A Canticle for Atheists

From 1994 to 1997 I recited compline every night while I was at school. Within compline is a part called the Nunc Dimittis, it’s canticle – a portion of scripture that is recited together. Perhaps it was the sheer number of times I repeated it. Possibly it was the fact that it was so often done in a group. Maybe it was all the years after I left boarding school that I still recited compline to myself before I fell asleep. The canticle became my mantra in hard times. If I needed to steady myself, calm myself, reassure myself, it was what I repeated.

When you become an atheist, that doesn’t work anymore. Slowly, haltingly I found a new canticle. I wrote the most current version myself in August of 2016, during my residency at Roads. The residency was a terrible time and I needed something to wash away the days.

I will do the best I can with what I have, making room for wonder. I will not do it all, but I can do something. I am enough.

It works, after a fashion. It does not have the history or heft of the Nunc Dimittis. I cannot hear the echos of voices I have loved reciting it with me. It is not nothing.

I have recited it to myself constantly over the last few days. J. abruptly, with no explaination stopped speaking to me. We are apparently, over.

If you had a childhood like mine, where your parents elevated the silent treatment to a sort of psychological torture, this is breathtakingly painful. I thought being dumped was bad. Being ghosted after 5 months, by someone who has introduced you to their family, said I love you, held you while you wept for your nephew?

I suppose that’s why I’ve walked around my house crying. Nothing seems to start it, I just notice that tears are falling down my face. Again.

I will do the best I can with what I have, making room for wonder. I will not do it all, but I can do something. I will laugh at the days to come, for I am enough.

I tell myself that when I heard the Nunc the first time in 1994, I could not have imagined the sorrow my life had in store for me. Neither could I have imagined the joy. You don’t get one without the other.

This hurts. It hurts with the sort of pain that I cannot describe. It will take some time, I thought he was something extraordinary.

And then, one day, the day will come and I will laugh.

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8 Responses to A Canticle for Atheists

  1. Debby says:

    I’m so sorry. I have no wisdom to offer. Just my long distance wishes. You ARE enough.

  2. Phoenix says:

    I am sorry that the person you were dating is not the person you saw that they could be. I’m sorry that a person you cared a lot about just stopped talking to you. I’ve experienced that. The pain hurts so much.

    I’m thinking of you and looking forward to better days with lots of laughing.

  3. Davilyn says:

    Ghosting is the ultimate jerk move. I’m sorry you are being treated this way. <3

  4. jane says:

    I echo the comments above …I turn to poetry , Mary Oliver has wisdom for this life
    “You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things

  5. Debby says:

    Jane, I love that.

  6. a says:

    Wow. Ghosting after 5 months.

    On one hand, I hope there’s a reasonable explanation, meaning your trust was not misplaced. But that would mean something terrible happened, so that’s not great either.

    On the other hand, there is no reasonable explanation because everyone has time to make a call, send a text, or do something.

    Either way, let’s be clear. You are not the problem here.

  7. Scientist mother says:

    I’m sorry. No one deserves to be treated that way. Many many virtual hugs

  8. loribeth says:

    Echoing the other comments (love that beautiful Mary Oliver poem!). I don’t understand how someone can do that. You are not the problem here, and you did not deserve that. Many (((hugs))).

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