Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

The Comfort of Darkness

Darkness“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…”

Lisa Torban

Dear Darling,

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.

Yours,
Beren

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August 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Never the Time and the Place

22. Sarnoff, Arthur - Lovers In A Field Of Daisies

Never the Time and the Place
Robert Browning

Never the time and the place
And the loved one all together!
This path—how soft to pace!
This May—what magic weather!
Where is the loved one’s face?
In a dream that loved one’s face meets mine,
But the house is narrow, the place is bleak
Where, outside, rain and wind combine
With a furtive ear, if I strive to speak,
With a hostile eye at my flushing cheek,
With a malice that marks each word, each sign!
O enemy sly and serpentine,
Uncoil thee from the waking man!
Do I hold the Past
Thus firm and fast
Yet doubt if the Future hold I can?
This path so soft to pace shall lead
Through the magic of May to herself indeed!
Or narrow if needs the house must be,
Outside are the storms and strangers: we—
Oh, close, safe, warm, sleep I and she, I and she.

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Severed Selves

LoveApart

Severed Selves
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Two separate divided silences,
Which, brought together, would find loving voice;
Two glances which together would rejoice
In love, now lost like stars beyond dark trees;
Two hands apart whose touch alone gives ease;
Two bosoms which, heart-shrined with mutual flame,
Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
Two souls, the shore wave-mocked of sundering seas:-
Such are we now. Ah! may our hope forecast
Indeed one hour again, when on this stream
Of darkened love once more the light shall gleam? —
An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,–
Which blooms and fades, and only leaves at last,
Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Man in the Mirror

ManintheMirrorDear Darling,

Who do you see looking at you out of that mirror in the mornings? Who is it staring back at you over your sink and what secrets, praises, shames and kindness lie behind those eyes reflecting back at you?

That man in the mirror…sometimes I don’t know what to make of him. Sometimes I think he’s skilled and kind and slowly becoming everything he’s ever wanted to be, even if it looks a lot different. Sometimes I’m well nigh proud of him. And oftentimes, I realize that the pair of eyes meeting mine knows everything I do about myself, and that’s just unnerving. Sometimes that man in the mirror shakes his head at me and tells me to stop looking at my workout progress in the mirror. He questions whether or not that time is well-spent, or if I spend as much time bettering my soul as I do my body.

He reminds me I’m not really a good man if I expect others to return my kindness.

He orders me to get my thoughts in line with God’s word, and wags a finger at me if they get off-track.

He reminds me that even though we’re forgiven and covered by the blood, we must still repent to God, and that I don’t repent often enough. He reminds me there’s already enough life behind me to lift my head high with pride and bow it low with shame.

He reminds me I’ve skipped Bible study two weeks in a row already, and my Bible is scarcely cracked since the last study. (In fairness, I’ve listened to all of James and 1st/2nd Peter, plus accompanying sermons this week.)

I’m reminded to be more content with what I have, and wonder why I’m not. Why, I had four friends bake a cake, sign a card and take me out to dinner for my birthday. Alegfast bought my dinner. Other friends join me the night before for dinner and a movie, and laughs, presents and more cake with my family tonight. (“Three free dinners in a row!” snorts the man in the mirror, who would cuff the side of my head reprovingly if he could.)

I have no right to get into the car after spending time with my family and laughing harder than I have in some time, and feeling your absence, my dear, as soon as I turn the key.

How comes it that nothingness can take on form? How does emptiness flow like a flooding torrent, seeping right through the walls that inescapably pervade my existence, the minute I part company with people? People, who are so often the curse as much as the cure?

I have to stop taking shelter in those feelings like a dog going back to his den.

I do think I’ve found a church, my dear. I’ve not scoured from one end to the other, who knows, maybe you are there. Life lays more heavily on some of these. People here are sheep, and oft’times I no less than they, but at least they’re trying. I sat there this morning and had to remind myself I’m not more spiritual just because I shook off sleep to come here when someone else didn’t. I don’t care more just because I put on a coat and tie this morning when someone else didn’t, or because I carry a real Bible and other people use phones.

I wonder as I watch them, how do so many of them take relationships in stride? I’m certain the day is coming when I’ll take you for granted, but someone who makes life itself a little easier, whose presence I will one day be unable to imagine living without? To know I can take into my arms and kiss any time I want? To have children with? Children…! 

Compare with them the sheep in the rest of the world. I will say, watching people always fascinates me. Yesterday I worked trackside, a thrill to say the least. Thirty thousand souls crowded into the stands in their finery, a spectacle that even royalty travels to see. Rich and poor, pupil and master, all are here — and soon to be equalized by alcohol. Thirty thousand of them, and only three of us actually permitted on the track, present here for emergencies, kicking up dirt as we chase those flying hooves. The different people that you see…they’re not really trying that hard…this is for the Monday through Friday living, not the good behavior of Sundays. But I still do wish I could do more than stand at the ready to patch their bodies. What does the body matter when the soul is in peril?

And of course, that was but a fraction of what’s on my agenda this week. After pitching this article for months, the editor finally approved it, but only if I could provide a finished product within the fortnight. Last week, projects were due nearly every day. This week I have a research project due, prep work, a quiz Thursday, a scholarship showcase, a community emergency simulation and a Bible study. I have exams Friday and Monday, and I’ve already just done a quiz tonight.

And that man in the mirror, well, he just shakes his head at how busy I am, but smiles knowingly because he knows deep down I like the sweet madness of it all. And he sighs because he knows a touch of your hand would quell the tremors of my restless mind. He knows your heart would give me a reason to sit still, and that my mind will be just a little less at ease every time you leave, and just a little more at ease every time you return.

You’ll have to look at this man in the mirror one day. (It’s bad enough I have to face him, so I’m just sorry you’ll have to!) He’ll be what you see when you fall asleep and when you wake up. He’ll be the face you see waiting for you by the altar, and by your side when you’re in labor. He’ll be the face you’ll be caressing, and the face you’ll want to slap sometimes. And Lord willing, he’ll be the same face looking back at me in fifty years. Will I even be able to look at myself without shame then? Will I have kept the faith? What troubles will those eyes have seen?

That man in the mirror, sometimes his smile is a tired one and he knows I sacrifice sleep to write to you, because writing to you helps defray the inflations of silence inside my head, the bottled-up thoughts I withhold for reasons that are my own. It helps me to think you’re out there, listening and caring. It steadies me.

There will be times like this in our marriage too, my dear. A couple of left-hand rings don’t fix all the ills of the world. The indecision, whether great or small, may be a source of great frustration for me, let alone you. I may rant and agonize and question to your endless consternation. But eventually that man in the mirror makes up his mind, makes his decision, and walks out that door to face the world doing everything he knows to do to get it right.

And me? Well, I sure hope you’ll be out there having my back.

Thanks, love. Best hopes and prayers from my corner of the galaxy.

Yours,
Beren

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Something New

Dear Darling,

After three years, life in its course begins to reveal certain patterns. I read back through these letters and realize I’ve told you the same thing different times, and each time as if it were new. Sometimes I fear the slightest vestiges of senility are lurking behind these incidents, but sometimes the churning agitations of my brain recapitulate old thoughts in new skins and I forget that I’ve thought them before. I’ve never made any sensational claims about my memory, and the nature of my work is such to work with quasi-strangers and throngs of crowds, with the end result of dulling my mind to new faces and names.

Among these repeated thoughts tonight is an apparent binge lifestyle with work and school. Last weekend was a move. This week, there have been projects due every single day. I’m writing another two articles, one of which the editor imposed upon me a tight deadline after weeks of my suggesting we cover this topic.

In short, I have been busy all week, up until about three hours ago. Poised on the precipice of a blank in my schedule, mere minutes after the week’s obligations rounded out, I immediately wanted something to do. On nights like these I get restless. Alegfast suggested it was one’s latent urge to have nearly as much enjoyment as one has had work. (We’ve much to catch up on if I’m to set those two at equals!)

I suppose I find myself wanting something new. Which should technically be branded as some outlying mode of insanity, given that my head is inundated with new information every day, information I’m expected to retain and master. But I do. On rare occasions, I do things simply for their novelty, simply because they break the molds. And other times, I wish someone would feel the urge to step into my life and make it better, the same urge I feel for others.

So what do I do? Browse a few headlines and video titles, try to clear out some of the multitasked browswer windows I maintain at all times. I converse with Alegfast for a bit. He and Gladhbrui want to go southward again this summer, but I fear their constant oversharing, discussion of private subjects and their undiluted, incessantly nonromantic intimacy will prove the unmaking of any relaxation I may find.

Visiting an ice cream shop appeals, but the hour is late and they don’t sell abs next to the double fudge brownie triple-scoop.

I started a new job too. You should have been there. It required getting up long before the sun, but you’ve done that enough to know it has its own unique and worthy advantages. It was a chance to renew my love for this land and its roots. This is horse country and these are horse people. They all know each other, but I’m new so they’re a little closed off. They’ll give me time, and until then they’re not unkind. My colleague is not terribly older than I, open and honest, not yet particularly jaded or crusty like most emergency responders. The outrider with whom we’re talking has a voice like Jack Webb, sitting tall atop his horse and dragging on a cigarette. He’s constantly but good-naturedly berating every rider and worker he sees. The horses and their riders race by. One in particular pounds past at full racing speed with leather cinched, muscles tensed and mane flying. I breathe in a silent thrill; there was something familiar and vicariously stimulating about a horse and rider moving in synchrony.

Only a few short weeks remain in this term. If I’m honest, last summer was the best I ever had. This summer could hold just as much potential. Imagine this relentless pace, but lived at my own discretion for work and travel.

It’s all coming together, Darling. It’s almost like the saying of Scripture, “do whatever your hand finds to do for the Lord is with you.” I lack only you. Sometimes in these turbid and tumultuous weeks, there are fractions of a day I even lack the time to think about or desire you. I feel like every day I’m becoming more the man God wants me to be, the man you’ll want me to be. But these are also the days of growth, days we should grow together, and we’re missing those.

Well, cheer up Luthien. Spring is breaking and summer is not far behind. The future comes at us sixty seconds per minute, and of all the seconds amassed behind and before us, there is yet to come the first to share together.

Until then, never forget, I love you with all my heart.

Yours,
Beren

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Time Is Coming, Part 2

On The Marriage of T.K and C.C. The Morning Stormy
Thomas Carew

Such should this day be, so the sun should hide
His bashful face, and let the conquering Bride
Without a rival shine, whilst he forbears
To mingle his unequal beams with hers;
Or if sometimes he glance his squinting eye
Between the parting clouds, ’tis but to spy,
Not emulate her glories, so comes dressed
In veils, but as a masquer to the feast.
Thus heaven should lower, such stormy gusts should blow
Not to denounce ungentle Fates, but show
The cheerful Bridegroom to the clouds and wind
Hath all his tears, and all his sighs assigned.
Let tempests struggle in the air, but rest
Eternal calms within thy peaceful breast,
Thrice happy Youth; but ever sacrifice
To that fair hand that dried thy blubbered eyes,
That crowned thy head with roses, and turned all
The plagues of love into a cordial,
When first it joined her virgin snow to thine,
Which when today the Priest shall recombine,
From the mysterious holy touch such charms
Will flow, as shall unlock her wreathed arms,
And open a free passage to that fruit
Which thou hast toiled for with a long pursuit.
But ere thou feed, that thou may’st better taste
Thy present joys, think on thy torments past.
Think on the mercy freed thee, think upon
Her virtues, graces, beauties, one by one,
So shalt thou relish all, enjoying the whole
Delights of her fair body, and pure soul.
Then boldly to the fight of love proceed,
‘Tis mercy not to pity though she bleed,
We’ll strew no nuts, but change that ancient form,
For till tomorrow we’ll prorougue the storm,
Which shall confound with its loud whistling noise
Her pleasing shrieks, and fan thy panting joys.

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | 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

Good Days and Loud Thoughts

man-and-the-moonlightDear Darling,

I’m back on the homestead tonight, managing by myself. It’s a full moon, and probably the first one in months whose light I can walk in, quietly and undisturbed. But like a head that keeps spinning after the ride has stopped, a swirling mist of thoughts still impede the calm I’m seeking. It would take a World Detox to restore the full potency of the moon’s calming effect.

It’s not that I lack peace, or am deeply troubled by these thoughts. It’s only that the ringing of ears and whooshing of thoughts doesn’t slow just because my pace has. And anyway, the pace the last few days has still been crazy.

I fear my prayers are falling into something of a cycle any more. I’m rising before the sun five days a week now, and often eating the morning meal while preparing the afternoon meal. Thus, the Word falls by the wayside, and while I’m making up for it by listening to its preaching, I know I need to be more diligent about carving off my own slices when I can. I’m mostly praying for friends, family and my own horizons. (And, of course, you.) But the slain saints in Iraq? The oppressed in Russia? The grieving in Nigeria, the laboring in Haiti, the political struggles and ever-diminishing freedoms of my own people? The patients I see at the hospital? Not often enough.

Here we find two conundrums of the Christian’s walk. The first, forgetfulness of neglect or forgetfulness of repetition. The Lord repeatedly admonished His people on ways to remember, because we humans are prone to forget. He carved these traditions deep into the minds of His people, lest we forget. But then, how many times have we said a token prayer before a meal because it’s ingrained in our mind to pray and we sent not the slightest emotion of true gratitude heavenward?

The second, the balance of living in the world while not being of it. You want to find some degree of comfort and rhythm to this life, but not finding a place in the world so much that it finds a place in you.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve had several good days recently. The weather has changed, and kept on changing, bringing with it the sunshine’s thaw and then winter’s freeze, sometimes under the same sunrise. I just don’t want to drift afoul of God’s will.

So these thoughts continue to swirl along as I walk. The robins in the pine trees protest my presence, and I’m pretty sure that’s a rabbit I hear bounding away in fright. Maybe my thoughts are too loud for them. And unless I’m mistaken, that’s the first spider-web of the season caught on my forehead.

I like a good quiet walk…but I like a mad pace too. Yesterday I wrapped a class, ran some errands and then returned to swim a personal best distance of six and a half furlongs, on top of a mile run. This morning I ran a race with a classmate and his brother-in-law, and we unexpectedly took second ranking in the whole city.

I previewed the miracle of birth this past week, my dear. Three tiny lives newly-begun in the world. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s such a privilege to be at the forefront of such pivotal moments in life, spending time with the laboring mothers or the nursery with the infants. Once again, it will put me ahead of the curve for when our time comes.

Looks like I’m moving this weekend. Although I do believe the Lord opened up the opportunity at the time, I came home the other night and am fairly certain my roommate had engaged the services of a hired woman to share his bed. He isn’t the sort I estimated conducting such business at all, and my judgment may be far askance. However vague the nature of the transaction, the process was abundantly obvious. I believe I even heard the muffled exclamations. Such things were thoroughly lacking throughout my upbringing. So, yes. Time to move on. It tends to keep one imbalanced when “home” changes so much, you know.

Also, I hope you’re not particularly attached to television. Mind you, the point is inconsequential. I simply find that if I sit down to watch it, the hours while away in idleness and I’m ill-at-ease when I rise and see how much time is wasted with nothing done.

Ah, but these have been some good days of late. I’m laying by some promising plans for the summer, and it’s only another handful of weeks before that begins.

I hope your mind is bathed in serenity and your hair bathed in moonlight tonight. Rest well, love. Pleasant dreams.

-Beren

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

How Was Your Day

Dear Darling,

How was your day?

I look forward to asking that question of you, of walking through the door, closing it and the world behind me and returning to the cloud on which I live, the one where dwells a wonderful woman who loves me and is pleased to be called my wife. I’ll love hearing your voice greeting me through the house. I’ll probably begin washing the dishes while you finish preparing supper, unless I’m lately come from the hospital and need showering first.

I’ll quietly revel in your trust and confidence in me as you share your day’s ups and downs.

How was your day today? What dragons did you face alone, what cares did you bear, what burdens did you carry? What tears were unshed because your husband wasn’t there to hug them out of you and then kiss them away?

And to think, somewhere out there tonight you exist, burying your toes into a carpet or curling them up underneath you to keep warm. (Lucky, lucky toes.) You may be studying, or working late, or cooking, or grimly eyeing February 14th’s approach. I don’t hold out great hopes for this Valentine’s Day, but I have a good feeling for next year.

Someone asked me the other day if I was still changing the world. I may not be changing the world every day, I replied, but hopefully I’m changing someone’s world every day. And that’s enough for now.

On my way out last night, I walked past a woman leaning against the wall with her back to me, weeping. Such sights aren’t entirely uncommon in the hospital, and healthcare veterans must eventually make their peace with the reality that there will always be someone else who needs you. I almost walked past her. Then I realized no knight, whether arrayed in armor or scrubs, could suffer this woman’s grief unchecked in this empty hallway. Beyond asking if she was okay, I pulled her in for a hug, inquired about the problem, and wished her well.  I wish I’d said more to her. I should have told her that God is all sufficient and will give strength to His servants. I wish I’d told her that she would be okay again, and that she would be strong enough for the darkness ahead of her.

Time gives all and takes all. It’s time that is our ally and our enemy. Have you noticed? Sometimes our memories, or time’s passage, are traps for our minds because we remember how things were. Sometimes those memories return too late, showing us what was important at the time even though we didn’t recognize it. Sometimes, we process things slowly, not understanding how we feel. We only know a moment’s worth once it’s gone.

Now that I’ve cleared the first hurdles of this term, it’s time to ramp things up. At the start of the week I had a morning class, an exam, a gym workout, a swim, a Bible study and then two hours at work to cover for a colleague before coming home to bed. In five hours, I was up before dawn to spend half the day apprenticing. The other half was spent working. The schedule was much the same today except I was invited to hear a would-be senator speak. Tomorrow is another several hours spent learning before I work an overnight shift for another colleague. This weekend, I ride a helicopter with a trauma nurse and probably do even more work and study. If idleness is the devil’s workshop, I don’t intend to give hell’s hobbyists much room.

When I was younger, I used to think everyone else knew what they were doing and I was one of the few that didn’t. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that half the people around me were as clueless as I (and another quarter of them were more clueless) that the light bulb clicked on. No one was going to come along and give me answers, motivate me get fit and eat right, or give me a job. Within submission to God’s will, I had to create those opportunities for myself. No one else was going to introduce themselves first, so now I do. It seems to inspire a confidence that others appreciate. I wonder if there’s any way I can make that light come on for our children earlier than it did for me?

Everyone complains about the cold, but tonight in The Village where I live (it really does somewhat resemble a Bavarian village) the icicles coat every eave like a painting or a decoration.

I should sleep. I’m afraid I’m rewriting most of this letter from memory after I all but completed it last night only to have it erased in a spontaneous reboot. Wherever you are tonight my dear, I hope you’re doing well.

Love,
Beren

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment