november: come home. sleep in bed, not van.
december: jump on treadmill, repeatedly. celebrate christmas, enthusiastically. pretend to be vegan.
january: new year’s surprise. visit hospital. chop firewood.
april: overhaul wardrobe; just say no to decade-old clothing.
may: freshly pressed.
september: launch…new blog (that sounds so familiar…)
october: get busy. in the PG way.
november: get ridiculous. not in the black eyed peas way.
Oh what a year it has been! Honestly, it’s been nothing like I thought a year after a sizable life event would be. I’m not exactly sure what I thought it would be like, but I think I assumed it would be more settled. Which I find to be a logical assumption, seeing as how I had just spent three months covering hundreds of miles each week in a circular trek around the country. I think I also assumed that the mini van would be a magic portal through which all of my problems would be solved. I’d enter in September wondering what to do and where to live and exit in November with answers, experience, and 10 fewer pounds.
I think that’s what we call being young and stupid.
The experience of the roadtrip is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I learned plenty of things I expected to learn (how to harvest potatoes and shovel manure), a few things I wasn’t planning on learning (Texas road rules, a raw foods primer), and one thing I never saw coming (nouns, I’m looking at you). I met so many wonderful people. I saw so many breathtaking sights. I figured out how to survive off of dehydrated foods and hot beverages.
I was able to see a dream become a reality.
That, in and of itself, made the trip worthwhile, not to mention the host of other factors that made it worthwhile. All in all: the roadtrip was a victorious endeavor. Mark it down as a W.
This is the part where I’d like to wrap a bow around the year that followed. I want to say that it was equally ambitious, life-changing, and just plain cool. But the truth is that it was a year. A year that defies tidy summaries. It was a year in which I was granted unbelievable blessings: having my dad’s health restored, watching the Packers win the Super Bowl, growing as a blogger and photographer, forging new relationships in an old place, deciding to stay and wholeheartedly embracing that decision. But it was also a year in which I struggled. Mightily. I tried to figure out what it means to be consistent in the midst of anything but consistency. As unlikely as it seems, I really think there was more change after driving through 30 states in three months then there was during the whirlwind tour of the country. Since last November I’ve lived in four different places. I’ve worked (at least…I’ve honestly lost track) seven different jobs. I’ve started and stopped a thousand new life plans. In short: I’ve floundered.
Life pre-roadtrip looks linear: I had one job. I lived in one place.
Life during-roadtrip looks adventurous: I set out to accomplish something and saw it come to beautiful fruition.
Life after-roadtrip looks…messy. I’m working an ever-increasing number of jobs. I’m living in one place but I’m hardly ever here. I have a million and five goals but no clear-cut career. I’m trying to stay but finding it difficult when there’s so much to DO.
Perhaps this is the problem. The same unbridled determination that carried me around the continental US still lives in me. I still have the intrinsic desire to do big things. But right now, all of that drive feels somewhat aimless. Like revving a parked car. The motor is running, the engine is raring to go, but there’s no forward motion. I’m throwing energy and enthusiasm around like crazy, but it feels directionless. And what’s left is a bunch of overzealous clutter.
Or, more likely, perhaps this is the problem. I’m reading Watch for the Light, a book of advent readings, and this selection from Henri Nouwen’s Waiting for God has me written all over it:
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere (hello, defining life direction for YEARS). The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. (Hello, this blog.) Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive.”
“We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disapponted and can even slip into despair. That is why we have such a hard time waiting: we want to do the thing that will make the desired events take place. Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.
But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended.
I have found it very important in my own life to let go of my wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of wishes that something really new, something beyond my own expectations could happen to me.”
Waiting. Patience. Letting go. Gets me every time.
I sometimes feel like I’m the kid on Christmas morning who runs down the stairs to the tree and methodically shakes every box beneath. What’s in the shiny one? What’s in the big one? What’s the BEST one? The kid who is so caught up in figuring out the gifts that await that she misses out on the gifts that are already happening: there’s a feast going on the the dining room, complete with baked french toast and hot chocolate. There are people hugging and laughing and celebrating the joy of being together. There’s a palpable, blessed tension in the air from the profound meaning of the morning.
But she can’t see the forest for the (Christmas) trees: her efforts to guess the gifts are not only futile, they’re foolish. All the while, the gift-giver knows what is in each wrapped box. He knew exactly what she wanted and needed and picked the gifts out accordingly knowing that each would be an individual delight. He has a purposeful plan of which she is to open first and which to save for last. He won’t hold any back or make her earn them by guessing what’s inside. That would be antithetical to his cause; he carefully selected each one and derives joy from giving them freely.
So why can’t I let God give me each gift when he’s ready to give it to me, instead of shaking everything underneath the tree? Why am I trying SO HARD to figure everything out when he already has it all figured out, and perfectly so?
That, my friends, is the mystery of this post-roadtrip journey in a nutshell. If the story of the roadtrip was defining nouns, then the story of the year that followed was learning how to let God write the sentence.
I think it might take longer than a year.