It’s almost 10 years to the day that the life I thought was just coming together came completely apart. My husband decided to leave our marriage and me in the same month that we closed on a house and I began my first full-time professor’s position. I was in a place where I knew no one – I’d seen the only friends I knew in the area at a truck stop somewhere in Wyoming as our paths crossed when they moved from where I was now to the West Coast. He even took the car when he left.
There have been hard years – two relationships with very broken men that left me more broken, the departure from the job I thought I’d always wanted, the death of my dear, dear mother. These have been years when I was broken apart.
But I was broken so I could be put back together in a way that my scars became strength. It was what I needed.
I am not saying any of those things was good. They were not – they were brutal and ugly and sometimes brought on trauma so severe that I contemplated how to die in a closet where my cat was hiding.
Yet, the good has come, first in time with my dad when we were both grieving, and then in his gift of a farm, and then – most powerfully – in the best man I’ve ever known, a man who loves me in all my brokenness and isn’t afraid.
I feel like a wind-swept tree most days now. I’m not upright, and no child would draw me in her idealized scape of home. But I am gorgeous in all my crookedness . . . the way my scars shine in moonlight.
There is a whole lot of “hurry-up-do-more” mess in our world. Publish faster. Get pregnant before it’s too late. Take that opportunity because you won’t get that raise if you don’t. We are a culture convinced that faster is always better, that more is always greater.
We believe that about writing, about publishing (oh especially about publishing), about friendships, and contacts, and activities. We believe that if we move faster in more things then we are good and right and “making the most out of every opportunity.”
I’m not one to tell you what’s right for you, but for this introverted, farm-loving, writer girl, all of that is a huge, stinking pile of bullshit. None of the more or the faster did a single thing to heal me up from all that pain and loss. Not a single bit.
What did help me heal was a steady life of less . . . less striving, less counting, less putting my hope in things that could never fulfill like book sales or the perfect relationship.
This morning I was reading the book of Joel . . . the prophets are singing my theme song these days. In this book, God’s people have been ravaged because of some really bad choices they made. (Don’t ask me how I feel about that in terms of my own life because I don’t know how I feel all the way. I didn’t choose a lot of the things that ravaged me, and yet, I still see truth here for myself.)
But then God comes in and says, “I’ll make up for the years of the locust.” And this morning that is breath and light and joy for me. . . it feels like it’s finally the time for the years of the locust to end.
Here, though, I pause because for some of us the years of the locust are decades long, they are life-long years of chronic illness and disappointment, of abuse and neglect and heartbreak so deep it rends open our souls. I don’t know what to make of that either. I wish I did.
I can’t put words to what exactly helped me heal except to say that it wasn’t one thing, one miraculous moment. Even now, we’re in hard days here on the farm, days of waiting for a child, of shots and creams and so many pills and appointments that sometimes I wish giving up felt like an option.
But healing did come and will come, and I find it through small, tender, daily things: an hour of weeding in the garden where I can see progress in each cart of green that goes to the chickens; the work of writing every day, 1,000 words of something at least five days a week; the gentle settling of my spirit around who I am and what gives me joy and health, a simple meal cooked in our kitchen and eaten at the table Philip’s grandfather made.
Book publications and bestsellers lists didn’t heal me. They didn’t even fulfill me for longer than it took to share my news on Facebook. Making a lot of money in my own business didn’t do it either nor did striving to make more. Big speaking gigs and getting to know famous writers was fun but ultimately not enough either.
The only thing that got me here, in this quiet morning when I feel the most contentment I’ve felt in a very long time is this – I leaned into the calling, even when it felt too hard or too different or too much not the way I wanted to go. I leaned in even when it made me feel off-kilter, like I was going to go ass over teakettle and break my neck. I leaned in, and I let go.
Wind-swept tree, my friends. It’s not a bad look for any of us.