I didn’t know how to start this letter, how to open up this issue of the magazine.
It is one of my pet peeves when people start a speech by saying that. I always think, no one knows what to do before they put thought into it; tell us not about the wrestling with the unknown, but about the blessing you cajoled at the break of dawn from the stranger who wounded your hip. Tell us not about how you grappled, but about this new name you received so we can follow you to the truth you’ve touched.
But sometimes, as those ancient storytellers know, we also have to talk about the wrestle. Because sometimes, the hardest part is beginning.
Even things I love to do, like writing this letter, are not always exempt from my hesitancy to begin. I am afraid, I think, of hitting a spot where I won’t know what to do, when what comes next is unclear and difficult to figure out. What if I don’t have that kind of effort to give? What if the frustration of not knowing lasts longer than what I and my schedule can endure? What if I am not able to process through to understanding?
Something I have come to accept and even revel in: creative processes are not linear. They often look like wasting time and involve failure. They’re an improvised dance of going after the thing you’re trying to make and waiting for life to gift it to you.
Relationships, I believe, are creative, too. Regardless of the type of relationship, when two people spend time together, things are made that could not have otherwise been. With another human being, we create a life that is a home for us both, where ideas, understanding and experiences, projects, jokes and children reside. Relationships are process, not something we check off a list and have finished for the day.
With all creative processes, one thing is sure: there will be times when we don’t know what to do. When we think we can’t do this anymore. When we feel creatively and emotionally exhausted. That, perhaps, is when we can breathe a sigh of relief: we are finally getting to it. The real work.
Poet John Keats believed beauty is synonymous with truth and wrote about his theory of negative capability in which he proposed beauty leaves people “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
In grad school, my thesis advisor explained it like this: it’s like driving in the dark not knowing where it is you’re trying to get to, but knowing you have to get in and drive to get there. Keats lauded the most brilliant poets as being able to operate within this uncertainty.
So, in this annual “I Do” issue, we celebrate beginnings and those who dare to take that first uncertain step toward truth. We are joyful with five Southeast Missouri couples who married this past year, as they share how their stories together began. Through a portrait series, we cheer on women making changes in their lives. And we read four personal essays on the struggle of love in different types of relationships.
Congratulations to everyone getting married; thank you for being a witness to steadfastness. Congratulations to everyone starting something new; thank you for being a witness to belief.
Because the best work, I believe, starts at our questions, when delight and grief can surprise us. My prayer: Lord, help me to run out of suggestions.
There, we begin.