I’ve been blessed with an abundance of family/friends/community in the last few weeks, beginning with a short trip to Idaho to celebrate Elise, the young woman who I au-paired for when she was just three years old who just graduated with her Masters in Social Work! I was there, along with her mom, her teacher from grade school, her grandpa and other family members to mark this day. Then my aunt and uncle came from Canada to celebrate my birthday, and then I visited a good friend in Michigan. In all of this I witnessed love…. Both in the celebrations and in the memories of grief and hard times. I witnessed family gathering together to be family, community built over years of living together. I witnessed tears and laughter and joy and sorrow and all the beauty that family brings.
As I began the 12-hour drive back home from Michigan, my heart felt sad. As I sat with it, I heard my young self begin to cry. “That’s what I should have had,” she whispered through her tears. “That’s what I needed.”
My life as a child was far from all I had experienced in the last three weeks. The love that should have been there was replaced with fear, the laughter with silent sobs, the hugs with hurt, the joy with shutting down all emotions as it was far safer not to feel at all than to feel everything.
So as my young self expressed this, I too felt the weight of it, the loss, the pain.
Gibbs and I soon pulled up at a beach on the North Shore of Lake Michigan to run and stretch and feel the ground beneath our feet. As I walked, I spoke to my young self. “Yes”, I said, “We should have had all that love and support and kindness and joy and community and safety. And we didn’t. But look now! Look now! Feel what is true now. We, you, little one, and I, big one, have found the people that are safe and filled with love. We have it now. I’m sad it took so long, but we have it now.” And we breathed and dipped our feet in the water and looked at the waves and the sunlight bouncing off them and the driftwood and I felt the truth seeping in.
And we do have it now, in so many ways. In community and family and friends.
I expressed this to the friend I was driving home from, and the next morning woke up to these words from her, written by Henri Nouwen:
“Joy and sadness are as close to each other as the splendid colored leaves of a New England fall to the soberness of barren trees. When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that s/he will have to leave again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-colored ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions.”
We left that little beach to continue our journey home, hearts lighter and love sunk deeper into our bones, as another layer of knowing the truth was revealed. And my heart was filled with gratitude for what is… the abundance of family in so many ways that is in my life, even in the sadness of what wasn’t for so long.
On our walk today, Gibbs and I saw a tree that reflected this. It looks like a kind of birch, and the bark is peeling off in layers, slowly revealing the heart of the tree underneath. It’s beautiful and haunting, but feels like the work we do to healing brokenness in the world. Layer by layer, uncovering new truth, new ways of being, new life as we let go of the old. Sometimes we feel exposed, but what is being exposed is soft and gentle and love-filled. The miracle of new life uncovered by old thoughts and feeling being healed.
What in your life is being revealed in this season?
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