twenty-second summer

22nd summer

I was talking a mile a minute about myself, about my passions and my beliefs and that girl who lives deep in my heart, when the words spilled from my mouth before I even realized that I had thought them:

Big life to be had.

And for a few hours, I was really proud of those words.  My conversation partner had noticed them too, writing them down to remember, looking at me with wide eyes and a slight smile.  She asked where I’d read that, and I said I didn’t think I’d read the particular phrase anywhere; I just said the words because they made sense, because I felt them, because it was in my heart.

It sounds very beautiful: I said the words that were in my heart.  That’s what makes me special, isn’t it?  That I have this way with language.  I spin letters like the fairy tales spoke of spinning straw into gold. 

But on my short drive home tonight, I mulled the words over in my head, and my pride slipped away a bit.  I believe those words – big life to be had – but maybe I don’t always live like it.  I have an anxious heart – a big, open, hopeful, loving, joyful, trembling, giggling heart, but an anxious one, too.  I know this about myself.  Last semester’s moments of panic and sleeplessness confirmed it.  The fact that it is difficult for me to get into cars with drivers who aren’t myself.  The fact that sometimes, I hurt the people I love most because I think I need to be in control.  It is indeed a big life to be had, but often my fear gets in the way, and I hate that.  Because I know in the deepest chamber of my heart that I was not created to be afraid. 

This summer has been one of rediscovery.  Finding again that girl in that heart chamber who runs barefoot through forests and cities and deserts.  I didn’t venture far: I stayed in my college town, lived with a lovely professor, and worked on campus.  I scaled no mountains, but I did road trip to the Pennsylvanian Appalachians.  I went to four weddings, visited my boyfriend’s family, went home a few times, watched my sister graduate high school, buried my grandfather’s ashes, saw the destruction of a tornado, ate dinners on the deck, read many books, watched many movies, took a yoga class, babysat tinies, went to Florida, flew alone for the first time, wore more dresses than I did shorts, stayed up very late, held hands, saw three shooting stars, went on countless nighttime walks, and felt like it all meant something.  My best friend lived minutes away and so we could celebrate our 8- and 9- and 10- and 11-month anniversaries together.  The depth of the fear I had felt the previous semester began to dry up, and though I slipped many times back into the leftover muck, I started to find myself again. 

And my goodness – my self is complicated.  All selves are, I am convinced.  I shift so easily from joy to self-pity.  My temper flares suddenly and dies out slowly.  Sometimes I can’t stop speaking.  Other times, I can barely stutter my way through a thought. 

And yet.

This summer, I remembered time and again the love that abounds for me.  Love from the Maker, yes, He who molded and bought me, He who wins me over no matter how often I drift.  This love drenches and soothes, and I have felt it so clearly at so many moments these past few months.  But love from others, as well.  From the family that does not try to hold me back or call me home, but instead lets me grow elsewhere, and always answers the phone.  From the friends with the front door that I do not have to knock on before entering.  From the yoga teacher who looked me in the eye and told me that my strength had nothing to do with my size, but instead everything to do with the love I poured into the earth and the people around me.  From the young man who keeps walking beside me.  From the children with eyes that light up when they see me.  From the small, noisy little dog who cries and licks and runs to me when I come home for a visit.  

Love.  It is all love.  Find it, again and again and again.  

So maybe the words I spoke were truer than even I realized.  Big life – big life full of love and road trips and going to the office.  Life with the people who make it big.  Stay in the small town when all the kids go home, and find again the community that surrounds those who remain. The secret, it seems, is not to find arrogant pride in the big life, nor is it to believe the lie that the fear defines you and steals the big life away. 

The secret, if it was ever a secret at all, is to find the life you have, over and over again, and see how big it must be to hold all the love poured in. 

It is a big life to be had, dear heart.

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