Last year I went kayaking alone on a Sunday night to process my 33rd year.
I made a list of a few items that I wanted to do that year. Write more. Read more. Do more activities alone. Quit commission work. So I did, I went running. I wrote some things down for a book that no one will probably ever see. I quit things that sucked the life out of me and I made more time tried to make the time for the people, things that matter.
My first gift to my husband was a plant. It was Valentines day, and we had been dating a few months, still learning how to put our fingers together in a knot. He took me on a date on Reeds Lake and we ran into a couple as we ate who told us laughing, “We are heading home to do “married couple things!”” The wife had spit up on the front of her camel colored dress from her baby and her hair was disheveled but they were both so beautiful, sparkling with love, smiling at us as if we were the main attraction. I will never forget when the husband, Derek Taatjes, pointed at us and asked, “are you in love or what?” To which I just smiled and nodded and shrunk up a little.
I have always been a slow cooker when it comes to love. I want to ease into things, not be pushed, look out for all signs of danger. Grow something from a small seed with a barely enough water and see if it survives. Journal and over process my fears until my hand hurts.
But that night I gave Max a money plant with a little card attached to it, explaining how in the same way he had to learn this plant, how to keep it alive and healthy, I wanted to learn him.
He killed the plant.
Every plant has specific instructions: we all know this. Don’t move it too much or water it too much, let it get root-bound, water it ’til its soaked, but let it drain, put it in a bright window or over some rocks, mist it, keep it in low light. Why can’t they all be the same.
We are like this, as people, with little instructions that keep us more alive and healthy and everyone has their own tag. As an adult I have finally given myself permission to follow the instructions that allow me to have more life, and it has led to a sort of sweet-spot.
One of my best friends is exuberant & Bengali. She has four peanut butter children, is a brilliant writer, is married to the famous red haired photographer as a husband, & has the culinary skills for television. About a year ago, she got overwhelmed with all of life as she carried her fourth inside of her womb. Instead of just sitting amongst the chaos of being overwhelmed she took her life out as if it was in a box and she looked at the contents inside. Because the box was so full, she couldn’t see half of the items… so she removed the pieces and picked through them, deciding what things needed to go. The box then had elbow room, a little margin to breathe and grow. She wanted to be able to see everything in the box, and care for it carefully, mother it, nurture, love it. Something that she told me that I won’t forget is,
would you rather carry around four quarters or 100 pennies?
It is hard giving up things that we think are important, but when we do, it adds value to the things that are important.
Creativity has been like this for me.
I used to hoard creativity as if it were mine, and I think as I learn that creativity, and all the parts that make up “me” (or you) are something you give and have been given… rather than something that you are, it freed me up tremendously.
I went to a retreat a few years back, and a short stubby blonde lady with curly wiry grays spoke about looking back to remember who we were as children. What did you love? What made you thrive?
I grew up around insects and soil and oceans and fields. I always say the wild and the garden raised me more than most things. I remember how uncomplicated God seemed when I was deep in the woods, my knees scarred by the bark of climbing trees.
My older brother researched moths and butterflies and would take long shiny pins and put them through the bulb of insect bodies and lay them out in a collection. He would order caterpillars online and wait for them to give birth to themselves and set them free into the wild. Because of this, I knew about Luna moths and how to drape long stretches of white fabric along the back of the garage to catch them in the moonlight.
My mom would take long trees of paper out onto the porch and teach us how to put our fingers in paint and I’d paint beaches with the pads of my fingers. I spent hours grumbling at the garden separating weeds from the soil so that we had fresh green beans in the summer. At eleven years old, I wrote chapter books about orphans finding a family and I practiced how to draw portraits with faces and eyes and hair. I spent hours alone in my room: writing, drawing, studying. I loved tea parties and frying my skin on the beach in South Carolina. I was obsessed with finding hiding spots in the fields or behind bushes where I could climb into to think.
When my Dad first showed us the A-frame of mountains and the buffalo of the Dakotas, Montana’s big sky & the jagged fingertips of Arizona I drew a picture for each state along the way, I couldn’t peel my eyes off of the window, my heart beating faster as I took it all in.
I was just a child then. But things moved me, still.
It was when I began to think maybe something was wrong with me that I filled my time with different things that were not of the heart. I discovered what it felt like to get applause from people, and I pushed my introverted self out into the crowds where I didn’t know how to wear my own hands, and I became loud and forgot the person I was perhaps created to be.
It is strange now to see myself returning to these child things. In the same way that God encourages us to have the faith of a child, to not question the love we are told about, I think if we became more childlike in many directions it would benefit us greatly. So as I age, I also try to remember that at 34, I want to become more like myself, because it is the person I was created to inhabit. The person that God has intended to work through, even in whatever small thing he has planned to do through me.
What a privilege it is to meet people who do not wear masks. Who are flawed and know it and talk about it as if it were normal. Who are using the tools they have been given to make this world more bright, soft and loved.
So as I turn 34, I want to spend more time learning about the “tag” that came with my plant soul. How to care, cultivate and water the people God has placed into my path. To give away what I have been given.
This blog is just a little encouragement to bravely be the person God created you to be… and to remember that every person that is in your path can be learned and grown to flourish, just like that darn fig tree that I’ve almost killed, but finally found its sweet spot.
“With God’s help I shall become myself.” – Soren Kiekegaard