Saturday, April 24, 2010

Four-Leaf Clover

My daughter found a four-leaf clover. Of course she was thrilled. “Momma,” she shouted, “only like three people have found them in our time, right?”

According to my daughter’s scale, “our time” means the everything-post-dinosaur epoch. I nodded anyway, even though, according to sources, the likelihood is 1 in 10,000. But who cares when you have a daughter hooting and hollering over her find, which she found without even looking for it? You see, she’d been having a very bad day. Second grade betwixt and between girl drama— pinched arm, spilled bubbles, teased over her laugh, ostracized at recess. When I picked her up from school, she was sobbing; great drippy tears streaked her cheeks.

“Let’s move to the farm, Momma. The one in another state,” she said. “I want to go to a new school. I want to be homeschooled.”

So it was lovely serendipity later that afternoon: she rolled down the hill and landed in a patch of clover. Voila! The four-leaf clover was right beside her hand. On the way home, she waved it over my head in the car and whispered, “Please get me a new Webkinz.” (Webkinz: stuffed animals that have online counterparts; my daughter’s latest obsession.) Then she waved it over Christopher’s head and whispered, “Please get me a pack of GoGos.” (GoGos: cheap plastic inaction figures; her other, equal obsession.)

“A four-leaf clover brings you good luck,” I said. “It doesn’t Bippity Boppity Boo a new toy.”

“Oh,” she said, momentarily crushed, but then her face brightened. “So like today. I was having a bad day and now I’m happy again. I’m going to show it to everyone at school tomorrow and they’re going to be amazed!” Just like that, she was already imagining herself back in the classroom with her friends (and by extension, I wouldn’t have to teach her about the Revolutionary War and long division). Oh, beneficent, felicitous luck.

1 a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual.

My daughter’s got the green force of good luck pressed between the pages of my Life Recovery Bible—given to me by a traveling minister who led a prayer service at Rosewood, the inpatient Eating Disorders treatment center where I spent the better part of two months. As providence would have it, the four-leaf clover lies within Psalm 25, which coincidentally contains these lines,

Turn to me and have mercy,
for I am alone and in deep
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!...
Do not let me be disgraced, for in
You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty
Protect me,
For I put my hope in you.

My skeptical self would say this is mere chance, but Dr. B. would say, as he has been saying recently, “No such thing as coincidence when it comes to you.” So I’ve been uncannily lucky or specifically chosen by the universe to receive this prayer, a disturbingly accurate depiction of where I am these days—in deep distress, struggling with ITs escalation, living in disgrace. Because of the Bipolar and Eating Disorder craziness, I am the source of shame, living outside of grace. Nothing more self-degrading, humiliating, and shameful than exploding in body-shaking, senseless anger in front of the kids or desperately trying to cut my arm with a too-dull knife or furtively vomiting, like some sick dog, behind a tree.

I’ve been relying on a more dangerous luck these days. Fingers crossed, in constant motion, trying my best to outrun IT. Failing. IT nips at my heels, lunges for my neck. There are my terrified backward glances, so I know IT has caught up with me once again. And yet, I so often go about my day without a plan, without the necessary weapons to do battle with IT. And in the Bipolar/Eating Disorder epoch, I need an arsenal at hand. What Dr. B. calls my toolbox. “What’s in it?” he asked me yesterday. “I hand you these tools and they just disappear.”

He’s right. I’ve been given an entire armory, and yet, on a day-to-day basis I forget to go in through those doors and select the weapon most appropriate for battle that day. I could choose to practice radical acceptance, call someone on my team and be honest about my struggle and ask for help, say a Lovingkindness meditation, admit powerlessness, and more importantly, believe that my life is unmanageable, give up control, yield to the IT free perspective of my team, get mad at IT instead of me, read through my anti-IT packet, distract myself from urges by: taking a walk, baking a cake, reading a book, saying what I’m thankful for, writing a blog, cleaning the house, playing with the kids, having sex, sitting in stillness and breathing. I could say, aloud, my list of mantras: I deserve to live. I deserve to love and be loved. I deserve to eat. I give up the right to punish myself. I have hope for myself. I want to live.

Instead, I make asinine statements like, “Luckily, I’m not dead yet.”

IT scoffs at luck, shreds the four-leaf clover, and says, fangs dripping, “Luckily, Kerry, I’m still after you.”

I don’t want to lose it anymore—like yesterday, panicked and crying and shaking over my own very bad day. I don’t want to lose my family, my mind, or my life. It’s time to lose IT and suit up in armor and defend myself with sword and dagger, mace and battering ram. With the four-leaf clover in my pocket, determination in my mind, and hope in my heart, I say aloud my battle prayer: May integrity and honesty protect me. And you. And all of us.