Photo Journal: Bring on the New

Because I check my mailbox when I step outside, I carry the envelope with me all day. I hold it in my hand, place it on my desk when I walk into class to teach. I stick it in a bag and zip it shut as I walk through the halls. I carry it not knowing what it holds, only where it’s from. It’s a little secret clinging to me and I push it in the back of my mind, like I do every thought that does not belong, like I do all the things I have no room for, little strength to handle. I put a hold on it. It’s only an envelope addressed to me–who would think something of this kind can weigh this much?

“When I finally make it through my day, finally walk through the door of my apartment, I open it carefully. And inside are all my cards, all my words. To you. For you. Here I am, on a Monday evening, holding in my hands the return of my gift. I read them slowly. Some I wrote while we were already falling apart, others I wrote while we fought to salvage what we had. In my small private moment, these cards unravel to me how much has been given, how much has been lost. I am unused to this side of return. Everything I’ve given has been kept and held or misplaced, but never sent back to me–to take back, to undo the very act and intention of giving. It startles me. Pains me. But I remember standing in your kitchen the other time, crying because you got rid of something I gave you when things were not okay. I remember telling you, gently, “We won’t do that to each other. We are going to have moments where we’re upset, but we’re not going to discard our gifts simply because we’re unhappy.” Hope is the reason for those words. Because I did not want to believe something was crumbling and coming to an end.

You said it hurts to see all the reminders. Memory and its fragments, so sharp, piercing through everything. And I said if you’re ever compelled to throw anything away, send it right back to me. Because all of it is meaningful and true, regardless of how it ends. And so while my heart seems to swell, while my legs threaten to break underneath me as I hold the envelope, I know this too is an act of love. You would rather I have them back than discard them because you have seen firsthand what that kind of abandon does to me. I, too, see why you can no longer hold on to them. And so in good faith, I take my words, and keep them, just as I’ve kept yours.

What it means to be still, present, to exist in a time of quiet grief, a time of questions, of fumbling and feeling and sitting still, holding your knees, cupping your head, sobbing, rocking yourself, soothing yourself, hushing yourself. List of things that wash over me: Joy, peace, a sense of trepidation, exhaustion, strength, the courage to keep going, an abundance of life. Washes right over me—over my head, down my shoulders, soaks through my being, grips me on some days, flows like an easy stream on other days, and traps a storm on many nights. I remember thinking, Why is this so difficult? Why am I feeling so deeply? What is this emotion that has taken hold of me, that continues to drive me further into a place I’m constantly pulling myself out of?

Because I cared wholly about something and that was all the risk involved.

I wake up. I face it, sometimes poorly and sadly. Sometimes squarely because life demands it of me, insists on my movement, my work, my little stamp of proof that I showed up, even when I didn’t think I could. I am living in a way that necessitates hope. I start with a shifting shape: my body rising, legs moving, head bent, hands clasped, my lips moving. Words tumbling out of me unguarded and without coherence. It is an outpour. It is a prayer. When I think it leaves me empty, it fills me up, ballooning my chest with blessed peace. I sink deep down into it. Fully immersed. Look at what I have for shelter- a divine covering, a sweet embrace. And yes, it still hurts and it still stings, and regardless, I sing.

I am living in a way that necessitates hope.

I call God into everything because I am at that level of surrender, and I’m starting to feel it is where I want to be for the rest of my life. I have come to realize, it doesn’t matter the time of day, the burden, the shadows holding themselves over me. Not the brutal brutal pain of mourning, seeking, or healing. There is no exception in what I can lay at His feet. Nothing is off-limits. I sigh, I make my way to Him, weary, bruised, and aching. Here, I can be still. Here, I can be seen. Here, I can be held in a way that only He can hold. When I am utterly incapable of translating the depths of my heart, I rest in the assurance of His knowledge, that my thoughts and fears and dejection are not hidden from Him. He sees and He restores.

Here is everything to say about my days: I watch the skies and their marvelous orange streaks. The trees and their affection. The falling and gathering of leaves. I look up at buildings. I look at strangers and away from them. I am always walking in the mystery of what will be. The earth is richer, the colors are changing all around me. I participate in its beauty. I stop to pay attention. I nod. I half-smile. I hide. I emerge. I open open open, encountering the miraculous. I am closed and all walls, shutting out the world.

I cry in all my video calls. Out of joy. Out of sorrow. Out of nothingness. I talk to Winston about therapy. I talk to Nad about living alone. I talk to Lisa about the dread of all that is unbearable, for how long? Grandma Amy calls me at 4pm every day, whispering healing and strength over me. I wipe my tears. I apologize again and again. I say thank you, thank you for listening, for being here. They ask me to stop. I apologize again. I am always sorry for something, always weaving my way through the complicated path. I am forever the girl at the edge of breaking who quickly rushes to hold it together, to keep the pieces intact. And I perform the happiness, drape it over me like a cloak, I do it so often, and for so long, that I can hardly tell the difference anymore. Thankful for friends who witness the shedding, who are unafraid to see and touch the bone of a truth that might scare them a little. But they stay and stay and stay, choosing me, when I can barely choose myself.

My days are not of brutal suffering, just of quiet, deep longing and meditation. Where I am, this season that has me at odds with myself, seized by life, will not always be so. Somewhere, the days are bright, fresh green fields, giddy with joy and brimming with life. Somewhere, the sun sets, only to rise again. A promise of beginnings, a promise of newness, a voice speaking out from the void: hope, hope, hope. Carry it in your chest, carry it in every breath, carry it all your days.

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