I’m a bit of a literary nerd trapped in the body of a 40-something, half-fit, occasionally-showered mother of three. Translation: I read as much of things like DeLillo and Faulkner as I can in between shoving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in lunch bags and scheduling IEP meetings. When I fantasize, it’s about being a literature professor at a small IVY school. This is far superior to my fantasy of 20 years ago, where I used to daydream about being a Laker girl.
Yes, that was a thing once. And not one I am proud of.
Last week, The Paris Review published an article on the overuse/misuse of some of the language from W.B. Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming.” The Paris Review called it “the most pillaged poem in the English language,” and it ends thusly: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
“Slouching toward…” is often plucked out of the context of the poem, and has been used by everyone from Joan Didion to Robert Bork for various titles of scholarly works, books, and articles. But it is not my favorite line in that poem.
My favorite line? This one: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
I often tell people that my most recent book, Sand in my Sandwich (And Other Motherhood Messes I’m learning to Love), might alternatively have been titled, “Things Fall Apart.” Because, holy Moses, they do. I once intensely regretted the deconstruction of my life. Now?
This social media hashtag first set me off because it seemed brusque, brutish. Like holding up an “I don’t care” sign. But after some thought, I started to love it. I loved it, because these people (mostly mothers, I would add) realized that things fall apart.
They fall screamingly, disconcertingly apart. They come apart at the wrong moments, right when you need things to stay together, when you’re praying the Lord holds the whole jumble connected until you think it’s okay to pull the pin. But the pin pulling isn’t up to you.
Things fall apart when you need the money, and your husband loses his job. They fall apart when you’re in the middle of nowhere and your son, who has just been diagnosed with autism, has no services at his immediate disposal. They fall apart when there’s no family around to support you when you’re facing a health crisis, or you lose your home. That’s when God teaches us to be #sorrynotsorry.
Here is where I am now, at #sorrynotsorry. Having to give things up, and move myself on. Having to sacrifice time, and sometimes, relationships. Having to be hurt when I feel wounded, myself. Having to make peace with losing what I anticipated my future would hold, and what my present actually holds. It holds things that falls apart. But that’s ok.
Because for me – and for those of us who know and love the future’s Creator – we know the centre can, and does, hold. Because God is the centre.
I’m #sorrynotsorry my home’s a mess. I’m #sorrynotsorry I can’t return your phone call right away. I’m #sorrynotsorry I’m crying again in church. I might embarrass you, or anger you. I might frustrate you, or ask you to stretch the limits of your patience with me. But I’m learning to be #sorrynotsorry.