Wild

Being an outdoor enthusiast appeals to me. So lately, I’ve been climbing mountains and taking long walks in the woods.

Here’s my short list (but not for long) of wilderness excursions thus far this year:

  • Stone Mountain, Georgia – February 27
  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas – March 15
  • Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia – May 21
  • Panther Creek Trail, Georgia – July 16

Head Over Heels

Dear Alyssa,

Have I told you how I met Ducky? I was knitting when I first saw him. He came through the door, tall as ever, and I sat across the room putting the finishing touches on the shawl I was making. It seems annoyingly quaint that I should have been knitting, and yet that is how it happened. I thought he was cute, but my eyesight is notoriously bad at night, so I couldn’t be sure. But even then I knew I was in trouble.

I’ve been in trouble ever since.

I’m in trouble every time he gives me one of his dimpled smiles. I’m in trouble every time he says “Karen” in that accented, mock exasperated way of his because—I dunno—I’m being charmingly ridiculous or something. I’m in trouble when he purses his lips for a kiss. I’m in trouble when he’s touching me, tracing abstract shapes on my thigh, entwining his fingers in mine while I drive. I’m in trouble when he gives me one of his rare laughs, when he’s looking at me like he’s learning me by heart, committing every one of my quirks to memory.

I’m in so much trouble.

Sincerely,
Karen

Impostor Syndrome

Dear Alyssa,

The other day, Megan told me I was beautiful, and I cringed. Josiah somehow thinks I’m one of the most fascinating people he’s ever had the good fortune to meet, and I’m having the hardest time understanding why he’s so sure. Ducky has told me repeatedly that I’m lovely, and every time, I’ve smiled and kissed him and nursed doubt in my heart all at once. Too many people around me keep speaking about my greatness like it’s a given. And it’s not that I don’t think they’re being sincere, I’m just having the hardest time believing as they do. Like, how is it so easy for them to recognize the glory in me, and yet I grapple every day with the idea that I am remarkable, that I do stand out, that when I’m not around my absence is felt? It would be funny if it wasn’t so tremendously sad.

Sincerely,
Karen

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

A Manifesto of Sorts

Dear friend,

I just dropped by to tell you that I’m repenting of fear. The fierceness and greatness written in my makeup aren’t content to lie dormant anymore. They’ve given me notice. One way or the other, they will be manifested, and I can either get on board or get out of the way. I’m getting on board, because what is the great point of pretending that an amazon is a lilliputian.

Sincerely,
Karen

How Strange I Have Become

Used to be I was capable, self-possessed, and on occasion, even witty. I was deep and insightful, full of random wisdom I didn’t even know I possessed until it sprouted out of my mouth. And I would watch on fondly as it took seed in others’ minds, like so many poppies in a sunny valley, preening and basking in the warmth of awakened sensibility.

I used to be so sure-footed, or at least I gave off that impression so deftly that I believed it to be true myself. But how strange I have become. I’m so unsure these days. My every move now is blighted by uncertainty. What am I doing here? Who do I think I am?

***

A little over a year ago, in a characteristic fit of impulsiveness, I quit my job and hared off on a mission to 11 countries. It was the hardest, most incredible experience I’ve ever had the good fortune to go through. But it ended, as most things do, and I was rudely transplanted back into the things and places and habits I thought I had left.

It’s four months later, and the restlessness is unreal. Each day of last year was an exercise in uncovering things—things about myself, things about this beautiful, dramatic world. But nowadays, my sense of discovery is being dulled from disuse. I recognize this place so easily, and everything here feels tame. There’s hardly any external challenge to continue to self-actualize. No one is pulling any greatness out of me. I have to do it myself. But I’m so uninspired, because I’m so preoccupied with what was. And I don’t entirely know what to do about it.

Last year was lived in community. It wasn’t community I carefully curated for myself, only including kindred spirits. No, it was messy community. It was frustrating and challenging community. But it was also unimaginably enriching. It was Paul and Barnabas not seeing eye to eye. It was Jesus rebuking Peter for unwittingly acting as the enemy’s mouthpiece. I’m sure of the unpleasantness of these disagreements, but I’m also convinced that they ultimately resulted in greater unity.

Don’t get me wrong by substituting uniformity for unity. Paul and Barnabas, Jesus and Peter—they disagreed and admonished one another. But out of those episodes of friction came sharpening and strengthening, a return to singular focus for the all-important mandate of creating disciples.

That was my life last year, friction leading to sharpening. And I want it back. In fact, I’ve taken steps to recreate it, but the results aren’t panning out as I had imagined. Things aren’t happening quickly enough.

I’m back in community again. I’m living with five other like-minded women of God and showing up every day to a workplace that vigorously enforces a culture of discipleship and relationship. Yet, I continue to be dissatisfied. Maybe the last few months of being “home” have completely unraveled the firming and refining that went on within me while I was away. But I don’t think that’s what it is—at least, not entirely.

I think it’s easier to evolve when evolution is all that’s required of you. It’s easier to change when the people surrounding you are contriving to produce newness and growth in you. And it is definitely easier to develop and flourish in the glamour of new places, under circumstances you’re not well-acquainted with, and with people who aren’t tempted to assume that they know you, that you can’t surprise them anymore.

In this old place, I feel pressure to know what I’m about again, to be set in stone, to have myself figured out. And this perceived expectation is causing me to fall apart, because I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYMORE. I guess I am guilty of the same charge I’m leveling at this place and the people I have come back to. I have made a judgment about “here,” just as it has made its mind up about me. And so far, neither one of us is budging.

***

I read a Terry Pratchett quote recently that sent me straight into reflection mode:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

I’m realizing that I’m missing the “new eyes”—or, perhaps more accurately, refusing to put on the new eyes. Everything here is so familiar, so still. It’s unnerving how stationary my life has become after so much activity. Things are quiet, and the calm is disconcerting. I feel like I’m on a tight deadline to sort out myself, consider where I’m headed and what I’m about. But I can’t see past what is right now. And therein lies the rub!

My future has ceased to be an expansive flatland, devoid of dips and curves, stretching out to the horizon. Instead, I’m at the base of a switchback mountain, at the mouth of a trail that’s heavily undulating up to a peak shrouded in mist. Which isn’t the problem; the problem is that my Guide is telling me to wait. “Hold on,” he says. Doesn’t he get that I’m jonesing to begin the climb, to see what is ahead of every hairpin curve and hidden behind every rock wall?!

But I get the sense that certain things need to be figured out first, not least of which are the “extra colors” this old place holds. Because inasmuch as “here” is familiar, it is also different. The people I left and came back to are different; the person I usually am in this place is different, and I need to confront the difference. Without the tight deadline.

So I’m holding on, albeit impatiently. I’m keeping still so my Guide can gird me up for the climb. And while I’m being equipped and my mind is being firmed for what’s ahead, I will look around me at all the things my Guide points out, and I will behold all the extra colors, all the extravagance, all the newness in this old place. I will embrace the uncertainty, the precariousness of not knowing. And it’ll be good.

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” // Marcel Proust