So there I was, scrolling through Amazon to find a dress suitable for my daughter to receive the body and blood of Christ in.
Because of The Thing We Are All Tired of Talking About, her First Communion was delayed a year, and I suddenly realised the lovely, very suitable dress all her older sisters had worn won’t fit her. With little time to spare, we started online shopping.
“Let’s see if we can find something a little bit old fashioned, you know what I mean?” I suggested gently.
I have seen some of the monstrosities out there: First communion dresses that look like slinky club wear; first communion dresses that look like not even wedding dresses, but wedding cakes, bristling with ruffles and petticoats and little sprays and fountains of fabric.
“We did buy one with butterflies and sequins on it, though. It’s not demure or tasteful, but she loves it to death”
I wanted my child to wear something pretty and special, but also tasteful and maybe even demure. Something that would signal to her that it was a significant occasion, but not something that would make her the centre of attention, because that honor ought to belong to Jesus.
Forty minutes later, I said, “LOOK, THIS ONE HAS A DETACHABLE CAPE WITH RHINESTONES AND BUTTERFLIES ON IT AND IT’S IN YOUR SIZE, OKAY?!”
We didn’t buy that one. We did buy one with butterflies and sequins on it, though. It’s not demure or tasteful, but she loves it to death, and as long as the Chinese factory doesn’t screw up the order, it should arrive on time. And that’s that.
This is what happens, more and more. I still have standards, but I give them up so easily. I let go of the things that once seemed to matter so much, and it barely makes a ripple in my conscience.
It’s not just the strain of trying to shop with one particular kid; it’s the cumulative strain, the decades-long piling-up of aggravation and compromise and defeat and loss that wears you down, until suddenly you realise that the things you were super hung up on are only as important as so many rhinestone butterflies fluttering on the cape on a nine-year-old’s shoulders, and the only thing you should truly be pursuing is the sweet, sweet relief of being done with a task so you can get back to the things that really matter, such as going to bed.
Is this wisdom, or is it giving up? I truly do not know. If you wanted to illustrate my mid-40’s, you’d just have to draw a fist letting go, over and over and over again.
So many things being let go, if not forcibly removed from my grasp: Trivial things, and heavy things, silly things, precious things. Things that felt vital and irreplaceable for decades, only to reveal themselves as disposable, and not worth replacing.
“It hasn’t killed me to give up hoping for certain things from other people. Just let it go.”
I hope I’m not the first one to break this to you, but life is very fleeting and full of loss, and if you deal with its fleetness by grabbing on and trying to hold it back, you’ll just end up hurting yourself. Better to relax into the speed.
Oh, you can take it too far, just like you can take anything too far. When my father died suddenly, I dealt with the onslaught of loss by sitting in my living room, drinking gin and ruthlessly deleting hundreds and hundreds of family photos.
It made sense at the time, but I wish I hadn’t done it. Still, it didn’t kill me. And it definitely hasn’t killed me to let go of so many other mementos and souvenirs, and also hopes, and theories, and standards, and wishes, and goals, for myself, for my kids, for my life. It hasn’t killed me to give up hoping for certain things from other people. Just let it go.
I know it sounds dire. But sometimes it’s just a relief. And sometimes, it’s more.
Sometimes, when you let your fist unclench, it doesn’t stay empty. Instead, loss makes you ready to receive something good, something better, something you weren’t capable of receiving or even recognising as good, before.
Sometimes that thing is just peace, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But sometimes it’s something you never would have even thought to hope for. It’s what gave the martyrs the vision to march forward toward their deaths: The knowledge that loss isn’t always the end.
Sometimes it’s the beginning, especially when you recognise the loss for what it is, but consciously turn it over to Christ. All of it: The difficulty, the regret, the relief, the hope, the whole thing. A relationship. A theory of how to raise children.
“What kind of dress is appropriate to receive Jesus in? Any dress, as long as you are learning how to open your fist and receive.”
An idea of what kind of person you are. An idea of what kind of communion dress is appropriate. All of it. Let it go. Or at least try.
What kind of dress is appropriate to receive Jesus in? Any dress. No dress. All dresses. Any dress, as long as you are learning how to open your fist and receive.
Sometimes Jesus restores, sometimes he makes something totally new. He is never static, I know that. He is never at a loss. You could do worse than to relax into that speed.