I’m currently doing a mini-memoir, a trial run through a new process I’m playing with for writing a literary memoir. This exercise is meant to find any holes, weaknesses, or time-drains in my pretty little list of tasks from pre-writing to completed first draft, but it’s turned out to be a lot more. Using my own life to do a rough run-through of each exercise, I was seeing my life from a new perspective. From the perspective of the exercise from last night, I was living a dream with no limits, a life wherein the waters seemed to be parting directly for me, and all I had to do was sprint happily across. Then, the waters crashed down around me and my husband. Or, at least that’s what it felt like last night when I stayed up staring at my life’s chapters.
The first day my husband and I came out to his family’s homestead (not to visit, but to stay, weighted by the reality it was his turn to keep the farm running for another generation), freezing wind and rain whipped our faces raw, literally and figuratively. Set in the mid-point of what was to be the biggest transition of our lives (about to move for a paralegal job and attending law school shortly thereafter), it was both the most inopportune and most opportune time this life-changing event could have occurred. There was promise in knowing there were cattle that needed feeding and warnings in knowing we’d driven out going about 13 mph, sliding over ice-packed roads, only to find that the tractor wouldn’t start, and we weren’t entirely certain the electricity hadn’t been shut off to the house. Everything was a frozen promise of better times ahead… if we could just survive the onslaught of contempt, unfounded jealously, pity, hate, and an overall sense of unwelcome.
Nothing on the prairie is easy, though, when you are trying to raise a crop from an empty grain bin. Except that bin wasn’t empty, and the crop that would spring forth had been being designed for years. Sometimes it’s hard to see hope through tears, though.
Weeks ago, I read “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver, and it was this time of transition that rang out through her words. I’d started drafting this post that day, but something was missing from it, and after a sleepless night of warding off a midlife crisis from my memoir exercise trial run, it was the post draft that settled my head back onto my shoulders.
All our (my husband and mine) hearts had ever desired was a simple home, preferably out in the country, were we had both grown up. The idea of living in a town–all those windows, no place to run out into a field, lying in the soft grass, one knee bent, one leg crossed over the other to read for hours. Nowhere to keep a horse, or be able to go outside during a blurry eyed night of terrible dreams and press your face into a warm coat of molasses, dirt, and love.
No, living in town, I think, which is where I was running to in a full-out sprint, would have ultimately killed me–the me that exists inside this unappreciated capsule. The same held true for my husband.
So, here we were. At the beginning of the life we’d always hoped to obtain, but seeing it through the lens of pain and loss. It took us more than a few years to finally be able to call it our home, to let our hearts settle into the soft comfort of knowing and accepting this could be a place where our dreams were released to play out in the daylight. They do, too, in the form of our daughter. In fact, I’d always felt like an unwanted guest until my daughter cried out, still a baby at the time, “Home!” when we pulled into the drive. That’s when the fierceness of possession and family security finally overrode all my previous trepidation and sense of existing as an unwanted outlier.
This home will be her heart for a long time before she realizes it is also her burden, and my heart both breaks and fills with warmth for her at the thought. A harsh and exciting gift of her family, and it won’t be for many, many years that she, too, will have to face those pebbles of rain. Letting them crash the hurt and realization in on her, before they finally soak into the dry, cracked soil and produce a crop of dreams of their own for her and her family. May she always have the faith to just weave and have faith that God will provide the thread and the design.
Last night I felt like I’d been on a steam train barreling toward success, only to have it derail and leave me crawling away from the wreckage. Yet, I knew that wasn’t the case, because I believe what I’m doing now is what I was meant to do, but I couldn’t reconcile it. Now I see. Now I know. This particular life, my life, is a gift–one that I almost ran right past.
So, on that note, I’ll sign off on this post with a song on the same migratory track. 🙂