Monday, May 23, 2016

Leaving 2.0

Leaving. One simple word. So many meanings, reactions, feelings, and consequences. It offers a unique perspective, as you are able to look back at what has been and imagine what may be ahead. It is a watermark, a shift.
It's a word full of joy, loss, anticipation and choice.

Our first leaving, like our last, is beyond our control. We are thrust from safe darkness into a chaotic, scary, amazing, beautiful gift of a world. We come into this thing screaming at the top of our lungs (By the way, I think we should do more of that). It's an extraordinary scene to witness. Life, even in its simplest, purest form is truly amazing.

Then, later, we leave the ground as we lift ourselves and take our first steps. Our first taste of what we will chase our entire lives. Freedom. Freedom to explore, to search, to find, to rise. And that very moment, those first steps, the thing for which the parents have been waiting so long, becomes at once their greatest joy and deepest fear. It's the beginning of their losing control. It's your first steps, your first steps toward leaving.

Sadly, on the other side of this, for too many, their earliest memories of leaving came in a childhood interrupted by a parent walking away. For those who experienced a dad or a mom leaving, it is forever imprinted on the heart. It leaves its mark on one's life, influencing every future relationship and decision. Sometimes I think we have become so used to divorce that we forget the impact it has on everyone involved. We sort of blow it off as a reason when considering why a child is struggling. Obviously, leaving is necessary sometimes. But sometimes, we just let go of each other too easily. Most parents still love, protect and mold their children; even if it's separately. But, I will never understand how some parents just leave their children behind. This leaving is life altering.

As we get older, leaving becomes a sort of passage to independence, even adulthood. It's freeing, full of possibility, new and a little scary. Do you remember when you left home? I do. I was going to conquer! It never really crossed my mind that I wouldn't achieve every dream I had. I had limitless ambition and creativity. Of course I also partied too much and made my share of mistakes. But back then mistakes were easier to rebound from. Life was a lot less complicated. Every relationship, experience, dollar made or night out was a first. When I screwed up, I just sort of moved on without feeling enormous consequences. But, not everything was great. It was also a time of wrestling with my beliefs, figuring out who I was going to be and finding out what was really important to me. Honestly, I think it was in this period of my life that I hurt the most people. I suppose I would say this is when I first experienced real regret; but also a heck of a lot of happiness. I came through this period a little wiser, somewhat more competent at life and a little damaged. I wish I could go back and experience this season of my life with who I am today.

Another kind of leaving comes with our "adult" relationships. Depending on the circumstances...and which side of the “leaving” you are on, it can be a release or a devastating process. Timing is everything. Mark Heard sings in “Strong Hand of Love" - Time marches away like a lost platoon. We gracefully age as we feel the weight of loving too late and leaving too soon. (If you don't know Mark Heard, go locate his music now. You can read this later) We often settle when we shouldn't settle, resist when we should give in, leave when we should stay and stay when we should leave.

Sometimes, our world has built up so much garbage we take a look and decide we have to start fresh, somewhere else. So, we agonize over what we will leave behind. We take inventory: our friends, our places, our routines, careers, relationships, and everything else we have collected to build a life. This leaving is not as easy or exciting as the first time we left “home.” This leaving is difficult and even confusing, with a sense of sadness and regret. It forces us to look at our “wasted time” and “unfulfilled dreams.” But it is sometimes necessary. It feels like the first time you held your breath under water. You breathe in the biggest breath you can, close your eyes and plunge. On the other side of that plunge, you emerge face to the sky, open wide your eyes and exhale! It's like being born again in a way. You feel stronger and even clearer because you have been under the weight of the water in the darkness of eyes closed. Isn't life that way sometimes? It takes going under to realize how lifeless you really have been.

Sometimes leaving is more about a state of mind. When we choose to forgive, we leave anger and bitterness behind. Other times, we choose to move on from our mistakes, leaving our shackles behind. Life always seems to be about movement. We move from one victory to a new challenge; from a deep valley to the mountaintop; from sickness to healing; from chaos to peace; and hopefully from selfishness to love.

Finally, we all leave. One way or another, we all leave this life. It's the one leaving of which we have no choice. We can't stay. If we have loved well, we will be mourned by those we have touched. They will tell stories and sing songs while they shed tears. And there will probably be good food too. But none of that will really matter all that much because we will be gone. I believe I will go on. I will see those I have lost and experience new things I only sort of understand now. I will know why everything happened and I will see love clearly, not dimly like I do now. Hopefully, my last leaving will be like my first. My expectation and peace will calm any fear I still have. My screams will turn to calm, any hazy darkness will become light and clear, and I will fall into the hands of love, just like I did at my birth.

Leaving. I'm not sure why I've been thinking about this word lately. Maybe, it's because of all the crazy events of my life this year, complete with poison spider bites, moving, major surgery, months being stuck in my house recovering from surgery, changing relationships  (some ending, some beginning, some transitioning), shifting priorities, and a host of things I haven't even fully processed yet.

Then again, perhaps it's just the changing of the seasons. Winter into Spring. And now, Summer is approaching.  I love the smell of the air when seasons change. It reminds me of songs I have listened to during periods of my life. I can feel the sense of new beginnings and the potential of yet unknown adventures. It urges me to leap, to try.

It also reminds me how small we are in the universe. And how we are truly not in control of everything. What a freeing thought that is. Life is controlled by fear far too often. 

So yeah,  it could just be all of that, the natural feeling of change that comes with seasons and transitions. Or...something big might be coming. I don't know for sure. And, that's a good thing.