Here I Am
Here You Are
I rarely find myself in the position of speaking words I regret. My vice is often the opposite, not saying words and regretting it. Most of the conflict in my life has been borne on the back of my passivity and learning to say clearly or ask specifically or tell precisely with my voice is the work of my life. This sin shows up in friendships, in marriage, in my relationship with God, in brokenness and in breaking. I say this because it is rare that as the words come out of my mouth, I am thinking “What are you saying? Don’t say that!” I think myself out of words far more than I think about the words I’ve already said.
And so when I say something I haven’t thought my way out before saying it, and it comes out wrong or even just not quite right, those are often the words that ring again and again and again in my brain.
I told someone recently that “I feel like I’m coming back to myself again.” As soon as the words left my mouth, while they were still lingering in the air, clouded by the unfamiliarity of the phrase, and the ambiguity of it too, I regretted saying them.
While it is true that medication has helped me not use anxiety as a battery for action, and going to the gym has helped me get strong, and the end of school is in sight, and I have found myself thinking—even dreaming—about the future again, is it true that this is “myself?”
Recently we switched Harper’s downstairs basket with her upstairs crate. She loves both, but her crate will always be her favorite. When she is downstairs, she is normally by my side wherever I am, with her basket reserved for naps. But now that her favorite place is downstairs, I often can’t find her around the house. “Where’s Harper?” I ask myself and Nate frequently, and the answer is almost always the same, “Oh, there you are, in your crate, exactly where you love to be.”
It is a strange thing to discover something new in yourself that isn’t at all new, but old, the oldest thing about you, just in a new and unfamiliar place. Because of the surroundings, it feels new, but because of the feeling, you know it’s old. I suppose it would be like if your childhood home was picked up and moved to a new city. Within its walls you’d feel at home, but through its windows and out its door, it all feels very strange and new and odd. It would create a dissonance in you, I imagine. As sense of surety that you’re home, but a sense of displacement knowing you are decidedly not home.
And I suppose that you would need to feel your hands and look at your face in the mirror and perhaps weigh yourself or sit on a familiar piece of furniture or cook a familiar meal or wake up in your bed, something tangible to remind you that you are you and this is home and it’s going to be okay.
Everyone I talk to hasn’t felt like themselves since 2020. 2020 jarred something in us all, I think, and it felt like being picked up and then set down in a strange and unfamiliar place, like Dorothy in Oz. And even while there might be beauty around us in some ways, it doesn’t feel like our black and white world of yore. Almost everyone I know experienced a deep loss in 2020, too, one that wasn’t related to the pandemic, but coupled with it made it more profound. A divorce. A move. A death. A layoff. A breakup. A loss of faith or church. And those things change us, and we can’t go back again.
We can’t go back again.
Whenever a new mother talks about getting her body back again, I think to myself, “You will never get your body back again. You have carried life within it and borne life from it and now you will forever belong to another in a way you never have before. That body from before knew none of that and it is gone forever. You will never have it again.” And this is also what I tell myself about the past few years: I will never have it again. That body did not know how to navigate all that the past three years brought with it. And now, for better or worse, this body does.
Years and years ago, before I really knew anything about growing in grace, I wrote these words from Oswald Chambers on the inside cover of a Bible:
“Growth in grace is measured not by the fact that you have not gone back, but that you have an insight into where you are spiritually.”
I know it is now the thing to not make new year resolutions about our bodies or weight loss or the gym or food rules, we have evolved beyond that, right? But I still wonder if we haven’t evolved around it at all, if we’re still constantly reaching for the familiar, for the tangible, the controllable, anything to remind us that we’re here and here we are and home is still within us somewhere, and if we can just get back to ourselves—where our insides and outsides meet and match up—that everything will be okay. As much as we don’t want to go back, we still can’t help wanting to go back.
A friend visited recently and left a giant bulb in a terracotta pot on our window sill. Within days the green tips broke through its crown and now the stems are a foot high, with two sets of praying hands at the top. And within those cathedraled hands, there are blooms fit to burst. I can see their pinkish red petals today, peeking out from within the green fingers. Soon, in a day or two, those blooms will rival the bulb for size as the amaryllis says to January, “I’m here! But also, I was here all along, all of me, and everything I needed to be this bold and beautiful and big.”
What does it mean to “come back to ourselves” while also “growing in grace?” I’m reminded of some Rich Mullins lyrics, “That where I am, there you may also be.” I think it is, in a sense, to recognize ourselves and God in us and we in him. It is to say, “I am not where I was and not where I will someday be, but today at least, I am where I am and God is with me, and therefore I am at home in this body, this transplanted bulb that looks to all the world to be paper thin and crusty and dead, but holds within it life still.”
What are your hopes for 2023? My hope is to not “come back to myself,” but to simply be where I am. To be present, here. To stretch out my arm, to say a word, to pad around a dark house in the early morning and know where the furniture corners are, to make a soup I know by heart, to know Harper is in her crate whenever I wonder where she is, to pass by a mirror and see my reflection, and say, “Oh, there you are.” And, as odd as it may seem, to hear her say back, “Here I am.”
S A Y A B L E is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.