Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wild and Precious Life

My earliest memories are reflected in a pink diary with purple hearts on the cover. This book came in a matching box with a lock and a key. I treasured it. I'd write several days in a row, skip a few months, come back and say, "Oh diary. It's been so long. You're not mad at me, are you? Anyway, here's what's been going on in my life..."

This book contains night-time scrawlings written long after my Dad turned off the light and told me to go to bed. I'd write in the dark, fingering my way across the narrow lines and writing only a few words per page, but desperately wanting to finish my thoughts.

I was "in love" with a boy named, Levi.
I had a pet snail named, George.
I hated my mom for not letting me play soccer with the neighbors.
I wrote about our family purchasing a trampoline.
I wrote about God (simple, but still God).
I wrote about fear.
I wrote about dying.
I wrote about life as I saw it then.

Writing helps me battle a short-term memory. A memory that forgets where I've been, how I became who I am, and where I'm headed. Writing helps me remember and cope and handle life that seems to throw new curve balls, but really they're the same curve balls, they're just look a little different.

What I know for sure is that after filling over thirteen journals with thoughts, ideas, and ramblings since the age of six, the issues don't change, just the way they're packaged.

I got my heart broken in first grade and again in twelfth grade.
I feared the future in 4th grade and again in college.
I thought I was going to die in 2nd grade (and 7th grade, and 10th grade, and during my year in Cambodia). But I didn't. Nope, not once.

I worried. I doubted. I felt pain. I felt joy.

Journaling reminds me this journey is cyclical. Most of what I encounter today, I've encountered before. Each and every time I thought for sure I WOULD NOT survive this pain or this decision or this predicament.
I did.

From reading my journals, I can tell you that I've always harbored some strains of perfectionism, self-hatred, fear, and guilt about God. I've always questioned my worth. I've always sought ways to feel good enough for others and good enough for God. I've always tried to make neat, little boxes and categories out of life's canvas that is inherently messy, unboxable, and finicky. I've leaned toward a black-and-white approach to life and that has hurt me more times than it has helped me.

You'd think after 23 years I'd learn that life is going to follow its own course regardless of my attempts to micro-manage it. Yet, I still try.

I "try" when I fear the future (as though dreading it will actually make it better).
I "try" when I dwell on the past and everything I "should" have done differently.
I "try" every time I avoid the present moment like a disease and spend too much time in the past and the future.
Missing out on my one "wild and precious life."

Here is part of "A Summer Day" by Mary Oliver:

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"

Over my short nearly-quarter-century-of-a-life, I can tell you this:
I am better now than ever.

This gives me hope. Because I usually do not feel this way. No. Usually I think about everything that isn't going right. Everything I'm doing "wrong." Everything that shouldn't be the way it is. But reflection serves as an excellent teacher and I like to think I'm picking up on the cues from the Universe:
...that if these common themes and lessons continue popping up in my life, they're probably worth spending time with. And learning.
...that the next time I think I simply cannot pass this bump in the road. I can. Because I have before. And I will again.
...that shame and guilt and frustration and criticism and harshness do not lead to a well-balanced life. Nope. They lead to misery.
...that showing up for life with what I know right now is really the best I can ever do. And that's always enough.