door for you, but those fantasies about another man (or woman) are invitations to start showing up in real life—less invitation and more red flag.  Call me, we will run into the pain together.

Secrets will give you cancer.

Or autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, pain, and a myriad of diagnosable physical & mental ailments.  That secrets cause cancer has not been proven yet, but my field research and the accounts of my associates has led to some convincing evidence.  I knew a woman whose Lymphoma disappeared after she came out as a lesbian.  I came alive after I completed my fourth step; confessing those last three secrets to Daddy and a few trusted sisters let me exhale for the first time in my life.

I promise you girls, nothing will shock me.

Good love exists.

Good partners exist.  Remember that Good and Hard are the same thing sometimes, most of the time.  Maybe all of the time.  The person, or people, you choose to walk Home beside will nestle into the spot that Goodhardgood-ness can hold.  If it’s only Hard, notice that and decide what happens next.  If it’s only Good, notice that and decide what happens next.  If it’s True and can hold both the Good and the Hard, keep breathing and lace up your hiking boots.

Drink a lot of water.

This doesn’t have much to do with love addiction or calling bullshit, but it’s something I think is very important.

Keep breaking the chain.

You three come from a long line of tall, powerful, seductive (read: wounded) women.  Wars in Europe and abuses in America reinforced the strength of that bondage, but something really exciting is happening.  Your mama doesn’t feel like a slave anymore, and I want to raise up women who call bullshit! instead of want me!  

I pray by the time you are all grown magazines will have stopped publishing lists of sex positions to make your man love you more.  If rage was an effective way to solve social injustices, then the cumulative internal fires of Millennial women will surely engulf the beauty and plastic surgery industries sometime in the next two decades.

You’re welcome.

Pop stars (ahem Salina Gomez and Adele ahem) might have found other topics to indulge than their ever-longing and tumultuous love lives—love addictions.

Maybe each of you is running from something that feels too Hard.  Food helps, so does alcohol and online shopping.  Imagining a life, relationships, and conversations that don’t belong to you can alleviate some of that pain, too.  I won’t lie, it all helps and it will all be redeemed.  Remember?  You can’t fuck it up.

But it hurts more to reject the Hard than to hug it.

Life is just learning how to hug the Hard and make it Good, okay?  Remember your lineage of women?  The lineage of all women?  We will help you, sweet kitty cats.  We belong to you, and you to us, and together, from our wombs and wounds we will all cry out BULLSHIT! until Shalom is un-shattered.

You are not alone, you never have been, you never will be.

Love you,

Mama

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Chapter 11: Meds

 

I’m holding my son in the NICU.  I put him here, my drug abuse put him here.

***

Dear Atticus,

I am so sorry that I forgot.  Forgot about my divinity and perfection and worth, and therefore forgot about yours, too.  If I could do it all over again I would fight harder to ween off all the meds, I would go to counseling and finally show up on those sofas instead of manipulate the therapists for my gain.  I would reconnect with all my sisters and friends who helped hold me accountable and challenged me to Love well.

Who needs a friend when I’ve got oxy?  And Adderall? And Attivan? And Cymbalta?  And Ambien?  And Lyrica?  

Buddy, I was wounded, not wicked. (When you are old and wise you will come to learn that all evil is just unaddressed wounding.  Nobody is wicked, because God called our clay Good in the Garden).  They ripped me open to rip you out, and I think maybe something else tore apart, too.

For two weeks you laid in your plastic bassinet, healing and spending time with Jesus and nurses who didn’t trust me.  They called social services on us because babies who end up in those hospital rooms usually grew inside a mama who injects heroin.  Social services never came though because the nurses learned that my medications were prescribed by doctors, not drug dealers.

Once your caretakers witnessed my diaper-doing skills they stood down and let me close to you.  I wanted to be close to you always, but your sisters needed me at home, and our world was exploding.  Grandma held you under her shirt with your cords dangling out the bottom of her hem.

I need a NICU.  Where can I go to ween off the meds and rest with Jesus and nurses?  
Rehab.

So I left you again, this time for rehab, spending my nights in the Shake Shack.  No babe, that’s not where one goes to slurp down a paper cup full of blended mint ice cream.  In the Shake Shack you shake night after night while the chemicals slowly melt away from the heat of the fevers you spike.  In the Shake Shack angry Alaskan women who smell like kimchi threaten to punch you in the face if you turn on the lamp at 6:30am again.

If, by the time you are reading this, you have not been to rehab—you should go.  Because you won’t find a safer space to exhale, a more perfect place to be human.  Rehab is what Jesus wants the Church to look like.

The 12-steps are the only path I know of to true love, acceptance, contentment, and enlightenment.  That’s why Daddy and I teach them to you kids at the dinner table and on holidays and in the car on the way to school.  Because we are all addicts, we all want to feel better, and we will regurgitate any lie to keep us comfy.

Atticus, pain will stay a close companion, just like the blue stuffed elephant velcroed to your shirt.  Hard always rolls in before the Good.  The difference between recovering humans and not-yet-recovering humans is this:  Love.

People who have been brave enough to fail miserably and beg for God’s help understand the Gospel—understand Love—in ways others cannot.  Please don’t try to be perfect (but also please stop peeing on the wall).  Your dad and I just want you to ask for help, whenever you need it.  The Good News is that God doesn’t need you to be anyone else, okay?

The Good News is settling into the fact that God takes you AS YOU ARE and that God loves you AS YOU ARE.  The longer you marinate in that, the more you’ll taste like Jesus, who loves people AS THEY ARE

Repeat after me:  I can’t fuck it up.

Good job!  Son, you cannot fuck it up—ever.  Neither can anyone else.  You’re a human, and God adores humans.

When I recall the two weeks you spent in the NICU, shame, guilt, and darkness rush over to me and start painting my body black.  Because doesn’t putting you in the NICU mean I fucked it all up?  Most people stop drinking and taking drugs when they find out they are pregnant.

But your mama decided to increase the quantities of both, because they said I wasn’t able to have another baby, and my body needed time to heal, and I was consumed with fear about my pain increasing as you grew inside.  I forgot about the God of your Aunt Ellen, the God of Joshua and Mother Teresa and U2.

The doctors didn’t warn me about the pain that bone marrow transplants cause.  I wish I could’ve done it differently—but I am not ashamed.  Perfect Love drives away all those demonic artists who try to cover me in my darkest moments.

Wounded, not wicked.

The good news for you is that I doubt you’ll ever reach the levels of woundedness that I did, which means you probably won’t reach the levels of fuck-uppery that I did.  Even if you did I promise you that God’s love for you has nothing to do with any amount of debt, unplanned pregnancies, or even murders.

Let’s not murder though.

This is by no means a charge to go and shatter Shalom, to undo the perfect peace God is co-creating with us.  No, we are to love God, ourselves, others, justice, and mercy.  Grace is the safety net.  It’s is the swoop of a mama eagle rescuing her chick from the cliffs below.

It isn’t until one feels fully safe & loved that one can dare to live, serve, and cultivate something lasting with God.  Christians have forgotten that loving thy neighbor does not imply a sanitary scrubbing of one’s humanity before a seat at the dinner table is offered.  Other peoples’ lives are other peoples’ lives.  Let’s stick to spaghetti and meatballs and leave all our projections and judgments on the front porch.

Atticus, you saved me.  You tore apart decades of scar tissue the way no number of failed relationships, prescription slips, or prayer could.  Bucket loads of necessary death followed your birth, thank you for revealing all my fear & rage, my decay.

I see you with Jesus before your arrival, he is explaining the mission—your mission—should you choose to accept.  You, in all your justice-seeking glory, nod and even agree to take me as your Mama.  Thank you for your fire, your voice, and your golden baby hair.  Thank you for adoring me & all my humanity, for now.

I love you AS YOU ARE.

-Mama

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Part III: Good Death

 

 

Lay down your layers, shed off your skin

But without His incision, you can’t enter in

He cuts deep, yeah, He cuts deep

When the risk is great and the talk is cheap

But never leaves a wounded one behind

 

 He won’t say the words you wish that He would

Oh, He don’t do the deeds you know that He could

He won’t think the thoughts you think He should

But He is good, He is good

Aslan, Kendall Payne

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