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

18 Romantic Snow Day Ideas

02. Wierusz-Kowalski, Alfred - Goraca sannaDear Darling,

It’s snowing again. I can look out the broad windows and see a fresh and generous cloud of snow coating the city that sleeps. I guessed it would be a cold and snowy winter for once, and so it has.

I love snow. It excites me, activates the little kid in me. It’s beautiful, and inspiring. There’s only one thing missing.

Most programs have canceled for tomorrow, but I doubt mine will. A snow cancellation once offered a day’s worth of winter fun, before all this reality set in. But together, my dear…together we will set a new tone for reality. And even now, daydreams of the luxuries such free days would open to us provide a warm and inviting diversion.

Think what it would mean to awaken and find all pending obligations are canceled. Laying in bed with nothing to disturb us. How might such days be spent? Cabin fever seems a remote possibility in the face of such contemplations, but let us see where a day’s events may take us.

1) Movies – An obvious choice. There’s nothing better than to bank a few films for just such opportunities as these.

2) Puzzles – They often seem a frustratingly idle use of time for me, needlessly spent on a fruitless task. But, if your amusement and deep conversation are to be achieved, I’m game.

3) Cooking – Whether a fancy dinner or just cooking up an entire week’s worth of food, I’m sure bonding is done as easily over an oven as over a television. Bonus, cooking over a wood fire.

4) Sledding – Why not be young at heart again and pretend our bodies can take the blows our young selves once withstood? Why not snow angels, snowball fights or the active search for a steep hill? Why not find a posse of neighboring children and split into team captains?

5) Pillows – These multipurpose stuffed consorts are suitable for building forts, or winning fights. Growing up is only something children want to do, and being grown-up is only something the immature fret about.

6) Charity – Why not buy gallons of hot chocolate and find some cold people on a street corner? I’m sure our four-wheel drive can accommodate the road hazards.

7) Ice skating – One or both of us may find the ice leaves more marks on us than we do the ice, but I know the very place I would take you now, if I could.

8) Photos – I often find singularly frustrating the uncaptured beauty I must neglect in the pursuit of my adult obligations. Like the freezing fog through which the moonlight shone, too beautiful to miss and too fleeting to capture. Like the snowfall outside my window now, the back roads and wildlife that calls them home. Sometimes the life we’re busy chasing is busy passing us by!

9) Lodge – Maybe it’s too many Cabela’s adverts for flannel-spun garments, but there’s something about a wooden lodge or lake house, somewhere comfortably between rustic and modern, that calls to me. The escape, the mountain air, the chance to escape the world for a little while. Maybe we’d even get snowed in.

10) Marriage bucket list – The places we want to go, and the things we want to do in our marriage…the milestones we want to achieve. Or maybe just comparing our own bucket lists and seeing which ones we could cross off together.

05. Fischer, Anton Otto - A Winter Scene, Lovers On Skis11) Poetry – Trading reading poetry aloud, in varying accents

12) Vacations – Ready to lay aside some unique tropical getaways? Is there an exotic location on your bucket list? Or just the vacation laid aside for the spring or summer? The song says later on we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire. Who are we to argue?

13) Skiing – Those of us who are in the 99th percentile in height may find such activities more hazardous than others whose height growth kept them lower to the ground. Yet, finding ski lodge that offers such experiences sounds okay by me, certainly something to try once! I can see us all bundled up, with runny noses, ruddy cheeks and hat hair, but dined and divined at day’s end, washed and exhausted and laughing together as we retire to the room.

14) Party – Planning a mid-winter’s gathering, a snow party or even a ball to drive the winter’s cold doldrums away.

15) Games – Cards don’t easily occupy me, nor do most games with only two at the helm. But perhaps a nice tournament of pool or table tennis would be in order…perhaps with some sly and mischievous penalties for losing.

16) Restaurants – Snow days become snow nights. Why not bundle up in our finest (and warmest) for a fine restaurant with dim lights and gentle music, walking back to our car under a glittering night of frosty stars and a snowy road home?

17) Dancing – A seven-course ensemble of slow-dancing to the serenades of Frank Sinatra, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.

18) Fireside chats – Sharing secrets and warmth as the light flickers off our bodies and our shadows dance on the walls.

These, my dear, will surely be the days and nights of pure nights of bliss, to bask in the frivolity of our youth and our love, to build memories and love together. The days that were magical from youth can be reclaimed once again. The taboos which once forbade us tread further will be dispelled. And for once, I’ll be your companion as you slip slowly into your dreams.

As surely as the memory of fire can warm, so the thoughts of how the evenings may one day be spent lends the warmth of hope to this night…and blunts the edge of this beautiful aching.

Yours ever,
Beren

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Holidays, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year’s Snow

Dear Darling,

Finally, it’s snowed again. The cars are all frosted over and the driveway would probably be slick to get up if the truck wasn’t already parked there. I worked last night, and found the snow upon awakening this afternoon. It’s bitterly cold, and the light casts cross-hatched quilts of light on the snow outside. The street light’s amber glow is far from romantic, but it does afford a view of both night and white as they swirl and drift and coat the streets and rooftops.

We watched another patient depart behind the great veil last night…whither to heaven or hell, I know not. They don’t usually let people in my position start IVs, but if the nurse is willing, it’s been known to happen. In my case, I started one because the ICU nurse couldn’t. It was a grim night, but I would rather face a grim night with someone than a happy night alone.

When I awoke, I cleaned the whole house. Alegfast was returning with his father and mother, and I knew anyone appreciated a clean, fragrant and inviting house. I sometimes enjoy cleaning for its own value, and it will have to suffice until some night when you are out late and return through a snowy night to find a fire burning, the dishes gleaming and your husband at the piano as I was tonight. (Would you like to hear the song I was playing tonight?)

And all the way, thoughts were ricocheting inside my head.

Misery is comfortable.

Happiness takes work.

No one should be alone at a time like this.

People don’t want you to be smarter than they.

You have to take most people on their terms, not yours.

People who are young, weak or helpless often seem drawn to me.

I can’t wait to have someone who would take time to clean a house and make it inviting just for me.

I’m going through a rocky time in my relationship with my family. I think there are times where human beings owe it to each other not to be alone, such as break-ups, losses, sickness or sadness. This is one of them. That’s why it’s ironic to talk with a friend or two, and find them having very little if anything to offer, even when I was there for them. My drive to “be there” for people will always be there regardless of their ability to return the favor, but sometimes the one-sidedness frustrates. Anyway, Alegfast was kind enough to ask, and after a long trip too.

Do you think you can help me deal with problems like this? Can you teach me to love them and respond in grace, even when the situation is impossible? Can you find for me the line between responding with grace and rewarding behaviors that shouldn’t be rewarded? Will you let me hate on them for a few frustrated minutes without hating them yourself? Can you help me to respond God’s way? You see, through it all, I love my family. I want you to love them to. But you will also be that sacred repository of confidential frustrations, the person who will hear the bad along with the good. I hope I can share those things with you and not fear that you will dislike my parents, or think I can’t get along with them.

I want to be most totally and truly myself in your company…and to make you comfortable and confident to be yourself in mine. I want us to share our glories and gripes freely, without fear of seeming proud or selfish or unkind…or if we are, then to have freedom and safety to show even those parts of us which are unkind and selfish and proud, knowing that we are more than the sum of those vices.

Sometimes, I think if you are as willing to make a relationship work as am I, success is just a matter of finding each other.

I leave you with a quote from Napoleon, to his wife, at a time when he was emperor and controlled almost all of Europe: “Without his Josephine, without the assurance of her love, what is left him upon earth? What can he do?”

Pray for me, beloved Luthien.

Love,
Beren

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On This Beautifully Treacherous Night

Dear Beautiful,

This kind of weather always sends my city scrambling. Schools cancelled, roads clogged, and bread and milk quickly snatched off the shelves. I have a decent reservoir of food at the house, so I’m not fearful of starving, but I also know the weather here is rarely truly dramatic. It’s only a little ice. My truck is quite capable of holding its own in the snow, and as I drove home tonight from family movie night by the Christmas tree, the last hints of snow cloak the night in winter. Not a soul is on the roads. The tree limbs are crystallized, shaking and cracking like brittle bones, or the leaves they surrendered just a month or two ago.

Few things compare to the scent fresh snow on the winter air. I want to make more of it. I would settle for snow all the rest of this month. It’s easier to feel drowsily pleased when you’ve been up thirty-six hours, of course. I wonder if I shouldn’t work Christmas Eve night so as to feel the warm and sleepy happiness that exhaustion sometimes lends.

I saw a heart today…a true, live beating flesh and blood heart. It was amazing, and I would have regaled you with other tales of the day as we had dinner tonight, if I’d found you by now. I’d have told you how the anesthesiologist team was kind to me, and how intelligent the surgeons were. Then I’d have asked you why you didn’t marry one of them, since you are clearly a woman of such quality as to find one. (A disconcerting thought when I think of the alternatives that could tempt you; I’m not sure I’ve yet compiled a future comfortable enough to satisfy you, but the potential is brimming and the future bright.) Here, my dear, is where I hope you’d silence me with assurance there is no one else and no amount of money that could tempt you to a future different from ours. That’s what makes you so wonderful, you know.

I’d have gone outside to see the snow after dinner and stand in it with an upturned face and closed eyes. You’d have come as far as the door to see, and watch me, before complaining about the cold. I’d have come back to the door, taken you into my arms, dipped you around, and kissed you. Then you’d have pulled me back inside.

We are to be happy with what we are given, and what I have been given is what and where I am now. So I should be content tonight, a peaceful trip with gentle Christmas carols playing and the snow falling. As with so many things, it seemed only a single emphatic note away from being a complete symphony of joy.

Easier to surrender when you’ve been worn down, both to despair and to contentedness. Perhaps a hint of each as I drift off to sleep tonight?

Love ever,
Beren

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Holidays | , , , , , , | Leave a comment