The winding drive back into the Peace valley is beautiful. I have to keep my eyes on the lane ahead of me and the construction that takes up part of the narrow winding road, though, so I am unable to fully take in the view or look over, across the river that cuts through the town, to try and spot the ski lift that marked part of my chilly junior high years.
I ran quick from this place. First at 16 then, for good, at 17. It felt too small and constricting. Everyone knew your business and there wasn’t much for me here, beyond bush parties. I both wished I could fit in all comfortable and easy but also wanted more than being the same. I didn’t want to be just one of the many O’Reilly kids. Not just one of the crowd.
I wasn’t running from my family or my town, of course, but from myself.
But I took myself along when I moved to the city. I boarded the Greyhound with the two suitcases I stole from my parent’s basement, all my unrest and insecurity packed in tightly beside the rolled up undies and pointy toed Le Château boots.
I wondered if there was a place for me in this world.
I fell deeper into numbing and self-loathing the year or so I spent there. Then picked up and ran again, shortly after my 19th birthday, this time with a big black duffel bag and a one way ticket to England. I had partied so hard before leaving I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the business class seats my sister and I had scored. I slept so deeply most of the way there, barely able to peel my eyes open long enough to buy the duty-free Anaïs Anaïs perfume the stewardess peddled. Surely perfume would cover my shame and despair.
We all know, of course, that we cannot outrun ourselves. We can run but we can’t hide.
Last night as I sat in my little sister’s living room, trusting her as I tried to untangle all this confusing frustration and longing and grief that has surfaced again, she asked me why I can’t just see the things I have done well, breathe in deep the good in my life instead of always seeing what is left undone. She’s not the first to ask me this question. And I don’t know precisely why. I just know that I am still in the messy process of becoming.
I know that whenever I am on the cusp of change, resistance shows up again.
Why have I always struggled to rest? Why do I circle back to seeking my worth in my ability to perform or keep up? Why do I keep running?
Because all of a sudden I realize that is what I am still doing. Now that my primary time of feathering the nest draws near to the end I find myself all anxious and planning the escape. I will get rid of all my possessions, sell my home, move to the city again, find the next adventure.
But I cannot outrun myself.
And it is time to dig in and finally settle some of these questions. To peel off another layer and another, even if it makes my eyes sting and water like crazy. I don’t want a band-aid. I want to get dirt under my fingernails, hands stained, knees bloodied and dig in until I can wrap my hands and heart around the deepest roots that keep me tethered to failure and lack and unrest. Until I can get my hands around them, tight, and pull and tug and unearth them and leave them to dry up and die, exposed to the light of truth.
I want rest. I choose rest.
As I listen to myself, talking with my sister, unfiltered, I am bewildered at the rebellious uprising of all these all old voices and accusations. I have traveled far but they have followed me through the years, unbidden.
Who set the standard against which I measure myself? Because I don’t want your life. I know the dreams I have and I do believe, at least on an intellectual level, that I have gifts to offer. So from whence comes the ugly lie that I will never measure up (to whom?) or be enough (of what exactly?) and if I try I will fail (who cares – who am I afraid of disappointing?).
I look at my younger sister and oh how I love her. How easy it is, when she is hurting, to speak life over her. To encourage and remind her that she is beautiful and perfection is not required (read this fabulous book!)* and it will all be OK. But today I need her to speak truth into my barren places.
She reminds me that I do belong, to my friends and my family, and what does it matter if I never feel like I fit with anyone else, anyways? It makes me laugh a little when she tells me I am not as weird as I think I am. She points out a place where I need to forgive and let go. She sounds a little annoyed with me that I am caught here, again, in this unforgiving web of comparison and not good enough.
Maybe this is what growing up looks like. Or, this is the only way I know how to do it. Showing up. Being real. Stretch marks and growing pains. Exposing our deepest fears to the light where they can be inspected and turned over. Giving others permission to speak life into our shame or broken places.
No more hiding and running. If we are to find rest, we can’t hide.
Because as I head into the next season of life I’d really like to leave those heavy suitcases behind. I don’t want to carry them anymore. I don’t even have the energy to carry them anymore. I’m sure there will always be work to do; the becoming whole and mature, resilient and refined never ends, I suppose, and I am OK with that. I even look forward to that. But it is time to let go of this baggage.
After two days communing with sisters and gathering up hugs from their little people, I slowly climb back up, out of this green valley, lighter than when I arrived. I’m moving forward into my next season of life lighter. The path a tiny bit clearer.
I think about you and how many of us are journeying together. I wonder if maybe you, too, feel ready to lay your heavy baggage down alongside mine. Just leave it there.
We can run but we can’t hide.
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