Grace notes

Written by Jennifer Griggs

I made a mistake. An expensive and inconvenient mistake. Wanting to be with my husband and our daughters over Christmas, I reserved a place for us to go up north for a couple of days over the holiday. I was looking forward to some time to play out our traditions. With our beloved dog, Daisy.

Somehow, I missed the fact that no pets were allowed.

Somehow, I missed the fact that no pets were allowed. So did my husband. It was our daughter, looking at the description of the rental just a few days before we were scheduled to leave, who discovered this important restriction. After a brief conversation with the owner, who told us that indeed no pets were allowed, we canceled our reservation. And of course, we would not be receiving a refund on short notice.

All of us were disappointed, but I was the only one to feel shame.

Shame that I had not seen that no pets were allowed, shame that I would be wasting the money, shame that I had failed to create the time away that I wanted for my family. And shame that there was clearly something wrong with me because I must be doing too much and too little at the same time. Living distracted and wanting something I didn’t deserve…a special time and place away. And the crushing privilege…that I could even have this option when so many others do not.

A new choice. 

As the waves of shame rose up in me, I made a new choice. I gave myself grace. I put my hand over my heart, closed my eyes briefly, and thought, “It’s okay. This is a disappointment, but I am not a disappointment. This was a mistake, but I am not a mistake.”

The very newness of this conversation is what prompts me to write today. My conversations with myself had never gone this way. I also realized that my conversations with myself were never just with myself. My daughters had grown up hearing me say such things as, “How could I have done that? What was I thinking?” while covering my eyes with my hands, all the while telling them that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Like all things new and hard, this grace thing is something I have to practice. Just like I have to practice singing, or writing poetry, or balancing on the thinnest edge of a brittle day, I have to practice seeing and feeling this gentleness, this acceptance of my flawed, human, not-noticing-the-fine-print self.

Grace is.

I grew up hearing that grace is getting something good that we don’t deserve. I always thought the emphasis was on the not deserving part, but now I know that grace is about not having to deserve it. It just is. Grace is like the sun–it comes up no matter how bad the day before might have been. Even if we don’t face the shore, the ocean continues to ebb and flow.

In its abundance, grace has no beginning (except for this new practice of mine, born this Christmas, December 2020) and no end. And our children, our students, our friends, and those catching a glimpse of this giving of grace to ourselves, may learn to push aside shame and perfectionism and judgement to hear their own grace notes.