It's been a long time since I've seen myself- been myself. That was heavy, but this ends well, I promise.
Sometimes, we get lost.
Rewrite: Eventually, we get lost. Sometimes it's of our own doing, sometimes it's because we held the wrong hand, sometimes the wrong hand grabbed ours, and sometimes it's because we're navigationally challenged. It's not a question of "if," it's more a question of "when?"
I don't want to hover so much around the lost part, it's hard to write about, and I'm still struggling to find my writing voice after so long of not writing, and even longer of not quite knowing where I've been.
Sometimes I wish I had "be brave" tattooed on my wrist, not because I need the reminder to act bravely, more like I need to remember that I've been brave before.
Nostalgia can be painful, but it can also be a pillow, or a drink of water, or the air you need to fill your lungs- you know, like a snap back to reality sort of thing. "HEY REMEBER WHO YOU WERE, THAT'S WHO YOU ARE- DON'T FORGET IT"
Everyone needs reminding that they're someone they know. Yeah, you know you. I know me. Until, well you don't, and I don't. And as weird as that sounds, it happens.
You wake up, and you've given up on writing, or yoga, or art. You've given up on laughter, and jokes, and pranks. You've given up on piano lessons, and building things, and chemistry. The way you thought you'd love, or be, or the way you'd dance in the kitchen. You know, those things get pushed to the side of bills, and work, and schedules- or just life stuff, just good old fashioned life stuff. As we get older, we let pieces of childhood go. Sometimes, we let those things go gently. We send those beautiful things away on paper boats...as we should, and we find new things to love.
My mom can play piano, but she doesn't. My dad can ride horses, but he doesn't- and he wouldn't if you'd pay him. But mom can decorate beautifully, and dad can build planes, so the clutter they moved out of their lives made room for more life, and that's a beautiful thing. They outgrew the old in a natural way, and it just made sense to put those things away for a bit.
But sometimes, the beautiful things, those important things, they aren't sent down a gentle stream, or outgrown and then passed down to little fingers that might pick them up and follow in their sender's footsteps. Sometimes, pieces of who we are, they just get lost. They fall off when we're not looking, or we're pick-pocketed by someone closest to us in the room, someone who smells good, and who's hand we like to hold. Sometimes we lose things we aren't ready to lose just yet, if ever.
It's good to let go of habits you don't need, and things you don't want, but it's not so good to give up pieces of your core...That place that makes you "real" as the Velveteen Rabbit taught us so long ago. Velvet would say that being real is being loved, but being loved is being yourself, and being able to recognize, acknowledge, accept, and even give love. It took the rabbit knowing himself to fully understand that love was changing him and making him real...
What happens when the rabbit forgets who he is? What if the rabbit forgets he's the rabbit who is loved? Who is the velveteen rabbit then?
It's just a question. I'm still working out for myself the answer.
"protect the heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life..."
That's in the bible somewhere, though I can't say exactly where. But it came to mind quickly after asking that question.
I always thought I'd laugh when things were funny, that I'd hum in the shower or sing on my way to work. That I would happy dance when I eat. I thought I'd always keep my hair long, and feel things when I see trees with little green buds in the spring. I thought I'd always feel the cold in a beautiful way, and daydream about stars and novels and rain.
And then one day, I forgot those things. I still don't know how it happened exactly, but it happened. I watched a comedian this weekend who I saw a year ago, and this time I was laughing my head off, last time, nothing happened.
One day I was at Trader Joe's buying myself flowers for the first time, and my eyes watered up, and I felt great joy and great sadness at the same time, and I remember thinking, "hm, something is weird with my faucet."
It's hard for us to talk about loss because that means talking about grief, and grief is a private, heartfelt, and person journey- sometimes a journey of two or three, sometimes of just one. But how do we understand who we are, now, if we can't understand grief?
It changes us, often without permission or an invitation. Often, in secret, or in passing, or in a quiet room where you can only hear the clock ticking. It wears us down, weakening the bones, the nerves, the mind, and the muscles even. Hot baths, and tea, afternoon naps and perfect pillows, and those soft tissues become necessities and not luxuries.
When the heart is sad, the body feels it. Did you know that? When the mind and heart can't articulate words to the eyes and the throat, when those thick, heavy sobs can't break through, the mind and the heart begin to speak through quickening heart beats, and a nervous hand, and down the base of the neck to the hips. Fear, if not expressed with the tongue, can be felt in the rib cage, and sadness, if not expressed through words or tears, can be expressed in the gut.
Grief. It changes us.
Until it doesn't any more. That's the bright side to all of this, and mostly the reason I'm writing.
A few months back, I was writing anonymously, and I wrote something like this:
"looking back at her reminds me how far away from her I really am, and I'm more aware that I can't go back, I can only go forward,"
When we're most lost, we cling often to the best of ourselves- thinking that if we just stay still, if we just wait right here next to this tree trunk, someone will find us and everything will be okay. If we wait, we'll be found.
But after grieving anything, no matter how large or how small, we can't quite get back to our old selves, because our old selves, well, they are now us. Here, right now, just as we are. What we are waiting for, or at least, what I was waiting for, was not to un-become, but to just know who I am now.
Sometimes, I want to erase my old self, that sweet person in the drawers of my mom's dresser in the piano room. Sometimes, I want a new name because it seems it'd be easier to start all over then, but then I remember, we're never really too old to start anything again, and Jesus is always making rivers in desserts.
I always have my old journals and old pictures to go back to. I always have that book, and that song, and that letter. They were beautiful then, and they are- sometimes- beautiful now. And while I sometimes feel the seduction of pessimism and cynicism, I have proof that beauty happens, and can oftentimes thrive in the dark, lost places.
Hope has always, and will always sit well with me. Will always be who I want to drink coffee with, and talk with, and who I most want to hear from before bedtime. Hope shows us the way, Forgiveness is how we become strong enough to walk it.
Today, I felt beautiful for the first time in a very long time. Not because my skin looked a certain way or my hair was a certain way, but because I knew I felt like myself. And I thought, "I feel like myself!" Even after all of this time, and loss, and grief, and ribcage reminders of my own fragility and fear, I can accept. Accept. I can just embrace it all, and claim it, and navigate the dark waters with a feather on my side, and hope in my heart, and holes in my favorite jeans.
Recreating a portrait I made 5 something years ago was less about a time lapse and more about a life lapse. And what I find so beautiful and endearing is being able to see the full picture here on the other side. Me, and my favorite plaid shirt, and those holed jeans, and my crazy wavy hair- we've made it this far.
Life is too short not to forgive and to let go. It's too short to worry about my wavy hair and how to "fix" it. It's way too short to even think about how my body today is different than my body then, because this is the only body I've got, and it'll be the same one I have 20 years from now. Some habits I used to have, like covering my lips when nervous, became closing my lips altogether, but now- not so much. With time, there has been grace and acceptance.
Don't think it's been graceful, it certainly hasn't been. And grace and acceptance aren't one time events, they're daily prayers.
My feet aren't always so sure, but my curiosity in Him has grown to certain trust. Black holes can pull us in, and monsters can hide under our beds, but He is a light that never fails, and sometimes we just need reminding that it's okay to fall apart, to be broken, because in the end, He'll put us back together.
And, despite my own skepticism, now is so much more beautiful than then, and I'm honestly surprised I could feel that way. It's shocking that anything can feel beautiful after a hurricane, or a flash flood, or a wild fire, but the water recedes, and the embers cool- and life is still left there to begin all over again.
No one ever said it was easy, but most everyone has said it is possible- because it is.
When I laugh really loud, I drink it up. And when my waves bounce around my face, I feel beautiful. And when my sons wants to read "Good night Gorilla" for the fifteenth time, I read it. And when I doubt the past, I look to the future. And when I question my two pieces, I wear my two piece. And when I feel nervous or shy, I hold that feather on my side. And when a shadow of doubt lingers on my heart, and pulls it back towards that black hole- He reminds me that I can sing and dance in the kitchen no matter the weather outside, that's who He made me to be. We can dance, even when it is raining.