I've been wanting to write for a while now. For a week I've wanted to sit down with a keyboard and my thoughts and tell the world the scary inner thoughts I have on things like marriage. Don't ask me why.
A week ago today I was in a room full of my people. A year ago this month I stepped into the big room at Choices Seminars a little bit afraid, looking for a reason to run. I didn't find one. Instead I found 85 reasons to stay. I found faces that looked at me with such love and wonder. They looked at me like one looks at a caterpillar emerging from a chrysalis. It was like they knew the miracle was going to happen. They knew it, and they held their breath in anticipation, and when it did they let out a little gasp of wonder. They taught me the joy of sober dancing. And it was in that room that for the first time in 18 years I clued into the fact that maybe, just maybe, I was worthy of love. Of being loved by others, and of loving myself.
A week ago I stepped back into the big room at Choices Seminars and it felt like coming home. It felt like a breath of fresh air, like just by walking through the doors a bit of the magic was put back on my skin. And in that big room I got to see some of my favourite people in the whole wide world, being some of the other amazing humans that went through that crazy journey with me.
A few days before I walked into this room, I had written in the memo notes on my phone "I want to be anointed for marriage. To be found worthy of this calling and blessed into it. I wish for the affirmation of my heart."
The words didn't even make sense to me as I wrote them, but I knew that was what I wanted. When people ask me how I feel about being engaged I smile and say I am excited. And I am. I am so excited and have so much joy about embarking on this new journey with the man I love with every piece of me. I am also afraid. I am so afraid of marriage and I've said to multiple people that I don't know if I believe in marriage anymore and its not because I'm having second thoughts about the person I'm marrying or if I want to spend the rest of my life with him. It's because I look at marriage, at what I want marriage to be and think marriage is, and it is a calling I feel unworthy of.
I'm the girl with a bruised heart. I fell in love (or infatuation) with the wrong boy a few too many times and gave away pieces of my heart. I failed so greatly to take care of my own self, to provide for my own basic needs. More often than not I found myself deserving of punishment rather than love. It was easier to starve or cut away the pain than to sit with it. And always I have found it easier to run than to stay. And when I look at this wonderful human being in front of me, the one who wants with his whole heart to enter into this forever kind of commitment with me, I feel unworthy. I feel distrustful of my own heart, and how strongly it wants this and him because of all the other times my heart has led me down the wrong path, and all the other times (which is far too many to count) that I have seen marriages fail.
I walked into that Choices room a week ago today and saw my friends who have become family. And they hugged me and congratulated me. And then, ever so gently, they poked at the tender places of my heart. The places that doubt marriage is a good idea, that doubt myself. At first I was a bit taken aback, because I had forgotten how well these loving humans know my heart just from looking at me. Because I thought I was doing such a good job hiding behind the masks and not telling the entire truth with my life but only living in the positive glow. And then I realized they were right. I had a conversation with a good friend about my fears, about all the negative thought patterns I have around marriage. And she told me that it's ok to be afraid. She asked me what I was willing to lose. Would I hold so tightly to the old thought patterns I had about relationships that I sabotaged the real and beautiful one right in front of me. Would I let fear win? And like a prayer, a blessing, another friend of mine whispered the words over me "You are strong enough to accept love."
It felt like the affirmation of my heart I had been waiting for. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw the only thing standing in my way was me. My heart was good. And despite my past mistakes, or maybe including them, I was worthy of love. I was strong enough to give and receive love.
"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
It's been a while now since the first day he slid this ring on my finger. And I haven't yet been able to write about it because its a story filled with so much hard, holy ground, with the twinkling hope of redemption and also the bravery that comes with being afraid. I don't know why I am sharing this sacred story now, only that this story is telling itself whether I share it or not, so intricately woven into the very fibre of my being, and I am so grateful to be living it. This story is something I feel I am not enough for, that I keep waiting to be snatched from me. It has opened up my heart in new ways, and brought with is so much healing and redemption. The season I find myself in is a strange mixture of grief and gratitude, of a heart aching from fullness. It's a story so sacred and beautiful I need to tell it, even if I fumble through it at times, even if at points in the journey it doesn't make sense, even to me. So, here it begins with the story of how I got engaged.
I haven’t yet shared the story of how I got engaged because it is something that I am still processing, something that still feels so raw and big and monumental that I haven’t yet had the time to ponder in my heart the way I want to. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be ready. I wonder if people are ever ready for the events that change their lives, or if maybe we all spend every single day waking up and realizing we don’t know how we got here.
I got engaged on the first of July, under the summer heat, just down off a busy highway by a creek that ran with murky water. I knew it was coming but the moment caught me off guard, perhaps as all big and grand moments do. Despite my desire for something small, lacking in the grand gesture department, I felt the shift the moment when he came to me by the water and took my hand. Maybe in that moment I knew. I knew my life wouldn’t be the same. I knew I was walking towards my future in a way that most women feel when they are walking down the aisle. Perhaps that is why I lingered by the water a moment longer than necessary, whispering to the man soon to be my fiancé, “Come, look at this. Do you see?” Do you see this snail and this slug and this frog, this life that exists within murky waters, that is thriving in this place that looks like a wasteland? Do you see this water, flowing, carrying with it everything I’ve left behind?
I remember once, during my first year of college, going to the river. I had this burning desire to create a ceremony for myself, to let go of this heavy pain I had been carrying since the death of my cousin, the confusion and the inner turmoil and the desperation that had been etched into my body by his hands before they turned ice cold. I needed a release for myself, a cleansing ceremony so I could finally feel forgiven, so that I could stop looking for affection in strange men and food and self-hatred, to be free of the ghost I was carrying along behind me like it was my birthright. By that river I begged and pleaded to be clean. I had forgotten, or perhaps I didn’t know then, that suffering isn’t the birthright of any human on earth. That to let go, all I needed to do was let go. I wanted to be clean, free, but what I didn’t know was that I already was.
I remember in my late teenage years bringing with me a jar of sand and ash on a family vacation. That vacation was a purging time for me, when I brought so many toxins into my body it made me sick, and when I exhaled them with just as much ferocity and weeping. The jar of ashes represented this grief that I was carrying around with me, this mournful howling that filled my bones ever since I became so ill I thought I was going to die. I collected this ash and howled and wept over this empty space in my body that had once been full, over what had been taken from me while I was sleeping. And on this particular trip, after having arrived with grand intentions and my jar of ashes, I slipped out to the pond with the water that flowed and was recycled and came out new, and I let my ashes slip between my fingers. In the days that followed I shook and bled and howled, but when I left I felt the work of refinement that had taken place.
The water, that had represented so much pain and heartache for me, where I had released and burned and purged and wept and vomited and begged for forgiveness, the same water that flowed at the river and at the pond because everything is recycled and flows and moves, flowed before me in the moments before he took my hand. And I sat there, with my feet dangling into the coolness, on the edge of a log, and I had a feeling that this meant something. I didn’t know what, only that this moment and this water and this log and that slug inching its way across a rock and him and me and the flow all meant something. I could feel the newness on the wind, and I wanted to savor the now. I almost had a moment where I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get off the log. I didn’t want to leave behind the water, the slug inching its way across a rock, this breath. I didn’t want the startling entry into something new, to be birthed into a world which I didn’t yet have language for, to enter the flow.
But I did. And I remember that last breath, the sharp inhale before I rose off the log and took his hand, following him up away from the water. I was stepping into something new.
I followed him up the steep incline of shifting rocks and pebbles, the ground shaking and giving way under my feet. And then I saw it, the words he’d written on the side of a bridge, the words asking me to be his wife. And I felt the rebirth. In that split second between my recognizing the words and what they meant and my yes, I felt the starting over. And I knew I was ready. And I knew I was afraid. And I knew with every fiber of my being that I was born for this. And I knew that the water that had always flowed and carried my pain and hurt and agony was still moving, and I must too. It was time to step away from the old and enter into the new. It was time to enter into the flow that was all around me and in me and through me.
My hands tremble with anticipation and fear and promise and wonder as I stare down at this ring on my finger, the one I never wanted but am becoming so grateful for. It reminds me that redemption runs deep, that the old passes away and the new comes, that I must be willing to step into the flow, that love wins. Love wins and love wins and love wins and I am and I am and I am.
Adjusting to this new season has felt thick and hard, and at times I wonder if stepping into new waters was too much. My legs tremble and leave me aching for the shore, for what I knew. This engagement season has felt so full of redemption and healing, the kind of healing that cuts deep and burns through, the kind that purges the soul and washes clean, like flowing water. It is bitter at first taste, yes, but it is sweet. There is something for me here, and I am as sure of it as I am sure of the wind. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. I can feel it deep within my bones, in the places that I once thought of as void and empty.