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A Candle Burns By My Computer. Pachel-bel's "Canon in D" plays on the radio. A light snowfall covers the ground.
It's almost Christmas.
I'm writing in my bedroom at a small desk. I closed the curtains because the glare makes it hard to see. And because it feels warmer that way.
Max, my bird, sits on a laundry basket in front of a mirror. She likes the mirror. She likes being near me.
The phone rings. It's Scotty.
"How are you coming with the book?" he asks.
The question runs deep. How are you doing with your life? is what he's really asking. How are you doing with faith, hope, confidence. Caring about life. Getting back up. Trying again. The simple, beautiful act of trying.
"Not good," I say. "I'm stuck."
What I mean is, I feel forgotten by God, like Sisyphus, condemned to pushing a rock up a hill, only to have it roll down before it reaches the top. I feel alienated, abandoned, afraid of being tricked or betrayed.
What I also don't say is that I've been begging God, the universe, the Force, Allah, Etah, to show me what it is I'm not seeing, what I'm doing wrong.
I've lost my voice, my writing voice. I can't hear my heart.
"I in flying in," he says. "I'm coming back."
I argue with him for a while. No, you can't come, I have to work. No, all we do is play. No, you're a distraction. We hang up. I used to feel guilty when I said no. Now it's all I can say. No. No. No.
I stare at the computer. Iwant to see him. Almost ashamed, I realize I need to see him. How can I trust what I want?
I pick up the phone. "Please come" I say.
At 9:30 that evening I meet him at the gate at the Minneapolis airport. We kiss. Banter. Kiss.
The next day I surprise myself when he asks what I want to do.
I look at him and say softly, "I want my ring back. I want to wear my ring again." The awakening has come gently.
I remember a time, nine years past. Another lifetime, it seems. I was married to someone else then and writing a book about owning your power, taking care of yourself, loving yourself. I went to my office, a basement cubbyhole in a small tract house, and began to write. As the words poured out, I arose from my cubbyhole, walked into the kitchen, looked at my husband of ten years, and quietly announced, "It's time for us to separate. To get divorced."
He agreed. The marriage had been dead for years. That it was time to bury it didn't surprise either one of us. We knew it was coming. I was learning that the part in me that writes, the part I must go to if I am to do anything but blather on paper, must be acknowledged and honored in my life before it can be expressed to the world.
Writing forces consciousness.
Those lessons nine years ago had been different in some ways. I wasn't allowed, I didn't allow myself, to write a book about independence, freedom, and self-worth unless I lived that way.
Now, I won't let myself write a book about love, about being a vital part of a living universe, unless I live that way. The new way. Vitally. Magically.
One lesson is the same: listening to and trusting my voice.
A phrase haunts me; I can't recall where I heard it. Love will never keep us from our destiny. It will lead us into it.
I remember a telephone conversation several months ago with Scotty. "Do you feel you're being disloyal to your past by loving me?" he asked.
I didn't answer. I started crying.
"You don't need to say anything" he said. "And we don't need to discuss it. But I wanted to mention it, get it out in the open."
I wonder how long I've fought this lesson, fought opening up. Maybe the entire three months I've sat shriveled in front of the computer, glaring at the blank screen and the blinking cursor. Then I remember another truth. We have as much time as we need.
What happened to the woman I used to be, the woman who didn't need anyone? Maybe it's time to bury her now, too.
Scotty and I go to the store where we bought our first rings a year and a half ago, simple gold bands scrolled with the words Vous et Nul Autre. You and no other. Shakespearian poesy rings.
Gold rings, a theme in my life.
I get scared. Twice we leave the store without the rings and wander around the mall. Can I commit to anything? A book? A person? Can I commit to life? Do I want to risk caring about life again? Do I believe in loss or am I willing to trust...life?
That evening we watch Joseph Campbell on television. He talks about God, about loving God. He says when we open to loving a person, whether that person is a spouse, friend, or child, we open our hearts to loving God. He says when we let someone love us, we're opening our hearts to God's love. He says the acts are the same.
I decide that loving isn't for the faint. It's for the courageous.
"I want to wear the ring, " I say quietly. "But I'm not sure what it means or where we're going."
"I'm not either," he says. "But I know one thing. Everything will work out fine."The Lessons of Love. Copyright © by Melody Beattie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.