There is a turkey to brine and a mother to pick up at the airport. A bed to make, a bathroom to clean–again. And breakfast–why do we have to do THAT every. single. day.
But in this minute, I am sitting quietly in my chair, a cat at my feet and one behind my head, gathering my wits which have flung themselves throughout this house and beyond, waiting for me to catch up.
I woke up with fragments of a poem in my head and I wonder now if it is worth trying to piece it together again–especially as I realize it has already been written by Peter Mayer in his song God is a River. This song has been pulsing though me over the last few weeks as I made the decision to leave my rock behind.
It has been a rock, this work that I did. It was how I defined myself beyond the other standard definitions of wife, mother, daughter. The work and the place I did it gave me a sense of being, a reason, an understanding of myself. And as I watch the wind blow the branches on a barren tree outside my door, I realize that that understanding is not tied to the rock, but to me. I shall carry it with me as I flow with the river, as I did when I left a job after my eldest daughter was born, and as we left the southwest without a job, without a house, in order to arrive here, in the Midwest, where a new life was born.
I remember back then, in 1996, when my husband, two daughters (third one wasn’t here yet), and two (different) cats made the journey from Arizona to Indiana a week after a blizzard hit the new region and rerouted our planned drive to air travel. I remember living in my mother-in-law’s house while my husband looked for and got a job. I remember all the uncertainty of the moment. But more than anything, I remember Thelma Jean, my mother-in-law of the impossible smile, who looked at me with big eyes and said “you are so brave.”
What? Me? I stammered in my self-deprecating manner that I have honed all these years. I’m not brave.
“Yes,” she said. “You’ve left everything you know, your family is so far away.”
I have so often thought of that moment since she passed away. Of her wide eyes and what brave looked like to her. To me, brave was leaving everything and moving to Spain without a firm grasp of the mother-tongue. Or space travel. Or serving in the military. Or writing a book where I shared myself with an honesty that would hurt. Brave was not moving from one family to another.
But it was, I see now. It was brave and it was hard and it redefined me in ways I could never have predicted. Oh, and I railed against those changes. Until I didn’t anymore.
I’ve stood on this cliff before–or, to get back to the metaphor–I’ve been upstream in this river before, holding tightly to another rock. And I’ve let go before, and I found my current and rode it to the next rock. And I will be doing that all my life–trusting, always trusting that my feet will find me (like my wits), even if I have a hard time landing them in the current.
I am so full of gratitude for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me in the past, and I am looking forward to whatever is next. Whether I am doing this with courage or stupidity, we shall all find out. But for now, there is a turkey to brine and a mother to pick up at the airport. And wits to be collected … or maybe I can check that one off the list now.
Be brave, dear friends, in whatever way is brave for you.