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1.14.2013

the mystery of faith.


the mystery of faith.

that was the phrase i took away from christmas eve mass this year.

the mystery of faith.

the priest uttered those four words in the sliver of a silence.

i don't know what came before and i'm not terribly sure what followed. it was almost an after-thought, four words he said for himself. a small pause before he moved across the dais.

and yet, while their utterance was a soft and quiet event, the whole of my body heard them.

the mystery of faith. 

faith being murky territory. dark and difficult and absolutely revelatory. faith being a thing that is not absolute. that cannot be divided into halves. that cannot be traced linearly or made sense of logically. faith being the thing that leads to the light.

the mystery of faith. a leap. and another. and more after. perfect in its absolute imperfection.

but there was something else too. one other phrase hidden in a popular song--one other phrase that i myself must have sung countless times before that night. how silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is giv'n. perfect words sandwiched in the popular ditty oh little town of bethlehem. 

how silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is giv'n.

how God entered the world, how he sent his only son, how the very thing that split time in two--into a before and an after--how silently it entered the world--how absolutely, unequivocally important it was that it needed not to enter with a bang and flash, but with the small cry of a child, born to a mother and a father, in a manger outside of an inn that was just too full.

how silently the wondrous Gift is giv'n.

the mystery of faith.

my family and i have been attending christmas eve mass at my brother's high school since his freshman year. by my count that's something like seventeen years.

seventeen years, a staggering number. mostly because it only feels like five, and where the hell has all that time gone?

thing is, after all those years--those seventeen years--i still know only a handful of my brother's friends, a handful of their parents. i go each year as a sister and as a daughter--as a peripheral character in the story. and from there i have the inestimable privilege of seeing and watching and listening. from the vantage point of the-mostly-anonymous-observer (otherwise known as the-little-sister) comes a remarkable clarity.

however, this was the year several of the mothers all asked the same thing: are you seeing anyone? no, i replied, the lips i had painted a dark red just hours before twisting in a small smile, no i'm not seeing anyone right now, i say to each mother who asks.

eduardo, a friend of my brother, his mother gives me a response in spanish. when i ask what it means, she asks her son david to translate. he can't turn the idiom into exact english so she calls over eduardo. well, he says, pausing, it's not exact, but it basically means, when you stop looking it will come. 

i laugh gently, turn to this woman who has over the course of those seventeen staggering years seen me grow and mature and spin into womanhood, yes, yes, we have that expression in english too.

when you stop looking... when you least expect it...

the mystery of faith. how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n. 

i call home often. my mother complains that i'm always complaining. and she's right. often, i am. she worries that i'm sad. i try to explain to her: i haven't found the person yet, mom. so you're my phone call. i don't yet have someone to tell these things to, so you're it. 

about a month ago i ran into a man on the subway platform. eight years of living in the same city and we'd never before crossed paths without meaning to. this was a man i loved. the man i loved. the man i loved in the only way i knew how for far longer than was appropriate or permissible or able to be gossiped about with my girlfriends. but he didn't love me back. at least, not in any way that made me feel anything other than as though i was slowly losing my mind.

and then about a month ago, in sleepy carroll gardens, there he was, both of us on the same train platform.

when you least expect it.

it was a sad thing. the two of us meeting more as strangers than anything else. the broken and fractured conversation. the two minutes of which i can say nothing other than that a sort of panic took hold and i wasn't terribly kind. but in trying to explain it later--in trying to explain the immediacy of the sadness, i said to a friend, the thing is, when this day ends, i don't have the person to go home to and say, hey, you know i love you right? well, once upon a time, i loved someone else. and just for one moment i need to tell you about it.

instead i called my mother. and she listened without really hearing, because she can't bear to hear the story of the man who broke her daughter's heart.

my mom was twenty-two when she met my father. at the age i am now she was a year away from marrying him.

my mom never knew single at twenty-three. and she never knew it at twenty-four or twenty-five or twenty-six. she never knew single at twenty-seven, which is where i am now. so i call her and she listens and she worries that i'm sad and she tells me to be patient and to stop looking (or to look harder, depending on the day). but she doesn't get it. because she was never single at twenty-seven.

and the space between us grows. and it is a brand of hard that is new and unforgiving and tremendously persistent.

i've got five years on her twenty-seven-year-old-self--five years of calling home instead of...someone else.

the mystery of faith. 

i call home now and tell my parents that i am lonely--because loneliness is, as it turns out, a thing--and what they hear is that i'm sad. and i understand this. i understand their confusion of the two things and their inevitable worry. i know it is because they are parents who watched helplessly, from the outside, as their child lived through a major depressive disorder. and i imagine, with relative certainty, that it was far worse for them than for me.

the people who live through that with you always worry that a little blue, a little low, a little lonely, is the beginning of a very long and very slippery slope. and i understand the fear because it was like drowning. it was like a constant and persistent and impossible filling of the lungs with heavy water. but you know how i got over it? i learned to swim. and once you figure out how to swim, you always know how to swim--and so that particular ocean holds no fear.

depression does not scare me. but it'd be nice if the man who lands on the other end of that phone call doesn't worry about it in the same way my parents do.

everyone has an opinion. all these people smiling from the shores of long relationships, telling you to take counsel with yourself. to which i want to say that that counsel cannot help me put the icy-hot patch on that one particular region of my back that i cannot reach. and it won't stand in line at trader joe's while i do the shopping because that's how far the line is reaching and wrapping. that counsel won't lie next to me night after night, a warm presence. it will not kiss me. it will not place it's palm against my neck, tucking my hair behind my ears.

loneliness is murky territory.

the mystery of faith. 

i want the silent-sort-of-love. the love that is so absolutely, unequivocally important that it needs not enter with a bang and flash, but by slipping into the cracks of an everyday life.

faith is what gets us to love. that revelation--that absolute pure light at the end of all that murk--that is love. and so faith is the journey. it is the life. it is the day after day. and it can be a tremendously lonely thing. because it sometimes unclear and sometimes unfair and footing is often lost.

and the mystery of faith is a road that is traveled alone.

but when the dark gives way to the light, well...

how silently the wondrous Gift is giv'n. 







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35 comments:

becky said...

I think this is one of your best pieces. Astoundingly so.

"everyone has an opinion. all these people smiling from the shores of long relationships, telling you to take counsel with yourself. to which i want to say that that counsel cannot help me put the icy-hot patch on that one particular region of my back that i cannot reach. and it won't stand in line at trader joe's while i do the shopping because that's how far the line is reaching and wrapping. that counsel won't lie next to me night after night, a warm presence. it will not kiss me. it will not place it's palm against my neck, tucking my hair behind my ears."

That, Meg. Oh, that. I don't have the words to describe what this did to me--just know that it spoke to me in so many ways and that it left me speechless, merely nodding in agreement and--for what it may be worth--a whole lot of solidarity.

Laura Marie Meyers said...

THIS: "so absolutely, unequivocally important that it needs not enter with a bang and flash, but by slipping into the cracks of an everyday life."

that's everything.

Allie said...

Your writing is so perfect sometimes and this was one of those times. So dead on. I want to grab hold of all these words and stuff them away somewhere for later use they are that good. :)

The only thing I can say in response to this is that there will come a time. And I say that because I believe it also.

Erin said...

This was easily my favorite post of yours. Your writing is absolutely beautiful.

Mademoiselle Michael said...

I'm going to harass you until you publish. Icy hot = story of my life! Perhaps the mystery of faith is a road that is not travelled alone—merely because the wondrous gift was giv'n? What a talented gal you are. This is a great space.

Days Careen said...

reaching for my moleskine, taking a pen and noting down so many beautifully put words in this post, just so I don't forget them. Wow, the last part especially is magic in word form.

d said...

This so perfectly resonates with me. I too was single in my mid to late 20's, have always lingered over those words whenever I make it to mass (high holy days only these days) and have parents that met young (17) and married young (21). My mom doesn't even know what it's like to go on a first date, they met at her high school graduation party.

Then I did find someone when I was least expecting it, and it was a great love and was a really special two years. And it ended. And now I am 31 and single. And wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life or what I'm doing wrong that makes finding someone so difficult for me and so seemingly easy for others.

I'm working to find the positive regardless, even though it's hard. I find that your writing and reading the optimism hidden in your words really helps me stay on track. So thanks for that :)

Julie said...

"because she was never single at twenty-seven."
I feel like no one is single at twenty-seven and, i am now twenty-nine...

And as stupid as it sounds, i wait, i hope and i dream of that voice i know i heard, of those eyes i know i've dived into, of this man, i know i loved so deeply, in an other life.



gelt said...

1. if that's the eduardo and david i know, then i'm so very glad you keep up with them. always gentle, kind men - even in elementary and middle school.

2. eloquence beyond measure, meg. eloquence beyond measure.

meg fee said...

@gelt: it is indeed! xo.

Carina said...

I love your writing!

Carina

http://carstina.blogspot.co.nz/

Dancing Branflake said...

Beautifully written. I love ever part of it. I'm very religious and married, yet still related to it. Incredible.

Julie said...

Beautiful, truly. Your writing is powerful enough to resonate with someone who is not on your particular journey, which I think is the mark of great work.

Christina Marie said...

Dear Meg,

I just want to say thank you for vulnerability and truth. Your words resonate profoundly with more than just a few of us. (I tell all my single girl friends to read your blog *so inspiring).

Jennifer Bosse said...

Do you ever get tired of hearing how much someone loves your writing?

Hopefully not, because I really do. I take so many of your posts and copy the links to email to my best friend. She is also in love with the writing. :)

I just don't understand how someone like you; beautiful and talented and obviously smart, could not be with someone. You have standards, yes. Nothing wrong with that. I just assume that in a city so large there should be good men on every corner.

BUT, then I think about it. There may very well be a good man on every corner. Yet, it is not simply a good man that is the answer. Rather it is the man that fills you to the brim of your soul that is hard to find. He will be a good man for sure, but he will also have to be the right man.

Jessica said...

My mom was single until 26. Passing her- passing that boundary- was, and still is, hard. It hasn't been long, but I never want to tell her that her advice holds little weight anymore because I'm sailing in uncharted waters here. Uncharted by her, that is. I hate every bit of distance that grows between us because of that. I refuse to acknowledge it (to her, anyways), but at a complete loss as to how to combat it. For me, in this moment, that is the worst part of being alone- the weakening bonds, or the bonds we'll never forge as my life diverges from hers.

A lot of your post reminded me of a favorite scriptural passage (pardon me while I get a bit religious here) "and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice," and in that still small voice, He finally came. I've always loved that image- that blessings, or faith, or simple communication with the divine, these things don't come with pomp, and usually come when least expected; that after our worlds are shaken and we've passed through fire, THEN we'll see the resultant gifts, maybe when we're still distracted by something else. I don't know if this is always true, but right now it feels like it might be.

Thanks, as always, for sharing your wonderful talent, for opening your life and your thoughts to us. You are courageous in a way that I someday hope to be.

Natalie said...

You can't imagine the times I've said the same to my mom. She was married at 27, and here I am at 28, still waiting. And everything you described is exactly how I feel/felt. I sometimes struggle as all of my friends are married--and the majority have been for some time. But, then I realize, I've all this time to grow and get to know myself...and they didn't have that. Sure, they had love, but some never lived on their own. I know I'll look back on my life and be so proud of myself for doing so. It feels like you are treading water in the biggest ocean, I know. But, remember--you're just still on the ark like Noah was. He probably was so confused and wondering how long he would be in the midst of the flood, and yet when he arrived on shore, the brightest rainbow was awaiting him. Take heart, have faith and remember that everything will fall in to place...quite possibly even better than you might have imagined for yourself. Hugs dear Meg!

Courtney Hope said...

Yes and yes.
Thanks for sharing-

megan danielle said...

i have nothing profound to say. just that i really love this. and believe it. and am thankful that you could tie so many things into so little. you have such a gift.

jessica renae said...

when i was single, i worried quite a bit about finding someone who wouldn't worry over my emotions the way my parents did. i knew i would go insane if i had a day or week or month of feeling low and my husband panicked because of where it might lead me back to. but i also knew i couldn't marry someone who was emotionally distant from me, either. the in-between territory seemed impossible to navigate. i never considered the third option (the one i got), that my husband had baggage, too. baggage i could very much relate to although i'd never lived it. we understand each others' lows and highs and try our best to be supportive while allowing the space in our marriage for each of us to feel whatever the heck we feel.

this is all to say that (to me) faith is a pulling force, almost an inevitability. i appreciate very much my past and my husband's past because we can truly empathize with each other. and that (empathy) is what makes one not feel alone when the dark times set in.

my mind may have taken this post in a different direction than it was intended, and this might be just a bunch of confusing rambling. but i just want to let you know that i know now the universe (God, to me) gives us the things we need. i'm impressed by your ability to sit in your loneliness - that takes courage - because loneliness might be just the thing you need to experience or need to learn how to overcome. the universe will give you what you need and until you feel taken care of, you have a friend in me. i understand loneliness and the depth that it sometimes is.

ps. do you know the musician wesley blaylock? i believe you might like what he does.

Joanna said...

Meg,

I've been reading your blog for a long time now, but I've never commented (yes, I'm one of those). But today I just had to share that this is perhaps the most gut-wrenchingly beautiful thing I've ever read. I want so badly to be able to explain to people why singleness is difficult, and I doubt I could do it as eloquently as this. So, thanks.

Joanna

colleen said...

thank you for sharing your writing with us. i was single for a very long time as those around me paired up, and i so acutely remember this feeling. i found him, but there's no advice on how to find love. it simply is what you said - a journey of faith. it can often be dark. but when it gives away to the light, well...you know.

emilia. said...

all i can say is hallelujah. there is a chasm between lonely and sad. lonely is it's own land. and if you can survive it, life is more gorgeous because you know what it is to be a lone.

thank you for this.

May said...

you are an amazing writer... as a scroll i just don't want your words to end.

Margaret said...

this is very well written. thank you.

Erin said...

wow. this is beautiful beautiful writing.
how silently the wondrous gift is given...that has for years, been my favorite line of that song and I think so true in so many aspects of life.

Carrie K said...

so...blown...away!!

that you can write such achingly beautiful words that exactly describe what is inside me.

you make me feel LESS alone knowing that someone out there KNOWS

thank you...thank you

Caroline said...

Meg-

when the loneliness starts to set it, remind yourself that you are doing it the RIGHT way. so so many people refuse to go through this time and they settle. you could date any nice guy and even be married now, but your heart wants and deserves more. the relationship God planned for you even before you were born. the end is near, i know it. get excited.

Captain Serenity said...

Faith is not,contrary to the usual ideas,something that turns out to be right or wrong, like a gambler's bet: it is an act, an intention,a project, something that makes you, in leaping into the future, go so far,far ahead that you shoot clean out of time and right into Eternity, which is not the end of time or a whole lot of time or unending time, but timelessness, the old Eternal Now.
Joanna Russ


Captain Serenity said...

Hey Meg,
Did you get the Mark Nepo book?
Peace,
John

meg fee said...

@John: yes, yes, I did. i owe you a very, very long email offering up many, many, many thanks.

Marissa McLean said...

Thank you for sharing this. Today, it is what broke through my hard won fortress of unfeeling. I cried upon reading. Thank you.

Chloe Winstone said...

Your writing continues to completely astound and inspire me. I absolutely love this piece, I think it might be one of my favourite pieces of yours!

lene b said...

i just want to thank you for putting your thoughts and feelings into such beautiful prose. for someone in your exact situation (in this particular area), it makes me feel better. so thank you. for helping. : )

tiffany // camp1899 said...

thank you for sharing this message, the mystery of faith, and writing so eloquently about it.. lovely. i attended christmas eve service in nyc this year and felt something very similar, similar in that the pastor shared a short personal story relating to the meaning of visitation and it resonated so loudly that the rest of the service drifted away but that moment, that story, will be with me forever. i'm finding your blog to be full of heartfelt writing, happy to have found you....