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

Simple Remembrance of Love

The burning of soul that one sometimes feels in the midst of prayer or praising God can represent the human desire for union with Someone greater, bigger, more full of love.

Often, it strikes me that I know so little as to be considered dumb in the life of prayer—for what was once a certainty dissolves into doubt and the order of importance of questions pursued—Who am I? Who is God? Does life have a purpose we’re meant to find?—becomes obscure.

The truth is, when it comes to knowing how to speak about something ineffable—the words are hard to acquire. It would be better, I think, to be still, to keep the mouth from opening at all—except that this is an impossible thing to ask, given how much the mind wants to discuss that which consumes it.

In the winter of one’s life—which is to say, when one has fallen into a period of coldness and doubt, and when the causes for being happy are hard to come by—it becomes important to remember what came before, in the times when life was bright, when the sun was warm on your face. For one’s job in such seasons is to overcome the sense of being lost, to eschew the belief in one’s inability to move or do or think—and recover, by means of recalling the good, an uncanny sense of purpose that comes to those who open their minds and hearts to possibilities of life and love.

In the end, what gives us strength is the simple remembrance of Love. If we can find the source of this Love inside ourselves—tucked in the corners of our souls—we have all we need to step into the light, prepared to fail sometimes, but also convinced of our ability to stand up again, unstirred from our purpose, which is, today and tomorrow and the day after that, to burn our lamps as brightly as we can and set the world aflame with a life devoted to beauty and truth and all that is good.

Letter to My Friend (Epistolary Series)

Dear ___,

Oh what I would give to know that you still thought well of me, too. Even a little sign, nothing out-of-the-way or out of line. Just a small gesture, simple but clear and something I could remember on a rainy day. The thing is, I always feel terribly sad letting the people I care about get away. It’s a curse of mine, and it’s a rather difficult one to bear. For an emotional sort like me, it’s hard to stomach the thought that you can’t care for the people you want to care about, because the circumstances no longer allow for it. It’s doubly hard to feel the thrust of caring in the absence of feeling cared about in return. I don’t mean to strike a note of self-pity—it’s not that. But I can’t find the words to relay what I mean. Maybe there’s a way to put it better. Let’s see:

I loved you once and was glad for the chance to have fallen in love. I never regretted it a minute—mostly because you’re a lovely person with a funny heart and a wild brain. How could I have helped myself? But the difficult thing is that I never knew if you loved me, or even liked me, in return. Sure, I could guess and imagine and read between the lines, but the trick of the mind is always a threat, and I can’t be sure except in the way I am sure of many other invisible things—which is to say, I make a choice to trust inside my heart. But sometimes it is nice to have a tangible proof, a sensible token of things. Just to anchor oneself in the world again.

And the thought of passing from memory, of fading from importance, is always a punch in the gut. I’ve said it before—that once the heart loves, it will always love, no matter the shifting shapes and forms; what has entered the heart will always have its place there. I still believe that’s true. But is it true for everyone? Or just for me? The clash of realities is hard to bide, and I don’t know how to clean up the mess.

In other words, I’ve had my say and I haven’t even managed to say a thing. But you will understand the meaning behind my bungled words. For in this awkward way, I have only tried to tell you that I am happy to have known such a person as you—for there is only one—and will always think of you with fond feelings in my chest. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to say that I’m desperately in love and pining for the past. Or that I’ve erected a monument to you in my mind, before which I shed tears of regret for what might have been. Nothing of the sort, I promise. Rather, I just wanted you to know that I’ve always thought you’re grand, and I always will. So you’ve got someone in your corner, cheering you on, remembering with pleasure all your goofy ways and happy to pick up where we left off and continue our game of cards, taking turns revealing our hands, laughing about the littlest things, like an old pair of friends.

Sincerely yours,
Me

“Of all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you.”

Dappled-day

Dappled-day
Flower-fire
Ice cubes trembling
Birds on wire.

Dolphin-dreamer
Happy head
Children dancing
Time for bed.

Morning Routine

In the morning, at half-past five, Thomas goes to his window and looks outside. Very often, in summer, he sees birds flying from tree to tree, stirring their friends awake. When the weather is chill, the life outside isn’t so obvious, but Thomas knows that it’s there, for when he blows on the window with a puff of air, the fogged-up glass spreads into a funny shape and makes Thomas laugh like a child.

The reason Thomas laughs is simple to understand, if you have a child’s heart. For all children know that funny shapes on a window can turn into the most fantastic creatures when no one is looking. Once, when he was small, Thomas blew a puff of air that made a shape just like a bat—and Thomas was sure he heard the flap of wings and a tiny high-pitched shriek a moment after he’d turned his head.

Anyway, the point of me telling you all of this is just that I want you to see how training yourself to think a certain way—a way that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary—is a mechanism by which the most sensitive souls keep themselves alive in the bleaker times.

If you can begin your day by stirring up the signs of life, or recalling something that makes you laugh, you have armored yourself with a sturdy defense against the threats of habit and humdrum that otherwise tempt you into feelings of despair.

It is not hard to recover a sense of meaning in life if you loosen the grip of formal thought and let your spirit find joy in the little things.

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