I didn’t mean to write a post. I expected to write throughout the weekend, but I didn’t…until I sat down at the kitchen table on Sunday evening as the towels and sheets were drying. And then I still didn’t mean to write a post. But the words came, and as always in moments like that, I don’t remember writing most of them. Just…I opened the journal and picked up the pen and there was reality and God and whatever else waiting on me.
These are the kinds of things I’m now scared to publish. But, then again, we could just add that fear to the list. There are only about a dozen in the next couple hundred words. And just like two and a half years ago, I still believe in the truth. In sharing it. Even when it’s hard and the kind of petrifying that makes you believe in ghosts. I still believe in vulnerability and openness and honesty and conversation, even when they lead to hurt and heartbreak. So I’m publishing this and hoping that everyone who reads it finds some peace in their own questions, own waiting, own middle.
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Ranier Maria Rilke
“‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” — Erin Hanson
I came to the beach, and I thought it would be better. Hoped it would, at least. And it has to some extent. But here’s the ugly, bitter, obnoxious truth: there is no magical potion. No new Bible study or book, or old house or beach, or spectacular sunset picture or break from reality is going to eliminate this hurt and uncertainty. The quiet helps. So does the long drive with just Grady sprawled out beside me. The front porch early on a Saturday morning, empty except for me, my mat and my dog. Wine in a solo cup and a walk around the island like a local, stopping only to give directions to lost tourists.
Family feels nice. Grandparents. Cousins. Little ones burying my feet in the sand. And the light and the breeze and the warmth remind me that breathtaking beauty is never that far away, even when the winter feels especially long and bleak.
I finished a book of essays, and I liked it, and there were some snippets of wisdom that spoke to me, the most prominent one being about how brutal the middle can be: when you’re trying to figure out the lesson — the point — and how ultimately fruitless that guessing game is.
(I don’t want to trifle Shauna’s words, because they are beautiful and raw and real, so here’s the full quote: “You don’t know what the story is about when you’re in the middle of it. You think you do, but you don’t. You make up all kinds of possible story lines: this is about growing up. Or this is about living without fear. You can guess all you want, but you don’t know. All you can do is keep walking. There is nothing worse than the middle. At the beginning, you have a little arrogance, loads of buoyancy… And the end is beautiful. You are wiser, better, deeper… But, oh, the middle. I hate the middle. The middle is the fog, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you’ll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it. The middle is the lonely place, when you can’t find the words to say how deeply empty you feel, when you try to connect but you feel like thick glass is separating you from the rest of the world, isolating and deadening everything.”)
But I think I expected the book to mean more. I think I expected the changes in scenery to make me feel more full. Or maybe just less empty. I think I expected to find some nugget that would make all of this make sense and give me a sense of direction, a sense of knowledge and ease. Let’s be real: a sense of control.
But more ugly, bitter, obnoxious truth: I have no control. And no answers. I have no idea what happens next, and I am terrified.
I am a future type of girl. A girl who asks for recommendations for books with happy endings. A girl who looks up the menu before I make the reservation. A planner. A fixer. And yet, whenever I start to think about the possible outcomes, I get so freaked out that I stop the train of thought and start running through/torturing myself with how in the hell I am ever going to open my hips enough to get Dwi Pada and how much more core strength I need in Pincha if I am ever going to land in Karandavasana. I’m terrified of Thing A going Direction 1, and I’m also beyond terrified of things I’ll have to decide and do and say if it goes Direction 2. I’m so scared of the ramifications of both directions that I genuinely don’t know which one I want. This is very rare. And that’s just Thing A. Thing B is a different beast entirely, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so scared of something in my life.
When I write, as when I read, I like to wrap things up. I like to tie the end to the beginning. Connect dots. Draw lines. Find the moral. Create a circle. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I have no wrap up here. No dots. No lines. No circles or morals or lessons. I have just a middle. A murky, muddy, confusing, potentially life-changing middle that I’m so scared of because it could lead to realized dreams and unimaginable adventures and things that I want so badly I don’t dare write them down lest the universe see fit to jinx them away from me. But it could also lead to heartbreak. True, feel-your-soul-split devastation. And waiting. God, more waiting. And I don’t know which Direction leads to which Destination. Maybe one leads to one combination and the other to a different one. I just don’t know. And I’m not going to. There’s nothing I can do. Literally. Nothing. No choice I can make today is going to influence this ending. Not a poem on Instagram and not the playlist that powers me home. Not the conversation I have in my head every night and not the work I do this week. I wish this were a puzzle to figure out, a problem to solve. (Or a word problem to edit.) “Yes, I know how you like to solve,” my therapist says. But this…this is unsolvable. This is the waiting. This is the patience. This is the praying that whichever Direction it goes and wherever Destination I end up is the best one for me. This is the faith that God’s plan is better than any one I could build. This is the out-of-control, hands-off-the-handlebars, trying-to-steer-with-your-hips part. Spoiler alert: I’m not good at this. I usually fall. And this fall could be brutal.
But I am so lucky, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who’ve shown up and the places I’ve been able to see them.
Last week I had a mountain, and this week I had a beach. The tears still come, regardless of the place. While looking out a windshield and rocking on a screened-in porch. The tears don’t stop, because it all still hurts, and I still have no idea what to do, and I’m still a worrier. And as much as I’d like to at times, I can’t change those tendencies. I can’t wish away all those feelings.
But the views are beautiful.
“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the LORD,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.” — Isaiah 45:3
“Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We do not see the web we are weaving. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if we are faithful and fail not and faint not, we shall some day know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days when it was dark.” — Streams in the Desert [This made its way to me through Jane Johnson and her study Treasures in the Darkness.]