Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

A Haven of Tempests

Caught in the StormDear Darling,

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,
Beren

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August 2, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

So Late It’s Early

TheBridge

“But always and ever when high and far
The old moon hideth her troubled face,
I think how the light like a falling star
Lit all my world with a new strange grace.
The passionate glow of your splendid eyes
Shines into my heart as it shone that night,
And its slumberous billows surge and rise
As the ocean is stirred by the tempest’s might.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

It’s the brightest moon of the year tonight. A “honey moon” they call it. It’s directly opposite the sun tonight, and lowest in the sky. Having one this close on a Friday the 13th won’t happen again for another 84 years, if you didn’t know. So enclosed you’ll find a picture of the old bridge I keep talking about. It isn’t much to look at; no testament to architectural art or tribute to an era gone by. Just a simple old bridge that does the job so no one has to ford the creek.

Now that I’m back home, it’s so late that it’s early. Adjusting back to days is always a bit of a hassle after working nights, and often leaves me a bit down, especially with no one to talk to on nights.

Tonight I’m somewhere on neutral ground between felicity and futility. What did I call my lifestyle? Binge and purge. This week on my way to work, I felt myself infused with an energy, eager even to lift many times the panel of patients I would care for that night. Brief periods of rest and relaxation often give me that surge.

On to the news before I cash in for the night.

I adopted a child this week. Not physically of course; I decided it was high time to give a little more of myself than I have been, so I’m now the sponsor of a young girl on the coast of east Africa. Now this led me to an interesting ponderance, Darling, and on this I must solicit your opinion. Where do we draw the line between letting our light shine before men, and not doing our good deeds to be praised by them? In sponsoring this child, I wished to urge others to join me in the act. But then I questioned whether I was doing so to garner the praise and attention of others. Our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. But I also believe good deeds are easier done in tandem. I gambled against my own pride and haven’t told anyone, except a coworker or two. (I met one young co-worker who reminds me a little of you; her soul smells of Jesus, though her language sometimes stank of hell. She has a heart and passion for overseas missions, and her position as a nurse allows her that luxury.)

Now I will brag just a little. I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the year. We gym monkeys sometimes do deadlifts and obviously want to do our best. This week, my new personal best was 270 pounds. This too leads to another question. I’ve been working on the concept of doing my best for my own sake, not because it will make a good story to tell others, or because it proves something to them. But, we like to share personal triumphs with others, and heaven knows our friends and their albums are full of them. So I found myself again asking, would I be showboating if I were to have documented this moment? Again, I hedged my bets against pride. If in doubt.

A patient of mine was featured on the Today show. One thing about being with a nurse my dear, you’ll never lack for good stories!

I’ve also been (tentatively) invited to speak at a convention overseas. The expenses would be covered, but the times and dates are up in the air. I’m hopeful. You know I do love to travel…and if God is willing, I will go to the beach, the mountains of Appalachia,  the jungles of South America, the orient, and India all in the next six to eight months.

Tomorrow begins the first journey, and hopefully one of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll write as often as I can, but if you don’t find any further letters here, look for one or two bottles afloat in the Atlantic ocean addressed to you.

Goodnight, my dear, and Godspeed.

-Beren

June 14, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sundry Thoughts and New Beginnings

Hello Darling,

The week is drawing to a close at last, and with it spring’s respite. I’ve been glad of the time off, but I’ll be glad to get back to a regular schedule; this week’s been awfully full. In a way, it’s a week of new starts…new week, new season, new house. I’ve left the megachurch job as well as making the move to another house — back with Alegfast, incidentally. A clean break from some unhealthy places, and a good chance to make some changes.

I’m here in the new place tonight in fact, hopefully to stay for at least a year. It smells old, like my great-grandmother’s house I was just telling you about. I like that. It’s a lot closer to work and school which will be nice. Moving three times in one year is quite a feat, and it can take a toll. And what is it about change that makes you nostalgic even for the times that weren’t that great? Just because they were present in your life for some part of it, even a difficult part?

And what is it about darkness that frees my thoughts?

1) The other night as the shift wound down, my colleague thanked me profusely for my help, knowing that her labors would have doubled if I hadn’t come in. “Mister big personality,” she called me. “Works his butt off.” It certainly had been a busy shift, and with the occasional gratification of achieving tasks that even the nurses weren’t able. That’s always nice, right up until they start asking you to do them again.

2) Have you ever wondered what people say about you behind your back? You shouldn’t eavesdrop if you don’t want to hear the truth, but I do wonder. “Ah, old Beren,” they might say. “Pleasant enough in his own way. Bit of a dreamer, he is. Bit of a loner too, not a lot of fun to be around and a bit taken with himself.” I wonder…I wonder what they’d say at my funeral. Oh, all nice things of course, no one’s allowed to be mean. But I’m not convinced it would be well-attended, even at this stage of the game. And it makes me wonder, have I made enough of a difference in the world, proportionate to what I’ve been given? Am I doing enough? Will people remember me? Is it so important that they do? God also gave me the ability to function well in the spotlight. Even to need the spotlight now and again. So he also made me want to shy away from credit, because I know my inclination towards pride. I work as well behind the scenes as in front of them, and sometimes I prefer the anonymity for its own sake.

3) It’s only within the last few years that I feel like I’ve broken out, firmly established my place in the world and found my calling in it. I used to walk up and down the lane late at night praying for guidance and purpose. Now it feels strange not to pray for purpose, but in a sense I know I’m now following the path God has intended for me, and the main thing is to thank Him and to ask for course adjustments as events warrant.

4) I’ve mentioned before the concept of broad shoulders. God gave me the fortitude to muscle through tough situations, to be a sturdy influence, and to absorb a lot from the world. A few people know they can hit me up online or call me if they’ve had bad days and want to vent. And sometimes I read back the thoughts written within these letters and think, there’s no way any self-respecting woman would find this attractive, it’s just the belching out of each and every hidden angst and insecurity, most of which should be shut up and shut out and not talked about. Guys aren’t really supposed to be this whiny. Is that what it looks like to you? I suppose I’ve been just arrogant enough to presume you had the same view as I, that any thoughts or sadness was precious, because it came from the dark and raw recesses of your heart, the place I long to go, to earn enough trust to be escorted into. Perhaps I misjudged. I recall telling you before how they say Winston Churchill, who put on so brave a face as the leader of the free world, would go behind close doors, put his head on his wife’s lap and just sob. Are you willing to know that side of me, and to bear it up on occasion?

5) What value do you assign to aesthetics and appearance? I don’t find myself altogether terribly handsome. Some would disagree. Of course, beauty is only skin-deep, and personality survives as we age. But don’t looks matter? Fitness? My sister admonished me about looks recently, because I mentioned someone to her, and noted she was not altogether attractive. It’s not as though that’s all I value, but on the face of it, that’s all one can evaluate someone by. That’s the flaw I’ve mentioned before as a single Christian. We can’t just approach someone we find attractive and say “say kiddo, what are you doing for church next Sunday and let’s go together!” More likely than not, they’re unbelievers. Even within the ranks of believers, it’s tough to find someone compatible. And yes, looks, personality, fitness and chemistry all have their part to play. Fitness is becoming increasingly important to me, perhaps as an outlet to burn off some of this fire within.

6)  I think the flaw of so many people today, trusting themselves too much. It’s hard to find the voice you trust enough to place more weight on it than your own judgments. And yet, although I have to trust them enough to act on them, I know myself too well to place too high a premium on my own judgment. My record has taught me to be wary of it.

7) I was thinking recently on the subject of going against the grain, and how I’ve always wanted to go against the crowd because the direction of the cultural is so diametrically opposite of true north as to function as its own poor man’s moral compass. I realized that, in general, I like finding and hearing the things I don’t want to hear. I don’t want sermons that tell me I’m okay the way I am, because I know I’m not. I don’t want to listen to my mind telling me to lay around and be unproductive, or my mouth telling me to eat unhealthy foods for their taste. Sometimes, doing the exact opposite of what your body tells you is how best to grow. Oh sure, I lay around or eat unhealthy often enough, but in general I thrive best in challenging and disciplining myself. I’m a fighter, and my greatest and most challenging foe is myself. I don’t need to be told what’s good and right…I need reminding of it. I need to dwell in it and inhabit it, constantly, because like every other human being, I forget. And somehow, we need to find a way for you to challenge me like this, or to help in those disciplines.

8) What does it mean to be a great guy? I think if you asked the random girl, she’d say a guy who listens and understands, who gets the doors and isn’t mean, who takes out the trash or does laundry and dishes once in a while. I don’t know, I find myself striving towards this standard, and when I think about it, I don’t quite know what it entails. When I fall into the trap of comparing, I have to admit, my pride looks at a fellow and gets ahead of itself, saying there’s a lot I have that he doesn’t. What does that mean to you?

9) The gathering last night went well, quite well indeed for the first real hosting I’ve done solo. The “act like you’ve been there” part is a bit eclipsed behind “I have friends! And they’ll all come over to my house when I invite them, and enjoy themselves, and thank me on their way out!” But I was feeling a bit lonesome after everyone went home. I’m not sure why. I guess any theater feels empty after the crowd leaves. Which means nothing will ever truly be fulfilling because it ends. You could throw a party tomorrow, invite guests and honor me before all the world. And even if I were willing to relish the moment, a part of it would be tinged with bitterness because it would end. Sometimes it’s hard for me to live in the moment because of its transience. But to go out with you and know I can see you again, or one day when I can go out with you and then come back home with you, tuck into bed with you. That has more meaning to me than the rest of the moments of boom-and-bust. Sometimes boom-and-bust is the story of my life, and I love the running, but there are aspects of my life in which I would prefer something quiet, steady and constant.

10) Have you figured out people very much yet, dear? Me neither. It’s a progressive and limitless task. People, my dear, want the world to be different and better. When it isn’t, they drift into stories. That is why movie stars make so much money and why the magazines sell so well which dissect their everyday lives. People don’t want to be told the truth — that the world is crumbling, that we have a duty to save whom we may, that dragons roam the land and that our boots must be planted firmly to resist the darkness. People want their life cozy and soft, with just enough solid underneath to keep from sinking. I’ve been engaging in a bit of an experiment lately with social media, posting thoughts about dogs and cookies and beaches and movies, and less of the news of peril and danger and duty. The response has confirmed the hypothesis. They don’t want to read your deeper thoughts, or know you’re in pain. People, my dear, are the same. The more you meet of them, the more commonalities you find in human nature. There are divergent people out there though. I call them Outliers, and I do love a good outlier. Outliers are familiar with a state of semi-gloom. They are wise enough to be content neither with the world nor with themselves, for they are wise enough to know the limits of both. Outliers are not so easily satisfied by the world, and more attuned to its darkness. (If only such darkness passed as quickly and surely as winter.)

11) This site was recently compromised, my dear. People I didn’t ever want seeing these letters found their way. It’s hard to complain too loud since this place, although anonymous, is public. Yet it took some searching to find, so it’s still an invasion of sorts. I contemplated removing the site, shutting the walls and staunching the soul. After all, there are parts of every soul that were never made to be seen, at least by those close to them. I considered returning to my old medium, and found plain document paper not at all compelling. There’s something, my dear, about knowing these words to you may give light and warmth and comfort and inspiration to others as they wing their way to you. A hundred people have subscribed so far (which means there’s maybe two dozen actual pairs of eyes that read) and in a way, knowing that someone else is watching keeps me accountable. But for whatever value such promises hold, I’ve been promised it won’t be viewed again. To have rawest secrets rooted out and ingested is a bit like being robbed or pillaged, so I trust those promises will be kept.

12) Writing these letters is like cooking, plucking the best of thoughts from my mind and moments from a day. Some of these thoughts have been on ice for a while, I’ll admit. And how many more times do you think I can reprise the theme of missing and needing you without you growing tired of it? How often can I reiterate that I’m empty and lost without you? At least a few more times, I am sure. Will you ever grow tired of such a message, of being told you’re needed and wanted and missed?

My time is long since gone. Thank you for reading, and I hope you rest well.

Yours,
Beren

March 24, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Sundry Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips

Dear Darling,

I was thinking the other night about what I could give you, right here, right now. These written echoes are all I know to give, other than to build myself up in anticipation of your desires. And I realized, if I had a list of “insider tips” about you, insights into your character and even a suggestion for how to respond, it would probably be invaluable.

These are not directives or instructions on catering to my moods, or anything resembling “how you should treat me.” As I’ve said, understanding myself is an ongoing process, and I learn more about me all the time. These are the results of those reflections on myself, and suggestions for how to act or react to my various flaws, quirks and eccentricities.

1. Whatever you do, don’t say anything bad about my mom. Even if I do.

2. Care. Please, oh please care, always and ever. Actively listen and engage me. Draw me out of myself, ask me about my day, or how I feel about something, because that’s so much of what I need and look for and seek after. Men aren’t supposed to spill their guts, nor have the arrogance to presume it’s wanted. But I want someone to care enough to ask and give me permission to spill a little, who won’t take “fine” as an answer. If you want me to, I’ll spill. But only if you want me to. And then, I’ll tidy up, recompose myself, dismiss the darkness, and turn the spotlight back on you.

3. Nudge me if I’m hogging the spotlight. I think we all try to use personal examples to relate to people, but sometimes it blurs the lines between identifying with someone and hijacking the conversation to talk about yourself. I’m fairly conscious of this, but if you ever feel we’ve shifted focus, do say so won’t you?

4. Be gentle and kind. Do you know how rare those traits are becoming? Darling, there will be times, plenty of them, when I’m going to slip and be a totally clueless idiot. I’ll say the wrong things, do the wrong things, make a terrible hash of it and be an insensitive jerk. As much as possible, cut me some slack and point that out gracefully. 90 percent of the time, it’s not on purpose. I’ll feel even worse than if you snap back, but if you are really patient and earn a trust even in the heat of argument, I know I’ll listen better.

5. Help me make decisions. I’m really good at right/wrong decisions, but if it’s not right or wrong, it’s not always easy.

6. Question me. Ask me the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a guy and never felt you could. “What were you like as a child?” “What’s it like to be a man?” “What are your greatest doubts or fears?” I don’t mind explaining, and it makes me feel good that you want to learn about me.

7. Accept that work is part of who I am. Every man derives some of his identity from his work and the ability to provide. I will try to preserve the balance, but please understand that sometimes, if I’m not working, I won’t feel fulfilled or useful, or even know what to do with myself.

8. Study me. Notice the little things. Pay attention to the things I like. There’s few things more gratifying than for someone to give you a gift or mention something in a comment that shows they remember something about you, that they studied, observed and didn’t forget it, and let it come out somewhere else in a compassionate way: “Oh! You were remembered that?” It shows understanding, accommodation, deference.

9. “Would you do that…for me?” A somewhat helpless, imploring appeal, will probably go pretty far and is also known as “not playing fair.”

10. Tell me what you need. I’ll always try to anticipate your needs, to expect them and plan for them, but sometimes I draw a blank and come up short. Sometimes I just need you to tell me what you need from me.

11. Remind me. Remind me to cut people slack. Remind me to be gracious…graciously. I forget that people are only human. Remind me to be encouraging. Remind me to put God and His will first. Remind me to pray for others. We all need those reminders, every day of our lives.

12. Try to understand me. It’s hard to keep the world off my shoulders sometimes, and there are certain darknesses in my soul you’ll just have to accept. Some things bothers me that don’t usually bother others. The fate my people troubles me, the fate of the nation. Please understand, or at least try. If you don’t, ask for clarification. There are times I think being understood is greater than being loved.

13. Be willing to show vulnerability and weakness. If you need me to hold you while you sob, there’s nothing I would rather do.

14. Validate me. A man’s ego is neither as strong nor as fragile as it seems, and we all need to hear we’re appreciated. Recognize, acknowledge and remind me that I’m a “great guy.” I try hard to live up to that, but sometimes I doubt.

15. Give me time. Some people are blessed with the ability to know their reaction to a comment and immediately respond. I am not always one of those people. Sometimes, a comment is made which takes me a while to realize actually upset me greatly.

16. Show me you appreciate and are grateful for my work and sacrifice. Smiling, giving me a peck on the cheek and saying “thank you for waiting” or “I really, really appreciate the work you put into this evening” or “I’m really grateful you chose to spend time with me tonight” would really, really validate those decisions, and keep me looking for the next right thing to do. Men aren’t that complicated, Darling, I’ve told you that. Any good dog will do what you want for praise and reward. Men are the same, trust me. Bestow a warm smile, a gracious hug or a heart-warming compliment to us and just watch us dance. Make a man feel like the greatest guy in the world, and it will inspire him to become even better.

17. Sometimes I have short temper bursts, usually at inanimate objects that drop or won’t close or won’t open or that hurt me. It’s petty, I know. I’m pretty sure words don’t fix those situations. Just a little sympathy is all. I’m good at putting big-boy pants on.

18. Celebrate me. I’ve got a birthday in a couple of weeks and I want it to be more than just the simple quiet family affair I’ve had for the last quarter-century. I would do this for people more often if I knew them well enough, or if enough people existed who would come to a surprise party. I helped put one together for two younger siblings a couple of years ago. And this past summer, I put a lot of effort into making one birthday special. It’s nice to have someone make a big deal for me, every once in a while. I have in mind to pick certain days at random in our family just to celebrate each member.

19. Inspire me. Give me the impossible advice of righteousness…the kind that will make me protest that only a perfect person could live up to it. The kind where I’m frustrated or angry and want to indulge my sinful nature and you say “why don’t you love them instead” or “why don’t you forgive them.” Of course it’s the right thing to do, and darn it if it’s the last thing I want to hear. But what are spouses for if not to spur each other on to impossibly higher heights of character?

20. Cook for me. Yes, there are plenty of male chefs, and no, a woman’s place is not in the kitchen. But like it or not, cooking is still kind of a woman’s thing. No diner ever made a killing by invoking memories of Dad’s cooking, and the prepackaged food in the stores doesn’t try to sell you on Grandpa’s apple turnovers. Now, I’m no a rube in the kitchen; I grill meats and scramble eggs. I fry fish, slice vegetables and peel fruit. I don’t order pizzas, or eat out except to join friends. If I want to get creative with the cutlery, I can. I just don’t have a palate that demands an hour of food prep, nor do I consider myself worth that much effort. But if you take it on as your job to keep your man fed, you get mad respect for that one. Part of the reason people get married is to look after each other, and part of the reason people date is to see if they want to get married. So if you’re dating me, note that I’ll be modeling the behavior I plan to show all throughout marriage, and that includes my desire to care for you in every aspect. In return, I’m looking for the same.

21. Cheer me. Sometimes a man needs his bride to be a coach. Sometimes, a team manager. Sometimes, a team player. And sometimes, he just needs someone cheering him on, being his biggest fan and his loudest champion.

I’ll be adding to this list as time goes by, so don’t forget to check back from time to time. And if you haven’t made one of these, I think it would be a loving and sensitive thing to do. We all need as much help as we can get.

Love,
Beren

March 20, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Things Other Guys Won't Do | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Just Another Day

Dear Darling,

I’m sorry. I know today must have been at least a little unkind to you, if for no other reason than because you were alone. With valiant shades of pink, red and purple, with confectionery treats and horticultural blessings abounding and a dance floor full of fools, floozies and lovers and a tune you love, it’s hard to bid your feet be still. Truly, I wish I could have been there for you, to rescue from it. It may not have been a night to be carried away on a violet cloud of emotion and sentiment, but it could have been a day to spend together, or a chance to grow fonder. Instead, we spent it apart.

I’m so sorry.

I dearly hope you made at least some use of it. I? Well, I spent much of its darker hours in the Houses of Healing, and some of it at rest afterward. Actually, it was another overambitious play for study and work, beginning with a live simulation in the morning, a hasty lunch, a work-related training module and then sixteen hours across two different floors. This was followed by a swift breakfast and two hours of lecture for which I could scarcely stay awake.

By the time I wearily rolled to a stop, it had been a straight twenty-eight hours without rest, most of which were spent either with schooling or working. It was the kind of long day and night where you wish and hope someone will be waiting for you, to feed you and praise you and put you to bed. Someone who will show appreciation and pride and gratitude for your hard work, taking pride in a husband so fine as to give so deeply of himself daily. Not too long ago, a friend exclaimed “night shift is hard!” This is a truth with which I am intimately acquainted, but hearing it validated for the first time was gratifying. Before then, it was borne as truth that is silent and unacknowledged.

It’s a different world there Darling. Truly — a different world. Here death and his enemies dwell together, fighting a unique and often unseen war, behind the curtains where society shouldn’t look, and often family members dare not.

There is a brink and a chasm between life and death and standing in that gap are the healers charged with keeping as many souls on this side as they can. We see how fragile life can be…and how tenacious. Sometimes it comes down to the balance of a hair…a balance whose weight rests heavily on all of our shoulders.

There is no makeup, no hiding, no masks. Modesty, propriety, our public game faces, all are left at the threshold. Errors paid for in blood and death.  Wounds seep, tears are shed and cries of pain echo. Their worst day is our everyday. We exist to lend grace and dignity in their most undignified moments, making the best of a bad situation. We are professionally and habitually unselfish. We put ourselves dead-last twelve and fourteen hours a day. We routinely, habitually and completely empty ourselves every shift. We surrender sleep, sanity and self to make our patients feel better. Our every day is the occasion to which others would have to rise.

I’d like you to be able to take pride in what your future husband does, my dear. That’s why I tell you this. No one wants to feed one’s own ego with self-placating praise, but we all need to hear that what we do is important, that we’re making a difference and our time isn’t wasted. When no one else (outside of the Houses themselves) understand this, one may resort to assuring himself of that fact. Healing is never “just a job.”

It is of course difficult to inflate one’s opinion of self-worth when one’s tasks frequently include the most menial of assignments, lowly of patients and basest of filth. And yet, it is difficult to diminish one’s worth when its direct results are seen in relief, gratitude and improvement in the condition of human suffering. In short, it’s meek work, but it always makes a difference, and if no one else tells us that, we have to tell ourselves.

I’d like you to be nurturing enough to know I am spent or weighted down and feel it incumbent on yourself to respond, whether by feeding me and then laying my head in your lap and asking what’s the matter, or by lovingly ordering me to the destination for which I was already bound.

We all need to be held. There is no substitute for arms full of compassion and willing to hold you for as long as you need it. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been looked-after in such a way. I hope I can look forward to it. I certainly know you can, and God willing by the skilled and well-taught hands of someone who knows.

It snowed again tonight. I spent some time with Loswen, Alegfast and their friends, before accepting the invitation which dispelled the last six weeks of silence between my family and I. I hope and pray those wounds, though maybe not forgotten, can be recovered from.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, my dear. I’m sorry today was just another day. I promise I’ll make it up to you in the days to come.

Fondest thoughts from far away.

Love,
Beren

February 15, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patiently Pacing

Dear Darling,

I believe everyone processes and reacts to events and emotions on different levels. There is a primary response,  that which is reflexive and impulsive, emotionally autonomic if you will. (Don’t be offended my dear, but in my experience, it is on this level that the female of the human race typically dwells.) There is a secondary level of response, that of analysis and reasoning, a more complex process of thinking and feeling and responding. However, it occurred to me today that my level of response seems to take place at a tertiary level, a blend of observing and reacting, but to the secondary level of response, and its peculiarities. In other words, “I seem to be feeling upset. How queer.” An analysis of the analysis.

So for example, after having worked a shift today as a favor to a friend, I get some take-home Mexican food (it’s not often I eat out, much less drive thru or order pizza) and make some notes for a radio appearance tomorrow. Ultimately, tonight I found myself pacing back and forth, feeling squirrely and restless; incomplete. It’s as if I had cabin fever, which of course isn’t the case. I like having the house to myself, but I do tend to go a bit nonlinear without human company.

This built-up of kinetic sentiment comes from frustrated analysis of how a day’s events impact me. It’s from missing the companionship I enjoyed over the summer. It’s from reading that another friend, with whom I once shared the same trajectory of life, is now expecting a baby. It’s from missing you. It’s from wishing things were different. In short, it’s from all the reasons that play into my everyday life. Engagements and pregnancies are commonplace these days, and while I’ll never get used to missing you, the sensation isn’t foreign.

So it seems in this tertiary process of observing the observation of the response, sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it builds up. Being fairly adaptable to circumstances doesn’t help. (Heaven forbid either of my parents to be called home to be with the Lord, I know I would be too consumed with the responsibilities necessary to grieve.)

Just one more piece in the puzzle that we’re both trying to solve.

Yes, I’ll be on the radio again tomorrow. Of course, I can’t tell you where. It’s a local station, only for an hour. The host and I have formed a distant, amicable acquaintanceship. I didn’t expect the invitation, but it’s an excellent way to close out the old year.

God keeps creating opportunities for us to trust Him, and He’s creating another one for me now. In less than a fortnight, your Beren will be homeless. I’ve not yet found new living arrangements. (Rather than rooming off of a cottage, I’d be charmed to find a castle in need of a guard or two.) I suppose I should be worried about it. But I’m not. Our Lord has always looked after me; He won’t stop now.

And yes, I miss you still tonight, Darling. That old familiar desire came back, the desire to pick up the phone and call anyone who wanted to catch up. To scroll through a list of thoughts and interests strewn across a Facebook profile. (I use mine too much, and will try to scale back in this coming year.) I know it’s not your fault you aren’t here for me. But the end result is the same, so it’s hard. I don’t have any sensational New Years plans. If you were here, I would find us both a dance to attend, something formal and special and wonderful to ring in the new year…with kisses withheld until midnight, the strike of which would be rung in with plentiful kissing and embracing — in token of the hope we both share for the new year.

Hold on tight, my dear. I have a good feeling about this year.

Until then, you might just find me patiently pacing across the hands of a clock as it counts down the hours…the waning of the year, of my time in this house, and the time remaining until our meeting.

I will be patient forever if necessary.

Love,
Beren

December 31, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

How To Heal Me

Woman hugs manDear Darling,

I’m really not that high-maintenance. And no, I’m not depressed. (Trust me, I’ve been around people like that. They’re black holes. I give, not take.) But yes, I do have hard times. I thought maybe you’d like a list of how to help fix them for me.

1. Hug me.

2. Text me and ask about me. Don’t believe me if I say fine.

3. Say “aww” if I tell you something bad that happened.

4. Encourage me.

5. Remind me who I am, who I’ve been, what I’ve done. I forget to look back and see how far I’ve come.

6. Listen to me.

7. When we’re talking, ask questions. I always like it when someone says “can I ask you a personal question?”

8. Sit on the couch and invite me to lay my head in your lap. Rub my hair while we talk.

9. Write me a letter. Or, just leave a note.

10. Remind me you’re here for me.

11. Bake a dessert.

12. Be there waiting for me when I reach the end of myself.

13. Pray with me, and for me. Remind me where true strength comes from.

14. Look deep into my eyes with yours with a “hey…hey. Talk to me.”

15. Pull me out of myself. Remind me what’s right…gently.

16. Be understanding…and honest if you don’t understand.

17. Know when I’m just too tired to think; know when to just put me to bed.

18. Forgive me.

19. Wait for me.

20. Think of things to do with me.

21. Compliment me.

22. Fight for me. Fight ME for me if you have to.

23. Thank me for being me.

24. Don’t give up when things get hard.

25. Be there for me when I need you.

26. Tell me you love me.

I promise to do the same for you.

Always,
Beren

February 8, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness | Leave a comment

I’m Not Normal

“It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed, but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
And it’s not easy to be me.”
– Five for Fighting, “Superman

Dear Darling,

I’m not like the rest.

Oh I know, everyone says that. They all proclaim how unique and original they are.

They have no idea.

I’m not like them. I’m not normal. I don’t think like the normal person. I don’t feel like them. I don’t act like them. I don’t see the world the way they do. I’m not looking for what the normal person looks for. I’ve never been normal and never gotten along with what the world calls normal.

I never will.

Parts of me are divided. I have a stake in the property of many different worlds, none of which understand the other. As such, I have to conceal those parts of my life from the other, simply to blend in and appear normal.

At times when I was younger I tried to welcome the odd ones and make them feel normal. Somewhere along the way, I figured out I was the odd one. I learned the world and I operate off entirely different paradigms; we don’t understand one another.

That’s not always a bad thing. I don’t want everyone to be like me. I like being original. But as a Christian it goes beyond just taste or preference. Sometimes it’s right or wrong. But sometimes it’s hard to know what is just personal preference (the standards you’ve grown up with, coupled with the “Christian gray areas”) and what is sin. There are some things, even the finer points of faith, that I believe need to be represented. Discipline. Chastity. Wisdom. Sacrifice. Service. The goal is to be at the place where if everyone had the character of Christ that dwells in me, however imperfectly, it would be better. But God created variety, and uniformity “even” of myself would be intolerable.

They tell you as an adult not to judge people for what they’ve chosen. What this actually means is, make people feel bad for being good, and don’t make people feel bad for being bad. I made a decision not to drink or swear or watch horrible movies. This means not joining people when they do these things for fun, because I can’t go along with it in clear conscience. But people are mad at me because I don’t. They ostracize me, because they feel guilty for the things they do. I remind them they don’t have to, much like a woman who has worked hard to become fit and healthy is disliked and frozen out by women who desire her success but not enough to duplicate her effort. Sometimes, I take a stand and people feel condemned. Sometimes, through silence or abstention, they feel condemned anyway. And so, feeling judged or condemned — even silently — they judge and condemn. They sentence me for a crime I didn’t commit.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own,” Jesus explained. “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” Romans urges. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

1 Corinthians says not to associate with the sexually immoral, but says avoiding all in the world who habitually sin would require leaving the world. Yet, it says, do not even eat with those who claim Christ yet are habitual sinners. We are to keep ourselves unstained from the world.

How do you do it? How can you remain unstained by the world, frowning at sin and smiling at the sinner, appealing or coaxing them into the kingdom? They know you don’t approve of sin. But did I draw these battle lines? Did I force the issue, or force the division? Not at all.

Yet I’m excluded. I’m shamed and condemned not for choosing wrong, but right. Very literally, I’m in the world but not of it. I’m weird.

Sometimes I don’t want to be. I’d like to know what it is to blend in; to be accepted, or to have these common experiences with which to identify. To go through these common experiences of high school and prom, a first kiss at 16 and first bittersweet heartbreak at 17. But coupled with that seems to be this foolish, stupid behavior brought about by playing social games and trying to impress peers. I was young, yes, and plenty stupid. But I didn’t have peer groups to entice me into trouble. I was never “foot-loose and fancy-free.” My greatest vice may only have been laziness and a lack of vision or ambition. (I’m more than making up for it now, I assure you.) I was never reckless, never heedless of the consequences.

Everyone else is. They live in the moment. They don’t plan their lives, they let life plan them. Instead of imagining saving up all their love for one person, they sprinkle it around and play at it. Rather than daring to hope for something great, they settle. They don’t establish a foundation for a wife and children before they have them. They overspend their resources, and then complain at being poor.

So it’s hard to find people who “get” me. There’s always some hidden side of me that, if known, gives people to know I’m different. I can talk about work and school and family and friends, but I am furtive to bring up the opportunities God has given me in my “double life” pursuits. Maybe, Darling, if I did find these people, I’d be writing fewer letters.

But maybe that’s just as well. Maybe I only want a few people who get it…who get me. Darling, maybe you’ll be the only one who does. I can tell you one thing. The day you “get” me is the day you get me.

There is an ironclad fragility to being different…to being alone. Outside, you are unbreakable. Inside, frail and brittle.

People are intrigued by me.  They don’t understand me, and yet they want to. They say I’m special, and different. They don’t understand, to be different is to be alone.

Maybe all I’m looking for is something as strong as I am. It seems like everything and everybody caves to stress if pushed enough. I guess anyone would. But I haven’t caved to sexual temptation, or many of the other vices to whose grip people so voluntarily surrender themselves. I want someone with the same strength under pressure. People tell me I’m strong and have a strong personality. I want someone who can match that…who can match me. At least a little. I want to be impressed and amazed, and that just doesn’t come easily for me anymore. I know we’ll have different strengths, and that’s just as well to overlap our weaknesses. But I want those different strengths to be of equal tenacity.

Ultimately, I’ve got to be me. The me continually rejuvenated and reformed by my Savior. The me following the path appointed by His calling, the me constantly striving to be better than my former self, and inspire others to do the same…but me. I must guard and monitor myself to be kind and loving, but I can’t keep obsessing over who thinks what about me. One moment people are doing things that seem improperly familiar to my way of interaction, and they’ll tell me I’m too stiff. The next moment, I’ll do something less formal and more familiar and someone is uncomfortable by improper familiarity. It keeps me guessing, in a constant state of foolhardy social anxiety. I don’t care anymore.

It’s important to be me.

It’s important to remind myself — and you — I’m not normal.

Love ever,
Beren

January 24, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness | 1 Comment

Dark Side

Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me? Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect, but we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me? Even with my dark side?
Kelly Clarkson

Dear Darling,

I’m not perfect, you know.

I don’t want to give you (or anyone) the wrong impression.

I don’t want you to think that I am only the sum of these letters. I don’t want to portray my halo as more golden than it is, or make you think I am history’s greatest lover destined for history’s greatest romance. In the end, I am just a man. I am flawed. I can be angry and impatient, selfish and sad. In my passion for justice and righteousness, sometimes I miss the truth of mercy.

I can be proud. I have reason to be, but that’s no excuse. Sometimes I come across as inconsiderate, judgmental, or arrogant. Sometimes I seem like a brutish lout and don’t even realize it. Sometimes I have trouble connecting with people, so I stay silent, or my connections themselves become somewhat awkward. Sometimes I take charge of a situation because no one else will, but then I try to scale back because I don’t want to just assume control.

Sometimes when I think I’m right, I get lost in trying to prove I’m right, and lose sight of the bigger picture. I’m too logical and sometimes too dispassionate. Those who argue with me become exasperated, insisting I can’t just logic my way through everything. Sometimes people get mad at me because they cannot hurt me.

In fact, a wise older mentor spoke to this recently. Ironically, she was angry at me for having missed a meeting due to a miscommunication, adding stress to her life. But we sorted it out, and had a thoughtful discussion. She told me I was strong and grounded. She said I would oftentimes have to stand alone, and should do so without anger or sadness. She had me with her right until the end, until she said without anger or sadness. I had to ask her how I was supposed to do that. Her answer was good but not entirely satisfactory given my experience. She told me some people would resent me, even subconsciously, for being strong.

Isn’t that the most ironic thing of all? I turned out to be the strong one.

Well Darling, I’m not always. I’m not always any of the things you read in these letters, good or bad. You know by now that sometimes, in mind and soul, I go to a very dark place. Some even wonder if I am depressed. I’m not. Some say I’m absurd to think finding you would be the cure of such feelings. You may not cure everything, but my love with you will complete what I feel I need to forgo complaints.

See, I am usually someone who takes the world as it finds him, and whatever pains or trials find me are meant to find me. If I did not choose the path that led me to that darkness, then I am content that my Father sent me them for a reason.

I know you’ll have a dark side too. Everyone does. You’ll have things to fret and fear about. You’ll have battles, things you don’t like about yourself. As long as they are not the gravest of darknesses such as being unfaithful to me, I’m okay with that. Believe it or not, that’s what will make me even more attracted to you. When you are made to heal and support and serve like I am, how can you be happy unless you can put forth that art and skill? Warriors fight, lovers love and healers heal. (Actually, I’m all three.)

I just don’t want to deceive you. I don’t want to mislead you or raise your standard so high that you forget I am human.

In a way, these letters have helped me as much as you. They help me figure out who I am. They help me process my life, and understand or come to grips with my experiences. They make me realize what I really want and who I am. What’s important, and what’s not. They make me understand how much I love you, and they make me a little afraid that all I’ll ever be able to do is express my love in letters, and that in person I’ll be far less interesting or affectionate than my writings suggest.

Or maybe Darling…maybe you and I will be so amazing together that we’ll make these letters seem like the bland scribblings of an inelegant nine-year-old.

One day we’ll find out.

Until then.

Love always,
Beren

November 11, 2012 Posted by | About Me | Leave a comment