Oven Saga Unfinished


Rumi writes:
I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow
and called out,
It tastes sweet, does it not?
You have caught me, grief answered,
and you have ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow,
when you know it’s a blessing?

Our dining room has been commandeered by an old lifeless oven awaiting departure. As I pull fresh cornbread from the new oven and begin to see life on the other side of the oven saga, I sense the urge to push past this final piece of work and move on with life. But pretending it doesn’t exist only ensures that I will trip over the one hogging my living room. Just last night I stubbed my toe not once but three times in the space of 15 minutes on the very same monstrosity. Ignorance is not always bliss.

The oven story is pretty straightforward.  For more than a year we’ve been dealing with a lemon oven that overheats every time we try to clean it. Finally the retailer (Ikea) made the decision to replace the defective oven and (three months later) the new one arrived.  The new one sat in the dining area (where the old one now sits) for more than a week waiting for installation.  Now the new one is in full operation but the old one occupies the dining room until the delivery folk return to claim it. Like the song that never ends, this is a saga that desperately needs closure. But whether or not I fancy myself over this oven saga, it’s bulky presence fills the place where our dining table belongs. I can deny it, hide it, make it into a great story, but it sits where it will until it’s time is ready.

As I stared at the oven last night, noting the promise of new beginnings, the discomfort of the transition, and my impatience with the process, I realized that my grief is following a similar trajectory. There is so much to celebrate on the other side of this river and I am eager to play in new waters of hopefulness. In recent days I’ve awoken with the unmistakable presence of spring bursting from within and ready to meet the soon awakening earth. There is smile that wants to dance on my face and spring that wants to return to my step, but it is not yet time.

image from Graceful Presence

Regardless of my readiness to dispense with the sackcloth and ashes, my soul is not yet done with her lament. There are still tears that come in waves that must be let free.  There are still flashes of anger that need to flame themselves out in safe distance from that which is vulnerable.  There is still the temptation to dress it up, make it nice, pretend it’s all ok.  And perhaps most pathetically, there is still the painful place of bargaining, the “what if” place where I keep reaching back and getting burned.  I can be grateful for the progress, that the painful emotions come with less force but a victory dance is premature; though the waves vary in their veracity and the last one didn’t bring me to my knees the next one certainly may. While the stages of grief may not be scientific and certainly shift with culture and personality, the inescapable truth is that grief is invariably both messy, painful, and (most humbly) not in our control.  

The rising sun is pink in the window behind me as I drink my morning coffee, the lifeless oven sits before me. The saga is almost over, but I am learning to respect this one last piece. Yesterday I chatted with the transport folk dispatched to collect it, they explained that they are waiting for news of an impending storm. We cannot schedule a neatly timed end to our story, even here we must wait for the rhythms of earth itself to guide us.