A Too Riveting Novel
When I was young I thought of life as a bell curve, ramping up to a point in one’s fifties and then beginning a long, slow slide toward an unwanted departure. Now that I am of a certain age, I realize there is no curve, just a line forward, no backtracking permitted. There are times I would like to hit the pause or rewind button, but forward is the only button that works. Whether I like it or not, it is the direction in which I must travel.
I wrote my first poetry at a time I desperately wanted to hit the pause button. I shared it with almost no one, and put the poetry away until long after I transitioned – last week actually. I reached for the poetry again when regular sentences no longer worked. Here are a few lines from the end of one poem:
And now the waning light of day
Illumines one slight trembling path
That seems maybe to know its way
To heal a soul at fall’s divide
We all decide in this sweet life
Who we will be what we will do
This long story unfolding
Like a too riveting novel
I was writing about my transition, though at the time I had no conscious recognition of that terrifying truth.
Every good story has a protagonist with a dream, and an antagonist intent on denying that dream. The story turns on the dread/hope axis, when the audience hopes for the best but dreads the worst. In a story, it is suspenseful. In life, it sucks.
I am tired. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the gracious and merciful acceptance of many who have rescued me from a life focused on yesteryear. I am thankful for new work, meaningful and abundant. I am strengthened by deep and abiding new friendships. But I am tired. I know. You are tired too.
The malevolence made manifest on earth is frightening. Sometimes I sit and stare. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” We are undone by all the suffering. Yet suffering has always been with us, a human constant. How we respond to suffering is the choice we are allowed to make. Do we let it define us, or do we accept the gift of its wisdom?
I often quote the words Dag Hammarskjold wrote shortly before his untimely death: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that shall be, yes.” Hammarskjold did not go to his grave with the song still in him. As one of the greatest peacemakers of the Cold War, he sang loud and clear.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the brilliant theologian treated badly by the Catholic Church, also knew something about redemptive suffering. He wrote, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God…It is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability, and that it may take a very long time.”
There are days, months, maybe even years, when you sit and stare, overwhelmed by the relentless forwardness of it all. It’s all right. God is patient. She will sit and stare with you. It was during one of my staring seasons that I wrote this poem, reminded that we are never alone in these things:
The good souls are always near
If you have eyes to see them
Though often they are cloaked in
Garments of some worn religion
Their goodness like beams of light
Passing through a cracked door
Falling soft on hidden places
Where all the deep scars lie
Pain knows pain and will not let
Its long and sordid tale abide
Treating wounds with gentle touch
The sisterhood of suffering
Goodness always travels well
Turning up in peculiar places like
Your own heart when you thought
You had nothing left to give