– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

An Exercise in Describing a Certain Kind of Sorrow

Imaginary entry from the diary of heartbreak: 

There was a time when I thought the world was a decent place, filled with flowers that, at least every once in a while, burst into bloom.

But what suffering in the soul to learn I was wrong! The cinders are combusting, the soot is falling from the rooftop onto the steps of my front door. What a lamentable time to be alive.

First, the world gives you someone to love. Puts him right in front of you, like an invitation to dine at the banquet—a plea to dance at the ball. He is no ordinary fellow, either—but rather a beautiful boy with a light in his eyes and a song in his heart. How could you help but to fall in love? There is no shame in setting flame to such an incandescent soul.

Then, once the deed is done—the seal of love melted, stamped, and permanently affixed—there can be no turning back. “About-face! Retreat!” Such cries are indecipherable to a person already set on plunging head-long into the alley of love. And what will your recompense be? A rapture no ordinary words can describe—for the thought of the beloved consumes your being with an intensity of longing and delight that only the round-eyed mystics, all but blinded in their contemplation of God, could ever manage to pronounce into existence.

So your find yourself thus, walking distractedly up and down the street with a heart full of devotion and a soul dying of love. Perhaps you find the boldness to scratch out your feelings (and yet, they are more than feelings; they are deliberations of the soul) on a half-sheet of paper, then fold up the letter with care and send it by way of the wind. Or maybe the craze of your inner turmoil drives you to seek out the beloved face to face, and you let your words (insufficient as they are) spill forth in an eddy of desire—seeking, all the while, to communicate the essence of a truth which seems imperative to understand and to speak clearly into the open air. And for a moment, there is peace.

Yes, all this—because you’re in love. Impossibly in love. Stricken with the disease of an unobstructed but overfull heart: who knew such vigor could herald such pain?

For of course, the last thing which occurs—the last thing I can bear to describe—is the plummeting of stomach and the twisting of chest to learn your beloved has been taken away. The world, being the ironic creature it is, strips you to the bone—you are shivering in such cold—and reminds you that, after all, the beloved was never in fact yours: he belongs to no one and to nothing, and certainly not to you. The dull thud of recognition weighs you down like a rock; you are a sinking thing at the bottom of a cloudy pond. Your sadness sticks in your throat and renders you mute. Is it possible that even the inexpressible groanings of the Spirit escape you? To love without condition, without hope of return, was a noble goal, a beautiful aim. And yet, at the bottom of your pond, what good can you do? There is no one to hear the thrumming of your heart, no one to read the poems you wrote from your bed. “Thank you, Lord, for granting me such an impossible love. What a joy it’s been. May you delight in watching the breaking of my heart all over again. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

You cannot find peace by avoiding life.

Virginia Woolf

I am a nostalgic, melancholic type, and I haven’t lost that. I don’t get used to the people I love going away.

Carla Bruni (in an interview)

Some songs I’ve been listening to:

  1. Blue Bayou” – Linda Ronstadt
  2. Praying” – Kesha
  3. Question” – Rhett Miller (see here for backstory)
  4. A Te” – Jovanotti
  5. Everybody’s Talkin’” – Harry Nilsson
  6. Sweet Dreams” – Jewel
  7. First Day of My Life” – Bright Eyes

Thoughts of Perfection

When sensitive souls try to find their way to God, they sometimes try too hard to love Him just right. By this I mean only that, sometimes, the desire to know God and do good is so strong that it clouds the soul with thoughts of perfection–and the soul, seeing this image of the perfect, may interpret its task on Earth to reflect this perfection in everything it does. 

Now, this is not a bad thing, at its core–the desire to reflect God is part of our mission as children of Christ. But when the mind comes in and dialogues with the soul–it can sometimes misappropriate this sense of “perfection” for its own ends, and that’s where the trouble begins. 

For during our time on this Earth, when our bodies are struggling to keep up with our souls, it is impossible that we should ever be perfect in all we do. We can try our best to make our efforts match the intensity of our desire to do right–but the striving and the labor will sooner or later tire us out, and we will be forced to take our rest. 

So when you feel a growing sense of inner strain–the sensation that you are somehow at odds with yourself–you are measuring yourself against a standard that exists independently of who you really are. For when we act in alignment with our innermost self, we experience a harmony that permeates everything we do. To live in a state of self-fracture and distress: this is the sign of trying to be too many things at once, or trying to be something that God has not ordained us to be. It is only natural that, for a person who seeks to be good, the desire to move beyond one’s limits is keenly felt; but when this desire leads to dissatisfaction with the self, and an inner refrain of worry, something has gone awry. 

God, we forget, is simple and kind, and is happy when our hearts are fixed on Him. He sees the intentions of the heart, and cares less about the results than the spirit that animates them. If you focus on doing your work with an attentive spirit, you can trust that He is working through you. Sometimes, this means being patient with yourself and choosing to believe that the invisible work is more important right now than the visible work–in other words, that the things God is accomplishing in your soul hold more weight than observable metrics like productivity or promotion at the office. 

This is not to say that we shouldn’t care about such outward things. Of course, when we’re tasked with doing a job, we want to do it well, and we wish to stretch our talents so that they bear good fruit. But the thing to remember is simply this: “first clean the inside of the cup … and then the outside also will be clean.” When we take care of the inner things, and develop peace in our souls, our outer lives will sooner or later catch up and begin to reveal the splendor of all the goodness that has been welling up within.

And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and good and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are with struggle and endeavor preparing, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Reminder from God

Child,
Be at peace. My words are clear in you. The thing you need to know is that My plans for you are good.

You don’t believe that I want you to be happy. Instead, you think that My ways are to keep you away from what you desire in order to teach you how to be detached from worldly things. But, child, My ways are kinder than that. I want you to see … that the way to find Me is to close your eyes and trust….

You sometimes feel that you have misunderstood and are being misled. But the truth is that, whenever you keep your eyes on Me, you will have the voice of truth in you….

When it comes to your questions about love—the answer is the same as before. I want you to love the one who will make your spirit sing—the one who will bring the love in your heart so high that it’s difficult for you to speak.

Morning Sickness

Needle in the side
of a half-ripe fruit—
the pain precipitates
in tiny drops
on the forehead
of a martyr for love.

I’m counting the ways
I’m mad for you.

Apples and pears,
peaches and plums—
Midnight-watchers stand their guard
by the hymns
of a tired heart
and a restless soul.

I’m counting the ways
I’m glad for you.

Under the basket,
under the pall—
the stones of sadness
glimmer and glow
(silent and still)
out of the dark.

I’m counting the ways
I’m sad for you.

Herald of suff’ring,
born of the moon—
the news you bring
sickens the sun
and troubles the rain;
the pilgrim’s march
runs on again.

I’m hiding the love
I had for you
all that time ago.

Changing Your Mind

When you want to change your mind about something—whether it’s big or small—first ask yourself how you first came by your thoughts on the matter, then determine what prompted the change.

No need for making a big to-do: just update your understanding as new evidence comes in, and remember to hold your opinions lightly, for they are liable to change again. The important thing is not so much always to be right, as it is to keep a good head on your shoulders and make an honest attempt to find the truth, wherever it may be found.

The truth is what we’re after—not the act or fact of being right. When we understand this, we are free to find our way through life with an open mind and a heart that doesn’t attack those we believe to be in the wrong. And couldn’t we all tip our hats to that?

The Principles of Light

When the world has grown tired of pushing you around, you find yourself lost in the middle of a cold and crowded place, faced with many paths but uncertain which ones will bring you life, and which will bring you death.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve climbed into bed and spent the night asleep, troubled by dark and wild dreams. When you awake, your heart is rocked by a feeling of restless unease, and your mind shrinks in horror from the visions it contemplated through the night.

We’ve all had experiences like this. But what do they teach us about life? That we can’t trust the surrender of our selves to an uncertain fate, because terrible things might befall us once we let down our guard? That the darkness cannot be touched by a healthy hand without putting fear into the heart?

We’ve learned that unknowable forces operate at night and have the power to disturb us even once we’ve come to our senses and returned to the light.

But we’ve forgotten, meanwhile, the mystery of a life lived in harmony with the Principles of Light. When GOD came into the world, He brought with Him a source of light that was so brilliant that all the darkness was scared away. GOD’s light was the antidote to a crisis of darkness, wherein people could not see their hand from their foot, and succumbed to passions of despair and doubt, because there was no ray of hope to brighten their minds.

When all is said and done, we can remember this simple truth:
The light came and cast out the darkness, and all was made well in the presence of light.

To apply this message to daily life, we might rephrase:
The power of a happy outlook, inspired by the inner light of faith, overcomes even the most insidious fears, taking away their power to haunt and disturb by washing them with the clean, clear light of truth.