I fucking love being human. I love the feeling when you’re trying not to cry, and your heart expands so much it hurts, and your whole face burns, and then the tears flow and everything is blotchy and so much better. I love caring about people, even when it is messy or confusing. I want all of my feelings, rage and terror and longing, to wash over me and fill me, as the alternative is the dull anxiety of every day living.
I want human reality, with imperfectly symmetrical faces rather than CGI-inspired features. I want the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I want the half-falling-apart sandwich my husband made me with a child clinging to his knee, rather than the photo-worthy panini I could get down the street.
I want to love all these little flaws in myself the way I love them in the external world. I have created space for all the parts of myself that make me uncomfortable with their pedestrian imperfections, but I want more than space. I want to love those pieces of myself, as they are not just pieces. They are me.
I castigate myself for my failures in friendship. I often wish I could be a million places at once, showing up for my friends in the ways they perfectly need. But that would leave no place for longing in their lives, no place for other people to meet those needs in them. I mess up communication, miss a coffee date, leave people out of plans, overschedule a Saturday night.
However, if your dog dies I’ll be the one there with the shovel, helping you bury him in the backyard. I can’t always handle the group interaction of a party, and feel bad for declining, but if one of my friends wants a heart-to-heart, I’m that person in a flash. I’ve got to start having grace for myself for my every day failings. Nobody wants me to be a saint, and without failure there is never space for forgiveness, which is a beautiful thing.
When I’m feeling really tender and like I’ve let everyone down, when I’ve nagged my husband about something he already did, or growled at my child when she just wanted my attention, I take to prayer. I ask for mercy, mercy, mercy. Sometimes those are the only words to the prayer.
Whatever you believe about prayer, mercy is a wonderful ingredient to add to any situation. I think of mercy as those little ways the world shows you that the nature of life is love. It’s when you’re frantically explaining what you need to someone, asking for their help, and instead of matching your panic, they calmly explain what you need to try next. It’s when you think you can’t hold the baby for one more second, and they fall off to sleep or someone comes to do the holding for a while. You can find it even in the midst of terrible tragedy. It’s there, dimly glowing, probably in the one relationship you’ve written off for being the most flawed, or the most mundane experience, like taking a chest-expanding breath.
I named my blog after those moments. Mercy is my central philosophy. I may not understand it, but it always returns. Tiny mercies come, when you least deserve them, when you see no way out. All we have to do is pay attention, and say, “Thank you.”