I've always been an accomplished lover, but not in the erotic sense. The happiness of the people in my life has always been essential to my own, for better or for worse. Thinking like that kept me in two very unhealthy romantic relationships and countless other abusive platonic relationships.
I've loved indiscriminately. And it's hard to function when you're that splintered.
So, by dint of necessity, I have gotten more discriminating in my affections. True to Mary B's maxim, I have learned to love many and trust few. I have also learned a thing or two about moderation.
I find this the best way to couch my story, another of one of my favorite people, Fr M. As I've said in the past, I love him like my own family, and in many ways, I feel like we are family who have found one another, albeit a bit late in life for us both.
After he visited my family last month, I wrote the following letter:
"Dear Fr M,
Thank you again as always for spending time with my family. Truly, it was a lovely evening in every sense of the word, and more than ever, I get a real sense that 'God is here.' As always, I feel lightness after I talk to you--not as if you've taken anything from me, but more a sense of shared purpose. So funny that we talked of pride, my single biggest sticking point--how often I feel that I am on a mission from God on my own, and how often I am reminded that God is here with me, working through me, speaking through me, and acting through me.
But he is not without his sense of humor. A few weeks ago, I walked a labyrinth for the first time--the one over at St Thomas in Whitemarsh. Have you ever done that? Anyway, a little while before I posted on my Facebook page: "Nic needs to learn gratitude. I need to teach him that. He is a little heathen."
So anyway, I walk the labyrinth a little while later, and when I get to the center, the Holy Spirit has a thought for me:
"So you think you came into this world fully formed and thankful at the outset."
(The divine has a way of cutting through my pomposity.)
So, as I walked the labyrinth out from the center, I reflected on the nature of my gratitude and how it evolved. And the short answer is this: my CHILDREN have taught me what it is to be grateful; my attitude of gratitude, though it feels like I've had it forever, is a relatively recent development. And it was a gift to me from my boys. That I take nothing for granted, that everything--even adversity--is a gift, because you learn your best lessons when things aren't going your way.
And one gift you've given me--'In God's time, not yours'--has gotten me through many a difficult time.
(Actually, you have given me many gifts over the years--too many to list, but I am grateful for all, particularly our friendship).
Please know that our door is always open, and you are always welcome."
This letter sat in my pocketbook for nearly 3 weeks. I got around to sticking it in an envelope on Saturday, thinking I'd drop it by the rectory. But I forgot.
Sunday found me sitting in the church with other second and third grade prep parents, when Fr M stepped up to talk about the sacraments. I remembered the letter in my purse, dug it out, and stopped him on his way out. He thanked me again for dinner and hurried out.
Less than 5 minutes later, my phone vibrated. It was him. I hurried out to the vestibule, answering quietly, "Hello?"
"Oh Liz, hi," he said. "I forgot you were still in church, but I just wanted to say thank you thank you thank you. (I laughed, I couldn't help it, he sounded so happy). I'll talk to you soon, okay, hon?"
"Sure, take care." I hung up, grinning ear to ear as I went back to my pew, and thinking yet again how much happiness, joy, relief, solace he's given to his flock over the years, and thinking how happy it made me to give some of these things back to him.
You can't necessarily take pain away from anyone, but you can lighten the load in thousands of little ways. It doesn't cost anything, yet the rewards are priceless.
And these gifts that I didn't even realize I had until recently have me thinking of other ways I can use them. A path is beginning to suggest itself to me. I know I am doing exactly what I need to be doing right now, in this moment.
But I feel that it's all about to change. Soon.
My prayer right now? To be ready. For anything. And to face it with courage and resolve.
I don't think I ask for much.