It’s my birthday. Which is probably the only reason I am giving myself time to sit and write anything, when there is so much to do.
I’m 29 now. Yesterday I was 28. Yesterday, and the 364.3 days before yesterday, also known as my 28th year of life, has ((hopefully)) been the craziest one of my life. I’ve been so busy, busted up, scattered, fearful, joyful and tired that I haven’t been able to formulate a story from it. There have been no nuggets of wisdom, no cutesy headlines or main ideas from all of this. I can feel myself being pushed by some outside force (God, I guess) toward something bigger than myself (his Glory, maybe?). I have felt my feet dragging behind me, wearing my skin raw as I tried to stop the forward movement. But who I am kidding? This sensation of being dragged into the unknown beyond isn’t anything new.
My whole life has been a story of God pulling me reluctantly into the future toward I don’t-know-what, with me dragging my feet behind in an attempt to stand up and walk away on my own. My twenties have all been about this dragging/standing wrestle. I thought I was going to be/do/see/have/think A, and it turns out that I was/did/saw/had/thought B. At some point, slowly and begrudgingly, I decided that I would just pick up my feet allow myself to be carried along. I’d make jokes along the way.
And then I ran out of jokes to tell. The speed of the drag/carry picked up in my 28th year, and my brain couldn’t keep up enough to formulate anything. Which is why I haven’t written anything in the past nine months. Instead of being dragged, I am being hurled like a woman shot from a cannon closer and closer to whatever it is I am supposed to be going toward. Existential metaphors aside, in the past nine months I quit my job, went back to college, moved to a new house, decided to stay potentially forever in a town I declared to hate, started (without trying) my own business and tried my best to raise two children under four and be a normal wife and friend. The amount of work is it takes to do all of this without turning into Britney Spears circa 2007 is staggering, but honestly I’ve been too busy to notice.
Although I don’t know this from experience, I imagine when you have been shot from a cannon, you don’t have time to think. There you are, flying through the air towards something at the end (hopefully a giant net). You don’t think,
“Oh, it’s gotten colder this evening.”
or “Is that a dove? I wonder where its life partner is right now?”
or “Did I actually pay my car insurance this month? Their new online bill pay program was a little dicey the first time I logged on. I need to check on that”.
Again, I don’t know for sure, but I imagine you to think something more along the lines of an interior monologue of carnal screaming. Something like, “AAAAHAHAHAHHSJKHDKJHFKJHDPF!!!“
Or maybe you don’t think words, but flashes of images from your life go by: the people you love, your children holding hands on the seashore, that time you climbed a mountain in Scotland, how you cried the first time you saw your husband on your wedding day, the face your baby daughter made ay you the first time you saw her, the smell of hair and graham crackers as you rock your son to sleep. Just little glimpses of beautiful things that have had more time to sink into your soul, to distract you while you are being hurled through the air into whatever it is. That’s all you have time for, and when things settle down and you (hopefully softly) reach your destination you can formulate sentences about it. Or maybe you never will.
And that is basically what this past year has been. Utter chaos, with no time to think, except little glimpses of the things that really matter. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It wouldn’t matter if I wanted it some other way, anyway.
Society tells us that it is so simple. You stand on your own two feet (get a job) step forward (go to college, save your money, become influential) and walk where you want to go (make your dreams come true). This is apparently the American Dream. You are supposed to know who you are, what you want, and how to get there. If people stand in your way from where you are trying to go, you remove them from your life. “I am the master of my own destiny, etc. etc.” You walk where you want to go.
But where is the thrill in that? Walking from a predetermined point A to a calculated point B doesn’t really impress anybody, does it? People pay big money to jump out of planes, ride bulls, snuggle tigers, swing high in the air on tiny ropes and yes, even get shot out of cannons. Why is this thrilling? Not because you can’t get from point A to point B yourself. It’s thrilling because you are out of control. Why snuggle a tiger and not just a teddy bear? Because there is always a risk that the tiger could maul you to death. It’s thrilling that you don’t really know what will happen. Why not just ride a horse? What makes a bull so great? It’s because you can’t control a bull. His balls are tied up and he’s mad and you don’t know what he might do. You might just die. It’s thrilling to be out of control. Scary, but thrilling in a way that makes for great stories later, if you survive it all.
I tried America’s way. I really did.
I tried mastering my own destiny. I made good grades. I went to college. I worked hard. And still, none of my dreams came true. I fell in love, and therefore I moved to the place I said I’d never go again. I had some babies, who I also love, which has put some serious crimps in my career tube. People stood in my way. Love stood in my way. Love ruined my American Dream. And in the process, as it turns out, the things I thought were my dreams have morphed into something completely different. I’m flying (Lord willing) into the unknown of my thirties, forties, fifties, whatever. Whatever it is that God is leading me into, dragging me into, launching me into, is inescapable. I can’t control it. And thankfully, after losing the skin of my feet several times and finally relenting to the glorious and realigning beauty of love, I am done trying.
My twenties, and my 28th year in particular have been nothing but an exercise that I am not the master of my own destiny. In fact, I’m not the master of anything. And that submission to love and whatever is coming is the hardest and best and most thrilling way to live. Giving up my American dream is a small price to pay for the glow of love and the adrenaline rush I feel while flying. I am learning, day after day, foot after foot of moving forward that I don’t even know who I am or where I am going, and that is okay. I love greatly anyway.
Please keep in mind that I’m not always this zen about it. Some days all I want is to make a decision and go do it. Sometimes I want to leave my house and go to a new state and change my name to Clarisse, and do yoga every day and have a few cats and no one to answer to. Some days I do turn into Britney2007 and almost shave my head and not wear underwear and beat people with umbrellas. It’s nice to be able to go grocery shopping and purchase everything on your list without having to listen to crying, whining, or having to abandon a cart full of groceries in the frozen food aisle because somebody got a cheddar bunny stuck up her nose and the other one’s diaper exploded. Anytime I do anything, there are two small people under my feet, asking for food and crying about something. Some days I just want to leaving them crying there and go hijack a yacht and sail to Malta. Some days my love for them is like a noose instead of a diamond necklace. Either way, it keeps me where I should be, and by sticking it out, the noose becomes a necklace again. The days are long, very long, but the years are short. Good thing I’ve been shot out of a cannon and not just walking, otherwise this chaos would last a whole lot longer.
So-and-So here’s to my 29th year. Here’s to all of the years before this one that have been pushing me forward to wherever it is that I am going. Here’s to giving the middle finger to the American dream and submitting to the life that I actually have. But most importantly, here’s to love. Here’s to accepting that love derails you from who you think you are into who you actually are, and that is the most thrilling place to be. If you need me, I’ll be around. Just look up and listen for “AAAAHAHAHAHHSJKHDKJHFKJHDPF!!!”