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Clio's Temple

Desperate prayers

There's an old wisecrack that goes, "Be careful what you pray for. You may get it." But what about those things we pray, or yearn, for that never move any closer to realization? Sometimes the praying or yearning isn't followed by any positive steps to get us closer to where we want to go. Sometimes the answer is that what we want isn't possible.

Most of us, I suspect, have had at least one relationship in our lives that somehow got lost. After the fact, we wonder what happened. Did we fail to keep in contact when doing so would have been possible? Did we say or do something that drove another person away? Or was it that someone else decided that keeping the relationship simply wasn't worth the bother? This last possibility has the virtue of relieving us of the responsibility for what we did or didn't do, but it also leads to reappraisal (sometimes humiliating) of our impact on the relationships we have with others.

How we handle life's losses is never (I suspect) quite as rational or mature as we would like it to be. Even today, I sometimes think about someone I knew in college or graduate school who is no longer in my life. I can rationalization the loss away by saying, "I have enough friends," or "I don't have time for any additional deep relationships," but this exercise is a bit like drinking a cup of coffee that's sat on my desk for two hours. The caffeine may still jolt me, but the pleasure is gone. In my last post, I spoke about the impact of losing two of our pet cockatiels in recent years. The oldest, "Crock" loved to nibble holes in my shirts, forcing a significant part of my wardrobe into early retirement. After he died, I looked at a T-shirt he'd ventilated. At that moment, I said to myself, "Crock, if I could have you back, you could nibble holes in every shirt I own and I wouldn't complain." That's a prayer of desperation, getting consolation by reconciling ourselves to an irretrievable loss.

In Tangled Woods and Dark Waters, there is a story called "Marsh Gods." It's a piece of flash fiction (telling a story in no more than 500 or 1,000 words) which I wrote several years ago as an entry into a flash fiction contest sponsored by Writer's Digest magazine. At the center of the story is a young man named Nick. As the story opens, he is holding a strange ceremony in the parking lot of a marina in the Carolina Low Country. His prayer is answered in an unexpected way, but only at the end of the story do we learn what drove him to such desperate prayers.

Have you ever prayed a desperate prayer in your life? What did you pray for and why?

1 Comment to Desperate prayers:

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Mary Beth on Thursday, May 25, 2017 4:27 PM
Well, my desperate prayers were too sad to put here, but I wanted to note that only through the efforts of one of my closest friends do I have a relationship with that person today. I'm terrible at keeping in touch, but she never gave up on me. Thank God!
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