It was far too crowded on the train today. Between the hours of 5 and 6PM, Montgomery station is a mass of people, and today was exceptionally packed. As the N pulled up to the platform, I let the flow of the crowd carry me on to the train. I didn’t really have anywhere to be. I just wanted to get home. So, I thought skinny thoughts and squeezed myself between one very tall man and a shorter woman and her oversized bag.
I couldn’t reach one of the poles to hang onto, but there was no need. We were all so smashed together that no one was moving anyway. We just leaned against each other as the car continued on down the tunnel, jostling us and forcing us to get uncomfortably familiar with each others’ bodies.
When we finally came up for air and exited the tunnel, the dog park came into view. The same one I pass every day on my commute back and forth from downtown San Francisco. But this time, I heard an invitation.
Get off the train. Soak up the sun. Listen to the birds. Watch the dogs play.
You don’t need to be in such a rush. Home will be there when you arrive. You can get to your writing then. But you can’t pour out until you are filled. Let yourself be filled.
Learn from me.
So, I began to move toward the train doors. “Excuse me,” I said. “Getting off here. Thank you.” People parted to make way for me and a couple other passengers, and I stepped off into the sun.
I found an unoccupied bench and pulled out my book. But before cracking it open, I simply sat still for a few minutes. I turned my face toward the warm glow of the early autumn sunset and watched the happy owners play with their happy dogs.
They – both owners and dogs– were in no rush. They were all completely content to be out in the brisk fall air, running around in the sun, connecting with other humans and canines alike. The diversity of the crowd reflected San Francisco as a whole, and while the dogs occasionally nipped at each other, the humans were on their best behavior. This, to me, seemed a magical place where all of San Francisco could get along. If only for a little while.
Present Over Perfect
As I flipped through the pages of “Present Over Perfect” to find where I’d left off, I knew I’d made the right choice. Sitting on that bench– resting and reading – was exactly what I needed.
It’s no wonder, then, that the words I read next spoke directly into the space I was occupying.
“Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and your soul.”
Shauna Niequist. That woman always nails it.
As I continued to read, I recognized that lately I haven’t been taking responsibility for resting my body and soul. In fact, I’d go beyond that to say that I haven’t been taking responsibility for my body and soul, period.
I’ve let go of many of the rhythms of connection and silence, work and rest, feasting and fasting that used to flood my body with energy and my soul with joy. In some ways, this can be attributed to the fact that all my life rhythms have been upended over the past few months. But in many ways, it’s been a choice.
A New Season
I got engaged in August, which was – and is – absolutely amazing and joyous. But it has also meant that I’m rather preoccupied with preparations for marriage. Oh, and planning a wedding and all that comes with that.
And then, in an unexpected turn of events, James (the beloved fiancé) got a job with CBS and relocated to LA. And in the beginning, I was completely on board. I knew this was an answer to prayer, and we absolutely had to be obedient.
But then, as his start date got closer and the reality of him moving from SF to LA became more imminent, I began to act a bit like this was happening to me. Instead of being an active partner in this process, I became a victim.
I knew deep down that this had to be God’s best for us. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to trust James. But I was fighting so many lies, and because my body and my soul were so out-of-balance, so depleted, I did a really poor job of it. I’d lost connection to my foundation, and I was grasping at air to try and steady myself.
I knew what would help. And I didn’t want it. I didn’t want the path of dependence. I didn’t want to turn again to God for help.
Instead, in a bizarrely self-defeating choice, it felt much easier to submit to the lies than to God. Those voices were so very familiar. They were almost like friends.
He’s going to move down there and forget you, Laura. He’ll get wrapped up in his new job and not have as much time for you. He has exciting new things to look forward to. What do you have?
Not much. You’re not writing anymore. Your book is sitting in the Documents folder of your computer, not moving. What are you doing with your life?
And what are you left with here anyway? Do you really think your friends will be interested in spending time with you still? You’ve been much less available since James came around.
Looking at these thoughts in writing, it’s much easier to see how wrong and hurtful they are than when I’m simply letting them occupy space in my mind. But when they’re down on paper – one of the benefits of journalling – I can see just how bad they really are. I’d never say those things to a friend, or even think that about them. Why say them to myself?
It’s because I was failing to practice the things I wrote about in “Enough.” I’d all but stopped journaling. My writing was at a standstill. I wasn’t resting or protecting my margins. I was just going full steam-ahead with activity in hopes that it would keep my life moving on the right track and keep me from feeling like I wasn’t enough or wasn’t doing enough.
The Heart of It
In her book “Present Over Perfect,” Shauna pinpoints many of the questions that are at the heart of all this hustling and bustling: Am I loved? Does someone see me? Do I matter? Am I safe?
It’s such a bizarre prescription for happiness and self-worth. This busyness. Who ever told me that moving faster and faster would bring me meaning? Who told any of us that filling our lives with more and more would make us feel whole? Oh yeah, that’s right, lots of ads and media and tons of outside influences. It almost feels cliché and silly to even admit it – like we should be strong enough to resist it, to think for ourselves – but so often we just eat what other people feed us. We don’t say, “NO thank you. I’ve had enough.” At least, that’s been true of me lately.
But, thank God, he’s pulling me back around and reminding me of the truths that are still there at the foundation. Caked over with mud and dust and a bunch of useless rubble. But there.
So, I’m getting on my knees in dependence and starting to scrape away at the mess. To rediscover the blessed peace of dependence. To submit the way I thought things would turn out and embrace the way things are. To worry less and dance and sing more. To tune out the lies and repeat the truth over and over again – that he is a good father, and I am loved by him.
What I learned today in that dog park is that there’s room to pause and breath. That it’s okay to slow down. Because we need that stillness, that moment in the golden glow. Because all too quickly, the sun will set, and the wind will pick up, and it’s no longer a picture-perfect moment.
That’s exactly what happened today. As I walked back toward the train, the wind whipped at my face, flinging my hair every which way, and I had to quickly zip up my coat against the damp cold.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t love it. I didn’t stand there in the wind and think, “This is great! Give me more of this.” But I did think, “I am so glad I took that moment in the sun.” And, beyond that, I knew that more sweet time awaited me at home.
Not golden glows and playful puppies, but tea and my laptop and the house all to myself. Time to write. Time to finally sit down and open up again, because I’d taken the time to be filled. And I am so grateful. I am so grateful to be back.