Musings on Unrequited Love

(Note: A few weeks ago I gave a talk, and this blog post is essentially my transcript for that talk. I just edited a few bits to put it more in blog-form.)

So, the topic I’m talking about today is unrequited love. By that, I mean love that is not returned in kind: the situation when you love someone and they don’t feel the same way about you. It’s most commonly seen as a romantic situation, what with the trope of love-triangles and all, but it also happens in the context of friendships and other relationships; sometimes in terms of wanting to begin a relationship with someone and them not being as keen, and sometimes in terms of feelings changing over a period of time.

poor Charlie Brown
poor Charlie Brown

This may seem a bit of a random or oddly specific topic, but the reason I chose it is that the vast majority of us experience unrequited love in one form or another at some point in our lives, but for some reason it’s not something that gets spoken about very much. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, really; when you’re experiencing unrequited love it’s generally a blend of several strong and awful feelings: rejection, inadequacy, bitterness, helplessness, and just plain sadness over the whole thing. And because it’s such a sensitive issue you could really do with someone giving you some advice or wisdom about the situation, but again because it’s such a sensitive issue, people aren’t all that keen on talking about it. Continue reading

Lenten beginnings

Lent beginneth, and the blog returneth! My blogging resolution once again died a death, but I have a few ideas for things I’d like to write, so here’s me trying to be productive in my spare time.

Lent, of course, began last week on Ash Wednesday, the 18th February. Similarly to Advent, Lent’s a season that I didn’t enjoy so much when I was younger, but have been appreciating more and more as I’ve grown up – even if it’s a challenge. Or perhaps because it’s a challenge. Stretching ourselves to do things that are difficult may be frustrating at the time, but the repercussions are positive and can always be seen with a bit of hindsight.

‘Giving something up’ for Lent is one of those things that’s routine; sometimes even cultural. Continue reading

Christmas Poem, by G. K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Tuesday, 16th December – A good excuse?

So, I didn’t blog on Sunday or yesterday, and I can’t even plead busy-ness as an excuse. Well, that is not strictly true, I have been busy, but I have also managed to write blog posts on days that I have been just as, if not more, busy than this Sunday and Monday. I suppose end-of-term tiredness has caught up with me. There were moments in the past couple of days when I could have organised my thoughts and written something, but it was easier to sit down and zone out. Last night I fell asleep whilst praying – I woke up at six o’clock in the morning and was very confused to find the light still on. Oops.

So yes, tiredness is my excuse for breaking my blogging resolution, but I am back and intend to make myself recompense for the absent days. (I DO need to write about the Third Sunday of Advent, I love Gaudete Sunday!) But what it made me think of are the excuses I use for putting things off.

Sometimes excuses are legitimate and allowances have to be made. But as someone who is generally healthy and happy, I have a sneaking suspicion that I use the excuses ‘busy’ and ‘tired’ too much. Even when I am busy and tired, a little more organisation and earlier bedtimes could tweak the situation to be far more manageable (she says, typing at gone midnight…).

My real point is that nomatter how busy we get, we always make time for the things that are most important to us – and, conversely, we are all very good at being unavailable when obligations that we’re not too keen on come up.

Advent is a good time to assess our priorities and do some clear and decisive ordering. How much time am I spending watching videos online vs reading those books I’ve been meaning to? How much time do I spend trawling through Facebook vs actually skyping or writing to or visiting my friends when I can? And, of course, how much time do I spend thinking about my own wants and concerns and opinions vs dedicating time to God in prayer?

And by dedicating I mean dedicating; purposefully setting time aside in each day to spend in conversation with Him, and more importantly, listening for Him. This is so important and so valuable, and yet I struggle with it. I pray every day, as I go from task to task generally, trying to gage what God would have me do in each situation, asking for His help, giving thanks, etc., etc. I do believe this is important, making every part of your life a dialogue with God, if you will. But there is a difference between talking to Him as you go about your daily business, and making a conscious decision to pause your daily business and spend time with Him.

It helps me to think of it in terms of human relationships. My close family members and best friends would be happy to help me out if I needed assistance, and we could spend time completing a task together quite merrily. But I wouldn’t only to spend time with me when I have work that I need their help with. It is a given that we plan times together which are solely for enjoying each other’s’ company. If we do this for our friends and family, how much more should we do it with God!

I think about it, too, in terms of spiritual nourishment. A quotation about prayer that I’m rather fond of is the following, from C. S. Lewis:

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.

Prayer isn’t merely a helpful option, it is a universal need. The above quotation perceives and expresses that need wonderfully; the need that is with all of us, whether or not we can see it or feel it ourselves. And we should take that need seriously into consideration when working out how to make prayer a priority in our daily lives.

If a friend said to you, ‘Oh, I haven’t eaten in a week, I’ve been so busy,’ you wouldn’t say ‘Oh, well you’ve had a lot going on at work, that’s totally understandable.’ You would be concerned. You would probably sit them down, give them food, and make them eat there and then, all the while telling them about how they need to be looking after themselves and offering assistance and advice on how to improve the situation.

I’m not saying that if someone tells us that they haven’t prayed in a while we should frogmarch them to the nearest church and sit with them until they’ve prayed an entire rosary with you. (This may not be particularly helpful in some cases… in others, though…) But we should take this seriously. Human beings are both body and soul, and we need to look after both. Don’t let hectic activity – or ‘hectivity’, as I now like to call it – in life cause you to starve your soul and weaken your relationship with God. Take this time of year as an opportunity to turn to Him anew, and ask Him to show you how to spend more time with Him.

Saturday, 13th December

I that I am often and easily preoccupied by the question of whether or not I do enough to show God to others in my life. (Goodness, that was a long-winded sentence.) It’s easy to get caught up in concerns about whether or not I am sharing my faith in my actions and conversations with people; whether or not I reach out to people enough; whether or not I let God work through me as much as He wants me to. There’s a danger in an aim to do God’s will and do good for others becoming a matter of self-absorption.

One way to combat this is to turn matters on their heads. If the thought of how you can let God work in your life to help others has become too you-centric, put it aside for a moment – just to gain some perspective. Instead, spend a moment thinking of the people in your life. Your family and friends; the people who you love and who brighten your every day. Think about how you can see God in them; how their love in your life makes God more tangible to you. Give glory to God for putting these people in your life, and helping you on your way through them!

We are all made in God’s image, and it is easiest to see this in those whom we know and cherish. But it is important to look for God in every person we encounter. To remember that every human being was given freedom of choice and dignity by the Almighty, and that He loves each one of us infinitely. Each one of us.

Reach out to people in Advent; don’t be afraid to share your faith! Invite people to a carol service, to midnight mass. Talk about the real meaning of Christmas. But don’t do it because you feel you ought to; do it because you have seen and felt God at work in your life through other people, and you are thankful for that.

(This post is rather more unfocused and fragmentary than usual; I will aim to return to this subject it at a later date.)

Thursday, 11th December – Advent-calendar musings

I’ve never really got into the yearly habit of buying Advent calendars. My family has a few at home that I really love though. One is a miniature Christmas tree standing on a chest of 24 little drawers, with a tiny decoration inside each. Every day a drawer is opened and an ornament placed on the tree, so that by the time Christmas arrives the tree is splendidly decorated and ready for celebration. The others were the traditional card ones, with a little door to be opened for every day of Advent, to reveal a little picture or Scripture reading inside.

(I can’t find many pictures of religious advent calendars, and that makes me sad! 😦 )

We never really went in for the chocolate Advent calendars, and I never really minded – after all, there were all manner of treats to be enjoyed on Christmas day itself, and I enjoyed them all the more for not having had the run-up of daily chocolates beforehand. It always amuses me when people are outraged on my behalf that I didn’t grow up with chocolate calendars – apparently, they were a standard part of childhood for most. But it makes me sad that the traditions I grew up with are labelled boring and brushed aside so readily by people whose main argument is ‘but, chocolate!’

I don’t believe that there is anything intrinsically immoral about chocolate advent calendars, but they are a mark of the commercialisation of Christmas; a tradition that has been stripped of its original implications and filled in with consumerism. Whatever people may say, I did used to get excited about the little pictures and ornaments; my brothers and I would take it in turns to open the doors and drawers, and each one would reveal a little more of the bigger picture and make the approach of Christmas even more tangible.

It strikes me now, too, that if the true message of Advent is preparing for Christ’s arrival by opening our hearts to Him, then the opening of a little door each day before Christmas is a perfect way of expressing that. Rather than encouraging you to do no more than to satisfy your sweet-tooth, picture-Advent-calendars ask you to take note of something other than yourself; they require you to open yourself a little to each message, so that bit by bit you are ready. Bit by bit you open your heart and furnish it splendidly, like a decorated Christmas tree, to be ready for Jesus’s coming, the King of Kings.