Monday, 5 December 2011
When Father’s Day is painful
All the tweets, blog posts and Facebook messages about Father’s Day today set me on edge. Usually I can deflect the pain the day brings by focusing on my husband and celebrating him with my kids, but this year he wasn’t home. There was no buffer.
I couldn’t tweet, blog or post about my dad today, not because he wasn’t a beautiful human being, not because I don’t have fond memories of him, not because he wasn’t a great dad. I couldn’t do it because he’s dead, and tweeting feels trite and sentimental and dishonest. He’s gone, and a manufactured holiday like Father’s Day just zeroes in on that loss, shines a magnifying-glass-intense-sun on it until it burns anew.
Most Father’s Days for the last 11 years I’ve just gotten through, tried to remember the positive, reminded myself of the blessing my husband is as a dad to our kids. Today I could have focused on my little brother, a father for the first time just six days ago, the miracle of a new baby, a new mom and daddy and everything that’s all wrapped up in it. That deserves celebration, recognition, it’s really so beautiful.
But I confess: I had trouble getting there today. Today, the holiday just made me angry.
How do you respond on a day where everyone everywhere seems to go along with socially acceptable holiday traditions that only serve to rub salt in your wounds?
I could choose to rage, I could write a snarky post about how I couldn’t care less anyway and also I hate mother’s day even though my own amazing mom is still alive, I could scroll through the feeds and feel miserable, I could ignore it and stuff down the pain again, I could withdraw.
And I do choose. All of those things. After cycling through each one in their turn, I realize there’s another way: I could lean into it. Because all those other ways, even though they look so different, aren’t they all the same in the end? At their core, each one is just a different way of running away.
After listening to widsom and fasting for a while from the never-ending stream of social media sentiments, I choose just to sit with it. In my mind, I’m choosing a room. There are two chairs there, and I’m sitting down with the pain. I’m reclining with the grief. I’m choosing to sit across from it, look in its face, and have compassion on myself. Not to love the grief, not to hate it, not to cling to it, coddle or reject it, but just to sit with it. To just be, and let it be, too.
I want to write now about what I hope will happen, about how this diffuses some of the pain’s power over me, about how it helps absolve the grief, how it softens the sting. But honestly, I think it can’t be about an agenda and what I’m aiming for. The endgame has to be the same as the process. To just sit there is the whole point.
After we stare at each other awhile, my grief and I huddle together and build an altar here, right here, to say this is where we were today, we sat here in the presence of one another and God, and it was enough.