Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Forbidden Wounds

WoundedKnightEach on his own strict line we move,
And some find death ere they find love.
So far apart their lives are thrown
From the twin soul that halves their own.

And sometimes, by still harder fate,
The lovers meet, but meet too late.
—Thy heart is mine!—True, true! ah, true!
—Then, love, thy hand!—Ah, no! adieu!

Hello Darling,

On many occasions, I have remarked to you of the inexplicable contradictions wedded to my existence. To most anyone on the outside looking in, my life in narrative could seem impressive and satisfying. Here, after all, is a chap who spent his last weekend swimming several hundred meters in the water and a sunny poolside visit with Hemingway. Yesterday, a visit to the archery range, a twelve mile bike ride, a dinner by himself with a Dickens novel. Business degree, nursing degree, published, credentialed, all that nonsense.

I have near-constant occasion to reflect on my life as a summary, because in my job new encounters are constant. As support staff across the healthcare enterprise, I’ve worked day shift and night shift for two and a half years on over twelve floors, across thirty different wings and eight ICUs, meeting literally hundreds of nurses and probably thousands of patients and family members. They think it’s wit that allows quick answers to their questions. It’s only that I’ve heard them in nearly every incarnation imaginable. I have to delay my response to avoid sounding sarcastic.

But what does it seem to me? Where does Beren see himself in all this? Does he enjoy this biking and hiking and swimming and arrows? Right now, they’re just another skill, another means of distraction and escape. Need I tell you again how I really feel, Darling? Lonely and aloof, like on a pedestal through no fault or credit of my own, unable to be helped, living an illusion, spending too much time completely outside of my own head — or too far inside of it. People my age…they’ve already their careers and families with which to gratify and identify. They’re stabilizing financially. They’re buying houses, getting married, settling down. The people still swimming upstream don’t.

I plan my days from week to week, but with an incurable bent towards Tomorrow, always Tomorrow. Not in the sense of procrastination, but weighing a moment by its lasting outcomes, so much that I can’t “live in the moment.” Things are always a Big Deal, and there’s always a “now what?” when the work is through. I like to read, but I don’t like to stay at home and read. Staying home at all seems a torture and I always have to find somewhere to go. (This city is short on such havens and refuges, quiet reading nooks or splendid sunset overlooks.) Relationships, like work, seem both a curse and a cure.

“You can do anything you want!” the actor exclaimed to the movie’s hero. “What makes you happy?”

“I don’t know,” the hero replied.

I don’t know.

Tell me…where do you go in your times of weakness? Who lifts you up and who do you turn to? That’s where I am tonight; weak and wounded. Only difference is, when I look around for some place to go or someone to call, no one is there. At times, I just look for a book to read, a song to hear, a movie to distract. I know Alegfast struggles with uncertainties and anxieties too, though he seldom talks of them. And I hesitate to voice my own.

You see, in our world, it’s not okay for men to be weak. We can’t be weak, and we can’t be hurt. If you are, you don’t talk about it and you don’t let it show. You man up. You be assertive, not weak, decisive, not needy. No matter the songs, don’t confess your need for a friend in the lonely hour. (Such a perfect song for tonight!)

There is a friend who, it seems, desires to be closer to me. She took it upon herself to address what she felt was my lack of joy, which she termed a serious issue in my life. I took to explaining the various attacks this week which have eroded such joy. Financial concerns. Ailing or unemployed loved ones, disputes with the family, disputes with the world, disputes in the workplace. You know I’m comfortable with disputes, Darling. “The gift of confrontation” some call it. But lately, I view disputes with a tired and grim resignation. A nurse began vigorously lecturing on her political beliefs while we were involved in patient care, and I knew I could quite convincingly construct and prove my case, but why bother? People will think what they will. There’s no reasoning with them.

I’m feeling defeated, that’s what. In most depths you have hope, but right now I’m just hoping to regain hope. There’s a lot to carry, but the people who matter are far worse off, and the ones who don’t matter dry up. When you stop checking on some of them and let them fend for themselves, the airwaves go silent. People who have been friends for years say not so much as a “how are you?” You wonder sometimes if it was an illusion, or just a one-way ministry. And the ironic thing is, whenever someone shows special attention as a giver, it’s rare I will receive it passively. Instead, I recognize a giver like me, and I will take compassion on you because I know what it feels like to burn with a compassion for people that is seldom requited. (Mind you, there are some people ill-pleased with me right now who would snatch up a chance to publicly scorn the notion that I am a giver and compelled to give.)

I’m not the only one fighting these sorts of battles. Browse WordPress for lonely souls. They’re all out there, and all of them hope someone is listening. They don’t want to ask for help. They can’t or don’t know how, or they know no one will come. I’ll wager most of them would be the greatest givers in the world — certainly if they’ve found they must give to others to be satisfied. If the world were to invest just a little nourishment to them, how inestimable would the benefit become?

And I have something they don’t all have. I know I serve a God of providence and grace. I know that it is in defeat that we become wise. I have a job and am happy when I work, even if that’s the only time I’m happy. I know that I don’t live at all without you, but that you’ll come one day and my life will be full of everything again. I know that when I have you to look after, how I feel will matter less. Looking after your needs will become paramount.

Anyone who knows anything about relationships will tell you they take work. And that’s exhausting sometimes, isn’t it? My job already saps much of my investive energy, and at times it looks like a mountain to climb every time. Men take the initiative, or we should. We carry the load, assume the risk. We can’t be afraid, can’t ask for help, can’t admit we’re weak. Women, for all your saber-rattling that you are strong (and you are) you also have license to be weak. Sometimes nature conspires to make you look and feel weak.

Maybe it’s just an excuse for the abdication of leadership to which we men are so prone, but sometimes, I don’t want to do the heavy lifting or take the initiative. Sometimes men want someone who will tie the knots in our stomach into butterflies. I want something senseless and intoxicating; something to escape the fetters of rationality and reason; an inexplicable draw and desire that I simply have to be with you, put up with you no matter the cost. I want an easy ascent for at least part of the journey, not this plodding climb. I want an onslaught of love so great it overwhelms my resistance.

And what of you? Will you attach yourself to be me with the conviction of Ruth — “where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay”? With beauty of Esther, loyalty of Sarah, wisdom of Deborah? Someone of strong will and unwavering conviction? Can you be not just the woman who needs a man, but the woman a man needs? Someone with a heart like mine?

Where do these sad and lonely people go when they aren’t online? There was a girl in line at the restaurant last night by herself. I would have bought her dinner just to be kind, because she’s here by herself. But she bought for two, and bought it to go. When I am older, maybe I will build a place called The Lonely, a place where people go if they’re lonely and alone. Then at least people will know where to go not to feel quite as alone. No one can un-lonely themselves.

Everyone is lonely, and everyone has demons nipping at their heels. Maybe I write so that you know I am honest, even when honesty isn’t attractive. Maybe writers are the only ones brave enough to give form to the dark thoughts which others push to the fringe.

At any rate, I will not bow to the world’s defeat. Despair is for the sons of Satan with whom the world populates its kingdoms, and to this I will not yield, if only for refusal’s sake. Tomorrow shall find me a brighter and happier man, and if not then, the day after. Autumn will be upon us, the home stretch of my studies begins, and there are many ripe fields of happiness yet to be discovered. Tread them yourself, as you may, until we meet.

Love,
Beren

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August 18, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Too Tired To Tell

Tired
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My heart and soul are all to tired to tell;
So weary, Lord,
Of this long, ceaseless work of doing well,
Without reward.

Oh, I have been thy servant now for years,
Nor made complaint,
Though my life cup has been abrim with tears,
But now I faint.

And I have worked for thee, with all my strength,
In pain and woe.
My Master, canst thou chide me, if at length
I ask to go?

Oh, if the soul is purified by fire,
Then I am blest.
The laborer is worthy of his hire —
Lord, give me rest.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Comfort

No Comfort
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O mad with mirth are the birds to-day
That over my head are winging.
There is nothing but glee in the roundelay
That I hear them singing, singing.
On wings of light, up, out of sight—
I watch them airily flying.
What do they know of the world below,
And the hopes that are dying, dying?

The roses turn to the sun’s warm sky,
Their sweet lips red and tender;
Oh! life to them is a dream of bliss,
Of love, and passion, and splendour.
What know they of the world to-day,
Of hearts that are silently breaking;
Of the human breast, and its great unrest,
And its pitiless aching, aching?

They send me out into Nature’s heart
For help to bear my sorrow,
Nothing of strength can she impart,
No peace from her can I borrow.
Her rose-red June and her billing tune,
Her birds and blossoms only,
Mocked at the grief that seeks relief,
And leave me lonely—lonely.
If I might stand on the treacherous sand,
And know I was sinking, sinking,
While the moaning sea sang a dirge for me,—
Why, that were comfort, I’m thinking.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Enough

Dear Darling,

The fireflies are back.

I know I’ve described the creek and bridge to you plenty of times, and always inadequately, but I find myself in hushed awe again tonight as I cross the bridge and see the muted glimmers of a thousand twinkling fireflies along the tree line, the meadows and beyond.

It’s such a blessing that my eyes alone are awake to observe this silent spectacle. Were I absent, still it would be beautiful, and yet because I’m here, it’s no less than if it were meant only for me. And to think, how many other sights like this go unobserved each night? Even a blessing like this strikes the lonesome chord of my inner heart, because my instinct is to share it with someone, and of course there isn’t anyone. What good is it to stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon alone?

As always, I am beset by a disquieted restlessness, wondering whither now can I go to find peace. I’m struck again how I can be blindsided by the blanks in my schedule. Dizziness comes about when you feel as though the world is moving even when it isn’t. Me? I feel the weight of inertia…the feeling within that the world isn’t moving and should be. In laying plans for this weekend, I realized that in essence, no one can give me what I need or desire and no activity would satisfy me in your absence. That rendered everything else null, bland and quite nearly meaningless.

They say enough is as good as a feast. But sometimes it seems people have different definitions of what “enough” should mean. That is, they set a feast with which they would be pleased, not realizing such foods don’t satisfy others. I think those who would peer into my life would, on the merit of their own appetites, suggest I have almost enough, and should certainly be grateful for what I have.

But if I’m being honest, as I take stock in who I am and what’s around me, even if it should be, it’s just not enough.

I don’t get enough sleep. That’s my fault, I have a lot to save for, and as you already know, time is not on my side.

I have friends who care, but it’s not enough. They still don’t understand me, and at the end of another long week of shifts, there’s still no one with soft voice and tender compassion to say lay your head down honey, tell me about your day.

I benefit greatly from the preaching at this church. But the worship isn’t enough. Quaint and bouncing little melodies, not a one of which was composed longer ago than a decade. It leaves the soul parched for the old and strong.

I’m grateful for the experience of drawing near to the throne, to feel the pain of conviction and know the weight of my sin as I set it before the cross. I’m not enough, and as strange as this sounds, it’s good to feel that weight.

I’ve waited a long time. I’ve worked a lot, and planned a lot. I’m becoming a better man every day. But it’s not enough. I’m not where I wanted to be in preparation to meet you. My wait isn’t over yet, even as the restless fires flare up within. I’ve gone this long without truly botching things, and now it’s a long way up…or down. Sometimes the pressure itself makes you want to fall.

Every night I can manage it, I go walking to find some peace. The other night, it was something like two miles. I think how someone once said that Dwight Moody, when asked to pray, simply said “God, stop.” Sometimes I think my prayers are just a fumbling attempt at eloquence in repeating the same sentiment. It’s funny that I learn about myself and others as I pray, thinking and reflecting. I’m not sure if it’s right that I skim off the top from those thoughts and confessions to God and put them here. There may be the slightest intersection between that which I tell the Almighty, and what I put here for you to find.

Time goes by. Someone observed the other day that I’m an old soul. You and I already know this, but it was the fact that she deduced this that made it unique. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade, maybe century. Such stock placed on luxury and pleasure nowadays! Such incompetence and dishonor. My people aspire to so little any more…they want greatness, but make little provision in their lives for the tools or training that would enable them to perform deeds of which men would tell stories.

The boys now take little initiative; they’re drifting and listless. Instead of cooking like their mothers, girls nowadays drink like their fathers and swear like sailors. We’ve gone from “I loved you the moment I first laid eyes on you” to “I loved you the moment I first laid on you.” The other night I impressed upon Alegfast’s friend Gladhbrui the importance of women not stripping down to the barest of clothing for their poolside escapades. She suggested I was too sensitive to the whole affair, that I should accept society’s evolving context of decency, and that even though her friends have come dressed in bikinis, they’re not immodest people by nature. Modest is as modest does though, Darling, and if I’ve never commended this to your attention, please hear me now. So much as it depends on you, please understand that it is very important that you keep yourself covered. We men…our eyes play such tricks on us. So easily awakened are the passions within us, and while the burden lies with us to wage that battle of discipline, if you are not careful in what you show, then you lend strength not to us but to our carnal appetites. You will not always be so fortunate that the eyes whom you bless are waging a war of honor within. You have not been privy to the locker room conversations as I have.

Enough on that subject.

Most people you know would ask “did you have fun?” if inquiring after someone’s day or experience. That’s what sets me apart; if asked, “did you have fun?” I’m at a loss to respond. That’s the peculiar thing about it; I can’t answer such questions. I don’t live for my own pleasure. I weigh matters by their benefit or utility, not their frivolity or amusement. Sometimes I envy those who can easily make up their minds what will bring them pleasure, and then set about doing it. That’s something else that makes me different. They make quite the sport of me among the halls of the healers for bringing in food (chicken, vegetables, fruit) which they don’t find appetizing. But I’m eating with a specific purpose, to last the night, to gain nutrition, and to continue my fitness pursuits. I don’t mind it so much, because as I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with my results.

I’m not sure I was born for evil days such as these. Can you see it growing, Darling? Do you hear the rumblings of the land, see the world turning to greater evil? I can. I see acceptance of evil which men call tolerance. I see the pervasive displays of vice acted out as our nightly entertainment. I see the moral degradation, the decay. I see the cascade of instability lurking beneath the surface of all we think to be true and steady. I see sloth and inaction.

And somehow, the fault is mine for noticing.

I feel quite often like I’m on a pedestal overlooking others. I didn’t earn this position, but it did arise as a result of many decisions I’ve made, and it’s a peculiar vantage point of humanity. I try to be congenial and cheerful with people, but still find it strange that I find such favor with them. One night last week, one of the doctors took note of my initiative during a resuscitation attempt and asked if I was a medical student. I explained I was in nursing school, but he didn’t let that stop him from commending me and offering to help me out if I needed anything. This week it became apparent, even though I’m no longer in my role with politics, I still have major play with people in the industry. The article of which I spoke before created such a local stir that it was reported by every media outlet in the region, prompting the interview subject to hold a press conference. An editor for the organization called me to ask if I might lend some insight as she prepares her own interview.

And then, the group I once headed is now making poor decisions and drifting, but they’ve decided to call a conference of their own, largely ignoring me in the process. And yet, the people they call upon to speak are calling me to inquire my advice!

Normal people would share these impressive developments and flattering events as they unfold. I withhold it. The people with whom I work…they just wouldn’t understand.

I suppose what I’m telling you is what I’ve already told you before. I’ve never met anyone like me, and that’s as flattering as it is disturbing. How then can I find someone like you? The odds now aren’t in our favor. I’ve always had in my head this idea that you’d just absolutely need me, much the same as I need you. But the passing of the years means we each will have learned how to get by on our own merely to survive. You aren’t going to need me quite so much as I’d have thought. It may be that the darkening years have infiltrated your own thinking and clouded your perceptions of society versus the Word.

And of course, I’ve built up my own guard up too much now for love at first sight.

Funny how my overthinking brain lands so heavily on each of these thoughts, rather than enjoying nature or friendship or weekends like I ought. I cannot ask you to make sense of this. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect you to fill such a gap. I suppose all I ask is that you try to understand, take it into account, and respond accordingly.

I’ll take you out to the bridge some time to see the fireflies, Darling. If time and limb permitted now, I’d be out here til morning.

Yours always,
Beren

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Rain Will Make The Flowers Grow

Dear Darling,

I’m afraid it’s another one of those drained nights where I’m not in much shape to do much good for anyone.

It should be a day for celebrating…it is. It’s only that sometimes, especially when weary and sleep-deprived, I find it hard not to let petty things like jealousy take over. People graduated today, people are getting jobs, engagements, pregnancies. (I’m grateful that the one young lady in particular who expressed a steady but not overdone interest finally found her mate elsewhere, as she has announced her pending nuptials, and thoroughly happy for her and the invisible stress her unrequited attraction placed on our friendship.)

I’m still fighting that feeling that everyone else is ahead of me, and better off. I expect that makes me rather weak in your eyes, and perhaps that’s well-deserved. There’s a lot of pressure on men though, my dear. (“Pressure on men…!” you must justifiably snort in disbelief.) But there are expectations that force a constant inner dialog on whether or not they’re being met. And on nights like tonight, the tired frailties and insecurities, all the sore and tender places that bear hiding, are stretched thin and come out all too easily.  Not having the best grades, the best intellect, the best memory or appearance or voice, not having the best body, best handwriting or the best car, or even career. I chose not to pursue law for a host of reasons, but for friends who went on to get their law degree, I see prestige and success for them where for myself I saw none. The tiniest fraction of my mind will always wonder if that was the right decision.

I see people winning awards and acknowledgements for their academic prowess, and the pall is cast over my own. (They aren’t hard to overshadow.)

I worked tirelessly for years in the one wing of the political industry, yet it’s others who came along and reaped the results, or the adulation. Of course, these doors are all doors I closed for myself (or if you like, was led to close) but they still leave me wondering. I could have been in on campaigns, could be working PR right now, could be practicing law right now. Instead, I was led down a lesser-known road. I have to trust in that leading, but sometimes I don’t find those decisions to have been validated. While others stay their course, and receive awards and accolades, I never wound up standing in the light when it was time to be recognized and applauded. (I can think of one speech locally where I presented, and the fellow who spoke after me made certain the crowd knew I had worked hard, and should be applauded. This is the same speech I gave directly after a man who is now a leading contender for President.)

What do trophies and awards matter anyway? Aren’t they just the perishable tokens of human recognition? The appreciation of heaven is all I should need. The relieved looks and grateful expressions from the sick ought to be enough to fill my cup. The privileges of working behind closed doors to improve the lot of those who suffer and ache, to make them laugh and rest more comfortable…isn’t it enough to be an unsung hero? Yet, how else does one assure one’s self of heaven’s favor? Is work, even work among the ailing, the same as working for the Lord? Didn’t Jesus bless Mary for learning at His feet rather than Martha for her tireless and frenzied preparations?

I want to be the best for you. And when foolish character flaws such as these arise, I realize it must be my fault, not to have drawn closer to Christ, the better to have these infirmities of the soul expunged. The only expectations that matter should be the Lord’s…and of course to a lesser extent, yours. Ah, but if only there were eyes as pretty as yours to look up at me with inexpressible gratitude. If only I knew I was making a difference, or could feel the warmth of my heavenly Father’s pride and favor just a little more.

Well, these dark musings are only the byproduct of another 34-hour marathon, minus the three-hour nap. (What? Oh now, don’t give me that look. Now that studying is through, it was time to jump back in to the swing of things!)

And driving home from a graduation celebration, the lightning lit up the sky and the rain began to fall. So of course, I rolled back the moon roof. And, I went for a walk in it when I came home, apologizing to the Lord for these petty insecurities. They’re not pretty to look at, are they? And yet, I’ll wager that every other man on earth has them too. And which would you rather have, a man who holds back and hides himself from you, or a man who owns his weaknesses?

I really don’t want to miss you tonight, Darling. Anymore, I don’t even want to remember that you might exist. It hurts too much.

I guess I’ll always have a little darkness in my soul.

Yours,
Beren

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Questions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Doubtful Gleam of Solace

In Memorium XXXVIII
Alfred Tennyson

With weary steps I loiter on,
Tho’ always under alter’d skies
The purple from the distance dies,
My prospect and horizon gone.

No joy the blowing season gives,
The herald melodies of spring,
But in the songs I love to sing
A doubtful gleam of solace lives.

If any care for what is here
Survive in spirits render’d free,
Then are these songs I sing of thee
Not all ungrateful to thine ear.

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunsets and Finish Lines

Dear Darling,

Another finish line crossed. Another summer set free.

I’ve written about finish lines before but it’s the same lesson realized again every year…once you approach or cross that finish line, you remember that there is one, that you can do it. The same goes for your long wait. Perhaps you bear up under it more bravely than I. For your sake I hope so.

In the midst of preparations this morning, I jotted this on one of my many pages of notes:

At times like this, times of stress and testing not just of your mind but your mettle…you want someone in the trenches with you, or at least writing you  from home, whose picture you can hold or letters you can read and reread, whose words echo in your ear as you rush the enemy line: “You’re going to be fine. Look how far you’ve already come. I’m proud of you, and I love you, no matter what happens. Now go get ’em!” Why else do men fight in wars, or push themselves to be better, if not for their women?

Otherwise, there’s nothing. Today’s success defines the entire day, the entire term, and if dire enough, the entire year’s outlook. It’s a be-all and end-all. I will rise or I will fall.

It does seem a pity there’s no one standing by to wave the flag and welcome me in. And it’s fine, I’m no more deserving than the hundreds of other pupils doing the same. Alegfast told me good luck, my sister messaged me the same. I’m old enough not to need banners and a welcoming committee when I come home, war analogies notwithstanding.

Ah, but you should see the to-do lists! So many affairs to set in order, neglected areas of life to straighten. Then there’s the camping and biking, the boating and hiking, the traveling and the triathlon I’m planning for. Last summer may well have been the best ever, and I’m hoping for this summer to be equally as epic. I would welcome your presence for this one.

I spent some time on the front stoop these past few evenings. It’s a great time to watch the sun set behind the trees and the line of houses. It’s the cool of the evening, which, right on schedule, is turning pleasingly mild. Runners pass, and cyclists. The birds are loud and proud to salute the approaching night. Spring’s honeymoon phase is ending; the white blossoms are fading away, replaced by budding greens. I’m glad we have sunsets as a finite reminder that our day has a dawn and a dusk, just as our lives will. It gives us time to reflect on our takeaways and if we spent our hours wisely…on the decisions of the day and how they shape our tomorrow.

I’m liking this pastor, and he’s reminding me once again that mankind doesn’t often need to be taught about what is right or wrong, but we do need reminding. For example, God is the source of our strength, don’t you agree? For believers who have made any study of the Psalms, this is common knowledge. Yet to observe over and over in the Word how success was not necessarily the result of a person’s character or heroism, but because the Lord blessed it. Working out? Studying? Training? All very helpful to mortal eyes, but it’s God who determines the outcomes. In the ancient days, people actually developed a reputation because “his God is with him.” I’m not sure how best to quantify if God is with you, and Christ’s name is Immanuel, God with us. But it does mean picking sides, causes and allies fairly careful doesn’t it? And furthermore, does the sovereignty of God ever sometimes seem frightfully convenient to the church? All the good that you do is God’s doing, God’s blessing and your own skill and decisions, the work and stress you put into them to affect a better outcome, are but the tools He uses. But if something bad happens, it was your fault? (Overlooking the obvious fact that sometimes God teaches best through adverse outcomes, and that our own skills exist only by the grace of God.)

Other points reaffirmed on Sunday: Nothing takes God by surprise, ever. Harmful spirits can come from God. The righteous can expect to suffer for doing what is right.

Of further consideration my dear…Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

On this I wish to address two points. First, to spur each other on. I have thought of opportunities for how I might be spurred on, how we together might find opportunities to stretch ourselves in outreach. How else can we grow if we don’t stretch? But outreach is tricky; I have encountered the “poor” many times, done what I could for them. But in trying to satisfy both the dove and serpent requirements of Psalm 18:26 and Matthew 10:16, I’ve often questioned these people closely in the process, or observed their response. Many are honest in saying they ask only to support their vices, not their daily needs. The hand of charity must be guarded closely, nor dealt too lightly and quickly. Greater harm can be done if care isn’t taken.

But I have been evaluating the situation here, wherein you and I have not found one another. As well, it’s been brought to my attention that healthy role models for boys and young men are needed. And I am beginning to contemplate involving myself in these places, with or without you. But for when your opinion can affect these outcomes, what do you think of  helping run a prison bible study? What of a babysitting night for kids, even special needs kids? What about mentoring children whose parents are in jail, or fostering children whose parents don’t care? What about sponsoring a child, or children overseas? (I plan on doing this already this summer…related not so you will think better of me, but to spur you on to greater deeds of love yourself!)

On the second point, to encourage one another. There are certain people who seem extremely capable of this, as if it truly is their gift to be happy and positive most of the time. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you sometimes I wish I was more disposed to be like them, inclined to look always at the brighter side, and possibly even feeling that inner cheer. I’m sure clouds darken their sun as often as any, but it is their impact on others that I want to replicate. But then, maybe they don’t see the things I see. Maybe they haven’t been through the same darkness, or feel the weight of loneliness and drive to achieve. Maybe the world really does need some people who are a half-cynical, half-caring, and who know what darkness is and how to carry it. Sometimes…sometimes I’m attracted to darkness, not because it is dark, but much the same way a firefighter runs towards smoke or a soldier runs to the battle. Sometimes I’m attracted by the darkness in someone’s eyes that tell me they too have seen darkness and know what it is, the eyes that have faced the same demons and are a little wiser for it.

There’s always a little conflict between “be yourself” and “better yourself”, isn’t there?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between fertile thoughts and frenetic ones, but regardless, the thoughts are set free by a reduction in stress and obligation. I write them not just because I find them interesting or because I want to read them and remember, but because I am interested in the poetic clockwork of your mind, and could not ask for anything I cannot willingly give in return. These years may be dark, but let them not be silent! Let them at least produce a harvest of letters from the past for when we meet.

For you my dear, I write the pictures I cannot paint…the pictures which I’d like to see through your eyes.

Yours,
Beren

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Which We Burn

burning-time

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
Delmore Schwartz

What will become of you and me
Besides the photo and the memory? …
Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Downtown

Church StreetDear Darling,

I’ve been meaning to go down there for a while now. Tonight, it seemed the best way to solve the silence — or at least pretend.

After all, I can’t just haunt country back roads or lonely parks. I may as well venture downtown and see what there is to see. Not that Saturday night after the races is the ideal time. It’s not like I don’t know who I’ll be seeing…the same inebriated and the partiers I saw trackside earlier, the stags and drags of the town who’ve shuffled through another week and are ready to tender their wages into drinks. They’re loud. They’re inappropriate. And they look like they’re having a darn good time. I guess those sorts of things just aren’t marked out for me…I don’t want to surrender my caution or senses to the bottle. I would be less useful to people if I did. Don’t envy the wicked, right? Don’t desire their company. Be zealous for the fear of the Lord, right? Aha, and who is fearful or zealous for the Lord anymore?

For good or ill, we’ve gotten away from who we used to be. Feminism in its more extreme sense arose in response to the perceived insult on women. But I read an intriguing theory on this construct recently. It says that the concept of male and female equality only emerged because there was no longer hardship or competition in the land. Men no longer commanded respect for founding the household, providing the food and shelter or protecting the family from danger. Man has become weakened through his success.

None of that is on my mind as I stroll passed the eateries and pubs. The landmarks are of greater interest to me. I’ve been here before, last year. I may be haunting the city, but its bittersweet memories haunt me back.

The fountain in the park presents a fetching portrait, as does the courthouse by night. As I walk along the row, I spy a lit church steeple a few blocks over, under a crescent moon. The music and frivolity are fast to die away as I make my way to the base of the church. I’m sure there was a time when a restless and world-weary fellow could walk inside and be welcomed there, and meet with his Lord silently. I do love a good empty sanctuary. But of course, it’s Saturday night in the city, and nobody’s home. Those lights are just for show. (I’ve known Christians like that.)

It doesn’t last long. ‘Tis no place can quell the dissonant vacancies that stir my heart night after night.

I know one reason why I’m restless. It’s not just the weather. It’s that I’m not useful. I’m not really caring for anyone. Today I worked, but I only put on band-aids and tended drunks, not the truly ailing. Nor do I mean just patients. I guarantee I’ll be restless even through the summer as I work. I mean you. I keep thinking of places to go or things we can do. I keep thinking of nice things to do for you, and then those inspirations just sit unused.

It’s my job to make sure you’re okay, and I’m not able to. There’s a lot of things in this life trying to make sure you’re NOT okay and I’m sorry I’m not there to balance those out. Such a mystery God would create a heart bent on giving, and then withhold the soul who would receive it.

Rest well tonight, love. See you soon.

Beren

P.S. Did you know that humans glow?

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

Time is a Fire

Darling,

It’s been said that time is the fire in which we burn.

But increasingly, it’s a wearisome fire, and with no warmth to those who walk alone.

Today was just a bad day, and I don’t even know why. How many more ways can I describe to you this restless, wandering, pent-up feeling that gnaws within day after day? I’ve reached that point of the year where I should study the books and would rather burn them instead.

I thought some of that restlessness would drain from me with the blood I donated today, but it didn’t. They tell me today’s made one gallon that I’ve given over the last year or two. The woman was newer at her job, I think, because it hurt more than it ever has. I pictured myself on a beach, or in your arms to keep from showing the pain…I didn’t want to make her feel bad.

I took myself to a movie tonight too, thinking it would help me escape. Instead, vicariously living a brief romance through the character’s relationship, that relationship was ripped apart in death, and it left me rather out of sorts. They weren’t the people I would have chosen to sit with, but God provided some companions, an officer I’ve worked with and his two sons. They both seem to look up to me.

I need more than movies to make passable the fires of time. I’m burning my time now to write to you, but there’s really no one else in whom I can confide. Increasingly I write out a thought or an opinion to share, and then erase it because I quite firmly remind myself no one cares. I invited anyone who could read to join me in donating blood and no one did. I posed a provocative discussion question and no one replied. (But post a picture of an orphaned kitten being adopted out…!)

Okay, so people on the internet are shallow or busy or both. What did I expect? What do I want out of them? What do I want out of life? I suppose in the end, there’s a small part of me that’s frustrated because they aren’t you. Mind you, I care about them and their troubles without it being returned, so I still wish they would grow to be more attentive to their world. So what do I want? Someone to care. Someone to ask me what I want, and care about the answer. Someone to say “You know what YOU need…” and help me figure out the answer when need be. To remind me what I’m doing, what I’ve done, who I am, matters, still matters, is appreciated.

I believe I’ve told you before, the downside of becoming unflappable is that the world becomes mundane. Nothing seems new anymore, and while I’m not much to seek a thrill for its own sake, it’s enough to force me to seek out new experiences.

Part of my identity, my dear, is to be a safety net. I’m part of the network of people that act as a barrier between them and disaster. What does a safety net do? It stands there, stretched taut and under great strain, always ready to catch the clowns and sequined fools who overcharge people for their silly antics and tricks. You spend a lifetime under pressure, under obligation, knowing that when the moment comes you have to perform and if there’s one weak link at one moment in time, the whole thing was for naught. I’m doing that trackside tomorrow. Suited people who have too much money and drink too much alcohol. And as part of the safety net, it’s my job to fight anything from a skinned knee up to and including the Grim Reaper. And what’s more, we lurk unseen. We live under that constant pressure, behind the scenes, forgotten and unappreciated but enabling people to risk their lives because they know someone will be along to save them. They forget people train and learn and study. That we become familiar with Death and study his ways so we can counter them.

Sometimes it’s quite a strain. Maybe it’s a self-imposed strain, but someone has to do it.

It’s funny. We worry about the behavior of our warriors and soldiers, the aggression of our officers and the extremes of our firefighters and emergency medical workers. But truly, that’s who we need them to be. Their behaviors are expected byproducts of who we ask them to become on our behalf…and then we forget about them. We move our cars out of their way and our minds offer just the tiniest self-congratulation that we expedited the process. If I had a dime for every time someone’s told me they could never do that…

I’m sure I sound bitter. And self-congratulatory in my own way. I don’t know what I need anymore. If you ran down the list, I’m far more blessed than I deserve and all my basic needs are met. I just can’t fight the feeling, even as final exams loom ahead of me that I should be doing more, that I’m missing something, that there’s a calling just out of reach. I’m great about work and school and exercise, packing them into a day. I’m good at speed. I’m not so great on the slowdown.

Ah Darling. For all I know, this is one of the many days to come where “yeah, well, you know I have problems too!” will be the retort you have to letters like these. I’d grow weary of them too. And I hope you have someone in your life to call and announce you’ve had a bad day so they can listen. I sure would. And tonight, and on any of nights like these…I just need that from you.

Will you pray for me tonight, my dear? Please.

Your lonely knight,
Beren

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