As I write this, I’m sitting at my grandmother’s old desk, surrounded by family photos and an assortment of colorful sticky notes with handwritten quotes on them, birthday cards, vintage cut-outs of birds, and a plethora of notebooks.
The view looks over an empty field, orange brown and waving in the wind as it ripples through the grass and over the lake. The trees are still bare, but today I saw the first flowers of Spring, tiny blue polka dots peaking through the dry ground.
The place I’ve been avoiding since the day my high school boyfriend and I broke up when I was fifteen. The place I happily left two years later when I decided to attend college in Chicago. The place I reluctantly returned to when my family unraveled and everything fell apart, including me. The place I left bitterly in the early morning three years ago, backpack on my shoulders, no intention of looking back.
In a way I can’t articulate fully, I’ve been afraid of the monster living under the bed. Each time I come back, I feel a familiar knot in the pit of my stomach, warning me to have an escape plan. What, or who the monster is, hasn’t always been clear.
Sometimes I think it’s me, or past shadows of myself I’m afraid to recognize. Sometimes I think it’s the sadness I don’t want to feel anymore, leftover particles of despair clinging to each other like so many dust bunnies. Whatever it is, the monster under the bed has been an elusive and yet powerful entity for as long as I can remember.
This time feels different. The monster might still be there, but I’m not as afraid. I’m ready to make peace.
I took a walk last week while still in Idaho visiting my youngest sister. The sun was shining and the snow was beginning to melt. As I walked along the dirt road stepping around puddles, sinking into the mud, I heard this thought, “Isn’t love just one long story of forgiveness?”
My heart soared and sank in the same instant.
The more I practice forgiveness, the more I’m realizing it’s a continuous choice. It doesn’t happen once, or twice, it’s not an item to cross off a list. It’s a deepening of healing, a peeling back of layers, an opening and an exposing. It’s vulnerability. It’s trust. It’s opportunity.
For me, there is no greater teacher of forgiveness than going home.
As I was nearing Kansas City, flying over barren farmland, circling the small airport I have left and returned to so often, I remembered for the first time in a long time, how much I love it here. I have been haunting the hallways of anger and sadness for so long I’ve forgotten to open the door leading to joy. I’ve been afraid to feel both sides of the coin because at some point, the narrative of pain became easier.
It’s hard to be here sometimes. It’s challenging to love all of the broken pieces we’ve had to put back together inside of us. Sometimes the scars hurt to look at. Sometimes I’d rather not remember everything we lost, even though we’ve gained so much in the process.
I look at my family and I see how strong, how resilient, how empowered we’ve become, yet a part of me wishes we didn’t have to.
One long story of forgiveness.
I can feel another layer being peeled back, lovingly, tenderly.
The plane set down smoothly on the runway lit up like Christmas. My Dad was at the airport to greet me, just like always. We drove the hour back to my grandfather’s house, where my sister was waiting. She opened the door into my grandmother’s old office, and showed me the transformation.
“I made a place for you,” she told me.
I have my own room with a real bed and a desk where I can write. There are windows to let in the moonlight and the sunshine. There is space for me to hang my clothes.
I remember sitting here so often with my grandmother growing up. It was one of my favorite places. As she paid bills and filed paperwork, I “worked” beside her, cutting out pictures of flowers and birds from magazines, making collages, or writing letters.
It seems fitting that I’m here again, now.
I can feel her presence as I look out the window, soaking in the view she loved so much. I can hear the delight in her voice as she watched flocks of geese land on the lake. I can see her smile as she watched us playing in the yard. I can feel her love, offering light and encouragement.
I see a small feather floating by on the breeze, white and golden, drifting in the wind.
Her bright blue eyes full of joy, sparkle.
“The landing is soft,” she reassures me.Google+