Best Laid Plans

The journal I’m using has a title page from January 2020, and I chuckle every time I pick it up, because it reminds me of the naïveté of best laid plans.

Entering Lent, I wanted to focus on three things. I added a fourth, or rather, a fourth added itself by being so self-evidently necessary. 

  1. Embrace discomfort. (Because I am addicted to comfort.)
  2. Trust in community. (Because I fundamentally prefer not to.)
  3. Spend time with Jesus. (Because stopping by the church to pray each day seemed like a practice I would benefit from. Which it was.)

 To which was added:

  1. Be grateful. (Because I learned that humility is, at its heart, the challenge to be appropriately, fully grateful.)

Be careful what you sign up for.

  1. In the way that an episode of acute pancreatitis helped me reframe my understanding of what pain was, experiencing the sudden and unexpected loss of a beloved family member and watching that loss ripple through loved ones helped me reframe what discomfort is. Passing on the second coffee, lunch out, and glass of wine are not exactly the disruptive fasts I thought they might be.
  2. As an introvert after a pandemic, I thought working in a lunch with a friend each week of Lent would help me regenerate my trust in my community, and it did. But the overwhelming waves of support for April and her family (and me) from friends of all sorts has frequently and literally brought tears to my eyes. The day after Meg died, a friend of April’s went to our favorite coffee place, found someone behind the counter who knew our usual order, brought it by the house and left it on the doorstep with a note and a text. And that was the beginning of wave after wave of loving generosity; messages and texts and phone calls and cards and flowers and a lot more from friends, most of whom we would never have expected, because their own plates are full enough of their own griefs. It is its own discomfort, receiving this much attention and this much grace. It is extravagant, in the way that Lazarus’ sister Mary’s bathing of Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and drying them with her hair is extravagant. We don’t need it, or at least we didn’t think we did. But it’s undeniably convincing of the trustworthiness of our community.
  3. As a convert from Methodism, the whole idea of going to a Church with a tabernacle containing bread that we profess to contain the full presence of God is not one of the easier Catholic things for me to embrace. And showing up daily there has made me really reflect on this belief in a new way; maybe I’ll come back to that someday in another reflection. It has felt like spending time with Jesus, in a different and distinct way. But the last ten days have felt more like a long Good Friday, like sitting with Jesus in the tomb. When the women showed up on Easter morning to take care of the body, they were not expecting anything but a corpse, and these last ten days, despite my Christian hope, have helped me get in touch with the grief they carried with them along with their supplies.
  4. I know that to an extent, gratitude is a coping mechanism. We look for things to be grateful for, the way Mr. Rogers told kids to look for the helpers in crises, so we can find a focal point that doesn’t spell despair. And yet, there truly are things to be grateful for, and they are more vibrant and powerful in the long shadows of sorrow than the ones you have to really hunt for in good times, like pastel Easter eggs in green grass on a bright morning.

Best laid plans, indeed.

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