Sunday, March 30, 2008

One thing gold can stay...

I was not yet three when I was hit by a car, crossing the street in front of my home on Pear Drive. Possibly my earliest memory- very vivid still, the fearful shouting of my parents, looking up to see the tire on my leg, covered with blood, my dad holding me in the hospital and singing to me... fragments, but clear ones.
Fortunately, I was spared skin grafts, although much of the skin on my left leg had been scraped off. The skin and my ankle healed. Somehow healing happens.
I was a very happy child, they tell me I scooted around like a crab and tolerated the bandage changing well, I recall it was painful, and I can still picture my mom and a friend popping open vitamin E capsules and squeezing them onto my leg, my mother's voice low and soothing.
In this picture I smile on my grandmother, Melba's lap, the mummified leg forgotten. I guess I didn't take the injury to my leg personally or as a sign that I deserve bad things. I hadn't learned yet the lie that tells us we are worthless if we are treated as if we are and that bad things only happen to bad people.
I marvel at how well children adapt to the bumps and bruises. We seem bound and determined to be happy when we are little. We come thinking we are pretty great and deserving of love- we were right. Little Jack has taught us that the most. The surgeries, the disadvantages, the pain...and he is so sunny and happy. He looks in the mirror and smiles with genuine delight- he hasn't learned to be ashamed of himself yet. He loves baby Jack. Sometimes self love becomes harder as we age- for various reasons we lose the belief that we are fabulous and loveable "as is"- thus losing our ability to be happy. We think love is to be earned or achieved like success...and like happiness. We try everything in the pursuit of happiness- we are so bent on having and holding happiness that we become unhappy in the very pursuit of its elusive and twinkling ray. Is it inevitable that happiness fades even in our reaching?This reminds me of a poem:

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost

Most of us are convinced of this on some level. But, what if our perception of happiness isn't what the season or the weather says? Not the things that happen around or even to us? Could we hold it then? What if it lives in us, like an immortal firefly in a jar, indifferent to outside conditions.When we are happy in spite of pain and suffering is it always denial or some coping mechanism? Maybe too often it is.
I believe that true, steady happiness comes of trust and faith. Trust that good times can be reborn and that a bump in the road does not mar our life like an omen in a Greek tragedy- where the inevitable end is misery and doom. Perhaps it is more important to remember that nothing horrible can stay either- unless we invite it to. And faith, because we know there is a fire living in us, the love of God which knows no seasons, it is endless and timeless and we are pieces of him. God is the one gold that stays. If he is our defense and our protector we have no need for defense mechanisms of our own destructive making and if the truth is that He loves us unconditionally there is no reason for denial or masking the truth. And if happiness is His free gift we do not have to chase it- just accept it.
The hardest part of a trial is when we see no end in sight- looking down that dark tunnel for a light at the end- it isn't that we cannot endure it- it is the fear that it will endure us and we will collapse before it is all over and never come out the other side. We get overwhelmed and we lose heart waiting for an outside light source. The light is in us- dim or bright- it is there and will not be snuffed out entirely. A happy past can haunt us if our present is miserable- we mourn the loss. If we don't have a happy past to look back on it seems impossible the future could be any different- but the potential is there in us, if we could only see who we really are and not what we have been led to believe of ourselves.
Nothing gold can stay- but who is to say the silver and the copper cannot be endured for awhile like the seasons, things always come back around -sunset to sunrise. So childhood passes and so does midlife crises. We can't control what goes on around us or to us and the attempt to do so in order to feel happy is ironically what brings misery and makes us nuts. If we let go- we will feel the pain we fear and mask but as acute as the pain can be- the joy on the other end of the balance is just as great.(As Alma Jr. found out)
A lot of good things and a lot of bad things have happened in my life between the time a car hit me and now and I fully expect more of the same. As a child I trusted my parents when they told me I would be ok after every injury- and God has to replace our parents as we grow up.With faith and trust we can experience it all, the bad and the good,- fully, honestly, externally- so the light inside remains true and constant- like God's love for us which is unaffected by anything we do or anything that has been done to us. We are loved exactly as we are. A happy thought.


Paige and Jason said...

Wow, lots of good advice there. I have had that poem memorized since I was in 4th grade and it's always been one of my favorites. I wanted to let you know that it meant alot to me to be invited to your retreat and I was soooo very sorry to miss it. I had a monster cold/sinus infection and didn't want to be there coughing on everyone and passing it around. I hope you guys had a good enuf time that you will consider doing it again...hint hint :-)

Becky said...

What a great post!! Everyone should read it.

The Harward Family said...

Thanks Jo! Your writing is very beautiful and you hit me right in the heart. Love ya girl!

Maribel said...

I really enjoyed reading this essay. Thanks for putting down in words what I feel and know inside.