The Washing of Hands

I’m feeling particularly centered and thoughtful this Sunday as we’ve begun attending a church in Cary. Now I’m not a Christian, but I’m opening up to spiritual possibilities. I like having a lesson on kindness or love to begin my week. We also love Ms. Pat in the nursery, so that helps a lot too.

This Sunday was about Pontius Pilate washing his hands of any responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion. Once again, I don’t know if I believe any of this really happened, but like most good literature, there’s an enriching interpretation to apply to my own life. What am I washing my hands of in my daily life? There are simple and complex answers to that. I am struggling with one of my four courses this semester. This one class just doesn’t have the basic skills to do much of what I’ve planned. I realize I keep pushing them forward and washing my hands of what they don’t know and “should have already learned…” But this isn’t helpful. Maybe I need to pause. Back up. Re-design the class and meet them where they are. This means a lot more work for me. What will I do? I have no idea, yet.

But that’s the simple “hand washing” in my life. The more complex turning away is when it comes to family. As some of you know, I have two sisters, both older. My sister who is closest in age to me hasn’t been a part of my life for years. After trying for decades to help her cope with a severe mental illness, I decided to protect myself and my family and step away from this relationship. It is in this situation that I don’t have any idea how not to “wash my hands.” I think of my sister daily. I love her, but most of the time she is not the person I love. She is usually some distorted persona of herself. And when she’s not well, which is much of the time, she tends to take out her frustrations on those closest to her; hence my desire to keep my distance.

This fracture in my life is probably the deepest and the most problematic. I’ve spent years living with a tangible guilt about being unable to help her.

I don’t have a neat conclusion or ending to this post. This is really just to say to you, my friends, that this is something I sit with often. This blog is about honesty in motherhood, but also in life. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 Americans, and I have a family member who suffers daily, who cannot keep a job and doesn’t know what mental state she will wake up in each morning. And I don’t know if I believe in the power of prayer, but I think prayer or thoughts are my only way in which not to “wash my hands” of my sister.

This is difficult to write about, to look at, to discuss, but that’s what is worth writing about–the difficult things. I encourage you to not turn away this week, from someone or something that would be easy to wash your hands of.

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