Holding space, humility, and my new narrative with a little more grit.
“God does not change, but uses change—to change us. We’re sent on journeys that bring us to the end of ourselves. We often feel out of control, yet if we embrace the journey, we may find ourselves on the ride of our lives.”― Jen Hatmaker
Three things happened recently that I did not expect.
I sat down to write an honest, thought-provoking essay on how I’ve been holding up to various post-Camino encounters when, I’m not kidding, the entire house started shaking.
We had a baby earthquake, just a 5.1 on the Richter Scale, but also the fifth strongest in the history of the Bay Area. The epicenter was twelve miles outside of San Jose. Seconds after the shaking stopped, my daughter in New York sent a family text asking those of us who reside in California if we felt anything. How the hell does she do that? I sort of snickered before running outside to see if Larry felt it too.
He’s painting the house, but didn’t feel a thing, thought I might be running the garbage disposal?
I admit giving the house a facelift was my inspiration, much like the inspiration I had before embarking on a 200-mile odyssey. We’ll see how this one turns out. I spotted the color combination on a neighbor’s house a few months ago, and after several failed visits to the paint store, I was forced to knock on their door and beg for the name of the correct shade of blue. She was completely amicable and showed me the palate of wrong colors she went through to arrive at perfection. The symbolism was not lost on me.
Now I’m bracing for aftershocks as I struggle for the right words instead of the right paint.
As you know, we recently walked our asses off on the Camino de Santiago, and not to overanalyze or dilute such an experience, but it invoked the same feelings as that first 50-mile tandem ride with Larry in Palm Springs. I felt unprepared to survive in such rigorous environments, and I compensated with a false sense of confidence.
I thought my mortal coil had plenty of time to unwind on the plains of Spain, but as we know, appearances can be deceiving, and I wanted to know how long it would last before recoiling as if a spring upon my return to reality.
Okay, I’ll admit to illusions of traveling through the rest of my days with blessed ease, engaging in deeply meaningful relationships with absolutely no drama. My preeminent fantasy was that I would now have the moral capacity to overlook, ignore, or at the very least, generate a compassionate response to any given situation.
Are you laughing at me? Because I can hear you.
The person I was at the beginning of that beaten path vanished, yet the core of my being remains because my core is stubborn as hell, and she refuses to leave. I thought the irrational parts, the things I try to disguise with humor, had been released as if prisoners from my weary soul, never to return. Okay, I might lie to myself occasionally, but I don’t believe me most of the time.
I got rather sanguine on that dusty trail as I callously left behind aspects of myself that I discerned as detrimental or, worse, obnoxious. Why not let them go? Of what use are anger, pride, envy, or greed?
Well, I discovered something, and as you know, I find it inordinately difficult to keep my thoughts to myself.
Surprise number two.
The truth is my biased judgments make me feel better, my envy is why Amazon makes so much damn money, my pride makes me feel righteous, and my righteous anger fights off those virtuous inklings as if a gladiator. But to what avail?
I’m human, flawed from birth. What can you do?
While scanning the past as I walked, which seemed kind of mandatory given the stretches of silence and long, arduous days. I saw all these outdated vehicles, conveyors of myself, as if an abandoned car lot, with little or no mobility, like one of those apocalyptic movies with thousands of unoccupied cars clogging the streets. It’s disturbing.
I think I’m on to something here, but it could be all crap.
The thing is, I no longer need or want to drive the old minivan we had when the kids were young or the ancient Ford Fairmont my dad gave me while I was in college, not even the Mazda RX7 I drove when first married. Those carried a different person from one era to the next, and although they were great rides, their portability is no longer needed.
A Porsche might be nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Believe me, when I say I miss every version of myself, those old cars transported a lifetime ago. Well, some more than others. I think I miss my twelve-year-old self the most. The one not yet influenced by cultural demands placed on women, one that thought she could be the pilot instead of a stewardess, one that cultivated connection instead of conflict with Oreo cookies. I’m a nine on the Enneagram (link to self-test) from beginning to end. As you know, I abhor any sort of change, and I should add the slim Oreos are ridiculous versions of the original.
Can you imagine a gathering of all your past, present, and future selves? How does one integrate so many people scattered across an entire lifetime? I think it’s safe to say we do it every day.
So I returned home with this ethereal sort of spirit, and within twenty-four hours, I was not only headed in the wrong direction, but I welcomed all those newly paroled prisoners back into that fragmented version of my original self, as if slim Oreos, with less stuffing. I am such a pendulate being.
One story, one incident, one plundering episodic tale, and I’m hosting the sinners as if a hellacious hotel for hotheads. What the hell?
In the dark night of my soul, so to speak, when the light of the moon was most blinding, I wandered through the current wrecking yard of my life and realized I didn’t walk far enough, long enough, and clearly listening to James Taylor foiled the possibility of full absolution.
And then I realized something sort of profound. Well, profound to me.
I welcomed my disordered emotions right back in the womb of my being as if the prodigal daughter because someone had the audacity to exalt the underserved while maiming the admirable and good. Really? I have my own shitshow to deal with.
So how do we protect ourselves?
Here’s the third surprise. Knowing I swing as if a pendulum and it is not possible to grow in the toxic soil of myself, I need to recognize the fragility of newly acquired attitudes and remember how profoundly we influence each other’s reality.
Think about a time when your self-narrative, self-rightness, or perceived goodness was put into question.
I decided I need to keep my side of the street free of abandoned cars and the wreckages of my past, leaving space for the vehicles that will escort me into the future. And by vehicles, I mean the values with which I comport myself. I need to intentionally hold space for those who are generous, trustworthy, and kind, avoiding the ones who need to be towed away at the owner’s expense.
And as Jen Hatmaker claims, “Be patient. Do the best with what you know. When you know more, adjust the trajectory.” Maybe remind me of this when I’m eighty.
My ability to understand why change is often impermanent does not need to deter me from the path that has been put before me because the one thing that increases with age is our grit. If the past is just a day away, I plan on curating mine with kindness, compassion, and as much grace as I can muster. Like my dad used to say, “what goes around, comes around.” I not only love the new color on the house, but I’m enjoying this time of life, fully aware the renovations I’m undergoing are far from done.
I’m Living in the Gap, which is clearly, under renovation. I would love if you joined me in the comments. Thanks so much for reading. Hugs, C