Friday, January 22, 2010

An Act of God?

It got worse. The visit was not good. When I say it was not good, I mean that the visit by Pat, Mary and the new baby was a disaster for our family.

In particular, as opposed to the gift from God talked about in our extremely well-meaning and vaguely fortifying Godparents blessing service, young Mary was more like an Act of God. As in a cyclone, a bushfire, an earthquake, a lightening strike. Something that is not exactly anyobody's fault, was not fully predicted, and yet has to be respected and acknowledged as an utterly destructive force.

The kind of event that leaves you surveying the smoking ruins of your family life, your physical and emotional health, your deepest beliefs, and your sense of self. And yet you emerge, feeling traumatised, somewhat bitter, but mostly glad that you are still alive.

I could talk about the constant screaming, or the trail of destruction, or the endless psychodrama. I could talk about the realization that a little two year old girl, however destructive, cannot be the problem - it has to be the wierd chemistry between the little girl and her mentally ill mother than is at the centre of it. I could talk about the fear that began to grip me for the future of this little baby boy and my increasing fears for this family, constantly choked back by politeness and pity.

More close to home, I could talk about the exhaustion of me and my own family by a bottomless well of need. I could talk about the day my Little Dude kicked me when he realized I had done this to his life. I could talk about my Big Dude's pale face and talk of mere "survival" as the aim. I could talk about the day I realized I had done everything that a human being can realistically do for three and a half weeks with no moment of genuine rest and still it would never be enough. That I had made myself ill and I wasn't getting any better.

I could talk about the day I realized that the idea that you can save people from themselves is utterly foolish - fools go where angels fear to tread. I could talk about the moment I realized I had invited this invading army into my home. The moment I realized I might succeed at the attempt to truly help my friend and godchildren, but only at the heavy expense of what I held most dear. I could talk about the day I felt my heart pounding in panic at what I had brought into the heart of my family and the sudden realization of the vulnerability of the people I most love, to whom I owe my first love, first loyalty and first protection. My heart pounded and pounded and it wouldn't stop.

But I won't talk about any of that. I will mention only that, in an attempt to relax late at night, I watched a TV program on Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison album and his attempts to save prisoners from a combination of their harsh and brutal past, their terrible deeds, and the failures of their society. Cash's daughter said, in the midst of all that hagiogaphy about how great and compassionate Johnny Cash was, something about how her father's belief that he could save people was a kind of hubris. The reality was that he was a musical genius, a wonderful man, but also a deeply flawed man.

I am not any kind of genius. I am a well-intended but rather flawed person who thought she could lend a friend $50 to help her out, and suddenly found she was up for $10,000. As the Act of God definition suggests, a certain kind of folly has been committed.

Hubris is my middle name and all I want is my life back.