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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Thy, will be done.

On Friday, I send sixty-one emails to strangers beginning with the line,

we regret to inform you

ending with

we wish you well in your academic pursuits.

I chew my fingernail to the quick, watching all sixty-one blink into my ‘sent’ folder on the little PC screen. A grad student walks in to check the mail, making odd noises as he enters. The copy machine is is out of staples, and insists on telling me so.

I try not to cry.

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My friend Erica doesn’t tell people, not even close friends, about works-in-progress. She believes she is less likely to labor toward her goals if she gets the immediate relief of divulging her plans.

I am not good at following this line of action, but there are a lot of things Erica wins at.

I have told a number of people, even on this little corner of the internet, that I have applied to grad school.

But only one.

One school, one fragile egg in the basket.

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A year ago, around this time, I received a “we regret to inform you” email.

Three hours later, the guys and I were toasting what were probably French 75s in what was probably the incorrect glassware, and no bitters. (Waco, we sometimes asked too much of her.)

I told them I knew I applied for all the wrong reasons as soon as I read that line–that I wanted the two-year security, that I wanted to get out of Texas, and even maybe that I wanted it to at least sound like I was saving the world.

We were a little floundering together that night–one between seminary and a question mark, the other still waiting to hear on St. Andrews. We toasted to Plan Bs, some absurd, some not-so. We kept each other in mind.

Now, they’re both in the middle of being brilliant in their respective programs.

And I’m in the waiting place again.

I’m busy-making, two jobs and two classes and too much extroversion. When I’m still, the panic. The blank drawn at plan B. The shaky Thy will be done.

Sometimes in church I think about that still, I think maybe that is what we should be praying for, not just that God’s will be done, but that everything that is God’s everything that is His, everything that is Thy, will be done. Yours be done, I chant in my head. Yours yours yours. Everything that is Yours.

The irony that this, from Lauren Winner, floats across my head in this time, hits me later–it’s her school I’ve applied to, her book that even put it on my radar.

One year ago.

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Annie Barnett writes a small but jam-packed thing that wrecks me:

In this present moment.

I am due to find out about my admission and funding for this graduate program at the end of February, possibly the second week of Lent. Soon, somewhat.

That’s my limited sight, for now. But really, it all is, isn’t it?

Now we see through a glass darkly…

Our professor reminds us again in a class on St. Thomas Aquinas and caritas that the difference in our sight and God’s, in our knowing and His, is not even just distance and time, but in manner and mode. We know through lists and steps and bits and pieces and even stories–discursion. But He knows in full one fell swoop, in a breath, by absorption, intuition–and even these comparisons are small heresies. 

Our sight is all limitation, on this side of things.

So I find myself in another Advent in the middle of Epiphany, and I am praying for the showing-forth of Christ, for ears to hear Him, for eyes to see Him, however deaf and blind I may be.

For even now, even in the fear, there are doves descending and water turned to wine.

I want to wait well. Pockets emptied of Plans A-Z.

I pray to be faithful even if disappointment, even if the we regret to inform you.

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I read a prayer written by a woman centuries ago, and I know it is mine:

For I am His. O then take care of my Soul and Body, for both are thine. Conserve, increase, and nourish all the good purposes thou hast inspir’d into me, for they are also thine.

I am all thine, save me; my Understanding is thine, illuminate it; my Will is thine, govern it; my Memory is thine, fill it; my Life is thine, preserve it; my Friends are thine, bless them, and secure them all to thy self, for all is thine.

Amen.

Thine, Thine, Thine.

Yours Yours Yours.

Amen.