“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.
Joanie Madsen says
Yes, yes, yes… Uncertainty is so very challenging to live with, yet almost everything about life IS uncertain. All the things my reptilian brain can and does worry over don’t come to pass and then, BAM, something that has not consumed my thoughts might and does happen I’m still here. Imagine that?! Just having that awareness for me when I’m spinning out into the ethers helps and breathing into this moment as that is all that I have. It is the path and not a goal and the uncertainly and uncomfortable pieces contained within it are always present. As Glennon reminds me to sit with the red hot loneliness and not pass it along like a hot potato. Here’s to staying on the “mat” when I need to and not “furnishing it” and knowing too when it’s time to roll it back up and get moving again.
I have never thought about Saturday before in this way and oh, my I was itching with anxiety that day and didn’t understand why? In gratitude for helping me reframe this, Laura.
Today is Monday, now what do I do? lol!
I think you are doing a wonderful thing in writing a book. Whether or not it gets fully written or published — sometimes the journey is worth more than the destination.
Laura, I just want to tell you how right you are. I’m guessing you already know, but…
Two years ago or so when I started following your blog, I was in such a dark place. Ending it all was constantly on my mind, and I guess it showed in my comments because you reached out in email to me, concerned.
And I’m not saying the last two years have been easy.
But what’s the one fundamental, underlying truth you are always trying to show others?
That when you can tell your story; that every time you tell your story — little bits of pieces of shame break away.
I’d told it in therapy, but that wasn’t enough. I started letting it out by dribs and drabs here. You let me share more in email. I even wrote a post for SIS although I’m sure it is horribly out of date for where I am now (and that’s a very good thing).
A couple months ago, I wrote my own personal blog post and allowed three close friends see it, and it was my story. Explicit. With the who — whom they knew and have met and know themselves. What a terrifying, wonderful, exhilarating, absolutely fearful thing to have done.
But I did it, and my friends stayed my friends.
My husband started joining me in every other therapy session. He started hearing my story — more than he had in our entire 30 year marriage — and he didn’t hate me or resent me for bringing him along — he VALUED being included. Talked about how he always felt I held him at a certain distance, and he knew that’s what I had to do. But he feels closer than ever before. (Wow. Just wow.)
And this last weekend, I was on a woman’s retreat. This may not come as a surprise, but you put 28 women together in a room and there’s an awful lot of damage in that room with us.
But if you break us down into small, safe, accepting groups or one-on-one conversations — we can share that inner pain and that history.
And Laura — I shared this time, too.
And every time I do — little pieces of the shame break off, tiny little fragments, and float away.
I’m not saying the shame is gone. I don’t know if it ever will be entirely. I know EMDR has had a lot to do with letting me share without getting lost to the present. But your encouragement to share has been monumental.
So I hope the book does get written, but even if it doesn’t, I think your presence will continue to resonate across the internet.
And thank you for that. It’s nice to be in the light. Even if it’s still shadowy, it’s a heck of a lot more light than I’ve had any other point in my life.
In Others' Words says
Sister. I’m not sure there are words to fully express how much joy I feel reading this. Thank you for trusting me along the way with the chapters of your story you’ve chosen to share with me. Every time I see I have a comment or an email from you I am grateful because you are reaching out, seeking connection. Even when you were sure there was no light to be found you showed up and let me insist there IS and CAN BE. You are such a survivor, my sweet, resilient friend. You ARE. Despite the pain and the shame and the darkness you still show up, even if only to argue about the possibility of healing. I am, as ever, holding you in my heart. You amaze and inspire me. Love you so.
And to think I stayed away for a while because I thought I was being a pain.
Thank you. And drat you for making me tear up at work! <3 Love you, too. And I don't always love easily. Or trust.
I shared "He Wrote it Down" with one of the women this weekend, which meant I went back and re-read it, of course. Because for me, that was the post that started it all.
I haven't figured out what to do with some of my family members yet, but right now I'm going to stay in the summertime and sunlight for a bit before I worry about winter.
In Others' Words says
Sit in the sun. I’ll sit awhile next to you, okay?
I would love that. Got a spot right here for ya.
Meredith W. says
This. Is. Awesome. AWESOME, I tell you! Haven’t been here much but am sooooo glad I found this. <3 <3 <3 I am thrilled for you.