The Hard Things

I was feeling nervous that morning, but I wasn’t sure why.

I was getting ready to meet my boss in the lobby of the hotel he stayed in the night before.  Being a sales rep meant having your manager ride along in your car with you about once a month.  It was the same as any other morning I would meet with him before a day together, but I wasn’t feeling like myself.

I walked in the lobby and sat down, waiting for him to come downstairs and meet me.  When he did, he greeted me with his usual warm smile and he immediately put me at ease, as he does with most people he knows.  Paul was one of the reasons I enjoyed my work at Merck – his management style was motivating and comforting.  So when he sat down and said, “Seja, are you happy doing this work?,” I knew why I was feeling nervous earlier that morning.

That was my last day with Merck.

Up until the most recent few years of my life, I was pretty good at avoiding discomfort.

Avoiding confrontation.

Avoiding pain.

I felt a wide range of emotions that morning – sadness, happiness, relief.   I drove home that sunny morning after my resignation, I pulled in the driveway, and something, I feel, magical happened.  It started to rain.  It poured actually.  There is about two hundred feet that separates the driveway from our trailer.  It wasn’t showing signs of letting up, so I got out of the car and started to run to the house.  But I was wearing heels.  One came off in the mud.  So I stopped.  I just stopped and let the rain come down on me.  I took a deep breath, put my one bare foot down in the wet grass, and felt the rain.  I didn’t run from it.  I stood there and let myself get soaked.  And it was the most alive I had felt in a long time.

That day was a changing point for me.

It was the day I embraced feeling uncomfortable.

It was the day that I realized that if I was feeling discomfort, it meant I was living and feeling all of it.

Truly living.

We were in Banff, white-water rafting.  We shared our boat with a family from the United Kingdom and before we got in, the guide asked if anyone had a preference on where to sit.  The British family immediately spoke up, requesting the back of the boat.  Joe and I just looked at each other and shrugged and got in the boat with our girls.  We figured out quickly why the other family requested the back.  We were splashed with fifty degree water repeatedly.  When we made it to a calm point in the river, our guide asked if anyone would like to take a dip in the water.  Before anyone could say anything, Joe was overboard, swimming in the frigid water.  He spent a minute in the water, the girls giggling that their dad was crazy, the guide then helping him back in the boat.  He found his seat back in the boat, shook his head to dry his hair, looked at me with a huge smile and said, “that was amazing.”

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Truly living.

He experienced the river that day.  He felt all of it.  And he showed me and our girls that if we want to feel all of life, we have to feel uncomfortable.  We have to take the chance that it’s going to hurt.

We have to sit in the front of the boat.

What an amazing thing to live this life.  And what a shame to be in it and not feel all of it.

So I’m going to go running when it’s freezing outside, and relish the hot shower afterwards.

I’m going to down the wheatgrass-kale juice, so I can be healthy longer.

I’m going to play outside in the snow, when I’d rather stay in by the heater, and feel my toes go numb from the cold – and hold on to the memories of playing together while the girls let us.

I’m going to take the risk in my business, because I would rather live and try it, than stay comfy and regret not trying.

And if we ever go white-water rafting again, before the guide even says anything, I am going to raise my hand to be in the front of the boat.

The Contrast

The wind is blowing hard tonight.  I hear the whistle of it in our little space.  The walls keep us warm, but the rain and wind outside remind us of how thin they are.

I open the door and the lack of eaves leaves rain on my skin.  Small waterfalls roll off the roof, leaving drops on my hair and glasses.

The girls run from their rooms to the family room, blankets trailing behind like capes. The floors shake, giving evidence to the space between the ground and our home.

The window rattles as the rain comes down.  I make out the lights of a passing car, the foggy glass not giving away details.

I bundle up in my raincoat once again and go out back to the field, looking at the future.  I am longing for it.  Longing for windows I can open, floors that don’t shake, walls that are thick.  I can barely see an outline.  I see the warmth of the lights glowing from the inside.

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I am ready to be there.  I am ready to be settled.

I turn back and return to our home for the past two years, excited for what is to come, knowing it will be soon.

I am back inside, taking off my wet boots and coat.

And then I look at my children under the blankets on the sofa.

I see my large, furry friend asleep on the carpet, drying his coat from the outdoors.

I see my cup of tea, cooling on the table.

The candle flickers.

We are warm. The walls and roof keep us dry.  No need to open the windows right now.

But we know now.

We know the difference.

Leaving the thick walls and solid floor behind to come to a space without.

A new appreciation for what we have has come to us.  It has made the simple, the luxurious.

Unlock the window and it opens.

Walk outside to shelter from the rain under a covered porch.

A furnace that works, without worry that it may not turn on this time.

What a privilege to have built a home, to have built a life here.

Joe and I know.  And the girls know.

And we are grateful.

My People

“What is a good time for me to come pick up my people?”

My dear friend was dropping her kids off to play with mine while she took care of some things at work.  And it was great for me too – I could get some things done around the house besides snack making and fight-refereeing with my girls having friends over.

She asked the question about a good time to pick up and it took me a minute to answer, because I was still loving on her term of endearment.

My people.  It sums it up, doesn’t it?  I thought of mine – Joe, of course, and these two people who once took up rent-free space in my abdomen.

But since that day last summer, I’ve decided that “my people” is more than my family of four.  It’s really more like the size of a football team.  (I don’t actually know how many people are on a football team, but when I see the games on TV, it looks like there are enough players on the side of the field to populate a small town.)

My gratitude for this is immense.

You may be in this group and not even know it.  Some of the people I don’t even actually know.  Weird, I know, but true.

Like the man working at the car wash who gave a dirty look to the woman who blatantly sped up and cut me off to get in line in front of me.  When I did make it to the entry of the car wash to pay, he told me he didn’t pre-wash the back of her car in honor of me.  See.  One of my people.

The woman who told me in line at Starbucks that if I order an iced coffee with vanilla, leave room, instead of my latte, and just pour the milk in myself at the bar, I would save myself two dollars per coffee.  That amount multiplied by the number of times I go to Starbucks with compound interest = hello, kids being able to go to college.  One of my people.

And then there are the obvious ones.  The friend who noticed that my busy schedule left much to be desired in my nutritional intake, who then shows up at my house with lentil soup and warm bread for lunch.  And even better, a huge hug.

The friend who always seems to text me at the perfect time, when I’ve had not the best day, just to say I am thinking about you and I love you.  And I’m in front of you in the school pick up line, looking at you in my rear-view mirror.  Love her.

My long distance friend who knows I am awful at keeping in touch, yet when we talk, we pick up like not a day has passed.  My person.

The friend whose daughter agreed to spend the night at our house after returning home from Disney World, so her amazing mother could have some time to rest and recoup.  Because Disney, although wonderful, does not send us home ready to tackle the world.

And that same friend who came to get her person the next day and said, “Let me take your girls to the movies so you can finish painting and move in to your home.”

My people.

Someone said something to me the other day and it has stayed with me.  “God made us to be in relationship with each other.”

We are all each other’s people, really.

Mom at Kroger, who I see trying to hold it together long enough to just get bread while her children scream bloody murder – you are my person.

Woman at church, who reminds me of a great aunt, who asks me to guide her to her seat after communion because, as she says “I don’t know where to go,” – you are my person.  Girl who sits with her at church, with the Home Instead name tag, who is probably the reason this woman can come to church – you are my person, too.

Maddie currently is in the middle of her soccer season.  She loves it and has made some of her best friends on the soccer fields.  Having said this, there is one player on another team that she had singled out as not her favorite player.  This player is fast, she is aggressive, and she is good.

Last Monday’s practice was smaller than normal due to our fall break and families traveling.  Because of this, all of the teams combined and practiced together.  Nearing the end of practice, the girls were divided into two teams for scrimmage.  During this scrimmage, Maddie and “the pushy girl” (not my words, but I’m going with it) were on the same team.  As I was mentally preparing myself to hear about it in the car on the way home, I saw something unexpected.  I saw Maddie pass the ball to “pushy girl”, who then centered it back to Maddie for the goal.  And then…high five each other.  They high-five’d.  The girl who Maddie had singled-out as “not my favorite” was now celebrating with her.

As Maddie ran over to me after collecting her water bottle and bag after practice, I smiled and looked at her.  She returned the smile and then said, like she could read my mind, “I hope she and I are on the same team next year.”

We are all in this together, doing life together.  Let’s just be each other’s people.

And lady who cut me off in line at the car wash, if you’re reading this, you’re my person, too.  I’ve been in a hurry with a dirty car before.  Let’s just be each other’s people with clean cars.  I’ll happily let you cut in front of me anytime.

we belong