After the twists and turns that brought me here to Sanibel, and then the lift of Sunday, I arrived at Monday in a totally different place, mentally and emotionally.
I honestly felt…sort of frustrated, without a clear path. I saw the beauty, I felt the privilege of being able to be here, I did some of what I came to do – a long walk, some reading, time on the beach; I worked on the spreadsheet I’ve been mulling over the last several months (but had little time/energy to actually create), that will hopefully help Steve and I figure out next steps in our work/home balance. One possibility would allow me to feel like I could resign – perhaps temporarily – from being a tax preparer in order to pursue other passion(s). But I kept running into walls: a lack of data to help flesh out our 3 possible choices (one of which is “Nothing Changes!”), and the inescapable fact that I have NO IDEA what I would do otherwise. I don’t know how to dream without self-criticism/judgment; I don’t know how to live differently/another way than exactly how we’ve been doing it. All of my life has been about responding to the needs I perceive.
Redesigning our kitchen 10 years ago almost created an existential crisis. I get to choose?!
Anyhow, being in this “place” – I keep trying to remind myself – is both wonderful and awful: wonderful because we are doing things we need to be doing and taking care of those entrusted to us (and owning your own business has a lot of benefits, chiefly in terms of flexibility); awful because I don’t want to arrive at old age feeling frustrated because I never really took a risk…because I did not pursue something important/perhaps central to my “purpose” (because I am too practical/lack the ability to imagine). OR… is my problem a lack of appreciation for what I have? As I said to Steve, the spreadsheet is to ultimately help us make a different choice OR feel better about what we have. Or maybe it’s just for me; Steve is fairly content with the status quo!
So I made it through Monday sort of teetering, and today I did what I generally do when I’m at a wall, which is go for a long walk and talk to God and look for stuff that’s different. Call me crazy. It’s fine.
Today’s find was a puzzle piece, lying in the middle of the trail. The paper/art had been stripped off, so it was just blank, slightly damp cardboard. I thought, at the time, “well, yes, I am puzzled. So that makes sense.” Thank you, God. I feel better just knowing You are aware of my dilemma.
(Side Note: in addition to the nickel in the back of the minivan, I found 2 pennies and 2 quarters in the first 24 hours. It was like God saying – while Mark cackled in the background – “OK! There are your coins! Can we move on now?”)
In the midst of Sunday evening, the previous night, I’d gotten a message from Barb, a former coworker. She wanted to talk to me about her childhood best friend who had recently experienced the sudden death of her beautiful, irreplaceable 22 year old son. Barb felt strongly that I be in touch with her friend now, vacation or no! And I agreed.
So I wrote a long note via email. And I shared some suggestions and I – somewhat shyly, with caveats like “this may not help at all” – shared the link to this blog, on the chance it might help her to feel like she has a friend – even a perfect stranger – who gets it, as she goes through a hell I know so well. In doing so, it kind of brought me back to my sense of purpose in the world. What’s the point of all this writing? Yes, it helps me. It helps me a lot to write to an audience (vs. just to myself), even if that audience is not particularly large. But that is my choice: I have chosen to limit it, to not “broadcast” the blog’s existence – like on Facebook – because, well, it just didn’t feel right. I don’t know that a broader audience would accept or understand; I don’t know if I could handle negative feedback…or no feedback. I argue with myself: does any of that matter?
After I returned from my walk, with the puzzle piece in my pocket, I found an email waiting, from my new, hurting friend. She said what I wrote helped her and her husband. I cannot relieve her pain – no one can. But I get it – I totally get it. I know what it’s like. Sharing this – the opposite of so many Christmas Letters and Facebook posts we all put up, that present our lives as perfectly lovely – sharing my present messy, grieving, slightly insane state…actually helped someone, just a little. Someone I don’t even know.
My friend Leslie sent me a video in which a pastor talks about giving your sorrow/your pain back to God as an offering. I know: kind of confusing, right? But what it boils down to is a recognition that we can only offer our pain here (in the next life – no pain!). We can say “take this, God, and oh please, please…make something good come out of this awfulness.” And what can be better than relationship? Than community? Than finding connection, in this hard and painful world?
Even if nothing else changes in my life (in spite of my awesome spreadsheets), perhaps quietly sharing this one thing only I can offer – my whole, messy truth, and my search for God through it and in it – is enough. Maybe that’s the missing piece of the puzzle for me, and also for you.
Be you. Share you. No one else can.