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Day 51

Thomas Merton fell in love.

He wasn't supposed to; he was a Trappist monk. Because he fell in love with her and she with him, a mighty battle was fought inside him. What to do with the mammoth loneliness? It stretched out before him, hollow as the belly of a beast. Would he be swallowed whole?

I haven't read all the journals, but I know he ended things, eventually. Mortality couldn't hold the contradictions of spiritual solitude and earthly love, so Thomas chose his solitude. He was famous, after all, as a Christian contemplative; "M" didn't have a chance. Then (and before), there were rationalizations, there was the trying-to-make-sense-of-things. "And...we do belong to each other," he wrote, inexplicably. "In a way for keeps!" He let the love persist, in her absence, "It is there. It is a root fact of my existence." Of her love he wrote, "I cannot help placing it at the very heart of my aloneness."

I'm not sure why this story appeals to me, except that I wonder at the nature of love sometimes. I wonder if love is the sort of thing you can grow out of once you finish with a person, or if it remains, a subtle yet persistent thing, throughout the ebbs and flows of life. In any case, love is infinitely more complex than we allow it to consciously be, because we are not contradiction-comfortable beings.

I think these things because I have too much time and am reading (Thomas Merton, a book about writing memoir, and a Colombian novel). I used to write in the spare moments that my toddler gives me, but I sent my manuscript to my editor on Friday, so now I have settled into the most uncomfortable of weeks. I cannot edit, can only ruminate about all of the vignettes and dialogues in my book which seem unnecessary, which seem strange. Will he understand what I am trying to say, or will he just think I am bad at saying it?

I can't obsess over these things, so I try to read instead. But I keep stumbling on the unspoken messages in my own book, themes like the permanence of love and what we do with the stories that don't fit into the parameters of our tidy lives.


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