Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

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

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

Respite

Dear Darling,

It’s been quite a varied and interesting couple of days. Friday began with an examination for which I in no way felt prepared. (My pursuit, you see, is largely and capably designed to trick its pupils into answering incorrectly.) Instead, the final result was triumph in the highest degree.

The day then progressed to an hour-long session of testimonials for the medical field, which I found fairly unusual since everyone present was already within the field. But they provided lunch, and who am I to quarrel with a free meal? I was particularly grateful for the woman who put the Lord at the forefront of her short delivery, placing him as the guide in her life.

Then I went to work and asked if they needed help. They initially said no, but I knew one of the floors well enough to visit and tell them to call and confirm they did, in fact, need help. They did, and most gratefully accepted my assistance for the remainder of the work shift.

I visited a foreign eatery with some friends afterward, though by the protestations of my stomach, the amounts were insufficient. To my surprise, the Lady Kirche was there. A wound reopened can neutralize any triumph.

Yesterday was quiet. More snow fell, making for a very scenic afternoon overlooking the whitened yard in between buildings. I studied and worked a shift at the megachurch. I was invited out by a few people for dinner and a game night. This makes the third “crew” of young(er) adults willing to invite me along, which of course is kind, but they’re cut from the same cloth. Silly and giggly, with suggestive humor, crude joking and irreverent use of the Lord’s name. (Generally a very strong argument against fellowship — treating my King’s name casually.) They’re certainly not the type of people who understand me. I don’t know how I swam my way into the shoals where schools of fish find me attractive, but among whom no attractive mate seems to emerge. Another volunteer at the church announced her anticipation of Valentine’s Day. She was quizzical about my distaste for the upcoming celebrations until she remembered with whom she spoke, and then paid me the compliment I often hear but seldom internalize — “you’re such a great guy!”

The weekend is supposed to offer respite, but it’s been mostly all work and study. One day I’ll break into a new lifestyle, but for now I couldn’t imagine having the free time I’ll have then. Right now, everything seems up in the air again. I haven’t seen my family since New Years. I’ve only lived at this place for a couple of weeks. I think my roommate was drunk last night but I’m not sure.

And yet. It’s so nice to have an actual winter. The trees are frosted. The taller ones are topped with frozen diadems that sparkle in the sunlight. The smaller trees are bent low with ice as though bowing to them. It’s interesting how the same weather can affect both plants and people so differently, depending on their resilience.

I was surprise to learn a colleague of mine passed away three days ago. We worked on some of the same cases though we never met, and had communicated on several occasions. Her faith led her home, but it was unexpected.

On the subject of caring. I’ve mentioned before my attempts to stay friendly but properly distant from one of the production directors who clearly is attracted. An officer friend of mine told me that by perceiving she was upset and inquiring, I was sending mixed messages. I told him I tried to strike the right balance, but that professionally and personally, I care about people. I don’t know how not to do that, nor how not to be the person I often need others to be. But, that seems my fate, or the fate of anyone who really cares — ever caring, seldom cared for. I hope I’ve never showed improper restraint enough to hurt someone by sending mixed messages.

That particular young lady is also much younger in her mind and her experience than most people her age. Therein lies a much greater problem. It’s not the years, it’s the mileage. For the miles I’ve been through, I often find myself more on the level with someone older than me…something I often said was not a preference. Generally speaking, it seems wives are younger than their husbands, but most anyone who is younger is very young.

 

I’ve begun operating off the presumption that, deep down, “no one cares.” It’s more than a misanthropic platitude; it’s the assumption I find fits most of life’s experience, and a careful reminder not to share or open up with people unnecessarily. It’s also translated into a vast reduction in activity on Facebook. No one cares where you are or why, and the majority of motivations for posting are to perpetuate an image because you think it will improve peoples’ opinions of you. My reflections, my opinions, my activities and my achievements, all are becoming my own rather than for others. It’s a despondent sort of liberation, but a true and necessary one, and ushers in its own variety of peace.

Darling, I hope you are enjoying your snow if you have any, and are enjoying a weekend’s respite. I hope you are praying for me half so fervently as I pray for you.

Yours sincerely,
Beren

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thawing and Freezing

Cold and LonelyDear Darling,

During any good and proper winter, the snow comes. It beautifies and mystifies. Then it becomes old and tiresome and dirty. It thaws and melts and evaporates.

Then it snows again. And we are awed again. And the cycle continues.

So also goes the heart. It chills and freezes, and thaws and melts. Such changes in extremes compromise even the strength of iron, and sometimes on nights like these, a heart is caught somewhere in between. Tonight, caught somewhere between frozen in sadness and melted in desire, I rolled down the windows in 27-degree weather just to find some equilibrium.  It’s really quite pathetic the phases I go through sometimes.

I was supposed to have classes today, but by the good graces of the university, the ice and snow which laid siege to the city closed them. Unfortunately, this decision was made only once I had completed the hazardous trek to the university. I’m blessed to have such flexible work hours that I changed, went in to the Houses of Healing, and was assigned a floor.

Last night, I was invited to a “Super Bowl Party” which was neither super nor a party. Not, mind you, that I care overmuch about sports. But for its social and competitive value, coupled with the intervals of entertainment, make for a reasonably pleasant evening under the right circumstances.

The house was full of strangers, and worse, strangers in a worship band. You know I have spent nearly three years in a megachurch receiving four and five times the recommended weekly dosage of such personalities and performances, by those who treat the act of worship as a concert for man rather than an offering to God. I would rather socialize with the police officers who guard the church any day of the week. Some vague faces emerged to introduce themselves (itself a social grace which temporarily surprised me) before returning to their own cloister of social acquaintances. They were even unable to show the game for most of the evening.

My friend Miluihûn (“Kind-heart”) invited me. I’ve mentioned her many times, though never by that name. We had three dates and called it a friendship, and to that we remain to this day. (My mother insists we should be husband and wife, but she doesn’t know you like I do, and I should laugh if ever I thought you to be jealous of her or our friendship. It is possible for us to be friends without romantic context.) She was under deadlines with her studies to be a nurse, and I was stifling amused chuckles at the nature of the “party” (remember, when things get really bad, it often drives me to my own private smiles and laughter) so I made a rapid and covert egress out the door (missed by no one) and was soon joined by Miluihûn and her roommate at her parents’ house. I helped her parents install new cabinetry, and then helped her with a school assignment while watching the rest of the game play out.

It’s hard to relate to her and the crowd of friends she keeps sometimes. The church at large seems focused on catering to a world of damaged, broken and hurting people. I struggle and pine, but I am neither damaged nor broken. By virtue of being unbroken, I am isolated from a church bent on bolstering its numbers by reaching out to this segment. Another irony forged somewhere between principle and pride, I fear.

Instead, the cure seems continually to be the cure for others. Buying shirts the other day, I greeted an overly cheerful clerk. Upon observing her marked cheer, I dryly (but not unkindly) asked her what substances she was on. She remarked that her father had recently died and lent a new perspective to her life. (Sometimes my dear, as I’ve said before and you’ve no doubt seen, people and their emotions are bubbled up; a simple pinprick away from popping.) I expressed my deepest condolences and inquired further.  She admitted her deepest regret was not saying goodbye in time. I gently told her that in my experience, the dying often wait to embark until their loved ones are not present. (There is a consciousness beyond that of medical detection, which keeps people holding on, or gives them peace to go…and sometimes it’s just the difference of telling someone “it’s okay to go.”) She seemed to appreciate the insight.

A friend once told me people felt safe and comfortable with me because I was open and seemed to be without guile. I’m uncertain about that as I’m certainly not without hidden sides. But it is fatiguing and empowering all at once to relate to people, even in casual encounters, on such a deep level. 

I’m applying for a trip to Ecuador this coming summer. Being the hands of the Lord in this case may also fulfill study requirements. (But do you think it’s okay to set aside tithe money for the purposes of such a trip?)

And finally tonight, my dear, it seems ever thus that I am the one who has needs he must conceal. It would be nice if someone needed me…and told me so…and made me believe it.

Stay warm and safe and loved tonight, my dear.

Yours ever,
Beren

February 4, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment