the wild love

growing wings

Category: on love

dear hilary: talk to me

Dear Hilary,

Finishing up my Freshmen year of college, I have found these last months to be consumed with the desire to fullfill a definition of beautiful and be the sort of person a boy would desire. Everyone around me seems to be speaking of identity and verses are continuing to declare God’s love and claim of worthiness on my life. Yet, I find my self so deeply desperate for the affection of a boy, for a romantic relationship. I have never had a boyfriend and I feel like I have no one pursing me in that way. 

So I’m really wondering, is it okay to dream of this man? Because I used to believe that God had that man for me, it was just a matter of waiting and loving him first. But now I wonder, that perhaps I am called to that single life or an early death or to not finding that guy until I’m in my 30s or to marry someone that is not like the man I have dreamed of. I just don’t feel like I am worthy of being loved in that sort of way or if it is even fair of me to dream of such a guy. How do I approach the Lord in prayer when I don’t even know if there is a guy? And can I dream of a guy with particular qualities or is that un-christ like and foolish because the only thing I should look for in a partner is his love for Christ?

Love,
Just Asking

Dear Just Asking,

I was driving home one weekend from college, in the midst of thinking about and wondering about this one guy who was in my microeconomics class. We sat next to each other, we passed notes about where the supply and demand lines met in the graph and whether that always determined the price. We occasionally saw each other outside the regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday clock. It’s funny how you can find yourself in a rhythm of thinking just like the other rhythms of your life. 4:30 on those days saw me turning my thoughts to the what if we dated and the why doesn’t he ask me out? and the ever-present am I worth that? There is a certain kind of ache in the rhythm, a certain all-too-familiar. I would overthink what I was going to wear to class that day, I would write those notes in the margins of my notebook and I would walk back to my dorm wondering everything you are wondering, about love and the person and whether Jesus was going to get around to giving me a person anytime soon.

And I could write a lot about how this remembering is a work of conviction in the heart but also the practice of grace, the realizing that our past selves are not to be condemned as the worst possible versions of ourselves, but to be loved and accepted as being the people that they were, knowing what they knew… but that is a different story.

I am driving home. That’s where we are. I am driving home and I am turning left, sneaking around the bend in the road a little fast than I should, and as I swung the car through the turn I found myself saying, “God, what is the deal?”

And God said, “I see you’ve decided to talk to Me.”

I promptly started to cry. I drove and cried and talked, spilled out the story into the empty car which is not empty because God and I are finally, really, talking. I said everything, the notes, the protests that what if I was not worthy, the questions about if he was ever going to ask me out. I said it, spoke it into being.

And that was the beginning of the change for me. Not when the boy dated someone else, or when the other boy and I ended things, or when Preston and I got together. The beginning of the change was this drive home, the fall whispering through the trees, promising winter, promising, further on, spring.

God, what is the deal? 

We do not always begin in a glamourous, beautiful, prayer. We do not always begin in the right words. But if we begin, then we begin. If we are willing to say something to God, then we open our hearts to be changed, to be molded, to be made more.

I will not tell you whether you should desire specific qualities in a guy or not, dear one - because I do not believe it is wrong to ask and imagine. I believe only that it is more dangerous when you are not honest with God. I mean gut-wrenchingly honest. I mean on your knees honest. I mean with your Bible open and your pen raging across the pages of God’s promises honest. I want you to get real with God so that you can get quiet and hear God.

We hear so many times that we should make our worthiness not about guys. Oh, have I heard this and preached this in the coffee shops and along the sidewalks. But can I tell you, across the wires of the Internet, something?

I think God is more willing to tell us our worthiness without us trying to make ourselves believe it without Him. 

I think God wants to tell you you are worthy. I think God wants you to get alone, to get rage-y, to get serious, to ask the question. I ask it, still. Only when we are willing to ask God, who alone can answer our questions with the fullness of His life, can we begin to feel the life moving in us.

The point of your life and my life and all the lives that scatter this beautiful world – the point is the real conversation with God. Not whether he wants you to love him before he gives you a guy. Not whether you’ll have an early death or be like Paul or find love in college or work 10 jobs or 1. Not whether you are a poet or a preacher or a physical plant manager.

The point is always Jesus, looking at us, looking at you, in the beautiful singularity that you are, and saying, “Talk to me.” When we start talking, and only then, do we start to make our hearts able to hear God. About boys. About college. About love. About worthiness. About the aches wrapping around our hearts.

“Talk to me.” This, my dear friend, this is our invitation.

Love,
hilary

dear hilary: that impossible brightness

Dear Hilary,

My question concerns (as most questions seem to) fear and love. For a long time, I was afraid to love, and then I was brave and fell deep into it, and then what I was most afraid of happened: I was too much, or I wasn’t enough. The end of it was confusing and tangled and I got hurt again and again, but I held on, thinking that I wanted to show him grace and love and forgiveness. The problem is, I didn’t show any of those things to myself, and now I’m so embarrassed and afraid of how hurt I got, how long I held on, and how badly I was willing to be treated. The question is, how do I forgive myself for that? How do I move through the fear of love ending and fall in love again, now that I know how the ending burns? How do I get over the fear of never falling in love again, which is partly what motivated me to hold on to the love I found for so long after it hurt me?

Love,
The Edge of Hope

Dear The Edge,

“It is not the critic who counts.” Can I ask you to go look this up? I won’t say more, but I will say click beyond Goodreads, beyond the quote itself (I’ll give it away – it’s Teddy Roosevelt), and down towards the bottom will be this name, Brene Brown, and if I say nothing to you in this, it’s just that you remind me of her mantra. This letter, this act of describing your question, this being willing to be you here in this space – that is what she calls daring greatly.

Today all I can think about is this time that Preston asked me something that flipped me upside down. “Are you,” he said, pausing over the words and over the rim of his mug (we were sitting in the living room), “always this unkind to yourself?” We were drinking coffee and going through my applications to graduate school and I was telling him with a lot of confidence that I was NOT going to get in and I should NEVER try and I should just quit and not be a philosopher or anything because everyone would find out I was a fraud and… then he asked that question. “Are you always this unkind to yourself?”

I got mad. I don’t really know why. Maybe because the truth doesn’t set you free before it royally pisses you off and arrives at the most inconvenient time and screw up all the plans you had for avoiding it. I hated the question, though, for what it pointed to in me: that my unkindness wasn’t towards others in that instance. It was towards me. It was shame and regret and hurt I piled on and on as a way to protect myself from potentially being rejected. “Who am I to apply to school X? Smart people apply there” or “Who am I to have loved so wildly? Only fools don’t realize what it costs…” or my personal favorite, “Who do I think I am to be enjoying such a good life? It won’t last!”  Unkindness asks that question, tries to protect us in a cocoon of doubt and embarrassment, tries to keep us from making what we think will be a mistake.

The cocoon is not where it is at. I mean, we all go there, we all build one, but maybe specifically here, when it comes to love and fear, I want to put up a big warning sign that says, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. I want to stamp it across every sign you see today. You do not need a cocoon of doubt or fear or embarrassment or shame. Because actually, in fact, I believe you are already stronger than the cocoon. I believe you are stronger without it.

Here, in love, the critic in you does not count. At all. In any way. You loved, and it ended, and it was terrifying and beautiful and tangled and ugly and hurt like hell and probably still does on some mornings (I have those days too). But the forgiving of yourself begins in a kindness to yourself. A basic, gut level kindness. A kindness that says, “I dared greatly. And now it hurts.” A kindness that says, “I was brave. I believed in love. It disappointed me that time.” A kindness that does not hide the truth – the real truth – which is not that you should be embarrassed or ashamed of loving, but the truth which is that you dared and even so it is complicated, and no blame or unkindness will clarify that paradox.

There is an impossible brightness to love: that paradox of daring and fear, of deep connection and also things not working out every time. That kind of love, falling in it, falling out of it, that is where you tell me you learned things about grace and forgiveness and love. I believe you did learn about those things. I believe now is the time to hold them in your hands and offer them back to yourself, not as warning for what not to do, not as judgment for how long you stayed or what you were or were not willing to do for this person, but as the gifts of that time. As the gifts of daring greatly. As the gifts of the impossible brightness of love.

You are already out here in the brightness, love. You don’t need the cocoon. You’re far too strong.

Love,
hilary

an unnecessary letter of love

Dear you,

These are the long days, aren’t they? These ones at the beginning of another month of winter, whatever the groundhog says with his ancient conversation partner, the shadow. This year, I don’t know what he told us. It was a Sunday and I was late for church, and I arrived in this half breathing whirlwind clutching car keys but wondering if I had remembered to drive with my license in my wallet. I know you must have those days too, days of too much forgetting, days that you tell the wall that it cannot go on like this as you throw clean socks into a dirty laundry basket just so that you can see the floor again.

I don’t know what made me think of it tonight, maybe the feeling that this blog was always supposed to be about love, and the lingering squint-eyed gaze in the dance studio mirror tonight at my hip shaking body made me realize it had been a while since I offered some love unbidden and unnecessary and unbounded by a reason.

I’m playing Nashville Cast music on Spotify right now. I’m singing it to the screen as I type. This, too, unbidden and unbounded.

We don’t spend our words on each other enough. I’m so sad about that, when I let myself. I’m so sad that there are millions of words flung into the ecosystem of us and not nearly enough of them have been about this work of loving each other. Not nearly enough for you. We’ve spent ourselves on the theology on the policy on the philosophy on the worry on the big church and the small and the medium-sized and what we think and must think and should not think about it all. We’ve spent words like water on all the ideas, thin bridges in the storm, stretched across the miles.

What do I even think the work is? But there I go, almost writing about what I think about the work, almost spending more words trying to describe what I want the work to be or how I think maybe this letter is the work. I don’t really know, to tell you the truth. I stared in that dance studio mirror and I thought, I want to tell someone the stray thought. I want a bridge of words towards another person’s heart tonight, however thin it feels against the storms. I come to the empty screen and I start to write. What do I tell you? What do I say?

I’m singing “Believing.” This song. I’m singing about how you keep me believing. And it’s true. That simple. Writing to you keeps me near to King Jesus, as my dad has been teaching me to call him, and I’m crying while I write it and I’m trying to sing at the same time. Unbidden, and maybe only a little bounded.

I don’t know if you know how much I love to sing. It’s the kind of love I have for writing some days, the good days, where it is the doing of it, the creation of sound and the way I imagine my voice moving through the air, how it might look or feel if you came across it. Do you have something you love that much? Would you tell me about it? Do you sing, too?

I was telling you something, I think, about loving and words and this letter. But maybe, unbidden and unbounded and unnecessary though these words seem in the moment when I’m playing the song again – it’s all just that loving this, the words, the hope that maybe when you read this you feel like someone saw you today and wanted you to know it, maybe that’s the letter.

And the love.

Love,
hilary

when this is a thought about marriage

Preston starts his posts with that word, “when” – an invitation, I think, to realize the passing of time and the not-passing-of-time, the way when you sit to read his words you remember that you are exactly where you are, reading, in your kitchen or on your iPad. It’s funny how the vocabulary of the one you love begins to seep into your own, their words swirled next to yours, the way tea steeps in a mug on an early morning.

I’ve been thinking about marriage – maybe that’s not so surprising – and when I think about it, inevitably, I start thinking about the ways we talk about marriage. I think about the advice blogs, the story-becoming-advice blogs, the blogs that remind us that this a great big work, different from anything we’ve tried before, blogs that remind us that this is also the most normal unfolding of life, the most apparently inevitable thing, the way that they hold your hand or kiss you good morning is the only thing that could be.

And my head fills with other people’s thoughts faster than its own sometimes, trying to think my way into wisdom about marriage, sewing a patchwork quilt of what other people have done and thought and tweeted and posted and shared. But my stitches fumble, and when I look over at him in the quiet of the morning, the pieces slip to the floor. I can’t read my way into being good at marriage. I can’t repost or borrow or sew together thoughts to cover us in the moments when we don’t understand each other, or those moments, even more surprising, when we understand better than anyone else ever has.

And maybe, before journeying down the road of what someone here and there says will make this work, I must close my eyes, lean into what is right in front of me. The way he says hi on Skype, ties his tie when we are going out to dinner, the way we laugh or curl up to watch Game of Thrones together or the way that we  both know when it’s a night to stay in, instead of go out, a night to pray, a drive where we will talk about deep things in the church or a drive where we will ask about our favorite praise songs growing up.

Once, before Preston and I got together, before the full unfolding that would be this love story, I went for a walk with a friend. It was warm, the end of May in New England, when the world bursts green and the sun plays with the trees, throwing its light on everyone who passes by. We walked, talking about marriage, talking about love, and I remember so desperately wanting to store up everything she said, learn and memorize her words until they sang out from me as if they were mine. But as she talked, and we wandered out of the woods, back into a small cluster of houses around a pond, the afternoon stretched long and we leaned into it.

She didn’t want me to memorize her stories. She was telling me as a way to push me towards discovering my own. She was sharing about her life, her marriage, not as blueprint but as beautiful, as the wonder of how God led her and her husband into and out of each thing. She was telling me, not because she knew best, but because she knew how much of the story we must write on our own.

I don’t know if I believed her at the time. But I do believe her, now, in the months that still stretch out before our wedding, in the nights in and out, the jeans and sweatshirts and the salsa dancing club and all the wonder of the in-between every day learning each other.

It isn’t a blueprint. It’s just all, always, beautiful.

Love,
hilary

love on a sunday afternoon

It’s Sunday afternoon and the haze of sleep is settling over us both. I feel my limbs heavy, asking for a moment or two to close eyes and breathe deeper and rest, find a moment in the chaotic joy of seeing him again to sleep. At first I fight it – we only get so many days, and I want to be awake for them, I want every moment with this man who in the airport late on a Friday night makes my whole heart swell in my chest at the sight of him, who catches me and kisses me in baggage claim, in front of everyone, and pulls away only to hug me closer to him. Because that embrace is home.

But two days later and the cold I’ve been trying to ward off won’t budge, wants time to move through and around my body, and my body politely insists on sleep. We sit on the couch on the porch, in the cold October sunshine, and I put my feet across his lap and he sits reading a commentary on Genesis and he piles more blankets on me to be sure I’m not cold, to be sure I’m peaceful. I feel his steady breathing, the rise and fall of it. There is a silent joy among the birds and branches, the leaves descend towards their winter resting place and a car pulls in the driveway and someone goes to the grocery store and someone else comes home from a different church activity, and we sit on the porch and I fall asleep.

I think this must be the look of care – how we become unhurried with each other. How there is enough time to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon in October, despite my protest that long distance makes every moment of closeness to him seem impossibly short (so why would I sleep it away). How it is his voice that tells me, tickling my ear, that I am, in fact, tired, and I do, in fact, need to sleep. And it is his hand that drifts across my ankles in the gesture of care. Reminding me of his presence, reminding me that there is enough time in the long journey together.

I don’t know how to describe it, or why I would try to fill words with the unutterably beautiful feeling of falling asleep next to him on a Sunday afternoon late in the day when the sun is dripping gold across the tops of the trees. Perhaps all I wanted this to say was that the look of care, the way care moves, is not what I expected before I met him. Before I might have told you that care was bold and grand and sweep-you-off-your-feet, that it was a wild trumpeting kind of thing, that everyone saw and noticed and gaped at. And I do run towards him and kiss him in the airport and we do laugh and cry and hug each other -

and then on a Sunday two days later he astounds me by sitting on the porch with me and reading while I take a nap. He astounds me with the gentleness of care, with the simplicity of it, with the way that love moves, unhurried, from one to another and back again.

Care is quiet and full and this morning, I close my eyes and miss him and remember the slow Sunday afternoon. How this must have been what I was longing for:  such astonishing every day love.

Love,
hilary

when my mind wanders

on a Sunday late morning, mid-day, really, we’re driving home together, music or no music, around the winding roads and past the farmstands and apple orchards, fall around us. I think about how the leaves are like flames now, licking up the sides of the trees,

how the wind lies in wait to surprise the scattered seeds of the last of the dandelions,

how all of this should make a beautiful poem, the ordinariness of nature, how it goes on and on harvesting the expected and the surprising in one fell swoop of the calendar.

This year the word was light, I remember, as I see the sun peek through the trees and catch the edge of his glasses. I glance at him, a second longer than I look at anyone else.

I remember that God turned all the lights off, suddenly. I remember how last October I cried and cried about being among the ones who never strayed from the crowd, when God told me at a stoplight how He leaves the rest of the world to come after me, in search of me the way no one else ever has been, ever will be.

Last year the fall was golden, and now it turns red, and again and again the harvest returns, offers something to us.

I think about Rilke and poetry and how there are now 45 poems in my computer that weren’t there before. How it must be an act of obedience.

And then I think about you.

I drive and I think about you, writer, reader, lover of leaving – that’s Rumi, a long quote about ours not being a caravan of despair – I think about how you have watched this year, in a way, watched the light dawn and fade, watch me wonder about stillness, peace, watched me try to write wisdom into a space where more often than not I am the one who must learn from you.

I think about how I could not write, but that you, you, read this. And you give me space to write it wrong, write it with questions hanging on branches, write about silence and presence and God’s wild love… Rilke is right, always, but as I drive and think about you I want to tell us – tell you -

the reading of it matters.

The reading of the poetry,

or the blog posts,

the half-my-heart-intact prayers,

the reading of it is important.

It makes a difference to me to think about you when I think about writing down the leaves have turned to flames on the trees.

It makes a difference to know that I can clang pots and pans in a field somewhere about the Kingdom and midwives and Shakespeare, about silence and ache and courage, about not knowing where to find God and sitting in a chapel all alone at the end of a long day.

My mind wanders as I look at the world on a Sunday afternoon driving home, and it takes me to you. I’m so grateful.

Love,
hilary

dear hilary: a revolving door

Dear Hilary,

Every one around me seems to be falling in love. The older I get the more I realize I’m not sure what being in love means. Each person I ask how they know it’s the love and not some other shade of love they never answer the same. And yet somehow it’s the same. The person always finishes with, “You’ll just know.” But I don’t know. How did you know it was love?

Sincerely,
Is It Love?

Dear Is it Love?,

I think I asked myself that question every night before I fell asleep in the days leading up to meeting Preston for the first time. Is it love? I asked a group of ducks that wandered across the road on my way to Starbucks one morning. Is it love? I asked my bleary-eyed reflection in the mirror. Is it love, is it love – and behind the question was this fear about myself. I had asked people, just like you have, about love. I had heard the many answers: that you know because they will order the Chinese food on the night you need it without being told, that you know because they’ll offer to do the laundry and the dishes in the same day, because they catch you around your waist on the street, with people watching, and kiss you. Because they’ll tell you things that you’ve longed to believe about yourself but you couldn’t before, give you a pair of hands to help you hold all that you are and desperately hope to become.

I had heard it.

And then I met Preston in that airport.

I’d tell you that I just knew, too, but the truth is that I think knowing about love is more like a revolving door. You walk around and around inside love, see the outside world in one instance, the inside world (the world of you and the person you love) in another. You ponder them both in the same moment. You spiral in and out of knowing, in and out of certainty.

What keeps you afloat is trust.

What keeps us all afloat is a trust that even if we don’t know, if we have moments when we wake up and it is a question, when everyone tells us “you’ll just know” and we think that there is no way that can be true – because I hardly know myself some days – that’s when you trust that you can still walk forward, still walk around and around inside the love, and somehow see your next step.

I could tell you the stories of falling in love with Preston, small moments when I felt it moving in my heart: the time we ate Chinese food on the floor watching Company (the Sondheim musical), or the time we made my family dinner in the kitchen and I was singing Alison Krauss songs and he was searing lamb chops in something I couldn’t even probably pronounce, or the time that we sat side-by-side in the midst of something really hard, and prayed our way through it…

But the truth is, though I knew in those moments I was in love with him, part of the joy is realizing it new every time – a moment of being surprised by the in-love-ness. It takes me asking, “is it love?” to answer yes. On days when all I want is to sit across from him in a Starbucks somewhere and write on our blogs and be in our own worlds, together and yet distinct, when all I wonder is whether this gift is really what I have now dared to dream it is…

I guess a part of me likes asking, “is it love?” not because I want to doubt, but because there is something to saying yes. To choosing the answer to that question every day. To walking through the revolving door, the worlds never the same when I circle back around to them.

I knew it a long time ago; and I learn it again every day.

I want to wrap everyone up in the safe and beautiful words of, “you’ll just know.” But I also want to wrap around you the words that love is a many-splendored, ever-moving, choose-it-again-and-again kind of thing. Maybe the knowing must and should move with us, too.

Is it love? We wonder in the world.

There is a beauty to trusting the question as a way towards the answer.

Love,
hilary

dear heart, love hilary

Dear little one,

I already lost count of the ways I love you. Mom sent me pictures of how you grew inside her, for months and months, we waited for those brief glimpses of the two of you together, and I would yell every time and stop what I’m doing and stare at the two of you (because that’s the funny thing about pregnancy – a picture of Mom is also a picture of you for nine months). Your mom is a gently beautiful person, full of joy, full of life, and now that you are here, I know that flows into you too, with the physical life she offers. She gave you a special kind of life from her heart and her body these long nine months, and now, you are here. We are beyond excited – we are out in the field of wild joy. We are out dancing in our kitchen and we are outside under the bright summer sun, laughing and praying and trying to find the right days and times to fly out to meet you.

When your parents got married I fell down the stairs at the reception. Not all the way, not dangerously, just in enough of a way to be completely embarrassed and wish that I was safe from the memory. But we are a long remembering family, and so your uncles on our side and your parents and grandparents won’t let me forget it – and trust me, your soon-to-be Uncle Preston won’t let me forget either (he’ll love telling you all kinds of stories about me). But their wedding day was a day about your parents, about two becoming one, about love. And these are the roots of love you grow from. I can promise you, little one, they are deep roots. You will grow in a richer love than you know.

That day, the reading was from 1 John 4 – about how we love because He first loved us. How we know love at all because it has been shown to us by another, by He who is love. You will be fed on love that is rooted in His love. You will be loved, in the midnights and the hurried mornings, in the laughter and the snow, in the every moment, by parents whose love is anchored and rooted to God’s love.

And I remember that day knowing your mom – my sister – and your dad, my brother-in-law, became a family. And now you are here, and you are a part of our family, and we are jumping up and down with joy over it and I might fall down a hallway or an airport or an escalator as I run towards you when I meet you.

But we anchor each other in a deeper love.

We will – this whole family of yours, aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents – promise in our own ways and times, to love you wild and deep and forever. There is so much I don’t know about you, dear one, so much I cannot wait to discover. But I promise you a deep and wild and forever love in this family.

I promise you all of my love, too. I promise you all of it, anchored in His.

Love,
Aunt Hilary

when I hate long-distance

This morning all I feel is the ache of distance.

I wake up to it in the bed with me, this familiar stranger of being apart from the person I love. I hear the fan blowing the already-fall wind across the room, rustling the papers I haven’t put away. I look around with a wide-eyed wild hope that maybe I’m back where he is, or where he is is downstairs with a Sharpie pen and a journal and a prayer book and his Bible, and when I walk down the stairs he’ll smile up at me from behind his glasses in the way that I have traced over and over, an inked tattoo in my heart of that first look, that realization of how he must see me, how maybe I must be beautiful because he has that look on his face.

The ache walks me in and out of Starbucks, through my trouble choosing music in the car, in my half-hearted greeting to God at the right turn by the brick house I used to love. The ache is somewhere in my ribcage, but it moves. The ache is somewhere behind my heart, and it anchors.

I wrote once that it is beautiful. Our selves, strong in our breathing, in our standing, can soften our hearts and our eyes past the miles. We still find each other. We still sit down, unwrap our days to the quiet hum of our computer fans.

And it is agonizing.

And it is peaceful.

And it is terrible.

I hear the words of others about how the distance is good, how it builds something good, how the time is something to be cherished. I hold a paper plate in the lobby and stare at her blankly, feel my feet on the stones in the floor, tell myself that I should soften my heart. But for all the words about how distance stretches and grows us, I want the words for how it also aches in places you didn’t know you had, how I close my eyes at my desk and I think about him and I think about me and I see the miles that move between us, and the ache lives somewhere behind my heart.

I don’t want the words that the time will go by fast, that it will move, that this will be something that I miss and wish I could get back. I don’t want the words that all this purposes together for good (oh, I know it does, I say that to myself), but maybe I want the words that just know it is an anchored ache behind the heart, and that it is so much better to be near to each other, that the laundry on Saturday days, that the order Chinese and eat it on the porch watching Netflix days, that the days when you walk through a field in a sundress holding hands days, that those days are so good and lovely that the ache is part of how you know how good it is.

But it is a hard way to know that. And it would be better, will be better, just to be in the field together.

What was the poem?

Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
– “Separation,” W.S. Merwin

The anchored ache behind my heart.

It will be better to be together.

love,
hilary

dear hilary: a gradual slope

Dear Hilary,

There was a boy, a wild and free and brave boy who did the best he could to hurt me as little as possible. and he really made me braver, trusting God more, and less selfish than i thought possible. regardless of whether or not i would’ve chosen him as husband – i, undoubtedly, still love him. essentially, though, he had to say ‘i like you, alot. but not always.’ and now that we’ve both had about a month off work, we’re back in the same office – not simply completing the same tasks in separate cubicles, but a part of the same ministry – planting and growing the Word, in a community that’s washing each other’s feet kind of family. we’re not afforded the opportunity to ‘have space.’

How do i help my heart mend, not simply from being hurt, but from being hurt that his eyes are light and as sparkling as ever; he talks to me without regret or sadness, and that seems to have been the case from day one. i’m learning to let go, but what do i do about the lump in my throat that comes when i see how easily his fingers let loose?

Love,
I still notice it

Dear I still notice,

It must have been winter, because there was ice on the sidewalk during our three minute meander to the theater. It must have been almost spring though, too, because I almost fell once or twice as the ice melted under our feet, a hopeful kind of melting, as if the ground itself wanted to be free of the long months of February and March. I’d known him more than a year. I’d passed notes for a few months. Once I tied one with some blue ribbon I found in an unused classroom during lunch and I impulsively wrote, “love hilary” on the outside of the note, creased it again and again in my pocket before I gave it to him.

So it must have been the end of winter when he told me that “he liked me too much” to have ever wanted a relationship. He told me almost laughing, a joke we were sharing that I couldn’t catch the punchline of. I remember vaguely that he wore the same jacket to school every day, a brown frayed corduroy one that made me wonder if he was cold walking to and from his car every morning across the frozen parking lot. He said so many things in that walk to theater, his laughter moving so swiftly to confusion and then something that sounded like pity. Because he liked me too much, we’d make an amazing power couple, but you see, as friends.

I saw him at school every day for the next four months. We had lunch in a group together every week, his brown corduroy jacket and his old sneakers and all I could think when it was happening was how could he laugh like that, tell stories about his guitar or the rival high school debate team, how could he be so whole, while I sat and thought my life would surely end and it could never be the same and it was never and always and everything, and I was heartbroken.

So I wanted to tell you and me both, me that girl not all that long ago, who longed for him to long for her, who wondered (and still wonders) about the wholeness we think we understand in other people – I wanted to tell us that hearts mend on a gradual slope. You walk through each day and notice one hundred things. You walk through the next, and perhaps you only notice 97, perhaps there are three things, the way he holds a coffee cup, the laugh he has when he heard something that makes him nervous as well as happy, the sound of his fingers against a keyboard, that somehow fade. And the next day, maybe something comes back, and something else leaves, and time is the healer not because time makes anyone less the wonder that you always knew them to be, but because we move in the slow swirl of the months and days, and we are freed by the movement. 

You don’t know how he is healing – and I say it in the present tense because even if he ended things, he must also heal, mend, build back together his self from the threads and pieces of what’s come before. How he moves along the gradual slope is hidden from you. How he heals in the midst of seeing your lovely self, and all the hundred small things he knows about you – how you hold a coffee cup and laugh in the morning and sign your name on an office birthday card – is his. Yours is yours. If you can, try not to compare how it looks like he feels to how you know yourself to feel.

You mend by moving in the swirl of those months, by sharing the space you must share but not looking too long or too worried in his direction at the conference table.

We are freed by the movement. We are freed by the way time so gently journeys us back and away and yes, at the pace it must be, you will find yourself looking again – and you have let go.

Love,
hilary

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