My daughter and I are driving in the slushy muddy mess of a mid-March southern Alberta thaw. We’re on our way to swimming or piano or some other busy kind of thing. “I wish it would rain,” she says, looking out the window. “Things are so dirty and brown out there right now. I remember when it rained in British Columbia, and everything would be clean and green.” We drive in silence, wishing it would rain.
I’m sitting at the library, absently reading a novel while my daughter swims. There’s a girl sitting across from me. Her head rests on her hand, her cheek mushed against her palm as she flips aimlessly through a magazine. Half of her head is shaved, the other half has blue hair. She has piercings in more places than I can count, and a chubby face full of acne. She looks so sad. She looks like she’d rather be anywhere than here. She’s trying to look grown up, but all I see is a lonely little girl, trying desperately to fit in, trying desperately to measure up to someone’s impossible standards. She looks plaintively at the woman beside her—her mom? her tutor? her support worker?—but there is no response. She looks at her watch, and then puts her head back in her hand.
I think of a man who I will visit in the hospital today—a man going through things that he never expected, doesn’t understand, and would do pretty much anything to avoid. I think of the pain that his family experiences as they watch him struggle with this mysterious illness that creeps and stalks and haunts their steps. I wonder what or how or if I will pray.
I think about all the ways that life doesn’t live up to our expectations.
I reread these words from Christian Wiman:
Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. That is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.