“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“And it was good not to get used to many things when life was unsettled. Again and again one had to abandon them or they were taken away. One should be ready to leave every day.”
Erich Maria Remarche
Today is Holy Saturday. A day of waiting. It’s not Friday, the pain of the crucifixion, the fear, and the disbelief. The shocking sorrow. It’s not Sunday, the Resurrection, the promise fulfilled, the joy and the validation.
No one talks about Saturday much. I was listening to James Prescott’s podcast with Glennon Doyle Melton and it was the first time I heard anyone delve into Saturday. If you read or listen to Glennon much (and if you don’t- what do I actually have to do? Get with the program.) you’ve heard her say time and time again, “First the pain, then the Rising.”
In the podcast, they touched on the fact that really, it’s first the pain, then the horrible waiting, and THEN the Rising.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
I imagine there was chaos and fear among the disciples that Saturday. Jesus Christ is dead. Murdered. Their brother Judas, the instrument of his betrayal. Could Jesus really return? I imagine there was grief and anger, and below everything else, uneasiness, confusion. Saturday is a liminal space- a time of transition. No one knew for sure what was happening, the memory of the trauma was still fresh but there was no real hope of redemption yet.
Pontius Pilate dispatches a guard to the tomb. In 1 Peter 3:19 there is a mention of Jesus preaching to the “imprisoned spirits” and the Apostles’ Creed references his descent into hell- but truthfully the bible is a little light on details.
I get that. Uncertainty is hard to write about. It’s also hard to live in.
I hate uncertainty. I think when something terrible happens to you early in life, something that causes your world to tilt off its axis, not knowing what to expect takes on an added layer of fear.
This is one of the ways in which trauma shapes the brain. Once you know what harm people are capable of, that becomes an option. Possibility is generally spoken of in terms of exciting, positive potential outcomes- yes- but our concept of it still skews toward the way our personal experiences have framed the world for us. Possibility is hopeful, sure- ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN- but it can also be frightening because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
People you love can hurt you or leave or stray. Loved ones can get sick and die. Dreams can go unfulfilled.
All of those are possibilities.
When I first got sober I thought that I drank to stave off pain. It’s certainly why I began drinking. Why I LOVED my first drink at the ripe old age of eleven. Having done some work, having made a searching and fearless moral inventory, what I’ve come to understand is this: I am much more inclined to drink in times of ambiguity and doubt, times when I am plagued by indecision or when there is, quite simply, no decision to be made.
That is also the time when I am most vulnerable to building stories that have the potential to harm me. Historically I’ve much preferred to rush headlong into a wrong and even bad decision, than to sit with indecision. I want to know what happened and, even more importantly, what is going to happen and WHY. If I don’t know the WHY I am happy to make one up. I’m creative, you know. I have lots of ideas.
In those instances, they are seldom good ones.
I’m actually GREAT on Friday. When things are actively blowing up or something horrific has happened? That’s my jam. I am a great woman in a storm. Come the zombie apocalypse, I’m your girl. My cell phone will be charged, I’ll have water and ibuprofen, and I can do the hard things in hard times. Make the awful calls, compartmentalize like a boss.
It’s a gift born of trauma, I suppose.
Sunday is, frankly, a little new for me. Relaxing into joy without waiting for the other shoe to drop is something I am working on. I’m starting to believe that some things can be simply good and that I can be reasonably happy in that. I have examples of redemption under my nose every single day. More often than not they’re revealed in a circle of jacked up folding chairs in the church basement rather than in one of the polished pews upstairs- but as I get older, I realize more and more that church is where you find it, and that love truly is a cold and broken Hallelujah. I have learned, at long last, to believe in Sunday.
But Saturday? Saturday is so freaking uncomfortable. Like all times of uncertainty and transition, it is deeply unsettling A huge part of my sobriety has been learning to sit with Saturday. To make peace with the not-knowing of it. To understand that sometimes the why is not necessary to understand- it’s enough to know THAT. To accept the fact that I will not always be given the whys, and that I almost always do damage when I try to force an understanding.
In a recent article, Father James Martin makes the distinction between the kind of waiting infused with hope or despair and the wait of passivity. He refers to it as the “wait of Whatever.” It’s hard for me in times of uncertainty, in that restless tension, not to either throw my hands up or white-knuckle-grip the wheel and wrest it in the direction *I* decide. It’s why the serenity prayer is so damned helpful. Acceptance, courage, and wisdom. I’m getting better at identifying situations where I have no agency. I am learning to sit still with that.
It’s Saturday for me. I mean, it’s ACTUALLY Saturday- but it’s also a time of unrest and tension and not-knowing.
And I’m sitting with it. I’m sitting here with my coffee and my writing… and with possibility.
Love you so.