My eldest daughter marries her true love in ten days. There's a lot going on, sure; just the general daily to-do list is huge. And yet, in the midst of it all, there are moments of grace and awareness that catch me off guard, that say to me, "Stop. Look. Listen. Learn"
These are sacred moments, ones I cannot escape. They connect me to myself.
Sometimes it's me, looking through my daughter's eyes.
Or my daughter, looking back at me.
Or old me looking at young me.
Whatever. It's perspective, at the very least, and it's stopped me dead on more than one occasion. Children are their own beings, of course; but what parent doesn't do at least a little bit of projection when you see your genetic markers replicated, taking seminal steps towards their own destiny? I'm watching Sarah and listening to Sarah and talking to Sarah, and in the mix of it all I can't escape how closely aligned all this watching and listening and talking seems to be with history.
Not only the brief number of years I have lived on earth; but larger history - the lifetime cycle of birth and growth, of receiving and giving away, of leaving and cleaving. We humans have danced this dance since the beginning of time.
The ancient Celts called certain spans of time "thin times"; when the arc of space between this world and the next was just that: Thin. Supple. Transparent. I've found a growing awareness of this, a sense that it is, indeed, true and real, most especially as I've mourned the loss of loved ones even as I felt their presence as powerfully and tangibly as if they were with me, here, still.
(Somehow, I believe they are.)
Richard Rohr says that there are occasions when we are invited to be aware of "deep time - that is, past, present, and future time gathered into one especially holy moment." The notion of the "communion of saints" as referenced in the Lord's Prayer - there is a connectedness within such moments.
For me, this wedding preparation has created an undulating atmosphere of such liminal space; where, as Rohr says, "past, present, and future time come together in a full moment of readiness." On a spiritual level, it's more about a connectedness with God, with our human experience and the unseen eternal life. What was and what will be, on a grand scale.
But the microcosm of that experience is what I'm seeing these days, as I am shaped by the past, present, and future of my own human life span - even as I watch my daughter prepare for her wedding.
I consider my own history.
I see me.
Beth, the girl that felt so out of place and out of pocket, most of the time.
Beth, who fought so hard for to be accepted, all the while expending tremendous energy pretending she didn't need to be accepted.
Beth, who was smart but homely; creative but disorganized. Beth, whose head was always in some book, missing the scenery as it flew by.
/ / /
Recently, my friend Matthew posted this meme on Facebook:
It's all caps; it looks authoritative and self-possessed. Like now that we're adults, we've figured it out, and NOW YOU SIT DOWN AND LISTEN TO ME.
I loved seeing the responses. I even responded, specific to what I remember about being 17.
But honestly, I don't want to yell at myself. I don't want to grasp some imagined authority that comes with age and hindsight and shout instructions.
I want to take the hand of that little girl who wished she was a boy, like her cousins, because baseball and football and running and yelling seemed to matter so much more, on some primal level.
I want to sit with that pre-teen who wondered at the mystery of hormones and female development, and secretly felt completely, utterly left out.
I want to walk beside the 15-year old and tell her that the impossible, improbable, unbearable feelings she had for that blue-eyed senior was a crush - and that he would be flattered, and that neither the crush nor the flattery would ever be what she wanted.
I want to tell the 17-year old Beth that women are more than their sex, and that everything in her head mattered, and that so much would change in the arc of time.
I want to tell her that she is not writing her story for anyone else but herself.
I want to whisper in her ear that her deepest longings were put there by her Creator, and that all the wandering would lead her right back to Him.
I want to gently tell her that nobody really cares that much about what her hair looks like.
I want to tell her to love her body, to marvel at its ability to move and dance and run and lift and twirl, because it has a limited time to do so freely.
I want to tell her to shine; to know that the days and weeks and months and years pass honest-to-God in the blink of an eye, like the grown-ups always say; so go and fill them with joy and experiments and risks and wild abandon.
/ / /
And here's what I think I've learned; that we look at our daughters and sons and long to tell them how to navigate what lies ahead. Our hearts crack open, and out of the deep, yawning chasm spill all the ways we want to protect them, to guide them, to warn them.
To tell them how to live, because it's hard sometimes.
But what really happens is that our own experiences spill out of that crack in our heart; the history and the mistakes and the glory and the shame, and as we look at our children with love and the slight knowledge of what lies ahead of them, we realize that we stand in a holy moment. An awareness of the intertwined lives we lead, of past, present, and future wrapped in a sacred communion.
And we finally see ourselves with the compassion that the Creator has woven into every single second of our existence.
It is something new, this perspective. The ever-shifting paradigm of awareness opens to let still another beam of radiant light shine, on the innocent beauty of a 24-year old woman about to marry her true love.
And on her mama, too.
I am thankful.