Step 2: I’m Cold

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There was a moment, the day before they harvested my eggs five years ago, when I decided God wasn’t going to help this time.  The choice was clear as those IV fluids: either God is Good and it was all a dream; I don’t really need a bone marrow transplant; I won’t be infertile; I won’t lose my eyelashes, again.

Or, God, whatever God is, is a dick.  And my infant won’t recognize her bald and bloated mama.

God chose the later— so did I.  Nobody knew about my decision, I didn’t know about my decision.  What I did know on that harvesting table, numb from the waste down, was that God wasn’t going to get one more tear.  If God said yes to cancer again, then God couldn’t be trusted.

In pain doctors I trust.  I pledge allegiance to my prescriptions.  
God’s clearly a little confused about how to keep a human happy, so I’ll take it from here.  
No, we need to increase my doses because I still feel like a human.

Though David asked repeatedly if I felt ready for church again, I didn’t feel welcome in the home a God who claims to be Love incarnate, not with three IV lines installed in my heart and hanging out of my chest.  Not with the poisonous burning cement radiating from inside my femurs and pelvis, and urine that smells like a mummified rat soaking in its own urine.  This isn’t Love.  This is hell.

Who would choose God over opiates?

When we step away from the protective, warm wing of the Mama Hen, cold, bitterness, and fear start to pursue.  Addicts love hiding, I found a cozy hiding spot in the corner of the big gray sofa.  The Crate & Barrel blankets could keep my body warm enough, but an almost-corpse lay inside, hypothermia setting in.

Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This was the easiest step for me.

All through my adolescence I watched my Higher Power restore and redeem my sister’s life, cancer, and death.  I had living and dying proof that God was real, that Love was real.  The weight of God’s glory pressed down on our dysfunctional family.  Every time I tried to escape God’s loving, kind Goodness my sister would go and get healed, or something like that.

But on that table, as those kind, punk-ass doctors took the last of my fertility, everything changed, it had to.  My sister’s faith & story couldn’t carry me anymore, I needed one of my own.

At rock bottom, bewildered and alone in the NICU, I finally understood what my best attempts to control my own life got me: a drugged, shaky newborn.  A drugged, shaky Claire.  His sweet warm baby body was all I needed to warm up the frozen insides that the Crate & Barrel blankets never could.

Last weekend I sat in a jacuzzi with David under yellowing aspens high up in the Rockies.  Their quaking and quivering mirrored the soul and body shaking I used to endure.  “It looks like an invisible toddler is shaking the branch back and forth,” I commented. The wind rattled the leaves dramatically, as if someone had given the wild thing a latte.

Then they calmed, and quickly ceased moving completely.  The invisible mother must have called the invisible, caffeinated toddler in for bedtime.  Peace at last for those crisping blades.

Little inside Claire tired from all the rustling and rattling around.  I can’t do this alone.

Finally, there on the pillow on the floor in rehab, the convulsing stopped.  Yes, Suboxone helped, but I think it was more like God calling away the wild addictions and toddler fears that shook me for too long.

Come inside now, leave the poor thing alone.

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Three secrets

IMG_6573One of the first homework assignments my therapist assigned me was to write down all my secrets on a sheet of paper.  I don’t remember if I wrote down the three that had haunted me for so long, though I probably wasn’t brave enough at the time.  “I don’t need to see them,” she reminded me.  “Then we will say a little prayer over them and shred them all right here in the office.”

The pretty part of me was thinking, no biggieI’m an open book.  I’m vulnerable.  I’m genuine.  I’m real, always have been.  The problem was that I had not always been.  It’s a nice thing to tell oneself, that people really, truly know you; and if you ask the people closest to me I believe they would tell you that unredeemed Claire (read pre-rehab) was real and deep.

Maybe I wrote things like:  I wasn’t a virgin when I got married.  I stole more than just five pills from David.  I’m an adulteress (not literally, but then again, I guess maybe literally?)  These were things that at least one person, if not many people, already knew though.  They were my pretty enough secrets.  We did the exercise and I remember thinking, wow, what a great exercise, what a brilliant starting point to begin my journey to healing and redemption.  It was, too. I remember seeing themes and threads on my page that gave us real insight into where most of my shame was burrowed.  Like I said earlier, the pretty part was okay with most of the dirt, but three stains remained and I just couldn’t get them clean.  No amount of charm or beauty, no amount of “vulnerability,” no amount of service work or prayer or church or working out or good house-cleaning or good child-rearing or altering reality was working.

So a little over a month ago, while journalling about the discord inside meIMG_6574 and how confusing it felt, the three things nobody knew popped into my head and out of my pen onto the page.  I gasped.  That deep deep deep part of me, the ugly self was ready.  Right then and there I texted my husband, David and asked if we could talk.

“I have three secrets, and I am flipping out…”

The following poem was written right after that exchange.

***

Three secrets.

I had three.

But after

decades

of applying

layer after layer of cement on top of them

 

I ran out of cement

and I couldn’t keep up with the labor costs

and I’m pretty sure others could smell

the corpses

too.

 

And I love myself.

 

“I need to tell you three secrets” I said.

“Give ‘em to me” he said.

1

2

3

 

Now, instead of  avoiding the deep chasms in the pavement

instead of fearing what the uneven surface would do to my wobbly ankles

I get to dance

with freedom

with him

with them

 

And I am fully known

 

“I love you still!”

 

Then I exhaled for the first time in my life.

***

Some of you, like David, might not have the kind of secrets I had.  His were smaller, daily shames about small daily failures and comparisons.  They still defined his worth, just like mine did, and to him, they weren’t small.  Or maybe you’re like me, and you feel like there’s just NO WAY someone would still love you or choose you if they knew.  Maybe you’d love to tell your secrets if you only had someone to tell?  I will pray that we all have someone with whom to share our secrets.  (Side note: way to go Catholicism RE confession)

Your ugly part, your stains that won’t wash out, your shame— Jesus has been dying (and actually died) for you to let him run it through his washing machine.  I never understood why the song “Amazing Grace” captivated the ages until last month. Maybe it’s the deepest need we have, this need for Grace?  The need to know that despite all the secrets He still chose and chooses to love us, delights in loving us? If the Force of the Universe loves me, then surely others can?  Surely I can learn to love myself?  Surely, this would change the world.

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