06 Jun On transitions and finding the courage to move forward.
What follows are some thoughts on moving from one place to another.
We are living in Anglesey at the moment (for a three month sabbatical) but these words are not about a literal move, but a metaphorical one.
The past few years I have been on the border, crossing from one way of life to another. My blog is subtitled ‘Learning How To Live’ because this is what I have been doing: learning how to live in a new way, in a new space.
I have been transitioning from one way of thinking about myself, my life, my faith and the world in which I live, to another.
Maybe you are re-learning how to live in ways that bring you more hope and joy, as I am.
Or maybe you are moving from one stage of life to another: pre-schoolers to all your kids in education, or from having children at home to an empty nest.
Whatever change you are in the midst of, I hope you might recognise yourself in some of these words and find comfort here. It is less lonely when we do things together.
That would be a good word to describe it.
Moving back and forth, not getting very far .
Leaving one place and for a while getting stuck in the borderland, unsure.
Nervous to venture further and set up camp.
Remembering the old land, becoming nostalgic about it, rose-tinting the memories.
This is how I have been.
In my heart I know the only way is forward.
Further up and further in.
But going where I haven’t been before feels scary. There is a language to learn and a new community to find. There are new rituals to put in place and new habits to develop.
The desire to return to the familiar, to capitulate to what I knew before, is ever-present.
And the temptation to romanticise the past is strong.
There, I found fleeting affirmation through fulfilling certain roles and behaving in particular ways.
There, I found a sense of belonging as, alongside others I attempted to work and control my way to a life of meaning, even if I was quietly competing and comparing all the way.
Even dysfunctional community seems appealing when you feel alone.
From this hinterland, this in-between space, the land of the past feels safer.
Why not go back to the time when I was in the centre of something?
It was straight forward enough. I knew what I had to do to succeed.
But, as I start to wish for what I remember as a simpler time, I remind myself of the consequences of living a transactional life.
Everything I wanted had to be bought with behaviour.
Everything I hoped for would only happen if I was good.
Everything I needed would only be given if I worked for the approval of others.
And again I remember this is the path to exhaustion, to collapse. Pursuit of perfection looks shiny and good, but it is pursuit of death.
And so I move forward. I try not to look back.
And if I do remember those times, I make sure I mark the pain created by that way of thinking and living.
Because this movement into a new land has cost me, has cost us.
(I say “us” as this is not a journey I have made alone. My intrepid explorer husband has been at my side, friends new and old have walked with us, and my children have raced on ahead leading the charge).
This expedition into the future has been paid for many times over with gold forged in the crucible of pain. It is the suffering: depression, anxiety, relational breakdown, and grief, that has spurred us on and kept us moving.
I am proud of my scars.
My scars serve as my salvation: they stop me going back, they keep me walking forwards.
The pain we had experienced was not going to be wasted, it was not going to leave us unchanged.
We used it as a springboard to investigate all we thought we knew.
We determined not to stay in the same place and not to get held up at the border.
We purposed to find new ground on which to stand.
Ground on which we could live and know peace and joy.
A land where we each were enough.
So we read and we dreamt and we took long walks. We talked about how the new life might look, how it would be different to before. We imagined it into being. We gathered with those who had the same glint in their eye, the same smile creeping at the corner of their lips. We were not expecting perfection, far from it. We were encouraged as we found authenticity and vulnerability, as together we owned our failures and our complexity. As we accepted it all.
And now we are here blinking in the light of a new place.
Our legs are strengthening, our spines are straightening, we grow as we turn our faces to the sun.
“Now you have realised you must leave it [the old country] and enter the new country where your beloved dwells. You know that what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. That requires the death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise.
Trust is so hard, since you have nothing to fall back on. Still, trust is what is essential. The new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable.”
Henri J Nouwen. The Inner Voice of Love.