“Have you tried online dating?”
“Have you tried praying that the feelings you still carry just leave?”
“What a great dress! Do you plan to wear that for a Valentine date?”
“Are you dating? Would you like to be?”
“I have the perfect guy for you. Can I give him your number?”
“Do you find yourself often hoping the love you carry from your past could be reconciled in the future?”
It’s February…and people are asking questions. So far, it seems the best response is my one eyebrow arched high: “Seriously?”
A couple weeks ago, I was sprawled out on the floor of my apartment: candles lit, music playing, markers poured out everywhere as I did my best to sketch my memory onto a massive sheet of butcher paper.
“Write this week about everything you felt on the night your fiancé left you, then write about how it feels inside of you today.” Those had been my therapist’s instructions.
OR you could take a pair of pliers and pry my fingernails off one by one. We’ll get the same place faster.
After a couple of attempts, I realized traditional language was going to fail me here. That night is so fragmented in my head. So instead, I drew us. Both of us. I wrote the things we said, and as I started mapping what I remembered, more came back. I began placing feelings where I remember holding them that night…across my shoulders, pooling in my gut, heating up my face, silently gathering in my eyes.
As I drew, what I thought and what I felt started to fit inside the same body again.
One of the side effects from the break up was a falling out between my dynamic crime fighting team of Intellect and Emotion. Basically, Intellect pulled over the squad car, grabbed Emotion and shoved her in the back seat: “Quiet! I’ll deal with you when we get back to the station.”
Every once in a while, Intellect has pulled over for some gas and a donut, and then Emotion has made a mad dash for the driver’s seat, which has led to some minor joy riding and road rage. The bottom line is, the two of them are best as a team, and I haven’t been completely in sync for a while. The wide range of emotions I’ve faced has been fed through a grid of what is rational and what will keep me safe.
Even as I sat in my therapist’s office, shoes off and feet folded up beneath me while we worked our way through the colors and symbols I’d drawn, it once again felt hard to not judge my heart and its emotions. Kindness to self continues to be a learned response in my life.
I think about those questions I’ve been asked this month, and I guess I can truthfully say, I am with you. I would love to be in a different space. It’s been a long time to wait and wonder. Still, I think I have to stay present and grounded in the middle of the work that today holds. I don’t believe God made a mistake in fashioning my emotions and intellect to both run deep and stubborn within me. I believe those are a couple of the things that make me straight up fantastic.
And I think finding my way back to a heart and a head that work well together is far more important than a relationship status.
Sometimes that pricks at my doubt that I SHOULD be doing something else right now. Sometimes, amidst weddings and baby showers, I find myself needing to flip through my rolodex of amazing women navigating life “nontraditionally.”
Last night, I called my dad to process some of the places where I feel like people don’t understand. And some of the places where I don’t understand. Why does God seem to withhold the answers to my prayers?
My dad said many wise things. Among them was this:
“Life is changed by gratitude. In all that is and all that isn’t, you get to be grateful for what happened today. You don’t have to fret about the minutiae or drown in the bigness of your questions—you can just choose to hold with thankfulness any person who brought goodness today. I am learning that practice of gratitude has the power to change my whole life, and to move me into new spaces. I believe the same is true for you.”
What if that’s reality?
What would happen if we each sought the gratitude of today? What if that kind of sacramental living is the boat God has designed to carry us through the depths of our stories?
What if my space of unknown leaves lots of room to notice goodness I might otherwise leave unmarked? What if I remember, this is only a season, and it belongs?
Those words strike true and hopeful…both in my heart, and in my head.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 27 year old seminary student, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.