Gift in the Trash
This story begins at the bottom of a trashcan–which, I admit, is not a very promising start. But it’s the story of how I come to be writing this post at all.
It was a Sunday night in July 2011, 2 weeks after the miscarriage. My sisters had been visiting us for the past eleven days–providing a welcome source of comfort and distraction from the pain of our loss. But their trip was coming to an end, and as I prepared to take them to the airport for their red-eye flight home to Florida, I was also preparing to find myself back in the reality of the miscarriage: in the center of a pain that seemed too endless and overwhelming for me face.
But then, with the normalcy that seems to accompany all the significant moments of my life, Sean, who had been taking out the trash, walked in the door with a slim, black book outstretched in his hand. He was holding a journal–and a really nice one at that–you know, the kind that sell for $20 or more in upscale bookstores and that I can never quite justify buying.
It was my mom who gave me the first journal I ever called my own. A small book, dark red with a print of yellow and blue flowers, I found it in her room and immediately wanted to possess it. That little blank book, and the idea that I could fill up its pages with my own words, cast a spell over me that still binds me to this day. My mom gave it to me, writing my name is swirling cursive letters inside the cover. As my first entry, in November 1994, at the age of 7, I wrote, “My mommy is the best mommy in the world because she loves me no matter what, and always cares. My daddy is the same way! I love them both! Jesus cares about me more than I can say! Jesus comforts me at night when I feel I am all alone. My sisters are wonderful sisters. Today I learned how powerful God is! I also learned to be glad in the Lord for everything.” With that one entry, writing became the defining routine of my life.
Even as a little kid, I used the act of writing to process feelings and emotions, to figure out what I thought about something or to make decisions. It became my way of releasing anger, working through frustration, and–most importantly– communicating with God. And yet, by the time of my miscarriage, I had not been writing for a long time. I had lost the habit a few years earlier when I went through a paralyzing depression, and even after recovering I never came back to writing with the same commitment.
But then my husband walked through the door, carrying this beautiful journal, and saying, “Look what I found in the trash! Can you believe she’s throwing this away? There’s only a few pages of writing in it!” Our landlady rents out a room in her home, and the tenant at that time had an unusual habit of throwing away perfectly good items (unopened food, brand new clothes, etc.) that completely befuddled Sean whenever he went to wheel the trash cans out for trash day.
To my everlasting shame, I confess that in that moment I was far more interested in reading whatever juicy tidbits the tenant had chosen to disclose in writing than in the journal itself. Yes, I read it, and yes, I am a horrible person. The 8 pages of writing ended up being far more sad than gossipy, and I tore out the used pages, so that the journal was essentially new, blank, 200 pages of smooth, creamy paper at my disposal. Six days later I took out my pen and started scratching out all the hurt that was inside me: angry questions and desperate prayers to God; love letters to my baby.
It was a gift. I only realized that later. A gift that God sent to me right when I needed it– right when I needed a space in which to know loss, and eventually come to accept it. On the very night fear and loneliness threatened to engulf me, God sent me the means for healing, in a trashcan, of all places. And I guess that’s what still amazes me, and why I’m telling you this at all–God saw me, heartbroken and afraid, and with great mercy and infinite love, he reached out to me, and cared for me. I don’t know how it all works–the intricate and hidden ways in which God reaches down and interacts with us, enfolding His purposes in our often oblivious actions, and creating miracles in trashcans. All I know is that, as the poet A. R. Ammons puts it, He has “means to veer down, filter through, / and, coming in, / harden into vines that break back with leaves / so that when the wind stirs / I know you are there and I hear you in leafspeech”.
The journal not only helped me to heal but to begin writing again, slowly, painfully at first and then more regularly–retraining my writing muscles and strengthening my form as I go. Which is how I find myself here: the writers of The Two Cities have graciously asked me to join their team and write regularly for the blog, and I’ve said yes to that commitment. Here’s to God’s leading, the generosity of my fellow writers at the Two Cities, and, Lord willing, many more posts!