The Unbroken Circle
by Roy Lincoln Karp
Sometimes a phrase gets lodged in your brain and you cannot pry it loose. Perhaps it is from a line of poetry, a song lyric, or a cherished book. The words come to you while lying awake in bed, naturally caffeinated by ideas that will not let you drift off to sleep.
The phrase takes on ever deeper meaning, like a magic vessel that grows in size to fit whatever you place in it. A story you are reading reminds you of the phrase, then a memory from childhood or even a mundane experience in your day. You are wary of grand unifying theories, knowing life is too complex for one, and yet you continue to wend your way back to this one idea. It helps you make new connections and find beauty and meaning in those connections.
Such has been my experience with those three words that form the title of this blog. I cannot recall when precisely “The Unbroken Circle” came to mind, but it was some time in the last several years. It was almost three years ago that I began to write on a regular basis for the first time in my life. It was early 2015 and my daughter Lucy was struggling to get through her first winter of life as a micro-preemie with Chronic Lung Disease. After spending five months in the NICU at Beth Israel in Boston, she came home on 24/7 Oxygen support, continuous monitoring of her heart rate and blood oxygenation level, and feeding exclusively by G-J tube.
The constantly alarming Pulse-Oximeter kept my wife Courtney and me on edge. Our nerves were frayed. We needed to carve out some respite time to preserve our sanity. Thanks to the home care nursing Lucy received through MassHealth, we were able to have a weekly date night.
With Courtney’s encouragement, I also began dropping into a local coffee shop for about one hour each week. With just a pen and black notebook and a cup of strong coffee, I began writing about some of the traumatic experiences of the previous year. I also began going back further in time to childhood memories, many involving my father as well as the weeks and days leading to his premature death in 1989.
The writing did not all remain in my notebook. I read many pieces to Courtney, who encouraged me to start a blog (advice I ignored until recently). I also delivered three sermons at First Church in Jamaica Plain, the Unitarian-Universalist church we have attended since 2011. These lay-led summer services gave me the opportunity to share our story with the community. The three sermons explored, respectively, the importance of community in promoting resilience, finding joy amidst suffering, and writing as a spiritual practice.
It was in the third service that I articulated the image of “the Unbroken Circle.” Writing was a way to draw meaning from our experiences, heal wounds, and repair brokenness. Writing had provided an emotional respite when we were sailing through the turbulent storm that was Lucy’s first few years of life. From the tranquil quietude of this safe harbor, I was able to reflect on my experiences and make stronger connections to my wife and daughter, my community, loved ones no longer with us, and my own past.
Sharing our stories is yet another way to make connections, another unbroken circle. My hope is that this blog becomes another way to find connections not only in the stories we share, but also in the story we all share, which is the story of love.