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Prayer of an Introvert

Speak no more, no more, I beg thee;

another weighty word,

another vessel of steel-cased emotion,

and the scales shall tip to fear,

loathing,

and despair.

 

Grant me a moment more

in this comforting caress

of unspoken words, dreams unimagined,

a stream of potentiality on a canvass of silence

painted in tears of love and loss.

Take me not from this sweet hollow

within,

this forgotten corner of creation

that hums yet faintly

with the musical silence of Eden.

 

And yet,

I see through the mist

in the panes to your stricken heart.

There is a longing,

a cry to balance the scales

as the words begin to spill from your lips

and down your cheeks.

 

Remarkable mystery,

the words cannot touch my fragile mind;

no, they sink

with heavy weight

to my heart,

and I find there an endless vestibule,

a deep chasm waiting for your words

as they pour but a drop

into the infinite awaiting.

 

It is no longer mine to listen,

nor was it ever mine to heal.

All falls into the mantle,

swaddled tenderly

and carried to the heart of Christ.

 

O Mother of Sorrows,

Victorious Queen robed in Eden’s silence,

take me over.

My frail spirit is so little prepared

for all that I must take in.

Take these hands,

take this heart.

Let your Spouse

breathe in me His peace,

that this shuddering frame

may come as Simon to the crosses of others

in holy fear

and loving confidence.

Float on the Breeze

Still not sure if this is just me working myself out meta-cognitively, or if this actually works as a snippet of a story. So I’ll tag it as both and let you interpret it as you please.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

“It’s really nice out.”

“Yup.”

Well that was lame…c’mon, you can do better than that.

Greg kicked the nearest rock, then immediately regretted it. What if Lewis picked up on his frustration? Then questions, questions he wanted to answer but couldn’t.

He tried again. “The leaves changing and all, it’s really nice.”

That’s it? He’d wanted to say something about the way they seemed to glow on the branches, the way they fell with a kind of grace. He wanted to point out the way they spiraled upwards on the wind in little tornadoes, how they gleamed with the setting sun. He wanted to show him what he saw in the grass, the leaves, the very air that he breathed in to calm the machine gun going off in his chest.

And all he could manage was “It’s really nice”?

Lewis nodded. “Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful.”

Damn…even that was better than what I said!

It was times like this Greg wished he could laugh it off like everyone else seemed to be able to do. Just laugh, and watch the frustration roll away on the shaking sound waves.

Lewis was rambling on, talking about his favorite memories of fall, what made them special–it was beautiful, the way he could let words flow out with such ease. Greg struggled to open the gates to his heart and catch as much of it as possible, let it rush in and sweep into the depths, where he could hold on to them and cherish them, let the memory float just the way he liked it–tingling, mildly intoxicating.

Then silence. Again.

Shoot. Now what?

“Yeah…that’s awesome!”

Ugh. Really?

Greg was about ready to kick himself. Well hey! It’s a hell of a lot better than I usually do! What more do you want!? 

Gee, I dunno, maybe a little more CONVERSATION would be nice instead of being talked at!

Well maybe I COULD if you’d SHUT THE HELL UP!

“You ok?”

Greg shook himself. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just not much to say.” Bullshit. He pulled his jacket a little closer and tightened the scarf around his neck. “We’re almost there, just a little bit farther.”

“Cool.” Lewis continued his way up the wooded hill, like he already knew where they were going.

Greg sighed quietly to himself, trying not to let his squirming stomach get to him. Was it always gonna be this difficult? No; he had to hold onto hope. There was ALWAYS hope. He knew that, even if he didn’t feel it.

So he listened to the crunching of the leaves until they came to the top of the hill, the view he’d insisted on showing Lewis. It was peaceful up here, and a nice almost-silence, looking down on a little creek with tree-speckled slopes climbing up both sides.

Please…try. Just try.

“Lewis?” He didn’t dare to turn to see if he looked. “I’m sorry I suck so much at conversation. I wish I could tell you everything I was thinking right now.”

Lewis’s voice was lower, more soothing. “It’s ok. I know you’re trying.”

Greg chuckled a little. “It’s so easy for you, your words are like that creek. They flow so nicely, so simply. Even if they’re not perfect, they’re there, and they flow in a peaceful rhythm. Mine-” He pulled his hand out of his pocket to swing it at the trees-“they’re like the leaves; they only fall some of the time, and they just keep blowing away from me.”

Lewis nodded. “I understand. But maybe that makes them more special when you catch them.” He shrugged. “I dunno, I like that you listen so well. When you do talk, it’s always in earnest, it means a lot.”

Greg smiled. “I guess the trick is learning to run a little faster. I could learn a thing or two from you.”

Lewis smiled too. “Only if you’ll teach me too.”

Greg laughed, imagining a little frustration roll away. “It’s a deal.”

Walking back down the hill, Greg couldn’t help shrugging. Well, it’s a start.

I’ll say. Panting here. Give me a second to catch up!

They walked away again in silence. A silence that was…ok.

A Yearning Heart

I still remember saying goodbye to him.

We’d just finished our final math exam, my last exam of senior year. He said he wanted to talk to me after class, which was surprising, because as much as I admired him and wanted to be his friend, I assumed he didn’t think much of me. When we left class, he put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me down the hall, telling me how much I meant to him, how he was so glad he got to know me, how he was going to write a letter but that it was much better this way to see the look on my face and to get a hug at the end. I don’t remember how I responded, it was such a shock, but we hugged awhile, said goodbye and that we’d miss each other, and then went our separate ways, our gazes locked for a moment before we broke off.

It was a beautiful, melancholy, wonderful, sad moment. You know what I remember most? Not the words, though I still have a foggy memory of them. Not the emotion, because it’s not new to me. The thing that’s cemented into my memory is the feel of his arm around my shoulders, the hug afterwards, and the held gaze afterwards…

Most guys, it seems, are averse to physical contact like that. There are two main parties of thought against it that I’ve noticed among guys, the first being the obvious stereotypical one: “HUGGING IS FOR GIRLS. That’s DUMB. Let’s just go out and play FOOTBALL!”

First of all, stop shouting. Please. It doesn’t make your point any clearer or you any cooler.

And second–well, maybe I should stop and let the second party speak, they’re giving me some cold looks.

“Thank you. What I believe is that physical contact of a friendly nature is simply unnecessary in this day and age, particularly for those of a well-developed mind. Such contact was only necessary in a primal time; surely now the need for intimacy is met in the meeting of persons on an intellectual level.”

…well when you put it THAT way.

I think the second point I was going to make applies pretty well equally here: the recognition that humans are a body-soul composite and are built to relate as such. All you stereotypical jocks out there, think about what you do when you hang out with the guys. How often are you guys wrestling, pushing each other,  doing that chest-bump thing that usually sends me into a wall? Sure it’s not hugging, but it’s PHYSICAL CONTACT. In case you didn’t notice, football is a CONTACT sport. Why do you think you guys bond so well as a team? As persons, we access each other as friends not only through communication but through contact. By hugging, more of the body is in contact with more of the other person’s body; it expresses a deeper union as persons than simply a handshake or a high-five. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just a natural thing to do, it’s how we are built to encounter one another.

As to the second party, those working within a more intellectual frame (physically and mentally), I would ask you how genuine you think a relationship can be that does not involve at least a little physical contact, like a hug or something similar. If you have such a relationship, evaluate it. Are you really encountering the person as fully as you could? Or should? Without this element in a relationship, you begin to wonder whether the relationship is real or simply imagined by you, a chance acquaintanceship rather than a true friendship. After all, how much of the person do you really know if you don’t even have contact with what you CAN see?

I used to be of the second camp. Ask anyone who knew me before my late junior year. I was an intellectual recluse in every sense of the word. I believed friendship was unnecessary, that I could get by just fine without it. Talk when you need to, shut up when you don’t, go ahead and forge a relationship BUT NEVER GIVE MORE THAN NECESSARY, certainly nothing on a physical level. Not even a high-five or a handshake if you can help it.

Those walls were a long time in falling. Years, literally, they stood, though I came to see them as an inescapable trap rather than an impenetrable fortress, forgetting that it was I, myself, who first erected them.

And now, now that I see the truth, the truth of what a relationship can be, what goes into it and how it works–now that I know what it actually means to have a friend and to be one–I’m paying for the wasted years. It’s difficult, even now, to believe that anyone truly cares about me, that I can truly be loved by anyone, that any of my friendships exist. My entire body language is closed, though I’m struggling to pry it open inch by inch. There are days when, all by myself, I press myself against the walls and feel every cinder-block, just to remind myself that there’s still a physical world around me, because it’s been so long since I touched anything or anyone in it.

And the moments I remember most, even the moments I experience here and now, are the ones that involve contact. Because somehow I still struggle to believe.

So speaking as one for whom it may be too late, I implore you, don’t cast aside this basic, beautiful element in all of your relationships. Even God longs to embrace us in Heaven.

A Defense of Silence

Many of my poems refer to a rush I don’t understand, something that passes me by, something not quite in my ability to grasp. This is my reference to conversation.

I am, and always have been, an extreme introvert, a lover of silence, not quite comfortable when it seems to fall on me to hold a conversation. And I have never liked this about me. It has always been a source of anxiety and frustration. How unfair, I thought, that one who so desires to be able to speak should be so utterly inept.

How very wrong I have been.

We live in a world already choked by an obscene obsession with noise. Silence is automatically labelled awkward, and “introversion” has almost come to be viewed as a disease. Reflection is rare, and silent prayer even more so. Is it any wonder we find so many people utterly directionless and tossed in an ocean of cares and anxieties?

For those who consider themselves extroverts, don’t get me wrong. It’s extremely important to have those willing and able to to do the things you do so well. But ask yourselves: how often do you take time to just walk away from others, put down the laptop and the iPod, and simply let the silence wash over you?

A dear friend once reminded me, “It was in the silence of a cold winter’s night that Christ came into the world. It’s in the silence that He comes to us again.” Silence is nothing to fear. In silence God is able to work most deeply and effectively in us. By surrendering utterly to Him with all our senses and our soul in complete silence, we can be touched by a beauty that even the most moving music, inspiring poem, or deep prayer cannot give to us.

So, my fellow introverted pilgrims, walk confidently in the quiet, for you have a gift: you can more easily reach a peace and beauty that all the words spoken on this Earth can never accomplish. It’s normal to want to talk more, and don’t be afraid to push yourself to speak more freely. But never look at the silence as a curse; it is a far greater blessing than the gift of gab.

And to fellow pilgrims who are more extroverted, continue to share yourself openly and happily, for the ability to share so willingly, to place yourself before the eyes of the world, is indeed a blessing that can accomplish great blessings on this Earth. But never forget to take time to touch Heaven in the silence.

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