Have you ever wished you could have a do over? A moment to collect your thoughts, yourself, and then to begin again? I say that I don’t live regretting things, and I don’t think that I do, but I have often wished for a do over.
The comeback zinger than zings through my brain three minutes too late, every SINGLE TIME I’ve sung something for an audience or congregation, columns I’ve written, baptisms I may have been involved in.
Usually, when I sing, contrary to many opinions, I am very nervous. Like sick to my stomach nervous. Anyone who has ever sung or said anything knows that it’s important to be able to breathe, and when I sing, I can’t breathe. I get all agitated and then all the wrong things that could happen start pounding through my brain and then I’m sort of hyperventilating and wishing for a drink of
wine water all at the same time.
My friend Joe says that he doesn’t believe Alicia is ever nervous about anything. HA. Well, I’m glad I put forth such an intimidating and confident persona, nevertheless.
Usually when I’m done with a song I go back to my seat and all I can think is, man, now I’m ready, now I want to do it again and really blow these folks away. Of course, there are not do overs in this category.
My most recent column has about broken the internet as it is known to my small local newspaper. I went back and looked, there aren’t as many comments (everything is a competition, sigh) on really anything for several weeks prior to my column running on Thursday. The really cool thing is that I found a bit of a sweet spot, I opened a dialogue without being directly attacked by people who would not recognize me if I stood in line next to them at the store, and my picture is published with the column…. so…they can argue all day long, as long as I am not the object of that fight.
I’ve heard from a few people that I should be careful or I’ll be run out of town. I’m not scared. But I wish I would have clarified the sentence about that sudden choking sob, and I wish I would have talked about the basic concept of insurance, which is a risk pool, how no matter where you get it, you’re lumped in with all those other poor schmucks, and basically are paying for them when they aren’t paying for you. That is how insurance works. I’ve been in this industry for more than eight years, selling and underwriting and handling claims, licensed in ALL the states, and that is how it works.
It’s gratifying to hear people talk about a topic that is important, although that talk has for the most part degenerated into name calling at this point. My favorite comment was, More Lies. And I was like, me? Or the person who commented above you? I don’t make things up, I don’t lie, as easy as it could sometimes be, and I certainly do not take the fact that I get to inflict my opinion on the wider Tri-Cities area lightly. Not lightly enough to not tell the truth anyway.
I don’t have the best memory (thanks dad!). I have a hard time remembering all sorts of things. I seemed be doomed to this existence of Outlook calendars that remind me of things and singular moments, not of my choosing, that I can recall. The rest is, as they say, history.
So I don’t remember a lot about being baptized. I don’t remember why I chose to be at that specific time, I truly do not. I have a vague recollection of a backyard pool and the sun being hot on my head and in my eyes. I think others were baptized too, and that, I’m sorry to say, is all I remember.
So I feel like, if I was afforded the same opportunity now, I would remember it somehow, carry it with me; so it would mean more, mean something. A reminder of water on my head and the smell of incense and the way the choir sang and how many people were there, how the sun came through the stained glass windows on the left side of the nave and painted the people with rainbow light and the candles flickered and my brother cried. That I would remember.
What happens though, is that we make decisions when we aren’t quite ready to, and they are decisions that will last for the rest of our lives.
These are the decisions I try to re-imagine in PG ways for my girls. Like last night we watched the new version of Into the Woods, and Meryl Streep made me cry as she sang to her kidnapped child about the world out there being full of wolves and humans. The girls and I nodded solemnly to each other as Little Red pronounced the fact there there is a difference between nice and good.
Because there is. Because any bad guy can be nice, but not any bad guy can be good, truly at the core good.
So I can’t go back and sing all the songs I’ve sang again (too much time has elapsed, I would just be nervous and wish for another do over). I can’t go back and re-write my column to include basic facts for the more idiotic among us. And I can’t go back and be baptized again in a state I am not even sure of, in someone’s backyard pool, by someone I am still mad at.
Anne Lamott says that if you’re holding two things in your hands, and your fists are clenched, and you’re thirsty and someone offers you a drink… well, you’d have to un-clench that fist, let something drop away into nothingness, to take the drink.
And we, I, are so often thirsty. Thirsty because of all the things we can’t set down for a simple drink.
It’s not offered free of charge, anyone who tells you salvation and redemption are free doesn’t have any idea what those words actually mean. This journey, these 14 weeks, they have not been free. They have cost me time with my kids and my husband, they have cost me ideas that I’d stored up without even knowing it, they have cost me the little knife like wounds on my heart, the ones that happen when you open that most precious place and you LET THE WORLD IN.
Because the world is terrible. And I am called to love all that rubble, all that hate, that seething mess of humanity; it’s my job. It’s yours too.
So there is no baptism do over. But there is Saturday.
There is the incense smoke that will travel home on my hair. There is the pact we have made to take communion all together as one of our number consumes for the first time. There is this Bishop, so different than the one who baptized my children, but still a bishop, whom I will allow to actually touch me. There is all of us on Maundy Thursday confessing to our people that we’re terrible people, just like them; and asking to be formally welcomed to their number.
Seven days from today. Even now, next Saturday, I’ll be nervous and ready all at once. Soon.
I will belong to you, and you will belong to me.
I hope my sister comes. I had hoped my mother would be able to, and she can’t, was overjoyed that my dad and other mother can come…. strange how things take on such meaning; almost as if I assigned it to them.
I’ve had a song stuck in my head all day (and I’m watching my word count, and simultaneously cheering myself on and editing myself back, I am a strange creature). It’s the Wailing Jenny’s, who my revered and beloved friend and choirmaster had the joy of listening to last weekend when Kelly and I sang The Parting Glass.
They sing, this is the sound of one voice, one spirit, one voice… and then voices two, and voices three, surrendering to the mystery. And then the voice of all of us, leave the rest behind, it will turn to dust.
And it will. And so I remind myself of that. I, you, me, we, are precious dust. Yet even at the grave we make our song.
One week. Seven days.
Not a do over.
Not one I can go back to, not a stone I can mark on specific holidays, no wreath at Christmas, no flag at the Fourth. Not a watery grave, but a grave, nonetheless. I am dying to me. Not me, not anymore, but a purer version of me, a me burned in a fire and coming out clean.
I will come forth though, rest assured, maybe a little less angry. A little less believing I can fix the whole world. But me, and clean, and without another bout with the water, much to my chagrin.
A begin again.
A do over.
I hope you’ll come and see this. I really, really do.