So, the other day I wrote that in my prayers about cancer that I’m pretty much down to one, “God, thy will be done.” This is not strictly true. I have plenty of spiritual temper tantrums—like all week this week—when I’m like, “I am so EFFING sick of chemo! Why can’t I be done! I quit! I’m done! You can’t make me!”
Then there are other days, when I have a Mary-like resignation to the apparent reality. Remember when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was going to have a baby, God’s baby, not even by benefit of having Done It in the back seat of a chariot with some cute boy or even with Joseph, her fiancé, for goodness sake, but simply because God had willed it and the “power of the Holy Spirit” had overshadowed her?
And Mary said, “Let it be with me as you have said.” Here’s an action photo, from our creche:
I never thought about those words in relationship to the John Lennon song “Let It Be” until this past Wednesday. John was all over the radio because it was the thirtieth anniversary of his murder. I remember that day. I remember my mother crying and playing his records all day. You remember a thing like your parent weeping for sadness.
We listened to a lot of Beatles already. The Beatles were so accessible to a kid—Octopus’s Garden, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Lady Madonna, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da—Dan Zanes got nothin’ on you. But on that day, the day of John Lennon’s death, I remember “Let It Be,” over and over.
When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be
Sing out, everybody!
Let it be
Let it be!
Let it be-e-e
Aw let it be
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be-ee, EE!
That was refreshing.
Anyhow. Chemo brain. Wandering. There was a point around here somewhere. Right. Mother Mary and John Lennon, Letting it Be.
Sometimes I do wonder if the Mary-like ability to accept whatever reality comes my way (usually mingled with the spiritual temper tantrum in a winning combination) is not actually spiritual enlightenment, attunement with God, a state of grace, but rather an even deeper and more insidious need to control every little thing? Like, I’ll show you God, I refuse to experience pain or dissonance around this new wrinkle in my life?
I’ve talked about retroactive prayer here in this blog, what about retrofitted prayer? When we square whatever it is we really want with what we already have—shaving off the bits of desire and longing that stick out past the edges of the current reality?
Is this a real discharge of desire, sloughing of concupiscence (a good thing in mystical Christianity), a release of attachment (a good thing in Buddhism)? Or is it merely a denial of our shadow side?
Like daughter, like mother? Carmen has a lot of life-threatening food allergies, has since she was a tiny babe, so she’s never known what it was to eat whatever comes across her path. We’ve adapted, and so has she. Humans can get used to just about anything. People say, “oh, how hard for her not to be able to eat that bag of Chee-tos/bacon double cheeseburger/pounder bag of peanut M&Ms” but I say that she doesn’t know any different.
But that’s not strictly true. For years I got away with keeping a cache of homemade whole-wheat apple muffins in the freezer and grabbing one out when it was time to go to a celebration rife with allergenic treats. But she is almost five now, and she can see that a cupcake at a birthday party looks perfectly delicious, and is not equivalent to a whole-wheat apple muffin.
She has squared this paradox in her own way. If it is true that her mother loves her, and if it is true that she is totally, totally worthy of the best possible treats, then the thing that she has MUST be as good as the thing that will put her into the emergency room. Therefore she will lean over to me at family parties and say, sotto voce, “My carob surprise is so much better than that old premium ice cream parfait with warm caramelized marcona almonds and Callebaut fudge drizzle, right?”
God our mother also loves us, and we also are totally, totally worthy of the best possible treats. But sometimes we still get carob surprise.