Monthly Archives: February 2015

Letting Go

Letting go is purple. Letting go is paint, layered, full of grey. A whole lot of grey. Letting go is a canvas of pines and the smell of smoke and the trail that you can barely see. Letting go is uncertainty of what will come. Because letting go is not running. And, It is not holding on. It is not pushing away. And, so it can feel paralyzing, as if you’ve lost all feeling in your limbs.

We are connected in more ways that we have ever been. It is so seemingly easy to find or be found, to follow the screen of faces my finger scrolls down. We are the helicopter kids, now all grown up with longer limbs that still don’t touch the sky. We have lost our backyards and the woods to fear and scripted programming when life is anything but predictable. These carefully constructed cardboard lives we lead are two dimensional. There is no breath here. It is terrifying to notice the air in our lungs, the bodies we have and their fragility.

“What are you reading right now?”

Well, that’s hard to say. “To be honest, I’m not sure. I have a few stacks of books. Most of them haven’t been finished. They are unresolved. I think a lot of my life feels unresolved.”

I have been piling up books, across the squeaking hardwood floor, on top of that scratched sidewalk-found chair, and covering the bright red table. They’re under my bed, squeezed between the pallet frames. A few are hidden beneath the nightstand, keeping company with dust bunnies. Some have been opened; others never even cracked. Many though, have at least a few chapters read, earmarks lovingly folded to a place I’ll come back.

I promised I’d come back. Right now, I’m having a hard time sticking though, so I spread them out, trying to string together the meaning in phrases and sentences, hoping that maybe the story will begin to make some sort of sense. There has to be a bigger narrative here if I could just get my hands on it.

Letting go feels like broken promises, as if we just found out we don’t have some cosmic control of the universe. It feels unsafe. It is embracing the unknown without trying to grab hold of it. Destiny, vocation, purpose cannot be clutched; it slips through your fingers. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I thought that letting go meant starting over, throwing it all out. It was loose and open and careless.

Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe when we’re frozen and numb, it’s the only way to get back to the slow, painful process of moving. Of rebuilding. Even when the resolution isn’t clear. Maybe letting go is saying what you mean. It is the space between breaths. Maybe it’s this distance that creates the possibility of something beautiful if we give it room for the oxygen to rush in.


Save Yourself

This is what burnout looks like: bare feet.

It was during my last summer directing children’s programs; we had a field trip scheduled. Field trips were one of the students’ favorite activities, and at times, incredibly tiring for staff. The reality is that driving vans full of excited, loud children to a location full of other excited, loud children, can require a lot of patience and vigilance. Not to mention the goal of not swapping kids with any other groups along the way. This field trip was one though that my staff was thrilled about because we were going to Lego Land. They had actually been looking forward to it for weeks.

I remember the phone call with our partner who gave us the tickets right beforehand. “Remember to make sure the children have socks,” she said.

This was important because that was something many of these kids might not have on their own, or even if they did, the probability of them forgetting them was pretty high. During winter months, we usually had at least one child every day whom we had to chase down the road because they had left their coat lying lonely on the gym floor. But, these were the summer months in Georgia and heat was everywhere, as if the pavement was a slow cooking frying pan. The kids would all be wearing sandals or cheap flip flips that would probably break a few weeks in from the wear and tear of quick dodgeball turns.

She told me this need for socks the day of at 8 am. The kids were leaving at 9 am. I had every intention of having socks from our clothing closet. I remember thinking, “Yes, of course, this is important.” And, then I hung up the phone and there was a knock at my door and crisis after crisis walked in. I couldn’t breathe again till after 11. The next call I received was from our staff member at Lego Land asking me where I had put the socks on the bus. They had looked everywhere.

This was when my appearance of put-together, making-it-work, oh-yeah-I-can-do-it-all shattered. It was that small moment when I pictured 48 bare feet hanging off a bench watching others play and there was nothing I could do about it now.

If I sat down (and I did then) and did a step by step analysis of how it all broke down, I would have had to back up weeks ago, even months to when I started believing the mis-truth that “I’m doing just fine. This is just the way it has to be.” Because the reality was that I was making it work and it was also entirely unsustainable. I had built a building that was trying to meet everyone else’s needs, but not my own. And, I was even failing at that. There were so many other stories that were out of my control that last year. Stories of heartbreak and neglect and hopelessness. There were also other stories of laughter. I tried to pay attention to those. The sad ones I buried in deep pockets that grew heavier and heavier till it became harder and harder to move.

But, when I think of that summer, these intense emotions specifically about bare feet come up. Even writing this now brings feelings of familiar shame because who falls apart over socks? Well, it’s because it wasn’t the socks. Maybe you already saw that. It was the shame all along. This is something that’s difficult for those of us who look life in the face and have decided that they should be more than human. The ones who empty as if by doing so they can save others without first accepting their own pain and needs. And, that shame is why we keep silent as if we should be able to handle it. We will be affected. We will fall down. That is the full truth.

None of us are meant to live in burning buildings. Not me. And, not you. Save yourself first. Those that go back in will leave by certain miracles and because they continue to assess their own need. Take the time to recognize the pain you hold. Do the humble and valuable work of knowing your weakness. And, if you do choose to accept the risk to fight for lives, be sure you can ask others for help; you will need someone to remind you again to save your own life and that your wounds are holy. They have always been that way.