Numbers seem to define us. How old are you? How many years of schooling have you done? How tall are you? How fat? How much can you lift? How many calories did you eat? How far away is your house? How many lovers have you had? How many hours does it take to get to mom’s? And of course, how much money have you made, how many true friends do you have, how many years left do you have?
There was a time when the darkness and loneliness of divorce seemed to me tragically romantic. Probably, I was reading too much Andre Dubus and John Updike at the same time. Raymond Carver probably did not help either. There was a resigned dark humor to the characters, an alcoholic loneliness, and (for Dubus’ characters) a tangible and inescapable divine presence.
“I thought we decided we weren’t going to exchange gifts?” she mumbled to her husband after receiving a surprise gift from her brother.
Have you ever received a surprise gift from someone that made you feel inadequate or even angry?
During the season of Advent, he always makes his appearance. We wait with bated breath as the readings of the church year turn our focus from the promised end of all things and the coming of the new heavens and new earth to the voice of John the Baptist. His voice, though, is not sweet and calming. It does not fit with the joyful theme of this time of year. There is no peace on earth and goodwill toward men. No, John is like a bull in a China shop. He shakes things up with an urgent call for repentance. “Repent,” he says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Pins and needles deep inside, slicing and stabbing as each second passes. There is no comfortable way to lay down anymore, every angle tingles with pain. She cringles from muscle cramps, from the frozen positions she calls relaxation. Her mind will not stop. Her eyes will not close. Waiting. Watching.
Coraline (2008, streaming on Amazon Prime) might be the perfect movie for All Saints or All Souls (not that I’m praying for the dead in Purgatory, understand). What a great, semi-frightening children’s movie that gets to the heart of what matters in a family. I don’t know how closely it follows the story by Neil Gaiman, but the film is profound in ways I didn’t expect.
He fumbled with the pages flipping back and forth, trying to find the little black letters that synced with what he recited in his head. Focusing almost too hard, he could not quite catch up to where everyone else seemed to be, because he could not concentrate. Little monsters behind his eyes swayed his attention from the songs of praise filling his ears, to her exposed ankle just beyond his reach, to an unfamiliar word in the heavy book that weighted his hands, to the breath of perfume far enough away which he could not quite savor.