Searching for Grace

I have a beautiful friend named Grace. Another dear friend has a daughter named Grace. My neighbor’s dog is Gracie and other friends have a dog named Gracie (AKA The Amazing Gracie). Another friend has shown more grace to me that I can comprehend, so I just gratefully accept it.

The word has been on my mind, because I am in need of extending it to someone. I think to be able to show grace is an amazing gift, not just to the other person, but to yourself. “Faith, hope, love; the greatest of these is love” (the bible). There is no mention of grace. I kind of think grace transcends all of them. I think grace is love on steroids. But I’m no theologian.

A blog post popped up in my inbox this week. I love Sparkle Tea’s upbeat view of life, without sugar-coating. She writes that her mother has cancer. Nothing upbeat about that.

“My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 4 months ago. It’s hard to believe because she’s been eating kale and azuki beans most of my life. She is the most beautiful, caring, loving person I know and I am beyond honored to be her daughter.  It’s hard to watch my mom be tired and not want to eat. She is ever radiant and kind, even in this process. She truly amazes me.”

“She is ever radiant and kind, even in this process.” That’s grace, acceptance of what life throws at you that can’t be changed. Sometimes I wish my mother would take her infirmities with more grace. Other times, I’m amazed by her ability to carry on at all.

My mother, for all my whining, shows me a lot of grace. Anyone who messes up as much as I do—in her mind, at least—would be fired. But I’m still here. Monday night, for instance, I knew I was taking a chance serving her grocery-store-marinated fajita chicken; hers with rice (“her” rice that she cooked with M’s help because I freely admit I never get it right—unfortunately M messed it up too), mine with tortillas. I didn’t volunteer the information about its origins, but I offered her leftover salmon if the chicken was too spicy. She was eating it just fine until she asked me what kind of pepper it was. (How many kinds of pepper are there?) I said I didn’t know, it came that way, ready to cook.

Her face blanched, her body stiffened. She scraped the bite off her fork, then picked at her rice, before abandoning it too. Had they been touching? I know it wasn’t touching her spinach, but she didn’t eat that either; said she just didn’t want any more when I asked. Later she had a dry bread crust with her post-dinner applesauce and crushed Centrum Silver. She kindly requested that I not serve the chicken to her again. Rebecca said to tell her it was payback for all the times we had to eat Chun King Chop Suey as children. With grace, I did not tell her.

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Really, though, I disappoint and hurt her a lot, I know; and she doesn’t say so most of the time. That’s grace.

I’ve been struggling with an issue of hurt, and I know the best resolution is grace, mine. Thinking of it as the greatest gift helps. Thinking of my friend who has demonstrated it to me when I feel undeserving helps. Reading about someone showing grace in the face of illness is inspiring. And, when you believe you have been wronged by someone, it’s really, really hard to get past the pain, to show grace that no one even knows you are bestowing or embodying because they don’t realize they’ve hurt you. That’s heroic. I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it.

I wasn’t going to write this post. I meant to leave it swirling in my head. Then the day after the post from my sister blogger, a post came from Karen Maezen Miller, the Zen Buddhist priest I’ve often quoted, and who hasn’t posted for more than a month. It was as if the Universe was telling me to write the darn post. Karen wrote this list a year or so ago, I think I quoted it then too. And, of course, forgot to live it. It is serendipity that it has showed up again this week.

“Leaving no trace is a practice that goes on well after you clean your shoes, brush your teeth, and wash a lifetime of coffee cups, [and stay on the trail and off the fragile alpine meadows]. No trace is aimed at getting rid of all the petty offenses, inconveniences, and problems in your life: namely, you. Or should I say, me.

Do I have a problem with you? That’s me.
Am I irritated? That’s me.
Do I feel unappreciated? That’s me.
Disrespected or misunderstood? That’s me.
Do I feel the need to explain my personal history and point of view so that you can validate my experience? That’s me.
Am I angry at you? That’s me.
Am I struggling with things around me? That’s me.
Do I feel vulnerable, ashamed, defensive, unworthy, or victimized? That’s me.
Do I feel like I leave a big blot of ugly trouble wherever I go? Every day.”

And that last is me too. No one else is thinking that; and if they are, that’s not me. I bet if Zen Buddhism were the world’s predominant religion, we would finally be living as Christ taught us and the world would be saved. I think maybe Christ is a Buddhist, actually.

I’m working on the Zen and I’m working on the grace. And I will continue to try to show both to my mother. And when any of the statements above come from my mother, I will have the grace to let it be hers and not let it gather disquietude in me. When I fall on my face, I will get up and try again. As for my current struggle, I get to choose my response to perceived injustice. I hope its name is Grace.

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10 thoughts on “Searching for Grace

  1. Grace. A word with such profound meaning. Such a beautiful exploration. Thank you! Yet, Gretchen, I suspect you gift your mom more grace than you could ever dream of. How hard on ourselves we are in our quest to always do better and be better. Suppose, just suppose, you (and I) are perfect just as you/we are…. just as your mom is. Shalom!

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    • Thank you, Mary Jo. You are so right. One of the struggles I have had/am having in this gig is learning to accept her as she is, rather than wishing she were different. Every time, even if it’s just a moment, that I do accept, is grace. Every time she lets my sarcasm go, which is nearly every time, that’s grace. 😘

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      • I had one remaining brick in the wall that had existed between my mom and me as she neared death, and I so wanted it gone. I worked with a therapist and her advice was, “Just be with her, meet her right where she is, when you’re together.” It worked. It didn’t remove the brick but I forgot about it because I was in the present. I think you’re saying something similar and I like that you think of it as grace. I hadn’t thought of that, but I do think it is.

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      • That is good advice. Hard to do, but I will keep it in my head with the suni mudra and the “be kind.” When she tells me the four-inch geraniums I bought are too small, even though last year the six-inch was too big. That was then, this is now. Thank you.

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  2. Not a comment on your post except for the first paragraph. The new cat has become Grayc (pronounced the same as Gracie), so you can add another to your list. I can’t comment on the rest of the post because I am not good at internalizing, i.e., showing grace.

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