I’ve been clawing my way back to a sense of faith since I first started losing it in chunks, like hair falling out after a chemo round. The first chunk was my introduction to death when my beloved grandfather passed away in third grade. Picture day. I didn’t skip school that morning, even though Grandaddy had died and it was the first time I’d seen my Daddy cry. I kept my head down when he took the call from Grandma with the news. I watched my Alpha-bits floating in milk, too scared to turn around and watch my Mom hug my Dad, while assuring him that Granddaddy “had a long and happy life.” In my school picture that year my eyes are more mournful than normal and my smile looks tentative, like I’m not quite sure that the command to smile is the right one to obey.
There were other chunks. Being kicked out of the popular circle in fifth grade, forever closing the curtain on my chances to get Jolly Ranchers that Anna L.’s mom packed for her “and her friends” to enjoy.
Then, there were more deaths– waters I swam in stole the life of man who was in charge of us that day. One minute full of life and the next minute gone. I had to watch his daughter and son pump the ocean out of their father. Biggest chunk to date.
A whole bouquet of chunks disintegrated in my hands as my heart was broken by boyfriends showing up with hickeys I didn’t give them, and still others boys-who-were-almost-men who were tender, brilliant, and read Ezra Pound recreationally, but still I wasn’t ready and had to let them go on without me.
For a whole semester I studied World War II– Fussell’s books on combat, Marcel Ophuls’ movies, Weinberg’s A World At Arms. More chunks. One leaden chunk labeled Holocaust broke off while I stood in a museum full of hair and shoes and skeletons in faded striped suits staring back from behind a barbed wire fence.
Chunks. Chunks. Chunks.
But, believe me when I say that I want to believe. Because there were also moments where faith came rushing back to me, filling in the holes were the chunks had broken away. Faith like spackle was filling the fissures. There was recovery from bulimia. There was my first sponsor Teddie who saved my life by telling me to eat breakfast and get out of my head. There were books and education and opportunity and friends who helped stem the tide of the falling chunks. There was standing next to my younger sister when she got married, and there was holding my best friend’s left leg as she gave birth to her second son, both of which led me to my own marriage and motherhood.
There were countless moments of healing that rushed in to heat, heal, and implore me to have faith.
This was supposed to be a post about Dustin Hoffman and the video that no less than 3 bazillion people have shared on Facebook. You know the one where he talks working on Tootsie and wanting to be a “beautiful” woman, but the make-up team said, “Sorry, Charlie, we made you as pretty as we could.” You’ve probably seen it– he gets choked up and starts talking about all the women he missed getting to know because he judged them by their looks.
I never click on those videos on Facebook, but something made me click on Dustin Hoffman’s. Maybe because I loved him in The Graduate or because I have a thing for Jewish guys or all those exhortations that I MUST WATCH THIS just wore me down.
I watched it. Then, I tossed and turned all night trying to decide whether it was genuine.
Twelve hours later, I am still obsessing about whether the whole thing is a bunch of malarkey. He’s an actor! Of course he can cry on command! I won’t let myself just lean into it and enjoy it like every other person on Facebook. Here’s my chance, right? A chance to have some faith rush in and fill that chunk that fell away when I learned about the impossible beauty standards that I would be subject to for the rest of my life, while the men in my life were free to eat a footlong sub and forego basic hygiene at will.
Why can’t or won’t I just take this chance to believe?