It is Friday night and I am sitting at home eating Thin Mints that I bought from some Girl Scouts at Crystal City Metro on my way home tonight, despite having already ordered some from a co-worker who is selling them. Whatever. They're THIN MINTS.
It is what would seem on the outside to be a sort of Pathetic Single Woman Evening: red wine, Girl Scout Cookies, pajamas. The cats are so bored that they've both fallen asleep elsewhere, not even having sufficient interest in me to ask to be petted or to drag a piece of string over to me.
But here is the strange beauty of the internet age... I am talking to two friends online as I write this, one about 10 minutes away in Arlington, and one many many miles away in Germany. Both of them are also at home, assumedly in their pjs, hanging out online. We are three Outwardly Unspectacular Individuals.
But I know differently about these two. I know their depth, and their commitment to those they love. I know what wonderfully committed friends they are. I know this from experience. When I had a kidney infection, the friend now in Germany came and drove me to the doctor, and then to the hospital... she had to stop her car THREE TIMES ON A MAJOR HIGHWAY to allow me to throw up. She's seen me at the sickest I think I've ever been in my life, and she took care of me. The friend a few minutes away from me has laughed and cried with me through the last year and a half of my life, and is currently suffering alongside me --still laughing and crying-- as we cope with being rejected by men we loved.
I get really tired of people knocking the internet. I get tired of people commenting on the Shallowness Of Our Age. I know differently. I know these two women care enough about me to camp out online and talk to each other about whatever passes through our minds, and also enough to walk with me through the darkest and most difficult parts of my life.
Love is when someone will do both, year after year, simply because.
Last Thursday I had the privilege (again) of reading original poetry as part of a collaboration between SPARK and the Target Gallery at Torpedo Factory Art Center. The current exhibit is called "Mixing Bowl: Immigration and Diversity in America." If you know me, you know that I was alllll about that exhibit. There were a few pieces that left me kind of cold, but there were several others that moved me, and three that brought tears to my eyes. I decided to write a response to a piece called "Parallel Migrations 7" by a woman named Ann Dushanko Dobek. You can get a sense of the piece here, although the actual piece at the Target Gallery was much smaller.
I was so moved by this piece... I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The fragility and migratory nature of butterflies compared with the fragility and migratory nature of illegal migrants from Mexico and Central America hit me square in the chest... like I honestly couldn't breathe for a bit when I first saw the piece. In thinking about it, I thought of chaos theory and the idea of the Butterfly Effect, and my musings on the clash of ideas there lead to the creation of this poem.
El Efecto Mariposa
(The Butterfly Effect)
Part of chaos theory proposes
that the flutter of a butterfly's wings in London
could cause a torrential rainstorm in Buenos Aires.
But let's not start there.
Let's start with the existence of chaos theory,
with the mathematical, philosophical,
scientific proposition that the universe
might actually be totally random.
Let's start with men in well-constructed offices
wearing clean and well-made clothes
proposing that perhaps everything around them
is actually an accident of chance.
And then let me propose another theory:
that it is a particular affectation of the privileged
to believe in this randomness of events.
For the very poor, causality is clear and brutal:
My father left us.
There were no jobs in the village, so we moved to the city.
There were jobs in the city, but also drugs and gangs.
My brother was killed.
The U.S. company closed the factory.
We had no money.
My mother became sick.
I got pregnant.
To them, the causal pathways of events
are as clearly traced as dried riverbeds
that form paths leading to the barrier wall...
the wall that keeps them out, like beggars, like thieves,
like wild animals.
There are no immigration debates
for those on one side of the wall
for whom there is only this trail of events
leading to the inevitable conclusion
that it is better to die trying
than simply to die.
For birds and for butterflies,
such migratory pathways are solely about survival,
finding better nesting and grazing,
a place to raise one's young.
Butterflies and birds fly over the wall, unobserved,
while a young woman, 3 months pregnant,
prepares to leave at nightfall.
For her, there is no random flutter
of butterfly wings causing storms far away.
There is only a string of events,
like cracked stepping stones, that she follows
to the back of a van at midnight,
to a stranger who promises to drive her to the desert
So this morning we had a shiva service at Common Table. A very abbreviated explanation of shiva is that it is a seven day period of mourning the death of a family member that is practiced by Orthodox Jews. There are a lot of rules: the bereaved family doesn’t cook for themselves, they only bathe in cold water, and they cover all of their mirrors with black cloth. Obviously, this wasn't a seven day service, and many other rules of shiva were similarly suspended due to the logistical issues and the obvious fact that we're not actually Orthodox Jews. The main purpose of this service was to speak of our sorrows, to sit with one another in these sorrows, and to remember that we are not alone. We used Psalm 77 as our backdrop, in which the Psalmist grieves openly, wondering if God has abandoned them, but ultimately remembers what God has done in the past and decides that this is a reason for hope.
Given that Vince dumped me this week after 9 1/2 months of dating (and 2 weeks before both Valentine's Day and my 35th birthday, I might add), I don't know if I was the best or worst person to lead out on the service. I started to cry while reading Psalm 77 out loud... although I guess this added authenticity to the reading... and I went through a pack of tissues crying during the time of naming our sorrows. However, I take an odd comfort in the fact that I wasn't the only one there suffering loss, or openly mourning, or even the only one crying.
I know that being so public about loss and mourning really goes against the grain for some folks, particularly in the case of romantic relationships as there are always two sides to every story. But I guess I have to say that I have a testimony of sorts here, even though I'm still very much square in the middle of the emotional aftermath of losing Vince. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I started this blog in 2008 as a way of documenting my thoughts as I went through a year of not dating. That year of not dating was a direct response to a string of truly painful relationships, ending with a breakup in mid-2007 that left me suicidal for two weeks. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, but I was done with the pain for a while.
This is the first serious relationship I've had since that time. I honestly thought I'd marry this guy. Knowing of my past tendency towards suicidal ideation following a major breakup, I went straight to my church and to anyone else I could think of and asked for prayers. My church... I almost don't have words for how much the support they've shown me has meant. I have never had an experience like this before. My parents, friends and some of my roommates (I'm thinking of Kris in particular) have really tried to fill in the gaps for me in the past, but the feeling of being held up in prayer and in love by a community like this is just without equal in my experience. I was terrified of the free fall into despair, but I fell straight back into a net of prayers, and calls, and emails, and get-togethers, and just basically of love, demonstrated openly.
I'm beat up and I'm sad. But I'm sad *with* people, and I'm not suicidal... nowhere close. At heart, I think I've generally been a loner in the past. I thought being a loner was a good thing. I thought this meant I was strong and could bear anything. But now I know what the difference is between being a loner and being in community in times of trouble. Maybe it sounds dumb and Disney-fied and stereotypical to say this stuff, but I am seriously bowled over by it. The number of times in my life that I have been at the point of despair, crying out to God and crying myself to sleep... this time is just so completely and utterly different. I am being held up by love.
I don't know what the future holds, but in the present I am safe and warm in this love. Thank You, God. Thank You, good folks of Common Table.