They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
“A soldier’s life is terrible hard,”
Life is hard, torturous! The guard needs to change. The still air suffocates.
“It is the fixed that assails us with tremendous force of its mindlessness.” (Annie Dillard)
As you sit on the edge of her bed, you gather the pieces of your lives, you look at what you have and you make two groups. What has been saved and what has been lost.
You share out the pieces trying to make sense of what remains. The groups are uneven, unfair and unbalanced. You start again, is there some good in this that you cannot see? You scoop up all the bits and lay them out before you again and again. It will be okay, it will be okay… but it isn’t okay.
Like the children, you just don’t get it. “What do two groups of four look like?” You look around the room to see what the others are doing with their counters. The blood drains from your face as the teacher makes her way around the circle to see what you got. You heard the question but it made no sense. You hold all the counters in your hands and you shrug your shoulders. “I don’t get it.” You whisper, terrified because everyone around you does. They are drawing circles with the textas on their white board, for them the penny has dropped but not for you.
When the teacher says to have a go, you don’t even know where to start. It has been a week on this topic but still you are confused. What is a group? How do you sort what goes where? How do you decide what to do with what you’ve been given?
In Kindergarten the lessons we learn have numerical value, you discover a formula and if you get it and learn to apply it, one day you will solve great equations. Yet life is more like literature, sometimes things do not add up.
It’s a passionate, tragic memoir of regret and you cling to the words because they feel like they define you. You read late into the night until your eyelids droop and you can’t see the words. You wait until you are completely exhausted so you know that you won’t have to lie there thinking of what could have been. You test sleep for a while. You try to read more words but they are blurred so you switch off the light and you sleep until the dreams come. Until the battle finds its way into your subconscious thoughts, until you see the army of fear marching on your chest, pounding their feet on your heart. The rhythmic steps of marching, those heavy boots they smash their way through your chest and you sit upright desperate for water.
You sit and stare into the hollow space of disillusion, into the dark of the night and you hear the activity of bandicoots in the yard. They are making holes as well. They are looking for food for their babies, they are carrying them on their backs, and they are making their ‘chuff- squeak’ sounds, keeping you company in the relative silence of night.
You line up your fears like toy soldiers. You see that not every dread is real, not every enemy is undefeatable. You rise to write, lining up thoughts on the page. In this way you create order and symmetry, a splendid array. You make groups and plans and goals. You decide how to sort the options afforded you. This is child’s play and you are back in control, not completely, but at least in control of your thoughts. You write the questions and you seek out answers.
“Who am I but a pawn in the hand of my Maker?” you wonder. “Who am I, but a single life?” you sigh again. Yet this you know, your life is necessary. He purposed it to be so and with that purpose you seek to define the truth of who you shall become and how you might use what is left in your hands to serve Him.
You try to join the dots to make the links, to find the numbers that will direct you so you can work out what the picture is supposed to be. There are no numbers and no directions. You get to choice which path to take but it’s all dots, like counters in front of you on the floor, there are no instructions, guidelines or rules. It is up to you.
Things are not clearly defined. Like the lanes at the pool, no one is checking the guidelines. The day you decide to swim in the medium lane you get stuck behind someone who is so slow you must upgrade yourself or you will never make progress. Then as you upgrade yourself into the fast lane you discover a squad of teenage swimmers who don’t really welcome you into the lane.
Sometimes it is an issue of self-esteem, your self-conscious thoughts seek to hinder you but you must rise to the occasion, ignoring the arguments in your head. “You have focus, if you keep going you will out lap them,” this is what you tell yourself and finally you do. When you get to the end of the lane they have stopped for a chat and you think they are talking about you. You want to give them your resume, to tell them what you have overcome, to defend yourself. Though your arms might sag, though your goggles press into your head like a raccoon but you say nothing, instead you tell yourself, “You are cool, keep going.”
They come up beside you and pass you making you feel fragile and vulnerable but still you swim. You breathe and you decide that the little bubbles from their youthful kicking is beautiful. You decide to enjoy the light that reflects beneath the surface of the water onto these little dots, like a celebration, like champagne. Though you are intimidated, you enjoy it anyway.
“Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow: you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” (Annie Dillard)
It is true, you have come to know grace and you put that grace into the group that is good. Not all of the hollow is bad. The hollow has taught you to see. It has taught you to look further and deeper, to see possibilities that were not there before cancer. Or maybe they were there but life was so good then, so full of laughter that you never went looking to see. But you see it now… all the disconnected dots in front of you and you know that in time the links will come, there will be clarity.
You see new growth emerge out of a barren desert of nothing. Green life comes, pushing its way up in the place where hope was stripped away. It doesn’t happen quickly but over time, with water and sunlight it does come. Your roots go deep, deeper than you even remembered and they anchor you for the next stage, the place where you will rise.
You are chloroplast, contained and trapped in a cell. You are the tiniest molecule, just a dot inside a plant that no one has noticed but beneath the surface you are there, pulsing and pressing and thronging. You will not give up until life is full and complete again. You hold onto hope like chlorophyll clings to protein. It may be haphazard, and complex but you hang on because from it stems new life and there is photosynthesis.
And this you know, “That the Lord will pass through the sea of this distress and affliction and the sceptor or rod of the enemy will pass away.” (Zechariah 9:11)