waiting. . .
waiting is the word of the week. word of the year, in fact––so far, anyway. i’m on the other side of surgery––and have the tic-tac-toe board crisscrossing my side to prove it. they got out what they needed to get out (i hope), though it was more than we’d been betting on. so now i’m waiting.
waiting is a quilt of many textures. sometimes it washes over me, with a calm that takes the sting away. sometimes i feel my heart kick into higher, faster gear. i try hard to turn off the nozzle that lets the worries out. but even my secondborn tells me i do too much of that. and he’s only been keeping watch for twenty-one of my years (and he is 300 miles away right now, so he’s out of range for any current worries; job one for me is to project calm to the one with the very, very giant heart). it’ll take two weeks for the blessed souls in the pathology lab to do what all they do to lay out the specifics of this little dervish that somehow found its way to the bottom of my lung. and that gives me time to sink slowly into the bath of this new reality.
waiting gives the human species time to settle in, to realize you’ve taken more steps into the unknown than you’d ever imagined you would. and you’re calmer––and maybe braver––than you’d ever ever imagined you could be (most of the time anyway). of all the worries i’ve worried over the years, i never added lungs to the list.
just the other week, i read a lovely line from a 96-year-old, a woman who knew she was on the last pages of her life, and so she scribbled out her truths for her children, her grandchildren, and her many greats. when asked what might be the most important thing she’d realized as she rounded the final bend, she simply said: “i wish i hadn’t spent so many hours worrying, cuz most of those worries never came to be.”
mostly, what waiting does is make me savor every minute. stepping out into the balmy springtime air. tucking my nose into the soon-to-be blossoms. listening to the owls hoot at 5:15 a.m. marveling at the miracles of modern medicine that can do so very very much, and for the most part do it so very lovingly. (i fell in love with my nurses, emily who stayed all night with me, and clare who worked by day. the care with which they changed dressings, filled syringes, listened to my questions, they made me so so proud that i was once one of them. and they made me realize how very much even their most basic medical tasks translate into a language that feels like love. i was a stranger to them when i was rolled into my cubicle of a room, but by shift’s end i was sad to see them leave. if you’re a nurse, believe me when i tell you you’re a living saint. to make the scared and fragile and confused feel safe and tended to is a sacred act, is sacramental, in that it lifts even the most perfunctory of duties into the closest thing i know to benediction.)
a few of things i marveled at this week, while idling in my wait station: my friend the nurse practitioner who, when she found out how much it hurt to try to lie down in bed, ordered up a giant wedge pillow that made last night a whole lot less bumpy. having two of my three boys right by my bedside all week long. one of ’em had me laughing (sidesplittingly is not such an apt description here, though it might have stretched some stitches) within hours of getting to my little room. (i was on the heart transplant floor, and, believe you me, i did not miss for a minute how blessed i was to be there only for a chunk taken out of my little lung.)
yet another surround-sound marvel in this week one of the two-week wait: the promise of springtime, that life bursts forth year after year after year. we live in an eternal spiral, and i am on for the holy blessed sumptuous ride. stepping into the still soft air, watching the goldfinch nibble at the thistle seed, rejoicing as the daffodils tossed off their snowy caps to rise and shine again, golden periscopes of spring. it felt to me like the arms of God were wrapping round me in the form of this gentle greening world.
in book world, one fine thing happened: there is a lovely lovely journal, the EcoTheo Review––a quarterly put out by a collective of poets (mostly), writers, and artists who plumb the depths of wonder and beauty in this world, and who claim as their mission, to “celebrate wonder, enliven conversations, and inspire commitments to ecology, spirituality, and art.” and they published a conversation we’d had a few weeks back about The Book of Nature, which you can read here. the editor who spent hours in our exchange of thoughts, Esteban Rodriguez is his name, is himself a poet, and one of the kindest, gentlest souls i’ve been blessed to come to know. it more than more than made up for the half dozen book events that got wiped off the calendar.
while i wait in these days ahead (and try so hard not to worry!), i’m going to be on watch, to soak up and see every blessed wonder and beauty in this holy world. i don’t want to miss a drop. i am following the instruction of richard rohr, the modern-day mystic, who asked:
Where is this God being revealed? Not in the safe world, but at the edge, at the bottom, among those where we don’t want to find God, where we don’t look for God, where we don’t expect God.
i’m going to look for God in every nook and cranny along this waiting way. because i’m fairly certain God comes in a thousand thousand forms: in the gentle touch of the nurse who poked my arm, in the bouquet dropped on my front stoop, in the tub of soup that now takes up a shelf in the fridge, in the box that’s on its way from zingerman’s deli in ann arbor, and in every last note and gentle text that simply says, “you got this, and i am here beside you.”
God comes most certainly in the hours when our waiting gives God more than plenty time to tap us on the heart, the soul, the noggin. i’m on watch while i wait…
where did you find God this week, or whatever is the name you give to the all-embracing goodness that i call the holy Author of it all?