Thursday, October 25, 2007

Last Night I Baptized A Book

I was getting settled under the bed covers the other night, my latest read and a cup of tea occupying both hands, when a few teaspoons of golden hot liquid spilled onto the book. As I reached over to get a Kleenex to soak it up a sentence popped into my head:
"Last night I baptized a book."
"Well, that's weird," I thought, "Books don't need rebirth." At that I wiped the tea away, opened my book and began reading. The sentence kept circling my head like an airplane in a holding pattern, though. "Excuse me, I'm trying to read here!" I murmured. By the time I went to sleep the sentence was still in orbit. It was the first thing to break through my consciousness when I opened my eyes 9 hours later, too. It still didn't make any sense.

Yesterday I met with Fr. Charlie. I arrived late and found the front door locked. I yanked on the doorknob once last time, not knowing that if I would've moved my fingers an inch to the left, they would have pressed the door bell to let them know I was there. Sometimes the solution is so simple. Fortunately, when I walked around to the side of the building, someone finishing up dishes from lunch saw me through a window. She opened the side door, told me the front door was always locked, and led me through a maze of hallways and staircases where I eventually ended up in Father Charlie's office.

I miss the serenity of the sitting room in his old office. The one with comfortable furniture and peaceful paint colours. It felt safer there. In this new space there's high ceilings, institutional white paint and two uncomfortable wooden chairs. They're meant to sit facing his desk but when we meet he comes around the side and sits in one while I take the other. With barely enough room to navigate, the chairs are turned to rest against adjoining walls. We turn them slightly to face one another. If only ceiling height could morph into floor space when needed.

But it doesn't and so ensconced in our chairs we began. Back and forth. Probing questions. Tears. Silence. Unbelief that I could find myself in such a state. Again. Not that he was taken by surprise, mind you. I look forward to the day when my humanity no longer slaps me across the face with a ferocity that stuns me. I covered my face with my hands and cried when he reminded me to honour whatever I was capable of on any given day. That good enough was indeed, good enough. I looked at him through the tears and told him I'd forgotten such a simple truth. Celebrate the here and now. Accept myself as is. As is is good enough. Always.

Later on I shared this recurring feeling of having a cry inside me that was begging to be let out. That it came from my core and the thought of giving it a voice scared me. Made me feel out of control. For now all I could do was open my mouth wide and practice without making a sound. He wondered aloud what the cry was trying to tell me. What was behind it. I hadn't felt like this in nearly 20 years I told him. Back then I'd been angry with my mom. Really angry. I'd recently shared my story with someone for the first time. The pain that followed was nearly unbearable. I was in the midst of sobering up and when the pain got too much I would lie on my bed and fantasize about how a six pack of beer would make everything better. Except I'd already been to Al-Anon by then and knew beer wasn't going to solve a thing. It was all my mother's fault. And if she phoned I was going to let out this primal scream to let her know it.

Yesterday though, the cry didn't feel angry. When I sat with it long enough to feel its breath I told Fr. Charlie it was a wailing cry. Deep and painful.

"Like new birth?" he asked.

At his question I turned to look him right in the eyes. Facing him I said out loud, "Last night I baptized a book." At this he sat up a bit straighter. We sat in silence, the sentence making figure eight loops as it circled between us both now. I then shared the story of how this sentence had popped into my head the night before. How this particular book was taking me to raw, painful places.

From there our conversation took several turns when he asked me if any pictures came into my head. So I shared with him that the day before I'd pictured myself as a little girl running into caves. I wasn't very discerning about which I ran into. Some of them were full of fire and some were calm and peaceful. It didn't matter to me, I just wanted a cave to hide in. Once inside it's doorway I sat hugging my knees, rocking back and forth.

Further into the conversation we talked of altars built of stones. Places that marked significant events in one's journey. As we talked I pictured a huge boulder set on my path. One I put there by choice. As a person walked the path that was all my yesterdays, one saw the word RECOVERY painted in white across the middle of the boulder. To get that far you had to navigate chaos, stones, pebbles and obstacles. And my mother. On that side of the boulder I was the little girl who hid in caves and rocked back and forth. As I made my way around the rock I became a woman. Strong. Capable. Facing forward. And my mother couldn't come with me. No one got past the boulder without my permission. As I looked before me I saw a calming white that reached into infinity.

As my session came to a close Fr. Charlie shared what had come to him as I talked. As he reflected on the tea stained book he said the book was where I was in my baptismal journey. New birth, if only I would wail the wail and let it out. Caves and boulders both symbols of resurrection.

A surge of peace enveloped me as he spoke.
New birth.
Wailing the wail.
Deeper conversion.
Cries of my heart.
"Okay," I said, "I can do this.".

Suddenly honouring my story in whatever way its sentences form morphed into the path before me and became something to celebrate, not fight.

The circling stopped.
The plane landed.


Poor Mad Peter said...

When you're ready, kiddo.

And besides, tea has birthed more books than you can shake a stick at. It's gentler on the system than coffee, and the ritual of tea-making helps calm you so that the sentences come out right.

I read your "tea leaves" encounter (if you'll forgive my stretch of your own metaphor) as a sign of your emerging creativity and a blessing/affirmation of whatever your creativity is going to lead you to, next.

wilsonian said...

Just wow!

Hope said...

Thank you Peter for your discerning words of wisdom....they soeak truth to me as well. This morning I did the first exercise in the book and wrote for 30 minutes in what seemed like 5. It was cathartic and good.

Wilsonian - I amen the wow. Actually both Fr. Charlie and I sat there a little stunned as the pieces came together into something coherent.

Heidi Renee said...

no words - well, maybe beautiful.

Grace, Every Day said...

That's my word. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. I am so glad for you that you are still meeting up with Fr Charlie despite his move. :)
Very happy for you.


Anonymous said...

After reading "a book doesn't need rebirth", the thought that came to me was:
"Maybe not rebirth, but more like a christening like when you launch a new ship."