Summer found us parked on the side of a dirt road, feet hanging out of rolled down windows, eyes drinking in the ocean of wheat fields surrounding us. We half-heartedly sipped iced coffees as I pulled up a talk on my iPhone from a writer we collectively admired, Emily Maynard, (not the bachelorette), speaking at a recent conference. Her voice slipped through the speakers, sweet and brave, like she was another dear friend sitting in the leather seat next to us.
“I don’t believe in magical solutions to anything or from anyone. Not even from God. Not even Jesus shows up to fix everything about my life; He sent me the odd, mysterious, whispering Spirit. I have to do the so-much-work of listening to Spirit. I have to practice at it. That Spirit invites me into my life, this wild mysterious wonder, where things grow out of other things breaking down into dirt…This is your life. Stop waiting to live it until things are all under your control…Dig your strong fingers down deeply into the dirt until they are buried and then twist your wrists gently and lift up your wide handfuls of rich earth. This is your whole life.”
The track stopped, and we sat in silence for a moment, sunning and stretching our toes in the mid-morning sun. One thing was for certain about the nine months leading up to that morning in the field, none of it had been under our control. The-Best-Worst-Year-Ever we had deemed it, a party pack of grief, confusion, and heartache, frustration, disappointment, and restlessness.
So, why not just “The-Worst-Year-Ever”? Because in the midst of it all, we had each other, and in a strange way, the messiness of our hearts and circumstances served to highlight how lucky we were to have what the Celtic spiritual tradition calls “anam cara”, or soul friends. It is a rare gift indeed, to find those who are capable of befriending your soul, and allowing you to befriend theirs, and pain has a funny way of showing you just who those people are.
The-Best-Worst-Year-Ever was a hazy mix of our greatest fears and gifts.
And so we sat with Emily’s words, and one by one, took turns sharing all the reasons and ways we had stopped living because we were waiting for things to right themselves, waiting to be back in control. We talked about the ways we had put our hearts on the shelf, certain we needed to get our shit together before we could really start doing and being all that we yearned for and dreamed about. Besides, we had just graduated from college, and while for many that is a finish line of sorts, to us it seemed more like a bewildering beginning we had no idea how to navigate, especially with the bruises and limps we have acquired during the past year.
It’s been a little over a month since that morning, and in that month, we’ve traveled back to California, trading wheat fields for palm trees, and begun sorting out what this new year might look like. And as we begin working part-time jobs, trying to figure out just how much coffee we can drink while still paying rent, and attempting to grow comfortable with our new-found adulthood, Emily’s words have been reverberating in our hearts.
There is still a lot of shit that is outside of our control. We still have a sizable list of things we would change if we could. There are relationships we wished looked differently, wounds we’re hoping will quit waking us up in the night with their dull but insistent aching, and plans we would be lying if we said we don’t hope will unfold.
But as autumn moves towards us, we’re loosening our grips on the “if-onlys”. We’re no longer content sitting around waiting for things to fall nicely into place, no longer satisfied dreaming about the day we get it all together. Because we are young and alive, and this-moment-right-now is our whole lives, and that is reason enough to grab it with all of our strength, lead it to the dance floor, and tango.
So this past week, when one of us got a job? We threw on our shortest dresses and highest heels and had a bachelorette party in honor of her entering into matrimony with a career, complete with ring pops and tiaras and happy hour.
Because life is for living, and we have grown tired of waiting for an invitation to dance.
And as we giggled our way through photographs and lipstick applications, we looked at each other and swore that this year will be different. Not because we’re sure that bad things won’t happen, but because this time around, we won’t stop living if and when they do.
We won’t stop celebrating who we are and are becoming, won’t lose sight of the gift of breath inside our lungs and the good friends that journey alongside us. This year, as one of my favorite poems says, we are throwing a party for the heartbreak that turned us into poets. We are going to show up for ourselves, because this is our one magnificent and wild and terrifying life, and it’s every moment deserves to be met with holy celebration.