Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

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

On This Winter’s Night

“The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you.”

Dear Darling,

I greatly hope the new year is treating you even better than the last, heedless of how blessed the last year might have been. Mine? A friend succinctly surmised that last year seems to be bleeding into this year. I expect this year to usher in just as many unexpected cures and curses as the last, and perhaps more. Scattered among the many loose ends, I hope to find the cord that can will lead me to your door. Now wouldn’t you be a bundle of nerves if I were to knock this very night…!

It’s wickedly cold outside, as is the case for most of the country. We are not accustomed to such temperatures in this part of the country, and I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision. You may think me odd, but I’m also grateful for the opportunity to weather such times of hardship. They teach us about ourselves, and make us stronger. Not that much strength can be derived from central heating, but you see what I mean. I’m also grateful to have and share God’s promise in Genesis 8, which many forget: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

I was able to impart this promise with some success to a friend of Alegfast, whom I shall call Loswen. (Its translation from the Elvish roughly means snow-maiden) who is loth to see winter take such fierce hold. The poor dear…I like her, though not romantically, and can see there is frost on her soul that wants thawing. But as I have learnt before, there are some frosts that aren’t mine to thaw.

This past weekend consisted of mostly work, eat and sleep. A lot of days seem to consist of that anymore. I don’t mind, but sometimes I lose track of how much I’ve slept, or when I’ve eaten. I awoke from a nap on Sunday and forgot that I hadn’t eaten lunch.

The next week promises more of the same. I’m also moving again. Alegfast has begun final arrangements, and it appears it’s time to be moving on. God provides, and his provision in this case appears to be arrangements typically far beyond my means. It will put me closer to work and school as well.

Ties with my family have been temporarily but viciously severed for the past few days, a fact which I am at a loss to correct. There’s been no new word this week, and for that I am honestly grateful.

I’ve resolved to spend less time on Facebook if possible this year, and perhaps even less time with digital relationships entirely. Social media has been a vice of mine. The time is better spent in physical health, and relationships, and in study and reading.

School starts back next week. I’ll be glad, but I realized tonight that in dealing with children and a likely front-seat viewing for the miracle of childbirth, it might make me thoughtful for our forthcoming years as parents. Hmm.

These days, I have been contemplating the concept of value. This may seem an oversimplified and abundantly obvious truth, but ultimately, human beings only desire something for its value. Even the charitable and beneficent derive a kind of value from their good works, even if just a feeling of having created value. We hear of people who want greater compensation for their work, but these people overestimate their value in the equation. We complain about the high cost and compensation for doctors and surgeons, but when we require their specialty and expertise, their skill is of inestimable value to restore our bodies and save lives. And as much as we complain about the wealth of musicians and storytellers, at the end of the day these people add value to our lives by making us feel something, letting us escape from our lives, illustrating something (true love, excellence, heroism, courage, fitness, skill) to which we aspire. Ultimately, great numbers of us are willing to purchase the privilege of such value added to our lives.

I overestimated my value, and the value of my degree, in the workforce. Now I’m correcting it with a study of medicine and bedside practice.

Even friendships, I think, subsist on value created. Husbands and wives support and augment each other, and of course derive great value from each other’s presence. The sum of our friendships and relationships are the value which they provide us, even if only as companionship. Those who have greater numbers of friendships are those who can and do provide value to others.

It seems to me I’ve spent a great portion of my life estimating what value is needed in others, and rising to the occasion of learning how to provide it. Such value isn’t always given lightly, but once given, is given gladly and freely. I think in many cases I misunderestimated the demand incumbent on what I thought would be valuable. But in acquiring the skill of a warrior, a healer, a writer and a orator, with scatterings of poet and philosopher, lover and listener, I’ve attempted to become valuable to other peoples’ lives. (I was recently in a cafeteria with Mîlwen when a worker suffered a peculiar spell of a seeming medical nature. I attended her for a short time, and was given free lunch in return.) I don’t say this to congratulate myself. I’m observing that it took intentional effort to acquire the skill requisite to add value to the lives of others. Even now, not only am I learning how to heal the body, but am attaining the skills to be a provider and keep my family in comfort.

Darling, might I make so bold as to ask what value you have in mind to add to your future husband’s life? I know of a girl, a foolish silly girl who could attend a very expensive school for free and yet does not, with the wistful folly of “staying at home to learn how to be a homemaker.” (I speak of my benign internet stalker.)

A woman’s skill extends beyond mere cooking or cleaning, no matter how traditional these may seem. In olden days, a man sought out a woman not just to bear children, but someone who could help him make a life of it, sewing and cooking and cleaning and working. Modern-day luxuries nullify some of these necessities, but that doesn’t diminish their need. Have you ever thought about being a nurse as well? I have a dream of both being employed with an agency, traveling to different towns and states, combining shifts and spending the rest of the week seeing the sights and sounds in each other’s company. These agencies pay quite well. Were we to do such a thing, we could have the time of our lives, and return home a quarter- to a half-million dollars wealthier.

Of course, family will have to come first, and I’ll have to remind myself of that. But the idea is a fun one to conjure on occasion. I could go alone on such ventures. But there is an old African proverb which says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The thought of you is always before me, my dear. There is no song that doesn’t make me wish for your presence. No time of year, whether summer’s sun, winter’s chill, springtime’s beauty or harvest’s bounty, that does not make me think of you.

Stay warm tonight, my love, if such a thing is possible absent my embrace.

Love always,
Beren

“If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter’s night with you
And to be once again with with you.”

Sarah McLachlan

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