Tuesday, February 22, 2011
“I love you.”
Don’t look them in the eye and say, “You matter to me.”
Not if you’re going to blow them off.
Not if you don’t have what it takes.
Not if you want to love them but can’t give what they need.
Not if you want to mean it but don’t, really.
Don’t say “More than my friend” then disappear.
Don’t talk about the friendships stories are made of, then… ?
Please don’t say everything someone is longing to hear then make them wonder what happened.
Even if it’s their problem and they overreacted, don’t make them wonder and wonder and wonder.
Please, please, really try, never to make someone question all the beginning and what may become of the end because they can no longer find you in the middle.
Don’t make someone spend days and weeks and months trying to let go, trying to forget, trying to be un-angry.
Not if you first let them think the love warranted such a response.
Don’t let someone fall for your heart and stumble around trying to find it again, while you wander far and long, shrouded in concealing mists.
Don’t gift them with the treasure of your heart, of your soul, of your secrets and your fears and the beauty that is flaming at the heart of all your fears…not if they must then be cut off, a stranger to your love as well as your defenses…
Please do not wound someone so deeply with your love that long later, they would not change that you took their face in your hands.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
But they matter because so much of me is in them. If I let them go, if I acknowledge that maybe there’s a different kind of choice I could make that would help with happy, then… then what about all the parts of me that I let go, too? What about all the tears and the pain and the prayers and the effort and the trying…didn’t those parts of me matter? If I just let them go then it’s like saying parts of me are not important, that the pain was useless, that the trying was well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless, that my very best efforts get me only to the point of admitting bankruptcy and stupid ignorance, or, worse, blind avoidance.
I’m not thinking terribly clearly here. I know that. I’m too tired.
And I know of course nothing is ultimately wasted, that the “family secret” is that all things work out for my good because I am called according to God’s purpose. I know that, no question. Even my nonsense gets used for my good and the good of others.
But just for a minute, I’m talking about the actual stuff mattering. Not the distance from pain that brings perspective. Not the perspective that brings insight. Not the insight that should breed trust…I mean the stuff. Doesn’t the pain matter? Doesn’t the effort of struggle matter in itself? My tears may be in a bottle in Heaven, but what are they worth now?
Just for once, I would have like to have been loved without the offer of strategies, without the obligatory reference to future redemption meant to spur me out of my pain. Just once, time enough to fall asleep safe and loved whether I chose the “right” attitude or not. Just once, the offering of love and safety and arms and shelter that did not feel compelled to remind me of what I ought to do when the moment was over and the shelter was gone and I was back on my own to suck it up and be tough and keep on doing the right thing. When you hurt that deep it’s only a matter of time before you stumble again, looking for the shelter.
Why is it so hard for anyone to see that sometimes, if you hold someone long enough without requiring anything more, they will finally take a deep enough sleep and a deep enough breath to get up, all on their own and without all the words, and do exactly what they ought to? Only this time, the wound starts going away and eventually they won’t keep stumbling.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I heard part of this song and wanted to send it to a friend, but when I went looking for it, I found I needed it myself. I played it over and over, hoping to get it into my soul. The only part that got in at all is “For all the lies you've held inside so long / And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross.” There are lies I think I might be clinging to. Knowing the truth in my head is almost zero help; I need the power of something greater to get through. Only the cross.
I am angry. Angry at what feels like lack of growth. Angry at my circles, angry at my inability to suck it up and at least pretend to be presentable, and angry that even with my disgraceful lack of presentability my heart cries still get missed. I would say shameless lack of presentability but it’s shame-filled. It is an awful feeling to sell yourself out for the chance to be comforted and then hate yourself for the messy display. There is an epic conflict of convictions—on one hand the certainty that my real self is not acceptable and I should, for the love of everything, put it away, shut it up, don’t say it don’t text it don’t blog it don’t be it and if I must be it, then for God’s sake, hide it. And on the other hand the deep deep plea that if only, only someone would really see and really understand—and love me anyway, love me right there in the middle of it—that the other side of me could go away. Or heal. Or be shown a liar once and for all…
I am angry that I know so many of my thoughts to be lies and yet they feel so true that stepping out of them feels like some kind of betrayal. Let alone that it seems impossible to just step away from them. But I wonder, only just now really, did I know this was a choice? I was angry that it seemed not to be a choice; it seemed for all the world like a trap, a mire. Is it? When you see a lie and acknowledge it, rebuke it…that doesn’t seem to be enough. Have I been choosing to look to the wrong places for help? I swear I thought I was looking in the right direction. Does every single thing I wanted have to fall down around me before I see what still stands? Who still stands. Who has always been standing there, waiting? I thought I had reached for Him, I really did.
Another of my favorite lyrics won’t leave my mind: “On the edge of all I need/ still I cling to what I see/ And what have I there?” Letting go is terrifying. I don’t know if I’m even ready to make this choice…I don’t know if I’m ready to even acknowledge it might be my choice.
What if it doesn’t work?
What if it does?
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
No one grasping the depth of my pain, no one realizing how much attention I need. Of no one rushing to love me in the wake of such an utterly selfish, immanently perilous statement.
No one understanding that my pain matters. It matters. It matters.
My tears matter.
Every single one.
Every single breath: the ones hidden in quiet, the desperate ones I swallow so no one will hear, the long sighing lingering ones I wish someone would hear, the slow shuddering ones that starkly mark my aloneness, the gasping, tearing ones that no one ever hears. All those--someone should hear.
Everyone should be heard. Everyone should have someone who follows their every move, their every breath, who treasures every singe stupid, precious, priceless tear as if it was the blood of Heaven.
Every stumbling statement, every denial that is a secret cry for help.
Every cold shrug and achingly awkward expression--the flimsy but amazingly convincing proofs that I don't care, that it doesn't matter to me whether you care or not. I am so tired of no one knowing they only mean Please love me anyway, don't let me prove one more time that I am worth so little I can make you push me away with my own blank glance.
I am tired of the ones who should know not knowing.
Of the ones who have what I want not understanding enough to give it.
Of the ones who understand not having the chance in my heart or in years to offer it.
I am tired of no one knowing that my running is an invitation to pursuit. That my fight is a bleeding cry for embrace.
That the wretchedness I offer to your ears is the very best I have to give, the treasure of my heart, the pearls I've cast time after time after time after time into emptiness.
That although it is wretched it is beautiful because it is the most of me,
it is the chance to pierce the most secret place and shatter the lies and unlock the place of Beautiful.
The pearls I've thrown into nothing, which, altho pitiful and filthy with self, should be a higher sacrifice, offered to One who knows their worth.
I am tired of myself, of my obsession with the circles of my inability to break out of the madness. Bound by an unclear demand
that it all matters, that it should be given, that I am utterly at fault and utterly, inherently created to demand the impossible
and risk everything--reputation, dignity, self itself--on the chance of finding it.
I am too tired to do it again.
Yet I am weak enough to circle again if I could.
And I can't.
So I will throw my wretched pearls to a higher altar and say outrageous, audacious things to a God to Whom I have no right to raise my face.
And I will spend my life, such selfish hours as pain motivates, in pursuit of such a Love.
If I walk alone, I walk alone.
If I waste my name and my flimsy guards of presentability in hapless tries for lesser imitations along the way, so be it.
Because I am given an unsure Hope, a strongly, unlikely-felt surge that there will be no more desert circles like the last,
that this last desperate effort will win the Mirage of Solid Love.
Arms Wide Open, Misty Edwards
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
All I ever really wanted was enough time on your breast.
Long enough close to your heart to stop.
Stop–everything–long enough to feel safe.
I’ve felt closer but not as safe.
Strange, to feel not-so-close and yet safe. Strange,
for my thoughts, for once, to still my heart, for
them to say “Be still. You are loved. You are safe
here. This will not turn against you. This, you can
trust even though you don’t understand and are not sure.”
And for once, my heart listened.
The safety of your nearness turned my heart to Him.
Turning my heart to Him said “Even the worst brokenness
may be healed, even the greatest loss, the nearness
that rejected and wounded and spat…even that may be
healed. Even here, even here, may be the sunlit path
to dreams so bright they remain hidden.”
A tiny circle of vision. Looking at, seeing only the
place where a heart beats strong enough to be broken
by love, within a circle of arms that touches my
hair and does not push or wish me away.
A stirring. A place in my heart that I tried to
put away, mistrusted to go beyond the walls of my
skin, a place that could be my greatest traitor, sending
me to circle Sinai yet again. Or–chastened, wiser
but wild and terrified but reckless–could be met, for once,
in a tiny circle of blue and tan and safety that opens
into the everything of Him.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Friendship. Betrayal. Love. Loss. Longing.
What’s the line from the songs? “Fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers.” I’d add, “Daughters and sons, beloved, lost ones…”
I’m thinking of the ones who look up to me, of the ones I look up to. The ones who took good care of me and the ones who betrayed me. And I wonder, who did I sell out without even knowing it? Who looked up to me but no longer does? I don’t really want to think about that. It’s easy for me to name the ones who didn’t treat me as they should have. We all make mistakes. And sometimes we hold people responsible for things they just couldn’t handle. So I hope there will be grace for me in the hearts of the ones I’ve let down.
God is a god of relationship. The Trinity is a relationship. God has a plan for the world, for each one of us. The enemy has a plan to get in the way of every single thing God wants to do. What better way than to ruin or distort or break or twist relationships? What gets to us more? What single dynamic is there in life more significant or powerful than relationships?
People don’t spend ten years on the couches of therapists over a lost job or a ruined vacation. They spend it over bad parenting. People don’t walk around miserable and dysfunctional because of some gift they didn’t get for Christmas; they do it because they were abandoned, abused, discarded, devalued, or betrayed. By people. By others. By relationships.
I don’t have deep wounds because my family was poor while I was growing up. I have deep wounds because my dad couldn’t father me right and my mother couldn’t mother me right, and because every other parent-figure who let me down only intensified the loss and the wound. Every time I hoped for someone to be there the way I needed someone to be there, and then all the someones let me down, or didn’t see me, or told me how I felt was wrong, it just pushed the hurt deeper and brought more shame.
It’s like unrequited love. When two people love each other, it’s a celebration. But when one of them loves and the other scorns, there’s shame. It’s somehow shameful to offer something beautiful—something precious—and have it be thrown back in your face. I’m coming to realize, so much of my shame was false—it’s not that my heart was necessarily wrong for wanting or needing, it’s just that what was precious to me was treated like trash. And so I thought maybe there was something about me that was trash.
But still…as I bring my wounds, my losses, my shame and my questions to God, I see that His way is good. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever studied, but there is so much freedom in it. It’s like a secret treasure, like the cave in Pirates of the Caribbean where all the treasure is stored—it’s dark and mysterious and you can’t see all of what’s hidden, but you can see enough to know it’s all treasure.
I can see that doing relationships God’s way, even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life—and it is—is really, honestly the best way. There’s so much treasure to come out of it that we can’t even see a tiny part of it. It’s like standing in the mouth of the cave.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
How much have I given that was a cheat? A cheat to the ones who received but misunderstood… A cheat to me when my crossed motivations failed to produce…
How many deeds have I done that were seen as helpful, kind, cheerful, but were really an effort to win the affection and appreciation that can never be bought, only freely bestowed?
Or am I angry that I think they were not seen at all, let alone that they did not purchase the acceptance I long for?
And what of the deeds and words absolutely given in love? Do all those that remain unseen remain seeds? Seeds of rewards not to be seen here? It is so beautiful, so fulfilling to give in love, purely because of love.
What of all that is seen, and appreciated, and expressed, yet simply does not seem to touch the need I have still to give and serve, persistently, foolishly hoping to bring about the love I need? What is it in me that cannot rejoice in the love and deeds and words of others that are so lavishly and joyfully bestowed on me?
What of all I’ve given that I thought was given in love, and today I wonder, was it just a cheat?
How can I know my own heart?
And what can I do with the quiet, private, solitary sorrow and profound thankfulness that there is only one, One, ONE who knows and understands it all, every thought, every motivation and frantic prayer of “I’m Sorry! Help!”
I don’t know what to do except take it all to Him, and say “Here it is, some of it is so ugly and I can’t sort it out on my own. I don’t know what to blame myself for and what to forgive myself for. I don’t want to be foolish and small and so very, very stupid. I want to give love the way I want to be loved, and I don’t want to scorn the Love that is already given, already bestowed, already cherishing.”
Thursday, October 29, 2009
So. Sometimes you're going along, living your life, and all of a sudden you just have to stop and squeal, "Jesus! You're so GOOOOOOOD!" It's pretty imperative that you do this a higher-than- normal-pitched voice.
When you start to see the redemption you've begged for, longed for, wept for, and finally given up on, you can't help but rejoice.
I never thought about that word before. You could say it means "joy again." And the joy is a verb. Do joy again. Feel joy again. Enter into joy again.
That's what it is...I feel I'm entering joy again after so long. Walking in a daily joy that I'd forgotten.
Wait - there's been so much pain. It's been so long. I should be cautious. Hope is a set-up for disappointment. Flying means there's further to fall.
But REjoice? Do it again? He's too good not to. Maybe I should be cautious after so long, so many let-downs. Maybe I should be very cautious and wise and put a crazy lock-down on expectations and perspectives.
But I can't not rejoice.
I remember this, now that I'm thinking in terms of "again": I remember the last time God set me free in a monumental way in my life. I walked in so much joy after that. So much freedom. I kind of flew. And if part of the pain this last time was wondering what happened to that first joy, that first freedom...how much greater will be whatever He's building now?
I can't see it all yet, I don't think this particular season is finished yet. But I can see a tiny glimpse. Like even all I hoped and wished and prayed for and finally gave up on has reappeared, but even though I did wish and hope and pray for it it's somehow so much bigger. So much grander. So much richer than that I remember imagining. Like it's at my eye-level and I can only see the corner of it because it's so much bigger than me and stretches away beyond the horizon.
2 Cor 10:9 says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him" It feels like a strange paradox, because I certainly thought I could conceive of many very beautiful things, and even what redemption might look like. And yet now, even if some of those things may be reappearing, I feel the verse is true. (It's true whether I think it is or not, just like gravity still works whether or not I think I can jump off a bridge, but so much of our genuine faith has to do with realizing in a deep way that God is true, and aligning ourselves with that so it's part of our lives and not just part of the stuff we spout because we're supposed to.) Even though I thought I could imagine all I wanted, all God could do if He would just give me what I asked for....this is better. This is more.
Don't ask me for details. I still don't know what all of this was about. Oh, I know some of it, I have my glimpses. But the best part is just to see Him. Just to have heard His voice like never before, and to know that He never once was unkind to me, was always tender and gentle. Just to see that He is so faithful, that He was most faithful when I doubted His goodness the most. Just to see that He really is good, that He really does mean good toward me.
There are tremendous theological questions and incredible struggles of faith that have to do with the question of why He lets these things happen, how can they be so long and so terrible, and what kind of Almighty God could allow so much pain and still be called good.
I only know that now, seeing Him, hearing Him...it changes everything.
Monday, September 28, 2009
After four months, I'm not sure what to say. I'd like to come back with a bang, or pull out one of the many things I've started to write and find that it's perfect. I'd like to say I've gained so much perspective, that things have come clear, that there's been a miracle.
I'm not ready to be especially declarative. I have gained perspective. I've come such a long way since this time last year - in fact, at this time last year I was just about to enter a time of crisis. I think there are things I see now, take for granted, that a year ago were still looming so huge that they were indistinct in their enormity. There were things I just couldn't face, things the very thought of which filled me with a desperate, frantic denial. It's strange how things you can't see in one moment gradually, insistently lap against you until they are no longer a shock, like standing in what you think is a frigid tide until suddenly it's perfectly comfortable.
Some of those frightening ideas have become clear. The mere thought of approaching them is no longer filled with dread. I'm afraid it's one of those things about life, that after a while some things just are, and after some time and perspective are no longer worthy of either dread, shame, or even require explanations. They just are. This can be wisdom.
There's been no miracle. Not the kind I'd like, anyway. Not the kind that you put on your calendar and date your life by the before-and-after of the date. Miracle isn't the kind of word I like to throw around. I still hurt. I have--very likely--more questions than I had before. And I still don't understand why this experience has to be, or why it must last so long without the answers I think would help.
And yet...I know very clearly that this last year or year and a half is one of those times by which I will date my life. That kind of year happened to me once before, and I recognize some of the signs. That first time, things shifted in me in a way I know are irreversible. Things changed in a way that can't be un-changed. Before, the way I knew those changes were beyond myself was that I didn't do the changing. Almost against my will--and absolutely against the way I would ever have chosen--God built something into my soul that was unshakable, because it was not of my making. This time around, although I don't feel at all as if I'm all the way through this experience, I see signs of things in my life that were not there before, that I didn't do, and that I cannot undo. This looks like the hand of God.
I've read recently that God is in the business of taking all the worthless things in our lives--fear, discouragement, anxiety--and replacing them with things of inestimable worth--love, hope, trust. A very wise young woman told me how God was showing her that Jesus will offend anything in us that can be offended, because then when He has removed all our worthless placeholders and foolish pride, there is room for Him to do whatever He wants, build whatever He wants, and fill us with so much more goodness than we can imagine at present.
The only thing that made sense when I was trying to think of what to say here, today, is that I may have more questions than answers. I may tremble at the pride I see in myself where I thought I was humble. I waver daily on the edge of discouragement, thinking that all my dreams may have to be sifted and shifted before I see them come true, or that they may not be fulfilled at all in the way I hope. I see my own, utter weakness most where I desire to be glorious and strong, and pride amid my filthy, pitiful attempts at righteousness.
But at the end, I cannot deny the Hand of God in my life. I won't even try to put a pretty cap on it, but in the most abject moments of shame and despair at my own insufficiency I glimpse--only glimpse--a love that is all the greater because it comes for me there.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I said I would pray, and then I thought...Do I know how to?
Do I know how to pray for your pain? Perhaps it's not what mine was, maybe I don't know how to ask God for exactly what you feel, if I haven't felt the same.
And then I thought...I still know what pain feels like.
I know what it's like when your heart hurts so bad that your real heart hurts, that the muscles and sinews and your very blood rushing through them throb with the ache of your soul. I know what it feels like when your tears fall and fall til the flood of them puddle at your feet. I know what it's like when the poison of your pain wells and wells until it rushes out of your eyes in tears that feel like relief as they pour down your face...but when you are finished crying because you can't breathe anymore, your eyes are swollen and burning...the ache remains.
I know what it's like to question God: Why me? What did I do wrong? Was I that stupid? Did I hear you wrong? And if I wasn't despicably stupid, if I tried so very, very hard to do right...why this much pain? If You love me, why don't You make it better, why don't You heal me?
And hardest of all, when I see no reasons, I believe no promises, I can think of nothing else to help me live another minute besides, "Lord, where else shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
I see a life without these rules of faith, without the seemingly merciless mandate to persevere, to believe what I cannot see, to claim what I cannot touch, to rest where I see no peace. I stare long into that void; and in a moment, the terror of Nothing, of No One, rushes over me and I cry, "Entreat me not to leave Thee nor turn back from following Thee!" and I sob for the chance to cling His robes, I beg that no matter what else may come, no matter what heart-wrenching agony I suffer, no matter if all the promises remain hidden, to be finally, only, found at His feet.
I know what it feels like when after these tears and these prayers, the ache remains. The night is dark and lonely, and the morning seems to hold no promise of light or of cheer.
I know what pain is. It may be that your pain comes from a different wound than mine does, but I know your ache bleeds the same, your tears fall with the same burn, your physical heart pounds with the same pulse of emptiness that mine does.
And despite everything, I know that my Redeemer lives, and I know that His heart is for me. And so I know that His heart is for you.
And so I lift you up to Him.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I don’t want to not care.
My pastor told me some of my deep disappointment comes from unrealistic expectations. That’s kind of duh, I suppose the kind of thing mature adults are supposed to “get.”
Realistic expectations have to do with wisdom. And I actually like wisdom. I like when I’ve learned some life lesson so that it’s duh to me; I like when things are ok because my perspective is truthful and appropriate. I really enjoy wisdom most of the time—it’s freeing.
But I don’t want to feel better about something because I stopped caring about it.
There are some things I don’t want to feel better about because they no longer matter to me.
There are some things I don’t want to care about anymore. There are relationships that, even if things never change, even if the other person never changes, I want it not to bother me anymore. I want to change if that’s what it takes. I want to be able to love regardless of whether or not there is satisfying reciprocation.
But there are places in my life that I guess I’m just stuck on.
I don’t want to love there unconditionally. I don’t want to gain perspective on who you really are and so have it not matter how you treat me. I don’t want to be the bigger person; I don’t want to invest my love just because Jesus told me to.
I want it to change, not me. I don’t want, in five years, to feel differently about it because I’ve changed, my perspective has changed, and I’ve become ok with who you are not.
I don’t want to lower my expectations with you.
Because if I do, it’s like it was all wasted.
All the care I invested, all the good I saw in you, all the things about you that I thought were there, were lovable, were delightful. All the things about you that I swear I didn’t imagine, that try as I might to adjust my expectations still lurk there, teasingly, all the things about you that I thought would feel good on my soul. All the effort I spent trying to honor God in my attitude when I did want to quit. Because the fact is I did try to quit caring. It seemed like it would be smarter and so much easier.
But I never wanted to quit.
And I have seen how God takes things and makes them into something so much better, in a better way than I imagined. And I’ve seen how, when I am so very changed, when my perspective is so very shifted, how all the feelings change and it all becomes ok.
I don’t want that to happen here.
I want redemption.
I want what I want.
I want what I felt to have mattered.
I realize You may say no. I know if You do it will be better than what I want. But I cannot see that now—my past experience of Your Sovereignty, projected into the future, does not seem to match the will that I repeatedly lay down. In this I have only two prayers left: I want it all to have mattered, I want it stand in the end without waste. And not my will but Yours be done.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I suffered a dreadful wound at the Laundromat two weeks ago. I was viciously attacked my by one of the washers. In a simple act of loading in my clothes, I somehow received a huge gash in the top of my finger, deep and painful and immediately bloody. I put a band-aid on it and washed it when I got home, and did a stint or two with antibacterial ointment; but often that seems to keep my cuts from closing quickly, so after a day or two I just let it close up and scab over.
That seemed fine until the area appeared not to be healing normally. The area remained red and swollen and itchy and painful to the touch, and I seemed to keep bumping it more than usual and every bump really hurt. It seemed to be infected underneath a solid not-normal scab. I tried peroxide topically and the fizz seemed to confirm infection, but the closed-over not-scab was far too painful to remove even after prolonged soaking. I decided I was just going to have to wait while it slowly, slowly healed itself, enduring the extra pain and longer recovery time. It’s still healing and still very sore and occasionally I still bump it and sustain extra pain that should have been gone by now. Yesterday I explained this episode to my friend Amy and she informed me that I should have cared for the wound more carefully and consistently while it was in the beginning stages of healing, instead of letting it close up without proper cleansing. I told her I’d given it a few bouts with peroxide and a go or two with the antibacterial ointment, and clearly had not realized the depth of the contamination, but she shook her head reproachfully and looked at me scoldingly, as if to say, “You know better. You can’t not take care of it and expect it to heal properly.”
I suffered a dreadful wound somewhere in my youth; I can’t even tell you how. I was viciously attacked by the brokenness of this world and the forces of the enemy. Somehow, in the act of being born and growing up, I received a deep and painful gash in my heart. The problem was, unlike my finger, it wasn’t immediately bloody and I didn’t really notice it in time to care for it properly. I don’t even think I would have known how to then, because I believe the problem had to do with me taking care of other people at an age when I should have been cared for, myself. I wasn’t prepared, as a child, to properly care for others, much less did I possess the understanding about deep wounds and how they need to heal. I don’t seem to have caught it in time to let it heal clean.
In the same way we always manage bump the place that’s injured, I seem to have periodically rammed the wounded area of my soul. Every time I bump it, it throbs violently. The last time I noticed the area in my heart seemed red and swollen, I tried a little topical treatment—nothing major. It swelled up worse than ever. Then, like a natural wound, I tried picking off the scab, thinking if I could get off the outer layers maybe it would heal cleaner. The poison must have been very deep, because it only ached all the harder, and then it seemed that not only I, but others were bumping into it. In fact, it seemed to become a target. A wound that had slumbered in almost-obscurity for years suddenly seemed to gush, and fester, and, like sharks to blood, the enemy got in every kick possible to the tender place, and added insult to injury.
I don’t have a very tidy finish to this story. The place on my finger is healing, but it still itches and it’s still red and angry looking, and it still hurts a lot when I bump it.
The place in my heart isn’t all better yet, either. I’m not a little girl anymore; I’ve learned a lot more about taking care of a wound since the time I got it. I’ve been asking God to do His version of peroxide—who knew truth and repentance could sting so badly and so deeply and yet feel so good? I’ve applied antibacterial ointment to it—I know it’s a cheesy analogy but if you think about it, forgiveness is a lot like Neosporin—it keeps the broken parts from becoming septic and festering. Still, it’s an old wound and the poison has been in there for a long time, and it still hurts like hell when I bump it—or when someone else bumps me and the pain reminds me it’s there.
I don’t know why this particular gash is taking so long to heal. Maybe I’m not healthy enough or I need more vitamins. I don’t know why something I’ve prayed about so much is still there—maybe there’s some blindingly obvious obedience thing that I’m missing, or maybe it’s just one of those things. As much as I hate it, I know God often does His deepest work slowly, and this is deep. And I think, like my pseudo-scab, sometimes these things take so long to finally heal because even though we want to just rip them open and be rid of them, even touching the edges is so wrenchingly painful that we just end up waiting and go little by little instead.
Like I said, I know it’s an obvious, cheesy analogy. But as I sat around tonight picking at both my wounds, I felt like I had to write it.
I’ll let you know when it’s all healed up.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
For now, for now
The torrent is dammed.
The river races another channel
than the path down my face,
winding now in hidden caverns
in the echoing dark of my soul.
The raging, stormy waters that pooled
at my feet
and washed the black from my eyes—
Torn in anguished sobs and bitter pain
of yet-willing surrender—
This heaving flood has entered
a wider plain.
The fight shallows, the struggle calms
at the entrance to a broad
This river never dries, never ends, and
there are still tears that will well
Washing out the traces of pain, of
sorrow, gently carrying the broken
pieces of the toppled edifice
to a foreign god.
When at last they are washed away,
The final tears will bring balm
and healing, until only a place of
tender strength remains to mark the place
of the great battle and the great storm.
There are still tears to be cried
Gently welling, gently spilling
sometimes still in a burst of stinging pain.
For now, tho, for now,
The torrent is dammed.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Half a year ago I wrote the piece entitled Cemetery. I didn’t feel the need to go use a cemetery for cleverly disguised crying again until today. I tried a different one this time, one I’ve never visited and one in which I’ve seldom noted much traffic, pedestrian or otherwise. (In all fairness, the daily busyness of cemeteries is not something I spend a lot of observation on, anyway.) Well, I was driving home from Walmart, musing, and all of a sudden I started crying. Then a song came on the radio that just made me cry more, and since I was at an intersection directly facing said cemetery, I decided to pull over and indulge in a good cry in the warmth of the sunshine, magnified through the car windows. (The darkness of winter cold has descended upon my apartment; I do not expect to be warm in it again until May.)
Anyway, I pulled over, put on a good song, and sat musing. Just as those few dam-breaking tears slid down my cheeks, I noted a figure in the distance—a man walking a dog. Great, I thought, people? As the figure approached I discerned that both man and dog were of an elderly nature, evidenced by the man’s gaunt appearance and the dog’s rotund belly and decidedly wobbly walk. Fine, I concluded, old men have a right to walk their dogs on fall afternoons; it’s good they’re exercising. I gazed off into the distance, carefully nonchalant, until they passed. Then, just as I was recovering my tearful train of thought, I spied in my side-view mirror more figures—a woman in a tracksuit, shortly followed by a young mother with a stroller and obligatory baby. Seriously? I inquired of the air in irritation. Even here? What is this, a thoroughfare? Anyway, I feigned to be listening to music and hoped the freshly filled gravesite, close by my car, would inspire respectful understanding and avoidance. Two more figures in needlessly bright yellow also loomed in my mirror behind the mother and child. My blood pressure shot up for an instant; apparently I had chosen not a respectable resting place of bodies departed, but my town’s own favorite walking path. Blessedly, the garishly-clothed pair turned aside down another deathly avenue.
Finally, the stretch of mirror behind me was empty but of trees and monuments; the vista before my dirty windshield was filled with only the yet-unploughed greensward and the golden autumn sun falling through gloriously colored trees. Perhaps the rash of living persons thronging the cemetery was a momentary fluke. My song went on repeat and I gave all my attention back to musing and crying. Hard. Soothing tears rolled down my cheeks and onto my shirt, and I tucked my face beneath my hat brim and hand, and luxuriated in my sorrow. Just as I was getting to the really good sobbing…a tap on my window.
I paused for an instant. Surely it couldn’t be—had I not written a lovely piece on the sanctity of sorrow in a graveyard? Certainly no person could be so dense of feeling as to knock on the car window of stranger crying in a cemetery? I raised my eyes and lowered my hand. Sure enough, there was the blond hair and sympathetic face of the woman in the tracksuit. She couldn’t have just circled around and exited by way of the citrus-colored strollers—no no, she had to walk back past my car, just when I was distracted enough to stop paying attention. I flashed what I’m sure was a ghastly smile combined with a shake of my head meant to convey, I don’t want to talk, I’m fine, please go away. I ducked back beneath the shield of my hand.
She tapped again. WHAT! I thought madly, this is ridiculous! I looked up again, trying not to make eye contact (let’s face it, sanctity of sorrow or not, it’s rather absurd to be caught by a concerned stranger when you’re crying hard in what is apparently a very public place.) I gave her another facial contortion and shook my head, attempting to indicate that my actual state of being was much better than it appeared. She shook her head to keep my attention and mouthed, “I’ll pray for you.” I shook my head and gave her a thumbs-up to serve as an I understand and thank you and I don’t want to talk and I’ll be fine. I had instantaneously considered rolling down the window after the first tap but I didn’t want to talk to anyone! Gosh! Also instantaneous was the thought that since no one in my actual life knew I was sitting along crying in a graveyard, it was kind of nice that a perfect stranger walking by was kindhearted and would pray for me. I was rather miserable, after all. Well, Lord, I hope you’ll listen to her prayers, I said mentally, checking the rearview to make sure she was in fact retreating into the distance.
I really couldn’t return to my cry after that; it was so ridiculous as to almost cheer me up. Not quite; but really, if you at all value a sense of humor you have got to take note of the height of absurdity of a situation like that. I drove home.
There was still a little afternoon sunlight left, and I didn’t relish the idea of the arctic frigidity of my apartment (although there is thankfully a fairly safe bet of privacy in your own home if you’re in it alone.) At the last turn before home I briefly considered trying one of the other old cemeteries in my neighborhood. After all, I had been denied not only my cry and my privacy, but even my illusions of the sanctity of death had taken a blow; and, as the character in one of my old books was wont to say “A person must have some compensations.” But I thought there ought to be a limit even to the credulity of a hopeful person, and decided to just go home. When a person cannot even indulge in a good cry now and then without interruption, one must settle for chocolate.
(Written last summer.)
Living in the city in an apartment with no balcony and a porch that is also the entrance to first floor offices, finding a private space in nature can be difficult. Parks and college greens are not quite private enough when you want to do writing, praying, or listening to music that may involve tears or soul anguish. But recently I discovered a place perfectly appropriate to all such requirements—the cemetery. Even in the midst of houses, cars, and roads, a cemetery is usually a decent-sized piece of nature, often with a few comforting trees; and regardless of size, it has an inherent sense of quiet, reverence, and privacy.
I realized the perfection of such a place a few weeks ago when, driving home, I felt a strong need to pull over and cry, listen to affecting music, and write in a notebook. Although the cemetery I pulled into didn’t have quite as many trees or quite as few (living) people as I might have wished, I quickly realized it didn’t matter very much. Who is going to think strangely of a person who sits moodily in their car—even if it is for an hour—in a cemetery? It is deeply, strongly, traditionally bound with a sense of the deepest feelings of the human heart. Graveyards represent death and yearning and longing and loss—and never is the human heart and spirit so susceptible to a spiritual awareness than in the presence of death.
The mad, frantic pace of our modern lives may hurriedly and scornfully dismiss any weakness of feeling during daily life; but there is a strange sacredness that wraps an acre or two of grassy, monument-strewn land as with an ancient and untouchable forgiveness for humanity’s embarrassing but indelible tendency toward the unseen immortal. We do not often respect the poorly disguised symptoms of heartache in others—impatience, cynicism, ill-temper—but there is a feeling in most of us that true grief and heartbreak are worthy of our sympathy, our acknowledgement, our gift of a silent moment to another suffering person.
Much of this may be seen in the days surrounding a death, in the long family hours of a funeral. Something of it lingers in the bittersweet sanctity of a cemetery. And so it does not seem strange that even if it is only to grieve a less-than-eternal death—one of hope or joy—or to weep from the exhaustion of confusion, that a heart seeking relief from the mandatory masks of the everyday may find a place in a daily week where grief observed will be respected, and sorrow will throb, gently dignified, by the side of a graveyard path.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Oh, there is so much in my heart. Music and poetry and sunshine and shade. Longing and fulfillment, and knowing that I am growing to understand something I did not understand when I was younger. A heart so full can hardly be full of only one thing, but the one that comes to the fore today – I am in love with my children. I work with the youth group at my church, and although I do not yet have any children of my own body, I can hardly say I do not have any of my own. I call them my kids. Even, I imagine, as a parent who aches over a child who does not want a relationship with that parent, my heart goes out over some of these who do not trust me enough to really let it all down. I don’t suppose I could fix much for them, but I could love on their sorrows and comfort their shaken little hearts. I long to do so—and when they let me close I yearn over them even more.
And that is what I didn’t understand before—what it means to yearn over a child. Yearning for someone is different than yearning over someone. The first is wanting, to fill emptiness, the second is wanting to pour out from a fullness, as well as desiring a response. Today the kids led the service in church, and my heart almost overflowed, there was so much in it. Much of it was God, Himself, but so much of it was tied up in thanks to Him for who He made them, and how proud I was of them. Sometimes people say to me that they don’t know how I can spend so much time working with teens, that they could never do it. I reply that I love them, and that is why I should be the one to do it. Of course they’re ridiculous and silly and they don’t know a blessed thing, but my seniors in high school are saying that the 6th graders are little kids, and are not the people my parents’ age saying that I, at a babyish 29, also do not know anything about life? It’s OK that they’re teens.
And I do love them so. All this year God has had me conscious of issues of mothering, of parenting, and though I think I have more questions than answers, some of the answers come in my interactions with my kids. The Bible talks about how there are many, many teachers, but few Fathers—few who parent truly, deeply, personally. Few who pour their lives into the growing of others’ lives, few who bring life for others from the giving of their own lives. Has there ever been a person like that in your life? Someone with whom you feel it is not only safe, but perfectly acceptable, to be you? When I think of the perfect parent, I think of someone who knows me all the way through, is inherently delighted in me because our relationship involves belonging, someone with whom I can be completely honest even if it’s ugly, someone who is bigger and wiser than me, who can handle it when I’m in bad shape. Someone that I don’t have to take care of, but who takes care of me. That’s the kind of parent I want to be.
And at least as a start, that’s how I feel about my kids—they delight me. They’re all different, there’s so much diversity in their potential, and even when they’re foolish or less than well behaved, I don’t love them less. In fact, it’s when they’re real—bad or good, that I yearn over them most. When I see them determinedly walking down a path I know will cause them pain, I ache for that pain, because I have learned lessons the hard way myself, and I would spare them if I could. When they open their hearts in honesty, let me in, or walk in the path of blessing that I see lies before them, my heart rejoices, and I yearn over them like I did this morning. When the littler ones come to me for hugs and kisses it swells my heart so that I hardly know what to do with it, and when the bigger ones act the same way, but in their shyer, cooler teenager-way, I smile in amusement and ache to see them grow into men and women who are strong and remember gentleness.
There’s no profound or clear point I'm making today—just musings on love and questions of how very great, how very much more there is in this life than we take the time to learn. I hope that someday I will find that the love I have for my kids was worth even partially as much to them as loving them is to me.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Tonight, my heart is yearning. I have not been unhappy, I was adequate and useful and cheerful and even productive today. I feel I handled all my situations with sufficient grace, and I hope that I was able to bless, just a little, the ones with whom I spent time. All the things I wanted to cross off my list are not crossed. The time I wanted for myself, I haven't gotten yet. I think I have managed one day without overreacting to my emotions or making myself a fool out of them. I wonder what I would think of me if I looked from the outside.
Since I cannot, I still yearn. Because I am fond of the perspective I have today, I will not pin all my yearning on one thought or object, as I do some days. That one place may or may not be the fountainhead of my yearning tonight, or maybe...maybe it is only one fountainhead of a network of rivers and springs and trickles which, seen from far above, weave an intricate, lacy net of flashing, delicate silver.
Tonight I could call this yearning many things: the ache of watching a loved one or a stranger grope in the dark for an answer they imagine they do not want to find, the desire to move beyond the limits of my fear into all the possibilities of my dreams. The bashful wondering of whether, when the time comes, will I be what I should be? and what, if I had tried much harder or much less, could I have been now? I could call the yearning the unnamed reason a baby's smile can push back the clouds of misery, or I could call it the exhaustion of trying to puzzle out the ways of God. I could call it the feeling of wanting a friend to be there or a mother to soothe, or a father to stand, always protecting, in the very back of the picture, waiting in patient watch. I could call it the pleasure so deep it is pain, and pain so exquisite you wish it never to end, and the reason the smell of an old, old memory brings joy to the heart.
I could call it the emptiness when I wish for your voice and do not hear it, and I could call it that most curious and mysterious of human traits, that would not wish away even the ache or the longing.
Monday, October 6, 2008
I would like to talk about mattresses. Mattresses are our friends for many reasons, not the least of which involves the comfort they provide us for sleeping.
Sleeping is very important. For one thing, sleeping gives you a break from working, doing laundry, raking leaves, putting away groceries, listening to voicemails, and breathing.
Wait, no, not breathing. That’s very important. If you don’t breathe you will die. So sleeping makes you not die. Well, actually, that was going to be my next point.
What were we talking about?
Oh yes, mattresses. Well, anyway, like I was saying, mattresses are good for other things besides sleeping. Although if you can get a good night’s rest fairly often, it will in fact keep you from sickening and dying earlier than later. Unless of course you are run over by an 18-wheeler, or a pride of rabid lions, or a herd of raging wildebeests.
Yes, so, other than providing what we have clearly seen to be lumbar-support that is none other than vitally imperative for the continuation of our species, mattresses are good as vehicles. When my brother and sister and I were still children, my dad would bring home all manner of random things that had been discarded at the resort where he was employed. I specifically remember a shovel, those cotton-weave blankets that we referred to as “hospital blankets” until we were far too old not to have known that “hospital blanket” was not their proper designation, and The Mattresses.
Really, these mattresses were not especially designed for lumbar support as much as they were designed not to ever, ever, let your back feel like it was on the floor. Stuffed with padding. Dense, such that I have actually slept on cement that was more forgiving. And they were clearly meant for rough usage, because they were encased in such thick, child-retardant plastic casings that they could most likely have been used as life rafts in the event that the river adjoining the resort ever flooded. In any case, I see clearly as an adult that the things would likely have lasted until the Last Judgment had it not been for the imagination of childhood. One day it occurred to us, brilliantly, that the unusually narrow proportions of these mattresses, and their slippery plastic casings, made them the perfect vehicles for sliding down the stairs.
I would have tried to make that setup more dramatic, but if you’ve ever known children you will not find the idea of them riding mattresses down staircases surprising. It was wonderful and fast and exhilarating.
My mother, however and despite her acquaintance with us, her children, managed to be surprised. I believe her reaction went something like this: “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!” Ah, but we soon had her broken in. By the time summer came around and we dragged that thing out to the pool deck to make a slide, she hardly noticed.
Anyway, mattresses are also good for exercise. In my college years my grandmother, who I credit with six-elevenths of my housecleaning-training (my mother gets the other five-elevenths), bragged that I was the only one with the magic ability to single-handedly turn, lift, and flip her queen-size mattress for its seasonal rotation. I credit my unique abilities to youthful pride and strength, as well as the fact that my job at the time, although technically that of a cleaning lady, frequently involved moving furniture and would more accurately have been labeled a cleaning-lady-personal-assistant-housekeeper-jack-of-all-trades-SUPER-furniture-mover job. Anyway, I was tough.
I though about this, and about mattresses, today, as I single-handedly turned, lifted, and flipped our king-size mattress (I also took out the air conditioner—you can’t always wait for a man to be around if you’re on a roll). I thought about them some more while I wrestled the queen-size sheets onto the king-size mattress, mentally picturing the day the fabric will finally rend with a sickening tear and send me violently catapulting, backwards into the wall. I thought about how mattresses are good fodder for writing silly blogs.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I think I have learned the beginning of a beautiful lesson from a Faery story. I was never allowed to read Faery stories when I was a child; my mother, who dabbled in the black arts before she was Found by the light, was cautious of mysterious power and taught us to shun its charms.
But what I have seen now, many years later, is that the charms of the dark powers are only a corruption of the powers of Light, just as everything hurtful here in this world is only a twisted image of the original glory. That there is darkness with strength does not mean we ought to shun all strength.
George MacDonald’s Phantastes has touched my heart—along with other influences, which are, I think, convened at the proper time, to tell my heart something healing. If I were a writer of Faery I would name this something else; I would see the poetry that is the real name of the prose I must use for now.
What I think I begin to learn on this night is this: I need not despise my heart for its yearnings. That it yearns only proves it was meant for something great and deep; that it aches is evidence it was meant to be healed. That a grown man and strong should write so often of the blessed rest found in mother’s arms, or the healing and soothing touch of a gentle hand, of the most essential comfort only found on the safety of the maternal breast—that a knight and a warrior should unashamedly yearn for and rejoice in this—must I do any less?
I never thought I possessed the gift of the Poets. I never fancied myself among the Seers. But this story tells me that I am among its lovers—that I can understand it at all must mean I may learn its lesson. That there is so much more we may see, although we look so long. That the poems are the soul of the prose, just as this world is but a dim echo of the next—that even in the cloudy shadow of this world there is rose shot with light, and crimson glory.
My lesson for now is that I may triumph or fail, I may stand tall or weep like a child, but that I yearn for the crimson glory and the mother’s breast—that I yearn at all is enough, and is not to be despised.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
What if I could say to you all the things I wish I could say to you—all the things that come from love? What if we could all say those things to each other? And what if we knew it came from love, and so we wouldn’t get terribly hurt or angry. What if we could hear it in the same gentle, yearning tones from which it issued from a friend’s heart?
You need to let this go.
You need to see a professional.
This thing is hurting you.
When you do this, it makes me hurt.
You need to do the hard thing.
I’ve had them said to me. They were said in love, gently, not in condemnation. When I heard them in the tones of love they didn’t hurt as badly as they could have. I’m glad I heard them, because I needed to. If I had gone on without hearing them—refusing to hear them—it would have made my life smaller, my soul devoid of luster, and my world the size of my pain and my pride. Heeding them led me through places of more pain, but pain that brought health and release instead of the suffocating complacency of denial.
We don’t like these things. We don’t want to say them and we don’t want to hear them. We labor under the delusion that all our friendships must be always pleasant, that to injure a friend in love is unkind. Is it unkind to lance an infection? Does a surgeon commit injustice when he cuts in order to bring healing? We act as if even our love must submit to politeness, as if there was nothing more important than preserving social niceties. Even—or especially? —among those closest to us, those we consider worthy of more than ordinary, daily courtesies.
I wonder, do we refrain more from fear of wounding a friend, or from selfish fear that they will not hear the tones of love and refuse to let us be close any longer? Love hurts when its object is denied, and although the love we bear for a friend may be willing to hurt in order to bring healing, we hesitate to risk rejection. But it seems that the love which motivates us to want to say a hard thing is a relative of Truth, and Truth would not shy away from a hard thing, would it? It occurs to me only now that there are two verses in the Bible that speak to this kind of situation, and they go hand-in-hand for a reason: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov 27:17 “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him.” Eph 4:15. If we want Truth in our lives, it will eventually insist we say hard things. Love will insist upon how we say it, and will not grow bitter, even if Truth causes rejection.
Of course I risk the assumption that any situation like this requires beforehand the most honest humility possible. None of us will hear the tones of Love which soften a harsh blow if the tones of voice are dogmatic or scolding. I have found brokenness, in fact, to be the safest tone of voice in which to say the hardest things. And is there not some brokenness, some wounding in the kind of Love that hurts enough for a friend to risk hurting that friend? I think there is. If I did not hurt for you, how much would I really love you?
Finally, I do not mean we speak potentially painful words to one another over trivial—or even irritating—differences of opinion or doctrine or preference. We do not hurt one another without carefully considering I Cor. 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” The depth I am talking about is when things are deep, and critical or potentially pivotal in a loved one’s life. The kind of thing that may determine the future direction of either health or sickness, hope or despair, faith or bitterness. The kind of thing that makes you yank a child back from the road just before she is struck by a car, the kind of thing that makes you slap a baby’s hand just before he touches a stove—they may cry and become angry, but you have saved them from something worse than the pain or fright you caused them.
We don’t do this lightly. May we hear one another when the time comes that we must.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
She walked home slowly, alone. She was aware that, if her life was a movie, there would be sad music playing, that the camera shots would emphasize that she was the only one on the sidewalks, that she would look very small and forlorn in comparison to the size of even her small city. Her footsteps echoed in the quiet darkness. She was aware that in the story that would have been a movie, everyone would feel very sorry for her, and that she deserved their pity.
When the one person you really wanted pity from doesn’t even see you, you deserve others’ pity. When you walk home slowly, alone, and no one really even knows you left, it’s understandable that compassion should be there. When your smallness and loneliness in comparison to the love that should be is so stark…wouldn’t you want someone’s pity?
The funny thing is that as she walked home she was aware of how it would be in a movie. And she was sad that no one noticed, that she was going home to an empty house, that even her hopes of closure for the evening had been quietly crushed. She was aware of the incomprehensible irony that on an evening in which she had planned to lay to rest a cherished dream of supportive love, there had been public talk about how people really need supportive love. She was aware of how ridiculous it was that on the same evening she had planned to let go of the dream because the love she longed for was missing, that she had been filled with an inexplicable compassion for the one who didn’t see her. When anger had been her only ally, to steel her heart against further pain, it had deserted her; and in its place was only forgiving, patient love, an unexpected calm willingness to continue loving and hurting rather than disobey her God and give in to the bitterness and despair to which she was entitled.
She was aware that she should be as sad inside as the movie would look. She was very sad, but it was so quiet that it didn’t hurt like some other kinds of sadness. It was patient. She wondered if it was the kind of patience that the Bible talks about where it says “…we also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) She wondered if that was what it was. Hope sounded good, although there was not much to be seen of it on this night of the lonely movie—just the promise of it in that patient acceptance in her heart.
Well, if there was hope, then there was the possibility of almost anything, wasn’t there? She was aware that the movie played on, its sound track a haunting melody, but not the kind that makes you shiver in the dark.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
You keep telling me I have to let God heal me: that you can’t fix me, can’t make it all better, can’t take away my pain. I hear you.
But here’s the thing: Do you hear me? When did I ask you to fix me? I don’t remember saying I thought that was your job. I never thought you could fix me.
Only—I remember when I was littler, and someone saw me hurting, and they came after me to comfort me, to let me know I wasn’t alone. To let me know that while I was waiting for the One who could heal me, that I needn’t lose hope in the midst of loneliness. And you know what? It helped. Of course it didn’t fix me—clearly I’m still broken. But at least I did feel I wasn’t alone. At least someone who had sat in the same Waiting Seat put an arm around my shoulders and a hand on my head and told me the Waiting wouldn’t be forever and that even thought I was broken they still loved me. It helped. It comforted.
So I guess the question is—why don’t you want to help me? Even though you can’t make my wound go away, why does its existence not move you? Why does my pain not touch your heart, and why don’t you love me?
Am I not pretty enough, not good enough, not pathetic enough? How much blood do I have to bleed for it to occur to you that I need help?
Sometimes your words are love, but you don’t look for me, come after me. If my face was as damaged and tragic as my heart, would you finally see and understand? Or would the mess only push you further from me, scare you away? I am so tired of the mask that makes my face prettier than my heart—it is such a heavy mask. I only stumble along under its burden because I fear this very thing—that to drop it would only seal my rejection and isolation.
I suppose the really foolish thing is that I care. If you loved me I would know it, I wouldn’t have to wonder and ask and beg. Love just is, right? You can’t make it happen if it’s not already there… right?
I wish I didn’t care.
Or that you did.
Monday, September 8, 2008
My friend Faith and I went out for a walk last week. I have been going regularly to Faith’s house for tea for a little over three years—from shortly before she became pregnant with her first child, Rowan. That was when she and her husband still lived in the little apartment two minutes away. With the arrival of child number two (who is also daughter number one), Paili, they had to move further away to get a house where they could fit all the accoutrements of the two children (and the children themselves.) And the two cats. This house is next to a very lovely old cemetery, the kind they use in movies. Well, due to the nature of the young children, Faith and I haven’t gone out to do anything but tea since…well, I really don’t remember when we did much besides our teas and wifely discussions. But on this day, the father of the two children returned home at an hour when there was still golden-dusky sunlight out in the world, and Faith and I went to walk in the dappled gloom of the graveyard.
We continued our wifely discussions as we did the rotation of the cemetery, including our literary aspirations, the shocking price of home improvement projects, the danger of sending husbands to the grocery store without explicit and detailed lists, and the continuing wonder that is our husbands—they do not cease to amaze us with their unwavering un-womanliness, despite the fact that neither of us are newlyweds anymore. However, there is no doubt that our talks regarding husbands would be of a much more serious nature were either of our husbands in any way actually womanly. We must always count our blessings.
Two funny things happened on our walk: one is that we encountered a flock of deer. (Yes, we know it is a herd of deer, but doesn’t flock of deer sound funnier?) I believe we also referred to them as a swarm and some other outrageously incorrect animal-group name. On round three of the graveyard, we strolled past another contingent of the morbidity-loving white-tails, who regarded us with surprising calm, as though young wives energetically thrashing out the mysteries of life while exercising were an everyday occurrence in what they clearly considered their territory. Some of these fleet animals were tranquilly eating the hedges surrounding a particularly picturesque spot in the cemetery. Faith paused. She is a mother, and she couldn’t just let this pass. She addressed the deer in mild but scolding tones: “Stop eating the hedges!” A large buck with an admirable rack regarded her with stoic rebellion. “Yes, you,” she replied, “Do you think you can just do anything you want?” (This reminded me of the time during one of our indoor teas when Faith turned from our conversation and sternly rebuked the cat, who was clawing at the window screen, “Seamus, stop it!” Then she turned to me and said wearily, “I’m always yelling at someone.”)
I burst out laughing. “You’re yelling at the deer?” “Well, they can’t eat everything!” she replied. “I’m afraid they’re going to come down and eat my shrubs—I saw one standing on the corner there!”
On the way back to the house, funny thing number two: I paused as small object on the sidewalk caught my eye. “Is that a pile of glistening ants?” I inquired incredulously. Before she had time to respond, I realized what it was. “Oh, it’s just a shiny kid’s scrunchie.” Faith doubled over with laughter and began to stagger about on the sidewalk. “What?” I said, laughing too. “‘A pile of glistening ants’” she gasped? “What kind of thing to say is that?” “I don’t know, why are you laughing so hard?” I said, laughing at the absurdity myself. “Yes, but who says that?!” she wanted to know. “Who thinks that?” “Well, that’s what it looked like for a second.” After she recovered her powers of locomotion, we walked down the block to her yard.
After watering the pepper plant and inspecting the arbor vitae, which showed suspicious brown spots, we regarded the rest of the shrubbery. “See,” Faith pointed out the nearby corner, “That’s where that deer was standing.”