In a Bright November

In a Bright November November 3, 2022

Wednesday was a bad day. It was damp and cloudy outside. I like cloudy days, but not in cold November when the whole world is moldering. My anxiety, OCD and religious trauma were terrible. I was afraid of everything, everything in the world. I was afraid of taxes, of homeschooling, of the midterm election, of climate change. I was afraid of driving to run my errands and that someone had stolen or impounded the car in the night. I was afraid of not being able to visit Columbus again and of the traffic when I got there. I was afraid of dying and of living after the people I love are dead. I was especially afraid of God, of His terrible wrath, and also of the possibility that there isn’t a God.

I stayed in bed for too much of the morning, praying for God to exist but not to smite me. I shook and shook and then I got up and forgot to eat. Homeschooling was a disaster. The guinea pig cage started to smell. At some point, my kindly neighbor who mows my lawn after he mows his came by and cut the grass without asking. In the process, he pulverized all the pretty gold maple leaves that were covering the front yard, adding a splash of color where there wasn’t one. I felt as if he’d committed a murder.

Wednesday evening, Adrienne asked me to bake a pumpkin cake for dinner. I am not an expert baker, but I am pretty good at gluten-free pumpkin cake. We had two cans of pumpkin and a bag of Bob’s Red Mill flour, so I said “yes.” And then I started baking, while my brain melted down.

I’ve never understood why people think that OCD and anxiety make you meticulous. OCD makes you scatterbrained. They don’t mean you iron your underwear, they mean you’re so busy checking that the iron is unplugged you forget to put the underwear in the wash. You don’t vacuum the carpet three times a day, you have bleach stains on your carpet from when you were randomly afraid of toxic mold in the floorboards. And it certainly doesn’t do wonders in the kitchen.

I opened the first can of pumpkin. There was a slight dark discoloration at the top of the canned goo, and I remembered learning about botulism from a science book when I was Adrienne’s age. Then I opened the next one, which was discolored in the exact same spot. I wondered if this was just a feature of that brand of pumpkin. I poured it in the mixing bowl with the eggs, the oil, then I mixed the flour and baking powder and soda, the pumpkin pie spice. All the time I was beside myself with worry. I mixed the dry and the wet together, worrying. Then I spread the fragrant batter in the pan, worrying. I worried about botulism for thirty-five minutes, after which I took the suspiciously flat cake out of the oven.

I tasted a crumb. It was hideous.

I realized I’d left out the sugar, and thanks to my anxiety there was no pumpkin left. It was late at night, and there isn’t a 24-hour grocery in Steubenville even if I’d trusted myself to drive with severe anxiety.

We had cheese and almonds for dinner.

The next morning, Thursday, dawned bright and clear, warm enough to open the windows but cool enough to enjoy being outside.

I love a bright, cool, clean November day.

I came down early, to find that Michael had been on a dawn walk and bought another can of pumpkin. In just a few minutes, I whipped up a properly sweetened pumpkin cake. It came out of the oven a soft, spicy brown pillow, just as Adrienne was coming downstairs. She ate about a quarter of it in one sitting.

After breakfast, I went to the community garden.

The gate is already locked for the year, but the fence only goes around three sides, so I got in. The place is on its last legs. My sunflowers are dead black stalks, picked clean by the birds. The squash and eggplant are gone. The other gardeners haven’t been back to get the last of their bounty; there are tomatoes rotting on the vines. The marigolds one gardener planted are running riot all over the raised bed, spilling out, taking over the world.

I picked a handful of my autumn sugar snap peas to share with the guinea pig.

I checked on the last of the tomatoes– some are still green and won’t make it. The frost will kill them off. Some are going yellow and I might get a chance to enjoy them. One is orange, almost ready. It just needs a day or two more.

Holding an orange tomato still stuck on the vine, in a clean November, in a garden that’s been making food for eight months, in the dying of a year that’s been so horribly traumatic and also so freeing and wonderful… somehow, I forgot to be anxious. I forgot to worry about botulism and money and insurance and taxes, the election, the economy, how we’ll mitigate climate change, how we’ll pay the rent. I forgot to worry about whether there’s a God, and whether he hates me as much as I feel that God does.

If there is no God, there’s no one to be offended at my disastrous performance.

If there is a God, and he is the narcissistic, oafish deity of the Charismatic Renewal, hell is where I want to be, and I won’t pay him any heed.

If there is a God, and that God is love, then that God will meet me where I am in one way or another.

I don’t have to understand anything right now.

I can just feel the brightness, without knowing what it means.

I’ve never known such a bright Dark Night of the Soul.

The mulch that was left of the maple leaves smelled like candy as I went back home.

It’s going to be all right.



image via Pixabay 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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