Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Epiphany Chronicles IV: The Intolerable Shirt of Flame

Morning of January 11

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
~T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

After much deliberation about the meaning of "integrity," and with Justin's permission, I've decided to go ahead and post this.  Because things are what they are, and the integrity of these chronicles requires it for completion.  And because I truly think of you as my friends.

Fact is, as they say, stranger than fiction.  In the biggest unexpected twist of these chronicles, especially since they were already mostly written when this happened, I experienced the following.

I went early to bring my beloved his mail from the box we share, and discovered him with another woman.  Please bear in mind that we live apart and with no commitment to monogamy.  But still.  I was devastated.

This was the day I started to run.

I returned to my house after this shocking epiphany, shaken to the core, physically vibrating. And said to myself, I'm done.

I'm done.

I'm done.

I fired the censor and wrote every outrage of my incensed heart, and it was not the black sludge, it was the guileless child incarnate at last, that neglected stranger welcomed in.

It's done.
I'm done.

And then I said to myself and to God:  Now what? What do I do with myself? I was still physically shaking. There was no way I could work like this or go pay bills or eat breakfast.

I had been thinking the night before that I'd like to start running. I had mentally plotted my course to and around the St. Francis church and then home a different way. Just like the Wise Men.

I've been reading The Way of the Beloved, and one of the recommended exercises for generating more love is to practice being grateful for “negative” things, to find something in them to be grateful for.

I am grateful for this heartbreaking epiphany because it impelled me to start running.

I walked down the street a bit, then broke into a run, crossed the board over the acequia into the little grove, through the grove, next to the graffittied adobe ruins, into the church parking lot. Something was going on at the church. A funeral. How fitting.

I ran a circle around the church, the hands of the saints reaching out to caress me through the adobe in which they forever live, back through the grove, stopped at a tree to stretch. My mind was graciously blank. The shaking was no longer trapped inside, but suspiring through my flesh.

Back out to the street, past my house, through the post office parking lot. I slowed to a walk down the highway, ran back into the church lot from this different direction. Around the courtyard again. Clare. Oh Clare, please pray for me. Mother of God, pray for me. Mama. And I'm not even Catholic. But it felt right and was medicine.

This running, this writing, are prayer and liberation.

Even in failure,
even in fear,
even in sorrow,
I have and am
- am because I have -
everything I need. 

The light shines
in the darkness,
and the darkness
has not,
will not,
can not
overcome it.

I have and am
my whole
light in the darkness

Thank you.


  1. I still don't know what to do with the shaking anger and fear. Mostly, that means I need to be around someone who will ignore it and continue on as if nothing has happened until it calms itself and passes through. I'm not capable of doing this on my own yet.

    I am committed to becoming a runner and went for the first time last Sunday. But perhaps I need a new inspiration.

  2. Oh Susan.


  3. Polly,

    See, you can't tell me stuff like this. I get violent. I'll kick some ass. What's his freaking number?

    Then if something happens to him, they'd be like, well- Entrepreneur Chick in Dallas said...

    I am so sorry you're dealing with this. AND this is so weird-

    This morning I had a dream that I couldn't find Tony (as I often have those awful dreams in the morning).

    What's strange about the dream is I said to myself- this is how she feels, this is the heartbreak she's had to deal with.

    I wonder if the "she" was you? How odd.

    Well, we (your readers) love you and care a great deal about you- and if you ever want to talk, you can call me anytime.

    I can email you da digits. :)

  4. Kate - I wish we could be running buddies.

    Jennifer - thank you.

    EC - That is weird about the dream. Thanks for your support, but no ass-kicking necessary.

  5. I want to tuck you under a blankie, make you an awesome latte, and feed you good food...

  6. Thank you, dear Kat. And I know it would be better than good food, with your cooking talents. How about some of those lemon-raspberry muffins?

  7. This is interesting, to say the least.

    You're actually not the first person I've read to claim that running is actually therapeutic...nay, liberating on the same scale as prayer. That can't just be due to the endorphins. It's gotta have something to do with motion, moving yourself physically, quickly, almost violently. Perhaps it's the sensation (real or imagined) of running away from your problems and toward a solution.

    It's never worked for me...but then again, neither has prayer.

    A stimulating, emotionally power-packed and just-darned-interesting conclusion. What you wrote about your emotional distress (particularly the repetition of the word "done") is visceral. It was like a punch to the gut. I was almost sorry to read about it, I felt so bad for you.

  8. P.S. I really, REALLY hope things are going better for you now. Sorry you had to go through all this...but glad you shared it with us. Courageous, generous and (I hope) therapeutic.

  9. I think the main thing about running that makes it therapeutic for me is that it requires full concentration and involvement, and yes, motion. It gets me out of "stuck" energy, whatever kind of energy that might be. What I'm realizing, though, is I need some good shoes, or I'm really going to mess up my knees!

    Thanks for your concern - I'm good. It's truly uncanny how all of these things worked together in succession to bring me to a new place. I don't know that that would have been the case had I not written about it this way.

  10. Sorry about your partner, that is horrid. But well done for transforming it into something spiritual. Solvitur ambulando - I think it's the change of perspective involved that does it, myself.

  11. "Solvitur ambulando" - I had to look it up. What a great concept. And I love the eclectic bunch that Wikipedia says have referred to it. Thanks for the link.

  12. I know I'm very late commenting, but somehow I missed this first time round, and then your references in more recent posts sent me back through your archives to find out what had happened. So I just wanted to say I'm sorry, that I'm in awe of how you have been dealing with this, and that your writing consistently makes me think (and feel).

  13. Thank you, Tess. It's been an interesting journey.

    It's always reassuring to hear that people get something out of posts where I delve into deeply personal things like this. There's a fine line between self-indulgence and useful expression sometimes.



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