The seeds of yesterday are pushing up shoots, and can I be honest? It was a wonderful year.
I had the thought to do this sooner, and it’s still the beginning of January… Winter is a good time to slow down and remember, with a good book, a mug of hot tea, the glow of warm light around us even though the sky outside the room is black. Let me tell you some stories.
2016 was the year I stopped ignoring myself, maybe. I knew I had doubts all along, but it was time to quit suppressing them. To let some thoughts and hopes take bloom.
Last January I was dreaming about going to Europe, had been dreaming for months, maybe. The itch to travel for me is not new- just usually in hibernation until someone scratches the right place, and then all hell breaks loose.
Hell for me last year was summer, when I found myself without anyone to coordinate. I’d been serving as a worship leader and team coordinator for five years in a small international congregation, unpaid but purposeful. Creating team schedules, planning the details of services from prayers to musical transitions, recruiting and training new vocalists and guitarists, planning and reporting the budget, managing our legal affiliations with CCLI and frankly, I was exhausted. In May, our pastor gave me time off to “get my personal life under control.” I had the thought, what personal life? Between work and marriage and ministry, I’d lost all sense of self. If I even had it to begin with. Suddenly my free time was staring me in the face, and I knew I wanted to focus on writing and creating art. I had met more than a few musicians and actors and dancers and writers through work and something was calling me to create with them.
I just didn’t know how. How to explain to my family that my education was more than enough to prepare me for a life of disciplined labor, that I do not measure success by paychecks or tax brackets (I suspect they don’t either, but this is easy to argue in my head), that maybe I am happiest when I am alone?
In April a friend told me he had a dream that we were in Europe. I had felt a little silly for dreaming about him meeting a girl and then actually telling him about it (but he told me it was true), so I prayed one night that he would have a dream about me, just to even things out a bit.
It turned out Europe was calling. In August I got an invitation to a friend’s birthday gathering in Barcelona.
She had asked for my friendship in high school, when she was an exchange student from Ukraine. We both spent time outside our home countries as kids: she because of Chernobyl, me because of my parents’ fascination with the Great Commission- or maybe just love, whatever that can look like across international borders. She wanted to celebrate life and connections with her global community.
I took the flight and enjoyed a quiet hotel three blocks from the Mediterranean. I hadn’t argued when my husband told me he was coming too; he didn’t want me to travel alone, even though I had been dreaming of independence. Seaside walks, a couple cafes, and a nightclub later had me wishing I had done it all sooner.
It wasn’t bad having him with me: he paid attention to our schedule and kept me from getting too carried away in the moment. He drew people out in conversation at dinner. He walked with me in the dark and didn’t panic when we got lost, didn’t leave me when I told him that some people have better definitions of casual sex than Christianity while we were walking down the boulevard. I didn’t go dancing drunk or invite any strange men back to our hotel.
May was the month I let go of ministry and said yes to uncertainty again. Will our marriage survive without leading a weekly Bible study? Without a mortgage or a baby? Without seeing eye to eye on theology and even just simple hobbies? Can I go running with a co-worker and he not get upset? Can we spend any time together in the kitchen without one of us getting bored or confused or angry?
Why is it so easy to focus on other people’s lives and forget what gives US life?
I still say last year was wonderful because I deepened my knowledge of feminism, philosophy, psychology and politics. I volunteered at a local organic farm, vacationed with family in the Bahamas, and supported a few of my community’s artists. I met my running goals. I experienced a variety of stressful situations at work and came through them with grace and gratitude for the people in my company who have led and supported me along our path so far.
After years of waiting, I moved to a two bedroom apartment with the help of family and friends…
Then I cried at our small group’s Christmas party when the community my husband and I had helped start five years ago sang the song “Still.” We sat around the room and shared our hopes for the New Year. A new friend, the guy who replaced me on drum, invited me to collaborate on a graphic novel.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship. I got off work just in time to see the end of the game celebration in June. The score was close the last I saw from my online post in the customer service booth. Texts from my family were inconclusive and I was dying with anticipation on the drive home. A few seconds before my brother-in-law’s WE DID IT message arrived, with one leg out of the car as soon as it parked, the word that rested on my mind was “worship.” I somehow already knew. The TV confirmed it as I yelled and danced and all my husband could say was, “I can’t take this right now.” It doesn’t matter, because someday I will live in Ohio again, I hope, or maybe in the South, or Canada, or Europe.
2017 is off to a good start, if I can say so. My personal life is so personal I’m not even blogging about it.