A Couple Things I Miss

I am home sick from work because my head feels like an over-inflated balloon, so clearly now is the time to write. There are many good things about teaching, (and I hereby pledge to write to you about them in a couple weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving,) but oh, how I miss writing.

The problem is not that I don’t have the time to write. I’ve never believed that as an excuse, anyway. I always managed to write when I was a student, both in high school and college. If there is time to breathe, there is time to write.

The problem, I think, is that I haven’t yet learned how to let teaching act as a catalyst for writing. Writing is never really born out of itself, you know. You see something or read something or hear something, E.B. Browning writes of the “gold and purple” of her husband’s heart or Don Draper takes his kids back to see his childhood home, and suddenly a wonderfully itchy little ball begins to form in your midsection, and you’re off. It’s that little outside idea which ignites the whole wonderful Rube Goldberg process of getting words onto paper. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn how, as a teacher, to pick up on those little hints to kick-start the machine, and right now my life has time for precious few other sources of inspiration.

I come home, want to write, and review my options: I could begin work on a fourth draft of novel #1, but really I should wait for an agent to help me do that. Right? Right. That’s what they tell me. Well, to attract that agent I should get a few stories published in reputable magazines. This means I should I actually write a few stories. But the only idea I currently have is for a little Flannery O’Connor knock-off, which would probably turn out to be pretty useless. I could work on organizing chapters and scenes for novel #2…But does my room really need that clutter of scribbly index cards when novel #1 still requires so much ripping apart and pasting back together? So I come sidling back to my blog for the first time in almost a month. Hello. I’m rusty with my words, but I’m making an effort.

There is something else I miss. Besides the writing. Something more basic and more valuable. A couple weeks ago I was talking to one of my best friends from college and she mentioned that she might have a family wedding down in my area next fall, and would come and see me. “Jacks, really? Please come.” I said, “I would cry.” I meant it as a joke, I really did, but then there were tears on my cheeks. I miss my friends. I have good ones.

I don’t just mean the girls I went through college with. I mean my sister in Tennessee and my Karen in Madrid. I mean so many of you. Friendship is a wonderfully incomprehensible thing. One can pick up friends in the strangest and most sudden ways, lose them states away, and then find them again years later like the missing right half of your favorite pair of socks. How did this happen? I wonder sometimes. How do you and I find so much to say to one another? And why is it that we would rather be silent together than apart?

Lewis, who I rather think knew a lot about friendship, wrote this:

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

This idea that God meant us for one anothers’ lives, to stretch and grow and comfort each other in our own certain ways brings me a particular quiet delight. He knew our friendships would extend over miles and months, that our worries and prayers for one another would form fine threads connecting us from here to there to the next place, elongating till their length could wrap round the whole world. Those continuing threads of affection are what He intended. I am so thankful.

Oh, look… Somehow my God has given me a small, but perceptible, path from discontent to gratitude. How good it is to miss things. How near to nostalgia lies joy.

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