Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Needy

Dear Darling,

Physically speaking, it isn’t often I am needy. This past week represents what I hope will continue to be a rare exception. An exhausting weekend set the stage for some invasive bug to ambush my health, and flatten me for what would become the whole rest of the week.

I haven’t been that sick perhaps since I was a small boy.

This, and other life events, have made me realize a few things. First, that I am not the kind who requests people’s kindness. Perhaps I exaggerate my own, but I see in myself that when someone is hurting or unhealthy, when they are needy, I’ll help out. Truthfully, I wanted to feel like those efforts hadn’t gone to waste; I wanted somebody else to take initiative, to do more than post a “feel better” on a Facebook update. No one did. My family bailed me out with food and medicine. It is a sorrowful disappointment to see no friend is there for you when most you need them. Darling, I just couldn’t imagine you would lack the pity or sympathy to leave me alone during that time. “You have to say what you need,” someone said. But I’m not good at dictating my own get-well cards. Nor am I the kind who commands his own sympathy.

Second, I’m not quite as equipped to handle life as I thought. Life has a way of stretching to its full height and making you swallow hard as all your preparations and expectations dwindle away. I suppose that kind of intimidation and inferiority is easy to feel when one spends time around people a full decade ahead in life. Not many people take the path I have, taking time to reinvent themselves. They are a crowd who have basically arrived where they want to in life. They are in their thirties, settled into their careers, and spend their time deciding to what use they should put their disposable income. I don’t have a really nice car or a settled career. I don’t have spare time or income, nor friends to conspire on spending it. I’m too busy with work and school. Naturally, it bequeaths to me a sense of inferiority, a feeling of constant chasing and being out of breath, working harder for less.

I feel this burden of a destiny and a calling, like I will be great and important one day. But the days fly away and leave me in obscurity, since, as you know, I hung up my secret identity earlier this year. Perhaps I may take solace in the knowledge that it is a voluntary exile; once again, one of the most well-respected groups, known nationally and internationally, has approached suggesting I alter my course to work for them. It would be an opportunity to be important, to forge political alliances and carve out a career and reputation for myself. And yet I choose school again. (No one at work would ever believe I’d chosen that way.) Maybe that’s part of what this stage of life is about. To be among the damned, the lost, the forgotten, the undesirable. To be lost, forgotten, overlooked, inconsequential. Look how quickly Joseph was elevated when his time came. And I have so much more to learn than he.

Third, I’m struggling in my evaluation of the lady who I thought could be you. In some ways, I’m learning that loneliness doesn’t always want to die. Sometimes I find myself reverting back to those days of loneliness. But then again, I’m also beginning to notice that the warming of my heart has only been superficial. The inside isn’t thawed. I’m learning to beware my foolish servant’s heart, it can be overdone, that not all service is good. I’m learning that there is a difference between a connection, a criteria and a chemistry, and that perhaps all three are required, and perhaps here not all three are present. That’s hard.

My health is still not fully restored, so these contemplations are being forced through a still-ailing mind. I drove past the creek, and on one of my crazy whims, I pulled over, parked and walked down to the bridge. The moonlight streamed through a shady midnight mist and the stream gurgled its watery lullaby. I don’t know why I thought I’d find answers there. Answers to anything are becoming harder to find, and once again I miss having a sage mentor to talk to about my problems. They say we shouldn’t trust all in the counsel of men, but Christ put on flesh to carry my sins, not for therapy sessions where I pour out my complaints. After a short time absorbing the beauty of the scene, I got back in the car and drove home.

School is getting ready to start back.  And I’m no closer to you, or answers to any of these questions. Just floating in this existence, grimly eyeing the prize at the end of the tunnel, and trying to ignore all the shiny distractions.

I say I’m not needy. But really, I’m quietly needy every day. I hope you’ll recognize and be equipped to handle that. Because sometimes, the saddest people really are the kindest.

Love ever,
Beren

August 27, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness | Leave a comment

The Unknown

Dear Darling,

All I ever wanted was to be understood.

That’s what any of us wants, I think, to be understood and loved because of it — or in spite of it as the case may be. I don’t make sense to me sometimes, and sometimes a comment is made that helps me understand myself better. Likewise, sometimes I have a knack for summing up or analogizing a situation in a concise way that it sheds light on someone’s life.

I want to find someone I can fit in with, because I’m so used to not fitting in.

I want to find someone who understands the concept of being world-weary, even at this age…who knows what it is to be an old soul. (I’ve been told often enough that I’m an old man trapped in a young man’s body.) The truth is, I don’t have many friends, but the few I have can generally talk to me about anything.

Someone who will understand and support the boundaries I lay down, without thinking me a little paranoid or over-cautious for setting them, especially when ensuing circumstances validate the wisdom of those boundaries.

Someone to whisper truths into my heart when it begins to forget.

Someone who will hold me accountable and look to me to carry the spiritual mantle.

Someone who would hold my hand, and understand this burning drive to make a difference in the world, and stir me up to greater works.

Someone who made me feel every inch like the man that wrote these letters.

The truth is, I’ve let the world creep in on me a bit. I’ve ceased looking for a good church because it’s so difficult to find, and worked at the milky church. And that’s undoubtedly affected my walk with the Lord. I do try to read the Word in the mornings, and to listen to true sermons online. Sometimes just to hear the truth proclaimed boldly and freely is beautiful, and, drawing me close to tears, makes me hunger for more. Because losing yourself is so easy. You let down your guard, even for a minute, and you find yourself crossing boundaries and blurring lines that you could never understand others crossing or blurring. Discipline is hard to maintain, but harder to recover.

I’m also wondering just how much I’ve romanticized this idea of love and marriage, life and relationships. Maybe it’s all just a bunch of beautiful nonsense, and it won’t look anything like it when we get there.

Maybe it’s always going to be partly this unknown. It’s not even a beautiful unknown, not to me. When my head starts playing drama games with itself, I stress. I always figured the walls would tumble down and the feelings would break the dam when the time was right. Now I begin to wonder if I’m even capable of feeling, in that proper sense of being carried away by sentiment and emotion. Should a sermon or movie incite me to greater depths of visceral emotion than a potential love? Maybe I don’t even know how to love. Maybe I’m not nearly as prepared as I thought I’d be. But who is?

And then the questions come in, the ones wondering if the problem all along has been me. What if I don’t fit in because I’m the one who is discordant, who is making the wrong decisions and pitying myself for the alienation they produce? What if I don’t have many friends because I’m not someone many wish to befriend? And weren’t some of those boundaries a little old-school and unnecessarily strict? Is wanting a woman who will hold me accountable to carry the spiritual mantle really just an excuse to commit the perfunctory male shortcoming of not being the spiritual leader? Is the drive to do great things really just something vainglorious on my part, as opposed to an actual calling? Do I want someone who makes me feel like Beren-Estel, or should his fantasies remain in the world of shadows, while the man who played him graduates to the land of mortgages, insurance, retirement plans and making ends meet?

How much should reality differ from expectation, and how do you know which to question first when it does? How many foxes do you allow to run rampant through your vineyards before you decide you have a problem? How do you know when you’re just uncomfortable with the stretching associated with growth, and when you recognize that you’re becoming someone you aren’t, and were never meant to be?

Does the unknown ever at least give certainty a greater role in conversations?

Yours,
Beren

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming

Dear Darling,

I’m not quite myself these days.

I’m becoming something different, and that’s both good and bad.

I’m forgetting things more easily. My communication skills seem to falter more. Interactions with dear ones in my life take a few benign but unexpected and challenging turns. I’m coming up short in ways to which I’m not accustomed. And I’m increasingly aware my life doesn’t even begin to resemble the plans I had for it.

Part of it is because I’m working myself ragged. This week I worked about eighty hours. There were patients that died, bled and projectile vomited. There were unexpected power outages, rare obstacles and difficult interpersonal conflicts to surmount. In addition to working, I minded someone’s house and pets, and wrote an article.

Part of it is a sleep deficit. Last weekend I was up for nearly fifty hours straight, minus a brief nap here and there. A couple of days this week, I was up over 24 hours straight, and one or two days I went 36 hours without showering.

Part of it may be because stark reality has a way of dispelling the shadowy fantasies of the future.

And part of it is because…I think I found you.

It’s not sexy for a man to admit he’s afraid, but sometimes I am. When life gets really real really fast, a lot of trimmings go out the window. Love is easier at a distance; becoming is harder than it seems.

In many ways — if this is you — you’re nothing like I imagined. You cast shadows as well as light. You are flesh and blood, and by necessity that forces the abandonment of a fanciful image which was only ever the product of my imagination. As such, it could never do anything less than portend its own heavenly equal. I foresaw once or twice, but it’s a facet of reality which only experience could conquer. And anyway, I think we all imagine both the past and the future more fondly than we ought as as it stretches out before us or behind; only a rising sun shows the path for what it really is.

In some ways, it has fallen into place so naturally that it requires a period of transition. One does not shift paradigms from perpetually lonely to companioned in such a short, fell swoop. It’s a lot to process and it takes time.

All these feelings combine to make me less than myself on some occasions. I’m not remembering every moment like I thought I would. If this is you, you call me out or catch me off-guard on things I ought to have remembered or known or said or done. Here and there, you challenge or disagree with me in some ways which I find at times uncomfortable. You make me question myself, or question if there are parts of myself I should let go of. There are actually things about each other to dislike or prompt hesitation. I’m not used to letting someone down and having to work around that. I’m not used to the right words coming out wrong. I thought I’d like everything you liked, just because you liked it. I don’t. It looks more like reality and less like my dream. The butterflies aren’t constant like I thought, my gut doesn’t feel like it’s dropping every time you look at me, and my head doesn’t get dizzy or spin. Maybe it’s because I’m so darned adaptable. I’ve taught myself to adapt to any situation, and ad-lib when I don’t know what to do. (No one ever tells you most of adulthood is ad-libbed.) Those instincts kick in even on something as big as this arrival.

And yet, I’ve never felt quite such a calling. It’s as though, within days of knowing you, I felt I was called to love and serve and maybe one day marry, regardless of anything else. It’s like you stepped off the train and onto the platform (“She’s here now!”) and I was waiting so long for that moment that I forgot for a moment what next to do. It wasn’t storybook, it was just real. I was holding ice cream, and you later told me you immediately thought “Who is this tall man and why have they been holding him back from me?”

We talked on that back deck for quite some time, while they all sat inside doing puzzles and exchanging glances with each other. We met again at the pool…then went to the frozen yogurt store…then went to your neighbor’s house. Then to the fireworks. Then I lost track.

We went canoeing, and I took you back to that farm where you were staying. We sat out on the back deck under moonlight on the swing, just talking. We talked about Christmas traditions and I tipped my hand with the phrase “whether or not we’ll do Santa.” We shared secrets. We shared dreams. And then…we shared a kiss. I always wanted it to be memorable, and although I had been planning something different, I realized it would never be more memorable than right there.

Now, we’re becoming. We’re becoming an us. It is now not a question of if we’ll spend every weekend together as much as possible, but how and when and where. I can see us becoming an item. Then a couple. Then husband and wife. I can see us both enjoying those days, nights, weekends, holidays, seasons and years together. Weathering the storms. Fighting and making up, the days of coming home from work to find the air a floating infusion of dinner and music, just like last weekend when we had to pause the movie while I went to work, and then came back to find the house filled with cooking and Sinatra.

The fact that it’s all so natural is itself worthy of freaking out.

Then there’s temptation. I feared to introduce kissing too early, lest we mistake its lure for the lure of each other. Lust sings more sweetly and tenderly than you expect. It pretends to be innocent, and awakens an unexpected ally deep within your soul. You fight not just it, but yourself. It’s harder when she’s willing to go a little bit further than you are…no matter how much you want to, no matter how much fire and ice fills my core even as I write about it.

But I’m not ready. I so wanted to be, but I’m not. I still have so much school remaining. I’m not prepared to be the provider like I wanted to be, intended to be. You actually are prepared, more capably than I. I had this plan, that I’d finish school and be ready and waiting, right here with open arms. A house and a job, a loosened tie, a mortgage payment and a 401K.

Those plans are fading into the distance in my rear-view mirror. Now we’re up against the clock. Time is working against us, and I’m behind.

You know what I miss? A mentor. It’s probably more of that storybook mindset of mine, but I miss having a kindly older man in my life, a grandpa or an uncle or just some Christian teacher, grounded in wisdom and wrinkled with experience. I want an imaginary grandpa, someone I can be absolutely myself to, someone who can help me work through questions. Questions like, how do you know if you aren’t just chasing that chemical high of kissing? How do you know the difference between fantasy and expectation? Do all the songs lie, or should I be worried that the butterflies don’t happen all that often? If it’s less head-over-heels and more quietly settling into place, is that a sign of reality or mediocrity? How do I know when to be the firm leader, and when to be flexible and forgiving? How do you know the difference between loosening up and compromising? The difference between being disagreeable and just trying to learn to work with someone else’s preferences? Between discernment and being judgmental, or between becoming boring and growing up, or between losing your roots and expanding your horizons?

How do you find the line between become something you’re meant to become and becoming something you aren’t? How do you decide when you’re holding on to the past versus remaining loyal to it? How do you know when love is? How do you know if you’re saving love, or if love is saving you? How do you know if you’re tolerating sin or forgiving it? How do you know the difference between changing for the better and changing to suit someone else? How do you know when you’re overthinking things versus just applying strict scrutiny and common sense? How do you know the difference between fearing commitment and distrusting yourself with consequences as immortal as marriage? How do you deal with that small measure of discomfort, and is it because of who they are, or because of who you are?

Fortunately, at the end of the day, there is always an answer of simplicity to quell insecurity, a question I my imaginary grandpa would ask with a chuckle: Boy, never mind all that for a minute…do you want to see her again? The answer is always yes.

For now, maybe that’s all I need.

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Questions | 2 Comments