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

Career Advice

This is my advice to you:

Stop trying to figure out what is going to happen next and simply choose the things that make you happy today. You can’t know for sure what turn of events your life will take next year, next week, or even tomorrow, so don’t feel like you need to have everything projected and anticipated down to the finest detail.

If you really want to be happy in life, you need to stop worrying what other people are going to think of you and simply follow the guidance of your soul. Your soul won’t lead you down a path that keeps you trapped and miserable and wanting to get out—this is not the way of the soul. Your soul wants much kinder things for you and will be a reliable guide—a reliable friend—in your pursuit of a meaningful life.

As for the practical side of things: just do what you’ve been doing, but make sure you have plenty of time for things that make your heart come alive. You don’t need to be one of the people who works 80 hours a week just to find your way to the top of the barrel. There’s always a way to live on your own terms, and if you have the courage to act in harmony with your spirit—that is, to live the way your truest self is calling out for you to live—then you will find a way being made and things coming together in a manner that other people may have thought impossible.

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in life: those who hope and those who despair.

But what about the people who do both? you say.

Well, yes, of course: these two qualities can form a peculiar sort of admixture in the souls of certain individuals. These are the people who live life as a balancing act, constantly divided inside themselves by contradictions which threaten to turn the simplest sense into the most complicated confusion. These people have a difficult time with life—getting their heads together takes much more effort than it ought—but they’re also an interesting bunch, and they tend to see the world from a point of view which may surprise you, not infrequently, with its unusual insights into the nature of things.

Forget It All (Epistolary Series)

Dear Q,

Can you forget the things I said to you last night? If you would be so kind as to remove them from your memory, I would be most obliged. For you see, as I told you those things, I was suffering from a bit of a headache, and my mind was uneasy with the stink of rotten news.

And when I told you I loved you, I was really just playing a game in my head. For all I know, you’re a fool with a stone for a heart, and I would lose myself in impossible agonies if I were to hand you my affections without first asking the proper questions of you.

But you’re a kind-hearted fool, you say? That may be, but time will tell. If the sun strikes your face and you break into smiles, I’ll know the truth about you. A happy soul can’t help but grin when the light starts shining, so nice and warm, upon his face. That’s the mark of a gentle-man.

Now forget what I told you. Forget it all. I wasn’t in my right state of mind last night. You’ll understand me, won’t you? When I told you about the hole in my heart, and the way I cry when I think of you, it was only a manner of speaking. I am prone to trying out little phrases here and there, just to hear the ring of the thing. You mustn’t take me too seriously, for the sound is really more important than the sense, and there’s not much use in trying to puzzle out the rest.

With faith in your ability to forgive and, most of all, forget,

I remain

Your friend of sorts,

M

Niceties and Milk (Epistolary Series)

Jane—

If I cared enough to tell you, I would. But, my dear, you bore me with your tedious outlook on life and I can’t really be bothered to entertain the logic of fools any longer than I have to.

Does that sound harsh? Well, it’s meant to. I don’t get through to you when I speak in coddled words, dressed up in the art of being quaint. What you need is a proper dose of truth—the bluntest sort you can find. Your stomach has grown too weak with your diet of niceties and milk. You’ll need something meatier in you if you ever wish to take your place in the halls of a greater house than the one you’re in.

Don’t argue with me. At least give me a moment to explain. Yes, yes, I admit, you’re not a stupid girl. Your head has some interesting thoughts floating around; they’ve put in an appearance every now and then. But most of the time, you’re inclined to be lazy with yourself, letting the good thoughts wander off into the unknown and dressing yourself in emotional mudrooms instead.

Don’t pretend it’s not true. You know full well what I’m getting at. You’ve gotten yourself into enough tangles to blush with shame at the mention of them. You’re a smart girl, but a silly one, and you have a lot of growing up to do. This all sounds sharp, I know, but the thing you need is a cold, hard slap of truth. That’s the best way I know for getting a girl to grow up fast.

Well, you can’t be troubled with such things, I see. I guess I’ll take my wisdom where it’s wanted, and leave it to fall deaf on the ears of the ones who need it most.

Mrs. T

Old Red Chairs (Epistolary Series)

Dearest L,

Can you put into words the sound your heart makes when you’re about to meet the man of your dreams? Or the gurgle in your stomach that precedes the long walk down the aisle on the one day of your life when everyone is looking straight at you? How can the world be so full of impossible people when the people I’ve met seem to confine themselves to what’s plain and possible, in the squarest of senses? You know me—when I get into a mood like this, all I can do is spit nonsense at you. I hope you’ll forgive the mess.

A hundred people came to the play. They sat down in old red chairs with plastic armrests and started making little noises—the kind that come when people have to sit still for longer than they’re used to. Coughs, sighs, rustles of candy wrappers—that sort of thing. Halfway through the show, right before the actors took their break, a man began to snore in the back-left corner of the room. His snores were big and grumpy; it sounded like he had a lot on his chest that he could only get out when he slept. A woman sitting behind him poked him with her umbrella and he jumped awake. He didn’t look too happy about the whole affair. But the woman’s umbrella, one must admit, was rather a bit too pointy for putting anyone in a particularly cheerful mood.

If you could see the people I talk with on a daily basis, you’d be amazed. Not because there’s anything especially remarkable about the conversations they have, but because their eyes are all fastened to their heads with a singular sort of piety. No, that’s not the right word. With a singular sort of… vision? Who can say? The only thing I’m trying to get at is that I’m lonely here without you and wish you would join me soon.

Love always,

E

Confused

She hated being confused. She hated feeling so wishy-washy on every topic, every inclination, every desire that sprang to mind. It was like she was in a constant, tiring dance of taking one step forward, then one step back—moving confidently in no direction at all and surrendering her only movements to wandering gusts of wind. It was hard to explain, and frustrating to keep pent up inside.

One moment, she felt as if she knew so many things, had so many things to say—but was without any good, clear way of turning that knowledge, those beliefs, into something useful. She was trapped inside herself—a mute, thought stupid or incapable by others, but containing within her a storm of unexpressed ideas. Then, the very next moment, she would feel as if in fact she really didn’t know anything, that her certainties had been misplaced, that she was overcome by too much choice; and then she would be stuck with some strange and irritating guilt at having had the pride, the audacity, to have once thought so confidently otherwise.

She would feel a desire, then mistrust it, and a whole debate ensued about accepting desires with simplicity and grace—acknowledging that they were natural and good—versus being in a state of surrender to whatever was meant to be—desireless except for a single desire, which was to do the will of God, or to have that will be done.

The complication was a mess—and not helpful in the least. It was an exhausting business to be so at war with herself that she didn’t even know how to think, how to want, how to move, how to look at herself in the mirror.

Of course, it wasn’t always as bad as all that—and after a while, she learned to mostly ignore those thoughts as phenomena which diminished when not paid attention to—but having such music as the soundtrack to her mind could be exasperating. She envied the people who simply moved with their intuitions, uncluttered, uncomplicated, undivided—not backtracking, or doubting, or entertaining interminable dialogues in their heads. How nice it would be to know what you wanted, and to believe that wanting those things was good. What a simple relationship!

The secret to that freedom she craved was to stop thinking of herself—to be lost in the contemplation or doing of other things. But how she could get there when she was so deeply entrenched in the habit of introspection—when she was so apparently and frustratingly obsessed with herself—was a mystery to her. Falling in love was probably the best remedy—but what could she do when she couldn’t find anyone to fall in love with? She just huddled up in her warm bed at night and wrote little journal entries to pass the time, I suppose.

Red Bird

Red bird
in the palm of my hand—
Who cannot sing the strains of love
stirring trapped inside your beak.

Drop a feather instead—
In the fullness that can’t be expressed,
the only thing left
is to fly.

So good-bye, red bird—
May you carry the kiss of my quiet soul
on the northerly wind.

Speak Simply

Open the book to the page of wisdom and count the words. Are they many or few? What else can you say of them? Are they noisy, full of air? Or trim, compact, containing just the meaning they intend to deliver—nothing more nor less?

You can see that, in the ways of the wise, less is often more. This is because we spend too much time imagining that things are important when they are not, and in the process we obfuscate the things of real value in our lives and in our conversations.

It is a relief to pare down unnecessary words. When you speak more simply, you travel with a lighter sack and you get the chance to communicate the essence of the ideas on your mind and in your heart. When you talk too much, you get carried away by the sound of things, and forget the sense. It is an excusable fault, but it weighs you down and, after a while, tires you out.

The solution is simple:

When obliged to speak your mind, use the words that come first to your heart. If you pay more attention to the center of things (that is, the heart, rather than the mind), you will find yourself speaking with a new authority. Not a haughty one, or unapproachable; neither of these is what we are after. Instead, you will speak with the authority of one who says (or tries to say) only what she judges to be real and true, and your words will feel more solid, more precise. After a while, you will notice that you have come closer to describing your thoughts than when you used twice the number of words to get you there.

In the end, we all have our characteristic styles and rhythms. It is not for everyone to take the austerest path. Goodness forbid! Your manner of expression must be consistent with who you are! But there is always a little room for us to be quieter and to discover the riches that are waiting for us between the commas and—–gasps of air.

Faith

A slow, pretty cover of the George Michael song.

The unfed mind devours itself.

Gore Vidal