you could be happy, I hope you are

I was happy once, I realize walking home in winter. I did not know this before. It seemed to me that I had always been a serious child, a girl who read, who cried easily, who wanted to understand the world and its people but who could not, whose world did not understand her.  And i was a serious child, but I also I laughed and plucked currants from bushes, tracked dirt into the tiled kitchen when I ran to add heaps of sugar to the tart red berries, eating them quickly, like I knew there would be more and more. And there were more berries. Every year we traveled to the suburbs of Chicago and there I was free to listen to the language of home and to run with my cousins to the playground down the street, to shoot my grandfather’s BB gun at soda cans, to ride the tractor with him, to splash in the neighbors’ above-ground pool, to roll on the skateboard down the driveway again and again, to gather the currants and wash the stains off my hands, the tart taste of currants and sugar on my tongue.

one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave

M and I broke up six weeks ago, on a Tuesday, when the rain was pouring and it had just gotten too difficult. Or maybe I made that up. The difficulty part. Maybe he just wanted some space alone, maybe he wanted to see what another girl was like, maybe we just couldn’t make it work now. Maybe not ever. I do not know. What I do know is that I am grateful.

I wasn’t at first. Or I was, but it was hard, or I wasn’t, but I am now. I do not know. But to spend four years falling in love and loving a beautiful person was something beautiful and lovely. Transient too, apparently, but the sweetness of what we had was extraordinary. We haven’t talked since that Tuesday though. I do not know if he will call this weekend over Thanksgiving break like he said he would. I don’t know what he would say. I want to tell him this: “There’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave. You were what I wanted, I gave what I gave. I’m not sorry I met you, I’m not sorry it’s over, I”m not sorry there’s nothing to say.” I want to sing him that and know he knows the song and my voice will always stay with him and that I’m fine, most of the time, happy even, or if not happy, content and that I will always love him somewhere in my heart.

I loved him with my whole heart and soul and mind, and that was enough for long enough and now it’s not, and now we are not together, and I understand this and respect him and care for him anyway. And I know he loved me with everything he had and was, and if he can’t anymore, I know that somewhere he will continue loving me.

This is what I am grateful for this year. The chance to have known a deep and true love. The chance to venture out on my own and learn to love myself more. The chance to meet new friends. The friends I already have who have known me in different ways over the years and who continue to know me and to let me know them. Connections. Everyone who has ever loved me. Everyone I have ever loved. My family, of course. My parents and siblings, my grandparents, and my dear animals. The poetry that someone hangs up around school. The library with its abundance of books and knowledge. The laboratory in which I have seen embryonic development and the inner workings of animals and those animals which I have used to learn. The theatre with its truth about beauty and love and what it means to hurt. Music. Scholarships that allow me to study and learn and grow. Support. My tiny basil plant and my orchid which haven’t died yet. Chai tea lattes. Candlelit prayer services with songs that have been lifted from my heart. November. New beginnings.

your hair in the moonlight, your brown eyes, goodbye good night

I love him. This I know. This I have faith in. This I will trust, because to trust is all I can do. It’s a poem that carries me through, that I find myself saying, praying the words because I don’t know God but I do know words and these are true. This is the truth, the Scripture I believe in: “And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can’t read the address.” My life is delivered faithfully and will be. It’s just now, what to do, who to trust, why to believe.

At night, we promise each other to love one another, to commit, to believe, to meet in the field in our dreams. Lately, we have not promised to commit, to believe. We have been dating for almost three years and seven months. I need some time alone, a time to be myself without an influence of him. I’m scared though. We are tangled, a double helix, he is part of the DNA of my day. He is part of who I am. I don’t know what it’s like to be with someone else. I don’t particularly want to now, but I need to know that he is the one I have chosen and he is the one who is right for me. I do not believe in regret, but this is an opportunity to make sure I do not regret later.

But I don’t believe in breaks. My parents have never taken a break, his parents have never taken a break, my American grandparents never took a break, my Polish grandparents have never taken a break. This is not to say that breaks can’t be good, but just that I don’t know of an instance where they have worked.

This weekend, he was here again. A distance relationship with moments of pure happiness only every few weeks, and then a depressed happiness, not depression but not happiness, just a feeling of mediocrity, of missing, of longing. So long as this distance is here, I will long. There will always be a sense of sadness, of living with an absence that, in part, defines me.

So I don’t know what to do with this love, with my fears and dreams and hopes. In five years, I will love him. There are other people, but none of them have those characteristics I love him for: his kindness, respect, honesty, creativity, hardworking spirit, commitment, sense of humor, trustworthiness, hope, wit, intelligence, and silliness. I won’t find someone else like him, and if I am looking, it will always be to find someone like him, someone I can love with the depth I love him, but why look? There’s a curiosity I must satisfy, a way of ensuring that he is the one for me. I don’t want to marry or commit for any longer unless I know. I’m scared, and I’m ashamed. The other verse I hear, I pray: everyone forgets that Icarus also flew. And yes, we flew. We soared above the clouds and saw the world and knew love and we do know love and now I just need a moment to remind myself. Remind me, love. Let me remember, and wait, if you will.

tonight, oh chase this light with me

Yesterday evening, Matthew and I walked to the Metro station across the bridge so he could take the Metro to reach the bus station and eventually make it home. The cold air was biting, and we held hands in his coat pocket, trying to keep as warm as possible. We were silly, as usual, spinning around to look for the city limit signs, kissing on street corners while waiting for the signal to change, hopping up onto the curbs, finishing each other’s sentences. When we arrived at the station, he passed through the turnstile and headed to the tracks, while I watched him descend on the escalator, hand raised in the ASL “I love you” sign, mine mirroring his.

The walk back was cold, but there was a warmth filling me, a strange comfort. Even as my eyes filled with tears at the sadness of his leaving, I had an overwhelming sense of peace, of happiness, of love. I love him, and he loves me, and we’re together, even miles apart, even oceans away from each other. What we have is wonderful, amazing, beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of, an answer to my prayers far greater than I had hoped. This is the greatest feeling in the world: to be loved and to love, completely, deeply, honestly, with everything I am. To know, without a doubt, that when we go to sleep, there’s a field out beyond right and wrong where our souls lie down together in the grass; to make my way through each day enveloped in love; to grow with someone whom I love and trust more than the sky is tall; to have and to be a co-pilot in this mazey world; to laugh and to fall in love again and again: this is the eighth wonder of the world.

and from her lips you drew the Hallelujah

The past couple of weeks I have felt a swirling cloud of doubt. It has cast an eerie glow over every part of my life, making me unsure of everything. I find myself contemplating eating a piece of chicken though I have been a strict vegetarian for over seven years and believe it is wrong to eat animals. My dream of becoming a pediatric ER doctor has shifted into a confusion over what I should become, whether I should pursue something else that could lead to a more fruitful life. Matthew and I ebb and flow like an ocean, some days closer and other days farther, and I believe we trust and love one another to make the coming years work, though long-distance won’t be easy, but other days I wonder and my imagination runs off with the worst. The God I sometimes knew and mostly didn’t seems to be twisting away more and more, and I know it’s not God, it’s me who can’t seem to find the dedication to find a practice to pursue. I know that if I ever want to reach God, I must choose a pathway and stick with it — God is not found on the edges. And yet I hear myself talking to that God, thanking him for still another day in something so close to paradise.

I can’t stop crying when I meet with Matthew at the coffee shop and tell him all this doubt and anxiety and awfulness inside, and then he says what he says every night:I will love whatever you become and love all the things we’ve done, and I think our lives have just begun; and I’ll meet you in the field tonight. and I believe him.

closer than we think to home

At my university, I am part of a Christian group on campus. This group has caused me enormous difficulties in trying to discover what my faith means to me because they are so far from the Christianity I know and consider to be a sort of home, but at the same time, they’ve given me people who care about my spiritual well-being. So in my small group (the group I’ve met with every Wednesday since early September), we’re reading a book about wonder in a relationship with Jesus and God.

(What I meant by the “Christianity I know and consider to be a sort of home” is that going to church is comforting for me. It gives me a chance to be quiet for a little bit, and that time of quiet is something I treasure. It is a place where other people can reach God, and even if I can’t reach him, I am reminded that maybe I can some day. I am surrounded by people who believe, or who try to believe, and the minister invariably says something to the seekers or those who aren’t sure if they believe, and it makes me feel welcome.

The service M and I like to attend on Sundays is the Celtic service at St. Stephen’s. The service is about God and connecting with him through meditation and silent prayer, and I love that. They also have some beautiful things they say which always make me want to follow the God they follow. I’m just going to type up some of the parts from the service a few weeks ago.

“A Prayer for the Evening: Teach us, Loving God, not to hold on to life too tightly. Teach us to hold it lightly, not carelessly, but lightly, easily. Teach us to take it as a gift, to enjoy and cherish while we have it, and to let it go gracefully and thankfully when the time comes. The gift is great, but the Giver is greater still. You, O God, are the Giver, and in you is the life that never dies. Amen.

The Grace: Now my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable; with these let us fill our hearts, and the God of heaven will be with us. Amen.

Communion: This is the table, not of the Church, but of the Lord. It is made ready for those who love him and for those who want to love him more. So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often and you who have not been here long, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed. Come, because it is the Lord who invites you. It is his will that those who want him should meet him here.

Blessing: May joy and nothing less find you on the way. May you be blessed and a blessing. And may light guide you, and countless others, all the way home. Amen.

The Dismissal: Go out into the world in peace, have courage, hold on to what is good, return no one evil for evil, strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the suffering, honor everyone, love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God.”

Anyhow, I think that makes more sense now.)

The entire chapter for tomorrow was on faith and doubt and the value of asking questions. (“When people are hungry for God, every question is “right”…Curiosity is welcome in the presence of Jesus even when it is not welcome anywhere else.”) It was amazing — like it was written with me in mind. There were some great things in the chapter, but the part at the end was the most engaging. It was a set of discussion questions. Parts of them read, “Jesus had to be killed because He had to be silenced. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, wanted Jesus dead because his questions were threatening, even dangerous. Think about your own questions about faith–have any of them been “silenced”? What are they?…What unanswered questions bother you, frustrate you, or make it difficult for you to grow?…List all the questions you have about God. Even though you don’t have all the answers, try to allow your questions to bring you closer to God.” So, here are the questions I came up with in a few minutes.

Where are you? Why does it hurt? Am I loved? Where did you go? How can I hear you? What is the point of prayer? Why should I worship you? What is my purpose? How can I love better? Do you heal? How come I can’t hear you? How do I get to you? Where does Jesus factor into this? How should I know you? Who are you? Why did you create us? How can I better serve? Why do your followers act like that? How should I follow? Is there such thing as sin? Why should we be close? Is there a heaven? Would you punish those who break a law? Do you have laws? Where is justice? Where is your compassion? Will I be punished for seeking? Where am I going to end up if I can’t have faith like them? Why is it so hard for me? Is this worth it?

a tablespoon of feather to cool me to the bone

In my Christian middle school, the reverend gave a sermon one Tuesday. I don’t remember much of it, only this one image he painted. Everyone was a fish in a fishing pond. Occasionally, one fish would be struggling violently without reason. Or so we would think. The fish would have been caught by a fishing hook and the invisible fishing line would be keeping her in pain and struggling, but we other fish couldn’t understand because we couldn’t see and didn’t know and so we just thought she was causing a fuss for no reason.

I try to remember this now, the fish on the line, when I interact with other people. I can see pain, but I have yet to learn when it is best to just be there and when you’re supposed to do something. And then I hope that it’s not too much to ask for others to keep that struggle in mind with me. My disorder is invisible, well, what it is is, but the ways it manifests itself are so obvious to everyone, but the fact that those problems are caused by something I can’t control is not nearly as obvious.

It was actually amazingly wonderful two weeks ago to go to the DR with a school group. We did a lot of eye-opening work in the public schools, but we also did group bonding activities. I felt they were stupid because how are you supposed to get close with someone in seven days? You can’t, or at least, I can’t. But there was this reflection exercise one evening. The question was, “What have you overcome?” I was going to say something true but superficial, like that I overcame a language barrier when I went to Russia. True, yes. Deep, no. The others went before me and their obstacles were significantly more meaningful than my language barrier: things like rape, suicide, rehab, death, racial discrimination, et cetera. So I shared mine: NVLD. I explained that I have an inability to read any non-verbal cues; that I’m in therapy to practice how I’m supposed to talk with people instead of to them, how to sit in class so I don’t isolate myself, how to recognize emotions on faces and differentiate between anger and sadness, anxiety and depression, contentment and weariness. I did not say that if I hear certain noises, I have to expend a considerable amount of energy not to panic; that I fixate on things and can’t stop thinking about them even when it’s detrimental to me and even when my thoughts and my sharing them is hurting someone (i.e. obsessing over the possibility of getting murdered and lots of women are murdered by their partners, therefore M, you could murder me, you could murder me, you could murder me, how do I know you won’t murder me, how do I know, you could, you could, and repeating with the words cycling cycling cycling until he calms me and pulls me out of my thoughts despite being hurt that I wouldn’t trust him); that I have difficulty recognizing faces and telling them apart; that my psychiatrist gave me a prescription to watch television so I could learn how neurotypicals interact; that I don’t understand jokes and will stand awkwardly for that moment and then replay the joke and the reaction it garnered over and over until I am even more confused; that having one unanswered question in class will prevent me from hearing the rest of the lecture; that this disorder is inescapable and pervades everything in my life. I didn’t say all of that, just that I have NVLD, and the group members made me feel so cared about. They said they hadn’t noticed my social interaction difficulties, merely that I seemed reserved, and nothing nicer has ever been said to me by such strangers.