At the time, I was thinking about my son, Daniel. My son. I tried, and failed, to bring order to the confusion of thoughts and questions that flooded my brain. There were questions I wanted answers to, that don't have answers. And there were questions I didn't want to ask. (You know what I mean. You think if you know the answer, you will feel better. But the answer is not what you want to hear. )
Again. Is there a map for this? There is. But when every super highway in my brain is flooded with questions, and I throw in magical thinking, it creates a gridlock. (Magical thinking is the false belief that if I try hard enough, I can solve the impossible. Every mother has this.)
I rely on writing as a way of mapping things out--to help myself make sense of things. I've written my way through decisions, through loss, and through relationships. I've written my way through anger, through panic, through guilt, and all of my other favorite bad feelings. I've written my way through and to the other side of confusion. I've found that writing will usually steer me to the right places.
And now, as Daniel's mid-February court date draws closer, the questions naturally show up in my journal. This, for me, is a form of prayer.
It will be a full four months from the time of his initial arrest in October to the pre-trial hearing a couple of weeks from now; time enough to be lulled into forgetting; into thinking that maybe this has just been a bad sort of glitch in our lives that will go away. It's been a weird kind of waiting because life feels mostly normal. But normal in a scary sort of way.
Yesterday morning on NPR, someone attempted to explain the current outlook on the housing market. He worked very hard at sounding hopeful without being too optimistic. He wouldn't commit. His final answer was, "There are too many big unknowns. We don't know what the shadow inventory is."
That's it, I thought. . .the shadow inventory! (Thank you, God, for giving me vocabulary when I need it most!)
In this case, I have no idea what the shadow inventory is. In my mind, I swing from possibility to possibility, best case scenario to worst. I'm lucky when I make it back. In my darker moments I feel a chill up my spine, spooked by the shadows and the big unknowns. And then I remember that Anne Lamott says, "My mind is a bad neighborhood I shouldn't go into alone." Thinking and asking questions is normal, but I don't need to spend a lot of time there, especially all by myself. And certainly not at night. My allies are good light and a decent map.
One of my maps is Judith Viorst's book, Imperfect Control: Our Lifelong Struggles With Power and Surrender. My friend, Linda, lovingly placed a few copied pages into my hands, which I now read almost every day. Viorst reminds me that "Permanent parenthood is a double bind. It requires us, at the same time, to live with our fierce and undiminished love for our children, while making peace with the limits of what we can and can't and shouldn't try to do for them, while making peace with the limits of our control."
In other words, This is not my life.
My new best friend, Judith, also makes a powerful suggestion: that we attend to the people our kids really are, (as opposed to who we think they are, or wish them to be), and . . .free our kids from our definition of their life, allowing them to define and control it.
(All I can say is, if your kids are small, here is your chance. Start right now!)
And the "how to" is detachment. Viorst explains how tricky that can be. "Detachment comes, and it goes," she says. But I know that I have a better chance of maintaining it if I will use my heart map. When I follow my heart map, my brain calms down right away. It knows the neighborhood is safe
My heart map shows me that Redemption, what Oswald Chambers calls the only Reality, showers and guides us all in a constant way, even if I don't always recognize it or know what form it is taking. My heart map also reveals the tangled way of Love, which is always under construction. Love grows and develops and winds its way through everything, sometimes with blurred lines.
It's my heart map that allows me to see my own graced autonomy, the autonomy that enables me to keep placing everything in God's care, freeing me to turn my attention to the present moment of my own life. It's the thing that helps me to stay sane, and to still maintain a connection to my son, as well as to my own soul. It's the least and the most that I can do, so that I don't forfeit my own sense of purpose, and the joy that belongs to me.