Tolkien, J.R.R.

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For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile.  Care to join me?

Up until 8th grade, I had been nose-deep in Shakespeare, Greek and Roman mythology (although I didn’t read The Odyssey, or The Aenid until college), and boat loads of science fiction.  I still read as many books about horses as I could, although my reading list began to drift into more technical tomes about riding, taking care of horses, and breed histories.

And then I was introduced to The Hobbit, our assigned reading for the semester.

I was immediately captivated by this language that felt so familiar to me, and yet had taken me so far away.  This was the language of my Saxon forebears, the folk tales and legends of the Cotswold hills, the musical lilt of Cymru’s tongue.

I won’t pretend to be a Tolkien scholar in any manner, but I had read that the tales of Middle Earth were a kind of conjecture on Tolkien’s part of what Saxon mythology might have looked like, had it survived the cultural purge after the Norman conquest. The romantic in me, the part of me that believes any tragedy can be redeemed with time and love enough, likes this explanation a great deal.  I almost don’t care about its veracity.

After reading The Hobbit, I went in search of anything with Tolkien’s name on it.  By the end of the school year, I was well into The Lord of the Rings.  It was because of Tolkien that I found C.S. Lewis, Narnia, and Till We Have Faces, which lead me to The Odyssey.

 

L is for Love

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It seems that I’m becoming more comfortable with embracing challenges these days. With that in mind, I’m embracing the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, by writing about the things that I most closely associate with being alive, when I show up and engage with life as fully as possible.

And with that, I give you:

LOVE

I have to be honest. I don’t want to write on this topic. I came so close to changing it for something less dangerous like, oh I don’t know “Lions” or “Large Angry Carnivores (see ‘Lions’)” or “Lethal Weapons” or maybe even “Landmine Removal”. Anything but this one topic that can reduce me to cowering in the fetal position in a corner, sucking my thumb, and muttering incoherently.

I don’t do “love” well. I’ve written before about my hope to be brave enough to be vulnerable. I wish I could tell you that I have made significant progress in the last two years, but the truth is for every step forward I take, I seem to take two or three back. Sometimes I wonder if I am one of those who are doomed forever to stand on the outside, looking in.

And yet. . . . And yet.

My friends are still here, still as tenacious as ever, still loving me when I can’t find it within me to love myself, still believing in me, still refusing to let me believe the lie that I am, somehow, unlovable. But I still don’t make it easy for them and I don’t completely understand why.

I have blown up, materially damaged and otherwise ruined enough relationships across the spectrum to finally get that romance is going to have to take me completely by surprise. It seems that I am hell-bent on sabotaging myself and then I turn into something I’m not. The collateral damage is heartbreaking and so not worth it.

But even there, in the brief window between trying out that four-letter “L” word and the onset of panic, there is a moment, a taste of something extraordinary. A hope that one day I can say the words and not feel the need to escape or to destroy, a dream that one day I will be able to stand my ground and let love be whatever it’s going to be. At times like that, I hold on tightly to what C.S. Lewis said on the subject:

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I don’t have a choice, you see, but to allow myself to flirt with the danger, to engage in every way possible, to open up and see if this time my heart is brave enough for this “love” thing. And if it isn’t? Then I’m hoping that I can stand to let it hurt until it heals, stronger than it was before and willing to risk it all again. And isn’t that what engaging with life is all about?