This morning I crawled out of bed long after my dear one had left for work, feeling the stupor of grief heavy in my body. My coffee tastes good and the sun is beautiful this morning, but I am aware of tears pooling in the corner of my eyes and the spasm of a sob still buried deep.
I am tempted to recount how this grief began and to calendar the days in search of it’s close. But the truth is that it is a combination of griefs, of losses, of avoided griefs that have snowballed into this season of my life. Last week I was bowled over with a wave of anger, today I awoke with deep and inexplicable sadness. I recognize these emotions as belonging to the snowball and try to welcome them as they come.
A decade ago I was struggling with complicated friendships and vocational uncertainty. On the other side of the struggle, I had my professional life but not the friendships and I grieved deeply. I poured myself into my work and truly experienced some of my most productive years in that context. Sitting in this rich loamy soil, I am finally able to touch the sadness and at the same time feel gratitude. “Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever.”
Five years ago I was again struggling, this time with an identity from which I could no longer hide; an identity which threatened both my family and my profession, the very fabric that had carried me through the prior cycle of grief. Navigating with deft measures of control and much dumb luck, I managed to shed the layers in rapid succession. Now every piece of that former life has been recycled or repurposed, nothing remains the same. The blossoms that are in this place are truly exquisite, the greatest love story of all time and a daily life that is simple and sweet; but every bit of it is new. My kids are now grown, my husband is now my Ex, and even my profession is now gone. The cocoon that held the caterpillar is left behind as the butterfly wings.
Witnessing the butterfly, I feel disloyal in grieving the emptiness of the cocoon and the loss of the caterpillar, but my sense of guilt only impedes the sadness which demands it’s audience. I have no complaints and am indeed grateful, but I am also sad.
It is this final piece of professional loss that wakes me in the night with sadness. In the church we talk about vocation with reverence and share our stories of call. I had clarity about my call long before I had clarity about marriage or no, even before I had my high school diploma I knew that the sacred was guiding me to church leadership. To be sure it was a problematic understanding, as to that point I had only experienced conservative (ie: no women in leadership) churches. The journey would, I always knew, be long and winding. And it was all of that and more, truly beautiful at points. Until it wasn’t. When it was over, it was time to go.
As spring teases on this early March morning, I pause to notice the cycles. I see where my life has wandered and give thanks for the many blossoms. I see how the losses have fertilized the ground, the tears have nourished new life, and the deepest winter makes ready the earth for the coming of spring. In this most recent cycle, these five years have been a process of revisiting each choice I made as I was coming of age, systematically examining, pruning, and redirecting. This late winter soil, which is readying itself to bear new life, is rich. It’s musty and fertile, messy.
And though the blossoms are still unseen, the roots which are stretching deep in the earth bear witness to the soon-coming blooms. Already enjoying some of this new season’s fragrance, I am hopefully for what is yet emerging.
Not yet spring, it is sadness that I welcome into my heart this morning. A late winter guest, she comes just as the ground thaws. I welcome her as we share late morning coffee, sweet memories and gentle words. I know that she won’t stay forever and I give thanks for whatever wisdom she bestows.