Has anyone seen the movie “Diner”? It’s one of my favorite movies, and not just because the director tends to set his movies in my birth town of Baltimore. There’s this beautiful scene before one of the characters gets married, where the bride-to-be is put through a ‘football test’ and has to come up with the answer which would be The Immaculate Reception and who was involved. My ex-husband is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Obsessive football guy. I loved that about him. And he loved movies and stories and is one of the smartest people I know. Also an incredibly generous person with a great capacity for curiosity. And he’s funny. I don’t regret marrying him or our years together and I don’t regret our divorce. It was necessary to let go of what wasn’t working so both of us could evolve. It took a lot of pain and long time and I’m grateful that we both can show up, albeit infrequently, in each other’s lives with forgiveness and love (ps. I adore his wife).
The week before we got married he and his awesome brother, Pete (a casualty of that divorce is that I’ve never seen Pete and never got a chance to say goodbye to him, or apologize for my part. I loved Pete and we had a lot in common) gave me a football quiz, as if I would have forgotten the scene in “Diner,” and because my Dad was an obsessive Penn State fan (also, an alumni) and my favorite thing was Saturdays having college football going on in the background during the day and because I was surrounded by football my whole life (oh yes, I was a football cheerleader my freshman year in high school, but that’s another story), I knew the players. I was able to say Terry Bradshaw, John Fuqua and Franco Harris, who crossed into a miraculous touchdown. December 3, 1972 (yeah, be impressed). The Immaculate Reception. The most spectacular Hail Mary pass in history.
Now, I’m a writer. You know this if you’ve been reading. A songwriter, an essayist and a poet. I’m also a teacher of writing. And I teach that vulnerability is a super power as a writer. That doesn’t mean you have to indulge your diary and tell all. It means you pull from your own honest experiences, joy, pain, selfishness, anguish, love, and you use them in the work, whether in the first person point of view or the third person. You show the wrist, not the whole body(a terrible “stripper vs burlesque” metaphor). And I’ve been open here, in perhaps an opaque manner at times, but in my own way, I’ve been vulnerable.
I’ve had a shit year. I mean, we all have and I’m standing with you in solidarity. Mine was particularly hard. Actually, it’s been a shit 2 years. Concrete and figurative losses, reckonings with my demons and the way I have bulldozed through my life, hurting myself, hurting others, not even seeing the damage until the 11th hour. My biggest fears hurling in like a meteor shower. Life has been an oncoming freight train, and, admittedly, to some, I’ve been the freight train. I’ve learned from the losses, I hope; I’ve worked my ass off on changing because of them. Accepting, apologizing, amending. At the end of my life, I do want it to be about who I loved and if I loved well. Not what I wrote and if I wrote it well, or how many Instagram followers I have. I’ve learned a lot in this valley. But, of course, I’m human, and I’m still fighting for what I want. It’s an anguished non-acceptance of the Now. I have much to be grateful for, but where I am today reflects my greatest fear. (Huck is ok, y’all, but I’m not gonna talk directly about the thing itself, bc I want you to relate to your own greatest fear and not feel protective or judgey of me). And in the past week, I’ve been praying for a Hail Mary pass. A miracle. That would change my circumstance to suit my begging. That would give me what I want, what I think I need, NOW. That would alleviate the anguish that, at times, has been unbearable. I have no option of checking out, whether with wine, pills or the big Check Out. I have Huck. He is a gift and maybe it’s ok that he’s my biggest reason to stick around right now.
But here’s the thing. Before I went to sleep last night, something changed. Maybe it’s because of the books on my bedside table. Maybe it’s the journaling. Maybe it’s the praying, which has been going something like this “God, show me your will, let me see what I need to see, know what I need to know, when I need to know it, say what I need to say, and get me out of your way…. aaaaand if you could, could you give me what I’m begging for? A miracle? Like, give me what I want now, when I want it the way I want it because that would make me happy. Pretty please.”
But something shifted last night and I thought with certainty this:
The Hail Mary pass isn’t about anyone else. It’s about Me. I’m the Hail Mary Pass. Love is the Hail Mary pass. Perhaps it means not getting what I think I want. It means radical acceptance. Not waiting for forgiveness, forgiving. Not asking for understanding. Not asking for anything for myself. God that’s f’ing hard. But St. Francis was right and that’s why that was our Bible reading at our wedding. That’s love. Unselfish love. And when things don’t go the way I’d like, maybe wonder if they’re going the way someone else wants and if that’s the Now now. Not about me. Not anyone else doing anything to give me the answer I need. Love them; change me. Choosing love, radical love, through great pain. Showing up for my life with love. No matter. And be grateful. And kind. And honest.
My friend Danny said to me that he really admires my capacity for Great Love, although it comes at the cost of deep hurt. Nobody has ever told me that. And I was able to take that in as true.
I’ve been praying for THINGS to change. Other people to change. My circumstances to change. And all along, the right prayer is for ME to change. Accept the seemingly unacceptable. Catch the pass, run the touchdown, win the game, which is me getting to whatever the next place in my personal evolution. Let go of the results. Just stay in the game because you never know when a strange pass shows up and there’s a hole in the defense and you can run the miracle.
I would never be a mother but for a series of events that started with leaving my first husband. That landed me in a crap relationship that landed me drinking my face off and being suicidal. That landed me in a room saying “uncle” that landed me in a relationship that offered the chance to try something impossible. That got me to Motherhood. Which is the greatest love I’ve ever known. The love that doesn’t go away.
Choose to catch the ball for you. Not for anyone else. Then wake up and look out at the sun and think, every day is a gift. And, as my dear friend Sherein says to me, “it might not be the end of the story.”