Dear Winn – (does anybody really know what day it is?)
I could have put a date stamp on this letter, but time has blurred on me, pal. I’ve lost track, seriously. Just the other day (maybe Wednesday? I’m not sure), I looked at the kitchen calendar multiple times throughout the day in an attempt to anchor myself, lash myself to the mast of time, and I just couldn’t do it. I suppose I could be sailing straight for the rocks. Maybe we all are.
I came across this quote late last night (no attribution): It would be a shame if we went through all this and everything stayed the same. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had that exact thought this week, that here’s this reality that’s been dropped in all of our laps, and yes, there will be changes in our lives we’re forced to make (already are), but we also have this dare I say opportunity to change our lives, to change the way we live. That freedom to change has always been there, but it feels somewhat closer to grab right now. Not that doing so is ever easy, but it feels more proximal.
I had that thought yesterday as I scrolled through Twitter for a few minutes (too long actually). I still saw tweets and retweets about, for example, Robert Jeffress. As best I can see, the only reason I would tweet or retweet something about Robert Jeffress is so that you, let’s say, a friend I already know thinks Jeffress is cuckoo for cocoa puffs, will see it and either like it, comment on it, share it, or at least unleash some sort of barbaric yawp of solidarity at the relative comfort and supposed safety of your own laptop. I gotta tell you, pal, I feel it would be a shame if we went through all this and still kept tweeting about freakinJeffress.
The family and I are doing okay. Work and online classes are giving some structure to our days. I kinda feel like we’re in a monastery—living and working together, taking common meals. Sure, a little more talking than you’re likely to find in a monastery, and that’s good. We’re trying to give one another a long leash of grace right now for as we’re experiencing this under the same roof, we’re all experiencing it differently. I’ve never been a fan of the phrase all the feels, but that’s what’s going on in our family. Honoring the feels feels important right now. Did you see Hoda break down on Good Morning America yesterday (I retweeted it). Hell, man, that one got me. We’re all Hoda.
I had intended to write to you earlier in the week, but the words wouldn’t rise, sort of a writing half master (ha!). Then I was reminded of those lines from Uncle Buk(owski)’s “So You Want To Be A Writer”:
when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.
So, I guess it wasn’t time to write until this morning. I guess.
I pray for you daily, but I’ve been praying for you daily differently lately. I’ve got a family to work alongside and encourage during these close-in days. You’ve got that, plus a church congregation, and that church piece, sure, feels exciting and creative, but also burdensome what with zoom services and figuring out what to do about communion, and then holy passion, Batman, there’s Holy Week to navigate and then the corker of the liturgical year—Easter! I’ve no doubt you’ll know what to do when its truly time, for I believe you have been chosen. That reminds me of that line from Kent Meyers’ Twisted Tree (lord what a novel): “Once a priest…always a priest.” I believe that applies to you, my good friend. I guess that applies to me too. I guess. Somehow we priests give order to the world’s suffering, and that must include our own. Without that order its just chance, random, chaos, and I won’t accept that. I won’t. By no means do we make it all better, that’s the fool’s errand. But maybe we make pieces of it a bit more bearable. Maybe.
Yeah, it’d be a shame if we went through all this and everything stayed the same.
Thanks for giving order…
Thanks for bringing daily order to the page.
Coraggio, indeed. Thank you, as always.
Really great, John. True, the quote. Stepping into that timing is not for the faint of heart. Trusting in it. Not using it as an excuse to ditch the work. Just knowing the waiting and simmering and settling is part of it. Well, once again your words have launched me into a day of good thinking. Thank you.
“Yeah, it’d be a shame if we went through all this and everything stayed the same.” Thank you.
As an adjunct college instructor, I’ve had to move classes online. Before class begins, I check in with each student– sort of a wellness check. One student’s response has stayed with me. He said, “I feel trapped.” He had taken his ability to move about freely for granted.” I hope that has already chamged.
“Yeah, it’d be a shame if we went through all this and everything stayed the same.”
Thanks. Just thanks.
Yes. You make it a bit more bearable. Thank you.
I love to read your words. Thanks!
I’ve always appreciated when you’ve signed off with that. I’ve liked it, in part, because it’s different; I’ve liked it because I’ve understood it to imply that life is hard and even the mundane (as beautiful as it may be) requires courage if one is to live it with any degree of authenticity. But now, now it feels as though coraggio has moved from the ‘optional’ sucking-all-of-life-from-the-marrow category to the survival category. Coraggio. Can all of us parents become homeschool teachers without courage? Can we confine ourselves to our homes and still find ‘work’ that allows us to exercise our God-given task of meaning-making and cultivating without courage? Can we say goodbye to our ‘essential’ loved ones every morning and send them out into . . . without courage? Can we send our husbands/wives/children who staff our hospitals to work everyday knowing they will come in contact with the virus without courage? Can we give to each other generously, even in the midst of scarcity, without courage? Suddenly, corragio has become a survival skill; it may be one of the very things that enables our humanity to flourish, even now (or perhaps that is not a “sudden” change at all). Thank you JB.