Wretchedly Familiar: When Life Feels Unfair


diana trautwein -wretchedly familiar3

Wasn’t it just two months ago that I wrote about lament in this space? I checked, friends, and yes, it was. In September. Today, I find myself needing to return to those songs-in-a-minor-key for a while longer. October’s theme opened my sad heart to a season of rejoicing, for remembering all of the gracious things in my life for which I can joyfully and loudly thank God.

But at this moment in time, as I sit down to write for November, I find the syllables of lament are oh-so-necessary. I am returning to the language that lets me enter my own sadness, that gives me permission to fully experience the pain of this moment on the journey that is my life.

One month ago yesterday, an ER doctor told me that I had blood clots in both lungs. One of the clots had caused an infarction—which means tissue death!!—thus causing the sudden, severe back pain I’d been experiencing for the previous 30 hours. He sent me home that evening with a new blood thinning medication, to be taken twice a day for the next month. I was also told to visit a long list of specialists, including the hematologist who had been working with me for the last seven years. He would prescribe a new drug at a new dosage to try and prevent this from happening again.

Because, you see, it had already happened once. Which is exactly why this particular ‘returning’ was not on my bucket list. The first event in 2010 put me on the only blood thinner available back then—Coumadin—a difficult drug to manage and one that complicated my life for five years. In 2015, I managed to tear a muscle in my abdomen, causing significant internal bleeding and sending me to the hospital for two days. At that point, they reversed the effects of the Coumadin and took me off blood thinning meds, hopefully forever. Hooray!

Now, I am back on them—this time, for good. There are newer versions of the drug available today. They are easier to manage, but not without risk. That is sobering. I am seeing a long list of specialists to rule out any other kind of damage to heart or kidneys and must take it easy for another couple of months. And all of it feels so wretchedly familiar. I did not want this to happen again, but . . . it has.

So now, what do I do about this particular ‘return’ in my life? Part of me wants to put on my big-girl pants and suck it up. That’s my go-to, life-long pattern. It feels familiar and even a little comforting. But the reality is, I am now seven years older than I was the last time this happened. And I’m in a season of grief and loss. SEVEN people close to me have died since my mom’s death in April. Two others (three, if I include myself) have received difficult medical news, all involving ongoing treatment, one with a terminal diagnosis, most likely in the next few years.

I feel inundated by sadness, overwhelmed by all the pain in the world at large and in my circle of family and friends in particular. And far more than action, or even re-action, I find that what I need is words. Words that give me space and permission to feel what must be felt. Words that hold the groans and the fatigue. Words that will move me to the tears my body and my spirit need to spill.

How does the prophet put it? “In returning and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) In the midst of the returning I did not want and did not choose, I am re-discovering that the returning I need is in one direction only: toward the God who made me, who knows my flesh (and my blood!), who walks with me through every unhappy and difficult piece of this puzzle that is my life right now.

So I read the Psalms. Every day. And I am re-reading that book of blessings I mentioned in September—Jan Richardson’s The Cure for Sorrow: a Book of Blessings in Times of Grief. I also read the old prayers of the church in a small collection I own and have used for memorial services and graveside liturgies.

These are the words of lament and to them I return. In them, I rest. And through them, I am being saved. Thanks be to God.