15Aug

Snowball in August

The air is thick tonight with rain that never comes. It slumps just out of reach, heavy and inert, and it’s enough to make one scrrreeeeeaaAMM in the hopes of startling something loose in this too-big, too-still cosmos.

It’s been a summer of not enough anything. Mostly time, but patience, energy, resources, they’ve all been threadbare from the first sun-steeped day, and my heart has been pushing against frayed seams until I’m sure that this time it’s going to fall all the way through.

I have a word that has buried itself deeper and deeper into my waking mind this year, and it gets bigger the deeper it goes. Generosity. It won’t let me go, this notion of interconnectedness, of burden-bearing and of being the hands and feet of miracles. I search for meaning in everything, so I keep trying to peek behind the scenes and see why the idea of generosity would grab me from the inside out in a season when I have the least to give. I’m wallet-empty, word-empty, strength-empty, drained and going cross-eyed from so many nights up late trying to beat inertia at its own game, and I can’t begin to imagine where this giving would come from, but it insists it’s important and won’t let me say otherwise.

I have another word too, a word that swoops instead of burrows and wields a different kind of claw. Failure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to sit down here with you only to find all my words replaced with that one. We’ve been in Italy for five years now—five!—and I’ve wanted so often to commemorate our anniversary of leaping into the unknown and to marvel at the milestones in our rear view. This word, though… When it comes, it comes with the single-mindedness of a sharpshooter, and it bores through me on its first try. All the milestones I haven’t reached in five years, all the blunders I’ve made, all the regrets stretching as far back as I can see, and will I ever be able to see the terrain of my life story any other way?

My version of reality is something like a giant snowball of the experiences I have accumulated, and sometimes I forget that there is another side to the snowball, much less that reality—real reality—might not be limited to what I can see from my cross-eyed, failure-pecked mind. I’ve said things in the last few weeks like “My only purpose in life is to clean up messes,” and it’s felt like the truest, most dismal truth, especially with bright red ginger soda splashed across the newly mopped floor. I’ve shut out the quiet invitation of an hour alone with life-affirming words because I haven’t done enough to earn that privilege from myself. I’ve lost heart before even starting a day’s work, and my reality has been cordoned off in every direction with harsh yellow “Failure” tape. The rain has just hung in the air, unresponsive. Not a droplet to pin our hopes on.

I know it’s not the big picture though. I know because this notion of extravagant generosity has my face between its hands and I can’t look away, even when Failure reminds me I have nothing with which to be extravagantly generous. There is a reason, and when it shows up, it won’t have to fight for my attention. I also know that this stretch of crusty snowball I’m eyeballing is not the truest true because life is cyclical. The rain might slumber out of reach for weeks on end, but it can’t hold out forever. And when the sky finally opens up? You better believe I’ll be waiting.

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5 comments

  1. You know, I still feel like many parts of my creative life are still on hold and will be until after the kids are out of the house…sad as that may sound. I know there are plenty of women who manage to keep their creative selves completely alive and functioning (Christina, I’m looking at you) even with small-ish children but honestly I don’t know how they do it. I have SOME creative outlets but nothing like what I used to have. And used to prioritize. Now the family comes first and even if I sometimes hear that “failure” word bouncing around inside my head too, I have to remember that everything comes in its own time and maybe now is just not the moment. You’re not a failure, Bethany. Stick that snowball in the freezer. XOXOXO XO!!

  2. I think we all have to wrestle with the failure tape. I look around my messy-ish house on a daily basis thinking to myself “how hard is it?” How hard is in to just figure out those piles of papers? How hard is it to refinish that kitchen table? How hard is it to just go to Home Depot and buy the new light fixtures already? For me, I choose different work, but it doesn’t keep me from beating myself up for it DAILY. I look at all that is wrong. I really WANT my house to be my dream house. How hard is it? (And that is just one concrete example that’s on my list of failures.) So, let’s try and look at what we do that is GOOD for a while. I don’t believe either one of us are failures. We just need to accept ourselves for what we are. We are enough. (Thank you Oprah for that phrase.) And even though it is hard, deep down I know that we are both good, kind people. What more can we ask of ourselves? I am reading Liz’s comment up there and I know she is wise beyond her years. (Thanks Liz, I needed that too!)

    Sending you MUCH love and hugs too. xoxo

  3. I just went over and read Glenna’s post from yesterday. Have you read it?

    http://momastery.com/blog/2012/08/14/one-bad-word-appearing-twice-sorry/

  4. Oh Bethany, I could hug you so tight. Your words echo the feelings of my own heart the past several months. Just a week or two ago I was an utter puddle, finally able to express those words I’d kept stuffing down because I couldn’t face them: failure, failure, failure. And then a dear friend wrote me and said that if I’ve loved even one person, I am not a failure. I cried and smiled and thought, OK, I can do this. I can show love to just one person. I look around me now and my laundry is heaped everywhere, dishes piled on the counter, groceries STILL not put away from Wednesday and you know what? It’s OK. And you, you are SO OK. You love your girls and your hubby every. single. day. Even if it’s just a little bit. Now it’s time to love on YOU. To celebrate every little thing – even if it’s just getting up, putting on clothes other than pjs, actually eating something, drinking one extra glass of water, looking out the window for one whole minute, getting some sort of fresh air, new scenery, something. You are amazing, always, not just when you feel it. XOXO

  5. Liz – “maybe now is just not the moment…” What a gift, these words. XOXOXO to you as well.

    Megsie – I hadn’t read the Momastery post yet; that was fantastically apropos, and I could use a new definition of “Holy shit.” 🙂 Much love to you (and your messy-ish house; want to come over to my really-messy-ish one?)!

    Krista – I love everything about your comment, maybe especially about the groceries not being put away. It’s such a beautiful thing to realize we’re not alone in our mess and tangle of failure tape.

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