I watched those same hands I've come to know (and maybe even love) as they circled Asher's head at his check-up on Thursday. He knows what he's doing. He knows what he's looking for. He runs his pointer finger and thumb along the valve (shunt) on the right side of The Noggin and he pushes a little to feel for something I don't understand. I was right next to this big man and my boy and I was vacantly watching because the fear I have as Asher's mom always rears its feisty head in the children's hospital. I float through it all while we're there, holding more tightly to that small hand and staring in wonder at x-rays and the yellow tape measure always wound and pulled snug around my boy's crown, for the measuring.
Dr. P. is so smart and exceptionally good at his job. We are in really good (big) hands. Our Asher is a patient in a long stream of people knocking down the door to get to Dr. P. We are blessed.
On Thursday, Dr. P. ran his hands softly through Asher's blond hair and I saw his nails, short as short can be, bitten as far as possible, cuticles mutilated at every edge. And I thought, even the brilliant Dr. P. has something in him that needs out. Of course...
Anxiety, sad stories of children lost and grieving parents, never being able to have all the answers, pressure, information, schedules, questions, fear...
This week was long and hard and I found myself grieving, wanting, failing...sitting around with a house that needs so much and kids that need so much and I felt so inadequate. And all I could do was just sit, looking around at all the needs unmet, getting more frustrated that I can't take the edge off anymore. I can't disappear and zone out with glass after glass of wine. The TV doesn't work for me and sometimes books don't either. I'm left with too much thinking.
None of it would work to bring me peace anyway and I know that. I find peace mostly in one place these days--in the company (online or off) of fellow alcoholics.
I emailed Ellie and I said that I miss drinking, in that moment I did anyway, because it seemed the only thing I could do, and she said this sounded like good news because instead of living in fear that I might drink at any moment, I've moved on to grieving. This was a really wise thing for her to say, as usual.
Drinking doesn't feel like an option anymore and that is an ironic sad goodbye. I've moved on to simply knowing alcohol is not what I really want, but sometimes just wishing I could escape somehow, and that's normal. For everyone. But instead of doing that I'm just sitting in it, in the feelings, sometimes that looks like something close to despair.
It hurts. It sometimes feels lonely and so I don't know what I would do without the knowledge of a higher power. Because I'm a bit afraid of church, I talked to a pastor about his new one with a hope-inducing name--Open Door, this week. He said he's never met a person in recovery who didn't know for certain they were not doing sobriety on their own. He said that whatever the person chose to call it, they knew that something spiritual was happening outside and inside of them. He also said that he wished there were meetings for everyone, and that he thinks church should look like those meetings, unconditional and accepting. I liked that.
Then on Saturday morning I sat with fellow alcoholics and three of them got stoned...Let me explain. Three people received stones with 2 years or 3 years or 4 years inscribed on them in beautiful colors. And we celebrated with coffee and good food and we each talked about the journey of those getting stoned. And there was no way around words like redemption and miracle and grace and faith. We were all in that same place with all different backgrounds with religion or no religion and we were all using those same words.
Some of us have nails bitten short and some of us can't keep our legs from bouncing with nervous energy. Some of us feel shy talking in a group and some of us nervously chatter on too long. Most of us smoke cigarettes and many of us drink too much coffee. And all of us know freedom from it all is entirely possible, if only we let go and release ourselves to the journey, expecting only progress rather than perfection.
When we grapple with spiritual things I don't know that it's proof we're looking for, or even the answering of our questions...I think it may be that we're looking to trust ourselves with a mystery, to trust the possibility that there is something greater than us...we who think only about ourselves most of the time. We twitching, nail-chewing, broken and hurting vessels just waiting to be willing. Willing to be filled up with good, if only we'd sincerely take the leap.
I think maybe we don't know if we can surrender to an unknown spirituality that our minds can't grasp and so our hearts stomp their feet and ask questions that can't be answered instead. And then we try to wrap our personal feelings and experiences around that greater thing. I think God is so big and he keeps trying to throw off these strings we tighten around his ways and maybe all he wants of us is a bit of awe that he can do things like end my drinking with a love I couldn't escape.
Maybe it just starts there and then snowballs into this unbelievable miracle and it's mysterious so we pretend it just can't be so. We say coincidence and we say proof and we fight doing anything blindly until we see that we ourselves are the proof. Open vessels just waiting.
I found hope in a room of broken people, drunks and addicts of every kind, and I could not deny the way our souls string together and come alive with recognition and a deeply rooted holiness. We experience freedom and the hairs on our necks rise up with the words of our friends. We are healing together and we are traveling with purpose. God created us this way, so clearly in need, so that we could reflect his face behind those walls and in our worlds. I am floored by that. I am just...amazed. We are able to sit together and live out love. There are few masks, there is acceptance, there are tears and there is genuine laughter. This is church like church may never be...without condition.
There is this palpable spiritual movement in those spaces, one that makes us unable to live in disbelief. I haven't heard anyone put words to it because it's a mystery. We can't wrap it up nicely and we can't describe something our minds don't understand. It is not religion. It just is.
Dr. P. has enormous hands with fingernails bitten down to the quick. I have no choice but to trust him with everything he knows that I do not. There is no possible way I could fix my sunbeam boy with my will or my way or my knowledge. I have to let go and allow him to work even while I bite my nails and bounce my leg and believe in the mystery of his knowledge.
Faith. It goes something like that. Face to the ground. No other option. Knowing my weakness. Letting go. Believing...because the alternative hurts too much to consider. Trusting. Seeing it through. Awe. And then acceptance that the outcome might not always be what I thought I wanted, but it is always what is best for the mystery.