Well, well, well – Happy New Year, one and all.
What a year it was. A year ago today, I sat in this same room a very different person. I was without all the things I’d ever used to make myself feel safe and established. I had no job to speak of, was living in my parents’ bonus room, had very few substantial friendships and not a drop of romance, and was a thousand light years from any kind of usable faith. Then tough love from two of my dearest friends spurred me to action, I packed the car and headed to New York, where a few more dear friends multiplied into dozens and even a church and altogether they unearthed my cold, dead heart and brought me back to life with their stubborn love and limitless generosity. I know now in reflection that must have been the reason for my longstanding love affair with NYC, so that I would have established a safe place to run when the time came for me to shed every bit of armor I’d tried to hide in, even though it wasn’t meant to be my home for more than a few months.
When I came back to Tennessee I was raw, buzzing with possibility and anticipation. It felt like anything might happen and I didn’t have the slightest clue what it might be. I only knew that adventures were taking me by the hand and begging me to come with them. Nothing felt more urgent than to go outside – go camp, go hike, go explore. I think now it was that I knew I felt a need to be alive RIGHT NOW, and the only authentic “right now” we’ve got is the natural world we live in. It’s the only thing that defies our measly humanity and says “I was here before you and I go on being here whether or not you pay attention, and without your help, by the way.” Somehow that just gets you to shut up, and it’s the most wonderful release. All the shit you chased in life – trying to listen to the right music or wear the right clothes or know the right people – just falls away. What freedom.
Having discovered the real me under all the nonsense that got shaken off, I found my strongest desires were to have meaningful relationships and tend to the earth. I focused my joy and energy on these things and doors tumbled open right and left. Nothing I could have manufactured or manipulated. Only the most unpredictable, unlikely of people and scenarios that God hand-delivered to me. My jaw still drops thinking of the summer I had. I packed up and wandered out into some of the most beautiful country on earth as casually as if I was going to the grocery store. Sometimes a memory or a landscape will pop into my mind from that trip and I catch my breath. I wanted to stay in those mountains for the rest of my life. I wanted to BE like those mountains, totally and joyfully being the grand design I was meant to be. I know I couldn’t have lived “there”, doing that, forever, but I certainly wish it was possible. I was never more alive, and never happier.
But I missed my Cowboy. I remember telling him how much I wanted him out there with me, or just wanted to get home and start living my story with him. What a beautiful gift he was. I’ve often thought how that trip would have been different, without him to share it with on the other end of the phone. Granted, without him to pull me home, I may have stayed (or made plans to return) out West, looking for work or a new life, and I don’t think I was supposed to then. Maybe I will someday, maybe even soon. But even though it hurts now to have his memory attached to everything I saw and everything I did, I know it wouldn’t have been as complete without someone to talk to about it as it happened. I’m grateful for that. He has served a purpose in my life, on so many levels, and whether or not that’s done now, I know the rest of my life will be drastically affected by the fact that he was in it then.
I’ll willingly admit, I hope it’s not over. What a waste, to have so much love for a good person and have to keep it to yourself. Lately my precious friend Becca, as I’ve gone to her to try to work through my fallout with Cowboy, has been telling me again and again that she loves what a big heart I have for him. Somehow she sees so clearly the density of my affection for him. I was driving home from her house recently, feeling so heavyhearted about it all, and it occurred to me that I’ve felt some version of this all my life. It’s as though from an early age I carried this rich, dense love, waiting for the person I could give it to, not unlike the feeling of holding your breath for too long. It felt like a burden when I was struggling with my unhappiness and my life, but then when I found myself, I found Cowboy, and what had been a burden when I was broken was now this joyous gift I was so excited to give. It just spilled out of me. Today, I wondered for the first time if it he wasn’t ready to be loved like that. Maybe, even though it was goodness and light, it was just too much. Maybe I loved too much too fast. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to say – how can there be too much love? The world is starving for it. But I remember times where I’d tried to imagine being so focused on by someone, and found the thought overwhelming and uncomfortable. Maybe neither Cowboy or I did anything wrong, and just the timing was off.
Either way, I’m so grateful that 2014 happened, with all of its brutal introspection and love and loss and adventure. 2015 is going to be less dramatic, I think, but possibly even more important. Pray for me as I try to stay painfully honest and brave about who I need to be and what I need to do.