Dear Vicky Austin,

dearvickyaustin

It’s been a long time. I’ve missed you, in a multitude of small ways. Your words were always there for me when I was a teenager. It was always your book I picked up when nothing made sense and my world felt simultaneously too vast and too insignificant.

Vicky, I know you’re often just as lost and confused as I am, but you do have a gift for listening and saying the right thing, even if you don’t always realize what you’re doing. And I feel like this is something you’ll understand, because you feel it sometimes too- I am so very replete with me. I know a lot of people feel that way. And for many good reasons, I’ve been focusing so much on myself on purpose. I’ve ignored my own needs and wants for so long that now I know everyone has to be a bit selfish sometimes. Taking care of my own needs first isn’t nearly as selfish as I used to think it was. It’s just that I feel out of balance. I feel like I’m starting to focus on the wrong things. It’s part of why I’ve been writing these letters to you and everyone else. I keep hoping to find my way back to a balance. I want to feel less “replete with me”.

When I started rereading the book again, my first reaction was to be scornful of your naivety. And that frightens me, a little, because I would have never felt that way in the past. But as I kept reading… I realize now how easy it is to mistake naivety for hope.

The world is full of horrors, red in tooth and claw. Little girls die pointlessly on the floor of overcrowded emergency rooms. Cops shoot kids because of the color of their skin. Dolphins are stillborn. Good people die doing the right thing. We all die without fully understanding any of it.

The world is full of hope, deep and dazzling darkness. Swallows learn to fly. Piano concerts in the grass on a warm summer night. Strangers go out of the way to help someone they’ll never see again. People wake up from comas. People fall in love. We all live without ever fully understanding any of it.

I don’t believe in God anymore, Vicky, not for a long time now. I don’t think I ever want to again, to be honest. But I do like reading about your faith, and the ways you struggle with it, because I am struggling with faith. It’s just not faith in God. What I’m trying to find is my faith in humanity, faith in goodness. I want to have faith that even in all the vastness of the universe, in the face of unrelenting rush of time and death and black holes, who we are and what we do matters.

I’m starting to relearn that it is not naivety to see every element of existence and still believe in goodness. There is courage in choosing joy and hope while fighting back against overwhelming evil and injustice. It matters who we are and what we do, even in the infinite. Being sick the way I have been, the depression, the physical pain and disabilities, looking around at the horrors of the world, it’s all made me lose sight of that. The darkness was not dazzling, but consuming. I know it’s not possible to optimistic all the time. The world doesn’t work like that, and neither do people. I am going to have bad days, weeks, months, still, no matter what I try mentally and physically. But when I can, on the days, weeks, months when I’m able, I want to start believing in joy and hope again.

Vicky, you always help me remember that there is a ring of endless light inside all of us, giving us hope. We’re not always able to see it. Being replete with me leaves little space for it, but I’m going to try to find my light again, even if I have no idea how to start.

Love always,

Your friend

 

 

Vicky Austin is from the novel A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

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