Time

Time has become my ultimate enemy. Not the great hooded figure whom Shakespeare fears, standing and cradling his massive scythe, but instead his nasty, pockmarked little cousin who crouches on the floor and counts out the hours like currency. He carries a scythe too: it’s small and sharp and with it he kills sleep and he kills joy.

Okay. Well then. Now that that ponderous metaphor is out of my system, we can move along.

Really, though, I am staging a rebellion against minutes and deadlines and ticking second hands. Or trying to, at least. This semester has been too much for me in some ways. I was secretly triumphant last week when my alarm clock gave up the ghost and I blissfully slept an extra hour and a half.

I’ve just had a nice long car ride full of no obligations (i.e. a little computer that will no longer hold a charge) and friendly company, so in the spirit of my revolution against the pressure of the hours, I’d like to propose the following amendments to my own manifesto.

-Don’t antagonize sleep. When you go to bed in the wee hours and are still not able to rest, don’t pull out your computer again to do a little more. Be patient. Wait.

-When the number and scale of responsibilities frighten you, pray over your hours.

-Eat meals at the table. Try not to bring your work with you.

-Remember it’s only little old you and your little old worries. And God is very great.

-Take long baths.

-Place diligence over deadlines. Think of whatever your mother would say.

-Remember that you love to write and read and talk. Don’t let yourself twist God’s blessings into burdens.

-Wage war on the passive voice with courage. Go forth and do. Do the next thing.

The notes above are obviously intended for time immemorial, but it’s also worth pointing out that this is Holy Week. The hours of this week have great import for life and death and death-in-life and life-in-death. So I will pause, and worship, and remember Him who is eternal, who created time and came down to enter it Himself, who knows that it too may be redeemed.

 

Rest

I don’t remember when I made this decision, but I decided not to do any work this weekend. I decided, instead, to rest. I had a sleepover with one of my best friends, I made myself eggs at midnight, I had a date with a four-year-old, I watched The Descendants, I began to make color-coded revision plans, I talked to my sister, I drove down I-80 to pick up another close friend, I went to church, and I had people over for dinner and made grits and green beans. It has been good, but I have discovered that rest takes quite a lot more effort than I’d thought.

I was not happy all weekend. I may even have cried and whined more than usual. I worried about my undone work and occasionally wondered if every hated me. I didn’t even have any good hair days. But I was unable to hide, to push my fears off till later. When you choose rest, you rather frighteningly give leave for the important things to become important, and for the urgent and its ilk to fade into the background. I was forced to admit the futility of my own action and inaction in the face of my God’s dying and rising.

I had to really listen to my friends, because there was nothing else to do. I had to listen to the spaces between their words, to feel their fears in my own gut. I had to sit alone in my own silence. I had to pray. It is easy to write, but I find it so hard to pray. When I pray there is no chance of impressing my audience, no chance for applause, only a dreadful promise that I will be loved, and I will be changed. This ripping feeling in my chest, I think, is resting in the Lord.

On Saturday I sat behind the pulpit in the chapel with little Tamagn, and read Dr. Seuss to him, he told me that he did not like “this house.” He was frightened that the robed figures in the stained glass windows would come alive and speak to him, and he was frightened of the sounds which he knew might swell from the pipes of the organ. I am sometimes afraid in God’s house too. I am afraid of the One who made me, who loves me though I betray Him. Such power and faithfulness is more than I can comprehend, so I busy myself with all other things. I pretend that the noise with which I surround myself keeps me from Him, when really it is my heart, sodden in its own fear.

But Jesus is awake and Jesus is alive. When I am silent, He shouts and it hurts. Those pipes and those bright figures in glass will not remain always still. The “great sloth heart” is moving. It knows it will find rest only in its Maker, and that “all else is trifling,” as the puritans pray. Because of Him, I write to you tonight with still hands and with raw newness in my heart.

Community

I am home for a whole week of break. Yesterday afternoon I took a walk with my dad and it was sunny and balmy. This afternoon I took a walk with my mom and it was bitter and rainy. (No reflection on respective parents, I’m sure.) My plans for this week include seeing people I love, doing a very small amount of homework, applying for a couple more jobs, writing things which are not my novel, and reading about Christianity and fiction. Also a lot of sleep.

This is a funny place to be, in my last semester. I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of the world, and that in May I’ll fall into it head-long for the first time, but of course that is silly. I’ve been in the world all along. I was born into it.

I am frightened about next year’s changes, though. I am not worried about a job or a home or a car (though I’m sure I ought to be sometimes.) Instead, I am rather predictably worried about being lonely. I am terrified to step out of the tight knit little college atmosphere, well-insulated with people who love me deep and well, into a looser sort of place where, though I will have support, there will not always be a hand to hold within arm’s length, or a smiling face directly when I look over my shoulder.

In college, I have gratefully stumbled into friendships with interesting, valuable, layered people. I’ve become an aficionado of the one-on-one friendship, of the tea date, of laughter and the well-placed, comfortable bit of sass. I have collected friends who don’t mind my camping out on their couches when they’re not home, who remember my aunts and cousins though they’ve never met them, who dutifully read this little blog.

I love these people dearly and I intend to absolutely hold onto them for quite a long time, but I am realizing more and more that what I will need when I graduate (and what I have perhaps missed, sometimes rather keenly, throughout college) is community. A common group with common loves.

Dr. Messer asked me the other day if I had any friends or peers who were as invested in writing as I was—people I could really get into it with. I don’t and I never really have. It is also true that, though it takes more courage than I would like to admit to say so, I still find it much easier to write about my God than to talk about Him with friends. It is not that they don’t love Him too, but that we’ve been shy to build our friendships on Him, shy to say His name.

I am indeed shy to write this because I am not ready to step away from the people I consider to be my best friends. I do not intend to ever be ready. I will always love them as I do now, except someday hopefully a little better. I am, however, longing for this community of which I still maintain only the vaguest idea.

I sent out the second draft of my novel to quite a few people last week, and that has, unexpectedly, (though why I wouldn’t expect it, I have no idea) been quite a start. For the first time all these people have the opportunity to read the pages onto which I’ve strained my pale little soul for the last two semesters. It makes me wonder how it would be to sit down and wholesale read the draft of someone else’s novel, someone else’s carefully strung words. How it would be to sit down and say, what do you think a Christian novel might be in the twenty-first century? Do you think it can exist? Do you think you or I might write one? Perhaps we ought to pray and then begin.

Seeing To It

Last night I went to the grocery store for milk and bread and things, left the milk behind at the cash register, and did not even miss it till about eleven this morning. I worked on revising my novel for nearly four hours, then walked up to campus this afternoon to see friends and thought about how glad I will be not only for the snow to melt but for the spring rains to come along and wash all the salt and grime away and give the earth’s face a good washing.

A couple weeks ago I was reading Matthew for my New Testament class and I came across Judas.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

‘And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

The chief priests buy a field with the money and name it after blood, then Matthew moves the narrative back to Christ facing Pilate. Pilate washes his hands, because he cannot handle the crisis in front of him. So Jesus carries the cross and “sees to it.” Jesus and Judas both die.

So when I read that passage above, I wanted Judas to turn around before he ran to the temple with his tainted silver. I wanted him to look once more at the condemned Man, I wanted the betrayer to look at the One he had betrayed, and perhaps see the way innocent blood might save a sinner. Instead he spattered his corrupt blood over his sins to try to pay, because paying was all he knew, and left behind the legacy of a field fit only for strangers’ bones. The chief priests gathered up the price of their own long-awaited Messiah’s life off the floor of a temple that was meant for Him.

Judas tried to “see to” his guilt himself, because he saw only himself. He looked at his Lord’s impending death upon the cross and saw only his own sinful actions. He did not see Christ sweating blood in the garden because He already knew what lay ahead. He did not see Christ cry to his Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” or announce what He had finished. Judas looked only at himself, and did not understand the way Jesus meant His death, meant the spilling of His blood, meant the saving of His people.

On Sunday, Judas had begun to rot and Jesus had risen and told His friends to rejoice. He told them not to be afraid, that He was with them always. Judas thought that his traitorous kiss meant a grim and dismal end, but my God, the God whose “unoffending feet” I have determined to look to instead of my own, carried the mark of that betrayal through crushing death into new life and victory. He shall see to it that Fields of Blood and stony hearts are made new.

A Pilgrimage in Cold

I’m writing while travelling, which is a good place for it because you have time to write, and, ostensibly, there are things to write about. (We shall see.)

For the last two weeks of my break I taught a little extracurricular class at a classical school in Durham on performing Shakespeare. I had four girls and on Saturday night they’ll be doing Ophelia’s mad scene at the school’s Arts Festival, and I will be just offstage with my massive Shakespeare book, ready to prompt and grinning when the one playing Laertes bursts out with “to HELL allegiance!” Getting myself home has been a hassle, but being there will be worth it.

Also, of course, the air down south will not be so debilitatingly bitter. It was so cold in Grove City this afternoon that I saw one of the maintenance guys out waiting for a ride in his thick, dark work khaki, deigning to do an undignified little cold-dance.

I have learned things about winter since coming to school up here, things they neglect to tell you in books. I have learned the way snow creaks beneath your feet like old, shifting floorboards, I have learned the way the black top takes on a ghastly spotted grey, and how hands turn an angry, dry pink. I’ve come to love the pain of a good, itching ear-thaw.

I am a deep, soulful lover of spring and so winter here has been a lesson in waiting, but not in waiting only. Crocus-time is quite a ways off, and though I’m already dreaming of it, in the meantime I have a chance to love pilgrimage. A pilgrimage which will continue to lead through that which is uninviting and icy and painfully sharp, through that which I must learn to love,.

So I have the opportunity in wintertime not just to find warmth, but to continue to diligently notice when the sun comes out. When I walk up to campus and back I try not to count my steps, not to hunch my shoulders so harshly against the wind. I try to watch the white out the window when I can, the patches and stretches of it, and remember that spring would be nothing without a long, frozen sleep. That winter is the world’s rest. When the snow melts the grass will be a wonderful green I still fail to comprehend.

But now winter has come in its good time. I shan’t hurry.

How to Write a Novel (Part I)

-Be frightened underclassman.

-Decide to write novel so that will be person worth speaking to at parties and also to change world and self.

-Excitedly produce short prologue out of thin air.

-Realize have, as usual, given main characters awful names.

-Keep names out of cussedness.

-Hope am good enough writer to become famous anyway.

-Settle in gleefully for months of planning.

-Begin with one outline-ish word document.

-Assign pretentious title from Hopkins.

-Spend summer filling awkward orange notebook with disconnected paragraphs, most written by Tolkien, not self.

-Use special pen.

-Never mention to anyone.

-Make lists of books for character (not self) to read.

-Allow word document to spawn eighteen runty chapter babies.

-Eat M&M’s.

-Eventually mention to one friend, then two, then three.

-Refer to as “my story.”

-Become overwhelmed when friends speak confidently of future B&N author cardboard cutouts.

-Feel weird.

-Search internet for pictures which look like characters.

-Discover no one looks like characters.

-Wonder if characters are too ugly or too pretty or just too fictional.

-Encouraged by crazies of NaNoWriMo, write twenty actual pages in one year.

-Hide away in princess lounge to do so, usually wearing pajama pants and fuzzy blanket as cape.

-Pretend am doing something respectable and normal like biology.

-Feel covert and important.

-Watch Mad Men to inspire self.

-Realize have given self five seventeen year old boys to write about.

-Question own decision making skills.

-Tell more people.

-Continue to shyly use word “story.”

-Have brilliant idea to do independent study!

-Realize will have to begin saying word “novel” for clarity.

-Use “novel” in conversation, usually whispering and doing awkward side-eye to gage reaction.

-Promise to put new friends in as characters “just crossing the street or something.”

-Regret decision.

-Write syllabus for following semester, brazenly assigning self one hundred whole pages.

-Become horrified by others’ unconditional confidence in abilities.

-Decide everyone is possibly mentally deficient (including self, for trying.)

-While home for summer, read Thomas Wolfe for inspiration.

-Hate Thomas Wolfe.

-Continue to read Thomas Wolfe.

-Write another actual chapter.

-Regret hundred-page decision.

-Consider sending pathetic email to independent study professor.

-Give chapters to mother.

-Wait.

-Re-read Mennyms books and weep.

-Receive chapters back from mother, covered in red and “don’t be discouraged.”

-Take twelve deep breaths.

-Revise some.

-In first independent study meeting, when professor cheerfully asks about current progress, begin crying.

-Realize am safe from professor ever asking same question again.

-Continue to be terrified.

-Discover deadlines excellent for forcing courage.

-Create whole bookmarks folder of encouragement websites for writing.

-Become surprised by usefulness of internet.

-Put one word after another.

-Become suspicious when professor unequivocally likes new chapters.

-Wonder nervously if professor actually knows about novels.

-Begin to adjust to own use of word “novel.”

-Struggle, however, to adjust to friends’ use of word “book.”

-Become surprised by continual question, “What’s it about, or can I know?”

-Wonder if world, including own English professor’s wife, believe am hording magical personal secrets.

-Become embarrassed by own inability to summarize plot.

-Wish plot was full of magical personal secrets.

-Tell sassy close friend entire plot in detail.

-Allow friend to give character fatal illness.

-Refuse to allow friend to change first name of main protagonist.

-Become less afraid.

-Turn in self-assigned pages approximately 30 hours late on regular basis.

-Decide sleep is good reward for writing.

-Discover if keep self up writing too long, head will refuse to stop writing, even in bed.

-Decide writing will have to be its own reward.

-Send uncomfortable chapter to friend to avoid asking questions of delightfully awkward professor.

-Become pleased with own cleverness.

-Begin writing acknowledgements page.

-Go, go, go.

-Insert unplanned chapter in act of great daring.

-Decide to use as senior honor’s project so will never have to let go of baby.

-Become sloppy.

-Consolidate chapters into document called “A Draft for Word Count and Ego.”

-Long for revision.

-Dream about revision.

-Wish could time travel to next semester when am revising.

-Become alarmed by professor’s comments about narrative point of view.

-Wonder if POV is even important.

-Wonder what POV even is.

-Become reckless.

-Send apologetic late night emails to professor for incoherence of narrative.

-Drink Earl Grey.

-Cry nonsensically loud tears of joy.

-Nearly finish draft before bed.

-Wake up in elation.

-Actually finish draft!

-Post well-planned facebook status.

-Perform deeply private happy dance.

-Raise ire of entire TLC by printing 144 pages immediately before classtime.

-Use massive stapler.

-Carry around printed draft like newborn child.

-Become terrified by others’ eagerness to hold it.

-Email draft to family. (Change “Ego” to “Encouragement.”)

-Sit in bath planning eradication and merging of certain minor characters.

-Refuse to type or write single word in interest of “letting story breathe.”

-Read portions of draft aloud to self while roommate is away.

-Stab maliciously at embarrassing portions with finger.

-Send impossibly patient independent study professor messy thank you note.

-Consider studying for finals.

-Consider beginning new project.

-Continue instead to mentally smother current project with affection and abuse.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Going Back Home

On Wednesday, my dear old freshman hall had a progressive Thanksgiving dinner in the apartments. I have loved these, my girls, since way back, even before this entry more than three years ago.

Here is how we were Christmas of freshman year:

Image

And here is how we are Thanksgiving of senior year:

Image

Just look at how cute we were then and how grown we are now.

Sometimes when we sit around we like to talk about the old days on the Fam Pan: the days of parties in the bathroom and poop posters and yelling down the hall for noms and Storytime and leftover ice cream eaten in the hall-butt and doors that stayed open all the time. We like to remember and say, Man, I wish we all saw each other more. I wish we could do that again.

But the future is already coming fast towards us in a big frightening wave of built-up expectations and unpaid bills. We sometimes feel that we’re in danger of being washed out and away to sea. We want to go back. Take us back.

Nostalgia itself is comforting. We are pleased that we can remember, that we’re wise enough to look back and know that the good times were good. (Real perceptive. Well done us.) But, of course, what we really want is not to go back to the past, but for our pasts, or at least our favorite parts of them, to become our futures. We want the safe yesterdays which we loved to be transplanted to our tomorrows to do over and over again. (As if the future wasn’t its own self, as if God didn’t have plans for it too.)

It’s funny because we’ve got nostalgia all wrong. The divine point of the longing we feel is not to fill it, but to know it, to understand what it is we long for.

There is a painful gaping hole in each one of our chests and sometimes we can feel the wind whistling through it. The hole will not be filled by wading into our pasts, or even our futures, and picking through for the best bits: the late nights up with dear friends, the long exhilarating road trips, even the dripping popsicles and small sticky faces in the summertime. We can stuff all the dreams in the world into that misshapen hollow to try to fill it and yet we’d still be able to look down and see right through ourselves to the other side. Really, as far as the eye can see, the hole is not going to be filled at all. Its edges will continue to ache.

But then again, the eye can’t see very far. It is shortsighted and weak, and would be blinded by the wonder of Him for whom the heart truly longs.

Someday, we’ll go back home again, really home, to the God for whom we were made, and our shoulders and eyes will strengthen so that we’ll be able to bear the weight and the sight of the Glory that will fulfill our feeble longings.

So for now, when we remember, we must remember that.

One Little Room an Everywhere

First, for fall break, Elspeth was going to come up and visit. Then she emailed and told me she wasn’t going to be able to make it, so I came up with plans to go down to the orthodox monastery in Ellwood City, and ran around telling everyone I was going to be a nun over break. But then their guesthouse was full, (“no room at the inn,” Jackie and I decided,) so now break has come and I am holed up in my little apartment with thick socks on and corn and bacon chowder in the crockpot. My own sort of monastic living.

Wednesday afternoon I got a package from Elspeth in lieu of her visit, which contained tea, biscuits, a despairingly sassy mug, and my favorite of all: gummy Flintstone vitamins. I can’t get sick now, can I? I mostly sat in for the evening and begun reading As I Lay Dying, took a brief walk in the rain with my friend Mary, and discovered that, glory of glories, there is whole season of What Not to Wear suddenly available on Netflix. I’m not prone to these sorts of statements, but I’m fairly certain I could actually be friends with Stacey and Clinton. More than one episode has gotten me perilously close to crying, and I have definitely squealed—they just look so marvelous and happy, even if Carmindy the glowy make-up lady does slather an obscene amount of foundation on every single one of them.

Yesterday morning I borrowed Ali’s van and went out and spent more than fifty whole dollars on groceries for soups and things, then felt like superwoman carrying almost my own weight in foodstuffs up the stairs in one trip. I played hymns on my cello, and went out to wander around in the neighborhoods even though it was just about to rain. (Though really, it was just about to rain for all of yesterday, except for when it actually was.) This may be sacrilege or something in this cloudy part of the world, but I like the way fall looks beneath a thick grey sky. The colors are deep and saturated and drowsy. In the evening I went over to Haley’s and we made dinner and talked about Shakespeare and cross-country road trips and Dr. Brown herself.

I came home to plan for the little class on devotional poetry which I am hopefully teaching in January, and found I wanted something from my old creative writing syllabus from last fall. So I called my dad and he dug through my huge box of papers, and cheerfully read off the titles of everything from Classical Ed on back through junior year, in an effort to make me regret I ever asked. He was positively intrigued to find a poem I had written which he thought was about my mother’s rouge. (It wasn’t.)

In any case, I went to bed early and lay there reading more Faulkner, which I’m pretty sure I’m enjoying. There is something about sitting down and trying to actually write a novel myself which causes me to drink in other’s good prose like I’m parched. And though Faulkner jerks and spits and just generally behaves in an ornery fashion, he knows the way beautiful language works, that any voice can speak poetry, that a great part of reading and writing is listening. I fell asleep to his words last night.

The title up above is from a John Donne poem about being in love, which I am not. But though it’s just me here, I have plans to fill this little space with good cooking smells for hours on end, to scrub out the bathtub, to vacuum the thick carpet, to sit down at my computer and courageously introduce a villain into my story for good and all. For now, this little two-room apartment with its finicky lamps and pile of dirty dishes and sunlight sliding through the blinds is plenty enough for me.

Pieces

I don’t usually write these things late, but I haven’t been able to sleep much lately, so here I am. Hello. I haven’t had much of an appetite either. My gut has been full of pointless nervous energy and I feel like I’m in pieces. I do not feel whole.

Today I got up and boiled some chicken for later, and put on a favorite dress from freshman year, and went to chapel, and came back to finish studying for my Civ Arts test and wander around my little apartment in concentric circles. Finally I headed up to campus, and took the exam, and went to an English-major-tea, and came back to cook dinner for some friends. (Well, really, they did a lot of the cooking. And all of the cleaning up.) They made me play my cello and I like them anyway. Afterwards one of my dearest friends came over and told me something very hard and I sat and listened and hurt for her. Then I read a chapter of Elizabeth Enright aloud and hugged her.

Those were the pieces of my day and I cannot put them together as I would like, or at least, not yet. So I’ll just tell you what else I’ve been thinking about.

We’ve been studying Da Vinci’s Last Supper in Civ Arts, and Dr. Munson says that Philip is his favorite. Jesus has announced that one of his disciples will betray him and Philip has risen from his seat and pointed to himself. He has seen the blackness of his own heart, and he knows the traitor must be he.

I have a very clear memory of one day in fifth grade walking back from PE class. After we filed past Mrs. Hedgecock’s room, she emerged, irate. She claimed that one of us had pounded on the door as we passed and disrupted her lesson and she was determined to find out whom. Nobody fessed up. I cannot remember why it was so important, but Mrs. Hedgecock, Mrs. Thomas, and Coach sat us all down very seriously and told us to put our heads down. They told us to raise our hand if we were guilty. Even if, perhaps, they said, we thought we could have done it on accident and had a slight lapse of memory. If there was the smallest chance it was us, we were to raise our hand. Well, I reasoned, I didn’t remember what I had been up to when we’d been walking that part of the hall. I was sure my mind had been wandering, though, so I put my hand in the air. When we put our heads up, all three teachers were hiding smiles. We immediately asked who it was. (So much for anonymity…) Ah, well, they said, only one person had raised their hand, and they were quite sure this person wasn’t the culprit, so best just to move on… The issue was dropped, and I sat quiet and red-faced in the corner.

I haven’t learned my lesson, though. I am still strangely eager to take blame. And I don’t want to let go of it, either. I cannot speak for Philip, but I still snap my eyes shut tight, and thrust my hand in the air. It is easier to take the guilt than to learn love, to learn mercy, to give, to take, to crack open my chest to the elements.

And here, at the solution, is where I am stuck, and the cursor just blinks at me. I will hazard a guess into the white space, though. I need to stop raising my hand in response to a call for confession, and instead start bodily throwing myself at the feet of the Great Blame-taker. I need to stop saying morosely, “I did that. I did that thing.” and start crying, “YOU TAKE IT. I CANNOT! I CANNOT!” Then He, in His goodness, will take not only my guilt, but me. And He will make me…whole. I cannot conceive of it right now, but He will mend pieces of which I can make no sense.

 I am so weary.

The Next Thing

You guys, blog entries don’t always solve my problems like they should. That’s why I write them, you know: I get upset and thinking about something and I start composing like mad in my head, then within a day or two I get it all out on the page in a big hunk of cathartic vomit, then everyone tells me how nice it is and I pat myself on the back and feel much better and go on my merry way. Unfortunately, a few weeks later I realize I’m still pretty screwy in the same old ways, and I already wrote about it, so there’s nothing else to do now. Drat.

One particular entry has continued to sit in my gut, though I wrote it months ago. It is the one about living up to my own expectations, making a dreadful little god of the woman I think I ought to be.

This tendency has all been especially apparent lately with my attempts to write fourteen novel pages every two weeks for my independent study. Somewhere along the line I’ve convinced myself that not only must everything I write turn out brilliantly, but it must be wonderful from the first draft, that the plot of an entire book must knit itself together seamlessly in the first attempt. So, with that in mind, I sit down to write every day and vacillate routinely between terror and despair.  I mean, if I can’t do a simple novel right on the first try, what am I worth?

I’ve been stumbling along anyway, sending weak kicks in the direction of the imaginary-Alice-who-can-do-all-things, and gratefully soaking up encouragement from Dr. Potter, and the book I’m reading on fiction writing, and the friends who say I’m over-thinking it.

And yesterday my mom sent me an essay in the mail called “The Judgment of Memory,” by a man named Joseph Bottum, who was, at the time, editor of First Things. It was mainly about memoir writing, about our tendency to write about our parents and childhoods (my parents are brave to encourage this habit of mine), about the way in which we dilute our own memories, about the way in which modern writers shy away from story and myth and substance, and instead give marvelous little detailed descriptions of things between which they are ultimately unable to draw a connection.

This conflict between focusing on details or plot is not just present in writing, in the way I squeeze words onto a page, but in my own life, in the way I spend my time, in the way I occupy my mind, in the way I rest. It is comfortable to look at small things like myself and my words and my to-do post it note for the week. It is uncomfortable to try to fit grand archetypes and ideals into my compact, inelastic life.

Details come easier because they can be added unto the all-powerful vision of ideal-Alice. The story comes hard because it is His. She does not exist in His story: there’s only Him and me. In fact it’s mostly Him. He was in all these places first. He “father’d-forth” all I see and all I know. Joseph Bottum writes that “In the end, every sentence with the word I in it is a lie: self-justifying, self-righteous, self-conscious, self-sick.”

So, what to do? How to follow along as He tells the story?

Way back freshman year, I wrote a frustrated little entry called “Weather and The Woman Question“ and Mrs. Liebmann commented and told me not to worry, just to “Do the next thing.” (That advice immediately skyrocketed right up there with “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” and “Say what you mean.”) It is not really as hard as I like to pretend to figure out the next thing. The next thing after this is to practice my cello, to write a page, to finish my laundry. I know how stories go. I’ve got lots of examples of lives well-lived.

For Christ, the next thing was usually something like eating dinner or going to bed or praying or talking to his mom or making a table. Sometimes, though, the next thing was healing a lame man, or casting out a whole horde of demons, or overturning a bunch of tables. One day the next thing was to be forsaken and to die. On Sunday, the next thing was to get up and walk out of a tomb.

Which means that the next thing for you and for me is really, simply this, from Luke 8: “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.”