Times

I’ve been trying to write a blog for a few days now.  Nothing is working.  So I’m posting an old piece.  I wrote this in December 2012, just a day after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings.  This is my response.  It’s my heart, at that particular time, looking at the world, cringing, melting, unable to understand it.  I live in Ohio, and I was completely unaffected by anything in Connecticut.  But my head and my heart were searching, right after that, for some explanation.  Didn’t make sense.

Last week, a lot of stuff didn’t make sense.  Lots of crazy happened.  Illnesses and surgery in my family, a family death among my friends, school stresses, extra-curricular stresses… And then there was so much joy.  Real, genuine joy.  How to reconcile the joy and the pain?  How does it both exist so fully and so truly?  Am I really that intricate of a person that I can weep and sing and laugh and sigh and yell all in the same breath?  Are we all that way?

I’m adapting this piece into a scene for my theatre class.  That’s why I revisited it.  But after reading it, I know these are my missing words.  The ones I searched for this week.  It doesn’t match up completely.  But God, once again, has used Past Courtney to speak to Present Courtney.  Weird.  Awesome.

This very well may be one of my favorite pieces I have ever written.  It’s so unlike anything I usually write.  It is very intentional.  But it is also very real.

So, here it is.  Times.

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“I don’t get it!” she screamed at him.  She was standing in the middle of the dock, and the small rowboat was to her left, bobbing in the water.  The mountains were behind her and they silhouetted her.

He was standing on the concrete shore, the parking lot they passed for a beach.  He looked at her, and the rowboat, and the mountains.  The rain was coming.  Of course it was coming.  It always came at times like this.  “I don’t get it.”  She whispered now, because the quickening wind was drowning out her voice and her thoughts, and she liked that.  “I don’t get why there is death inside some people.  I don’t get why it eats them, turns them into black ash, makes them crumble to reveal a heartless chest cavity.”

She whispered, but he heard her.  Maybe the wind was blowing the words to him.  He glanced at the rowboat and the mountains, and then at her once more.  He only stood.

 The rain started.  Right on cue, because rain always comes at times like this.

“Say something!”  She was screaming again.  “Give me an answer, give me something!”  She sucked in a ragged, cold, mountain-air breath, and whispered.  “I know it’s bigger than this confusion inside me.  But you’ve got to answer me, or I’m gone.”  She pointed down at the little rowboat when she said this.  Raindrops soaked her hair into strings, and she had cried moments before so her nose and eyes were red.  To look at her was to look at a thing tortured too long by too many thoughts, her stubborn optimism marred by overwhelming fear.  It wasn’t beautiful, even though it should have been, with the mountains towering behind her and the rain and the water and the expanse between them.

He blinked slowly, head down for a long instant, before looking back at her.  He took one step closer and she edged one inch closer to the boat.

 “Where would you go?” he said finally.

 She sighed.  The rain was heavy but when she yelled her answer, it was calmer.  A desperate, defeated calm.

 “I don’t know.  Maybe there’s a place to hide.  Someplace where people don’t die before they die.  Someplace decent.”

 “Maybe,” he replied.  The rain, as is common in times like these, died down a bit.  Drizzle.  He scuffed his boot against the concrete as he thought for a moment.  “Yeah, maybe there is someplace like that.  But I don’t think you believe you’ll find it.”

She only stared at him.  They stared at each other a lot.  They had been best friends a long time, after all.  Staring is usually more important than most words at times like these.  She gave him time to tell her what they both knew she knew.

 “You said you don’t understand why there is death inside some people.  Why it eats them and turns them into something not alive.  But what if it’s inside all of us?  What if it’s not just some people?”

The rain had let up.  There was steam rising from the water in the bay, rolling down from the mountains standing, imposing, behind her.  Because she didn’t want to be near another person, but because she also didn’t want to leave him, she sat down in the middle of the dock.  He sat down too, ten or so feet away from her. He went on, because she let him.

“I think maybe some people do evil things because everyone has it in them.  I think people kill other people because every day, in my own head, I think deathly thoughts, but they’re only ever thoughts.  I think there is a creeping sort of plant in everyone’s chest cavity, one that grows slowly, and can be killed itself by most people, or at least kept at bay, at least can be pruned back often.  But some people can’t handle it.  Some people let the plant’s twisty vines squeeze the life out of their insides because there is nothing in them that tells them to control it.  I think stuff is really screwed up.  And I don’t think anyone gets it.”

She let his words travel between the expanse and into her, to the place words are kept.  Then she spoke, and in her voice resonated all the pain in the world.  Of course, the pain was her’s and her’s alone, and it belonged to no one else.  But the thing that must be understood is that when someone says “all the anything in the world,” it is because their own world is heavy enough to suffice for the universe at large.  Our own life is big enough to feel too big most of the time.

So, she spoke: “Why not me?”

He knew her best, so when she said this, he understood that she was not talking about what everyone else might have thought she would have been talking about.  She wasn’t asking why she was never a victim.  She was asking why the plant in her heart never overcame her, but overcame others.

The rain was going to come back.  At times like this, the rainless moments are only a short reprieve.  Eventually, it will be moderately sunny again, but when a storm comes, it rains for days.

“Why not any of us?” he said in a low, gravelly voice.  “We’re all broken vessels, love.  But some of us get patched, I guess.  There’s no explaining it.  There’s only living with it.”  He paused, smiling halfheartedly.  “I think we should be happy about it.”

“Feels like everyone is scared and angry.  Like everyone’s got it in their heads that now is the time for their own vendetta to start,” she said.  “I don’t think anyone cares much about dealing with life.  They’re just pissed at it all going to hell.”

 Quickly, he said, “It’s not going to hell any quicker than it has been for the last couple thousand years.  It’s just easier to see it these days.”

The rain was starting again, but this time the wind didn’t return.  Everything was softer.  The fog swirled around, the water in the bay wasn’t as choppy, the rowboat didn’t bash into the dock.

 “Maybe everyone is pissed because they all feel it too,” he mused.  “The creeping plant, the broken places.  Maybe the vendettas aren’t about this thing at all.  Maybe the vendettas are just a safeguard against themselves.”  He laughed suddenly.  “You probably should leave then.  There are far too many people in this world all full of hate.”

She smiled, pushing her tangled, stringy hair from her eyes.  She reached out her foot and nudged the boat in the water, raising her eyebrows at him, like an invitation.

 “Wanna come?  We could float away from the confusion.”

 “Nah,” he said.  “Confusion’s always gonna be here.  It’s a screwy place, under these mountains, on this shore.  But I think, since we’re some of the ones who’ve been patched up, it’s probably sort of a duty for us to stay here.  Keep showing people there’s hope, you know?”

She stood up very slowly and walked to him through the rain, leaving the boat and the mountains behind. She was smiling and so was he, which felt, for one fleeting instant, like a very wrong thing to be happening.  But it’s only possible to be angry and upset and full of pain for a certain amount of time before it’s ridiculous not to go on with being normal.  She knew this, and so did he, so they let it feel wrong for a second, then they let it be what it was.

 “You think?” she said when she came to him.  They began walking back toward town.  “Hope?  It’s our job?”

 “It’s our part,” he said with a shrug.  “I don’t think most of it is up to us.”  He stared at her as they walked.  They had both gotten good at staring and walking, since, as we now know, staring usually means more than speaking.

 “You don’t patch broken things unless you intend to use them,” she wondered aloud.  She stopped walking abruptly.  He was one or two steps ahead of her before he stopped too, looking back at her.  He just waited for her to work out the words that were already in her.  “We have to go on without answers, don’t we?”

 He nodded. “Yeah.  I think.”

 She nodded once, curtly, resolutely, resigned but freely resigned.  “Okay.”

 The rain, as it usually does at times like this, kept on.  But they also kept walking.

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Hearts

There’s this one movie called Serenity.  It’s a Joss Whedon film, and one of my favorites.  The series and film focuses heavily on a character named River – a teenaged girl who is, admittedly, a little bit crazy.  Damaged.  She is strong and fierce and independent and has been transformed into a deadly weapon by the government.  But she is also kind and brilliant and funny and surprisingly gentle in so many ways – because she is, after all, a young girl.  And all the science-fiction brain experiments in the world can’t destroy the heart of a person.  At least, that’s what I believe.  Apparently, so does Joss Whedon.

Anyway.  In the film, there is one point when River collapses, both falling down and falling apart inside.  And she pleads, whispering, “God, make me a stone.”  Joss Whedon isn’t exactly a believer (exactly, he’s an atheist), and one could argue that River is not a believer either, though she has been exposed to God through a relationship with a member of the clergy, Shepherd Book.  But when River pleads with God to make her a stone, she means it.  She wants to be a stone.  Hard, unmoving, unfeeling, unreachable.  When her world has devolved into chaos and noise and destruction and confusion, and when she can no longer make sense of what is real and what is not, she turns to her last resort, to the God who she has logicked away to the far edges of the universe, and begs Him to take everything away.

A week and a half ago, I asked God to make me a stone.  I asked Him to harden my heart, to make me feel less.  When my own world felt like too much, when everything looked so real and so fake, when I was finally convinced that I was too soft – that’s when I prayed for God to pour the concrete, set me in the sun, and forget me.

If you know me well, you know that my heart lives on my sleeve.  Goodness, if you read this blog at all you’ll realize it.  I give my heart to people easily, but not carelessly.  I’m intentional.  If you know me, it’s because I decided to show my heart to you.  With some people, I remain guarded, pouring myself out gradually.  With a few, I am vulnerable almost, some might say, to a fault.  If that’s possible.  I give, because I want to be known.  I long to be known.  There have been times when the place my heart resides ends up hurting me.  But there have also been many times when I have been blessed because I choose to be vulnerable.  I have been trusted in return, allowed to know and love other people.  It is risky.  Yeah.  But I have never regretted taking the risk.  Even when it hurt.

But when I plead with God to make me a stone, I also cursed my soft, stitched-to-the-sleeve heart.  That heart I valued so much.  The one that had encouraged people I love and had made me different.  I have thanked God for my easily-moved, easily-loving heart.  I have called it a blessing.  A gift.  And now I was condemning it, asking for it to be taken away.  Because feeling anything can be really, really hard.  Caring can be painful.  Seeing the hurting, dying world can be awful.  Maybe I feel too much, I thought.  Maybe I care too much.  Maybe I love too much.  What if the person I thought I was – kind, responsive, loving – wasn’t me at all?  I felt already like a brick fortress, as if there was some barrier in me that separated two Courtneys: a real one and an intruder.  But which was which?  I had become a contradiction in my own head.

Amidst my pleas, though, was His voice.  It is always there.  And this time I couldn’t ignore it.  I felt broken.  I wasn’t sure who I was.  But I was sure of Him.

Calm.  You cannot be a stone.  You are My stitched-to-the-sleeve heart.

So, sitting in what I thought was the rubble of myself, I listened to God tell me who I was.

Sinful – yes.  Broken – yes.  Angry – yes.  Confused – yes.  Afraid – yes.  Impatient – yes.  A little stony – yes.  A little lost – yes.

Passionate – yes.  Gentle – yes.  Kind – yes.  Loving – yes.  Hopeful – yes.  Honest – yes.  Real – yes.

Irreparable?  No.

I am so thankful for a God who does not give me what I want, especially when He has created me for more than what I believe I can be.  This year, as I begin my third year of university, I am asking God to make me soft.  To hold tight to my vulnerable heart and allow me to continue to feel deeply.  I don’t want to reject the blessings He’s created in me.  When it seems like it would be easier to hide behind a wall I’ve built myself, I pray that I would have the boldness and the courage and  the trust to step in front of the battlements.  I want to be used by God.  Molded and shaped to look more like Jesus.  If He has given me this heart, it is because He has plans for it.

 

 

 

God, make me a feather.  Make me a sail, and be my guiding wind.  Make me clay in Your hands, Make me water, and pour me into the lives of my family and my friends and those I love and those I fear.  Give me the heart You desire.  Give me the desire for You.  Soften me.  Break me.  Give me your strength.  With that, I cannot fail.

 

Summer two thousand nine, in terms of explosion.

Hullo. Apologies for the ambiguity contained within many of my recent poems. Apparently this summer is turning out to be one of a lot of contemplation and thoughts and ideas (more than usual, perhaps). I’ll hopefully get something that isn’t a poem up soon. I mean, maybe. I should stop suggesting that I am or am not going to write certain things, huh? Tell you what: I will write something, eventually. That pretty much covers it. Okay; this one: The poem is done, but the thought process is a work in progress. Take what you get from it – I hope it’s something. Love you guys – well, as much as I can, with only knowing a few of you. :) Also, PS, this blog is about twenty hits away from 1000 views. That is absolutely ridiculous.

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I need room.
Not a big, open field
or an ocean rising and falling at my bidding,
but room.
Just space.
Maybe an empty movie theater.
Or the halls of the high school
ten minutes after the bell goes.
A place that isn’t too far from anyone else,
but a place that only has time and reason
for me.
Public seclusion.
I want to be alone until the silence becomes too big.
Until the weirdness of my soul
starts to swallow me up.
Then I need people.
Strangers and friends,
people to remind me of all the
faces I’ve made and all the stories I’ve
fumbled through.
Strangers to prove to me that I
purse my lips
and change my tone.
Friends to assure me that
they see through all that.
I need to be alone
until I need to be with.

Because sometimes it’s like I’m exploding.
Supernova-ing my way through existence,
burning out in a blaze of glory
that was too blinding to look straight at.
And I want to know that
there are going to be people there
who will cover their eyes
but hold on anyway.
Supernovas need space
and it is then that all eyes turn to them.
A devoted audience fixed on the
flaming speck in the black.

And we are silly.
We humans, devoted as we are to the heavens
and the mysteries housed there –
we watch through our telescopes
in dazzled fascination
as the explosions glow and glimmer
their way through the light years.
I once watched an star burn out
for an entire summer.
It was the brightest pinpoint in the sky
and I would stare at it,
all at once in awe
and in fear.
For if the fire of a star could disappear,
what was stopping the rest of us?
I remember finding out
that the star was long dead
and only now was its dying breath
reaching our eyes.
It was that far away.
I didn’t like finding out.

Humans are silly.
We stand in awe of things
that are dead.
We believe we are like
the dead things that awe us.
I am no supernova.
There is not a beautiful way
to compare the whirlwinds in me
to the fire of a star.
In the infinite universe,
I have only my space.
So give me less of it.
I need some room to burn.
But not light years of it.