The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
I have to stop writing here now. The secret is no longer safe, and once found, can’t be hid again.
I shall always remain yours most sincerely,
In this fair stranger’s eyes of grey
Thine eyes, my love, I see.
I shudder: for the passing day
Had borne me far from thee.
This is the curse of life: that not
A nobler calmer train
Of wiser thoughts and feelings blot
Our passions from our brain;
But each day brings its petty dust
Our soon-chok’d souls to fill,
And we forget because we must,
And not because we will.
I struggle towards the light; and ye,
Once-long’d-for storms of love!
If with the light ye cannot be,
I bear that ye remove.
I struggle towards the light; but oh,
While yet the night is chill,
Upon Time’s barren, stormy flow,
Stay with me, Marguerite, still!
“Darkness, Darkness, be my pillow, take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep
Darkness, darkness, hide my yearning, For the things I cannot see
Keep my mind from constant turning, to the things I cannot be
Darkness, darkness, be my blanket, cover me with the endless night
Take away the pain of knowing, fill the emptiness with light…”
I’ve a window open tonight. If there weren’t so many neighbors stirring early, I’d leave it open all night. The noises of summer’s waning come through the window, crickets and cicadas. Both species humming and chirping to attract mates, I expect. Isn’t it strange that the anthems and beauties of nature are all the music of loneliness and mating? How much of all that is beautiful and sweet in this great big world would fall silent if every living thing found its match?
When you love the darkness or the night, they call it nyctophilia. I don’t know that I love darkness intrinsically, but it has been the province of my labors all the season, and I find it beautiful when night falls, with its contemplative silence. I wrap the dark of night around me like a cloak as I walk.
Some nights, all is right with the world, and all I lack is your company. But this is a difficult time of transition for me again. I’m having troubles with my family, they’re having troubles of their own and cannot offer stability or haven. It seems most people are. Friends are fading into the background, or fighting illness, or facing untold struggles of their own. Studies resume, finances weigh, loneliness waxes, kindness wanes.
Of happiness I wrote last, of how and when it is. I have to come to learn that sometimes we don’t know happiness when we see it; sometimes we don’t recognize we’re happy until after the fact, and that by then, it’s too late. And the times are emblazoned into your memory, crystal clear, along with the ways you could have made a difference, things you should have done differently. And you want to go back, you want to explain, you want to be understood. And you can’t.
Sometimes what we think we want and what we actually want are two different things…and finding what we wanted only shows us it isn’t what we really wanted in the end. I don’t know why our subconscious plays such cruel tricks on us…why women seem to respond better to detachment, danger, disrespect even. Men find exactly what they want, but don’t want it because it would come too easy. Playing hard to get always seemed a silly game, but it works. Every woman with whom I’ve been genuine and honest and open has, eventually, rejected me. Woman who I’ve politely declined have only been more attracted. We find it strange, and yet, I often find myself pursuing the ones who reject me. Unfortunately, I find myself in the position of having to gently part ways with someone else new. I make up my mind too quickly, and I find it sad that people who look like they align so much with my beliefs and preferences simply don’t work out at all in person.
And sometimes, you grow afraid. You worry you never will find happiness, that it’s passed you by, that you poured yourself out too much for others and they took you for granted and moved on.
You can’t think like this. You have to surrender these thoughts to God. But how do you do that? Is it mere words, announcing you’re surrendering the thoughts to God?
And why is it that either married couples or unbelievers are the ones willing to lend an ear, or to advise?
I’m facing a situation now where I don’t know what to do. The Bible really doesn’t tell us about every situation, and I simply don’t know how to proceed. Forgiving someone that isn’t sorry is necessary for your own sanity, but at what point is that behavior then sanctioned, enabled, encouraged?
To hear me talk, you’d think life is one big toil and pain, and I’ve halfway dug my own grave. Is it of any use to tell you that isn’t the case? It isn’t. People decently close to me don’t see this as an ongoing trend, except perhaps that I’m more grave, vigilant and somber about the whole affair. I think my biggest problem is, seeing. I can see the chaos of the world around me taking shape. I see a degrading culture. I see that financial collapse is a very serious possibility. I see misery and want and pain. Every smile you see on the street masks some kind of hidden pain. And I see it. I see vanity and selfishness on the other side.
And I don’t act Christlike in response nearly often enough. The other night at work, someone took out his frustration on me in contempt, and I was more tempted to confront than to return a soft answer. When someone beheads an innocent onlooker or the children of God, rather than pray for them as Jesus did, I want to murder them myself. I had to force myself to pray for those enemies tonight. Those enemies were among very great company, for I also prayed for you, as I do several times a day. And I wish I had happier news to report to you. If given the choice, I’d rather people be genuine than falsely happy. And writing down genuine sorrow at least lets me get it out on paper.
No matter what, cling to the promise that we’ll carve out better days for ourselves soon, and even if the days grow even darker, we will still have each other; I’d rather stand with you in darkness than alone in light.
I hold these two. Contentment comes when sought,
While Happiness pursued was never caught.
But, sudden, storms the heart with mighty throes
Whenceforth, mild eyed Content affrighted goes,
To seek some calmer heart, less danger fraught.
Bold Happiness knows but one rival—Fear;
Who follows ever on his footsteps, sent
By jealous Fate who calls great joy a crime.
While in far ways ’mong leaves just turning sere,
With gaze serene and placid, walks Content.
No heart ere held these two guests at one time.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
What makes you happy?
Are you happy right now? Am I? Is happiness even the goal? Are we sure it even should be. What would make you happy right now? What would be your second choice?
What is happiness? What do you call happy, and when is it? Can it truly be found this side of heaven, and if so, where and how? Is happiness absolute, or on a spectrum? Does it grow because of circumstances or in spite of them? Is it a choice, or serendipity? What causes it? Do we deserve it? Is it selfish any time we pursue our own happiness at the expense of others? Is there a reward for pursuing the happiness of others at our own expense?
Is it better to be easily pleased, or should one derive greater meaning? How much happiness does it take before its pursuit produces diminishing returns, or diminishes the cause of the kingdom?
Good evening Darling, and yes, another fusillade of futility tonight, an inquisition into the depths of inquiry long since probed and plumbed out. If you’d rather find answers than more questions, stay with me, there are some here towards the end.
In asking these questions, one looks to the people around to see what their answer is, and how it is. Of course, it is seldom easy to discover “happy” people in a job dealing with suffering. The slow and grinding years of absorbing pain and sadness do seem to take a toll on people — there’s a lot of talk of burn-out, and I believe it. And I’ve told you before how different it is from than the lives of the people I see around me. The mid-30’s, buying houses and rings and bassinets.
I recently helped a friend move, finding it encouraging to see so many people set aside their evening to help. But it seemed strange to see a single woman who has lived with her parents rent-free for years move into a house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, as we carried a plethora of couches, exercise equipment and a massage chair into her house. One person who helped worked at an “experiential center” and conducted “horse yoga.” Yoga. On horseback.
I try not to let envy take root Darling, and I’ve no use for a massage chair. Rather, it’s peculiar to see people self-absorbed with their own amusements and pleasures. They’re far up the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, flirting with self-actualization and esteem, while I’m spending more time in life just trying to get by with safety and productivity, with employment and bills and my studies. People buying houses with more rooms or space than they need and customizing their dwellings, like their lives, to suit their whims, is just a little out of reach. It’s anathema to me. I’m a knight at heart. My dwellings are humble right now. As much as I’d like a nice house, a very nice house, I don’t know that I find great satisfaction in a customization of opulence. I do see these conditions as temporary. And given that these types of people are several years older than me, it’s still easily believable I’ll overtake them, if one were to draw the comparison.
And aren’t we commanded to have joy? Is it happiness we seek, or peace? Contentment or fulfillment? Ease or Purpose?
Well Darling, being as how I’ve been a bit glum of late, perhaps it will serve you well to hear some of the things that please your Beren’s heart.
What makes me happy? The smell of leather. A cool winter wind, with hints of smoke and snow. The first winter’s fire or the smell of lilac on the first mild spring night. Turning the heat on for the first time, and the first time you grab a jacket for a nippy autumn evening. Driving with the windows down, the wind blowing, and the perfect music playing. Finding a perfect new song or poem that describes exactly how I feel.
I’m happy with live jazz and nature. With bookstores and quiet churches or chapels. A busy but fulfilling night at work. Classic rock songs, or a perfectly wistful melody on a melancholy evening. A deep, intellectual conversation filled with thoughtful reflection, mutual listening and agreement. A gentle nap on a sleepy afternoon. Weekends. Paydays. The satisfaction of nailing a perfect photograph. A glass of orange juice in the mornings. That moment at the end of your workout when you feel the satisfied fatigue of aches and exertion; catching sight of yourself in the mirror and recognizing progress.
A tune played through adequately on piano. Those rare times when someone actually seems to understand, and offers wisdom that actually applies. Timid wild animals that are unafraid. Black and white movies, and old songs. A long walk. A passage of scripture that reaches out and touches you. Walking with Christ in the Bible. Actually finding the words you want to use in prayer.
Making a dinner. Making a difference. Every piece of equipment I buy, skill I learn, or training I receive to be more prepared against calamity and trouble. And, the times when having it on hand actually makes a difference. An achievement or triumph; an article finished, an interview snagged, a debate won. The kind, unrepayable gratitude of patients or the weak.
I don’t think man was ever meant to be naturally happy absent his better half; I don’t know that I’ll ever be content or fulfilled or at peace until we’re together. But if you ask me whether or not there are times when I am happy, yes.
And so, I hope and trust that you too can find happiness without me. It may be that our time together, as sweet as it is, will be short, and one of us must learn how to be happy again without the other. If that’s so, we’re on great training grounds now, are we not?
Live, and pray and laugh, my love. Let not all of these years of absence be years of silence and famine.
Still glides the stream, slow drops the boat
Under the rustling poplars’ shade;
Silent the swans beside us float
None speaks, none heeds—ah, turn thy head.
Let those arch eyes now softly shine,
That mocking mouth grow sweetly bland:
Ah, let them rest, those eyes, on mine;
On mine let rest that lovely hand.
My pent-up tears oppress my brain,
My heart is swoln with love unsaid:
Ah, let me weep, and tell my pain,
And on thy shoulder rest my head.
Before I die, before the soul,
Which now is mine, must re-attain
Immunity from my control,
And wander round the world again:
Before this teas’d o’erlabour’d heart
For ever leaves its vain employ,
Dead to its deep habitual smart,
And dead to hopes of future joy.
And sometimes, by still harder fate,
The lovers meet, but meet too late.
—Thy heart is mine!—True, true! ah, true!
—Then, love, thy hand!—Ah, no! adieu!
On many occasions, I have remarked to you of the inexplicable contradictions wedded to my existence. To most anyone on the outside looking in, my life in narrative could seem impressive and satisfying. Here, after all, is a chap who spent his last weekend swimming several hundred meters in the water and a sunny poolside visit with Hemingway. Yesterday, a visit to the archery range, a twelve mile bike ride, a dinner by himself with a Dickens novel. Business degree, nursing degree, published, credentialed, all that nonsense.
I have near-constant occasion to reflect on my life as a summary, because in my job new encounters are constant. As support staff across the healthcare enterprise, I’ve worked day shift and night shift for two and a half years on over twelve floors, across thirty different wings and eight ICUs, meeting literally hundreds of nurses and probably thousands of patients and family members. They think it’s wit that allows quick answers to their questions. It’s only that I’ve heard them in nearly every incarnation imaginable. I have to delay my response to avoid sounding sarcastic.
But what does it seem to me? Where does Beren see himself in all this? Does he enjoy this biking and hiking and swimming and arrows? Right now, they’re just another skill, another means of distraction and escape. Need I tell you again how I really feel, Darling? Lonely and aloof, like on a pedestal through no fault or credit of my own, unable to be helped, living an illusion, spending too much time completely outside of my own head — or too far inside of it. People my age…they’ve already their careers and families with which to gratify and identify. They’re stabilizing financially. They’re buying houses, getting married, settling down. The people still swimming upstream don’t.
I plan my days from week to week, but with an incurable bent towards Tomorrow, always Tomorrow. Not in the sense of procrastination, but weighing a moment by its lasting outcomes, so much that I can’t “live in the moment.” Things are always a Big Deal, and there’s always a “now what?” when the work is through. I like to read, but I don’t like to stay at home and read. Staying home at all seems a torture and I always have to find somewhere to go. (This city is short on such havens and refuges, quiet reading nooks or splendid sunset overlooks.) Relationships, like work, seem both a curse and a cure.
“You can do anything you want!” the actor exclaimed to the movie’s hero. “What makes you happy?”
“I don’t know,” the hero replied.
I don’t know.
Tell me…where do you go in your times of weakness? Who lifts you up and who do you turn to? That’s where I am tonight; weak and wounded. Only difference is, when I look around for some place to go or someone to call, no one is there. At times, I just look for a book to read, a song to hear, a movie to distract. I know Alegfast struggles with uncertainties and anxieties too, though he seldom talks of them. And I hesitate to voice my own.
You see, in our world, it’s not okay for men to be weak. We can’t be weak, and we can’t be hurt. If you are, you don’t talk about it and you don’t let it show. You man up. You be assertive, not weak, decisive, not needy. No matter the songs, don’t confess your need for a friend in the lonely hour. (Such a perfect song for tonight!)
There is a friend who, it seems, desires to be closer to me. She took it upon herself to address what she felt was my lack of joy, which she termed a serious issue in my life. I took to explaining the various attacks this week which have eroded such joy. Financial concerns. Ailing or unemployed loved ones, disputes with the family, disputes with the world, disputes in the workplace. You know I’m comfortable with disputes, Darling. “The gift of confrontation” some call it. But lately, I view disputes with a tired and grim resignation. A nurse began vigorously lecturing on her political beliefs while we were involved in patient care, and I knew I could quite convincingly construct and prove my case, but why bother? People will think what they will. There’s no reasoning with them.
I’m feeling defeated, that’s what. In most depths you have hope, but right now I’m just hoping to regain hope. There’s a lot to carry, but the people who matter are far worse off, and the ones who don’t matter dry up. When you stop checking on some of them and let them fend for themselves, the airwaves go silent. People who have been friends for years say not so much as a “how are you?” You wonder sometimes if it was an illusion, or just a one-way ministry. And the ironic thing is, whenever someone shows special attention as a giver, it’s rare I will receive it passively. Instead, I recognize a giver like me, and I will take compassion on you because I know what it feels like to burn with a compassion for people that is seldom requited. (Mind you, there are some people ill-pleased with me right now who would snatch up a chance to publicly scorn the notion that I am a giver and compelled to give.)
I’m not the only one fighting these sorts of battles. Browse WordPress for lonely souls. They’re all out there, and all of them hope someone is listening. They don’t want to ask for help. They can’t or don’t know how, or they know no one will come. I’ll wager most of them would be the greatest givers in the world — certainly if they’ve found they must give to others to be satisfied. If the world were to invest just a little nourishment to them, how inestimable would the benefit become?
And I have something they don’t all have. I know I serve a God of providence and grace. I know that it is in defeat that we become wise. I have a job and am happy when I work, even if that’s the only time I’m happy. I know that I don’t live at all without you, but that you’ll come one day and my life will be full of everything again. I know that when I have you to look after, how I feel will matter less. Looking after your needs will become paramount.
Anyone who knows anything about relationships will tell you they take work. And that’s exhausting sometimes, isn’t it? My job already saps much of my investive energy, and at times it looks like a mountain to climb every time. Men take the initiative, or we should. We carry the load, assume the risk. We can’t be afraid, can’t ask for help, can’t admit we’re weak. Women, for all your saber-rattling that you are strong (and you are) you also have license to be weak. Sometimes nature conspires to make you look and feel weak.
Maybe it’s just an excuse for the abdication of leadership to which we men are so prone, but sometimes, I don’t want to do the heavy lifting or take the initiative. Sometimes men want someone who will tie the knots in our stomach into butterflies. I want something senseless and intoxicating; something to escape the fetters of rationality and reason; an inexplicable draw and desire that I simply have to be with you, put up with you no matter the cost. I want an easy ascent for at least part of the journey, not this plodding climb. I want an onslaught of love so great it overwhelms my resistance.
And what of you? Will you attach yourself to be me with the conviction of Ruth — “where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay”? With beauty of Esther, loyalty of Sarah, wisdom of Deborah? Someone of strong will and unwavering conviction? Can you be not just the woman who needs a man, but the woman a man needs? Someone with a heart like mine?
Where do these sad and lonely people go when they aren’t online? There was a girl in line at the restaurant last night by herself. I would have bought her dinner just to be kind, because she’s here by herself. But she bought for two, and bought it to go. When I am older, maybe I will build a place called The Lonely, a place where people go if they’re lonely and alone. Then at least people will know where to go not to feel quite as alone. No one can un-lonely themselves.
Everyone is lonely, and everyone has demons nipping at their heels. Maybe I write so that you know I am honest, even when honesty isn’t attractive. Maybe writers are the only ones brave enough to give form to the dark thoughts which others push to the fringe.
At any rate, I will not bow to the world’s defeat. Despair is for the sons of Satan with whom the world populates its kingdoms, and to this I will not yield, if only for refusal’s sake. Tomorrow shall find me a brighter and happier man, and if not then, the day after. Autumn will be upon us, the home stretch of my studies begins, and there are many ripe fields of happiness yet to be discovered. Tread them yourself, as you may, until we meet.
In the deserted, moon-blanched street,
How lonely rings the echo of my feet!
Those windows, which I gaze at, frown,
Silent and white, unopening down,
Repellent as the world,–but see,
A break between the housetops shows
The moon! and lost behind her, fading dim
Into the dewy dark obscurity
Down at the far horizon’s rim,
Doth a whole tract of heaven disclose!
And to my mind the thought
Is on a sudden brought
Of a past night, and a far different scene:
Headlands stood out into the moonlit deep
As clearly as at noon;
The spring-tide’s brimming flow
Heaved dazzlingly between;
Houses, with long wide sweep,
Girdled the glistening bay;
Behind, through the soft air,
The blue haze-cradled mountains spread away.
That night was far more fair–
But the same restless pacings to and fro,
And the same vainly throbbing heart was there,
And the same bright, calm moon.
And the calm moonlight seems to say:–
Hast thou then still the old unquiet breast,
Which neither deadens into rest,
Nor ever feels the fiery glow
That whirls the spirit from itself away,
But fluctuates to and fro,
Never by passion quite possessed
And never quite benumbed by the world’s sway?–
And I, I know not if to pray
Still to be what I am, or yield, and be
Like all the other men I see.
For most men in a brazen prison live,
Where, in the sun’s hot eye,
With heads bent o’er their toil, they languidly
Their lives to some unmeaning taskwork give,
Dreaming of naught beyond their prison wall.
And as, year after year,
Fresh products of their barren labor fall
From their tired hands, and rest
Never yet comes more near,
Gloom settles slowly down over their breast.
And while they try to stem
The waves of mournful thought by which they are prest,
Death in their prison reaches them,
Unfreed, having seen nothing, still unblest
And the rest, a few,
Escape their prison and depart
On the wide ocean of life anew.
There the freed prisoner, where’er his heart
Listeth will sail;
Nor doth he know how there prevail,
Despotic on that sea.
Trade-winds which cross it from eternity:
Awhile he holds some false way, undebarred
By thwarting signs, and braves
The freshening wind and blackening waves.
And then the tempest strikes him; and between
The lightning bursts is seen
Only a driving wreck,
And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck
With anguished face and flying hair
Grasping the rudder hard,
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false, impossible shore.
And sterner comes the roar
Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom
Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom,
And he too disappears, and comes no more.
Is there no life, but these alone?
Madman or slave, must man be one?
Plainness and clearness without shadow of stain!
Ye heavens, whose pure dark regions have no sign
Of languor, though so calm, and though so great
Are yet untroubled and unpassionate;
Who, though so noble, share in the world’s toil,
And, though so tasked, keep free from dust and soil!
I will not say that your mild deeps retain
A tinge, it may be, of their silent pain
Who have longed deeply once, and longed in vain–
But I will rather say that you remain
A world above man’s head, to let him see
How boundless might his soul’s horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency!
How it were good to live there, and breathe free;
How fair a lot to fill
Is left to each man still!
I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust too.
- John Masefield
I made it a week without writing, or needing you, or even, almost, without thinking about you. And then I reach another week’s end. Last night and the night before were two of the most trying nights of my career. I watched the tears of a family gathered around one man’s bed as they were told his life was waning. I saw the slow, tearful defeat welling up in the eyes of another man, speechless and tired of fighting. This is why I do what I do. This is who I am. And yet, I think how nice it would be just to sit on the couch after a long day and talk. To tell my thoughts and hear yours; the simple pleasure of knowing you’re only a heartbeat away. I think I would find it exceedingly precious to hold your hand and feel your pulse, or to put my stethoscope against your chest and listen to your actual heart.
I’m on about hearts tonight because I held someone else’s in my hands last night — a girl not much younger than I, for whom death was knocking. I confess, I don’t wish death to come for anyone, but come he must, and when he does, I want to be there. So through her chest, her heart having stopped, I became her heart. Her frame was small, the effort was minimal. With a small army crowding into a smaller room, we brought her back. Such order and anarchy striving together after one imperiled soul.
A short eternity later, the ordeal ended. The exchanges of “good job” were made. And not long after, we turn control over to the next watch, and we each of us get into our cars and go home. They to friends, family, love. Doubtless to share their modest but poignant roles in the saving of a life, the restarting of a heart. I come home in silence and to silence, an uncaring house occupied in its own musings.
Thousands of shifters are coming home from their watches at the same time as I, fading to silence and quiet. Police. Medics. Firefighters. Nurses. Soldiers. They pour out themselves for the simple and noble task of preserving the lives of their neighbors. To take a bullet, tread the flame or thread the needle. And for whom? Someone’s mother or grandmother; a wife, an uncle, a husband. Behind every hospital door or curtain, some-one’s world may hang in peril of crumbling. And to what thanks do these simple warriors return? To an applauding public, a grateful city, a generous paycheck? Folly. Money brings not life, nor preserves it. No-one courts their favor as they would businessmen or politicians, because their giving is a foregone conclusion. The daily victories won or lost on ten thousand bedside battlefronts between sun’s rising and setting are too numerous to applaud each as they deserve. Affliction and illness are tireless foes, and although we cannot unburden ourselves from the weight of the world in a single night, we return to the battle the very next night.
The ringing of summons, the fittings and fixtures of each room, the coughs and calls, the needs and protestations, all fade into a deafening silence when I go home, as though it never were.
“I helped restart a heart last night,” I might say to one friend or another. “That’s nice.” “You’re not a marine!” someone else retorted as I related some of these thoughts once before. I changed the subject. Not everyone’s mettle is cut for the thickest of the fighting. And of course, some would rather turn a blind eye to it entirely, embracing denial until their own lifestyles catch up with them. Truth and reality make poor drinking buddies, and people are never grateful for the rope-holders, until they’re off a cliff’s edge.
The job is fulfilling. There’s no money as could pay for what any of us do. And from patients themselves, “thank-you” is heard just often enough to be routine and therefore of diminished significance, much as you would think the barista who hands you the coffee you ordered. Only those that do it know what it’s really worth.
Before leaving, I went and found the nurse alongside whom we’d fought to restart the girl’s heart. She’s my age (married of course) but becoming a good friend. We work as a team, and working as a team to survive a crisis creates a unique bond. She was near tears as I hugged her. She told me she couldn’t have done it without me. (Yes, she could have.)
You see then why I privately hold some complaints of “bad days” contemptuously. I have seen survivors of attack, abuse and trauma. Horrific crashes, mountaintop plunges, gaping wounds; scars of the body and mind, the slow decay of time. We brush the ash and darkness off those who survive, and honor the ones who don’t. You mean to tell me that car parts, splinters, demanding clients, bent nails or challenging coworkers compare?
And Darling, when I walk through the door to eat, wash and surrender to the silent (and occasionally elusive) indifference of sleep, I don’t only wish I could unload these thoughts on you and demand of your sympathy and affection in return. I want also to hold you and cushion the tears wrung from you by a difficult day, and share a hug of greater duration and license than a chaste hug among friends and co-laborers. I want to fold you into the richness of the same compassion that drives me at work, and share this love, this heart without caution or reserve.
Time grows short before studies resume. For the second week in a row, none of the dozen invites I sent out to join me for a movie were answered or accepted, so I spent an evening in a restaurant with a Dickens novel. I went for a walk under the bright glow of a full August moon, one of the year’s brightest they say. Mists are rising from the ground as I walk and pray. Someone drives past and a woman shouts out the window something to the effect of “see you later, baby!” Yes my lady, if you continue your habit of weekly inebriation and driving, I expect you will.
My mother herself had surgery this past week. She seems to be recovering.
And I, at last, seem to have depleted either the words to write, or the will to write them. I hope your week has been of equal significance but less challenge, and you know already that my prayers accompany you on whatever difficulties you face. Even a bent fingernail.
The fireflies are gone from the meadows, their light replaced by the whirring buzz of cicadas.
I don’t find a lot of answers hanging from the overhead limbs near the bridge as I walk tonight. Maybe that’s because I’m too tired to ask the questions. Last weekend, the lightning lit up the sky terrifically and while it quite reflected the disquiet within, it also shortened the time spent outdoors. And yet, sometimes the best shelter is the storm.
The moonless night offers very little sympathy, and off yet another long week of shifts, with barely time to wash, dine and sleep before rising to repeat, I find myself mentally probing through the lack of havens I have. I have plenty of friends with whom I can call up and go see a movie. Plenty that identify with the dim and daunting view of a rotting society. But no one that’s proved much of a shelter, nurturing, energizing, pleasant, and yet without sacrificing the knowledge and understanding that might contribute to such concern. It’s uncanny that some of the people with whom I am on best terms are at work. Long labor is, like people themselves, both the curse and the cure.
“What’s really wrong?” I imagine you asking, as if you were in spirit at my elbow and writing the question across the page.
Darling, you know enough, and I needn’t multiply these thoughts by spreading them.
You’re hurting. Tell me.
Very well, you asked.
What’s wrong is that I’m tired, the kind of tired that cannot be fixed by a vacation. It dawned on me this week that for the first time, I grow a little tired of this job, or at least of its dominance in the schedule I keep. Whether clouds or sun, there is a tempest within that cannot be fled.
I grow tired of an amoral society. Of mediocre friends who neither understand nor support nor share my fledgling attempts at righteousness, who don’t see the storms forming in the eastern sky. Of working and eating and showering and sleeping, and then working and eating and showering and sleeping. Tired of dwelling with those who put forth a fraction of effort and reap far more generous harvests, enriching businesses but not lives. He produces value for companies; I produce value for people, one tender and failing soul at a time. Everyone looks down on someone whose job expects of him to bathe old people for a living — until it’s their grandmother that needs a gentle hand. I don’t understand the people who live for themselves and their personal pleasures. “Day is done, now my life can resume”; the people who get loud and drunk, who have card games and drinking matches, club binges, all-nighters.
I’m tired of being inundated by sex; of seeking a quarry so necessary and yet so elusive. Tired of needing someone who understands, but too tired or or too unwiling to lift the weights and raise the gate. I don’t want to feel invaded, nor to be someone’s burden. Tired of seeming worthwhile and impressive to everyone except the people I find worthwhile and impressive. Tired of making sacrifices which are seldom seen and less often appreciated. Of giving all night and being underappreciated. Of sleeping through the choice times of day because I need the money by night.
I met a man who told of revitalizing the asphalt industry by infusing greater percentages of polymer into the mix, at a time when it was most needed. Then competing companies orchestrated false reports of danger to undercut his efficiency and maintain their lucrative contracts. There now, you see? Everyone who does important work is overlooked. The cleaners and bakers, the butchers and road-makers, pilots and engineers. I suppose in the end, everyone’s story is forgotten, even if their labors live on.
I’m tired of eating right, living right, exercising right, working right, and sensing no reward. Of all that I need being all that I lack. Of the song and singer, act and actor, the poet and lover, all confessing “You are all I need” and “how could I live without you?” and knowing their fear has been my reality I every day of my life.
Tired of feeling like I have no true haven. Tired of being suspicious of those that portend compassion, holding people at arms length because I distrust the ambition behind their kindness.
I’m tired of a ceaseless flurry of thoughts unfulfilled. Of becoming dull and witless, by virtue of time spent in the company of the dull and witless.
Of loving more and not being able to. Of hungering and thirsting and not being filled. Of seeking the kingdom of God and not having the rest added. Of being told God is enough, yet feeling empty as often as not. I’m weary and heavy laden, but not given rest. But then, maybe Jesus didn’t mean those choosing to work overtime hours to put themselves through school.
I’m tired of civil enemies and uncivil friends. Of waking up on a Friday and having no idea what to do with the evening because places are closed and you aren’t here to spend it with.
Of looking for something new. That’s why a stranger saying hello at the theater was welcome, even though I was guarded against it. Even though I had to tell her I wasn’t looking for a relationship, not with someone who wasn’t in the kingdom. It’s also why I bought a trove of new books recently. Maybe one day I’ll take you to that store and buy you some books.
I suppose, in the end, I see very few caretakers left in the world, and I worry that I won’t be able to find someone to take care of me.
I flatter myself in taking for granted that I will care for you. Caring is in my DNA. To protect you, I have worked federal and private security, trained with weapons, my hands and my mind. I am tall, my gun is never far, and I train to be strong. To provide for you, I have left the calling I thought I knew to pursue a sure career. It will provide opportunity to grow and advance. I have given of my life to learn how to save the lives of others. To look after you, I’ve learned about how your body works, and the battle-plans of the many diseases which afflict mankind. To please you…well, we will discuss that when the time comes. To plan for you, to prepare for you, to listen to you. I’m ready for that. I’m ready to try. I’m not afraid.
One reason I hesitate to venture into the land of internet matching is because I am ever the writer; in my head, the story you and I are writing separately, but will one day harmonize, writes much better if we meet and happen to hit it off unintentionally, rather than selecting each other as acceptable to meet in hopes that we will hit it off. There is so much less pressure, obligation, expectation.
There you have it, dearest. There’s the lion’s share of the clouds in my heart tonight. Thank you for asking, and listening. To know you care, well, that is a gale that would daunt any dark horizon. They aren’t always yours to drive away. Sometimes God drives away the storm…and sometimes His greatest lessons are taught in its midst.
I remain ever
Yours most sincerely,