When I was about 24, I used to attend a church where women were in charge. It was wonderful and undemanding, held on the campus of Spelman College in a little building so nondescript it’s not even worth describing. Reverend Vickie was our buxom, fearless leader.
In addition to Sunday service, once a week, a tiny group of us would gather at the assistant pastor’s home, Catherine, to sip sweet, warm tea, sit on velvety, frayed chairs and couches next to her cat, and talk about stuff. Life stuff. Lady life stuff like how to embrace God and reimagine its force as loving and nurturing instead of parental and disapproving. How to howl at the moon when it’s full. How to own ourselves, even when we look in the mirror and aren’t very proud of what we see in its reflection.
Man, what a giddy, crazy time! I was young, and my eyebrows were thick. In pictures, I didn’t have to suck in my stomach and I believed in everything. This Gayle was fresh out of grad school and headed for the next on-ramp onto the highway. I can’t remember if I’d lost Mama yet (so many of those years are a blur) but I do recall the assistant pastor teaching this: if one of us ever found ourselves caught in a difficult situation ie a horrible diagnosis, a death of someone we loved, a wounding breakup, an impending sentence, whatever, always do whatever is before us to do.
This looks like: your husband just left you sobbing maniacally in the living room after announcing that he wants to divorce you and marry his fourth cousin. What the hell do you do?
Well, if the phone rings, answer it. If you have to pee, go pee. If you’re hungry, get something to eat. The idea being that taking these tiny steps toward the door would eventually lead you out of it and into solution. Out of despair and into fresh air and understanding. Moving on while healing up.
Of all the things I learned during those two years or so that I was part of this congregation, this is what stuck.
Do what is before you to do. Answer the phone. Walk the dog. Wipe the counters. Keep it moving.
So, this morning as I awakened and remembered that I’d be entering yet another year without Mama, I
1. Got out of bed 2. Took out the trash 3. Went to Safeway for eggs, yogurt and sparkling cider to bring in the new year 4. Ran a few laps 5. Thought about you and what I wanted this blog to say, etc. I did all this with the most incredibly hot tears beneath my eyes. I did what was before me to do and guess what? I felt better.
Did Mama call me? No.
Did I dance in the kitchen as I scrambled eggs? No.
Did I turn on the television and learn Trump had been impeached? Hell no.
But something inside me gathered up and went on. I breathed. I survived. I grieved while keeping it moving, which, if you think about it, sounds like what was before me to do.
So friend: I wish you a 2019 filled with the best kind of love and the most beautiful grieving you’ve ever done. Go slow. Rub the cat’s ridiculously lustrous fur. Sip the tea and the tears. Tell a friend when it hurts. Hug til your arms get sore. Read Michelle’s book. Savor the chapter where she loses her Daddy.
Reread it. Cry.
And most of all, do what is before you to do.
ps Reverend Vickie left the church and ran off to Seattle to be a nightclub singer. I have no idea what the assistant pastor, Catherine, is doing these days. Maybe singing backup.