Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Love Will Keep Us Alive

That's the name of a song by the Eagles, a song that my dinner music group sings when a couple in the Mercantile is celebrating an anniversary. It's a lovely song, if a little out of my range, and couples seem to like it, gazing at each other over their plates of dessert while we croon.

Today we were called back to a room to sing for a couple and so we naturally assumed that's what the occasion was. We began the song, and the couple smiled at us. By the second verse, the gentleman's eyes were misting over and by the bridge they were both sniffling into their napkins. I wasn't sure what to do. Sometimes crying is a good thing but they both seemed so sad. I locked eyes with my dinner music partner and we sang the duet as if we were in love. When I looked back I noticed that the couple were holding hands over the table, tears slowly trickling down their faces. I choked up and could barely finish the song.

They came up to us later. The gentleman told us that they were crying because they are madly in love but the lady is being called back to Quebec by God and so they will be separated for a while. Her story was actually amazing - as a child she saw the Virgin Mary in a vision that saved her life, and now she is moving to an apartment on the same street that she had the vision on. It was a very touching story and I can't capture it here, but to know that they are in love and yet must be separated put me into a bit of a blue funk.

Seeing people in love usually puts me in an introspective mood anyway. I end up watching all these elderly couples and wondering.
Will love really keep us alive?
My romantic nature hopes so.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I am supposed to be working on my Faith and Art final exam right now, but I don’t feel like writing short essays on subjects like ‘Creativity’, ‘the Artist as Servant’, or how I plan on living ‘an integrated life as an artist’.

I’ve been procrastinating all day – this afternoon I dithered about checking my email and then I spent time with S. before his show. When I came home I played Diablo II for an hour. I actually feel a bit sick from being at a computer so much today, so playing games is out now. I feel like having a nap.

I keep telling myself I have the weekend. Three whole days until the exam is due…then I remember that I haven’t done any of the journals for this term either and perhaps I should do them…and I have rehearsal for a final project that I’m stage managing on Sunday and Monday. A groan escapes my lips and I sigh and try to turn to the exam.

No luck. I can’t focus my thoughts, and everything I remember from the entire year of discussion in class escapes with the lyrics of the next song to play from the collection of music that is randomly singing out from my laptop. It routinely amazes me how well I remember music I’ve only heard a few times, but I am able to sing along to Chris Rice as he sings “Everything’s Okay” and I gamely buy into the message. I look up from my computer as I sing and notice the book of stamps behind the Coke can on my desk, which reminds me that I haven’t sent away my student loan form yet, so I pick it up and finish filling in the information, which means I have to fish out the Quick Tips form from my garbage so I can calculate how much they should give me (although they won’t because for some reason I’m only eligible for 60% of what I need, which is why I’m so grateful I got approved for that line of credit, which reminds me, I need to phone Dad and ask him what his card says and see if they issued him a card for my line of credit in which case he shouldn’t use the card or I won’t be able to pay my tuition)…and the final exam is successfully erased from my mind.

Until the form is in the envelope, licked and sealed and I realize that one of my roommates is on the phone. Then guilt creeps into the mix. I told S. I’d be doing homework tonight, and for some reason that makes me feel like I should. It’s not like I don’t have enough of it, too. My marketing portfolio was due a month ago, and I have a huge annotated bibliography that needs to be started, which means a lot of reading...but then an Iron & Wine song starts and I get distracted again.

I really like that song – about a Mexican boy named Jesus.

When I turn back to the exam, I focus on inane details. What does this bonus question mean? ‘How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ I don’t remember talking about surrealists in class! Perhaps if I look up surrealists and answer the question as a surrealist would, I’ll get the extra credit. Of course, if I put that time into the actual exam, I will probably get the same mark, if not a higher one.

I feel like I felt every time I knew I was supposed to be working on my play. So easily distracted but not sociable, restless but with no desire to do anything. It’s a horrible affliction and I morosely muse on how I am the only one who ever experiences this sensation. Such is the life of a writer, I drone in my mind, melodramatically, like one of my friends, a musician and musical theatre actor who has come to Rosebud to have his ‘schmacting’ broken out of him. He is the moodiest person I know – the stereotypical artist, feelings easily hurt and ego easily bruised, and everything is always about him. In spite of that, I like him quite a bit. He’s got some growing up to do, but don’t we all?

I mean, I started an exam 45 minutes ago and all I’ve written is REL 321: Faith and Art at the top of the page. Not exactly mature responsible adult behaviour.

Oh, a John Denver song that I haven’t heard in ages! I think I’ll sing along…

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I was sitting on a deck, letting the sun soak into my face and feeling the Chinook wind blow around my legs, listening to the dripping of icicles and the screaming of gophers. Among so much beauty, I was trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people. I was in the midst of telling God what is wrong with his world when someone walked by and asked me what I was doing.

I’m telling God what is wrong with the world, I said.

Things shouldn’t happen to people to make them jaded and cynical.

He stopped and pointed at me. That is so true, he said.

We shared a moment of silence.

Some people don’t ever get cynical, he said. My mother was one of them.

Then he went on his way, leaving me with that tiny bit of extra hope in a world that was screaming hope and life at me anyway.

Something disappointing happened to S. last weekend. He lost a role that he had earned fair and square because the director changed his mind about casting at the last minute. It’s rough – it’s hard enough to lose a role fairly, but to have it given to you and then taken away is just not fair. It happens here sometimes, although I’ve been told (and I agree) that it’s pretty unprofessional.

I’ve never had this happen before. I’ve discovered that it is unexpectedly difficult to feel the disappointment of someone I love, and to be saddened for them, and to know that there isn’t anything I can say or do that will make it better.

I hate feeling helpless in the face of injustice.

So I spent half an hour outside in the beauty and straightforwardness of God’s creation, talking to him about what isn’t working down here. Sometimes free will is a bitch, particularly when it’s someone else’s free will but you have to deal with the consequences.

At the end of my ponderings and talking, I realized that I am very na├»ve. So many people have broken themselves down from the pedestals I placed them on – I keep being disappointed when people I respect make choices and treat people in ways that contradict the person I thought they were. I suppose I should learn to stop putting people on pedestals. A part of my soul cries at the reality that in this fallen world I will find no one who will not let me down. Is that naivety, or is it hope, or is it what is left of Eve before she ate the apple?

I can see why it seems intelligent to become hardened and cynical. It protects people from being disappointed by life, by other people, by this big, old, awful sick mess of a world.

I don’t want to be hardened though. I spent too many years as the cynic. It takes so much negative energy to live in that world. As risky as it is to choose the softness of a snail without a shell, I want to hold on to hope. I want to keep believing that there is good out there, that there are people out there who do choose to live according to what is right.

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favourite authors. Her stories are full of the knowledge that the world is bent and broken, full of hurt and wrong and injustice. Her characters are aware that the world is not how it should be, and they have a passion to see the world whole and healed again – but they all come to a point in their journeys where they have to choose to fight for what they instinctively know is right. It is never an easy choice. They are overwhelmed by the darkness sometimes. They are filled with despair that the world can ever be whole again. And they choose hope, they choose to fight for that little, tiny, almost invisible spark of light, against impossible odds. They fight even though they know they will lose. They fight even though there is no possible way that the world can be saved. They fight because they have to.

Sometimes I feel like my purpose in life is to keep fighting for that miniscule speck of light and hope, like I am here in this life just to keep that tiny light alive, and if all I can do in my life is keep that light from going out, even if I can’t make it any bigger, even if I can’t win the fight, even if after all I do the light goes out – as long as I’ve done all I can to fight for it, that is all that matters.

It hurts. Sometimes it feels like I’m losing, like I’m losing my will to fight because it seems so impossible. I know there is no way that I can win. The dark, the brokenness is too big and too overwhelming and there is nothing I can do to make things better. But the pain of losing that light is so much greater than the despair of never winning that I just can’t give up, even when everything is telling me I should cut my losses and just join the dark winning team already.

I just can’t do that. I just can’t lose that hunger for the light. I hope I never do. It’s the most irrational thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the only thing I can do. It’s the only thing that feels right.

I can’t bear to lose that wild, fierce hunger.

All I can do is hope that I never do.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hurtin' Unit

My youngest brother came to visit me this weekend.

He is on an extended leave of absence from work following a mental break-down. At least that gave him the freedom to catch a ride with a friend and spend two and a half days just hanging out with me at my home.

He has a lot of pain and it isn’t hiding very well behind his shields of cynicism and bitterness. The chip on his shoulder is so big I wonder how there is any shoulder left. I can see the roots, deep inside his broken heart but I don’t think everyone can. The perks of being a sister I guess.

We had some good talks, about our brother getting married and how happy we are for him. How good D1’s girl is to him, and how we think they’ll make it. How we wished we had been better siblings to him and how we hope we’ll be able to continue to repair those cracks we made.

We talked about relationships. He hung out with S. for a few hours and said he seemed like a good guy, that he trusted my ability to choose a man. He said it must be nice to have a relationship that our mom didn’t have a problem with, where I didn’t have to fight with her to have my adult choices respected.

He spoke of his girl, of their life, of where they might go. I asked him if he thought they’d be together forever and he said they might be. We have problems, but who doesn’t? he asked. She loves me the best she knows how, and she’s learning how to be better. I wanted to ask him if that’s all he deserves, and if he loves her as best as he knows how or if he thinks he needs to learn to be better too, but I didn’t. Instead I listened as he talked to me.

I don’t know if I remember a lot of the words he spoke to me. I do remember how much pain there was in his whole being. He’s like a dog that’s been whipped, L. said. In his whole body, in his attitude, everything about him looks like he’s been broken and hasn’t been put back together yet. I nodded and held my own pain inside.

We went for walks and talked about life, me walking upwind so that the smoke from his cigarette would blow away from me. Watching him smoke was hard for me. It made him seem hardened somehow, like the thug he played as a child had come real. Like he didn’t give a damn, like his pain was all there was and he had no hope that it would ever change.

We spoke of how confusing it is when peace comes from a source that we were taught was wrong. How confusing it is when we learn that something we were told was out of bounds is completely within our grasp. We talked about how things can be right for one person and wrong for another. About how God is bigger than the mistakes of our parents and the church. I learned how cynical he is towards church and pastors.

We talked one evening about our mother. He used some of the exact phrasing that I had used in counselling three days before. It was a comfort to us both that we have the same problems with the same woman. It helped us to see that it isn’t in our heads. That the problems are real and solid because someone else felt them too.

It was a comfort to me to see that counselling has actually helped me to grow and learn to deal with my anger, pain and frustration. It filled me with calm to see that I used to be where D2 is now, full of pain and anger that I didn’t know what to do with, but I’m not anymore. It filled me hope to see that a person can learn to keep acknowledging the feelings, to put the responsibility for them on the right people, and to let it go and move on.

I told D2 that he should seriously think about going to counselling. He agreed with me. I hope he does it.

I have a lot of hopes for him. I hope that his choice to move back in with my parents is a good one. I hope that he can get what he needs from them, especially my mother. I hope that all of his pieces get put back where they belong and that he won’t always look so beaten down.

I hope.

Maybe with enough hopes behind him, his pain will become easier to bear.