Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The shame inherent in killing a cactus

Clearly not my cactus. Photo by H is for Home, Flickr.

The spiny succulent graced my mantel for 7.5 years, but little did it know that yesterday would herald its demise.

My green-thumbed friend gifted me the plant on the occasion of my 25th birthday -- a most appropriate symbol of life and tenacity given that I'd ended up in the ER for the first time in my life just the day before. "Oh, good, a cactus," I thought at the time. "What could I possibly do to a cactus?" Nothing, it turns out. As in, I did practically nothing -- no water, no pruning, no nothing -- and thus the potted plant hung on death's door for many long, dry years amid my infrequent and insufficient attempts at revival.

Yesterday, when I was clearing the mantel of Christmas and graduation cards and giving it a long overdue dusting, I caught sight of two tiny, vivid green shoots amid the growing tangle of dessicated stems and, well, I snapped. I took the gasping little thing and dumped it straight in the trash. Then I put its moss-green pot back on the mantel, free of the specter of death that once obscured it.

For a moment I felt quite at home with my decision. I congratulated myself for recognizing the long-obvious: that I was not going to take care of this plant. Better to put it out of its misery and open the door to a new, living plant that I, further armed with the dubious ability to kill the un-killable, would commit to nurturing with greater, more fervent intention.


My stomach knotted. Was it the right decision? Had the situation been as dire as I'd evaluated? What about those two hopeful green shoots? Could I have extracted them somehow from the dried, gnarled thicket, replanted them, saved them? Or was the cactus sitting at the bottom of the trash can right now, gazing up at the molding inside of the white lid, wondering if this is what heaven looked (and smelled) like?

The doubt in my mind came down to expectation and obligation. On the first count, a grown woman should be able to water a small plant reliably. On the second count, I believe humans should do their best to avoid harm to nature -- the horticultural version of the Hippocratic Oath -- yet I'd just euthanized something that suffered only from my neglect.

The truth is, it was easier for me -- less accusing, less incriminating -- to excise the offending reminder of my incompetence. Watching it die on the mantel did not inspire me to positive action; rather, it fostered resentment, first at the plant's weakness, then at my own weakness in caring for it.

How often in our lives do we behave this way? How often do we see our mistakes and missteps as so entrenched that there is no way left to dig out of them? How often do we wait for the problem to solve itself, and then, seeing no solution arrive, take the "easy" way out, which really isn't easy at all because the ghost of the issue follows right behind, thunderous with its silent head-shaking? In such a shamed state, can we even spot the green shoots in our midst?

I did not try to save the cactus. I didn't look up how to salvage the living bits, I didn't consult the green-thumbed friend. I just decided I'd had enough. So the pot sits on the mantel, empty, holding loss alongside possibility. And maybe that is what remains when we let blame go, too. We are left with what might have been, but also what now can be.

Prayer #295: Suckulent

I hold shame like a cactus holds moisture -- close, greedy, sucking on it like a masochistic IV of self-recrimination. The thirsty pain demands slaking, but not like this. Not with moral hair of the dog, where the pleasure is poison, fleeting and life-draining.

You meant us for more than surviving. You meant us for thriving, too. And the only way to do both is to open ourselves to Your soaking, forgiving rain, which will sate what once we starved.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

9 things I learned during my graduate writing program

Pages coming to life. Photo by Maria Teresa Ambrosi, Flickr

My trusty green folder is dog-eared. My cloth book bag is worn. My colorful pens are depleted. I have filled several notebooks, reviewed hundreds of manuscripts, and printed a gajillion pages/killed a gajillion trees. Now, after three years, nine classes, and one thesis, I am done. I have earned my M.A. in Writing.

But in truth, I have been on this artistic journey since I was five years old, with significant steps in 2008 when I started this blog and in 2009 when I reclaimed my dream of writing. I puttered around on my own for a couple years, finding my way to picture book drafts; I contemplated the spiritual facets of creativity, seeking out artists on similar quests; and I finally understood that my dreams were mine alone to realize, leading me to apply for graduate school and push past roadblocks of my own construction.

No sooner did I start the program, however, then I saw the children's book author Avi at the 2012 National Book Festival and had the inarticulate epiphany that eclipsed my articulated goals. As I wrote then:
"Oh my god," I realized. "I can do this. This is a thing. And it's my thing. I can write and tell stories and touch people and talk to them and encourage them to do the same. I want this to be my life. This should be my life."

The conviction behind the thought overwhelmed me. I wasn't considering my day job or personal development; I wasn't project-managing the situation. I was simply stating what I wanted more deeply than anything else in the world.

The epiphany scared me shitless.

In that moment, my scary, hairy, audacious dream sank its fangs in my neck and could not be shaken loose. I could deny it no longer; I had to find a way to write or spend the rest of my life wondering what I could have accomplished if I'd only tried. So with my dream snuffling and drooling on my back for three years, I set about trying.

What, then, besides narrative elements and sentence constructions and query letters have I learned about writing? Or to put it another way, what would I say to my just-starting self, the eager beaver who wrote an open letter to her graduate school professors, about her goals, her passion, and her individual creative process? Perhaps this:

  • You will surprise yourself. Werewolves? Space adventures? Second comings of Christ? I never thought I'd touch such topics, and yet I did, and wouldn't you know, some of it is readable. But the surprise lay in more than just topics. It came from late nights blinking at the ceiling because my mind was busy, and from comments I overheard on the metro, and from syntax exercises that turned into labors of love. It came from parts of my brain and heart I rarely tap, and it was those revelations that led to my most moving work.

  • You are built to workshop. All those hopes and dreams and imaginations crammed into one classroom, an avalanche of voice and vision ... how could this ENFJ not revel in the boundless, thrilling potential of creative midwives attending the birth of art? Writing is by nature a solitary craft, so workshops are critical air vents for my pent-up thoughts and questions. Without them, I would give up in a fog of loneliness and second-guessing, with no one to share my vision.

  • You were right to wait to submit. A year or so into the program, I permitted myself not to worry about getting published yet and instead focus on crafting work worth publishing. By redirecting my energy to learning how I write -- my cycles, peaks, motivators, hang-ups, bogeymen, superpowers -- I built a stronger foundation for my writing career. Now I will submit my work with far greater confidence and perspective, and thus a greater likelihood of success.

  • Hustle is essential. In the words of author Kitty Kelley (via my thesis advisor), "Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent." If I don't send my work out, I will not be published. Simple as that. So I must turn this next phase into a numbers game, one where grit and gumption see me through the inevitable and regular failures. It's not unlike a job search in that regard, where smart research and targeted applications reap a higher rate of response. Which brings me to ...

  • Your Type A personality is an asset. I used to think I was too uptight to be a good writer, too much a fan of control to let the madman overtake the judge. But there's a time and place for every skill, and when it comes to the task of getting published, my beloved spreadsheets and calendars are precisely what will take me from saved drafts to literary credits. I don't have to fit the stereotype of a flighty scribbler in a garret; instead, I can play to my natural tendencies and project-manage my way into print.

  • You will survive rejection. I am prepared for the onslaught of nos. Not ready, per se, nor accepting of it, but prepared. Because in the end, neither form rejections nor breathless acceptances define me; writing does.

  • You have found your tribe. I never feel as much like the person I believe I am meant to be as when I am with other writers. They are my gang, my kindred spirits, the ones who "get it" without me having to explain. I need to hold them close and treat them well, because they above all will keep me going through the dark nights bound to come.

  • You can -- and do -- move people. Readers have giggled and welled up at my work, but will publishers? Doesn't matter. My loyal readers know the deal, and they're in my corner willing me to move them anew.

  • You will be published. I haven't been yet. It might take forever. But I have stated the goal out loud in multiple ways at multiple times now, and I will keep saying it until I call it into being. I believe it now more than ever. I can do it. I will do it. And I will not accept anything less of myself.
So. I have submitted my thesis copies and performed my reading, checked my grade and thanked my professors. All that's left is to sustain my momentum, make good on the lessons I've learned, and be the writer I now know I am. Easy ... right?

Prayer #294: Vision Revisited (see Prayer #226)

You now see the vision I planted in your heart, and the look in your eyes is breathtaking.

You want it more than anything you've ever wanted before, I can tell. You see it cross-legged in the corner, a patient Buddha of lifelong potential, and you think you are close enough to touch it. But when you reach out, it is still one arm's length beyond your grasp.

Only one, though. Much closer than when it first emerged in a shadowy corner, soft and unformed at its edges, and infinitely closer than when it snoozed alone in the dark, hidden and unknown to you. (Though I always knew it was there.)

This I promise you: I will help you do everything in your power to make up that final length. Whether you need longer arms or wider steps or seventeen revolutions around the room, I will support you as you shorten the distance, just as I have supported you year and year, day after day, for as long as you've inched closer.

Not that you want any more advice from me, of course, but I'll say it anyway. Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay the course. Though you might not hear it, I am cheering for you -- ever louder, ever prouder.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Oh hey look, it's the love of my life!

"There was an intense emotionality at this time: music I loved, or the long golden sunlight of late afternoon, would set me weeping. I was not sure what I was weeping for, but I would feel an intense sense of love, death, and transience, inseparably mixed."

-- Oliver Sacks, On the Move

So much I want to say, and no clue where to begin.

I could start with the moment he proposed to me beside an outcrop of rocks near the Sky Meadows trailhead, but that moment was surreal.

I could start with the thrilled, marveling look on his face (mirrored on mine as well) when we first used the word fiance, but that look was fleeting.

I could start with the unnerving sensation of my feet floating three feet above the ground, levitated by the outpouring of love and support and exclamation from the people dearest to our hearts, but that sensation moves me to tears every time I examine it, and writing an entire essay about it might lead to hospitalization.

So instead I will start with my first lesson of engaged life -- that to be now on the other side of engagement is to learn exactly what it entails and why it is, in fact, a really big deal.

I don't say that last statement tongue in cheek. After all, I am part of a faith tradition that celebrates and upholds marriage, and I have always applauded sincere commitment, the sacrifice and "death to self" that it entails. It's more that my fiance (!!) and I had been saying to each other for months that we were "engaged in our hearts," so what, we thought, could a mere question change?

Apparently, everything.

In case it's not clear, we're really, REALLY excited.

Stating our commitment out loud -- officially, formally, in a way that asks everyone in our lives to bear witness and keep us accountable -- kicks the whole endeavor up six notches. We have told the world we are serious about each other and our shared life, and by gum the world is going to hold us to it.

And that's just the external effect. There's this whole internal shift too that I didn't fully grasp until my in-that-moment-soon-to-be-fiance (!!) was standing before me, sharing how much he loves me, holding an oval box in his hand, asking me to marry him, and suddenly after years of faceless, backdrop-less daydreams about my future partner, it hit me: Here was the real person, the real deal, and the reality was a million times more profound than anything I'd ever imagined on my own. (Which is saying something, because I have a very active imagination.)

What's more, I finally grasped the full measure and value of my past experiences and relationships, however confused or painful or breathtaking they were, for I would not have become who I am today, or appreciate my partner so fully, without them. How healing, then, to find my person. How healing, to love him. How healing, to experience his love in return.

So much I want to say, and no clue how to say it. So I will simply say, he is here. The bright, kind, compassionate, loving, funny, adventurous, thoughtful, good man I always envisioned. He is finally, beautifully here. He is standing before me. He is standing beside me. He wants me as much as I want him. We are creating a future together, a terrific marriage, one that (God willing) will involve board game nights and Pizza Fridays and bocce on the back lawn and a thriving kitchen garden and Post-It love notes and trips around the world and fat babies we will squeeze and love until they grow up and have fat babies of their own and then we'll squeeze and love them too, and all because we had the great good fortune to join the same guitar group, strike up a conversation, and fall in love.

So much I want to say, but now I have a lifetime to say it to him, over and over and over again.

That's where we'll begin, then. With love.

Prayer #293: The Prayer I'm Thrilled to Finally Write

God of loving covenants,


Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Thank you for this person, for everything he already is, for everything we will become together.

Thank you for this opportunity -- for the chance to draw closer to you through the act of loving another so deeply and completely.

May I ask one more favor, though? (As if you haven't done enough.) Please be the hand that underwrites our contract. Be the witness to our pledge and the buttress for our vows. Help us keep our soul-deep promise to each other as we prepare our own covenant -- one that honors capital-L LOVE, which is to say, you.

And did I say "thank you" yet? Because thank you from the bottom of my puny, weepy, overjoyed human heart as it blossoms ten-fold in gratitude's bright light.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Prayer is a conversation we carry on in questions

Who asked first? Photo by Jared Cherup, Flickr

"I am not a man of God," said Tauwhare, frowning.

"And yet there is much of God in you," Devlin replied. "I believe you must have an instinct for prayer, Te Rau -- to have come here today. To pay respects at your dear friend's grave -- to pray over him, indeed."

Tauwhare shook his head. "I don't pray for Crosbie. I remember him."

"That's all right," Devlin said. "That's fine. Remembering is a very good place to start." Smiling slightly he pressed the pads of his fingers together, and then tilted both hands down -- his clerical pose. "Prayers often begin as memories. When we remember those whom we have loved, and miss them, naturally we hope for their safety and their happiness, wherever they might be. That hope turns into a wish, and whenever a wish is voiced, even silently, event without words, it becomes a supplication. Perhaps we don't know to whom we're speaking; perhaps we ask before we truly know who's listening, or before we even believe that listener exists. But I judge it to be a very fine beginning, to make a practice of remembering those people we have loved. When we remember others fondly, we wish them health and happiness and all good things. [...]"


"A prayer needn't always be a supplication, of course," Devlin added. "Some prayers are expressions of gladness; some are expressions of thanks. But there is hope in all good feelings, Te Rau, even in feelings that remember the past. The prayerful man, the good man, is always hopeful; he is always an optimist. A man is made hopeful by his prayers."

Tauwhare, who had received this sermon doubtfully, only nodded. "These are wise words," he added, feeling pity for his interlocutor.

In general Tauwhare's conception of prayer was restricted to the most ritualized and oratorical sort. The ordered obeisance of the whaikorero produced in him, as did all rituals of speech and ceremony, a feeling of centrality and calm, the likes of which he could not manufacture alone, and nor did he wish to. The sensation was quite distinct from the love he felt for his family, which he experienced as a private leaping in his breast, and distinct, too, from the pride he felt in himself, which he felt as a pressurized excitement, an elated certainty that no man would ever match him, and no man would ever dare to try. It ran deeper than the natural goodness that he felt, watching his mother shuck mussels and pile the slippery meat into a wide-mouthed flax basket on the shore, and knowing, as he watched her, that his love was good, and wholly pure; it ran deeper than the virtuous exhaustion he felt after a day stacking the rua kumara, or hauling timber, or plaiting harakeke until the ends of his fingers were pricked and raw. Te Rau Tauwhare was a man for whom the act of love was the true religion, and the altar of this religion was one in place of which no idols could be made.

"Shall we go to the grave together?" Devlin said.

-- excerpt from The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

Prayer #292: Some Questions

What is prayer? Pleas and bows, yes, but is it also hugs and screams? Is it as simple as remembering, as immediate as invoking?

And what of its tone? Is a "prayer" by nature positive, in that its creation signals a flicker of faith where perhaps none is thought to be? Then what of those times when the prayer is a wail, a keening moan flecked with spit and blood that twists throughout an unresponsive cosmos?

And what of your response? If your unpracticed antennae cannot detect a reply, how does that build hope? How do you put an ear horn to the most remote canal of your psyche and listen for speeches in a language you don't speak? How can you not in these silent, ticking moments feel less heeded, less wanted, less loved?

And what of different kinds of love? What of the contemplation of it, the experience of it, the demonstration of it? When the wild first surrounds you, undirected and circumspect, do you make your steps more tender across the shifting bog? When the second hugs you from behind, do you whip around to match arms to face, or do you simply revel in the tight sensation? And when the third -- focused, ordered, intentional -- speaks what you cannot articulate and shows what you cannot describe, what is left for you to do?

What then is prayer? It is a conversation we carry on in questions.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

In search of a church

"We are each other's holding bread." Photo by Susy Morris, Flickr

Earlier this year, the new pastor at my parish dissolved the music ministry group I was an active part of. For three years, there in the corner to the left of the altar, I had contributed to dynamic worship, befriended faith-filled musicians, and -- in answer to many tearful prayers said from that very spot -- met and fell in love with a wonderful man.

Yet with one executive decision, my roots in the parish were yanked out, replaced with an approach to liturgy that, while I don't disagree with, is not the sole way I want to serve and worship. I hoped for a congregational outcry, a change of heart from the pastor, but neither arrived. Within months the music group was officially dead. So, cut adrift with our wounds still raw, Nature Boy and I spent the summer searching for a church.

The process has been neither easy nor successful. Each weekend we bounce around from pew to pew -- weighing the quality of the liturgy, the impact of the preaching, and the spirit of the parish -- and each weekend we realize anew the depth of our loss. Change is always hard, but it's a particular slog when you feel so powerless throughout the process. And though we've experienced other moving services and witnessed other loving communities in action, none of them feel quite like the home we knew and loved.

One unexpected benefit of this unsettled period, however, is that it has given me a new appreciation for the doctrinal tenet that the Church -- the people of God -- are the body of Christ. Bodies have beating hearts. They are warm, lively, breathing, aching. They yearn to hold and be held, just as Nature Boy and I are yearning right now.

Anne Lamott put it poignantly in a recent Facebook post:

"I think often of the weeks after the end of WWII, in the refugee camps for orphans and dislocated kids. Of course the children couldn't sleep! But the grown-ups discovered that after you fed them, if you gave them each a piece of bread just to hold, they would drift off. It was holding bread. There was more to eat if they were still hungry. This was bread to hold, to remind them and connect them to the great truth -- that morning would come, that there were grown-ups who cared and were watching over them, that there would be more food when they awoke. [...] We are each other's holding bread."

We, the wider community of believers and want-to-believers, are all striving to follow a higher power, though we have moments where doubt and fear tell us otherwise. What we do know for sure, however, beyond dispute or refute, is that other human beings are with us right now, and it is our mandate as fellow travelers to extend hands, offer snacks, and say hello. Because even if nothing ends up coming after this bumpy ride of a life, we will at least have manifested love during our time here.

That's why I remain hopeful that Nature Boy and I will find a new spiritual community. The body of Christ is by definition much bigger than one person and one decision. And the more we seek, the more we explore, the more we hold hands with smiling strangers, the more I feel the wide circle of arms drawing closer, and I know we will be ok.

Prayer #291: Holding Bread

As bakers yawn and stumble gather in the pre-dawn hours to tie their aprons and stoke their ovens, so we rub our groggy eyes and squint to see You in the filmy light. And though we cannot not always see clearly, we continue to bake bread and break bread in Your name.

Help us offer this sustenance in abundance and never with condition. When we profess our need for you, knead us in return -- a gentle heel, a firm pat, an attentive push to rise higher than we've risen before, filled with breath and room and life to spare.


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

What to pray for when you don't know what to do next

What comes next? Photo by Niklas Friedwall, Flickr

Where do you turn when you don't know what to write your next blog post on? To a classic Ignatian prayer about discernment, of course.


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
-- St. Ignatius of Loyola

I had never heard of this prayer before coming across it on Facebook one day, and I immediately filed it away in my "Blog Post Inspiration" folder (for yes, I do have such a folder) for future noodling.

At first reading, I interpreted it as a prayer of thanksgiving -- a saint-backed example of what you pray for when life is good. But then I did a little research about it, and I learned that it's part of St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, a four-stage process designed to deepen people's experience of God in their daily lives.

In particular, the Suscipe -- which translates from Latin as "take," the opening word -- prepares the pray-er for discernment. What's discernment? Check out this article's explanation:

"The Catholic spiritual tradition calls decision making “discernment.” The word implies not coming up with a new idea completely out of our own creativity, but clarifying things so that we can see and understand something that’s already in place: what God wants us to do."

I like this explanation because it maintains how each of us has free will to choose our path, and that there is no preordained plan about what that path will be. Rather, putting ourselves in the mindset of the Suscipe achieves two seemingly contradictory goals: It liberates us from our own preconcieved options while it also deepens our responsibility to mull over any routes that maybe we ignored, feared, and didn't even recognize before.

So, while I doubt the Higher Being is overly concerned right now with the contents of my blog post, I do like to think I've taken one baby step toward venturing farther into the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises so that when the time comes for discernment beyond the scope of a blog topic, I'll be ready.

Prayer #290: Suscipe, Inverted

You took, Lord, and recieved all my demands,
my complaints, my discomfort with mystery,
my entire willful spirit,
all I grip and refuse to release.

I forget you've given all to me.
To you, Lord, I owe credit.

Everything should be yours; I'll do with that what I will.
But give me (please) your love and grace anyway,
So I learn it is enough.


Monday, July 27, 2015

An open letter to couples in the first year of their serious relationship

"Are you ready for the spin cycle, Larry?" "Nope. Are you?"
Photo by Fabrizio Lonzini, Flickr

Dear committed couples who have been together one year or less,

Congratulations! After much searching and wondering and wringing of hands, you have found someone whom you are 99.9% certain you want to spend the rest of your life with. I applaud you for this achievement; it is 50% attributable to your hope, optimism, and smashing good looks, and 50% to fortunate timing.

I can see Year One of your relationship unfolding thus: first a period of intense infatuation where everything you discover about this person is miraculous and enriching; then a period of necessary acclimation where you accommodate your daily rhythms to fit this new addition; and lastly, a period of escalated social activity where you rush to not only introduce your person to everyone you love, but also to meet all of the people your person loves.

It is this third stage I would like to warn you about today.

Perhaps "warn" is too strong a word for a time so precious and fleeting. Precious because you are watching people you'd give your life for all get to know one another and become friends in their own right. Fleeting because amid the scheduling and driving and cross-country flying, you -- the one more wrapped up in making it happen rather than the actual happening -- forget to pause and absorb what you hath so finely wrought.

Perhaps a better word would be "caution." Or "advise." Yes, let's go with advise, seeing as this entire letter is unsolicited anyway. I advise you, dear couples, as you traverse the period I like to refer to as Getting Everyone to Know Everyone as 'Now' Becomes 'Forever,' to stay mindful of three sizable demands on your time:

1. You must grow together as a couple.

You had the first few months all to yourselves -- week after week of happy daydreams and pajama snuggles and a romantic cocoon of your own devising. Prioritizing your relationship was easy because it was exciting and new. Once real life reasserts itself, however, you must put extra effort into carving out that special, undisturbed time where just the two of you can explore what you're creating together. Consider this time together sacred, because so are you to each other -- "dedicated, set apart, [and] exclusively appropriated" (in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary).
2. You must maintain your individual relationships as you also build new ones.

Friendship is a gift, one that nurtures and sustains you in different ways than a romantic relationship. Your friends were there with you when you were single, and they (hopefully) will continue to be with you as you add a partner to your life. But just as your romance requires investment, so do your friendships, be they old or new. Know it will not always go smoothly. You will run up against others' expectations or desires, and more often than not their reactions will be out of your control. What you can control, however, is your response. Continue to listen, acknowledge, and ask your friends to do the same for you. I promise, the new normal will emerge.
3. You must protect and foster what makes you, you.

No one can complete you. Not your partner. Not your family. Not your friends. They support and encourage and love your soul, but they do not embody it. It is up to you and you alone to tend that essential part of your being. Engage your interests, pursue your goals, deepen your connection to the world around you. Remember to be quiet occasionally, and sit by yourself. Such moments will keep you in touch with what makes your friends cherish you, what makes your lover want you, and what makes you feel exactly like you.

By now you're probably sweating and searching for Xanax beer chocolate. I don't blame you -- each of these demands requires diligent care and feeding, and there are only 24 hours in a day, much of which you must devote to sleep, food, and basic hygiene. So here is my final piece of unsolicited advice:

4. Go easy on yourself.

You are doing the best you humanly can. With that effort at the forefront, you will end up in the right place, even if there are some bumps and tears along the route. And no matter what else happens, remember that you're bound to learn much, much more about your partner, your friends, and yourself.
Godspeed, new(ish) couples. I look forward to seeing you on the flip side. But not too soon.

With love and admiration,


Prayer #289: Falling for You

God of hand-holding and hand-wringing,

Hold me in Yours as I figure out how to be present to myself as well as to those I love. Let me peek through Your fingers and spot when my people are striving to give to me as I am striving to give to them. Caress me when I am anxious; block me when I am injurious. And if You must let me go, let it be so I may continue falling in love -- with him, with her, with them -- all intoxicating reflections of You.