“You’re re-inventing yourself, aren’t you?”
With her straight-shooting, slightly swaggering warmth and humor, Lottie named what has been happening for the last three years, commencing a few months before Recovery Week in December 2012.
I was characteristically surprised at being seen, then named. “Welllll, yes, I am.” Each moment of presence with another leaves me feeling braver, kinder, and more hopeful than the split second split before, pulling me together. The gift of friends who see is immeasurable. Thank you, Lottie.
I am re-inventing myself.
I snuggled into the corner of a puffy, floral upholstered couch that December day, two and a half years ago. Peering from a corner of my soul at this man I had met personally eighteen years earlier at a Wounded Heart seminar in Ellicott City, Maryland, I brushed against awakening for the third time. The first time I heard Dan, my friend, Patricia, asked me to accompany her on a song at the beginning of one of the initial Wounded Heart seminars, held at Key Biscayne Presbyterian, the beautiful island setting that breathed grace. Patricia invited me, “Feel free to hang around if you want to, you can just listen.” I listened for about fifteen minutes and said, “That’s fine. I’m going home now.” Two years later, in counseling, Lottie said, “You need to go to this seminar.” The truth of my life had blown through like those hurricanes I knew from childhood, thunderstorms of upheaval, the calmed eye of the storm, and then more bands of turbulence. The pressure dropped, the sky darkened, I hid for cover while absorbed by the storm.
So, when I saw him up close again after so many years, having followed from a distance, my old storm surged, washed through my home again, ruining old furniture while making room for new. I was now ready to hear the statement that he repeated at least three times.
“It’s YOUR LIFE.”
“It’s YOUR LIFE.”
(a few other unintelligible things for me, then…..) “It’s YOUR LIFE.”
My point? I am slow.
Twenty some years slow.
Repeated statements slow.
It’s one of the things I have come to love about myself.
I felt his choice to lean forward with that familiar, scanning, wide-eyed intensity, bending into my frightened, defensive, hopeful, dreaming self, signaling an emphatic, evocative sentence. Without warning, I thought, “Maybe”. Maybe it matters. We’ll see. Can I dare to believe? My classic self-protective, avoidant stance leapt automatically to the challenge. But the space shifted as he continued to speak.
He told of kingdoms and the walls of the room extended to uncharted territory that whispered beauty and danger, where “There be dragons.” He awakened our timid and courageous hearts to a call, to our call, to the daring business of hoping in a sad, beautiful, astonishing world where we mattered, where who we are can change the trajectory of our world. It’s a big dream – to change the world. It’s a Good and Right dream. It’s a crucial dream – without it, we drift.
I was worried. I needed a big dream. I was afraid that my dream might be too small. Did I even have a dream? How do I dream? Do I need to be in a specific place to dream? Maybe going west to Seattle and becoming a therapist who specialized in working with trauma would be big enough. Maybe listening to others who have lived typhoons and monsoons would be a whopping big dream that signified that my life was not wasted, that I was not wasting away. The western skies faded as time passed and I saw my own propensity to create storms. I would not go to Seattle to pursue a counseling degree – I would stay where I had been planted, keeping some kind of dream and transferring it to my soil.
The problem was, it wasn’t my dream, or at least, it wasn’t fully formed yet. These things take time.
One of the essays I wrote as a part of the application process talked about children – creating a space where children could be free to be, to become, to embody their authentic self in the fullest way possible. I failed so, so many times as a mother and a teacher. Was this dream just an attempt to make up for my failures or a passion of my heart? Perhaps they are often the same. But this felt so small. St. Therese of Lisieux, who shows up in my life in significant ways, walked in again, inviting me to embrace the “little way”. Therese generously embraced the reality that she would never be perfect, yet she identified herself as loved and loved well. Her simple, direct path to living in love reminded others around her of a young child. I desperately hoped and continue to hope that even the smallest dream can make a difference.
Enter curiosity. Right on cue, the itch to keep looking, to keep asking, drew my attention back to my dream. I have treasured early childhood since graduate school, even focusing my proposed dissertation in the late 1980s on the ages of three to five years old (I am one of the 70% that did not finish – OK, did not start – my dissertation). I continued to study, my intuition leading me, yet again, back to the beginning, to Dr. Maria Montessori. Much remains to be learned from this brilliant revolutionary woman, the first female physician in Italy, whose methodology initially grew from her observation of disadvantaged children. Reading, however, wasn’t enough. I had to see.
I entered the front door, eyes wide, heart open, walking tenderly across pale golden wood floors, surrounded by beautifully proportioned furniture designed for the rightful inhabitants of this space. Art adorned each wall, just the right height for the eyes that would see. The blond haired, plump-legged, daring three-year-old girl in the first primary room strolled by, looked directly into my eyes, and asked my name. I had come to observe her, and she, in turn, observed me. I was smitten. Later as I prepared to leave the room, she came to me with a small piece of paper, an artwork she had rendered. “It’s a drawing of you,” she said. And it was. Face to face with this force of nature, I humbled myself, like bowing before a queen whose nature is as yet unrevealed. Formation of self emerges in ages two and a half to six, according to Montessori’s work. I thought, Ah. That’s why this is my dream. Mine. It’s my life.
God sees the little and the small. The sparrows. The lilies. The children. And in this place of smallness, I see now, they are not small, these children. They are big. They are bigger than we know. They are fuller than we realize. I want to walk and dance and sit and talk with them. And I bless my life and its smallness.
Sue Kranz considers herself mostly grateful and humbled these days. She lives in central Florida with dreams of the mountains, Montessori, and a simple life of beauty and imperfection, inviting those around her to taste and see and to not be afraid.