“If he wrecks the car, I’m gonna lose it. I know I should try to be calm, but I’ll probably flip out.” She made the little half giggle she does when she’s making a half joke…like, I’m trying to poke fun at my hypothetical freak out, but it probably won’t be hypothetical.
My friend and I were talking about our oldests getting their driver’s permits and navigating another new parental “letting go” milestone.
“Same. I’ve basically been losing it over everything since mid-March.” I said. I can’t remember if I made my own half giggle at that remark. But if I did, I should not have. Because there has been nothing funny about my mental well-being for the vast majority of 2020.
I have felt anxious. Scared. Frustrated. Sad. Hopeless. Heartbroken. Betrayed. Abandoned. Stupid. Confused. Disappointed. Angry. So angry. There have been moments where so much anger is coursing through me that I don’t even recognize myself.
And it isn’t even just because of this pandemic. Or the way we’ve turned this pandemic into some stupid middle school playground grudge match. Or the sad state of so many things in our country. Or the fact that it’s August, and I am still waiting to see the season finale of Walking Dead, which was supposed to air in April. (I mean, poor Eugene has a history of looking for love in all the wrong places, and I just want to know if he’s finally going to meet the dream girl on the other end of his long-range radio.) There are also personal issues that have conveniently chosen the last few months as the perfect time to confront me: some I never saw coming; others that have decided to bubble back up to let me know they weren’t fully resolved. So yeah. There have been lots of…feelings. Right now, I think many can relate.
Some of these hard-to-deal-with feelings simply come as the price of awakening…to things I had been unable to see, and things I did not want to see. About the way things work. About other people. About myself. There was a callous dissonance created when familiar beliefs that had long propped up my bones were found to have weak spots. Or were shattered altogether. And I’ve done a really shitty job of handling it.
In some ways, having the world shut down afforded me some time and space to fall apart behind the curtain, allowing me to save face in front of most people. Post something funny on social media. Make my voice sound breezy on the phone. Use laughing emojis in text messages. No one would be the wiser. But there was no pretense with the other three people living in my house. They have felt almost the full force of me losing it over just about everything. And those three people are the ones I have failed the most by letting myself become so affected by all the realizations I have awakened to.
The only cold hard fact here: I need to pull myself together. Because when it comes down to it, I can’t rely on other people to make the right choices. I can’t force everyone to care about the things that would make it easier for me to do my job as a parent, a wife, a family member, a friend, a citizen of humanity. I can’t control hardly anything at all.
But I can embrace grace.
Grace is a slippery thing to obtain, mostly because we, in all our imperfect humanness, don’t really want to do the work to use it. Grace means granting clemency when someone falls short of our expectations…courtesy in the face of disagreement…kindness amidst challenge. Grace does not require 100% agreement or concession to another; rather, it allows for people to come together respectfully and acknowledge other realities so that we may grow in our own.
Grace is something I need to have in my interaction with others.
Grace is not about proving I am right at all costs. But it also does not mean I must remain quiet when I feel my voice needs to be heard. Grace allows for me to experience hurt and anger and betrayal, but it asks me to recognize that my emotions are not the only metrics in the situation. Grace humbles me so that I can admit when I am wrong or misguided in order to reach real and sincere resolutions, or to build someone up even when I don’t believe in his or her choice so that I may lend a foundation of support rather than struggle. And if I am not wrong, grace asks me to acknowledge what truths still lie in another viewpoint. Then grace puts a finger over my lips so that I may learn to simply listen in order to be able to do all the above.
Yet grace is also for me.
When I fail, grace reminds me perfection resides in God alone, and failure is only the stopping point if I allow it to be. When I feel emotions that seem too big than what is really necessary, grace recognizes them as a sign of a vibrant heart rather than foolish overreaction. And when the time comes where I have done my part – when I have loved, and supported, and respected, and been open – yet I receive little in return or recognize an unhealthy stalemate, grace gently takes me by the hand and tells me it is no longer a worthy fight. Even if it is a fight that is so very hard to say goodbye to. Grace helps me to move on.
I am trying really hard to embrace grace. But as I said, it is slippery, like one of those squishy water wiggler toys. Sometimes, I find myself as benevolent as Mother Teresa. But then something flips the switch, I squeeze too hard, and all my grace splatters on the floor. Then I’m like, well, take your pick. There is no shortage of people lacking grace today. So I need to try harder.
And I look forward to the day when the only thing that requires my grace is my daughter wrecking the car.