It’s a tough thing: this settling down into the cushion of every day life after you’ve done big and brave things. You’re walking through that dreary snow-drift of wanting to do well in your simple life while trying to figure out what to do with the aftertaste of adventure.
These days, adventure looks like learning and growing at a new part-time job with a company I love. It’s a beautiful and sometimes messy thing.
I think often of the wonderful summer I had last year and part of me worries I’ll never experience anything as life-giving ever again. Fear makes it hard to let good things go.
As I fumble my way through adulthood, I am often filled with fears and anxieties and perplexities and questions. It seems my soul rests for only a moment before it’s distracted by another enigma or dastardly “what-if.”
I reflect on “who I was” in the summer–as if she were a different person. I feel so far removed from the woman who decided to leave her home for 3 months and live 1,200 miles away with people she’d never met. I think of her fondly as if she were some superior being, some standard I’m consistently failing to meet.
Where did my bravery go?
Where did my adventure go?
Where did my tenacity go?
It takes daily reminder to see they didn’t go anywhere; they’ve simply started working in different places. Right now, bravery looks like asking questions. Adventure looks like learning about an industry I previously knew nothing about. Tenacity looks like showing up every day, making the conscious choice to be fully present in my work and in my relationships.
Still, I am tempted to feel as though I have backtracked in some spiritual and emotional way. I feel sadness and frustration when I think of progress. It is not as though I feel I haven’t ever made progress; rather, it’s this hurtful, tense ache of feeling as though I have… And then somewhere along the way, stumbled backward. It feels much like pushing your way to the top of the highest and most thrilling tree only to slip on the very last branch and go falling down to earth, hitting every branch along the way. You’re injured not by the blow of the branches but by the sinking feeling that you once conquered the very things hurting you.
There was a day I looked to my fear and said, “You don’t own me anymore.” A day when I pushed anxiety aside and realized I simply didn’t have time to entertain it. Now, it feels as though I’ve welcomed them back in as if they were old friends needing shelter from the cold.
In my obsession with progress I am invited into process.
Progress is about getting from Point A to Point B, a long linear stretch from Right Here to Over There. Process, on the other hand, is slower and cyclical. It’s a winding up and winding down; a spiral. A walk around the block.
Once my dad asked me to go to a particular store and pick up some parts. Terrified, nervous, anxious, I asked him for detailed instructions. His paternal nature graciously obliged and I held within my hands a detailed map of how to get there. Focused on nothing but “Getting there,” I studied my map and directions. I made it to the store. I got the parts. And I made it back home in time for dinner. Easy.
But if you were to ask me anything about that route, I couldn’t tell you a thing. Not a single road-name or landmark. My eyes were too busy looking for the store to be roving about anywhere else. Hands clenched tight to the steering wheel, I was much too busy trying to accomplish my task to try to learn anything new about my surroundings.
But if you were to ask me the way to my grandma’s house…
Oh how I could tell you. I could tell you all about the white house with the red door on the West side of the street, right before you get to the railroad tracks. And oh I can tell you that every time I drive across those tracks, my head is filled with memories of Grandpa taking me on long walks down those old railroad tracks. I can tell you about the bean tree that hovers over 17th Street, how Grandma’s is is the fourth house down with a black mailbox and red bricks.
I can tell you what Grandma’s house smells like and what the carpet feels like on my feet; the sounds and feelings of home that create a symphony known only there, in that house, where I grew up free and home and safe.
And I can tell you these things because I’ve been there. A thousand times I have been there. Tired and weary, I’ve been there. Happy and excited, I have been there. Around and around again, I’ve followed that route through every moment of my life. Good days and bad days, I know my way to Grandma’s.
Snowstorms or sickness can’t keep me from getting there.
I have 23 years worth of experience of winding up in that driveway where someone was waiting to give me a hug.
And I ponder and pray. If the goal of my life is to know God better, deeper, truer… To know myself as he has created me… Why would I want anything other than process? And process means I’m going to end up back where I started. I’ll end up there again, and again, and again. But that’s okay. Because I am going to learn something new on the way.
God, I want to know you the way I know those railroad tracks and that bean tree. I want to know you the way I know the way my Grandma’s house smells and how her carpet feels. I want to know you beyond thought and feeling and fear. I want to know you the way I know the safety and the warmth that will always be Grandma and Grandpa’s.
So however many times I end up here, however many times I open the door to fear and say, “Take a seat,” however many times I fall down that tree–keep me climbing. Keep me learning. Keep me wild and full of play. Keep my eyes on You.
Back and back again. Up and down. Forward and backward. Unwinding and circling and backtracking and double-checking and revisiting. Let me know You.
Just like Grandma’ house, my heart knows where it’s safe. Remind me that no matter the pace, the direction, or the path, I am always wandering in You.