Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Blessed Are Those Who Mourn..."

for they shall be comforted. If you've ever been at a funeral when this part of the Beatitudes has been read, you'll know how those words jar with your emotions, seem the most ironic and even among the dumbest things to say to a mourner. There is no comfort, one thinks, equal to the pain of grief. Hence, the mourning. Though goodness knows, the comforters try to return you to moving on and mental health as strenuously as they can.

Thomas Lynch, poet and funeral director, had a piece in the NY Times today, "Our Near Death Experience," ostensibly about what the Pope's funeral taught us about grieving, but quite pointedly about our rush toward celebration and closure. "The genuine dead, " he writes, "are downsized or disappeared...the talk determinedly 'life affirming'...where someone can be counted on to declare 'closure' just before the merlot runs out." A man after my own heart, as may be gleaned from some things I've written here already. The beatitude is jarring because our society denies that mourning carries any blessing. As a woman I know who had lost her husband of forty years about seven months before said to me in a voice not far from cracking, she was "keeping busy" and "trying not to dwell." That I find this picture of mental health (or its wording) an egregious fallacy of the midwest will have to wait. These are the signs of recovery and closure that will keep the luncheons with friends coming, and ward off their vigilance should any backsliding into mourning occur. We do not demand of each other that we forget the object of our loss so much as we close off the talking about and feeling of loss by focusing on the "positive," where meaning presumbly resides. Lynch reminds us, though, that "the good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love."

Today in the Anglican-Episcopal calendar it is a day of commemoration for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and so it seemed right that Lynch's piece should appear on this day. It was a paragraph from one of Bonhoeffer's works that finally made sense of this beatitude for me (though Bonhoeffer was not writing on the Beatitudes), and explains what it means "to go the distance." I had found it quoted in a prayer book and copied it into my notebook, so here it is, for Mr. Lynch, for my friend, and for anyone who still mourns beyond their allotted time, the only Bonhoeffer quote I know:

Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try to find anything. We must simply hold out and win through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I try to imagine her getting the package, untying the string. Did she toss them away, or did she open the bag and take out a few pieces, and sit looking at them, as I might have done ? There is so much that likely will never be said between us. I saved her message on my answering machine for a long time, so surprised, I think, by the kindness and emotion in her voice. We don't know each other that well, really. I wonder about the little chocolate animals spilling out into her hand, if she knows how much I cared for him, because that is what I want her to know, isn't it ? How, because he wanted me to care, he would delight me by telling me stories about the two of them ?

Did we all want the same thing ?

Smoke and Lying Vanities

Today while I am driving home, I see an older, gray, boxy Beemer in the far left hand turn lane ahead. I can't see the driver. Its plates read: LIETOME.
I would like to know that story.
Rejoice, and let your heart cheer you indeed !

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

O Animula Vagula Blandula

A plate full of spaghetti and another round of lying phone calls also yielded last night to myself, but I was too tired to write more. There has been a development of sorts, a test that was really no contest. When friends couldn't decide something, really couldn't decide something, I would tell them to flip a coin, not because it would absolve them of intellectual and moral responsibility in their quest for authenticity, but because I held that it would make the wrong choice immediately clear. Having the coin go the wrong way seems to evoke some limbic knowledge of what we really wanted all along.

So for my restless soul, my dear wandering soul. Though I must say, I think I knew, no I know I knew; I just didn't want this very particular choice to come my way now. To GET OUT of where I have ended up, professionally and possibly geographically, I had applied to a selective agency that could find me a better position doing what I have ended up doing (is this vague enough ? sorry. I am too tired and not yet ready to get into it), so a lateral move to a different sector of the same profession, which is not what I want to be doing. They accepted me and sent my credentials to a number of places, and as I received contact information, I started to realize that I would not be happy doing what I'm doing, even in more elite conditions, i.e. if I have to stick with this, I might as well stay where I am (if I live. It is midnight. I have to get up at five. I get home at three, and today, thought for certain that I would not nap, I would stay awake, but the migraine had done me in, and now I am trying to write this up before I go back to bed. Had slept til 10:00 pm. Whole evening gone, whole life gone, but I digress...). So I haven't been following up on the possibilities, except to not apply or inquire further. Then, no sooner had I written yesterday, then a place in the exact region I miss terribly contacted me with an opening. Would I be interested ?

I don't know what possessed me. I answered with a few follow-up questions, saying yes, sure, I'd like to discuss this wonderful opportunity. They are apparently very, very eager, as they phoned all my phones and wanted to talk tonight, a time difference not withstanding. I will e-mail them and put them off til Friday. God help me, I can't do it. I don't want to move again for something I don't really want to do. Would move almost anywhere (let's face it, anywhere in the continental US) to be doing what I used to do. I am working on that, too, that is what holds out hope to my soul in these barren places...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Who Shall Be True To Us/When We Are So Unsecret To Ourselves ?"

This is not about the decoupling of a romance, as neither is, come to think of it, the quote above. This is about exile, and the quote is not about that either.

Alas. Betrayal can put an enormous dent in, as we say, one's phenomenal field. Getting back to what, by implication, never was seems to be all a matter of intepretation. Or seeing your misinterpretation. And/or, as friends (people who still talk to you) put it, "moving on." To go or stay was not an option, but to want to stay is hanging, not moving, on: unhealthy, we think, not to "make a new life." But never mind. I don't believe in reincarnation, not even in this dense, nouveau-monde sense that a new self is to be had for the choosing, that one's past is wiped away and one's enemies conquered by shopping a new self out there, in the world.

I liked my life, and I intend to fight for it: Caelum, non animam, mutant qui trans mare currunt. (Horace)

"Ad mare" is the case here, but it was a forced run at that, to pay the bills, pay the rent, not to fall through the floor of the profession entirely (though to some, myself included, what I do is another profession all together. You will see). More accurately, in the lingo of it all, I've re-applied a fairly esoteric skill-set. I loathe this in a fairly profound ---both deep and very thoughtful--- way.

The epiphenomenon of the moment is a giant, whacking headache over my right eye and across the top of the same hemisphere of my skull: a day stolen from the aforementioned locus of the reapplied skill-set, too much to do, including jobs to apply for and inane things to do for the one I have. A white bitter pill with a large engraved "E" and a cappucino have set things straight for the moment.

Two things: 1) No, the quote is not from "Lear;" 2)Yes, please comment.