This is not an episode of Wesley-induced rage, although I suspect that I am far from the first or only church musician to be frustrated by the musical stylings of our dear Charles.
Nor is it my usual irritation with the unholy greed that marks what is supposedly the Christmas season in the West.
It isn't even the mental and emotional gymnastics required to shepherd a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder through the holidays. Yeah, it's a little awkward and a whole lot messy, and yeah, I sometimes forget my lines, but I mostly know those scripts by heart.
It's another holiday memory slideshow, four bleak snapshots looping relentlessly in my mind:
- Implacable questions in a dismal gray office where I hoped for help and instead found pain.
- Me, huddled on the kitchen floor after the fight that would mark the beginning of the end.
- A knife raised menacingly in a child's diminutive hand.
- My father lost in a maze of tubes and wires.
"Maybe" I think, "I can replace this show with music." I bend to retrieve the hymnal, look for Sunday's second hymn. "Rejoice Ye Pure In Heart." You have got to be kidding me. In the face of my psyche's chosen holiday feature film, I'm supposed to rejoice?!?! Then again, I'm not so sure I belong with the "pure in heart." Perhaps that lets me off the hook.
I start again to play. It goes badly. I break the music down, transform it into a mechanical exercise. It goes okay.
"Take Time to be Holy" is a passable success. I decide not to overthink the implications of this for my current mood and turn instead to "Joy to the World." I can play the heck out of this one. I proceed to do just that. Until...
Well then. Apparently, the sorrows are supposed to stop growing. I'm not convinced. And something else in this verse nags at me too: the blessings. Apparently they are still flowing. I sit on my hands and think. As dark as things have been, there have been moments of light. Not the light at the end of the tunnel. Not the candle on the cold, dark, winter's night. More like a sense of light, dimly perceived through a scrim or screen. Kind of a lot like this image, repurposed from Ann Patchett's "My Year of No Shopping": "a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: We can see some shapes out there, light and dark..."
That's what it's like in my head these days. I've already listed dark shapes, the ones my mind insists it most clearly sees. I failed to mention, though, that a) my mind likes to trick my brain, and b) each dark shape has its opposite in light. It's hard to see through the Vaseline. But if I take a tissue and wipe it away, I remember and I see. I see that I left that office and found some help. The fights are over, their instigator gone. The knife is safely in its block. My father is free of tubes and wires.
The shape of hope can be difficult to discern. That doesn't mean it isn't there.
Anyone got a tissue?