Image

Restored – 1

In my bookcase I have a book, the title of which being ‘Restore(d)’, although the brackets are non-existent and only implied by the last letter being of a different color. I read it two months before in a prophetic dream I saw myself being rescued through the water, one month before I walked I walked towards the front of the stage of my first real church service with a beating heart, praying a prayer that I absolutely did not see the spiritual significance of. I said yes to Jesus. So one month prior I read that book and because someone then told me to write down what resonated with me, what offended me, confronted me, what it brought to the surface with regards to thoughts and situations, I could look back upon that, now that I read that book for a second time. The endless stream of words that I poured out back then, as if it were acidifying brain vomit, would through statistical factor analysis bring forth three components: anger, suspicion and fear. Only the sentence ‘Adam and Eve didn’t need covering’ made me sad, but that emotion seemed to be an outlier in the data that clogged my brain, maybe exactly the outlier you want to remove from your data set, because it deviates so extremely, that it hopelessly pulls (or pushes) the results out of context. Maybe I was that outlier. Removed. Deleted. Catapulted into a black cosmos where oxygen had stepped off the throne of life a long time ago. Sad.

When I chose to paint what or how I felt, I didn’t need time to think; blood came to mind immediately, and a hole, resembling the hole in my heart perhaps. It was more like an emptiness, because holes can be filled, and voids can’t. Anyway, all of my life I have felt this emptiness that I never could fill, and boy did I try. I tried everything,.. drugs, alcohol, jobs, hobbies, relationships, men.. But it was never enough. An i-love-you seemed to uncover an extra dimension in the void, causing me to need more i-love-you’s. Never was there a deepening in a contact, only more depth in the emptiness. And when yesterday my boyfriend said no to my question if I could come over, I unexpectedly felt myself warped into something that I only recognise to be – as far as recognition is even possible when lacking language – a reliving of my baby pain.

I wanted to be with mama.. and I was put away.
I wanted to be with my boyfriend.. and he said no.

The pain that I felt was scorching hot, if language was all about temperature, but this was a pain that goes beyond skin, it was found on the thin film around my heart. Everything in my body ached, it was a pain that was screaming loud and loudly, but I couldn’t understand the words. In any case, physical pain turns pale in comparison to it. I now understand how I could cut myself so easily all those years. Sad.

Suddenly I saw that my desire for my boyfriend consists (among other things) of the fact that he fills my void, his presence outvoices my silence and by having my focus on him, I don’t have to ackowledge that I am lost. I find myself in his arms and when those remain closed, I have my hands full with losing myself.

This.
Must.
Stop.

Every relationship that I ever had, had this undertone. I cleave onto the other, I suffocate the other. I don’t want that any more. That emptiness, I really have tried everything.. and in a deep reluctant sigh that afternoon I decide.. ‘Okay, last resort.. let’s try Jesus then.’ He was on the bottom of my resume that showed forty-five years of unsafe attachment. I suddenly saw how the colors in my painting chanced. The void turned into the image of an egg, the blood turned out to be a whomb and I deliberately wrote His name inside of me. But I saw that my egg had a shadowy rim on the right. I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t not draw it. I want the blackness to not be here, but it was. So I drips of black fell onto my egg, in the whomb and I felt God saying to me: ‘Don’t be afraid, just paint it, let this be for a while, it’s fine for now, I am here.’

My ears are suddenly ringing beyond my tinnitus. I feel seen.

Image

A house of gold

(Disclaimer: This story talks about a Dutch feast, so for a better understanding please read about Saint Nicholas – not to be confused with Santa Claus).

When earlier this monthy I received a text message from my little sister, asking to celebrate Sinterklaas, my yes mode immediately flickered ‘ON’. Despite the sad fact that our relationship is far from optimal, she and I seem to be two pees in a pot on Sinterklaas. That same week however I also heard that my dad, my brother and my sister-in-law would not be there and with the attendance increasingly fading, my enthusiasm did too. I had to admit that I just don’t feel as complete without them, but in pondering that admission I also found myself put in a strange kind of early childhood loyalty conflict, whereby I seemed to be forced to choose between (divorced) parents: show who you love most.

Do I do attend Sinterklaas because my mom is there,
Or do I not attend because my father is not.

The group composition was different in also another way: not only was it thinned out with regards to the old clan, it was also supplemented by two new humans; the two little children from my sister (who last year were asleep at that time of night). I just didn’t see this happen any more for me, I don’t want this, I thought. Those boys have such high energy levels that after five minutes I feel a wreck, let alone that I spend the whole evening with them. My heart ached for real because I had really looked forward to spending time together with the family again, as if Covid was on holiday for just one day. I too had to decide to say no. No Sinterklaas for me this year. I felt horrible.

In stepping aside from the whole thing, I saw that a new feast was born; it wasn’t Sinterklaas with my family any more, but a feast initiated by my sister and her family, in her house, where my mom was invited as a grandmom. The role change that was wrapped in the passing of time made me dizzy. I am not fond of change.

A couple of days later I felt God tugging at my heart. On more than one occasion I thought the thought (mind you: you are not obliged to think every thought that enters your head) to make a present after all. For my sister. And I immediately knew what I was to make: a house.

For years my sister was jealous of the present that my mom made me nine years ago – a tiny house. But the voice of jealousy was actually a tightly and silently tucked away desire to receive a present from my mom as well. I felt a shadowed sadness about her early childhood conflict, that has dug its poisonous roots deep in the lie that mama loves me more than her. When mama made me that house for Sinterklaas, my sister saw that as a declaration of first loves that doesn’t accept seconds, and flames of jealousy shot through the roof (how symbolic that the house was made of matches). Only the jealousy of a second daughter can make a mother feel uneasy, as if she has to apologize ad nauseam: I am sorry that I didn’t give birth to you first.

So. That would be it then. I would make a therapeutical journey, treading a path that my sister should have walked, but didn’t. I would walk her miles, in my shoes, because sometimes people need to carry other people. Not every grownup has grown up. Being so close to my heavenly Father I felt safe enough to admit that I too can still feel left out when I see love being given to others. What about me? Is there anything left over when you’re done loving someone else? How can love not run out? It’s as if love can bring about this weird idea of division and I saw this suffocating theme raising his voice at an seemingly innocent feast called Sinterklaas.

So, I made a house. Not of matches, but of wood. What first caused my sister to incinerate in jealousy would now be her own source of light and warmth. I locked myself up in my study room for two days to work on it, smiling from ear to ear (more like grinning), because I saw how God has lavishly gifted me with an seemingly endless stream of creativity, patience and eye for detail. God directed my attention to the wooden box that I still had laying around and He said He would not only give it a new purpose, but also a new destination. It would move and find its place in the heart of the house and of my sister. God had used the wooden box earlier to celebrate my sister-in-law’s pregnancy, but also to heal a layer of my babypain, and then He used it to endure a miscarriage and also deal with the loss of my own baby and perhaps a grief of motherhood lost. And as is the case with important changes in the Bible, where people get a new name, also this box got a make-over: I spray-painted it golden.

And so it seems as if with Sinterklaas I am laying some of my pain in His hands yet again. If the house could talk, it would lift ifs four walls up to the sky and say ‘Seen.’ I serve a God who sees, a God who looks after me. He was present when I got separated from my mom as a baby, leaving scars that I am still healing from. He was present when my mom got separated from me. But He was also present when a new baby was born into this world, my little sister, a baby who feels wronged because she thinks someone else receives more love. My heavenly Father has an andless and eternal amount of attention, spanned over the width of heaven, for those who feel unloved and He is gifted beyond only human belief to listen to those who ducked away in silence or tried overshouting their babysadness by making a lot of black noise.

On December 5th I am not celebrating Sinterklaas.
On December 5th I am celebrating God.

Image

Een huisje van goud

Toen ik eerder deze maand een appje van mijn zusje kreeg met de vraag of ik weer mee wilde doen met Sinterklaas, was mijn antwoord onmiddellijk ‘ja’. Ondanks het verdrietige feit dat onze relatie verre van optimaal is, kunnen zij en ik met Sinterklaas wonderwel een hele avond goed met elkaar door de bocht. Kort daarop hoorde ik echter ook dat mijn pa, mijn broer en mijn schoonzus niet mee zouden doen en met het toenemende uitdunnen van het groepje nam mijn enthousiasme af. Ik moest eerlijk toegeven dat ik me minder compleet zou voelen zonder hen, maar begaf me daardoor ook meteen in een vreemd soort vroeg-kinderlijk loyaliteitsconflict, waarbij ik leek te moeten kiezen tussen mijn ouders, alsof ze gescheiden waren: laat zien van wie je het meeste houdt.

Ga ik wél naar Sinterklaas omdat mama er is,
of ga ik níet naar Sinterklaas omdat mijn vader ontbreekt.

De groepssamenstelling bleek ook nog op een andere manier nieuw te zijn, niet alleen uitgedund wat betreft de oude garde, maar ook aangevuld met twee nieuwe mensen; de twee jonge kinderen van mijn zus (die vorig jaar op dat tijdstip gewoon nog naar bed gingen). De moed zakte me in de schoenen.. ik wil dit helemaal niet, dacht ik. Die twee jongens zijn zo druk dat ik na vijf minuten helemaal total loss ben. Met pijn in mijn hart stapte ook ik opzij.. geen Sinterklaas voor mij dit jaar.

En met mijn wegstappen zag ik een nieuw feest geboren worden; het was niet meer de Sinterklaas van mijn ouderlijk gezin, maar Sinterklaas van mijn zusje en haar gezin, in haar huis, waar mama als oma was uitgenodigd. De rollenwissel in het verstrijken van de tijd duizelde me. Ik houd niet zo van veranderingen..

Een paar dagen later begon God tegen mijn hart te duwen. Meer dan eens kreeg ik de gedachte dat ik een surprise zou maken en die gedachte werd omhuld door een ontzettend blij en sprankelend gevoel alsof de surprise al af was. Een surprise. Voor mijn zusje. En het was ook meteen duidelijk wat ik zou maken: Een huisje.

Mijn zusje is jarenlang jaloers geweest op een surprise die mijn moeder negen jaar geleden voor mij maakte – een huisje – waardoor haar kinderen nu zeggen: ‘Ik hoop dat oma mij getrokken heeft, want mama zegt steeds dat oma zulke mooie dingen maakt.’ Ik zag dat mijn zusje haar verlangen echter stilletjes wegstopte; natuurlijk hoopte ook zij dat mama haar getrokken had en ik voelde een schaduwverdriet over háár vroeg-kinderlijk conflict, dat zijn gifwortels voedt in de leugen dat mama meer van mij houdt dan van haar. Toen mama met Sinterklaas dat huisje maakte voor mij, leek mijn zusje dat te ervaren als een statement van een liefde voor een eerste kind, die geen tweede verdraagt, waardoor een jaloezie ontvlamde (hoe symbolisch bleek het huis dan ook nog eens van lucifers te zijn) die mama nog steeds wel eens een onhandig gevoel kan geven, alsof er gezegd moet worden: ‘Sorry dat ik jou getrokken had met Sinterklaas.’ Of erger nog: Sorry dat ik jou niet als eerste gebaard heb.

Dus ik zou, als was het een therapeutische reis waarvan ik de eerste kilometers opnieuw zou maken, omdat het een weg is die mijn zusje heeft overgeslagen, en ieder toch zijn eigen spoor moet hebben in de grond, maar je dat soms niet zelf kunt, een huisje maken voor haar, want ik durfde in de veiligheid van mijn hemelse Vader ook wel toe te geven dat een surprise van mama voor mij voelt alsof zij zegt: ‘Ik ben blij dat ik jou getrokken heb en niet iemand anders.’ Ook ik val nog wel eens ten prooi aan de gedachte dat als liefde moet worden verdeeld onder meer kinderen, er minder voor mij overblijft. Alsof liefde verdeeldheid teweeg kan brengen en dit verstikte thema een stem krijgt bij een onschuldig ogend Sinterklaasfeest.

Ik maakte een huisje. Niet van lucifers, maar van hout. Wat eerst aanleiding voor mijn zusje geweest zou zijn om in jaloezie te ontvlammen zou nu haar eigen bron van licht en warmte gaan zijn. Ik heb me twee dagen opgesloten in mijn studeerkamer om eraan te werken en heb breed geglimlacht (het was meer een grijnzen) omdat ik zie hoe God me begiftigd heeft met een eindeloos lijkende creativiteit, geduld en oog voor detail. Ook het houten doosje wat hier al die tijd nog lag, kreeg zijn plek in het huisje. Waar God het houten doosje eerst gebruikte om de zwangerschap van mijn schoonzusje te vieren, maar ook om mijn eigen babytijd te omarmen, om vervolgens een miskraam te verdragen en daardoor mijn eigen babyverlies nog dieper te doorleven, kreeg het nu een nieuwe bestemming. En zoals bij belangrijke veranderingen mensen in de Bijbel een andere naam krijgen, zo spoot ik het doosje over; het werd van goud.

Het lijkt wel alsof ik met Sinterklaas wederom een stukje van mijn pijn in Zijn handen leg. Als ik het huisje een naam zou moeten geven, dan hangt er aan de gevel ‘ik zie jou’. Ik dien een God die ziet, Die naar mij omziet. Hij was erbij toen ik als baby gescheiden was van mama, een traumatische scheiding die de navelstreng eeuwig zou doen blijven bloeden. Hij was erbij toen mama gescheiden werd van mij. Maar Hij was er ook bij toen er een nieuw baby’tje in de wereld kwam, een baby’tje dat zich tekortgedaan voelt omdat ze denkt dat een ander meer krijgt. Maar mijn hemelse Vader heeft een oneindige aandacht voor de niet-geliefden en het hemelsbrede talent om te luisteren naar hen die daardoor zijn gaan zwijgen of in hun kabaal een vroeg verdriet proberen te overstemmen.

5 December is het voor mij feest. Niet van Sinterklaas, maar van God.

 

Image

Potamotranonymous

Hey Potamotranonymous, why have you hidden your name? Why did you become what you are? Missed, longing, hidden. Where did you meet your disconnect? When should I have known you were lost since you are me and I am still here? If you would give me the recipe for the bread crumbs you left behind I will come and get you, I promise, I will just  follow the scent of leaven. Those crumbs grow when tears fall on them, you know. Where did you throw your leaven, sweetie, where did you hide and when? And what for? Will you come back? If you would have to give it a name, would you call it ancient panic? Did you get knocked down by a red flag that was supposed to stand upright next to the road, but got turned sideways because you tilted your head in unbelief or angst and is now horizontally flirting with horizons that will lead nowhere? Where did you mix up willingness with ability with regards to speaking? Or more generally speaking: Can we undo the moments that someone else’s yes blotted out your faith in your no?

Can we start over? Or will that just lead us to being stuck in repeat? How many start-overs do we have left? Will you please come back to shut up my questions? I am getting tired of me. You should have taken me with you. Then only silence would talk.

Image

When books open

(For Dutch see previous post)

I have a little wooden box laying next to me. It looks like a book. I bought it a while ago, when I heard that my sister-in-law was pregnant. I remember that when I saw it in the store the first time, I immediately thought how cute it would be to fill the box up with little cards, that I would write sweet words on, over the course of nine months, so I would have a box full of love at the end of her pregnancy, to give to my new niece or nephew. I had no problem filling the box, so many sweet things came to mind.

Until God intervened during my quiet time.
‘Will you also make a box for yourself?’

Uhm.. no. I prefer giving rather than receiving, but I think I understood what He meant. I am also special, wonderful, wanted, unique, carried and born. But I found it difficult. Sometimes I can close myself up so tightly that even I can’t reach me any more, let alone that I realize there is a little box inside of me that needs to be opened, so that I together with Him can read what is written on His heart.. or mine.

And then the miscarriage.

Together with my sister-in-law I cried thick tears for the loss and we both understood very well that every choice to deal with the aftermath in a somewhat ‘pleasant way’ was the best and the worst of all wrongs at the same time. I felt a strange desire to burry it, something I hadn’t felt with her other two miscarriages. I dared mentioning it out loud and saw the wooden box in the corner of my eye, where I saw sweet words on cards making way for words of loss and sadness, or for a baby. She said: I am scared that I will regret if I do, and regret if I don’t. I heard myself repeatedly saying: I understand. I really do. I do.

I so badly wanted her to burry it..
so badly I wanted to be there when she did..
that I suddenly saw that this wasn’t about her deceased child..

In the intimacy with a female friend I cried even thicker tears and felt how something deep inside of me got torn loose. It was as if something of the past came lose, I wouldn’t call it sadness, but it did have to do with tears, and suddenly I found myself reliving my abortion, from over two decades ago, when I was still living in the world. In that time the doctors didn’t provide sedation or any medical relief during the procedure, and even thinking back on that makes me upset. This is cruel. I told her about how I was tormented for fifteen years, having nightmares about dead babies, and how during waking hours I had horrible images being shoved over my eyes whenever I heard a baby cry. The daytime images were even worse than the night terrors. The psychiatrist opened his drawer, took out a sticker, which read PTSD – which with the passing of time he changed to chronic PTSD -as if it was a band-aid, but frankly it didn’t aid much.

And then came God.

Shortly after I became a christian, I confessed -what I now understand to be- my sin during an intense prayer weekend. I really thought I had sad sorry to God for this (because I read it in a book somewhere that you should say sorry for everything you have done, I just checked things off like a grocery list..), and I thought all was well now, and therefore didn’t understand why the nightmares were still there. But God led me to a place of actual repentance, a place where I really met Him, His righteousness. He granted me a ‘woe is me’ moment, maybe one comparable to the one the prophet Isaiah had. Mine was on a Saturday, and I will never forget knowing with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in me, that I was on the wrong side of the line of justice and that I fully deserved His wrath. Upon realizing that it felt like I was dead and at the same time it was frighteningly real to know I was completely surrendered to His mercy. And I surredered.. That night the nightmares stopped.

In between two tears I told my female friend that I know I am forgiven, but that it also seems I still have to wrestle with this desire to taste motherhood, to be a mom, even though at the same time I can honestly say I don’t want children. She said: ‘You now, God can meet that desire in other ways too, sometimes He gives bonus children.’

My mind went to my two year old nephew. He is cute A.F.
Yes. Okay. Sigh. We hung up.

That day I decided to go for a second long walk – something I don’t normally do- and I decided to take a different route – also not my style. When I turned left in the city center I nearly bumped up against a girl. Our eyes cought each other.

I
Know.
Her.

I turned around, hoping that nobody thought I was flirting, and saw her turning around as well. Noooo, this just can’t be… She walked towards me and started crying. My arms opened and I took her against my breast. I felt how she was shaking. I said: ‘I gotta warn you here, if this lasts for longer than two seconds, I’m never letting you go.’ I heard her laugh. It had been four years that I last seen her, when after her baptism she leaped into my arms for the first time, a sixteen year old, angelically beautiful girl. She could have been my daughter, I thought, because of the age difference, but it was more because I felt like her mother. Shortly after her baptism she disappeared from church and was out of reach.

‘Sometimes God gives bonus childeren’, I hear my friend say. I walk home, not knowing to do.. Keep breathing to keep on living? Or keep smiling to connect the past with the present?

Yes.
This.

Image

Een doosje van hout

(This story is also in English: see next post)

Naast me staat een doosje van hout. Het ziet eruit als een boek. Ik kocht het een tijdje geleden, toen ik hoorde dat mijn schoonzus zwanger was. Toen ik het in de winkel zag, dacht ik meteen hoe leuk het zou zijn om het doosje te vullen met allemaal kleine kaartjes die ik in de loop van negen maanden zou beschrijven met lieve woorden, om dat dan te geven als kraamcadeau. Het kostte me geen enkele moeite om de kaartjes te beschrijven, er kwamen zoveel lieve woorden in me op.

Tot God me stilzette tijdens mijn stille tijd.
‘Maak je ook een doosje voor jezelf?’

Ehm, nee. Ik deel liever uit dan dat ik ontvang. Maar ik snapte denk ik wel wat Hij bedoelde. Ook ik ben gewenst, bijzonder, wonderlijk, uniek, gedroomd, gedragen en geboren. Ik vond het moeilijk. Ik kan me soms zo stevig afsluiten dat ik niet eens meer bij mezelf kan, laat staan dat ik in de gaten heb dat er nog een doosje in mij zit dat nog open moet, zodat ik samen met Hem mag lezen wat er allemaal op Zijn hart geschreven staat.

En toen kwam de miskraam.

Samen met mijn schoonzus huilde ik om het verlies en snapten we maar al te goed dat elke optie om dit alles zo ‘prettig’ mogelijk te laten verlopen tegelijkertijd de slechtste en de beste van alle te kiezen kwaden was. Ik voelde een vreemd verlangen naar begraven, iets dat ik bij haar andere twee miskramen niet had gevoeld, noch had geopperd. Ik durfde het hardop te vragen en moest denken aan het houten doosje, waarin de lieve woorden op de kaartjes plaats zouden kunnen maken voor woorden verlies en verdriet. Ze zei: Ik ben bang dat ik er spijt van krijg als ik dat doe, maar ook dat ik er spijt van krijg als ik het niet doe. Ik hoorde mezelf steeds zeggen: Ik snap je. Ik snap je. Echt.

Ik wilde zo graag dat ze het zou begraven..
ik wilde er zo graag bij zijn als ze dat zou doen..
dat ik ineens zag dat dit niet ging om haar dode kindje..

In tranen in de intimiteit met een vriendin scheurde er onverwacht een diep verdriet los en herbeleefde ik plots mijn eigen abortus, lang geleden, toen ik nog in de wereld leefde. In die tijd was een roesje of narcose niet de standaard, misdadig gewoon.. Ik vertelde haar over de nachtmerries die ik een kleine vijftien jaar lang had en hoe er overdag akelige beelden voor mijn netvlies werden gehouden als ik baby’s hoorde huilen. De GGZ plakte de sticker PTSS, en met het opschuiven van de tijd chronische PTSS, maar deed verder niks.

En toen kwam God.

Kort nadat ik tot geloof kwam, heb ik tijdens een intense gebedsdag mijn zonde beleden. Ik heb die zaterdag een ‘wee mij’ Jesaja-moment gehad; ik wist met alles wat ik in me had, dat ik aan de verkeerde kant van de streep van rechtvaardigheid stond en dat ik Zijn toorn had verdiend. Het voelde eigenlijk alsof ik al dood was. Ik was angstaanjagend werkelijk aan Zijn genade overgeleverd. En ik leverde me over.. Vanaf die zaterdagavond heb ik nooit meer over dode baby’s gedroomd.

Snotterend zei ik tegen mijn vriendin dat ik weet dat ik vergeven ben, maar dat het lijkt alsof ik steeds moet worstelen met een diep verlangen om het moederschap te ervaren, om mama te zijn, terwijl ik helemaal geen kinderen wil (laat staan dat ik ze nu nog kan krijgen). Ze zei: ‘Weet je, God kan dat verlangen ook op andere manieren opvullen. Hij geeft soms bonuskinderen.’

Ik moest aan mijn neefje van 2 denken.
Ja. Oké. Diepe zucht. We hingen op.

Ik besloot om die dag -tegen mijn gewoonte in- een tweede lange wandeling te gaan maken, dit keer door de stad  -niet mijn gebruikelijke route-. Op het plein sloeg ik linksaf en liep ik bijna tegen een meisje op. Onze ogen vingen elkaar.

Ik.
Ken.
Haar.

Ik draaide me om, hopend dat niemand dacht dat ik aan het flirten was. Ook zij draaide zich om. Nee joh, dit kan toch niet.. Ze liep me tegemoet en begon te huilen. Eenmaal tegen mijn borst voelde ik hoe ze trilde. Ik zei: ‘Kijk maar uit, dadelijk laat ik je nooit meer los.’ Ze schoot in de lach. Vier jaar was het, dat ik haar voor het laatst had gezien, toen ze na haar doop in de kerk op me af sprong, een zestienjarig, engelachtig mooi meisje. Ze had m’n dochter kunnen zijn, dacht ik toen al, niet zozeer vanwege het leeftijdsverschil, maar vanwege mijn gevoel voor haar. Ze is kort daarop uit de kerk en uit mijn bereik verdwenen.

‘God geeft soms bonuskinderen,’ hoorde ik mijn vriendin nog zeggen.. ik liep naar huis, niet wetend hoe ik moest kiezen tussen een ademhaling om te blijven leven of een glimlach om een verbinding te leggen met het nu.

Ja.
Dat.
En adem weer uit.

Image

Raggedy

Mama’s words in my baby album. It tenders me because her ink – still dripping wet with guilt – didn’t eternalize what we undertook specifically, but showed her noticing how it had affected me: All raggedy after my first trip.

That would have been the title, should I have written a book spanning the last six weeks, summarizing a journey that didn’t find her destinational end in the last day, but in a car, driven by a misplaced thought that in 1200 miles I could separate myself from my failure feelings, thinking I lived six weeks for nothing. It seemed as if God was absent, all Scripture came across as printed words on laminated pieces of cardboard, flat and hollow, useless, I diverted to thinking what was wrong with me..

Once I got home my Instragram fed me a quote: ‘If you ever feel like God isn’t there, just remember that the teacher is always quiet during the test.’ Later that day I read how in the gospel of Luke a fig tree was being quarantined, my interpretation of it, by digging around it and fertilize it, so that it could start bearing fruit. And all of a sudden this revelational truth dug its way into my heart, confirming me once again that God relates to time so differently than I do (I could have known, since He let Abraham wait twenty years for the birth of the promised son), and that the last page of my ‘sixweeksbook’ for Him was the day He had been planning for and working towards all along, longer perhaps, the pacing so slow and the carpet so delicately woven that I just barged over it, not noticing, thinking that the only time where Him and I (can and should) meet is when I read the Bible. Every time I am baffled by the truth that God doesn’t work that way, He always seems to be patiently waiting until I close my Bible to step out into actual life, in this case it was stepping into my car, and I did that with the attitude ‘Sorry, but not sorry, I really need to get away for a while, we’ll talk next week’, not realising He silently took His place in the seat next to me.

When you come home Friday, read the beginning of Genesis 26 will you?‘, He meant to say, but His words only reached me when I – indeed – had come home. And there my eyes halted somewhere in the first sentence, where it said that a famine had come, another famine in the land in addition to the one that had occurred in Abraham’s time.

Why add that information, I thought?
Aren’t all famines by definition not the same and therefore quality to be referenced to as ‘another’?

It seemed as if Izak, a new birth, was placed in a similar situation that had happened earlier in time, duplicated for a new generation. Was he doomed to slavely walk the tracks of inheritance? Was he goaded to make different choices, finally understanding that he was not his father, but his own person, sighing the first relief of a labor that would give way to his actual rebirth, at the same time realising that although his father had left his country of birth, he hadn’t left behind certain behavior and that now Izak was formed into the symbol of the actualization of the deepening of that realisation?

‘Remember, you are a new creation.’

I feel raggedy, Father. I have been – just noticing it now – confronted for three months now by a piece of the old me, because someone from my past has moved close to me. It feels as if my shredded me hangs around me, clamming me up, as if I am wearing a coat torn apart, torn apart by the separation of past and present, a coat that used to suit me (or so I thought) and fit me (or so I thought), but now twice exhales a no with regards to those thoughts, but is draped over my shouders nevertheless. When I talk to this person, the signature that underlines my fouryear old heavenly adoption papers seems to fade.

Is this what faith is, that in the decision to avoid contact with this person, I am not necessarily stepping away from the other physically, but I am spiritually stepping over the dead bones of my old self? Had I not known God, and more specifically known Him not only as the creator of heaven and earth, but also as my Father, I would have gone back to my previous ways, consequences and all, because I know what I left behind: I got the memorial tracks inscribed in my brain and carved in arm. This time I take a different route, in faith, acknowledging that yes this person moved close to me, but with a deeper – live-giving – acknowledgement that God lives in me (and He that lives in me is greater than he that lives in the world). This is something that I have to do in faith alone. What a challenge, but also what a privilege, because I see it also as God having faith in me.

‘This is what faith looks like’, He said.

So it could have been me there in Genesis, Potamotrygorgeous instead of Abraham?

‘Absolutely, only I would have shortened your name to Pota because, .. you know..  readibility..’

Image

Gehavend na mijn eerste uitstapje

Mama’s woorden in mijn babyboek. Ik vind het vertederend omdat haar inkt -bijna nog nat van het schuldgevoel- niet zozeer vereeuwigt wát we ondernomen hebben, maar laat zien dat ze oog heeft voor wat het uitstapje met me had gedaan.

Dát is voor mij de titel van van het boek, dat ik over de afgelopen zes weken geschreven zou hebben, een samenvatting van een reis, die niet haar eindbestemming vond in een dit-is-de-laatste-dag-van-die-zes-weken, maar in een auto, gedreven door een misplaatste gedachte dat ik in 2.000 kilometer zou kunnen ontsnappen aan het baalgevoel dat de afgelopen zes weken voor niks hebben plaatsgevonden; het leek alsof God er niet was, alle Bijbelteksten voelden aan alsof ze op een geplastificeerd kaartje gedrukt stonden, plat, ik kon er niks mee, en ik verviel in mijn oude patroon, denkend wat is er mis met mij..

Eenmaal thuis zag ik op Instagram een tekst voorbijkomen, waarop stond: ‘Als je het gevoel hebt dat God er niet is, bedenk dan dat de meester altijd stil is tijdens een examen.’ En later las hoe in Lukas 12:8 een vijgenboom als het ware in afzondering gezet lijkt te worden door eromheen te graven en het te bemesten, zodat het vrucht kan gaan dragen. En opnieuw overviel me het diepe besef hoe God zich heel anders verhoudt tot het concept van tijd dan ik (ik had het kunnen weten, Hij liet Abraham immers 20 jaar wachten op de beloofde zoon) en dat de laatste bladzijde van mijn zeswekenboek voor Hem de dag was waar Hij al veel langer naartoe aan het werken was geweest, maar wat ik niet had gezien, omdat ik met oogkleppen op mijn hart wederom dacht dat het contactmoment tussen Hem en mij plaatsvindt of plaats moet vinden tijdens het Bijbellezen. Mijn autorit was dan ook met een houding van: ‘Sorry, maar ik moet er echt even tussenuit, we praten volgende week wel weer’, me niet realiserend dat Hij stilzwijgend plaatsnam in de stoel naast me.

‘Als je vrijdag thuiskomt, lees het begin van Genesis 26 dan eventjes’, zei Hij nog, maar Zijn woorden bereikten me pas toen ik -inderdaad- thuis was. En daar bleef mijn oog hangen op de eerste zin, waarin stond dat er een hongersnood kwam in het land, een andere dan de eerste hongersnood, die er in de dagen van Abraham geweest was.

Waarom staat dit hier, dacht ik?
Zijn niet alle hongersnoden per definitie altijd verschillend van elkaar?

Het leek alsof Izak, een nieuwe geboorte, in eenzelfde situatie werd geplaatst als eerder in de tijd was voorgevallen. Was hij gedoemd om slaafs in erfsporen te lopen? Werd hij geprikkeld om andere keuzes te maken, eindelijk snappend dat hij zijn vader niet was, maar een eigen mens, daarmee de eerste wee tot zijn wedergeboorte in het leven riep, zich realiserend dat zijn vader dan wel was weggetrokken uit zijn vaderland, maar bepaald gedrag daar niet had achtergelaten en Izak nu tot symbool werd gemaakt voor een zichtbaar worden van een verdieping van dat besef?

‘Onthoud, je bent een nieuwe schepping.’

Ik voel me gehavend, Vader. Ik word -zie ik nu pas- al drie maanden geconfronteerd met een stukje van de oude ik, doordat er iemand uit mijn verleden dicht bij me is komen wonen; het voelt alsof ik in mijn eigen flarden om me heen hang, als droeg ik een uiteengereten jas, die me vroeger wel stond (dacht ik) en paste (dacht ik), maar nu twee keer een nee uitademt over die gedachte, maar desondanks toch over mijn schouders is gelegd. Als ik met deze persoon praat, lijkt de handtekening die vier jaar geleden onder mijn hemelse adoptiepapieren is gezet, langzaam te vervangen.

Is dít dan wat geloof is, en dan niet Abraham-style, maar Pota-style, dat in het voornemen om contact met deze persoon te vermijden, ik niet zozeer fysiek afstand neem van de ander, danwel in het geestelijke zichtbaar wegstap van het spoor dat de dode beenderen van die oude ik hebben terokken? Als ik God niet had gekend, was ik regelrecht het oude pad op gegaan, met alle gevolgen van dien, want ik weet waar ik vandaan kom; de sporen staan in mijn geheugen gegrift en in mijn arm gekerfd. Nu ga ik in geloof een andere richting uit, erkennend dat deze persoon danwel dichtbij woont, maar met een dieper -leven-gevend- erkennen dat God in mij leeft (en groter is Hij die in mij is, dan hij die in de wereld is). Dit is iets wat ik écht in geloof moet doen. Ik zie het als een voorrecht, een vertrouwen dat mijn Vader in mij heeft..

‘Weet je wat “gehavend” ook betekent?’ vraagt Hij plots.

Nee?

‘Wanneer een schip veilig geankerd is op een plek waar het moet zijn, voor schoonmaak en herstel.

En zo is het. Ik ben thuis. Bij de Vader. We hebben een mooie reis achter de rug.

Image

My blackout address

 

In between three unknown cups of coffee of a brand that should be forbidden, especially and definitely when poured into a midnight of any day of the week he changed his tone and pace of speaking. “Can I ask you something?” Our hearts skipped a beat, it felt as if we had been driving through France forrests for six hours, and he decided to change gears to splash through water.

“What’s with the scars on your arm?” He said he noticed them earlier, but felt uncomfortable, not sure if the feeling was supposed to cleave to me or to him. I felt grateful. This is what children do, I thought, I like it. They blurt. But then he wrapped it in a little adult paper signed by ‘postpone your gratification for curiosity and save any face’. Should we get out of the car and talk about this? Shall we just stay here and never go home again? Thank you for your honesty, I said, there are but few people who ask. Looking at my arm it was like I glanced at something that is a part of me and also isn’t. Not a dead limb that forgot to fall off, but also not my body that I would sign the release form for, claiming it’s mine. It felt home and alien at the same time, the same way you can move house, but always leave the memories at the door. They just don’t fit. How many blackout addresses have I left already? Why are my memories in the visibility of my skin coming alive when someone looks at them, calling them to life again. Can’t the dead bury their own dead? This is the reason I don’t attend school reunions. I suddenly got an image of me sitting in the addict at my parents’ place, flipping through some old report cards. It’s attic, someone said. You were never bound to that place, you moved.

Did I just meet my twin? Even his pretend-anger resembles mine. His inability slash unwillingness to trust or be lead. His openness. His accent. When he talks, I feel pain oozing out from his heart. It’s almost palpable, I notice how my breathing reacts to the change in air pressure. These drops of hurt force their way out of him. Blob.. Am I the only one hearing this? Blob.. blob.. I wanted to ask: ‘Who is it that hurt you so much?’ Instead, I said nothing and answered him asking me the same, when he looked at my scars.

Ah yea, this is the marriage that I forgot to divorce, don’t mind the husband of the past taggin along on this ride, sorry, if you don’t mention him, he will never bother us, nor take your seat. He is the one who scarred me, but I am not defined -bound- by the products that are left behind while awake. What can I tell this person in my car, this was unncessary violence, or me doing a really bad job at life? Can I call it skin marks of the surface of my book of life, dog-eared, so you will, because sheep-eared don’t make you think of the same? Others leave ink on paper, I left blood on skin. I am not damaged, just folded, stuck in between two papers that are glued tight. I can tell him all about me, but he will end up right there where I take him: knowing about me. He will not find me there, tho. I am not present in the story of my life. That’s just the book I wrote for him, or I saw myself forced to write, taking him on a tour to an annihilation camp, where at the end of the barrak he finds himself abandoned, changed forever. Talking to him is like a ctrl-alt-del of the present, I am not sure if I even want to be in that car. Even his addiction resembles mine.

It’s attic, the voice said again.

 

 

 

 

Image

The blanket of his back

With him leaving me, while walking into his death he separated his physical self from his spoken words, as if he let go of a balloon that never was to be earth bound, just hand held, leaving behind something so vibrant, so alive, that if his words were a blanket of many colors, I would want him to lay on top of me, feeling his weight so I could forget mine. That is where I meet myself: he is the end of me. He is my mirror that nods a continuum of yesses as long as I keep myself perpetuated and that invites me to take a look in the reflection, as if stepping into a pond and feel the ripples echoing my silhouette on the water surface. Him feeding me stirs up hunger for something that only unspoken words can satisfy. The more he talks, the more shallow my breaths become, and the deeper I feel they can dive into him, if only I let myself fall into the beyondness of the now and the here. He closes my eyes and lets me see beyond visibility. He is the time collapser and makes me more alive than a birth certificate can prove. He marries me time and again, as if he is the other half to my amputated double helix, making me more than whole, giving me life, sustaining me, because without him, I cannot even hold on to my own thread. He is the only one that can carry me over the gap that I feel, a gap that people tend to call ‘body’. When he holds me, I notice how strong he is, not how heavy I am. He makes me forget about myself so I can meet me in him.

He is more real than my senses can ever capture or my words can ever decide to describe. He is closer to me than my skin, he has the ability to paint my tears into a painting where the colors speak about things past, with shade and hue.

It is in him, that I find myself.

Image

Strutting upon avon

He called me a prostitute and upon flipping through the pages of his heart unfolding, I noticed an image arising from it (don’t even get me started on the smell), and it was repulsive. A woman in heat, more than randy, who offered herself to whomever wanted, I saw countless of hills filled with burnt offerings, made of more trees than a forrest can hold, countless lovers walking through it, if we can even call them lovers, and there was no place that she hadn’t dragged her adulterous feet over, she had scoured the land and defiled it with prostitution. Lust everywhere, lecherous ogling, brothels abounding.

How can a person scoop up this much disgrace.
How can God love a person like that.
How sad to see such a scene and keep calling out: ‘Come thus hither.’

I wanted to draw an orgy in my Bible -that would be a first, how is one to go about that?- but I felt a nausea coming up from deep within, as if it would smear His Word. Even thinking about the drawing made me almost hear Him say: ‘For though thou wash thee with lye, and take thee much soap, yet thine avon is marked before Me’.

Oh, the contrast of it all.. knowing that my Father knows me intimately, even before my mom even wanted a child, has always touched me beyond anything. Somehow I look back at those nine months as a time that nobody can ever tell me about. Nobody knew me, I was somewhat floating in water, nothing else. My mom felt me, my dad saw her growing belly, but they didn’t know me. I was unknown all that time. Yet still safe.

When I heard Gods voice telling me that He wove me in my mother’s womb, I nearly collapsed onto the floor, I just didn’t know how to control my legs any more. His words hit right on the mark and I felt like the foetus I once was, it was as if God made me look inside His heart by giving me a sneak peak in my nine months of gestation, here is my me-time with Him, can I go back to that place where I am known?

Knowing that with the same intricacy He wove me, taking His time doing so and was done the same moment He handed me over to His laws of labor, when His ‘yes’ was positioned alongside to my mom’s first scream for me. Through her He delivered a perfect baby, detailed and all. And even before He formed me in my mother’s womb, He knew me. When I was formless -and void perhaps- He rejoiced over me, maybe even saying: ‘Some day, in the appointed year, this little human will be braced by a Pota-card on her wrist, identifying her, born four weeks late, at least in the eyes of medical staff, but not late to Me, because I know this little human, and I know the timing I embrace her with. She will come at her own pace. Always.’

His knowing me goes way beyond a knowledge of, or a knowing that. It’s an intimate knowing, the same kind of relationship Adam and Eve had with Him and with each other. It’s like receiving a hug in your soul. The contrast of such a loving scene with the image that arose from paper, embodying spiritual whoredom, is just horrendous.

The book had a chapter about me being married and I read how Friday came around and me telling my husband: ‘Hey, love of my life, I’m gonna go out, strolling for and rolling with some stranger, I’ll see you later.’ I read how my husband turned as quiet as he changed his usual blushing color into pale, and how words fell from his mouth, dead on to the ground, where I read: ‘What wrong did I do you, that you do this.. I plead with you to tell me, what need have I forsaken to fulfill, didn’t I always take care of you, cuddle you, make you laugh, comfort you,.. haven’t I been the fertilizing soil from which you bloomed? Don’t I bring out the best in you?’ I replied, saying: yes, but I’m still gonna.. just for a little while..

When I closed the book, it felt like one giant bird flipping towards God. Of all the wood – no pun intended –  that was left to burn, I chose the one that looked like my middle finger, and I erected that one – no pun intended- almost willingly flipping Him off, at least disregarding His last whisper when -before the book went back on the shelf, and me out the door- I heard Him say: ‘You are way too awesome to be doing this, my love..’

Oh, how I wish to be perfect. A spiritual virgin.

Image

Qookies and mäh

The downstairs doorstairs bell rang. From the door downstairs, we mean. We thought it to be the post man, and we were preparing our ears to his question whether we would mind accepting a parcel for one of the neighbors who wasn’t at home. But before we walked to the intercom, we decided to look over the balcony first, to see if it’s actually an orange-blue suit with a hat. Turned out to be a white head. It’s shiny, silver white. Immediately I know it’s my dad; nobody has such beautiful color hear as he.

He never comes by for no reason. In the last three decennia of my adulthood he never visited me unanounced or spontanously, and also on my part the invitations have been scarce (not to confuse that with scars). Scarce to anyone basically. I sort of love how God is breaking (through) this pattern..

But now it’s my dad standing outside, downstairs. My inner alarm goes off immediatelly – and I can only think of one thing, my mom died and this is how my dad decided to tell me, not call me, but drive to my place, come upstairs, sit me down and tell me the news. I use all thirty stairs that I hear him clim his way towards my broken heart to breathe myself into this rest that frantically says okee, I got this, everybody will lose their mom at one point in time, this is my time, okee, frantic mode, I got this.

I see my dad turn one quarter to the left to start his last batch of stairs towards me en I am sedulously looking for and scanning his face. I can read it like I can read my heart. He looks at me and I see a young kind of happyness, one you can’t fake, a happyness he always has when he sees me, it looks like a flower that releases its last peddle to really blossom into openness, it’s so defenselessly endearing that I feel tears well up from behind my eyes. I will never have a big enough garden to plant all of his flowers in.

And instead of greeting him with a smile and welcoming him, I blurt out: Jeez man, you scare the bejeezas out of me. What are you doing here?

Oh baby girl, he says, if I had known, I would have called first, but I wanted to susprise you, because I read in the newspaper that they sell the yummiest of chocolate at Jamin and I suddenly remembered that every year you say you want someone to give you chocolate letter around December 5th, so I figured I’m gonna hop into town with my sweetie pie, to buy her some chocolate.

And so we did.
I chose the letter P, of eh.. of Potamotrygorgeous.
He chose the letter Q of qookie (that’s how he wanted to pronounce it).

Image

Unliminality

Somehow being stuck in the inability to break from something that I am increasingly starting to see as a worldly law, that it’s impossible to mix hate with love, and when both concepts present themselves to my heart, I find myself innerly verbirating to a point where the shaking is either so fast or subtle that it is able to dodge the human eye and present itself as a continuum, as if it became a pen, being able to draw a straight line, fluid in essence, content and purpose. It’s exactly that straight line, most of the time it’s black, most of the time transparent, that I would describe as hell, being stuck in two modes that can’t have their full being at the same time and therefore try to hide in me, making me collide against eh.. me. It’s in that thinnest separation of things in life where I also think God resides, or at least wants to meet me, as if He saw my pen draw – tho still in a straight line – the word help.

Image

Unchained m’lady

Last year when I saw myself being uprooted from the spiritual home I had been dwelling in, it was that exact day my dad asked me to help pluck some trees from his garden. Plucking wasn’t exactly the verb that I would have used, since this were fullgrown trees, who had been standing their ground on the left side of their front yard for forty-four years. I feared that their root system was as deep as the trees were high, and I figured we would just cut down the trees and then dig them out, but my dad had something else in mind and walked up to me with a chain hoist – my sheepness, is there a tool that he doesn’t own? It was weird seeing the thick and heavy steel chains hanging over his shoulders, dangling down, flapping combrously against his frail, eighty year old legs. The hoist can pull 2 ton, my dad beamed, but not knowing how impressieve that was and at the same time not wanting to dampen his excitement, I imitated his smile and exclaimed: ‘That’s two thousand kilos!’

Should you ever want to know how it really feels when you say ‘like a boss’, I would recommend you pull a tree from your garden using a tool like that. Holding the thick chain between thumb and index finger we let every shackle glide over the pulley, effortlessly – it sounded like a content kitten… prrrr… prrrr.. I had my eyes closed and became one with my dad’s instructions, acting solely on what I heard him say: ‘Pull down, easy does it, focus, don’t yank it, it’ll come, now pull, one two!’ And under our feet, far below earth-depth, we felt and heard the roots snap (it sounded like a muffled echo from a gone past) and we saw a promise arise; this is what the chain hoist read on the packaging all along, although implicitly: ‘A tree like that? Easy!’

But to see that promise become reality we had to work for it, my dad and I. I believe that I may and can have a similar relationship with my heavenly Father. That when I want to lay hold on His promises, sometimes that needs a little pulling on my part – after all we’re also dealing with an adversary who is all to keen on leaving a root underground. But I can be assured that in that moment of appropriation, God will be on my side of the chain hoist, pulling His weight.

Image

Headers

Just start,’ the weird person said. ‘Words will come later. Shapes and colors too. As interpretation.’ Start -with- what then, we wondered, if there is nothing to shout but silence covered in and magnified by the echos of walls that contain nothingness and emptiness. ‘Just start,’ he said again. His voice was the only thing we received, the very thing we couldn’t bare hearing a second time.

If it had been somesheep else, we would have heard his words as arms opening up to our desire to cast away this learned collaboration with gravity that invited us to a scene of heavenly floodgates bursting open years and miles ago. We couldn’t do away with our pain, because in order to do that, we had to grab it, choke it, look it in the face, hate it, will it to die. How can you look in the face exactly that which you want nonexistent?

Just draw. Here’s a piece of paper. A pencil, here. All yours. Two spontaneous memories intrude into our being; they split us in two like thunder enters a tree and we feel the tears welling up behind the wall of our eyelids. There is an increasing stillness, stiffness, physically. We feel rigid and icy. We don’t want this, we want out, away from this sudden heat. There is anger, you are forcing me, we don’t know you. Someplace deep inside we are presented with two options: run away, the default mode, or run through, with him next to us. He needs to be here, can he be here when we want it badly enough? He is to our right, almost always that side, not left. We are afraid that the voice of this weird person will soon ask why we’re not drawing. We are afraid that everysheep is going to see the tears in our eyes. If we walk now, they will notice even more. We feel no option but to stay seated. Breathing is superficially. Can we disappear unnoticed? Why can’t we draw. Why can’t we just frolic along like normal sheep, on a normal command. We feel like a mähsfit.

The counterfeit voice. ‘See, this is who you really are, you do not belong and you will not ever belong, you are a weird sheep and you have done a great job fooling everyone up to this point with your so-called new wool, but this is who you are, you are weird, go back to your old meadow, drink of and drown in the brook you fell in.’  

Another voice, friendly. ‘What are you thinking of?’

It is him! He is there, on the right. What should we call him? Before we knew Jesus, we would have called him mirr, or confession sheep, or Baby D, or James, or..  

‘I am thinking of high school, where we were judged by a product, a six year stretched period where our identity seemed to coindice with our performance. We remember so vividly that one time we had to draw ourselves, and because up to that point we had never said no to anything, we took up the task, pen and paper in front of us, eventually the pen between our hoofs, staring at somesheep that looked as bewildered and hollow as we were, with no identity, being me, being drawn by me, death like, on paper. We also remember a drawing for which we received the lowest grade possible, because the teacher said it was so good she couldn’t believe we drew it. It was our first imprint of not being believed. Our first mark of injustice and being falsely accused.’  

‘Go on, sweetie’, the friendly voice said.  

‘In drawing class it was as if we were forced to t(h)rust our souls to paper, to imprint the hidden in the plain. Every class we drank a new bottle of ink. Every class we choked on a new grade. Nosheep can define us in numbers, nosheep can box us in twodimensional paper, nosheep can catch us in their assignment, let alone in a drawing. We don’t want this, what if we draw wrong and everysheep will see we can’t draw, what if it turnes out messy, I don’t want to show how how I birth a fantasy, how I image an illusion, how I utter my desire, especially to this weird person, I don’t know him, he even had our name wrong. Po-ta-mo-try-gor-geous, how hard is that to pronounce?’  

‘Go on, sweetie’,  the friendly voice said. ‘What else is on your mäh?’  

‘Years and years and years, spanning decades of psychiatric hell, ambulantory and clinical, picketed by creative therapists and whoelse they call specialists, closing me in, trying to understand me, grab me, trap me, keep me enslaved to a lie and locked up to their opinion about my choices in life. If it weren’t for outliers, you wouldn’t even perceive life in the middle. Don’t you want to draw a little more in the middle of your page – she said. No, the middle is unknown, for I can’t see the edges of the paper from there, just let me draw in its corner. She hands me a math compass. I get angry. What am I supposed to do with this thing. I don’t want to share my paper with you, I don’t want your guidance, there is no together here, go away from my paper, you scare me, your scent stinks and I can smell you are that you are afraid of me, even though you say you’re not. ‘Don’t give me a weapon,’ I tell her, ‘because I’ll use it on you.’ She startles. Again I say: ‘Remove the math compass, I will stab you with it.’  

‘I am here..’ The friendly voice puts me back in the now.  

‘If I had it my way, I would have drawn a square head, square eyes, a triangle nose and a cross for the mouth. Two triangles for the ears. Nice and abstract. Done. But I am so angry, Daddy, I don’t want to be here! I feel like a monster, I feel like I have felt my whole life, I feel mud gushing through my blood, I am choking!’  

‘This is old, sweety,’ the friendly voice replies. ‘Remember that I said behold I make everything new?’  

‘What if I can’t Daddy? What if the drawing resembles nosheep, Daddy? What if it isn’t good, Daddy? Not good enough, Daddy? What if it’s ME who’s not good enough, Daddy? What if I understood the assignment wrong? What if I take too long? What if I don’t belong.. Daddy!’  

‘What is it that you would like to start with?’  

‘The mouth. A closed mouth. Is that allowed? Just a mouth? Can I just finish drawing a person by only showing his mouth and that closed? And then we’ll see?’    

‘I love you, My daughter, and I am immähnsly proud of you.’

 

 

Image

Unafrailed

Sheep had barely opened and closed the door, when he flung something inside the room. In it rolling our way, we saw gravity wrestle with cohesion and we saw it coming to a halt near our feet. It looked like square balls of fiery hot coal. It almost burnt our feet. ‘Here’, he said. ‘I don’t want it. I know it’s mine, but it’s totally uncontrollable. Besides,’ he said, ‘it can’t tell time, what am I supposed to do with it then, since I can’t escape time! It’s like continuously having to adjust my pace to a non-year old. It doesn’t age! And at the same time, as I age, it grows bigger! Here! I don’t want it!’

You can’t just make something that is yours not yours, the same way you can’t divorce your own voice. But we knew there probably would be a wiser way to say that. ‘Where did you find it?’ we asked.

Sheep shivered and moved closer to our feet. Not sure if he wanted to sit closer to us, or to the heat. In any case, his face was glowing. ‘I read about it in a book,’ he said. ‘If I hadn’t, I would have never noticed it, and it would have never bothered me.’

We wondered what sheep would do with his rounded squares. He hadn’t answered our question either. Where did he find it?

‘Apparently it’s an eternal and heavenly gift’, sheep grumbled, rolling his eyes. He dared not stamp on the floor, afraid that the hot coals would roll his way again. But angry he was. ‘Apparently it’s something like a boundary, the same as skin can be. But this thing seems to have a life of its own, I can’t control it!’

We looked at the coals at our feet. They didn’t seem to be minding nosheeps business, doing no harm, and the more they lay at our feet, the cooler they got. Their color was gradually changing rom glowing orange to grey-ish. It resembled charcoal. ‘I think I see what’s the problem’, we said. ‘You can use a gift in two ways, the right way and the wrong way, the same you can use your hands to hurt or to hug. The fact that you’re hurting, tells me that you used the gift the wrong way.’

‘No, I hurt because those sheepin’ balls got so hot,’ sheep said.

‘Those eh “sheepin’ balls” as you call ’em, are a part of you, so if they fire up, you fire up. See that they’re cooled off now, now that they’re at my feet?’

Sheep looked at us, then at his feet, then at ours, then at the rounded cubes. He suddenly remembered being born and receiving this gift. He was silent for a while. He thought why he never received a mähnual for it. Then he was sad for a while, thinking about how there had been a manual, but the sheep reading it spoke a different language. Some of them had misunderstood their gift and manual as well. Sheep felt tears welling up. Our heart went out to him; if he’d cried sooner, we thought, he would have cooled off his own sheepin’ balls himself. ‘Why did it have to come so far’, he asked.

‘So close you mean?’

‘Close to what?’ sheep asked.

‘Close to Me.’

‘Huh?’

‘I am the one who gave you this gift. It’s called anger and it’s a boundary. See how now that it’s cooled off, this charchoal can be used as a pen? If you let it write, it tells you and the other person what’s really going on. Sometimes it communicates to somesheep else, sometimes to yourself. But if you don’t use it, anger cannot release its energy and then all the energy gets stored up inside, making it as hot as you felt when you first barged in. And you are right: anger doesn’t tell time, it always lives in the now, regardless when it was born, as should you.’

Sheep took the charcoal away from our feet. He said: ‘I am going to let it write a story, and it will start with how I had barely opened and closed the door, when I flung something inside the room.’

 

 

Image

Different versions of mäh

‘Me’, sheep said. He was scolded for swearing, but didn’t understand why that was. Sheep knew how the name of Jesus Christ was sometimes used as a swear word, but in his own case it was just putting two alphabet letters together; how could that be considered to be swearing? Couldn’t it just be called a pronoun? Or better yet: couldn’t it just refer to himself? He was just a sheep, nothing offensive about that.

‘Mine’, sheep said. He heard that it wasn’t allowed to be self-centered. One should always be on the lookout for the needs or welfare somesheep else. But, sheep thought, what I call mine, somesheep else calls yours, so can’t we go with that point of view, me being so fluent in relationsheeps that whoever is talking decides whether what I have is called yours or even his?

‘Myself’, sheep said. Even the mirror disagreed this time. What sheep called right, the mirror would answer with no. For him it was left. Unequivocally. Whatever sheep called left, the mirror again would answer with no. Even the distance sheep tried shortening by moving closer to the mirror wasn’t fully his, for the mirroredself moved in closer as well. Who am I, sheep asked, if I can’t use any pronouns referring strictly, only and married to me?

‘Mäh’, sheep said. The world around him sighed and calmed down. Sheep had uttered that one sound, that only word that only he could have made, stating who he was. It felt as if every molecule in his blood was singing along, lining up to twirl together multiple strings of DNA that made up him. He finally found his pronoun. A pronoun that nosheep could steal. A pronoun that was him. It was his essence.

 

Stop not swearing

Image

So much seventh

Oh, the amount of trying. If we could carve each try in the wall, counting up from below zero, there wouldn’t be enough stone left to echo back to us to stop wanting to be somesheep we’re not, because all the grit would be on the ground. If one could pretend that to be an ash heep, it would be perfect to sit on. Sitting on high even.

‘You’, a voice said.

Sheep dreamt of versions of him that he had to leave behind once he woke up. All of him was nothing he set out to be. If molecules of tea pots manage to stay together, serving him the quenches to his thirsts, why couldn’t he do the same, being himself, serving others, or himself maybe? He couldn’t fall apart even if he wanted to. The wants had the same effects as the tries. They had left no stone unturned.

‘You are’, a voice said.

Sheep saw all of his senses talking over each other, as if nosheep bothered to put them all on different tracks on a mixer, so he could put the audio on mute from time to time, or put a dimmer on his visuals. His skin hurted, and he hoped that the past tense of the verb would catch on, because the world was due some refreshments in language. Could he pull the plug for the electricity, so he would be a day without input? That would be such a welcome holiday. Not leaving the house, nor the country, but to be on hold for a second or two. Not just the absent of visual, tactical or olfactory sounds rocking back and forth into his essence, into his presence, into his awareness, as if he was having his first sleep over at the beach near Litochoro, where Gods unrelentless ebb and flow, and eb, and flow, and eb.. eventually made him to just get up and leave, for he couldn’t sleep having God awake next to him.

‘You are made’, a voice said.

When sheep looked closer, he saw a specificity in emotion that lacked definition. The way foam heads find their origin in the end of water and the beginning of earth, so also he couldn’t grab what was going on. It was a whiff of expectation with a film of sadness on a bed of boldness, covered with a fear that he should have seen for what it actually was: a thing unknown. It was as if he had been given a spoon without knowing soup exists, so he carried the spoon in his winter coat, together with his tries and wants.

‘You are made in’, a voice said.

Would it matter, sheep thought, to look from afar or from aclose? The only thing that seemed to disappear where the freckles on the ground. He wished he had lashes or lids, to cover his eyes. When was the last time he hadn’t been awake? The voice filled his head more, and it started repeating itself, filling all the ladders of DNA he tried climbing. All of his cells were held together by the voice. Sheep had to let go, that was the only certain thing.

‘You are made in My’, a voice said.

Somehow the pronoun(c)ed capital sounded like golden thread sown into his tapestry. How was it possible to hear (in) capitals, sheep thought. And what was up with the four brackets all of a sudden? He remembered a poem that he learned by heart years ago.

“Alone, alone, all all alone,
alone on a wide wide sea.
And never a saint took pity,
on my soul in agony.”

‘You are made in My image’, a voice said.

Sheep gasped. Good thing he wasn’t in the water, otherwise he would have drowned, by expanding his lungs like this. He noticed a huge tree and sheep felt surprised by his own surprise that until now he never noticed it. Did he actually mute his visuals back then, way back? The tree sang, not only in the rustling of the leafs, but also in melody of birds that flowed freely from every branch. His gasping made way for awe. This is more than  beautiful, sheep said.

‘No, you are’, He replied.

Image

When God is on the move

The small letter probably didn’t come unexpected. The dictionary had been contracting ever since the observation that fire doesn’t necessarily warm everysheep that is sitting close by. Some coldness just seems to come from inside, where outside flames can’t expell it, even if you would choose to let yourself be burnt so that closeness would become an option. A thought entered, or perhaps it was a question, and it was mostly sad to think it, let alone vocalize it to the outside. There would have been multiple ways to continue the letter, we felt stuck in the options of what the next sentence should be.

We didn’t choose to write option one.

Nor option two.

Or three.

Perhaps we should just make a joke and be done with it?

Out of the black and blue an eight year old message fell on somesheeps door. It talked about the gift of being able to temporarily but at the same time completely fold yourself over another, like carbon paper, see-through in its existence, with the feel of the thinnest woven cotton, and from that position draw the contours in order to see the other and understand the point of view of the other. And if time was folded together it was somehow exactly how we felt and were gifted, perhaps being made in the image of that other, not sure if it was us under that veil, where our paper would contain letters, in contrast to the one of this other sheep that was not us. She was mostly and bestly understood in silence, she always said. But that’s not us at all. On our paper letters would hug together, forming words like powerless, and the word very would precede it. We also read painful, pushed forward by the word extremely. We read sad. That word didn’t need pushing. Where our paper differed was that -perhaps as a primal survival mechanism- we felt compelled to give words to it, to out it, because then it would almost literally be ‘out of us’.

Sheep understood his written word so much better than his wordless, formless thoughts and while writing he discovered the hidden, that thing that was actually bugging him. It was as if on paper he would finally mold into that shape with which he could completely coincide, as if that was his mirror, not one that with bad lighting and wrinkels would condemn him to his unstoppable increasing age, but one that would reflect the real him, embodying timlessness.

And when the birth was over, the book closed, the words were pushed out and finally the letter could continue with the best option, which was the unuttered sad thought that turned out to be more a question to us than to the one we posed it to.

And so we read: Will you let us love you?

Image

Subtitles deleted

‘Speak without words’, he said.

We remembered how the scent of burnt paper filled the room, the hallway, the whole building even. If we could follow the smoke back to the first sparkle of fire that we set to it, we could read our blacklist, made up of incidents of hurt, as if with every verbalisation we stitched the exact places where we could tear the paper, as if it were perforating tools, not poking holes in our hearts any more, but on paper, and with every word the piercing got more profound. Does paper cry when it’s torn? Trust it all to paper, as if you just spilled coffee, only more intentionally. Tear it all up, burn it, let the smoke of blackness arise to the Creator who knows how to distinguish darkness from blackness. The One who made fire. The one who knew us before we knew ourselves. Let him have it, our nostrils are not made for inhaling this way of living. Please don’t let us suffocate in the guilt that fills us now that we throw all of our sh.. onto Him, we thought.

‘The more you throw, the more visible I become,’ he said. ‘Let Me have it.’

Don’t let us suffocate then by the lack of oxygen that surrounds us in swirls as we surround ourselves with the fire burning our blacklist. Let me start with new beginnings, let me close my eyes and forget that I dance in a singular pronoun. Confuse us, scramble us, sift us, burn us, hold me, forgive me, love me, let me follow You so that the shadow your back casts on my life lights up my blackness, call me out of my past, Father, I am done living there.

‘Wake up,’ he said, ‘you are talking in your sleep again.’

Image

For all – stand tall

‘Talk to me,’ he said.

Our vocal cords strung together like wet rope that had held a ship close to shore a day too long. If we would let go now, not only sound would drown, but we would also exhale control, losing our voice to call it to come back to us. If someone would be able to sow a flag from the letters H E and L P, we couldn’t even plant it as a banner, because of.. because of.. because of what actually?

It wasn’t the talking he specifically asked. Nor the talking to. It was the me that had the emphasis. Or perhaps it was just his voice that gave the sentence importance. Knowing him he needn’t see us balancing our vocal cords, holding a speer to prevent our smile from collapsing, as if it was the pole that held up the tent that Sarah was hiding behind laughing – perhaps in unbelief – at Gods promise of a child, as if it resembled the speer that would one day pierce another promised child. If only it would pierce us, we would use the wet color to write on walls, not talking in words, but talking in cries.

‘Talk to me,’ he said again.

He gave us a secret language to use, that was as if we were covered by a veil, making us not invisible, but inaudible, and therefore invisible to everything around us, if only we would close our eyes to it. A secret language, derived from and having direct relation with that white stone that he had in mind, and already laid down, if it were possible even stronger than the cornerstone he used to build his house with, replacing tents for something so much stronger, a promise that would come into being, with a whiteness that was as special as the name that was written on it, to be known only by me and him. That name had the same length as the language he gave us, no vocal balancing needed, speer broken.

We couldn’t even say thank you. The words would cut through glass, rather making it bleed than us. When glass shatters it cries too. We couldn’t even say thank you for yesterday, for beginnings outside of time so it would be a certainty we never had to worry about seconds lost, for he would collect those seconds as he does tears. Not sure if it was us in that ship, or us standing on the shore.

‘Let go of the rope,’ he said, ‘and you’ll find out.’

Image

What if part 1 wasn’t the start

‘Just start’, he said.

Start with what, we pondered, for if we don’t have words how can we know if we’re even alive to talk about what is bothering us?

‘Just start’, he said again, ‘words will come later.’

But if words would come later, what would precede them? Would it be stone cold bricks laid out as a pavement for the marching of words stringing together to form a sentence at the end of the road? How could we even start building a foundation that would be strong enough to hold the weight of pain?

‘Time can’t captivate pain, you’re stalling by trying to throw chaff up in the air, hoping that the breath of the world will keep it in the air long enough for you to go unnoticed; move along, just start’, he said.

And so we did. We drew a square so we could sit in the upper left corner of it. The square was closed so nosheep could come in, not realising that we could only close the sides of it, and never the surface looked at from above. If we would have painted that black as well, we couldn’t see ourselves any more either and that thought was the only one keeping us sane. No matter how much multiplying of sheep we would fool ourselves with, we would never find recognition in one of them that hinted of being the exact duplication of the one that existed before part 1. If we weren’t throwing up chaff in the air, what was it we were doing here? Can we sling our tears up to heaven, so God would be drenched in them, covered in them, making Himself more visible to us by becoming a drop of water? Can we throw away regret? Can we burry hope? Can we heat up illusions? Can we be intelligently dumb?

It turned out that God was in our square as well, covering all the angles we called corners, looking at us with an endless invitation that could hardly be matched by a loved one’s embrace. We found ourselves trapped in – or captured by – His logic, for we had been unable to draw that square while breaking the rule of all His lines being perpendicular onto each other.

‘I can’t even be me without relating to you,’ we said.

‘Indeed, lucky you,’ He replied.

;;

Image

My K

James woke up with pain everywhere. It felt like a flue pain, but then spiritual, felt physically. It was as if the pain from a dream got stuck to him, as a piece of chewing gum can cling to hair like there is no tomorrow. In this case, there was no tomorrow; there was only today. And he was stuck. It was hard to watch him, he thought he was in love, but didn’t know who with. It felt like he was being inflated from the inside out, and had no way of decompressing; the more he breathed out, the more full he got. It was painly pleasurable, but barely bearable. Again, it was hard to watch.

He remembered a letter mentioning the mispronounciation of the word lieve, and was invited to look at this all white wearing captivating scene from yet another sheep of view. Since eternity exists, you can actually repeat yourself in a past experience forever, he knew, and he regurgitated the words, the hugs, the sitting down. How was it even possible to be known only by written words and pictured frames? Was the person who invented the pause and rewind button actually a hero or a villain?

James heard the clicking of the pavement that was trodded upon, a path that lead up to a deepening of a reality that earlier he knew he’d rather digested as an illusion, just to keep his heart safe. But hugs don’t lie. Warmth is measurable. Words butterfly into your heart. There is no protection from that.  For the first time ever he knew that sheep can only be known layeredly. He was proudly boasting always that he could live with few regrets, but saying no to be stroked was one of them. But his fur hurt, as did his heart. Don’t touch, just embrace. And don’t ever let go.

Could he go back and retrace all the steps, as to delete them, by imprinting them on the ground with a different intention, a different sound, a different state of heart? Would he not only meet the other there, but himself as well, watching behind a looking glass that quaranteened his heart ever since he felt  it shatter? Would scents blow overseas if a hurricane was strong enough? Was that the reason he walked outside so often?

Can two sheep coincide with what comes from their mouths, like grieving tears on blotted paper which immediately immerse and burry themselves into the thinnest of papyrus God probably ever made? Was it a coincidence that the tears did the actually tearing up of the papers, adding to a second pile of regrets?

Great sheepness.. it was so painful to watch and we felt helpless for comfort. We needed seven hands and arms to hold all the pain James was hushing.

But then James spoke.
It’s not my pain Pota, he said, it’s yours.

 

 

Image

Forced to tolerate

The press release was postponed. In buying time -as if that were possible (or affordable)- they hoped to insert a correction ribbon long enough to stretch the patience of sheep and flock, so they could build in this extra layer of disclaimers, saying that if some took offense to the article, he or sheep was just plain wrong in feeling that way.

Sheep had experience with correction ribbons, they were a bit comparable to the umbilical cords, that can always pull you to a different side when you wander off. Correction ribbons don’t just pull you the other way, they delete what was just said and start anew, trying a different route to steer you. These things take time. Sheep knew about time. Sheep knew that if you postpone something to infinity, you enter a new reality where the concept of canceled doesn’t exist. The same reason that something is only lost when you have stopped looking for it.

Sheep knew the printed opinion was controversial, even though it was presented as a gift and a door to freedom; it talked about equality of sheep. How every sheep has to have equal rights. In voicing it that way, it deleted the thought that the flock was equal all along, and changed that to the thought that sheep were now dealing with unequal rights, so ears were pointed to hearing the good news.

It was as if the article said ‘tolerance matters’ and the correction ribbon hid the fact that this was a self-defeating claim, for the article read that sheep were not allowed to disagree. If you preach tolerance to be the holy grail, then by default you would have to accept – or be tolerant towards – others who do believe something different.

But, as said above, the press relase was postponed. Sheep didn’t need papers; they had truth written in their hearts.

And sheep knew that if you spend a long time together, your hearts start beating in tune, and the rhythm of that is more divine than any typewriter could ever accomplish.