Sometimes it’s good to ask the important questions. Like, ‘was I the only child to get a thrill from putting a pencil into an electric pencil sharpener?’ Zizzz Zizzz. (If you weren’t careful, you could get carried away and end up with your pencil almost entirely eaten by the machine, and only a stub to write with. Still worth it).
For a geeky child, the return of the school year brings inordinate happiness, however good the holidays have been, and September, much more so than January, has always meant ‘beginnings’ to me.
Always we begin again.
In January 2011, I woke up one morning and couldn’t walk in a straight line. No sound came out of my mouth, but as I clung onto the walls, internally I was screaming, “no, no, no, no, no, not again.” I felt sick to my stomach, and not from the ME; it was the feeling of having to begin again.
Having an M.E. relapse is like falling down a mountain. However hard you had rested in the preceding months to carefully, slowly build up your energy levels, you can wake up one day, and it is all gone in an instant. You are consigned to walking toddler-steps, falling and crying. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do the ‘again’s of this illness.
Always we begin again.
I have asked myself: why do I like the one type of beginning, but not the other? Why have I always loved ‘back to school’ and new beginnings, but hate the new beginnings that relapses bring?
The answer is this: one feels progressive, the other regressive. One is macro, the other micro. One is linear, the other cyclical.
I loved the experience of giving birth, (well, I loved it once the epidural kicked in.) The moment of seeing my baby’s face for the first time made me cry with joy. But there is a moment in every parent’s life in those early days, where you wake up after not enough sleep to pitch darkness and a loud wail and think, ‘not again’. The giving birth is the ‘macro’ beginning, the culmination of pregnancy, a nice linear progression. Somewhere around the four-week mark you get lost in the micro beginnings. There are no straight lines, just tiny circles of feeding, burping, changing, cajoling, rocking, each day the same, over and over again.
[The truth is that I have dreaded writing this first post after my long break. I feel the pressure to say my health has GOT BETTER and how I have GROWN and LEARNT and COMPLETED my book – and this hasn’t happened. I want things to be gloriously different, to be a changed person, but all I can feel is the sameness of it all. This has not been a linear progression, and so it smells to me suspiciously like failure. I rested and wrote my book a little more than I usually do, but not as much as I would have liked. It is hard to return with empty hands. I am catching and batting away my perfectionist thoughts.]
Always we begin again – it was St Benedict who said this, as part of his ‘rule’. The monasterial life is one of repetition: prayers at regular times each day; chores; silence; reflection; sleep. I imagine the groan of Brother Jacques, waking to matins and longing to stay in his hard bed, because when you’re tired even a hard bed is preferable to getting up and singing yet another psalm.
I feel and fear the monotony of it, as I fear the days when I dance with the darkness and try to rest properly.
I see this in writing: the thrill of beginning a new project versus the sense of dread when day after day you have to begin again, a new chapter, a new blog post. If I ever get to the end of writing this darn memoir, I will love it – but right now I am drowning in middles, and each time I set up my laptop in bed I have to take a breath, and start again from where I am rather than where I wish I was.
Always we begin again – we do this in theology, too. I used to think that the Christian life was one long (albeit bumpy) climb uphill to greater knowledge of and greater intimacy with God. But in my Christian life I have encountered theology and story that has countered and crumbled tenets of my faith I previously thought were steady. I begin again, as a helpless child looking to their heavenly parent.
It is not fun: this toddler walking, this theological wandering in wilderness, this grind of writing and resting. It reminds me of my weakness and my dependency on God. (Neither of which I like). It is humbling.
There’s a verse in Lamentations I love. In the midst of agonised cries about how the world is terrible and God has abandoned his people comes this melody of grace:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23, ESV)
His mercies, new, not just each year but every morning. Not just for the Septembers, and the macro beginnings, but for the daily rhythms, and the micro beginnings.
In the NLT it reads, “his mercies begin afresh each day”. As we begin again, so does God.
I am slowly learning to embrace the cyclical beginnings, every day anew, afresh.
Each day I begin again. Yesterday I rested well, but it is not enough: I need to rest again today, and I need God’s help to do it. That is a humbling and frustrating thought. It is also a hopeful thought. Yesterday I didn’t spend as much time with my son as I would have wanted, but there is forgiveness, and today I can begin again, I can pray I am more disciplined with my time, more engaged with my son.
These micro beginnings are both humbling and hopeful, because we do not face them alone. God’s mercies are there to meet us in each sunrise.
Always we begin again.
[tweetit]’Was I the only one to like putting a pencil into an electric pencil sharpener?’- @tanya_marlow Always We Begin Again[/tweetit]
[tweetit]In parenting, there are no straight lines, just tiny circles of feeding, burping, changing, over and over again.[/tweetit]
[tweetit]Why do we like yearly beginnings, but not daily beginnings? The macro but not the micro? – @tanya_marlow[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”As we begin again, so does God.” @tanya_marlow on weariness, electric pencil sharpeners and daily mercies: [/tweetit]
Over to you:
- Which do you like more, the macro beginnings, or the micro?
- In your life right now, which are your ‘macro beginnings’, and which are your ‘micro beginnings’?
- What does ‘always we begin again’ mean to you?