A few days ago I sat down to write a post, just an little update about July and me, that turned into a different sort of essay entirely, something that surprised me in its truth. That feels like something worth sharing.
Hello friends! Everything is okay!!! Summer is unfolding faster than I thought it would, hot and hazy and full, and here I am in July with my computer and a cup of coffee and some French music in the background, with my heart beating loud and asking where are the hours going? Where are the weeks going? I am honestly, actually shocked to find myself a week into July, less than a month left before I go back to Wheaton. This is such an in-the-middle summer, a weird sort of almost-adulthood right before a last year of college, a last few months of knowing a little of what will come next, my heart still reeling from its new state of singleness, strange and unfamiliar. Lots to think about, lots to pray about, lots of new kinds of creativity spinning and filling my time. Lots to write about and almost none of it actually written down.
I have discovered this summer, this July, that it is near-impossible for me to write at home (except in the morning, at the kitchen table, with earl gray tea, when no one else is home–and as I work most mornings, this hardly ever happens enough to count). Somehow the softness of my room distracts me, invites me to snuggle into the corner of my big pillowy bed with a knitting project and F.R.I.E.N.D.S, or a book and a cup of tea. In my moments of energy, my out-of-the-bursts of motivation, you can usually find me at my rotary cutting station (makeshift, messy, on the floor for lack of counter space) or my new sewing machine, puzzling my way through a quilt block, baffled by how hard it is to get seams straight, welcoming the new and gentle challenge. Writing is something I often about doing but rarely do until I find myself in some sort of perfect hour or two, with just the right light and just the right caffeinated beverage in front of me (as mentioned, generally earl gray tea or coffee from the French-music-playing cafe).
I’m not sure why this is. But I want to change it, I really do, and all of the sudden my July heart is all warmed up and running towards this kind of storytelling, beating and singing as loud as summer thunderstorms, WRITE ME DOWN! WRITE ME DOWN! And so I’m trying to commit to this space anew this month, to open up my heart to be witnessed, to write life down. I want to show up, and to keep showing up, over and over again, to write things that are true and honest and real even when I don’t know, not yet, how to make them well-crafted. I’m learning to trust, as my theater mentor has often told me, that the story (/text/Scripture/instinct) is true whether I feel it in the moment or not. Writing has a power outside of me, outside of all of us I think. Marie Howe called it midwifery, in the master class I took with her, writing poems like giving birth. I’m not quite sure what that means yet, but I’m trying not to be afraid of it, to show up to it, to let God move in me and use this gift he’s given me to show me actual things about myself.
So. Here is what is going on in this July heart of mine. I am “alone, strong, and bewildered,” to use a friend’s words that feel just, just right. Alone, strong, bewildered. I feel more alone than I ever have before in my life, really. Most of my close college friends are hundreds of miles away, with everyone I knew and loved in high school a two hour’s drive away that seems impossible to fit into my ever-changing work schedule. My family is busy with all sorts of responsibilities and wonderful projects (my little sister, especially, is doing really special things with her summer), and I am single, really single, for the first time in over a year. “Free as a bird, no special beaus, that’s got to be exciting,” said my grandmother this morning, and it is, sort of, when I let myself realize it.
I am really, deeply heartbroken, quite possibly more so than I ever have been before. It’s a slower, number sort of pain, this falling out of love. Bewildering, confusing, like being dropped in a foreign country where you used to know the language but don’t anymore, the echo of it still somewhere inside you, inaccessible but there. But what is really and without exaggeration wonderful is that I am actually finding so much else to fall in love with. I feel closer to God than I ever have before in my life, I think, like even the times when I fall away from his presence are just blips, like I can always come back. I am finally ceasing to doubt that I can come back, I think. And I really credit this rediscovered love of God, this newfound reliance, to the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on recently, of ending a long-term relationship (my first real relationship, really) and trying to be a person on the other side of it. The certainty that I needed to leave the relationship was God’s, really. It was something I didn’t recognize in myself, a sort of knowing-for-sure that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced apart from a profound awareness of the will of the Spirit. When I look back on the immediate aftermath of the choice there’s a strange sort of holiness around it, something sacred about how deeply I felt everything, how loudly I let myself lament and mourn and breathe, how easy it was to be soft when I was covered and so carefully carried by the presence of God. There are stories, almost holy stories, I have to tell about those immediate days right after, the ways I was cared for and loved, the ways God surprised me with gentle and perfect timing. These stories make me feel strong on the midst of the bewilderment. Someday, soon maybe, they’ll pour out onto these pages. Or maybe they’re more secret than that. I don’t know, really. Have you noticed, yet, that I am completely and totally figuring things out as I go?
So I am alone, in a number of ways, and I really don’t mean to sugarcoat or romanticize that at all. Some of these July days I wake up and singleness feels like a slap in the face amidst all of the friends’ engagements and weddings and birth announcements [BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS?!] that are flooding my social media. Some days my July heart bleeds and bleeds for all the stories we told ourselves that will never happen–the camping together and the getting a dog someday and the celebrating my 21st birthday together, him selecting the perfect first glass of wine. I keep thinking I am over it, and then I am not. Then, I am sitting across from my friend Jill, half looking at her and half staring out my bedroom window and seeing not my backyard but the train station parking lot where I stood on that last day, knowing I knew it was the last day, not knowing if he did. And it is terrifying, honestly, to speak this candidly about it all, knowing that people who know and love him, who know and love us both, will read it. I also want to clarify that this breakup is really not the only thing going on with me right now (though at not-yet-twenty-one, the end of a year-long relationship is really quite a big deal). My life is so much bigger than that, always has been, yet at the same time I really can’t fairly consider myself, can’t honestly tell my own story, without acknowledging how much this relationship, its end and the other side of it, is part of my heart right now. It’s a story that my July heart is still telling. It’s a story that might belong here and so telling it is a risk I’m taking.
This post did not at all turn out how I meant it to be when I started it. Aren’t those the best sorts of writings? I meant to tell you that, here, in July, my heart is discovering and rediscovering so many things, finding endless stories and mediums to fall in love with: listening to an audiobook of The Great Gatsby, learning Portia’s monologues in The Merchant of Venice, swing dancing in the production of Much Ado About Nothing that I’m working on, gazing with heart-eyes at the laundry lines in Lancaster, piecing Ohio Star blocks for a table runner, finally knitting a new and better-fitting sweater for myself, spending my lunch breaks outside eating salads or sandwiches and catching up on a few favorite blogs. I also meant to tell you that I think I am finally, really, running (or stumbling maybe) towards Jesus, and I suppose I did tell you that, though in bit of a roundabout and scattered way. I’m rereading Augustine’s Confessions right now, really just wonderstruck at how much these very old, very far-away-from-me prayers resonate so deeply in my own soul. I’m also stumbling through the New Testament, slowly, knee-deep in the Gospel of Matthew right now and trying to consider Jesus anew. I learned a few days ago that the disciple Peter was married (a healing story in Matthew 9, I think, mentions his mother-in-law). I literally never knew this before. Close reading!!! It’s a great thing!!! I’m writing letters back and forth with a dear sister in the faith, a friend who has been a much needed source of spiritual encouragement to me this summer, and I’m practicing tangible prayer as I stitch and knit various projects, learning intercession like breathing, praying my stitches.
I guess what I’m really trying to tell you, over and over again, is that I’m okay. (I guess it took me an entire essay to figure that out). There is a lot my heart is healing from, a lot of hurt that I’m very honestly surprised by and don’t know how to deal with yet, not just the relationship ending but the loneliness, missing my college friends and my high school friends (please come to Pittsburgh, you guys) and not knowing how to express it, the creeping feeling that my depression stole a lot of joy from me this past year. I am often sad, often bewildered, often lost. But his mercies are new every morning and like the dry bones in Ezekiel there is a very real Spirit breathing very real life back into me, building up my strength, whispering truths into my ears and reminding me to move my capable hands and make beautiful things, tell true stories, show real love. I am alone and strong and bewildered and loved! And everything is going to be okay!
Someday I will maybe even figure out how to end blog posts!