“The Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift’, as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what's important. That's what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.”
- Glennon Doyle
I know. It has been awhile (again). I'm wondering to myself if these letters might be better suited for bi-monthly or seasonal releases. Or, rather, if I'm more suited for seasonal releases. It sure has seemed that way this year. Alas, another season has passed and this is the first letter that will come in that time! Such is life. It will be good to connect, regardless of the time that has gone by in between.
It has been a summer. Some people insert adjectives before "summer" but I think I'm being most honest without one. It's been a summer. The air has been hot and heavy (humid) and we've been enjoying our way through it by staying mostly indoors. Aside from it being cooler inside, this drives me nuts. I love sunshine and going places and I married a recluse who hates being in the daylight.
Although if I'm being honest, as I was typing those words -- the ones about me loving doing all things and going to all the places -- I heard a small voice ask, "Do you?" and after a pause I heard her answer, "No."
Most of the time I really just want to lie down somewhere. With food.
Sometimes when I'm scrolling through Facebook or Instagram it feels like I'm getting pummeled with everyone's fabulous summer vacations. So many activities! Plus, these pictures literally have captions that read, "Make the most of every minute!" or "Going on an adventure EVERY DAY!"
We went to Touch-a-Truck Night at a local park last week. That was cool.
But an adventure a day? Make the most of every minute? Both seem exhausting to me, the way I see them portrayed on social media. I think I interpret those things differently. Every day is naturally an adventure because I really don't know where it will go. Not really. I think I do and I'm usually right (thank the blessed Lord of hosts) but ultimately everything is an adventure. And I like to make the most of moments by letting some of them go by unnoticed. Letting some moments just go by leaves room in my heart and mind to notice the moments that really stand out, like these: when I'm lying next to my son as he's falling asleep and we're looking at each other with our big, dark eyes, nose to nose, and not saying a thing. There's nowhere else I'd rather be in that moment.
At least, not until a moment later when he's still not falling asleep and has started farting on me and giggling and then yells at me to leave and get my "stinky hot breath" away from him. Moment over. Time to move on. (This happens nightly. Also, he knows I don't brush my teeth until after he goes to bed and so I still have dinner breath. He is unmoved by this.)
All this to say I guess I really am fine with how this summer has turned out. We did cool things. People we love came to visit. We have eaten our collective weight in grilled meat (I got Jesse a grill for Father's Day and have used it, myself, at least three times a week since. Happy Father's Day to me!). We went to swim lessons three times before giving up completely when our beloved offspring flat-out refused to get in the pool, not once, not even a little bit. (Money well spent.) We also signed him up for summer soccer, and I hope our registration fee went to park bathroom upkeep because that is where we spent all our time (it echoed in there and he just wanted to hear himself yell over and over again). Props to the kid for learning that when he says he has to go potty, Momma and Daddy believe him. (One of these days we won't, and it will still be to our detriment.)
I'm sorry. This has been a lot about parenting and not a lot about what I really wanted to write to you about, which is in fact about something else that happened this summer: I made the decision to pursue a new vocation. To pursue a vocation I've held deep in my heart for a long time. I even hold the master's degree. It was time. And yet it was still difficult. I love where I work. And yet.
It is not my place anymore. I can feel it. I know it deep in my bones. I know it as I knew it was time to leave my last vocational home just over two years ago. Not because anything bad was happening. I wasn't upset, I had simply grown. I hadn't "outgrown" it – that implies I had gotten bigger or better and these places and roles fell beneath me. I mean I grew more into myself, and with that came changes about how I wanted – needed – to use my gifts and spend my time.
It's interesting because both vocational exits transpired after major life events - becoming a parent and becoming a recovering codependent. Both experiences broke me down into pieces and both times I've had to gently piece myself back together.
When Glennon Doyle writes about her own experiences of being broken and rebuilt, she writes about being put back together differently. One way to think of this is as though you’re rebuilt into something new. Another way, the way I prefer - the way I feel deep in my bones - is that the breaking was a shedding and each time I’ve rebuilt myself I’ve picked up fewer and fewer things that had fallen away. Things I don’t really need. Things that were helpful at one time but eventually got in the way as I pursued more authentic connections with courage and compassion. Things that, because of this pursuit of connection with courage and compassion, just don’t fit anymore.
Each breaking-down-and-being-rebuilt can lead to a more and more authentic expression of self. This is what crisis can do, if you let it.
And so, while this past year has been about recovery after crisis, it has also been about sifting through what remained and choosing with intention and gentleness what to pick back up again… and what to leave behind.
I’ve picked up weekends with no plans. I’ve picked up not forcing activities when my people really aren’t feeling them. I’ve picked up leggings-as-pants.
I’ve picked up the self-awareness of who I am, vocationally, and who I am not. I’ve picked up not pretending anymore.
I’ve picked up the hard-to-swallow truth about myself and my physiological makeup that I just can’t eat the gluten or the dairy or the corn without serious negative side (and front-and-center) effects. Corn, people. Not even corn. (And yet in the picking up and the honoring/execution of this truth I really do feel better and it all becomes worth it.)
I’ve picked up a few things, yes, but I’ve left an awful lot on the ground. And not in an unceremoniously discarded way. Some things I’ve left worked very hard to keep me safe, to help me survive. For those things, I am forever grateful. I’ve noticed them as I’ve intentionally not picked them back up, thanked them for their service, and moved them aside.
For all the things I’ve picked back up, I still feel a thousand pounds lighter.
It’s been one year since I sent my first letter. So much rebuilding has happened over these past twelve months. Slowly – so slowly – and yet steadily. Small actions, small choices. Set-backs and steps forward. The more I heal from one thing the more I am able to see other areas that need a bit of work. I don’t say that to be self-deprecating. Rather, there are simply more areas in my life where courage, compassion, and connection are needed.
I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey as another truth-telling year begins.
Until next time.