Writer’s Workshop is back after a slight hiatus and as usual, the prompts were provoking. So. Instead of choosing one, I chose to swirl several together and, well…
I started writing this piece on the topic of courage, which means I actually started at fear. Because really, in order to talk about one you must begin with the other. And yet the thought of writing about something that scares me, that brings forth bare vulnerability, is intimidating. Standing here all alone on the island of my words, telling you about a weakness – even if it leads to the more important ending of finding contentment. So here is where it starts: I am afraid of being left behind.
My first conscious concept of being left behind happened when I was just a young, spindly, awkward pre-adolescent; that age when you are not quite a young child, but not yet a teenager. Life is filled with clumsiness and an oddly shaped body. Cracking voices and uncertainty. And while wandering through that first summer of change just before the fifth grade, I found myself in the throng of a group of neighborhood girls who were sunny day friends. You know the type, the typical “mean girls” who mooned with you over Jonathan from New Kid On The Block one day, and spitefully spit gossip about your knobby knees the next. I never quite knew where I stood with them. But they were my only close option for friends, and they seemed to rule our portion of the subdivision. So naturally, friend was the better title to have than foe.
I remember our friendship lasting no more than a summer or two, but for its duration I lived in a strange state of fear. Would they wait for me on our evening bike ride, even though I was younger, weaker and without a shiny new ten-speed with a banana seat, streamers and neon, plastic beads on my spokes? Would I be invited to the next slumber party? Even though I always fell asleep first and thus was the target of every late night prank known to Girl’s Slumber Parties the world over? Would I be included? Or would I be left behind.
In the end, I was the one who moved away and left them behind.
And as it happens, life continued to move forward with seasons chasing seasons and before I knew it, I was married. Living in Minneapolis. Then California. Then New York. And for many of these last years, life has been an adventure with my boy and I hustling forward as we worked tirelessly towards goals and moving on this road together. Happily but solitary.
Somewhere along the way, we started to slow down long enough to realize – for me at least – that old fear of mine, fear of being left behind, had found its way back. Our time as wandering adventurers has been incredible, fantastic, exhilarating… but in the blink of an eye, my siblings have all become adults. Who have turned into friends. Who have turned into dear friends. Who have turned into people I want to be in community with. I love my family fearlessly. Fiercely. Vividly. And a few months ago, I found myself feeling bereft over the fact that I only see them a few times a year.
Ironically, for someone who fears being left behind, I do a great deal of leaving. So when my baby brother decided to marry the love of his life a few weeks ago, my boy and I were eager to fly our way to the middle of the country to share in a weekend dedicated to their wedding ceremony. There was lots of hustling happening. Bouquets were being created. Hair was being curled. Dresses were being zipped. Groomsmen were standing around. Babies were being corralled. As we literally ran into the church just as the music began. The mother of the bride stood, we all turned, and I couldn’t help but stare back at my brothers, all standing at the alter in support of this grand occasion. All so different, but all so vital to our family. Beside me stood my sisters, and their adorably squawking babies. My parents in front of me. Everyone was together in one place at one time.
And I was filled with a wave of absolute contentment. Amidst all of the rushing and planning and squabbling and chaos that naturally follows my endearing family – all 17 of us. Yes, SEVENTEEN. Including parents, brothers, sisters, spouses and off-spring. In that moment, my heart was full. In a flash, I remembered that I had no need to be fearful, but that I should always take courage in the love of my family. My living, breathing talisman, because no matter how far this life journey takes me, my boy, any of us, we will always have a way back home.
The love of a family is where true contentment rests.