When Nate and I broke up my senior year of college, I spent my loneliest nights in my car, parked at the Mississinewa River. There I would smoke cigarettes and write bad poetry, wail Damien Jurado songs (“Go First”) and cry. Those were painful days, all 59 of them.
Tonight I left my house at 9 pm and started walking. I pulled out the pack of cigarettes I bought soon after Nate and I broke up (my transitional object) and blasted my breakup mix on repeat.
I feel too paralyzed to even write this, though I know I should. I’ve learned that writing is the way I get over crushes and boyfriends. It’s how I make sense of heartbreak; I turn chaos into narrative.
I’ve been thinking about this breakup season as a series of movements. The first movement should have been the hardest. So many things ended so abruptly. I had to move. I had to live somewhere new. I had to find someone else to talk to when I was upset. I had to figure out what being a single person meant. I had to change my relationship status on Facebook (!) and decide what to do with all the photos of us. All these things.
The second movement was denial. I was sad but still so full of hope that maybe Nate will change his mind. Maybe he will realize how great I am (because, really, I’m a catch). This season (July and August) was so confusing–because Nate made it so. One of my friends at some point told me–geez, I wish he would just leave you alone. And another, he’s not holding up his end of the breakup. And all that is true, and all of that is not satisfying. I wanted him to stay away insofar as I could try to move on. But on the other hand, I wanted him to stick around, keep texting me, keep suggesting we get coffee or drinks, keep calling me when he’s sad and vulnerable. Because maybe he will see my faithfulness and that will mean something to him, dammit. (What a mess, I know.)
The third movement was beautiful. I had my first post-Nate crush. I indulged in hope (and maybe a bit of illusion). I became ambitious. I listened to my desire and let her lead me places.
And then I crashed.
I think of my third movement as having the desire to move forward and past this relationship, but without a lot of action attached to it. I had a crush, but wasn’t dating.
This fourth movement is action without a lot of desire attached to it. My desire, like in movement two, is back in Interbay in my flannel sheets with Nate and episodes of Seinfeld. I have only a little nugget of desire to move forward. (That nugget will just have to do.)
I’m going on a date next week. I’m terrified. I’m mostly scared that I’m going to like him, this guy, or any other guy I meet. That I will start moving on. Part of me is just still so convinced Nate is the one I should be with, and how dare I move on. How dare I find a better match. This narrative that I’ve constructed about Nate and me, I want that one to last. I’m not over it yet. I put too much into it.
I’ve been thinking about lament and where to channel my anger. I’ve been channeling it at myself, I think, more than anyone else. I’m scared to be mad at Nate because I don’t think he can handle it. (And by handle it, I think I mean not be crushed by it or resent me for it.) I’m scared to be mad at God because God feels like my only chance at getting back with Nate; I don’t want to piss God off. (I fall back on really childish theologies.)
I heard once that you can’t really lament with someone you don’t have a relationship with. You can’t call God out on something if you don’t believe God owes you something–I mean, at least an ounce of clarity. The good news, I guess, is that people have been lamenting to God for centuries and God has handled it alright. So I’ve given it a shot.
“You have taken from me my closest friends [my lover]
And have made me repulsive to them [him]
I am confined [in my thoughts] and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief [and tears]
You have taken my friend and my neighbor [my lover]–
Darkness is my closest friend.” –Ps. 88
Lord, have mercy.
November 2, 2014 Leave a comment
“This female struggle of hers against her own weight: at the age of thirty-eight she found it increasingly unnatural. In order to attract love must she deny her own body, like a neurotic saint of old?” p. 6
“Not until midlife did she truly believe that she had a right to exist, that the forces of nature had created her not as an afterthought and companion–a bent rib, as the infamous Malleus Maleficarum had it–but as the mainstay of the continuing Creation, as the daughter of a daughter and a woman whose daughters in turn would bear daughters.” p. 14
August 7, 2014 Leave a comment
Sometimes I make the mistake of visiting old blog posts from five, six year ago. I’m always embarrassed by what I’ve written; you’d think I’d know better by now to just stop blogging to prevent 30-year-old Lauren from blushing and shoving her laptop back in her bag.
But, you know, I can’t do that. Blogs are like painful time capsules. If I ever want to know what I was like in 2014, this is how. (Again, my apologies to 30-year-old Lauren. God help you.)
But today I was looking at posts from December 2009, when I started interacting with the Preemptive Love Coalition, the org I eventually interned with the following summer. I’m (hopefully!) hosting Jeremy and others from PLC this December, and I was curious about my state of mind back then that made me want to move away to Iraq.
I knew at that point in my life I had just been crushed by a crush (damn him and his pie). I knew it was around the time I started questioning everything I believed about Christianity, when I started reading atheist blogs and rewriting creeds. It was when I learned that the magazine I had so wanted to work for was not worth my time or energy.
I wrote a lot about these things in terms of death. I compared my life to that of Ezekiel the prophet’s who was told his wife was going to die, but sry, no tears. I compared it to the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament, to “letting the fields die.”
And I’m reading through these posts and my language is barfably dramatic. Like, why would she believe in a God who is going to come in there and kill her dreams all the time? (And this is exactly what I believed.) But I always had hope that something was going to grow out of that death. (“Every seed must die before it grows.”)
That seems to me, at 24, kind of endearing and hopeful and something I want to stand behind. Because despair is a lot easier response than the courage to hope (shout out to Tillich!).
And the truth is–this is still what I believe, to an extent, but I wouldn’t use all that drab death language anymore.
I rode home with my friend Bethany G. from church a few Sundays ago, after a group of us drank beer and talked about my thesis. We talked about desire and how maybe the Church is too good at teaching us to cut off our desire or be so afraid of it, instead of cultivating it in people. And shouldn’t we believe that our desires are within us for a reason?
I think this is what I was getting at back then, when I was 19 and moody. I had all these desires–to have this certain job after college, to date this certain artsy boy. And those weren’t bad things. But I was invited into desiring more. I was invited to want better for myself.
And so in a way, those specific desires had to die, or at least be channeled differently. My desire to use my writing for the good of the world led me to PLC. My desire to date an artsy boy led me to Nate–and my desire to date and love Nate will hopefully lead me to someone else (you know, someone who wants to be with me too. [I guess the drama hasn’t completely gone away.])
As a side project for my thesis, I wrote an icon of an “erotic saint,” a representation of a woman who lives into her desires fully. She wants much for herself, but she’s centered in God.
I’ve thought a lot about who she is a patron saint for. (Me, of course, but who else?) In the spring I brainstormed this list:
This icon is for those women who were told their bodies were bad just because they existed. For the women who were taken advantage of in sex. The raped. The molested. For the men who were sexually harassed but no one would believe them. For the homosexuals who often feel they have to deny their sexuality. For the girls growing into their bodies. For the boys growing into theirs. For those who are so confused by their urges (who they’re toward, what to do about them). For the virgins who are having a hard time not thinking about sex. For the virgins who are glad never to have had sex. For the sexed who feel guilty not just for what they’ve done but for their desire. For the wives who wish they hadn’t waited. For the wives who want more sex than their husbands. For the husbands who want more sex, for the husbands who want to abstain. For the shamed, disappointed, disillusioned. For those who think desire is all about sex. For those who desire more than sex. For those whose bodies are broken. For those who are embarrassed to look in the mirror. For those who have had surgery on their genitals. For those whose gender is different from their sex. For those bodies are marked by their abusers. For those whose bodies are marked by them. For those who love their bodies. For those whose partners love their bodies. For those who see God through sex. For those who find joy in things worth rejoicing over. For those who do not settle. For those who praise God for intimacy. For those who desire much! For those who ought to desire more. For the confused. For the bisexual. For the transgender, transsexual. For the elderly, still desiring sexual intimacy. For the youth signing abstinence pledges. For Tamar. For Rahab. For Mary. For Ruth. For Augustine’s unnamed concubine.
July 31, 2014 Leave a comment
I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to be single. I’m also sure that I never did anything on Friday nights anyway, with or without a boyfriend to spend it with.
I brewed some tea.
I geeked out over my new Tattly tattoos (ice cream cones and watermelons).
I read about the history of sitcoms on a poorly designed 1990s website.
I texted Sarah about said website.
I ate potato chips.
I decided not to brush my teeth.
I thought about changing my Facebook status.
I reread a story I wrote.
I thought of papers I could write: THE THEOLOGY OF THE SITUATIONAL COMEDY.
I remembered that I already have a focus (literature).
I started thinking, I should read more than I do. What if someone asks me, what did I read this summer and I can only name (counting) four. FOUR!
I texted everyone who might still be awake.
I thought about how much I miss texting Bethany; new moms need their sleep!
I thought about how I’ll probably go broke paying off student loans starting this winter.
I braided my hair.
I copied quotes into my moleskin.
I watched Gilmore Girls and questioned Lorelai and Rory’s attachment issues.
I read blog posts.
I listened out my window.
I jumped when I heard gunshots (fireworks).
I added to the list Nick Rassi told me to start: 50 things I like about myself. I’m at 23.
I picked out what I’m going to wear to Cecelia and Ryan’s wedding next week.
I thought about dancing; I wish I liked dancing.
I decided to brush my teeth.
I thought of a reason to text the ex.
I thought about reading my Bible.
I counted likes on Instagram.
I considered getting new glasses.
And I wrote this blog post.
July 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Sometimes I forget Jayber Crow is a story about unrequited love, as much as it is a story about Church.
Jayber is in love with Mattie Chatham who is, for most of the book, married to Troy. But that doesn’t stop Jayber from loving her and daydreaming about their running away together. (And yet–Jayber knows this is impossible. He cannot even imagine how she might signal to him her desire to run off with him.) He realizes what he’d have to ask of her, if she were to love him back:
“For something always exists before you get there with your desires and vision, and this simply had not occurred to me before in such a way that I could feel the truth of it. What did I have to offer?
If you love somebody enough, and long enough, finally you must see yourself. …
But this was not the end of my love for Mattie Chatham. After the figments of presumption and delusion had all fallen away and I again saw myself as I was and my circumstances as they were, I loved her more, and more clearly, than I did before. I became able to imagine her as she was and not as a subject of a dream. In my thoughts of her, she stood apart from me. I seemed to see her whole. When I realized the futility and absurdity of my old self-begotten desire, that was when the arrow struck. It entered my heart, and I could not pull it out. The hopelessness of my love became the sign of its permanence.
So it is that the life force may take possession of a man–so that in the end he may be possessed my something greater, no longer at all belonging to himself.”
I love this passage, as Jayber realizes that to love Mattie well means to love her for who she is, not for who he thinks she is. She becomes for him fully differentiated — wink, wink — at least as much as she can in his mind. This makes him love her more, which is beautiful. He is seeing more clearly. This is more than just some fantasy of his. He loves her, and he will love her till the day he dies, whether she returns his love or not.
July 7, 2014 Leave a comment
I wrote that not-incredibly-remarkable sentence last breakup. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it this breakup too.
Let’s just say that things were going so well. I was excited to graduate, excited to move in with my friend and her husband, excited to see what post-grad Lauren is like. Now, I have–what? I have the experience. I have my quiet little life that, in all honesty, is pretty great. I make my own hours; I have the privacy and community I need. But I still have this hollowness, this pain that creeps up my arms and makes my heart cave in.
I still miss him, oh God. I keep having these flashes of memories that make me HUNGER for him. (That time, oh gosh, years ago, when we drove around Matthews, Indiana, and sat by some old creek he used to visit as a kid. Or the times we would go to Southside Diner and smoke cigarettes for five hours, talking. Or the time we went to my uncle’s soup and chili dinner, and we looked out into the lake till it got dark. (I’m still not sure how I convinced him to go all this way with me, to Columbia City, where he could meet my dad and my uncles for the first time.))
I think about that scene in Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, where the hross tells Ransom that memory is a part of the lifecycle of love. “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered.” And this is the stuff of poetry.
All of that seems like bullshit, complete and utter bullshit. Memories are good only when right now is good. I hold on to those memories, bless them, only because I want to relive them. I’m not okay with them just being part of the past. That’s not good enough. (Memories, I think, propel us into hope. But my hope doesn’t lie in some wishy-washy “oh, everything will be alright one day” future. My hope is in returning to my lover, the only one I want to be with. But when is hope good and when is hope delusional?)
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
July 5, 2014 Leave a comment
When recovering from trauma (or in my case, grief), time does not progress linearly. Time seems to move too fast or too slow. Yesterday seems so long ago. The breakup, not 10 minutes ago. I don’t know why this is.
Theologian Shelly Rambo talks about this in terms of the Triduum: Holy Saturday seems so perpetual. Tomorrow is crucifixion. Yesterday was resurrection.
I experience this moment by moment.
Last night Nate started packing his stuff. I laid paralyzed on the bed, sobbing. I thought about when we moved in. I thought about our walk to Macrina Bakery that first morning, looking out on the bay. I cried over last Christmas and the building of the bookshelf. I cried over the Christmas before, when I shipped him his recording equipment from Indiana.
I was a good girlfriend. I was a good girlfriend. I was a good girlfriend.
Then Nate and I talked, about life. (About his life, really.) And I could feel a little distant, caring, but distant. And I went to bed OK, and kind of happy, and full of hope.
Maybe false hope, maybe delusional hope (that we still have a connection, one that no breakup can sever).
I woke up OK.
I’ve carried on today OK.
Then I look at his hand and think, damn, I want to hold it. Will he let me? Should he let me?
And Holy Saturday covers me again: the tears or the fiery anger.
June 24, 2014 Leave a comment
For me poetry was eucharistic. … It was as if I could eat the poems, like they went into my body. That’s what I mean by eucharistic: somebody else’s passion, suffering, comes into your body and changes you.
-Mary Karr, interviewed by Image in issue 56
At church today, I hold the chalices of wine and juice during Eucharist. (I had a feeling Phil was going to ask me; I was sitting front and center with a sad glow to my face.)
How messy Communion is!
For the little ones, I give juice from the handmade ceramic chalice. I bend down low for some. “The cup of salvation.” They dunk and linger, usually. Whole hands are baptized in the sugary bath.
For the adults, I give wine. “The cup of salvation.” They respond, often, “Thanks be to God” or “Amen.”
By the end, my fingers are sticky with the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation, the New Covenant. The gluten-free body of Christ sticks to the roof of my mouth.
For the past week, my moods are extreme highs and lows. The highs are great, of course. I am excited to be graduating; I’m excited for change and adulthood and opportunity. The lows are awful. It’s just that I want my memories with Nate to remain untainted; I don’t want them to end. I keep thinking about my birthday trip to the rainforest, how much fun we had, how adult I felt to be on vacation with my lover.
Last Sunday I read a bit from Kathleen Norris about her reflections on Lamentations. She said it’s important to remember that God’s love is both everlasting and daily. It’s not just that God will be with me forever (unlike this boyfriend of mine); but God is there every day and in the everyday.
What saddens me most about this breakup, I think, is not having someone to wait for in the evenings, to cook dinner for, to dress up for, someone to watch movies with. The everyday things are what I already miss, not those bigger, oh, I want someone to grow old with! things. Maybe those tears will come later.
I was thinking today why I chose to say “the cup of salvation” when offering the wine. There are plenty of things you can stay instead: his blood shed for you, the blood of Christ. But I like the one full of hope, the one that says there’s more than what’s before me. There’s a deeper, truer story that I am a part of. “Everything will be OK.”
I know this is true, and I love it. But I’m also frustrated with the everydayness of my grief. I don’t need a far-off God or a future hope–I need something right now.
I need the love of my community, the calming movement of the Spirit.
June 22, 2014 Leave a comment
Saturday night, I went to Nate with all my hurt and anger. I said (nearly) everything that was pissing me off, that was keeping me from any sense of healing. I felt only OK afterwards, but a day later, I feel even better. I testified to my reality. I named it for what it was.
I think this is lament.
At church yesterday:
Liz: How’s your June treating you?
Me: Um, not so well.
Liz: Oh, did something happen?
Me: My boyfriend broke up with me. [TEARS]
Liz: Oh, no! I’m so sorry. Did it just happen this week?
Me: [SAD NODS]
Liz: Thank you for telling me. I know it’s easy to just say you’re OK.
I don’t like telling people how I’m “actually” doing. I’d prefer not to, really. Usually my tired eyes and messy hair speak the real truth anyway. But I wanted to tell the people at my church, Wits’ End, the truth. (Many of them already know from these blog posts.)
The book of Lamentations tells the story of Jerusalem’s destruction. It’s a four-chapter poem of lament.
When Phil taught from this book last year, he talked about its structure. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are acrostic poems–each line corresponds with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (As an aspiring poet, I love this. It’s like, oh, I’m not just going to write a hodge-podge of feelings. I’m going to have some poetic structure to it.)
But something happens in chapter 3. The writer does not carry on the form of the other chapters; there’s no pattern to its form. The writer gives up.
It’s like he is saying, oh, fuck it! The pain is too bad to keep up some stupid poetic form.
In this past week, I have often told Nate that I’m angry and that I’m hurt. I don’t know what he’s supposed to do with these words, and I’m sure they hurt to hear. But I need to bear witness to what’s going on. I need to not deceive myself into thinking everything’s OK when everything’s not OK.
(Because, sheesh, everything’s not OK.)
But of course, because I’m two weeks from graduating, my lament takes a special form. I can’t just stop working. I cannot wear all black, cover the windows, and go into mourning. (And I’m not sure that would be necessary either!)
So I push through.
I used to love this George MacDonald quote because of how practical it felt to me, as a girl with so much anxiety. I think it’s good for me to hear and live it out again:
Try not to feel good when thou art not good, but cry to Him who is good. He changes not because thou changest. Nay, he has an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that thou art in the dark and hast no light, and his heart is glad when thou dost arise and say, “I will go to my Father.” … Then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feelings: Do thy work.
June 16, 2014 Leave a comment
I recalled the wisdom of my first writing teacher, Ben Belitt, who said, “Our poems are wiser than we are.” No small part of the process of writing is the lifting up into consciousness of what has long remained in the basement, hidden, underground, as in a tomb. (Kathleen Norris, “The Quotidian Mysteries”)
I wrote this poem a week ago, and it feels fitting to share it today. I wrote it not about the break up, though it’s about the darkness and emptiness a person (a woman) who’s anxious.
For those of you interested in the theology of the poem, that’ll be at the bottom. Otherwise, take the poem for how you understand it.
Homo in Curvatus in Se
And the eye that eyes itself is your eye
And the ear that hears itself is too near…
You’re getting too close to your source
–Andrew Bird, “Eyeoneye”
It starts with your nose: nose to knee.
See your toes? Count them, just in case.
Remember how Mom promised they were candies,
tootsie rolls and strawberry frooties.
If your stomach growls, lob one off.
What you can’t do is think about what got you here,
head buried into your body. You
cannot see how a hand could grip a tuft of hair so tight. You
cannot see how a word could be so hard to pronounce. Forget
What you can do is roll your whole body into itself,
curve, till your ponytail tucks between your ankles. (You’re not so
symmetric after all.) Be one with yourself.
You have no opening, a Mobius strip.
Flashes of your violence—your throat, impossibly hoarse.
“Visualize a better tomorrow”: what a joke. All you need to know
is the underbelly of your belly, the sweat under your kneecaps,
the inside of your throbbing head.
You are a rock,
and you are Sisyphus.
Homo in curvatus in se is my favorite Latin phrase, meaning, “man bent in on himself.” Most theologians and Christians talk about pride as being the primary sin of Adam, Eve, and everyone since. In my theology class last term, my professor suggested that in curvatus may be a better way of describing women’s sins (which are often so different from men’s!).
How I understand in curvatus is that cutting oneself off from the whole world and drowning in the sorrow you’re experiencing. It’s not grieving–how can grieving be a sin? But it’s a kind of hoarding, a kind of self-destruction that happens within a person.
In the epigraph of the poem are a few lines from Andrew Bird’s song, “Eyeoneye,” which I think is really a song about in curvatus, whether he knows it or not. He helped me understand the concept in a more concrete way. Andrew says in his 2010 Ted Talk:
… My point is [a feedback loop is] the sound of self-destruction.
And I’ve been thinking about how that applies across a whole spectrum of realms, from, say, the ecological, okay. There seems to be a rule in nature that if you get too close to where you came from, it gets ugly. So like, you can’t feed cows their own brains or you get mad cow disease, and inbreeding and incest and, let’s see, what’s the other one? Biological — there’s autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself a little too overzealously and destroys the host, or the person. And then — okay, this is where we get to the song — kind of bridges the gap to the emotional….
And so, I don’t know if you’ve ever had this, but when I close my eyes sometimes and try to sleep, I can’t stop thinking about my own eyes. And it’s like your eyes start straining to see themselves. That’s what it feels like to me. It’s not pleasant. I’m sorry if I put that idea in your head. It’s impossible, of course, for your eyes to see themselves, but they seem to be trying. So that’s getting a little more closer to a personal experience. Or ears being able to hear themselves — it’s just impossible. That’s the thing.
So, I’ve been working on this song that mentions these things and then also imagines a person who’s been so successful at defending themselves from heartbreak that they’re left to do the deed themselves, if that’s possible. And that’s what the song is asking.
I love that penultimate sentence: “I’ve been working on this song that … imagines a person who’s been so successful at defending themselves from heartbreak that they’re left to do the deed themselves, if that’s possible.”
So. That’s in curvatus.
June 14, 2014 Leave a comment