Yesterday the sky was a bright blue and the clouds puffy and white, a vibrant backdrop for the iridescent orange, deep red and yellow maze leaves of fall. The leaves have been changing for weeks now, but they have beautifully peaked in the past week in my neighborhood. The beauty, filled with complexity of color and texture, still takes my breath away as if unfolds each year.
Late in the day the wind picked up and the space around my home was raining leaves as they found it impossible to hold on to their branches any longer. The wind lasted for hours and by late last night, as we sat in the hot tub the familiar lacy silhouette of the trees had returned, the silhouette of winter.
It’s coming, the complexity of fall giving way to the simplicity of those bare trees and barren fields that mark the return of winter.
The complexity of my fall weighed in heavily last week, those in my close circle knowing about “it”. (Because, we all have those “its” in our life don’t we, the thing that is there but not everyone knows and those who do ask and those who don’t notice and wonder).
Sometimes complexity just feels gorgeous, the layers of color and goodness mixing together in breathtaking glory that leaves us smiling and filled with gratitude. And, other times complexity seems to feel heavy and chaotic; like a wool sweater that you were wearing when you got caught in the rain and it sticks to you, itchy and smelling just a bit, musty and unwanted.
I was feeling damp and itchy and a bit lost in the swirling complexities of my life and my work. I was fighting against the heaviness but it was just starting to feel like I needed some help, somebody who could possibly pull that sweater off of me and hang it out to dry somewhere away from me.
I called a friend, not completely sure what it was I needed or wanted but something inside of me was prompting and I took the risk of listening…as opposed to telling myself that I was fine and could handle things on my own. Our conversation was brief, and his words right to the point (which is what I prefer). He reminded me that there was some simplicity available to me if I wanted to welcome it.
The next morning I received a text message from him as I was driving back from dropping the little girls at school. He’d sent me a link to a song. The lyrics included the following:
So I’m headed down the open road unknown
And we find what we’re made of
Through the open door
Is it fear you’re afraid of?
What are you waiting for?
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
I found myself crying as I listened to the lyrics, tears for having been seen, cared for and called out by someone who knows me and believes in me.
I purposed at the end of summer to spend this fall listening to my life, listening to God and asking for direction. My fiftieth birthday coming early in 2015, alongside changes in what I had felt certain was the path ahead of me two years ago invited this pondering for me.
The listening has been good. I am holding the awareness in me that I probably have one more opportunity to build something. Because what I’ve experienced is that it takes about 15 years or so to build something, so what I do now and the decisions I make matter greatly. I want to be giving my life energy towards the right thing.
My friend reminded me of what was starting to be lost in the weight of that wet wool sweater I was wearing. I was losing myself, something I had been told by another friend, losing myself under the weight of judgement and accusation and the fear that comes swirling around with it. He asked me to think about what it was that I actually fear and he reminded me about what really matters.
Best of all, he sent these words, “Sing your song Sister, IT’S BEAUTIFUL”.
My thoughts about complexity today are that while it is true, we live in a world of complexity; we also live in a world where truth and beauty are not so hard to find. Sometimes we confuse the noise around us for complexity and we confuse complexity for chaos, which most of us want to avoid.
I want to embrace the complexity, and the beauty it brings with it…even when it looks like chaos. And I want to still the noise that seeks to drown out the song that is mine to sing.
As I fight, for I it is inevitable that I will fight, I want to remember that love alone, love alone, is worth my life energy.
Today as you all read this I am sitting at a conference, listening to my life story and taking another intentional step towards the next thing for me. It feels good. It feels like continued preparation for the battle that awaits.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 27 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.