Monday, March 30, 2015

Hope that Remains

Maybe because I'm an overly-introspective person, or maybe as a strange coping mechanism, I occasionally like to step outside of myself and imagine what my life would look like if it were different.

I don't mean that in a "What if I were single?" or "What if I had different kids?" kind of way. My man and my little people are ingrained in my fiber. There's no other way when it comes to them. We're a unit. Connected across time and miles, hopping DNA altogether but stitched by eternity and every single "meant to be".

Weird as it may be, a large part of my life is my writing. It's this blog. Seven years in, it's no longer something I do, but something I am. I can't imagine me without it.

I frame my world in blog posts, it's always rumbling beneath the surface. I've written hundreds of posts while washing dishes, posts that never do tumble out on the screen. I'm sorry to say I do my best work in the shower, against the white noise of water and the muscle memory of rinse-and-repeat.

This is part of who I am, in precisely the same way Timi persuades a judge or Sarah writes proposals or the chef in town pairs sweet corn with crab. We risk differently in our work, but we all risk. Including you.

Now and then, my work finds me on a plane, lurching into the air just to land again in a different city where there might be tulips blooming in late March as sleet spits against the windows at home and the whole world remains brown and leafless.

These planes sweep me away from my everyday life and set me back down to marvel at all the signs of life, giddy from the warmth.

Some of my truest friends are plane rides away. I miss them all the time. 

Yesterday I sat on a lounge chair at the edge of a pool. I ate a hamburger with the sun on my face and my hair whipping around.

For three days, I was surrounded by hundreds of women. I saw good in every single face, saw again the way we're all tracking the same things.

People say the world keeps getting meaner, but I don't buy it. We have more access to the mean, that's all. It's always been here, and I believe it's receding. I do. We're growing more connected in different ways, less so in others, but a circle doesn't lose power as it widens. It gains.

I've talked before about the time I flew to Belgium for a month as an eleven-year old. The heart and guts of that trip was the firm belief that making friends across cultures can literally change the world. I don't remember trying to navigate language barriers or worrying about international codes of conduct. I remember being corralled in a gymnasium on a rainy day where we danced with glass plates on our heads until the last one had fallen in shards at our feet. I remember dipping folded paper into bowls of dye. Every day, we ate packaged Belgian waffles and drank bottled Coke for snack. We held hands around a flag pole and called ourselves a family. We played water games where we gulped water from the same bucket, ran the length of the yard, and spit it into another. As the days wound down, we sang into the night. We clung to each other. We grieved on those last days as though we were adults. I don't know that I had ever cried harder, or felt such despair mingled with so much promise.

Almost three decades later, I bear witness again to the surging power of humanity. Our mutuality is universal if we can only believe it's true. Doubt for a second, and you risk missing it.

There was so much fun to be had, so many laughs, so many tacos.

We were a mash-up lot, so we got down to the business of being neighbors and we memorized our kinship.

God used our misjudgements to remind us how much bigger He is than we remember. He called us all iron then threw us together for a while. Driving home late last night from the airport, I knew I was sharper for it.

{my can't-be-beat small group}

 {my can't-be-beat small group plus one}

Was our time together perfect? Close, but not quite. There were things I would change, moments I'd like a second shot at. But that's the beauty of community - it's never perfect. That can't be the goal, and we all know it, because community involves us. We jack things up. We're negative for no good reason. We're prideful and insecure, we angle and hide. We have to choose sometimes, and we don't always choose well.

We crash against each other. My edges meet yours, then hers, then hers.

In the end, we're a little softer, a little stronger.
Our cheeks hurt from smiling, our eyes hurt from crying.

We would do it all again.
We will do it all again, in a thousand different ways.