Love and Volcanos

Laying under the white comforter, I watch the water drip and pool at the end of my bed. The heavy rain pelts the roof of my small cabin in the middle of Costa Rica’s thick jungle.  A contradiction to the volcano smoldering just below me, less than five kilometers away.

Resting my book in my lap, I stare at the pooling water as it stains the comforter from the dark red wood above.  Figures, I say to myself.

I’ve just finished The Paris Wife.  An evocative portrayal of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. And, as only a good book can, it has left me feeling lonely and depressed. Wondering how the most beautiful love can simply dissolve into our past, leaving only memories as confusing reminders of what we once had, but couldn’t hold onto.  At least for Hadley, that wasn’t the end of her story, just the ending of this book.

What is it about love that changes so quickly? Just two hours ago I was laughing over a beautiful dinner in a fine restaurant in the middle of paradise, with the two people I love most in the world.  My daughter and my mother. Suddenly everything shifted.

“What do you believe about God, Mom?”

Warning bells go off in my head.  This question seems to steadily simmer below the surface of her mind, but when speaks it out loud, we always erupt into a full-on argument. We just can’t seem to move through it. “You know what I believe boo, nothing’s changed.”

She doesn’t like that answer. So it turns ugly as she hurls questions at me. The tone of her voice boiling over, making it perfectly clear she wants to challenge my answer.

Do you read the bible?”

“Do you study God?”

“If I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t know you were a Christian.”

“What’s the last spiritual book you read?”

She wants me to prove it.  But, how do you prove faith? Can you ever do enough to prove your faith?

You don’t know me! is the first thought to cross my mind. All I can do is look at her with bewilderment and think to myself, Really? You want to do this here? On our perfect girls’ vacation?  I stood up at the table staring sharply at her. Angry at her for picking this fight at this moment. Angry at my mother for refusing to intervene. And I left. I told myself I didn’t want to make a scene- but really, I knew I couldn’t explain my faith in the way she needed to hear it. For some reason this makes me feel like a failure.

She cannot stand the fact that I don’t like church. I believe in God, but I just can’t bring myself to swallow every single word in the Bible, and more than that, I don’t trust doctrine. Damnit if I haven’t tried! I tried so hard I almost completely lost myself- the person God made. I tried to be everything the church scripted for me, but it became unbearable.  Fitting that narrative -the godly woman narrative- the Proverbs 31 woman- it’s exhausting.

I wish my daughter was willing to hear my story without considering it as an attack on her own faith, and instead as my own journey. But she is young. And I am too old to lie, offering the religious platitudes she so desperately wants to hear.  We are destined to be friends and enemies until she realizes that life does not fit into a perfect package. It’s messy and shifting and that’s what makes it beautiful.

But it’s also painful to know my daughter struggles with me as a person.  To know she is afraid to listen to my story, and would rather I fit neatly into her ideas of the world. It’s funny though, I remember doing the same thing to my own mother. I was angry at her too when I was younger. Somehow my chaotic world was all her fault. I needed her to make everything right, to protect me. Maybe that’s what my daughter blames me for now. Maybe that’s what she needs from me. I don’t know?

I thought I was mad at her for being so rude in the restaurant. But really, I was mad because she doesn’t trust me, and I always thought we would have that – trust. Now she is mad because I can’t just stop being mad. We are too much alike. I love that about her. I always will. Just as my mother has always loved me.

I’m glad she is strong, she will need it.  I’m encouraged that she challenges everything. It means she is smart and won’t buy into simple ideas. Watching her grow up is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and yet the greatest honor. I just keep praying that faith and love will at least loosely hold us together and keep her fear at a minimal simmer until the day she can hear my story- really hear it.

I know I’m not what I should be or everything I could be, but I am loved as I am. And so I love her in return, just as she is.

For now, I pray God will salvage this trip so we can enjoy the one another before returning home. Mostly, I pray that he protects our relationship so it doesn’t melt away in frustration. Tonight even though I’m angry, hurt and misunderstood, I must set that aside. Love is more important.


    1. stacie j

      Thank you Joan for reading and commenting. It’s so funny to me when I read this post now, because ever since she left for college we suddenly stopped being enemies and now we are the best of friends. We talk almost everyday…and all I can think is “sheww…we survived each other.” Haha


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