“Mercies are new every morning.”
This popped into my head the other day as I was walking upstairs from my morning work session and headed into a day with the kids all home. It’s a verse from the Old Testament.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
My first impulse when verses or hymns or little god-phrases pop into my head is to push them out. Gah! Stupid! There is no god. There is no faithfulness. I’ve been turning away from thousands of years of ancient wisdom in an effort to rid myself of the remnants of belief. And it’s left me feeling annoyed - and sometimes condescending.
But mercies are new every morning. That’s true even if I don’t know how or why. We all get a new day to start again. Every. Single. Day. Every single moment, in fact. And we need mercy. We need not to punish ourselves. We need grace as well. We need to feel loved and cared for and nourished even when we feel unworthy, terrible and mean. We need to just be with our poor old selves, struggling as we do. We need to drop the hope that we’ll be better or do better and just love the hell out of ourselves in our grumpy, unhealthy, grasping current state.
I don’t have hope in a personal, intercessory god. I truly do not believe there is a hand to hold or a promise of a bright future. My portion is in the love I receive from others and from myself every day even when I don’t deserve it. I lift my arms to the inexplicable patience others have with me. I praise the mystery behind the Japanese maple that glows red out our window. It nourishes me in ways I don’t understand. I dance in celebration of newness when I listen to Mumford and Sons sing, “I really fucked it up this time.”
I’ve been in a self-pitying funk for about a month. Well, truth be told, it started back in June. June was when everything went haywire. Something steered my body completely off track. I’d like to solve the mystery - figure out the chicken/egg dilemma, but I’ll never know. But the results were crippling anxiety, an irregular cycle, depression, abdominal pains, bloating, canker sores, brain fog, confusion, deteriorating energy, irritability, severe allergies, and fatigue. I stopped exercising. I lost track of my plan for the year. I had trouble even planning the day. Marco’s cousin was living with us and was constantly trying to talk me through anxiety that left me paralyzed and immobile. I’d never suffered from anxiety before. I felt lost in my own skin. I stopped writing.
Finally, I ended up in the ER in September with severe abdominal pain. It seemed ridiculous that I was there, and, after eleven hours, they gave me a clean bill of “no emergency surgery needed” health. But something was wrong.
After many tests, my GI doctor told me that my gall bladder is functioning low and my antibodies, specific to Celiac, are high. Do I have Celiac? Well, he says, we know you can’t eat gluten.
I actually smiled with joy when his office called with the news. An answer - perhaps an answer to years and years of digestive problems. I got excited. I’d go off dairy and gluten and charge full force into a healthy future! Ha. My enthusiasm lasted a few days. Going off of gluten and dairy, it turns out, is a pain in the ass. And I also shouldn’t have beans (or really any legumes) or beef or caffeine or sugar. That rules out soy, lentils, peas, and chick peas. I haven’t stopped eating them, but I know I should. My body loathes them. It also seems to loathe casein, the protein in dairy. Or is it lactose that’s the problem? I don’t know, but when I eat cheese I regret it. Every. Time.
I’m angry about this. My food history was already sullied, to say the least. And I felt like I’d finally gotten a grip on eating and exercise and taking care of myself. Now I feel like I’m starting from scratch. I’m starting new. I’m...wait? Didn’t I say I wanted that? Didn’t I just say that I wanted a fresh start? Each day?
Can’t I get all the newness without everything being new?
“To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by the way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know,
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess,
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not,
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know.
And what you own is what you do not own.
And where you are is where you are not.”
- T.S. Eliot
And what I am not is loving of my body and of myself. I don’t take proper care of my body, yet I expect it to do things it’s not capable of doing. And I wonder why I end up in pain. I wonder why I’m so tired. I’m not treating myself as a dear friend. I’m not giving myself measureless grace. Yet I expect that I’ll have a cheerful disposition and measureless grace with the kids. Nope. Fail.
You cannot get out what you do not put in.
So, today, after getting an encouraging email from a friend with Lyme Disease, who is so much sicker than I am and writes about it with eloquence, I’m starting fresh.
I know this will be hard. I know that taking away my vices is going to be a struggle. I want so badly that immediate comfort. I know that changing from seeking immediate gratification to desiring long term nourishment is going to be tough. I’m going to want candy. I already do...right now. But I’ll have some ginger tea instead. Because I’m sick. There’s no denying it anymore. I need to treat my poor body as I would treat a friend’s body - with good food and exercise and water and every vitamin I need to get well. It needs mercy instead of punishment. I need a ton of sleep. I need to stop pretending that life is any different than it actually is and just get on with the business of living it here and now.
“One can appreciate and celebrate each moment - there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!”
- Pema Chodron