It’s time to change the song

stringed instrument
Photo from Nathan Siemers on Flickr.

The same song echoes in a new room. The acoustics are different, the walls are a brighter blue, and though there are familiar faces in the lopsided pictures hanging between windows and corners, the faces belonging to those who are tangibly here  are new additions.

I can breathe easier here. The windows aren’t stuck and I don’t feel claustrophobic. With all these changes, it’s easy to think that the music filling my ears is different too. And in some ways, it is. A couple new stringed instruments are in the group, adding a richness that wasn’t there before, and the new vocalist is bringing something to my words that wasn’t there before.

There’s more experimentation, more stamina, more fullness, but the longer I listen, the more the novelty fades and I understand what a new environment can and cannot do.

It can expel the stale air, it can brighten the eyes, it can quicken the hands.

But it cannot sustain forever that freshness, that brightness, that quickness.

There is a long-awaited quality to conversations, a relief in going there with kindred spirits, and I’m physically shaking, sometimes, when I talk of the shapes I’m uncovering − those things I’ve felt around for in the dark and am finally starting to lay my hands on, finally allowing myself to speak of. Right now, there is movement in the talking. I know that eventually, though, if I stop feeling around, if I content myself with that low light on the other side of the room, I will start sounding like a broken record … even if only to myself.

The same old defense mechanisms and habits easily resurface when normalcy returns, like the emergence of ants when spring comes in earnest.

There is risk in the movement, and awkwardness, and uncertainty. For all its faults, for all the ways it hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain, that one song and I have developed an understanding over the years. The thought of changing it − of adding a bridge, maybe, or a bold trumpet − let alone replacing it, scares the hell out of me sometimes. Other times, it doesn’t even seem possible.

But it is possible, not just for the venue to change, but for the music also to be reborn.

A First Homecoming

Leaves of Friendship
Photo by David Goehring on Flickr

“There isn’t a cloud in sight,” they say, though sometimes there might be a few wispy white things on the edge of the horizon, hovering above housetops and distant mountains. And while I can’t see those distant mountains from here, I looked around, squinting, and there truly is not a cloud in sight.

I’m home.

I’ve lived here for two months now, but this weekend was the first time I left town, stayed away for a few days, and then returned, groggy, with a bag of dirty clothes and several dozen pictures on my phone.

If the 17 pages in my journal sporting new writing are any indication, this trip was steeped in thoughts and feelings as well as faces and experiences. Someday, I’ll write more about these revelations, but for now I’m simply soaking up home.

When I shuffled through my front door after one flight and three bus rides, there was no ache in my chest for a certain forested neighborhood, a queen-sized bed with a blue-and-white comforter, or those three faces that look the most like mine.

Small-town California hasn’t seen the last of me, make no mistake about that. I’m still squeezing two states into my answer when people ask me where I’m from. But I’m attaching the word home to my little brick duplex and finding that it fits.

I left for the weekend anxious to reconnect with some of “my people” and to set aside the loneliness that brushes up against me. When I returned, though, it was with a greater appreciation for the friends I do have here.

I close my eyes and I dream of familiarity and ease, of knowing people well enough to invite them over “just to hang out,” of companionable silence and tossed-aside masks.

For now, though, I will lean into ultimate Frisbee afternoons and house church evenings, trying not to cringe when my disk goes wildly off course yet again or when the words coming out of my mouth don’t quite sound normal. I will practice hosting and being hosted. And I will hold the laughter and the good conversations close to my heart like the gems they are and see what comes of them.

Now is the right time

Hello Colorado

It needs to stop, this wanting to write but never taking the time

It needs to happen, this writing I keep talking about.

This is my corner of the Internet. Facebook can feel too much like being at a family reunion, with all the aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins asking me what’s going on in my life in that big city twelve hundred miles away. Twitter is like a party with all the cool kids: a lot to stimulate and energize, but too much going on and too many people I don’t know to really feel comfortable there.

I have things to say here, and I know it won’t always be easy to press Submit. I want to talk about the Enneagram and Parenthood and that intersection on the way to work where there’s always a homeless person with a sign. I want to talk about loneliness and fear and my turbulent spirituality. The sharing may not be without its trepidation, but I think it’s important to be bold and brave where I can be.

A year and a half ago, I had two glorious months of writing regularly in this corner, but then I was too ambitious: I decided to write every day for a month on a topic that seemed right at the time, but that quickly ran dry without providing the hoped-for jump start to my floundering faith. I kept writing, though, determined to see the month through. And that’s what happened, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it saw me through … and bid me farewell at its end.

Whenever I move to a new place, I’m always hopeful that this is it, that my life will finally stop stagnating and I will no longer fall into making myself be who they expect me to be and I will stop reverting and everything will be better. But I keep having to remind myself that a new zip code isn’t enough, even if it’s a fine beginning. Some changes and growth have happened simply because of being on my own in Colorado, yes, but the deeper, heart work can’t happen without intentionality and even pain.

There are millions of blogs out there on every conceivable topic, but the ones that resonate with me the most tell the truth about the hard places and don’t shy away from the gray areas. That’s the kind of blogger I want to be: one who doesn’t ignore or sugarcoat the messiness, the contradictions, the failures of life, but who walks straight into them even if she doesn’t know what she’ll find in the middle or on the other side.

May the words I write be honest and yet life-giving for all of us on this journey, and may we be able to truly come alongside each other in this place.