FRA ANGELICO THE MADONNA OF HUMILITY, c. 1430 (Tempera on panel)

It’s December and true to “holiday” form, an almost sickening pall of gloom has descended. I’m sharing a house with someone who celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday. It’s cold. I finally got notes on my St. Therese of Lisieux book and the upshot is I’m looking at a 50% rewrite. I haven’t set aside the MANY hours I’m sure it will take to tally up the grand total, but as near as I can figure I made approximately 8000 dollars this year.

But the real deal is that there’s something about Christmas that, especially for those of us with a melancholic bent, points up the essential friendlessness of the human condition. Like most of us probably, I have many friends–good friends, kind friends, generous, loyal friends–and then in a way I have no friend. Like most of us, I try to practice “To have a friend, be a friend”–with mixed results. This isn’t a matter of self-pity; it’s more a reflection on the impossibility of the kind of Friendship we long for; of the fact that we all in the end, live alone, sleep alone, die alone, even if we’re with someone who’s pledged to share his or her life with us. It’s a reflection not on how nobody loves me but on how fundamentally difficult it is for any of us to love anybody.

It’s at Christmas I ask myself: Would my life have been different if, somewhere along the line, I’d learned to “manage” better? It’s at Christmas I ask myself along with the neighbors, and mindful of my own blindness: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9: 2].  It’s at Christmas I reflect, along with the protagonist in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: “I call myself The Misfit because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.”


It’s at Christmas I’m at one with the Zulu:

“In the beginning is the relation.

Consider the language of “primitive” peoples, meaning those who have remained poor in objects and whose life develops in a small sphere of acts that have a strong presence. The nuclei of this language, their sentence-words—primal pre-grammatical forms that eventually split into the multiplicity of different kinds of words—generally designate the wholeness of a relation. We say, “far away”; the Zulu has a sentence-word instead that means: “where one cries, ‘Mother, I am lost.’” And the Fuegian [indigenous inhabitant of Tierra del Fuego] surpasses our analytical wisdom with a sentence-word of seven syllables that literally means: “they look at each other, each waiting for the other to offer to do that which both desire but neither wishes to do.”

–Martin Buber, I and Thou
BRONZE, 1967

10 Replies to “MOTHER, I AM LOST”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thank you for expressing thoughts that seem, for me, to be inexpressable. I've had "freinds" and then I've had real friendships. But the true friendships have been few and far between. Oh, it's all so complicated. That's why I appreciate your gift of words. BTW, just finishing "Redeemed".

  2. A Friend in Mass. says: Reply


    I wish this post weren't so heart-breakingly true. I was never lonely in my life, until I married my wife. The last ten years has often felt like a nearly continuous estrangement.

    Enough about me. You love to write. Your life is writing, and you are good at it. I am LONGING for your book on Saint Therese, so all I can say about a 50% re-write is to look at it with Terese's eyes and spirit, in the spirit of her little way, of doing little things with the greatest love.

    If you do the re-write in her spirit, it will make you a better person, and your book a better book, probably a better book than your publisher hopes it to be.

    Make it a Christmas gift to the Lord, to yourself and to your readers.

    And please forgive my presumptuousness writing these things.

    God bless you.

  3. Well, that is it, folks, my life is writing, and I would not for one moment have it any other way. And yes, the very re-write is itself "the path" that will draw me more deeply into St. Therese and her utter and child-like surrender…in a way, you don't really make a "career" out of being a writer–you simply become more human…and you definitely don't make a career out of being a Catholic. You follow Christ…and we all know where he ended up…

  4. Anonymous says: Reply

    My parents were my primary relationship(& best friends)..and I am an atheist, but I still get this. ~Mary

  5. Heather, I love your reflections. This has made me think a bit about how I am as a writer. I tend to be a pretty upbeat person, but also with a tendency toward melancholy, to the suffering of this world. I don't think there's really any way of truly grasping joy without going deep down into the depths of the human condition first. You do this well and honestly. I look forward to your book too, and ask for your prayers as I prepare to write a book proposal that will touch on the life of another beautiful saint. Peace be with you!

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    I loathe the holiday season. It's awful.Gratitude is not my strong point.
    No matter-Heather, I am truly grateful for you.Very very.

    It's been quite a year. When it was great, it was beyond my dreams. When it stunk and it still
    does- it's Hell.

    I take after my Dad. He was artistic, brilliant-
    ( I am far far from brilliant) and while he was
    a dogmatic Catholic, he also committed suicide.
    He was depresstic. Is depresstic a word?

    Look at the 50% rewrite as a way to channel your brilliant and passionate writing into WOW!
    A NY Times bestseller.

    I know it will take a lot of time but maybe you
    can break up the time with a part-time job just
    for a few hours each week? It might make you
    "itch" to get back to the book.

    Or perhaps seek out magazines or newspapers and turn your blog into a column? Please don't be offended. I am just thinking out loud.

    You have had a lot of change this year.
    Moving out of a comfortable place is stressful.

    I give you permission to tell me to MYOB.

  7. Heather- you truly write what most people think or feel but either don't have the guts to say it or have no idea how to express it. Personally I think you're brilliant!

  8. Heather,
    This has been a year of further refinement for you. I envy you, going forth, pen in hand to write against all odds. You are where God needs you to be at this time for many different reasons and people.

    I can also relate to having left the womb of the "perfect apartment". I had one once…and then I came to CA and Korea Town. Spent the 2nd worst Christmas of my life there.

    Looking forward to the book.

  9. Thank you, all, it HAS been a year of transition, uncertainty, and now a little more fear than usual…but I've not regretted moving at all, and the truth is that we are all always in precariousness and uncertainty, though we manage to hide it from ourselves sometimes…I very much appreciate your kind words about my writing…that I was put on earth in part to write is at least one of the things I'm sure of…

    More will be revealed as we journey into Advent–let's keep one another in prayer, for future projects and all else…

  10. Amen to this post and all your comments. You are a friend by the fact that you tell the truth.