reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

If you are not a person who randomly scribbles notes in journals, in tiny booklets lost in the bottom of your purse, and on the backs of envelopes of bills you forgot to pay you might not understand this. If you do not find yourself saving little bits of poetry in your phone, dog-earring pages of books so that best lines can be found again and again, or hear yourself saying things like, “What is that one thing Flannery said?” then maybe this will not resonate with you.

I process my inner world in words. In revisiting some words, I find they no longer fit–like shoes I have outgrown. Sometimes however I find old words that still feel like putting on that favorite sweater you haven’t worn in years–it still smells, feels, and fits like a cozy skin.

something hastily scribbled in a notebook living in the bottom of my purse

Four years ago my life changed in one dramatic moment of just unbelievable courage. I had lived in the oppressiveness so long that one could say I was used to it. I rationed my peace like someone with limited oxygen at the bottom of the sea. I could live on so little peace that it seemed normal. But, God, who bottles tears and lines his throne room in perfect symmetry with my wonder and prayers, had a plan to rescue me and bring me back to the surface. Four years ago I set a boundary I didn’t know if I could keep. Four years ago I said the words I meant with my marrow. In that moment my life and the life of my children changed. I said, “That’s enough.”

I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to say the words and hold them like a standard in battle. The Holy Ghost knew, and he held my hands. Like the words of my song (a gift from a friend), “When your hand shakes upon the lines you hated to draw. And it breaks your heart, he’s gone. Follow strength and carry on.”

It has now been four years of being a single parent. I recently found a note I don’t actually remember writing: “People say things like ‘you deserve everything.’ But truth be told, I would settle for a lot less than everything. I don’t want a soulmate. I just want a companion. Just someone who will hug me when the loneliness creeps out of heart and into my body making my bones ache. I don’t need to be someone’s whole world…I just want to be reminded that I am not just a struggling single parent, that I am still a woman. What I really want is to fall asleep in peace and safety and have that person still be there when I wake up–because they choose to be. No one talks about how much loneliness affects your physical body, that there is a physical element of actual pain involved. It’s my least favorite part of being alone.”

What is that one thing Flannery said? Oh, yeah, “I do not want to be lonely all my life but people only make us lonelier by reminding us of God.”

In October as I was wrapping up my time in New Hampshire one of my staff dropped a little glass dessert plate. It shattered into thousands of tiny shards. I asked everyone to step back as I cleaned it up. My staff member felt so badly; she apologized profusely. But I simply said, “But look how beautifully it shattered.” That is the working title of my memoir.

Beautiful shards

Remember this and never forget it: even if it should seem at times that everything is collapsing, nothing is collapsing at all, because God doesn’t lose battles.

St. Josemaria Escriva

Four years of being alone and I would still settle for a lot less than everything. Except now it is not because I would be satisfied with the crumbs of life. It is not because I feel unworthy or unlovable or past my expiration date. I would settle for a lot less than everything because I see in the shards a picture of the whole. I am OK with standing in the shadow, because the sun exists, to be part of that larger and more transcendent picture–a beautiful shattering of all illusions, reflecting something so much greater.

It is like that thing Flannery said, “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that I block the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.”

(Song by Jimmy, link here.)

One thought on “A lot less than everything

  1. Michael Simmons says:

    Your words, thoughts and attitude are inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share with the rest of us!


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