There’s something about this time of year - when Advent is upon us - and the silence the snow evokes can be felt deep in the bones. It’s the kind of silence that invites a richer life, a good look at the heart, the hope of what can be. It’s one of the few times of year that God-as-gift feels tangible, feels close. Like an expectant mother holding her rounding belly, I hold a heart that is swelling. My heart as the inn, emptying itself to make room for the coming king.
I used to go to this cemetery as a teenager, when I wanted to get out of the house but had nowhere to go. It felt peaceful and sacred and safe.
sometimes I would lay a blanket in the grass and just listen – to the crickets, the distant trains, nothingness. Other times I would read the names of the dead; trace the letters with my nicotine-stained fingers and try to imagine how each of these lives spent their days.
The unknown has always been a reassurance to me. Knowing that our past is forever etched in stone, but that our futures can always be reimagined.
As I dig at the stale brownie remnants stuck in the corner of the dish, an unsettling ghost rises like deja vu. Back in my childhood home, I had a stomach of anxiety. Fear followed me like a dark and knowing shadow. In the unlit night, in those traitorous years, I would try to enjoy the small bits of sweetness that strung sparsely across time.
My aproned mother with well-weathered hands stirring the rich shade of cocoa. Wooden spoon guiding the thick batter from side-to-side, smearing thick chocolate up the sides of the glass bowl. Scraping the sides with a silicone spatula, batter pouring slowing into a dish like the one before me now. Bake at 350 and savor the sweetened tongue of a sickening teenage sweet tooth. He stared at my mouth with every overindulgent bite of the warm brownie that ended up souring in my stomach.
The copper leaves and blue sky, the cooling, generous wind, they are all a part of the autumn that I so desperately anticipate each year. While my senses are romanced, my emotions feel abandoned. I live with depression, but this time of year is particularly rich in body memory and heavy associations. Although every ounce of my being wants to just live in the beauty of this season, mentally, I am trying not to fall myself.
I want these cycles to break, so I listen to my body more intently, I try to recover the emotional truths that are buried under unhealthy emotions, I slow down, I breathe deeper, and I wait on those answers that seem impossible to receive. It is both a struggle and a release to be undergoing such change, but like anything worth attaining, there is a death that proceeds the change.
Rebecca Salnit wrote that the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay. Pat Barker reinforces her sentiments by adding "that the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration...cut a chrysalis open and you will find a rotten caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly."
And it has never been more true that I am in the cycle of rot. The illusion that things are actually getting worse is ever-present, so I have to diligently remind myself that working through pain is a process, and that with bravery and stamina, I too, can receive the promise attached to the other side. So while the emotions at times feel unmanageable, I recognize that the caterpillar was never destined to come out of the chrysalis, well, another caterpillar.
I have confidence in God for justice and restoration, I have hope in intuition and therapy, I take courage knowing that I am committed to this path of healing, because I KNOW that I am part of a longer narrative. We weren't made to live in the transition, we were made to emerge as the same old us, but transformed and life-giving, and beautiful.
*please reach out and ask for comfort from others, don't hide your disease because of shame or inadequacy. above all, I pray that all of you who suffer like I do find hope*
There is something so emboldening about a new day. We are the same people who tend to fall into the same behaviors, yet there always seem to be variations in nature. It's the same sky, but new cloud formations, new graces breathing through the day, encouraging me on my path - to be the same me, but with varying formations of my own.
I'm choosing to show up, to let my past failures breed wisdom instead of bitterness, and to treat each moment as a sacred gift. May your day be sweet, not because life is always good, but because you choose for it to be.