People talk about stepping out into the darkness as the ultimate act of faith. They've started too far down the faith ladder.
Looking into the space of our own lives and wanting another world is the first faithful step. When we look into the space of what is not and wish it was requires vision and courage. Finding the words that give life and breath to that vision are perhaps the most difficult words to find. Speaking that word out loud is, many times, the most faith-filled step we ever take (Especially when we have to say it looking into the eyes of one we love). And, looking across into somebody else's space and wanting to build there but refraining is love made flesh.
It requires great courage, even faith to verbalize the feelings of your heart, to make real the visions that exist only in your own mind concerning the space in which you live. I am a reluctant speaker of things of the heart. I come awkwardly to the space between Kevin and I, reluctant to plant the seed of my vision, to speak out loud. When I fail to speak, either through reluctance or fear, I reveal my own faithlessness. The immutable truth is that only once the words have been spoken is there any hope for new growth. Failing to speak means living with unspoken desires, with unspoken dreams, when, for want of a little faith, we can articulate and thus give birth to a better relationship.
Last year, I spoke with an old friend in South Africa, with whom I had played netball and waterpolo through high school. I asked her why her marraige works for her. (She had married an American, like I had; unlike me, she had persuaded him to live in South Africa) She said, "Tess, I won't accept anything less than passion. I have to be passionate about life, about Brian, about my practice. If I'm not, it's not worth it. So, when things get low, I tell him, 'This thing between us,'" and she drew the outlines of a circle in front of her with her hands, "'it's not enough. I need more. I need it from you. What are we going to do?'" When she drew that circle with her hands, I imagined their realtionship like space, and Tracy like a god who looked into the infinite cosmos and said, "Let's create a world here in which you and I can live. Once she had spoken, together she and Brian worked on recreating the marriage space they live in. And it began with a look into the space of their marriage and those words.
My most painful but significant parenting error involved this interplay between space, words and creation. In particular, it involved another's space, not mine to build in or even have visions about. It came at Julia's expense, but to the benefit of her brothers who followed after her. Julia's my daughter. She's almost 18 now, but then she was only 7--then being the months I moved into Julia's space, like an invading Hun with a scorched earth policy.
In first grade, Julia and I ran into reading, which had always been as easy for me as breathing. I cannot remember a time when I couldn't read. I pushed her. Hard. We would spend hours with books, me telling her, "Just blend the letters; sound them out. Come on. It's easy. Concentrate." Round and round we went, her little blond head and bright blue eyes trying as hard as she could to make sense of the letters on the page; me rolling my eyes, raising my voice. She would tell me, "Mom, I am trying. I am trying." Finally, it sunk in. She was really trying. This reading thing that was so easy for me wasn't easy for her.
I finally realized it doesn't work for her like it worked for me. This is a different creature. Her soil, her fundamental elements, are not Tessa. She is Julia. She preexists our relationship on this earth. Her spirit has always been. She is far bigger and older than my mothering of her.
Thankfully not too late, I realized that in the space provided for Julia to grow up in and make of her own raw materials a beautiful world/girl, there is no room for my version of what I expect or think she should be. My vision of what a daughter of mine should be has no place in that space which is hers and hers alone. I gave up title to her space, moved out my ideas of what she should be (based mostly, in all honesty, on my own experience and strengths), and provided for her a space to make Julia flesh. What a joy it has been to be her mother, to have this wonderful creature in our home, to watch her grow and become.
As I think about space, about words, about the faith and courage required to speak out loud and to invite a better world, or to remain silent, I remember Tracy's hands. The way she drew a circle in the air before her, palm down, fingers outstretched. They evoke the blessing circles drawn by her Jewish sisters who light the Shabbat candles every Friday evening. I've used the same motion myself, over my swollen belly, simultaneously easing the ache of an almost-ready child pushing against my hips and bladder, and drawing strength for what is to come. Women's hands weaving through space, gathering in, moving around, pulling together, calling for light, welcoming the sabbath, a new marriage, or a child. These movements, like the words, are as old as time.
There have always been circles. There have always been words. And before it all, then as now, there is space. Space for one more, space to turn around, space to repent in and to begin something new, space for grace to enter a cold heart, and space in which to speak and to create new worlds.
(Title, from Bee Gees's song, Words)