Friday, April 3, 2009

Grief Divides the Self

I am not what I am.
Viola in Twelfth Night, III.1

The shadow of my sorrow? ha! let’s see –
’Tis very true, my grief lies all within,
And these external manners of lament
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortur’d soul.
There lies the substance.
Richard II
, IV.1.291-296

Who is it that can tell me who I am?
King Lear, I.iv.221.

Perhaps I should be reading Shakespeare.

Iago, too, says, I am not what I am. (Othello, I.1) My own willful evil is not what torments me; I mention Iago only as a further indication of how frequently and thoroughly Shakespeare addresses the conundrum of inner division, of what we purport to be and what we are.

Viola is a little closer, in the sense of donning a disguise to get from here to there. I thought of her, oddly enough, in connection with a Facebook Quiz that a friend did and the onset of Holy Week and the
RevGals Friday Five, which asks about where pastors find restoration, strength, and encouragment during the busy week ahead. While Easter does not carry the same weight that Christmas does in the secular culture, for those who are attentive and practicing Christians it is a far more important celebration. It is THE celebration. And I am hiding out. I am not ready to contemplate resurrection. It is easier to disguise myself publicly than it was at Christmas, which required a journey to Key West to put sufficient distance between our family and the rituals that had been meaningful to us, but it is no easier inwardly, to know that I am so out of sync with what surrounds me.

I remember loving Richard II in high school. That "tortur'd soul" of his speaks so well to lost adolescents; I wonder that it isn't read as frequently as Hamlet. His words about external lament being but a shadow of unseen grief ~ well: I am including a bit of my experience in a sermon I am working on for a class. It seemed to me, as I preached part of it yesterday, that there would never be a way to approach the reality of what I am saying, not without sinking the chapel beneath the weight. Most of it I have to reserve for myself.

And Lear ~ he is the one. When I came across that line of his several days ago I thought, No, I am not old enough to be Lear. There are, God help me, more decades of self-delusion and anguish between the woman I am now and the old man he became.

But you know what? For the first time in my life, I feel a slight sense of the deepest affinity with him. Not the intellectual recognition that the student of literature brings to her analytical approach to a text. But the deeply and generously heartbroken recogition of the awesomely terrible disappointments that life inflicts, some of them due to our own limitations and some to the limitations of others. Lear, naked in the wind and rain ~ perhaps who we all are.

No, I am not ready for resurrection.


Sally said...

Hide out for as long as you need to, celebrating the resurrection is impossible when you are living in Easter Saturday.

God be with you ((GG))

RevDrKate said...

Oh dear love and prayers are with you.

Mary Beth said...


MaineCelt said...

Yes. There's a reason the ancient "Desert Fathers" & "Desert Mothers" of the church made their way there. Sometimes it is too hard to stand at the busy well, too hard to join the crowd waving all those branches.

May you be brushed and enfolded by the dark wings of Peace.

Sophia said...

Our daughter was baptized during her first Easter season and killed during the next, so it was close to a year when it rolled around again. I sobbed my way through the liturgies but found them very powerful and a welcome place to do that--more Thursday and Friday and the Vigil though. (I rarely attend Easter Sunday anyway).

I am so sorry that you are finding the church season yet another source of pain and exclusion instead. I more often felt that on Christmas, perhaps because it is both the more culturally ubiquitous holiday and is also more family-oriented (at least for me, and that's not always a good thing--esp. family of origin stuff).

I will hold you in my heart and prayer as I live through this Holy Week.

altar ego said...

I don't know your darkness. One Holy Week and Easter, however, I had to endure the journey by clasping with all my might the inner divide of which you speak. It was like trying to keep my guts from spilling out. Most agonizing was that it was a private pain, and my one solace was that I felt I could imagine between heartbeats the loneliness of Christ on the cross.

My prayers attend you.

Lisa :-] said...

Please don't take this the wrong way. I want you to know that I am with you and behind you in your grief.

BUT...I read a post at Cynthia's yesterday, and she expressed much the same "I'm not ready for..." sentiment that you have here. And I remember feeling that way myself...for years.

Yours and Cynthia's grief is still shocking and fresh, so I wouldn't expect you to be thinking in these terms. But I couldn't help feeling, personally, for ME, that "not being ready" for (whatever the experience) should no longer preclude me from experiencing it. After all, we are NEVER ready for grief when it strikes us. Why should we feel we need to be "ready" to experience the more positive things in life, like weddings or baptisms or...whatever? Perhaps we feel the need to control our exposure to these things, because we can, and we know that we can't control when tragedy will strike.

But maybe...

Maybe we aren't doing ourselves any favors...

niwaki said...

My Dear Sister,

Resurrection waits on the other side, He will be there to welcome you, but until then He waits and weeps with you.

May you feel His strong and tender arms and may He grant you peace and strength.

Magdalene6127 said...

(((Gannet Girl)))

Heather said...

love you xxx