Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To Live on a Rock

When I was younger (okay, not younger ... young) I wrote a short story about a woman who was restless. It wasn't a particularly good story, although it earned me the absolute best rejection letter I've ever gotten, and I really loved an editor named Keith at the Carolina Quarterly for a number of years, but that's not the point.

The point is restlessness. The protagonist was restless with her life, her marriage, and with the world around her. She was vaguely bored and unhappy, and somewhat worried that her husband might be having an affair. She longed for something good and stable and strong, but the something -- and how to get there -- was a thing she couldn't quite put her finger on.

At the end of the story, she is sitting up, waiting for her husband to come home. She cancelled plans with a friend earlier in the day, in order to go shopping for a new garden hose with her husband, because he'd said it was important. But, at the last minute, he cancelled the shopping plans and told her not to wait up. She's been watching TV, and a rather unsavory commercial has just ended. She says:

"I am glad my son is in bed so that I don't have to explain this. Of course, he will see everything someday. I cannot keep the world from him. But, sometimes, I'm afraid the world will be too much for him. It is so big and poorly planned. I want it to be simpler. I want to shop for a garden hose tonight. I want to live on a rock in the north Atlantic, herd sheep, shun make-up. I want to raise a child who will never see television, and I want men and women to love each other for all the right reasons."

I still think about this story sometimes and about the curious title I chose, which was "To Live on a Rock." As I mentioned earlier, I was young, and I was months away from being baptized Episcopalian, and certainly had no intention of acknowledging the Catholic Church. But, even then, I knew that I longed for something that was solid and true, something uncomplicated and real. I still didn't completely have the means to articulate it to myself, much less to anyone else, but I knew. (And although I was -- in some ways, regarding the searching -- the woman of this story, Atticus was not the man, I feel compelled to point out. Atticus is incapable of betrayal and he's never once canceled a shopping date of any kind with me.)

Back to the story, my story. Something was out there. Something timeless and good, stable and strong. Something that made sense of love and marriage and relationships and promises. It attracted me, beckoned me, and was slowly pulling me closer. Over time, it unfolded, and my path became clear.

And now, I know.

I know what it means to live on a rock. The rock of my faith -- the Catholic Church -- is the thing that is solid, true, uncomplicated, real, stable, strong, and helps me make sense of marriage and promises. It shows me how and why men and women can love each other for all the right reasons.

I am there. Still a work in progress, of course, but I know my address.

I yearned to live on a rock.

And now I do.

Thank you, God, for a happy ending to my story.


Beck said...

I've been going through some spiritual turmoil right now - my liberal Protestant church is not the right fit for me AT ALL, and yet I have no IDEA what I should do.
I'd like to live on a rock, too.

Anonymous said...

How lovely! Would that we could each have more moments of remembering that whatever the storms are out there, we are living on that rock.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

I once lived on an island in the north Atlantic and shunned make-up, strayed from my faith and felt restless & loss. Consequently, I could really relate to your short story!

I am now a happy, make-up-wearing Catholic--not that being happy means wearing make-up, necessarily, but rather that I "found" myself (for all my searching overseas) in coming back to my home, to my family, and to my faith.

The make-up is just so people don't keep asking me if I'm tired or sick. ;)

Beautiful story, Karen. Beautiful post.

Cmerie said...

Great post! I think we all feel this way at one time or another. God seems to have given us the grace to yearn for him, and we are never really satisfied until we find him. God bless you!

nutmeg said...

Absolutely beautiful.

You know, I once envied those who had "conversion stories" and while I admire you and all those who have been strong enough to convert, I am so glad that my place on the rock began at birth. I am weak enough, the dear Lord knows, I think I would crumple and wilt if I ever fell off.


momto5minnies said...

I love how your writing just speaks from the heart. It is also easy to understand and relate to on a personal level.

Wonderful story ...

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I know exactly what you mean. I have had a real faith in God for as long as I can remember, but it was coming into the Catholic church that anchored my faith to a rock. I don't wander- I am in His fold in a REAL way.

Jane Ramsey said...

This is beautiful, Karen. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, all, for your great and gracious comments.

Beck, come on over and join us. This rock is full of us imperfect people, but the foundation is solid. :-) Margaret, I also wear the make-up in order to look awake and not-sick. ;-) Nutmeg, as for once envying conversion stories, you are so right that you're blessed to have had the rock from birth. It is I who envy you.

Thanks again, everyone.

Stephen Eric Berry said...

It's good to hear something positive about Carolina Quarterly. I just received a rejection notice on Saturday from this journal 18 months after submitting my short story to them. (Submission date: April 25, 2006, reply: Oct. 25, 2007.) If you are a writer who enjoys nearly interminable mysteries, I would definitely advise submitting your work to them. I should also add that the editors of this magazine demonstrate impressive attention to detail: due to a change in postal rates, someone had to stick a pretty nifty-looking two-cent stamp to my SASE.