Choosing to Return

Salmon sculptures inlay the floors in swirling eddies of bronze and granite at Sea-Tac Airport. I’ve rushed over these fish many times as I’ve navigated a season of growth and vocational transition in Seattle. This time flying out of Seattle was different. This trip was the last trip.

Like most transitions, my move to Seattle wasn’t clean. Filled with uncertainty in the move, I’d intentionally left loose ends. My wary heart had ensured there was an exit plan. My home in Missouri was–one year later–just as I’d left it. 3 bedrooms, an office, an art studio, and a garage of possessions that meant everything and nothing.

As I began preparing to enter my second year in Seattle, still bearing my choice to maintain two homes, the offer to choose came in a phone call one afternoon. My realtor explained there was an offer: a low offer, but cash. Accepting would mean a quick end to the burden of maintaining my exit plan and also mean grieving more than anticipated in regard to money lost. Refusing the offer, however, would mean the financial and emotional cost of maintaining the house and all it represented would endure another cold winter.

In that place of choice, I saw my story–I saw those salmon from the airport: you see, I am both a truth-teller and a truth-silencer. I want both. I want adventure and risk, and I want ease and backup plans. I want to press against the current to find something further and deeper and I want the safety of deep and stagnant pools. In reaching for both, I am like the airport salmon: my refusal to choose transforms me from a creative being able to move with grace and flexibility through swirling eddies into a petrified object frozen by conflicting forces trapping me like granite.

After some negotiation, both with the buyer and within myself, I accepted the offer on my house. My realtor assured me the contents could be liquidated without my needing to return to Missouri–but I knew better. I returned not because my presence was required for the sale, but because I believe it is a good and true thing to name the truth, the goodness, and the loss that brought me into myself in a new way.

I temporarily left my new home to visit a former life for the same reason I tell difficult stories of my childhood: to name is to honor, and grieving the past prepares space for growing goodness in the present.

I returned to my home just as I’d left it–books shelved, art supplies arranged, a decade of memories in objects–and I said goodbye. I gathered a few books, a painting, a memory here and there and left, left the contents to estate sale and auction house, the 100 year old brick and mortar to its own narrative of change and re-creation that I did not start and will not finish.

When I began this season of transition, Peter of the gospels was a sort of partner in the journey. Peter left his fishing boat to begin following Jesus, and later in the gospels Peter alone climbed out of the boat at Jesus’ invitation. Having no way to know if he would sink or swim, Peter stepped into stormy waters willing to find out what would happen if he took a risk with Jesus.

It’s not lost on me that in John 21, after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, Peter stands once again at the helm of a fishing boat. Some commentators suggest Peter returned to his trade as a fisherman in shame over his denial of Christ, but I wonder if Peter returned for closure? Perhaps Peter returned to see what was left behind, and after taking time to re-visit with kindness the context of his old life, Peter was ready to move forward with his whole heart. When the resurrected Christ arrives on the shore in John 21, it is Peter who has eyes to see the arrival of the resurrected Christ, and it is Peter who leaps from his boat into the water- ready, this time, to leave without looking back.

Movement into greater depth and freedom and, in Peter’s case, privileged communion with Christ, sometimes requires saying goodbye to goodness that came before. I realized on this trip that the bronze airport fish are a kind of icon, reminding me of what Peter’s story taught me: wholehearted engagement comes at a cost, and I am sometimes called to make painful choices to make room for future good.

lindsay-braman-profile-avatar-1Lindsay is a Kansas native transplanted to Seattle. When not making friends with every dog she meets or exploring the Pacific Northwest via ferry, Lindsay can be found doodling her way through her second year of graduate school at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. More of Lindsay’s writing (and doodles) can be found here.