a saint, a stray, & starting over.

We mused together once (coffee cups cooling between us, or road stretched ahead—-the soul-talks blur), that to miss someone, to say it out loud, might be the most vulnerable thing.

What did we say? It means–

Your presence means something to me. Something important. You’re gone, and I feel that.

We giggled over our own stilted definition, but hmmming along knowing that saying so points to our chipped paint.

“I miss you,” means I’m missing something. It means admitting that I am somehow without.

I wrote out those words slow and scripty in a letter to a friend. I’m not sure I knew how much I meant it, how much like an eggshell edge it made me feel. That was almost a week ago, and I’ve been finding fragile pieces everywhere, in everything, since then. I’m anticipating upheaval, the turnover, the emptiness clothed in fulness of life that’s coming in four months when I move away.

Four months–a lifetime, a breath. I’m feeling it already. I mourn loss too soon or too late.

I think I’m starting to miss people while they are standing in front of me–scraping food off the plate, or handing me the phone–close enough to touch, to hold.

But I think, too, I’m starting to miss parts of myself.


I think I’ve been missing God for a while now, and I realized the other day when I was doing the dishes that I’m not quite sure if or when we said goodbye. 

Maybe this is the axle.

Maybe I’m at the wall (to quote Lauren Winner for the thousandth time), but mostly I’m pretty sure I’m running around trying to make noise in every other room of the house, refusing to slow down enough to acknowledge it’s there.

To slow down enough to say, I’m without.


I ask, all frustration and self-chastising,

Why can’t I just get over this?

Why can’t I stop poking pouty sticks around in the dirt, like a child?

It’s Eastertide–why can’t I stand upright like the Resurrected?

She stops me, firmly,

This isn’t nothing. This is real.

I have this conversation again with another on the phone–the same why-can’t-I-tear-this-out-of-myself.

She tells me, soft,

Honey. You’re leaving your Camelot. You’re going this alone. It’s okay to feel it.


The head-nod was important for calling out some of the shadows, the rattling echoes: to point and say, “I see it too, I hear it too.”

The anxiety, the dark is not made up.

And then the knowing that whispers,

but you have to do the work of starting over, love. Even if you start over every day.

These things do come without invitation, like a mean stray cat; but there’s a difference between watching it lurk on your stoop and letting it in the front door, feeding it your best.

I’ve learned that acedia, the restless-sadness-heaviness-sluggishness that comes to visit mind-body-spirit is edged out in the ways that don’t seem brave, or even faithful–like small acts of love, like listening, like seeking the things that once taught grace.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes that there are two paths for facing it, the sorrow in particular. The first we expect from the cerebral Doctor–we overcome the vice through grace with caritas, with virtue, with prayer, with perspective on our own troubles. Good counsel, if hard to grasp at times.

The second is more surprising–

A good night of sleep. A warm bath. A glass of wine.

Before I even take his advice, it catches in my throat.

It sounds silly, but here the saint points me to the Incarnated God, closer than my skin.

Bodily remedies for us as embodied souls, ensouled bodies.

Surely, He is not far from any one of us.


The thing is, there aren’t any formulas, not really. We simply begin the work of starting over. Starting over every day.


16 thoughts on “a saint, a stray, & starting over.

  1. Well, goodness, this is beautiful writing. I love to talk about this sort of thing, too, the deep stuff about how you feel when change makes you unrooted, disconnected. You want to lift up out of the God place, which is the vulnerable place, you want to lock your throat against a world that doesn’t stay the same. But you know this, here: you’re feeling it beautifully: just rest yourself. God is the only thing that isn’t changing. (s)He is the only still point in the whole circus, and will go with you like the moon.

    • oh goodness. pocketing this, Esther. thanks for nodding along.

      I’m sure you know this, but it makes me think of Eliot’s four quartets:

      “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
      Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
      But neither arrest nor movement.
      And do not call it fixity,
      Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
      Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
      There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
      I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where
      And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.”

      strangely praying with these words and yours today.

  2. Maybe it’s just that I’m facing moving and life-transitions too, but this resonates with me. I listened to a sermon on my way up to DC and then went to a mass tonight where we were encouraged to see every good thing as being from God–to name what is beautiful in life right now. For me, those are the small acts that are helping to make it a little better.

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