Feast of Love

“Do not feed your heart what the Lord has not shown you.”

But my heart is famished!
It is frail and feeble from fasting.
It grows covetous from craving.
Surely a slice, a morsel, a taste of what could be, would not be indulgent.

This wondering heart is made of fantasy and flight.
How long must it suffer denial?
Be tethered by yearning?
Begrudged even a bite?

This wandering heart of mine is woefully ravenous.
It will not be satiated with a simple taste. It will long for a spread – bitter or sweet. It will fall on love not given; ruminate on promises not made; dine on words not spoken.
And each treat, each savory crumb will only flame a hunger it can no longer satisfy.

“Do not feed your heart what the Lord has not shown you.”

For it will not delight, it will not gratify. It will not be a feast of love.

(Drafted in February) 

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Of the Color Blue and Grey

No matter how much I want to, there are some things I can never write about.

Some emotions are too raw. Too deep to be exposed. 

Some people are too sensitive. Too close to be confronted. 

Some issues are too divisive. Too tainted to be mixed. 

So, I remain silent. For fear of being misunderstood, of being categorized, of being labeled – the angry black woman, the lonely single girl at the dinner party, the bitter fat one with a chip on her shoulder. I find other ways to medicate. To placate. To escape. To pack, stuff, press, bottle, and retreat inward, safe-ward.  

Usually, this works. 

Usually, I can take a deep breath and float above the surface. 

Usually, I can ride the current without any noticeable damage. 

Usually. 

But, every once in a while there is something that threatens to suffocate me. Something that is so much greater than my will. Something that rises and swells and crushes me under its weight. Pulls me to its depth. Brings me to my end. And the only way to breathe, is to write. 

Yet. 

No matter how much I want to. 

No matter how much I need to. 

There are some things I can never write about. 

And I feel foolish. And I feel selfish. And I am upset that of all the THINGS that should elicit a reaction, of all the storms I’ve weathered, this insignificant wave should be the one to drown my heart. And I feel weak. And I feel petty. And I am undone by the color blue and grey.

Couple Therapy

There is a scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary where she is at a dinner party, the single girl amongst several couples. These couples proceed to provide commentary on Bridget’s relationship status, and in typical Bridget fashion, she has a mental catharsis where she imagines herself taking a verbal diarrhea on her assailants. Except rather than the audience simply getting a humorous glimpse into Bridget’s thoughts, she actually blurts out everything she is thinking. Needless to say, the party gets a bit awkward after that.

I have always loved that scene. I imagined myself trading my restrained diplomatic sense for freeing foolish candor. I fancied delivering my masterfully constructed lines with such composed eloquence, my performance would only rival a Shakespearean master. The words would roll off my tongue in such a confident and calm manner that my antagonist would be left speechless. Dumbfounded. In fact, like Bridget, no situation brings me to that rehearsal more than when I have to sit through my own session of couple therapy.

Couple therapy: an unfortunate event in which a couple or a member of a couple provides therapy (usually in the form of unsolicited opinion or advice) to a single person about how said person can and should end the perceived malaise known as singleness. Forms of therapy usually include recommended doses of “losing some weight”, “getting involved”, and “joining” eharmony, Match, Christian Mingle, etc.

Having endured many such sessions, I would like to offer a little therapy of my own in the form of “dos and don’ts”. But first, a couple disclaimers:
1. Obviously the doubles in life care about the singles. That is understood and appreciated.
2. I’m not sure how much any of this applies to the male sex, but in the interest of fairness, I will be as inclusive as possible.

Don’t assume that every single person wants to talk about being single every single time s/he sees you.

If you are prone to assumptions, Do assume that when in a group setting where the single person is the minority, it is not appropriate to bring up that person’s relationship status. Single people are aware that they are single and don’t need you to remind them and everyone else of the fact.

Don’t look at single people at weddings and tell them, “you’re next”. You don’t actually know that information and it’s not helpful.

Do offer a single coworker/cousin/friend/you get the idea as a date so that single person doesn’t have to spend the evening dancing with the bride’s 10 year old niece/nephew.

Don’t suggest dating sites. Chances are the person has already considered it or tried a number of them and you can’t even begin to fathom how painfully disappointing they can be.

If you are so concerned about how many meals your friend enjoys alone, Do invite him/her over for dinner, and with the person’s permission, a single coworker/cousin/friend/you get the idea.

Don’t tell single people how lucky they are to be single because of all this freedom and limited responsibility they have.

Do realize that doing so: 1) reveals how ignorant marital bliss has made you of the stress of being solely responsible for every responsibility. 2) implies that at some deep level you believe marriage is some suffocating noose around your neck. 3) if number two is incorrect, then you are not being entirely truthful about the initial comment, so just stop saying it.

Don’t forget your single friends have other genuine needs besides getting a date.

Those of you with children, your single friends are more than happy to help you with your responsibilities (need I say free babysitting?) Therefore, Do offer to help them hang up curtains, or change a tire, or trim a tree every once in a while.

And this last one is more of a rant: please, please Stop asking people why they are still single! How on earth do you expect someone to answer that question!? “Well some say it’s because I quit eharmony, but others think it’s a weight issue.” Awkward silence. Now you are back-peddling and talking about what a godly young woman/man the person is. Seriously, that comment is insensitive at best and insulting at worst. And no matter how much your Christian friend believes the canned spiritual “the Lord withholds no good gifts from his children”, believe me, in that moment s/he is thinking “a man of understanding keeps silent”. So Do.

Thank you for joining me in this brief therapy session. I hope it was as therapeutic (or at least humorous) for you as it was for me. See you at the next dinner party.

Me and Mr. Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

I, like many other girls before me, had expectations for my husband. I dreamed I would lovingly provide a warm and inviting environment for him to come home to. It would be beautiful with feminine touches and strong masculine furniture. Nothing too dainty so he would never feel out-of-place. And he, would fix stuff. He would be responsible for all the “manly” things I have no interest in being bothered with: unclogging the toilet; mowing the lawn; making sure the AC filters are cleaned regularly; hanging the curtain rods, the picture frames, the fixtures; assembling, re-assembling, and repositioning furniture; installing shelving units; taking care of the cars; cleaning out the garage; getting rid of bugs and critters… You know, all the stuff you imagine the men at Home Depot are confidently going to do at home.

I had expectations. And early Sunday morning – dressed in my pajamas, rain jacket, and gardening gloves, wielding a newly purchased tree trimmer – I pruned my own trees in preparation for tropical storm Isaac. Not exactly what I had dreamed my role would be at 32 and three-quarters. As a single woman, I have had to “be bothered with” all of the above and then some. Tree-trimming in the rain was a cold and wet reminder that my expectations of my “role” have slowly disintegrated with each new task, taking an unfulfilled dream to its ashes.

So Mr. Hughes, “What, indeed, does happen to a dream deferred?”

I have had my share of dreams deferred. Halted. Squashed. Postponed. Laid aside for a better day, a better time, a better economic climate. Some, to my relief; others to my chagrin. Usually I find solace in knowing there are better plans, greater opportunities, more deserving people than what I had foolishly hoped for in my limited wisdom. If that is not an option, I chalk it up to the lesson in the experience. I consider where I veered off course, lost sight of my goals, vow to learn from that and move on. Then, my broken dream will at least have purpose. But what happens when all was going well? What happens when there were no foolish expectations? When the goal was in sight and the prize within reach? What happens when the only lesson is that dreams are sometimes deferred and the pain is just that, painful? Mr. Hughes wondered the same thing.

“…Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”

Something else happened on Sunday, beside my tree-trimming epiphany; my heart was deeply broken. A dream was… snuffed out…

But there is no one to blame. No unkept promise to grieve. No sore to fester and nothing to explode at. It was only a dream. God is sovereign. It was simply not His will for me. I accept that. And yet the pain is still, painful. It still sags like a heavy load and each jagged breath feels like dying. I want to scream it out, like Mr. Hughes! I want somebody to tell me – what do you do with it? I want somebody to know – this hurts! But I don’t know what to say, or who to say it to. So I find myself singing.

Just One for Lunch

A few weeks ago, while having lunch with a couple of friends, one of them recounted an experience she recently had at a restaurant. She was attempting to have a quiet dinner out, a seemingly innocuous event… except she was alone. It started with the hostess, “just one?” Then the server wanted to know, “are we waiting for someone else?” Then there were the stares from the other patrons. By the end, her quiet dinner became an awkward experience reminiscent of a scene from a high school cafeteria. Perfect fodder for a blog that has been brewing in my mind since.

At which point did “one” become such an insignificant number? Who decided that “one” was insufficient? It’s the first number in the number system! You can’t get anything started without “just one”. Many of the world’s greats are solo acts. There is just one Great Wall of China. Just one Eiffel Tower in Paris. Just one Taj Mahal. Just one Niagara Falls. Just one Nile River. There is just one Jesus. Just one Martin Luther King. Just one Steve Jobs. Just one Oprah. Just one Earth. Yes we live in community and we serve as a body, but there is only one left foot. One right hand. After all, aren’t children constantly reminded that there is “just one you”? Don’t we use that mantra to tote our uniqueness and individual qualities???

Blah, blah, blah. All that talk is just an attempt to make you feel better about not being allowed at the cool kids’ table in grade school.

Last weekend, in a moment of zombie-like mindlessness, I got sucked into several episodes of The Walking Dead. Half-way through the fourth hour, as the night eerily drew close, I regained consciousness, turned off the TV, and repented of the wasteful use of my time. Of course, I couldn’t sleep all night. But it wasn’t the gore or thoughts of a zombiepocalypse that kept my mind buzzing, it was the idea of being alone. In the event of a cataclysmic disaster, I didn’t want to be just one. In actuality, I don’t believe any one does. Sure, I have times when I crave solitude. But even the most individualistic personality wants to, at the very least, be understood by one other person. That left foot needs the right one. It can find a way to function without it, but not without awkward stares and uncomfortable questions.

I’ve been thinking about this “just one” deal for three weeks now, realizing that many of us are walking around feeling like “just one”. In fact, another single friend mentioned the sadness she feels when she leaves church because she doesn’t want to go have lunch alone. I know that feeling – far too well. And I started to ask the question, why? Why have lunch alone? With so many just ones, why be by myself? So I made a decision… to be just one of a couple, a few, or many.