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Filtering by Tag: Lent

View to a New Mythology

Tom Sturch

"Gateway" by Matthew Crotts “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”      —Marshall McLuhan

Our views on the world are framed for us by myth. This is how it should be. Mythologies imagine the ancestry of humankind and give us frames of reference for origins, values, relationships and more. They're our points of departure for everything we are. But mythologies in a world of science and certainty are hard to come by or keep. But we need them, so modern myth-makers, from gadget companies to masters of cuisine to politicos to religions, fill in the blanks for us. Their modern mythologies suggest that we are the royals of our own realms. That we can live our ideal. That life can be stable, comfortable and happily unconsidered. And even though our world is a big round ball, the arcing horizon is a safe, convenient limit. So we can exist in circles of norms, majority's rule, the way we do. How we roll. We may play, learn and work in a consistency of comfort while the rest of the world, the suffering world, is disclosed only at our pleasure. And how we see the difference, say, between Somalia and Sonoma, or Damascus and Notre Dame, or Nepal and Manhattan, is through the soaring windows of our mythological frameworks.     

Roland Barthes was a semiologist and philosopher and wrote an important book in the 1950's, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies. One of the essays in that book, “The Eiffel Tower.” articulated a modern intellectualist view of the world. And though it was written sixty years ago, it sounds startlingly familiar. Here is an excerpt:

The Eiffel Tower is a comfortable object, and moreover, it is in this that it is an object either very old (analogous, for instance, to the ancient Circus) or very modern (analogous to certain American institutions such as the drive-in movie, in which one can simultaneously enjoy the film, the car, the food, and the freshness of the night air). Further by affording its visitor a whole polyphony of pleasures, from technological wonder to haute cuisine, including the panorama, the Tower ultimately reunites with the essential function of all major human sites: autarchy; the Tower can live on itself: one can dream there, eat there, observe there, understand there, marvel there, shop there; as on an ocean liner (another mythic object that sets children dreaming), one can feel oneself cut off from the world and yet the owner of a world.

The tower's metaphor translates to many others: the Tower of Babel and the World Trade Center come to mind of course. But how about soaring personalities: celebrities and politicians, authors, directors and artists we look up to? Don't we enjoy seeing ourselves in their light? And if it's true, that these mythologies make us, then how can we parse the popular Christian paraphrase, in but not of?

The remedy is to come down from our high places, submit to a kind of disembodiment, or dislocate from our self-enlightened sources, and re-imagine life in relationships, in difficulty, in the pain and grief, and every now and then, in fulfillment. Jesus' first sermon tells us to attend everything in a mythology of his humiliation: the divine come to earth; the crown laid aside; the architect become servant.   

In a story told in all four gospels, Peter, James and John wanted to live on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. They wanted to build booths, or small houses, to contain and persist in the bright sensations of their mountaintop experiences. On the way there they had argued who would sit closest to Jesus. And afterward, at the bottom of the hill, they found the other disciples unable to heal a boy. So Jesus drove them to their knees saying, These spirits come out only by prayer. And seeing it, knowing he's talking about me, I want to say with the father of the boy, Lord I believe; help my unbelief.

And here we see at ground level, the Eiffel Tower is a gateway.

So, Lent is here. Let's do something crazy. Let's fast the frames: the television, the computer, the phone. Let's pick up a pen and write a letter on the back of a service agreement. Let's live on a buck twenty-five for a week of days. Let's wander with a wanderer and wash her feet with expensive perfume. Let's embrace a modern-day leper. Offer a cup of cool water. Read this poem* to a stranger. Walk down the bright mountain in silence together, lie prostrate on the grass, empty our insides until something leaves and our enemies are welcome inside. And let this be the ground of our mythology. From its low-ness, from our own low beginnings, may it transform our towers into doors.

* "You've Got To Start Somewhere" by Deborah Landau 

Silence and the Prayer of the Heart

Jean Hoefling

11 Prayer Rope

“Speech is the organ of this present world. Silence is the mystery of the world to come.” –St. Isaac the Syrian, 7th century

 An irony of Lent is that too many of us like to talk about the discipline of personal silence, yet practice it little and poorly. Like breathing big city air, we’re accustomed to wallowing in the vague brown pall of noise pollution, sometimes of our own making, unhealthy but familiar. I remember real quiet. I got big pristine doses of it during the years I lived in a largely abandoned hamlet high in the French Alps. In winter, I was sometimes completely alone, and the stillness was intensified by massive, sound absorbing snowdrifts that broke against the old stone buildings of the village like wild ocean waves, muffling even my breath.

The luxury of living within such outward silence is long over. Then as now, I have to fight for the inner stillness I know contributes to spiritual stability, that peace that is more profitable to the soul than mere silence of place anyway. So I practice the ancient Jesus Prayer, the prayer of the heart, that centuries-old companion of ascetics, monastics, and all who wish to draw near to God: Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, have mercy on me, the sinner.” The Greek word for mercy, eleison, is a derivative of the same one used for olive oil in that language. A common healing agent among the ancients, the Good Samaritan in Christ’s parable anointed the injured man’s wounds with eleison. Supplicating God to visit me with his eleison (and through me, the whole world with the same), I invite his compassion on my brokenness, his restoration of my restless, chaotic person—the anxious enigma of who I am that prompts me to make so much noise in the first place.

As St. Isaac says, “silence is the mystery of the world to come.” Maybe that’s because in that bright, unabridged reality, fully restored souls will know instinctively how to speak beyond the primitive language of the mouth, and human existence will need no sound for its justification.

A Song on the End of the World

Tom Sturch

1 Boy at End of the World The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth . . . No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation. —SS chief Heinrich Himmler, October 17, 1944

Here is a poem for Lent that may seem at first counter-intuitive. A Song on the End of the World by Czeslaw Milosz was written in 1944 in Warsaw, Poland in the year of the Warsaw Uprising which saw the city's utter destruction (banner photo) by Nazi forces while the Soviet Army waited on the border for the Polish fighters to be neutralized.

The poem is four stanzas of free verse. The first two stanzas begin with the same line: “On the day the world ends...” and the balance of each stanza is a litany of quotidian life: “A bee circles a clover, / A fisherman mends a glimmering net. / Happy porpoises jump in the sea.”

Foreboding as the subject is, the poem reads with the comforting cadence of a child's bedtime story, idyllic, even as it repeats, “On the day the world ends...” Its very repetition is ironic and a clue that there is something more to the end of the world. Why else would he invoke “the day” twice? Wouldn't “the day”, if it were only “the day”, simply come once?

There is much to consider. Milosz was self-described as an atheist during his college years, but ultimately came to practice Catholicism and spent ten years corresponding with Thomas Merton on all manner of theology and global matters. He moved frequently as a child between city and country, was educated as a lawyer and wrote poetry, worked in the political realm and would not take sides, and staying in Warsaw, he publicly criticized Stalin's provisional totalitarian government. It was on the latter that Milosz wrote his Nobel Prize-winning non-fiction work, The Captive Mind.

Milosz's poems are full of nested references. “And those who expected lightning and thunder / Are disappointed,” begins the third stanza. “And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps / Do not believe it is happening now.” As concrete and pleasant as the first two stanzas are, the third abstracts into cataclysmic images of war and religious eschatology.

The fourth stanza introduces a “white-haired old man, who would be a prophet / Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,” who “Repeats while he binds his tomatoes: / There will be no other end of the world, / There will be no other end of the world.” Is the man mad? Is he singing?

Though not conclusive, there is enough in these verses for the Christian to affirm that life is in the liminal, that life moves from day to night to day, that life has no end. A great deal of secular criticism of the poem hears only lament and madness. But in the middle, at the end of the second verse Milosz affords us this clue: “The voice of a violin lasts in the air / And leads into a starry night.” What comes at the end of this day is a song. It is a song which does not end but lasts and leads. It turns the whole poem on its head. Focus is no longer on “the end of the world” but the song. Moreover, it invokes “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh in which the moon and stars radiate over a field of grain and a village. He painted it, imagining the village, while in self-imposed asylum. “Through the iron-barred window,” he wrote to his brother Theo, “I can see an enclosed square of wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory."

Lent is a time for retreat from a world that is preoccupied with endings in order to gain sight of the one that is ever arriving. It is a time to see our common acts of waking, washing, dressing and working as a faithful refrain we sing to the sorrowful world affirming a hope for the one that comes.

The book of Lamentations is the weeping lament ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah. It is a book of songs for the people of Israel remembering a grievous time. Jerusalem's Temple and walls are in shambles, but right in the middle of the book is this hope: “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Bright and Shining

Bryan Bliss

MICHIGAN BAND I finished revising my debut novel and graduated from an MFA program in the same month. I am tired. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to write. Of course, one of the first apocryphal rules you learn when you start writing is do it every day. Put that butt in the chair and fashion yourself after the Postal Service. Snow? Sleet? Debilitating fatigue? Doesn’t matter. Put those words down, son.

So when my friend Sara asked me what I was doing for Lent, I laughed. This was the first year in over ten where I wouldn’t be a church worker and I was sleeping in on Sundays like it was my job. While I appreciate the discipline of Lent – I’d taught it how many times? – I was on sabbatical from anything that wasn’t Mad Men or Game of Thrones. And that included God.

Thomas Merton went to Gethsemane to remove himself from the world, to seek God with integrity. As everyone knows, the world came knocking on the doors of his monastery in the way of literary fame. Merton was stuck between his desires for solitude and – this is my assumption – a calling to write. But then, on a routine trip to the doctor in Louisville, he had a vision. Him, being held up by (and inextricably connected to) the world he once hoped to spurn. He described the experience as inevitable, saying, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I eventually texted Sara back and said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll say the Lord’s Prayer every night.” It was something I’d never done. And if I’m being honest – it was a discipline I had no real interest in keeping. But much like the pull I feel every time I walk past my laptop – like there is something I should be doing – once I was lying in bed I couldn’t escape words. Our Father… I don’t claim a Merton-like moment of transformation. Everything I learned was a lesson I already knew. Yet, sometimes it is good to be reminded that the work will always be there when you’re ready. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we are bright and shining.

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt)

Autumn for Lent

Brad Fruhauff

I know we sometimes get confused between the "promise" of America and the promise of God. The dream of prosperity is not the same as the dream of kingdom life--except that no one owes us either. The purpose of fasting during Lent is not to learn self-sufficiency but to clarify one's priorities and to give one's sacrifice to the one who made Himself a sacrifice. Thus part of the discipline is to hold to it even when it doesn't seem to be "working."

Read More

The Inconvenience of Lent

Stephanie Smith

In our American culture of drive-through coffee, instant Twitter feeds, and video on demand, we prize immediacy. We like to check our email on our touchscreen phone as soon as it hits our inbox, grab lunch to-go, and download live-streaming news. We are a nation of busy professionals, parents, and students living under the banner of “carpe diem,” driven by the idea that there’s no time like the present.

This “now” syndrome certainly has advantages, motivating us to work hard and invest fully in whatever we’re doing, but what happens when we apply our instant-culture values to spirituality?

Last month, I had a bizarre experience with communion that made me consider this question. After months of exhausting church-searching, my husband and I finally found a church where we wanted to stay. It’s a contemporary kind of church, the kind that has a graphic designer on staff and a coffee bar out in the hall, and we came because we like the teaching and the small groups. But you have to understand, the church we went to before we moved was a liturgical church, the kind with Kierkegaard quotes in every other sermon and weekly communion. So we knew we’d have to make some adjustments at our new church.

But this is what I did not expect: communion that is served before the service, an addendum tacked onto and separate from the worship service. So we set our alarms a little earlier, entered the sanctuary, and found only a fraction of the congregation had shown up. The pastor said a prayer for this handful of early-risers, and at his invitation we filed up front and received the elements, and then it was over. The whole ordeal took literally five minutes. There was no time of confession before receiving the sacrament. There was no benediction afterwards, charging us to go forth bearing Christ into the world. There was no community, only a faithful few. There was no ritual, no careful unfolding of holiness.

It was like grabbing Christ’s blood of the covenant, His outpouring for the world, in a Styrofoam to-go cup. It was a sacrament dictated by convenience, quickly squeezed in between other items on the agenda, and left out of the greater context of cosmic redemption.

The problem with an instant culture, and an instant church, is that a preoccupation with the present diminishes our ability to see seasons, to see story, to observe the unfolding of time. This is the pivotal idea of the sacrament of communion: Christ asks us to remember Him by taking the bread and wine (Luke 22:19), and to anticipate the future when we will eat and drink with Him face to face (Matt. 26:29).

As we now enter the season of Lent, we enter a time of waiting. There is no immediacy or convenience here. But there is a story of cosmic proportions unfolding, as we take the forty days of Lent to remember, to walk through the events of the life of Christ: the temptation in the desert, the agony of Good Friday, the silence and sorrow of Holy Saturday, and the joyful victory of Sunday morning.

It is often difficult for us to lay down our gadgets and agendas to just sit for a while, quiet our souls, and dwell with God. And yet, He laid down everything for us, making Himself “nothing” and emptying Himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:7-98). In his beautiful poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter,” John Updike writes of the agony of the cross, “Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, for our own convenience...” As we cross the threshold of Ash Wednesday, let us reflect sincerely and sorrowfully on Christ’s suffering for us, so that on Easter morning, our hearts will grasp the incredible joy in His resurrection.

Stephanie S. Smith graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, which she now puts to work freelancing as a book publicist and writer through her business, (In)dialogue Communications, at After living in Chicago for four years, traveling to Amsterdam for a spell, and then moving back home to Baltimore to plan a wedding, she now lives with her husband in Upstate New York where they make novice attempts at home renovation in their 1930s bungalow. She writes for and manages Moody Publishers' blog,

Lent: The Ultimate Sacrifice

Stephen Swanson

Stephen Swanson, despite his public expressions of dislike of columns governed by the calendar, writes about a personal struggle with "snark".

"Snark", a Definition and Use

In addition to the definitions from urbandictionary that I link to above, I think it important to give a personal definition in order to further what might be perceived as an overly general terminology.  "Snark", the combination of "snide" and "remark", fills a large quantity of time in on-line communication and chiefly serves as a tone for self-righteous indignation and belittling of others.  For that reason, my omission of snark for the coming weeks might appear as a wholly beneficial enterprise, and to some degree, they have significant points.

At the same time, my snarkiness also serves as an outlet of frustration and a mask for more overtly offensive reactions to others.  Rather than calling someone an idiot or just staring at them aghast and their comment question, I can compose a snarky reply in my mind which I will post later.  It allows for some degree of fantasy play where I star in an amazingly hilarious sit-com filled with cutting commentary and insightful absurdity.

The Cost of Snark

However, as with all fantasies, there remains a significant price to be paid.  Just like hours-upon-hours of GTA can breed a desire to not stop for a stoplight or an urge to pull in front of a better car and pull the driver out to claim their wheels as your own, snark can explode or, in my case, leak.

I find myself leaking snark in a variety of ways.  First, I make noises.  A not-so-subtle "humph" or a snicker that is not quite masked by a cough can emerge at the most inopportune times, faculty meetings for example.  Second, my eyes tell my story.  It is not just the huge eye-roll of adolescence.  Even a looking away or a squint can be noticed and queried by a friend, student, family member, or coworker.  It's unavoidable.  We are conditioned to pick up non-verbal cues, and when they are left unexpressed, the audience can interpret them as they will, often to my own detriment.  After all, people will often assume the worst when left to their own devices.

What to Do?  What to Do?

Well, I'm hoping to employ a two-pronged approach.  First, I'm going to work on composing the snark into specific communications, things I CAN actually say or write to people.  This will not only still allow me to think and create an outlet for my feelings but also force me to channel that into something public and more productive.

For example, this week in a college meeting, I was growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of direction in the meeting.  We'd been there two hours and not really made any progress.  A member of the campus communications and marketing area was having a devil of a time of pinning faculty down on who they were supposed to reach out to and what the message needed to be.  Generally, I would spend that time creating snark.  It's fun.  It makes for good bar/party stories and generally makes me feel better.

However, it does not really solve the underlying problem, and that's the problem that I'm really seeing with snark, especially when compared to effective satire or critique.  It papers over the issue and ignores the underlying causes, and I've determined that these sorts of communication represent central concerns in any hope in overcoming significant issues to our culture today.  It's much easier to snarkily point out others and label them as such.

As I tell my students, it's easier to construct a fallacious argument or a general opinion than it is to construct something thoughtful and useful.  I need to give it a try.  I need to cage the snark.


Stephen Swanson teaches as an assistant professor of English at McLennan Community College. Aside from guiding students through the pitfalls of college writing and literature, he spends most of his time trying to remain  aware of popular culture, cooking, and enjoying time with his wife and son. He holds degrees in Communications (Calvin College), Film Studies (Central Michigan University), and Media and American Culture Studies (Bowling Green State University. In addition to editing a collection, Battleground States: Scholarship in Contemporary America, he has forthcoming projects on Johnny Cash and depiction of ethics in detective narratives.

Relief News Tuesday 2.23.2010

Ian David Philpot

My Name is Russell Fink a Kindle Bestseller

Michael Snyder's first book, My Name is Russell Fink, is #2 of 100 on Amazon's "Bestsellers in Kindle Store" page.  The digital text download is currently FREE, so head on over to the Bestsellers page and get yourself a copy!  Michael Snyder's story "Normal People"--mentioned in Robert Garbacz's blog on texture last night--can also be found in digital form on our Scribd page under Issue 3.1.

In case you missed it...

Relief is thoughtfully reading through some Psalms during this Lenten season, and you are more than welcome to join us.  In case you missed the first post on Left Relief, click here.

We are also sold out of Issue 3.2.  A blog was written about the details of the sell out, but, in case you missed it, click here.

Giving It Up

Amanda Bauch

Relief's Assistant Editor, Amanda C. Bauch, ruminates on ritual compulsions and Lent.

My fingers were bleeding. Again.

Even as I pause while typing this, my right hand reaches over to the left hand, longing to pluck at a piece of loose skin on my pointer finger. I worried this piece of loose skin on the drive home yesterday, when I was working out, and while I watched the Winter Olympics with my husband.

But it’s not only the fingers. It’s also my legs, my face, my scalp. All subjected to frequent, almost ritualistic, picking. I’ve scratched and dug at my legs so often that they’re bloody and bruised. My face bears scars from years of attempting to rid myself of imperfections, whether real or perceived.

The face digging began when I was in junior high. The finger mangling started in college. The leg scratching and scalp digging are fairly new developments, added to my repertoire over the past year or so.

The escalation of my finger picking during college prompted me to seek counseling. I felt out of control, and I knew the problem wouldn’t go away on its own. All of my fingers wrapped in band-aids, torn and bloody, I cried as I told the doctor that I couldn’t stop and I actually enjoyed hurting myself on some level.

This initial appointment set me on a road I’ve now been on for over a decade, trying to understand why I do what I do.

While I’ve been diagnosed with OCD for some time, I’ve only recently learned about a disorder that goes by many names, but is most frequently referred to as dermatillomania. In layman’s terms, compulsive skin picking.

Viewing a variety of websites and reading testimonies of those who suffer from this ailment, I am amazed to see my story reflecting back at me from my computer monitor. However, one young lady’s comment resonates: “I have not felt worthy.”

Now that we’ve entered the holy season of Lent, I had to decide if I was going to give something up, and if so, what. During Ash Wednesday service, I sat in the pew, praying to God to help me make this decision, all the while picking my cuticles into oblivion. I pulled a particularly tenacious piece of skin I’d been attacking for some time, immediately feeling the tingle and rush of pain derived from tearing off layers of skin.

At that moment, I knew it had to stop, and I felt that God was telling me that it was time.

Granted, this skin picking is a habit I’ve developed over about twenty years of my life, and I know that it’s not going to vaporize overnight. However, I made a commitment to the Lord to try to change. To truly believe that with Him, all things are possible. I am learning to trust Him, trust myself. I’m learning to combat the self-criticism and feelings of unworthiness with His Word: “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Ps 94:18-19).

Over these forty days of Lent, I’m giving up my self-criticism. I’m giving up the belief that if I just had enough faith, all of my problems would be resolved. And perhaps most importantly, I’m giving up the belief that I am unworthy.


Amanda C. Bauch, is Relief's Assistant Editor, a writer, and a teacher. She fled the harsh Upstate New York winters and now resides outside of Jacksonville, Florida.  She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently working on a young adult novel and a memoir.  Her short fiction has appeared in Tattoo Highway, Bent Pin Quarterly, The Hiss Quarterly, and nonfiction pieces have been published in Writer Advice, Empowerment4Women, as well as two print anthologies, Tainted Mirror and MOTIF: Writing By Ear. She is also a monthly contributor to 30 Points of View, a blog/ezine/something-or-rather (

Living in the Hours

Michelle Metcalf

Good Morning. It is 5:45am, still dark. I have been up since 4:15. I woke up cold, restless, a little hungry.  In the past hour and a half I’ve done what I can to satisfy myself: I’m now wrapped in a huge quilt sitting on top of the furnace vent on the floor in my living room; my dog is under the covers on my lap. I have been packing boxes in the kitchen—we’re moving to our first house in under a week and a half. I packed dishes quietly in the kitchen as my husband slept upstairs. I wrapped glasses in newspaper and towels. All of this while bread baked in the oven and too hungry to wait for it, I ate a bowl full of cut watermelon squares.

I wish all days started like today—with purpose and darkness and quiet and productivity. Just today, I feel somewhat akin to the monastic life; I feel connected to all the others awake right now in the world—working in quiet—its not just about waking up early—its about getting to work, about the ritual of living in these divine early hours.

Today, I will pray the hours, connected with the monks and restless morning pilgrims. Today I will not just intend it, I will do it. I will remember. I will stop. I will allow moments to be holy.

Today I will write. I will pray for inspiration. I will ask God for help. Today I will let it come. I will not be in a hurry. I will move through this work as if my life depends on it, and it does. Today I will not be afraid. Today I will believe for myself what I believe for others. Today I will show up and do the work.  Today I will be a professional writer, even if I have to pretend. Today I will turn off my phone, today I will listen to silence. Today I will light candles. I will burn Fir Balsam incense and smell the air. Today I will look at what has been left undone and leave it undone. Today I will not be lost in distraction, in necessity that does not involve words. Today, I will listen to words; I will listen inside of my head. Today I will not use my ears, today I will not use my eyes. Today I will live in my spirit. I will condition my mind. Today I will work until the moon rises. I will pray the hours before I sleep.

An invitation to pray the hours during Lent, and maybe not during Lent too:

*     *     *

Michelle Metcalf feels inspired today because the sun has finally started to shine in Cincinnati, OH, where she lives with her husband and dog. She lead a writer's group this morning, just like she does every Friday. That's her favorite part of the week.

Susan is giving up Facebook for Lent

Guest Blogger

Susan is giving up Facebook for Lent.

Susan’s fingers instinctively reach for the F for Facebook.

Susan wants to check in with God fifty-million times a day, instead of checking for status updates.

Susan is grateful for the friend who emails her status updates the first day.

Susan wonders what role Facebook plays in her life, what boredom it staves off and what will become of her without it.

Susan has to go on Facebook the very first day – to retrieve business information from an old message. She shields the page with her hand, ignores the new message in the inbox and finds what she needs before exiting quickly.

Susan is not exactly praying more yet, but it has been a busy day.

Susan has realized she thinks of events now in terms of how she will frame or caption them for Facebook: how will life be shaped into a status update?

Susan thinks about how Facebook is utterly self-centred. What is the motto again: connecting and helping you share with friends. Something like that. But every sentence starts with me.

Susan has more than 25 random facts to tell you about herself. She is so fascinating. To herself. And can she employ her skills (Random Fact: Susan is good with words) to make you fascinated with her too?

Susan wonders what this Facebook fast is about, anyhow. Narcissus not being allowed to look into the pool? Perhaps.

Susan wants to express her feelings, to be heard. Is FB more gratifying than prayer? If a tree falls in the forest, does God hear? And will God comment on the status of the fall?

Susan misses the juiciness of the details. And can make a rational argument that FB is better than gossip or reading tabloid stories.

Susan decided not to break her fast on Sundays. It seems arbitrary and weak to take a break.

Susan’s grandma is sick and she wants to blurt it out once and get lots of nice notes back. Would that be so wrong?

Susan watches how she fills her Facebook hole and is not exactly proud. But I’m trying.

Susan thinks it’s funny to speak in the third person. Not the royal we. The self-reflexive she.

Susan really, really, really, really, really wants to go on Facebook. A lot. A really lot.

Susan is going to Italy tomorrow.

Susan is exploding with anticipation and she has already called everyone reasonable to call. Must. Get. Going. To. Italy. Presto.

Susan hopes she is not sending her children into therapy by leaving them on the other side of the world.

Susan is dreadfully homesick, jetlagged and culture shocked but she has never ever seen such beauty.

Susan was wooed in a garden today.

Susan is in a quiet place: no Internet, no phone, no tv.

Susan’s thoughts are clearer, way clearer.

Susan was afraid to be alone for ten days with her husband and without her kids and the props of daily life, but now she loves it.

Susan is dreaming in Italian...un poco.

Susan is dazzled by beauty.

Susan is pondering.

Susan is learning that anxiety comes more often than I would like, but it goes too, every time.

Susan feared they would have to spend the night in the car when they got lost, but they got home. Grace.

Susan’s children are doing well. More grace.

Susan thinks people are delightfully kind.

Susan learned to make pasta.

Susan does not have Stendhal Syndrome, just Art Overload.

Susan may have had the happiest time of her life.

Susan can’t wait to be home.

Susan is dizzy with fatigue. Her kids are not.

Susan needs more beauty, less noise.

Susan is scared it will recede and fade. How do you hold onto it?

Susan is sorting things out, examining the things I stuffed away, preparing to enter the fray again.

Susan feels like my garden: boggy, slightly mildewed and winter-weathered, but with fresh green shoots of hope.

Susan is editing up a beautiful storm.

Susan is sleeping naked.

Susan is glad to see the world greening up.

Susan no longer feels like there is a glass ceiling between her and God.

Susan has fancy eyelids.

Susan can now write about prayer in a visceral way.

Susan feels surprisingly regretful at the end of Lent: do I want to start narrating my life again? Unlike other addictions, this one is social. Can you go to a party and just sit in the corner? Why not stay home?

Susan circles the site like a cold pool, dipping a toe in here and there, reluctant to take the plunge.


Susan Fish is a writer, editor, wife, and mother of three school aged children who lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Her first novel Seeker of Stars was published in 2005, while her second is still looking for a home. She is always intrigued by the signs people choose to erect on their garages, fields, or lawns, and once had both a pesticide sign and a Green party sign on her front lawn at the same time. Fortunately, she saw the irony in the situation. Susan's story "That Sign" can be found in Relief Issue 3.2.