Monday, October 15, 2012

Notes from Debbie Downer

I might not have actually verbalized it in this way, but before December 3, 2007, in my type-A- tight- grip-on-it-all world, "trust" meant it was going to happen the way I thought it was going to happen, the way I planned it all to happen.  The sub-text to, "I trust that God will work through all of this" was "I trust that God's best interest for me will fall in line with 'my best interest' for me."  That couldn't be further from the truth though, right?

Trust, whether in your husband, best friend, child, or God Himself is an assured reliance of that person's skill, ability, strength, character.  Now of course the standards are different from person to person.  I can trust Jeff with things I can't trust to Caroline.  That doesn't make Caroline less trust-worthy.  In the areas of her greatest ability or character, she is immensely trust-worthy.  (Disclaimer:  I'm sure all of my girls will grow into greater and greater trust-worthiness, Caroline is the oldest, so I - for better or worse - lean on her more at this point).

Isn't it difficult to trust God when you feel like he's abandoned you?  And that's an understatement of a question if there was one.  The question life throws at us is:  Will we interpret God through our circumstances or will we believe that He is who He says he is - even in the midst of Plan B. Even when I don't feel it, don't understand it, when I'm not in control?  When someone who you trust lets you down, the result is - for me at least - pain married to anger.  Side note:  They do not make a good couple, IMO.

Several years ago, I read this blog post about the stages of grief and it resonated deeply with me.  The whole "anger" part of the grief process had never resonated with me.  I mean, I'm a girl from the South, a people-pleaser, a yes ma'am, I'm fine kind of person.  Anger was foreign.  [Inset snide smirk here].  Anne's words on finding anger in her grief:

"Right after my mother died, condolence cards came by the armful. Then fewer came each day. And then, about the time it was sinking in that my mom is really gone forever, they stopped completely.

That’s when I got mad. It was as if everyone else expected things to be back to normal just as I was figuring out that we have to create a new normal, and it may never feel right."

In truth, the voice she gave to anger wasn't foreign to me, just buried.  So, when I read Anne's words, a light switch went off and I recalled how I silently seethed when people wanted me to act normal.  Now, no one ever said it in those words.  They only implied it with their words and invitations and . . .well, their silence.

A Christmas party?  Are you serious?

How are you?  Do you really want to know?  

Did you watch that show last night?  On TV?  Does that matter in the scheme of the world? Um. No.  

That inner dialog of sarcasm and cynicism and nihilism (and probably some other -isms I can't come up with right now) was mis-placed anger at people doing their best to navigate my grief.  People I trusted - and perhaps most acutely - the God I trusted, had not lived up to the expectations I dreamed up in my head.  That false definition of trust was shattered over the course of minutes, hours, days, and weeks.  Pain slowly and quietly married anger in my heart and mind and I didn't even know it.

After I read Anne's words, I went back to the stack of cards in that box in the closet and was reminded of the love people showered on us after our loss.  People I had secretly harbored ill-feelings toward for not acknowledging it had actually sent flowers or notes . . . . in that fog and blur of the first few weeks, I just didn't remember it.

1 comment:

Amelia said...

Ashley, I think that this is so important. Not just allowing ourselves to be angry in the midst of grief, but actually acknowledging it is so hard. If we're being honest with ourselves in the midst of that grief, the truth is that we put more pressure on ourselves to 'act normal again' than anyone else is. Maybe it's that Southern woman conundrum,but my sense is that while being swallowed whole by our own grief, we never seem to be able to stop worrying about how it might be affecting other people, particularly the ones that we don't know nearly as well. Oddly, that makes us angry too. Something that you said to me this summer that will stay with me for all of my days was about relating our relationship with God to the relationship that we have with our children--our kids want ice cream for breakfast every day and we say no because we know all of the reasons why that's not a good idea, no matter how fiercely they think they want it. In the end we are helping them realize the greater and more valuable outcome, but of course it 'hurts' in the meantime. In many ways, that analogy has come to define the trust that I feel in my brand of faith...I'm not trying to find out what's there or whether or not I feel that love, I'm just trying to let go of the assumption that I need to know everything at every moment and follow the lead.

PS--I think it's so important for women to talk about anger, not a Debbie Downer at all. Love you.