I am an obnoxious perfectionist, and I have been pretty adamant about coloring in the lines since I realized there were lines and that they had a purpose. I like lines because they give me the freedom to create within a defined space; they provide definition and function as a way to measure what’s acceptable and what’s grossly inappropriate. (If I color Cinderella’s skirt on her head, there will be nothing covering her legs, but if I give her a multi-colored skirt, I am still being creative and no one is facing indecent exposure charges.) I find that this love for the lines has carried over into my adult life – I work best when I have a set schedule and deadlines, I have to-do lists everywhere (including rough drafts that were scrapped for a better line-up of the same tasks), and I flounder a bit without an agenda. I tend to make my own rules when there are no other apparent guidelines.
A good bit of this need for lines has grown out of the last five years and my need to have structure as a way to hold some bit of control over my own life. God, of course, has laughed at these attempts, and not a single bit of my manmade delineations survive more than a week before something blows up: the late-night phone call from work that throws off my schedule the next day that kinks up the rest of my week that snowballs into a month of frustration over not finishing a single day according to my schedule or to-do list. So I just keep moving and stick with “Just do the work.”
I have no idea how to do this with grief or with the frustration I am feeling with my body right now. I have held the line on not grieving “as one who has no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13); I think I’m well inside the lines there. But where are the rest of the lines? How can I be angry about my loss without stepping outside the lines of faith? What is an acceptable expression of angst over a miscarriage that drags on for a month, and when have I ventured into grossly inappropriate in the eyes of Christ? When does the necessary venting of emotions turn into complaining? Where are the lines that tell me the dimensions of my safe space so that I don’t wander off the reservation? I am struggling with working through the grief in ways that honor God and that don’t push me away from him. It is hard to say on the one hand that I trust him and on the other that I am angry to be in this situation again, this time with a bonus round of seemingly endless complications. I don’t know how to reconcile those two disparate feelings.
Maybe losing any loved feels this way, but I think miscarriage is a tougher pill to swallow where anger is concerned. I attended a child-loss support group one time that was somewhat helpful, but most of the parents had lost older children. They had a target for their anger: cancer, drug addiction, car crash. I have no real reason for any of our miscarriages; blighted ovum in the first pregnancy is the only one that had a distinct medical diagnosis, and that diagnosis is a little nebulous – at some point the baby stopped developing, and we don’t know why. I have no direction for my anger – there is no one and nothing to blame. It is an active fight, bordering on the scale of all out war, not to be angry at God.
This brings me to another line I struggle to find – when is acceptance just fatalism? People of faith tend to say things like, “This must be God’s plan, so I just need to accept it.” I don’t disagree with this, but I wonder if sometimes we are using this as an avoidance tactic. If I say I just have to accept it and move on, I avoid working through the grief by just marching on unless I intentionally confront the emotions, but confronting the emotions means dealing with feelings that may color outside the lines. Back to looking for the lines again. Maybe the lines are a little blurrier than I want them to be.
Maybe coloring in the lines of emotion has more to do with how we actually express the feelings. I can feel anger and express it appropriately by talking about it or screaming as loud as I can when I’m alone in the car, but I shouldn’t take it out on someone else. I can be sad and depressed and express it by crying or talking, but I can’t drop out of my life and avoid everything. I think I’m coloring pretty well right now, but it’s hard to be sure without knowing exactly where the pesky lines are.