be taken care of

A few years ago, I fainted in an airport (I think I’ve told you all that story). I was afraid and in Cincinnati and away from my parents and a fresh almost 18, thinking I could be on my own. The first moment of panicked “what’s wrong with me?” when I came to on the cool airport tiled floor was enough to convince me that I never wanted to feel so helpless again. I wanted to be able to sit up, drink water, get back on the plane and go home, without the soothing voices of the medics or the reassuring hand in the ambulance or any of the rest of it.

But of course a few short years later, and I regain consciousness on the floor in the sacristy, the room where we gathered before the service, and I realize that once again, I’m panicking. I don’t feel like I can breathe because I don’t remember what happened, and the suddenness of losing control makes me feel like I am made of paper and might fold up, an origami crane, and fall down. I am surrounded by people and they offer orange juice, some says bring her a muffin or something to eat. They tell me to breathe, to inhale and exhale and follow a flashlight with my eyes and I’m scared, and my paper crane self wants to crumple at the sight of these people, care cradled in their hands, offering me the chance to need, to be taken care of.

I am in the hospital bed in hallway 43, they take blood to run tests, they run an ECG/EKG (apparently the k is from the Greek kardia, meaning, heart, but that’s a google search on a Monday night). I wonder, disconnected from the world, where home is. I think of my fiancé and the miles that still stretch between us and how there is a part of my heart that is never quite whole without him. I wonder about that picture of my heart’s electricity.

I wonder if it tells the story of how I’ve been trying to do this self-sufficient, emotions-in-their-alphabetical-non-offending-box thing for a while. I wonder if it shows how much of my heartbeat is caught up worrying that I’m not quite there yet, not spiritually or emotionally there, so much still in process like the scared crying almost 18 year old I was back in the Cincinnati airport. I’ve so wanted to be brave and strong and able to bear cheerfully what I’ve been given and not complain and not need…

But then I think, would it be so wrong, to have my heartbeat whisper that I need taking care of, too? Would it be so wrong to lie in this hallway, waiting for blood test results and a saline drip to run its course, eating chicken salad out of a plastic carton while my brother, wise and steady man, makes me laugh quietly at the edge of the bed?

Would it be so wrong to want to be taken care of, to want my fiancé’s hand on my forehead and the marching orders to get back in bed, the call to check in and make sure that heart is okay? Would it be wrong to admit how much I need that?

I faint in church on a Sunday morning, and they take a picture of my heart.

For the first time, I hope it says how much I need.



myself, twenty two

I wake up earlier than I wanted to – it’s humid here, and there is a humming in the air itself, weightier. I think about coffee, about putting on the Nashville Cast soundtrack (yes, I think about that), about lying there for a while longer. With a groan only the Holy Spirit and I know about, I pull my sneakers out from the box in my closet and a pile of other shoes tumble to the ground. I groan again.

By this time, I thought to myself last year, I’d be one of those people who are more faithful with running. I said to someone in January I would run a marathon this year – and now the prospect of the 4.5 mile loop almost sends me back to bed. I meet my not-met expectations on these runs some mornings. They lope along next to me, commenting, “Gee, I thought by 22 you’d know more about what you believe.” “You’d know how to do a lot more than boil water and not catch yourself on fire while standing next to the grill.” “You’d write more letters.” “You’d have something published.” “You’d figure out what the HECK to do with lipstick.” “You’d do one of those spring cleanings with your closet.”

22 sounded like all those things to me last year.

But this morning, I just start to talk.

I talk and talk as I run, a stream of words as busy as the streams by my house. I talk to drown out the silence of the morning, and I talk because talking is reintroduction to the pattern of being with God, the pattern of knowing Him. I talk until I can’t talk anymore, and sweat drips down my back.

I tell God that the ducks swimming in the pond are beautiful and that the morning is beautiful and there is one thing more I must do, according to the Miss Rumphius book, and that is make the world more beautiful, and boy do I hope, Father, that you have some ideas for me. Because I’ll sow lupine seeds like Miss Rumphius or I’ll write papers about Lonergan’s philosophy of education or I’ll listen for hours to the stories – such good stories – of the people You allow me to know. I’ll do anything, I tell Him, only let me stay near to the beauty of You?

And I talk and spread my hands, all the way down the long hill, until, abruptly, the words stop. God enters.

Quiet your heart. I am speaking. 

I bite my lip – there is always one more question and before I can stop it, it trips off my tongue, and God, I think He laughs.

Quiet your heart. I am speaking. 

To stay in the beautiful a little longer. To linger, gently, in the morning, heart quieted against the fast-fading ideas of what I thought I would be. To hear the silence, again, that stillness that shouts His presence, to be steadfast to it above the noise.

I want to scatter lupine seeds across the plains of this widening world.