The Stone That Builders Rejected

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Just now I was both excited and alarmed to see Catherine Newman has a new essay online. Excited because her writing is the way I write, her kids close in age to my kids, her brain in the same fire-alarm mode about our country. Alarmed because I’ll never be her. Instead I’ll be me, living in relative obscurity when my ego wants to live LARGE.

We’re not supposed to talk about writer jealousy, even when we’ve worked the crap out of our writer jealousy. Because the truth is I read everyone one of Catherine Newman’s words and they give me the balm I am seeking. I am overwhelmingly happy for her fame this morning. Probably because the world news and parenting and my work life has me so on edge that I’ve taken up meditating again. So I just finished listening to some Australian stranger tell me to breathe deeply for 9 minutes and 36 seconds. And I breathed deeply while simultaneously playing with my two dogs, because that’s the kind of Buddhist I am.

I’m half in and I’m half out. I’m the woman that says half of a Hail Mary and gets stuck on the word “sinners” every single time. Because I’m not there anymore: I’m not willing to call myself a sinner. I mean, I know, I know, I know, I sin all day long. But I’ve had to change it up, had to allow myself to be human. Because I was that girl who walked through the halls of her high school and worried about my Cheerio burps. I’d tell my mom later, “I burped and it smelled like Cheerios. Is that OK?”

I’d hear her sigh and then she’d reply, “Yes, you’re human.”

Oh, so human and not a sinner for reacting as a human again and again and again all day long. Last night I asked my husband just how in the heck are we supposed to respond to what’s going on in America right now. I mean, if I ignore the news and do nothing because my sanity is faltering, this feels wrong. But if I pay attention and freeze because it’s so upsetting, this feels wrong, too. He tells me we are supposed to bear witness and respond, write letters, do what we can.

But bearing witness lately is like having a million arrows shot into my already tense sciatica nerve. So last night I sat at my teen’s choir concert and let the music enter me. I let myself cry a bit. And I let the deep rumble of one song enter my feet and come up my shaken nerves. KK’s choir sang, “The stone that builders rejected has become the corner stone of a whole new world.”

I feel like so many of us are the stones that the builder rejected right now. We’re all like: me too, I was sexually assaulted, verbally assaulted, I was the other, not fitting in, scorned and hated on. We are the corner stones of a whole new world that will rise up. Even if it feels like instead there’s people in marble-encased offices who are right now trying to batter the crap out of us in hopes that we’ll take cover forever and never come out into the light of day again.

The stone that builders rejected has become the corner stone of a whole new world.

Take shelter. Meditate. Play with the dogs. Make the pizza dough with all white flour and relish the taste of it later tonight as you sit down to dinner.

Catherine Newman’s words this morning sit alongside the meditation that made me practice breathing while I played with my dogs.  I practice being the stone that the builder rejected, soaking in the love that’s nearby while I ponder the whole new world we’re surely going to make out of this mess. As a dear friend says, it’s going to take a lot of joy mixed with that anger to make change happen. Where’s your joy, friends, where’s your joy?

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