Months have passed since I’ve written. Even now, I struggle to pick up my pen because 1) inertia, and 2) I’m wary of what I’ll find as words fills the pages of my notebook. I don’t dare pull out my laptop to type up something more formal and lasting. All I can do is sit here on this porch and let the words flow out of me, like a river, showing me the direction I should go.
I’m curled up in a rocking chair like a cat, soaking up the morning sun, letting it reinvigorate my tired bones. My knees are tucked up close to my chest, and my strong coffee rests on the table next to me. Twelve of my closest friends are still sleeping inside the large house here in the central valley in California. A few others have already snuck downstairs for coffee and eggs or have found their own silent spaces around the grounds to enjoy the morning before this afternoon’s festivities.
We’ve all gathered here to celebrate the wedding of Erin and Alex — two friends from our former church community group in San Francisco — and aside from our friend Maggie who now lives in San Diego, most of our friends have made the trip down from the Bay Area. The last time we saw most of these beautiful people was at our wedding in March, and I’m filled with a constant mixture of complete joy and lingering sadness all weekend. Joy at being together and sadness at the fact this weekend will come to an end eventually, and James and I will return to Los Angeles without them. Without their familiar faces, their warm hugs, their laughter.
Leaving Something Special
Later that day, I talk with my dear friend Jenni about this feeling. She and her husband Gabe still host the community group that was home and family to me in San Francisco for so many years.
“Oh yes,” she says knowingly. “Gabe and I have said to each other that we’ll never have this again. We’ll have friends and community wherever we go, sure. But if we leave, if we ever move…” She trails off, and I know exactly what she’s going to say. “This, this is something special.”
She’s right. This group of people — my San Francisco community — changed many times over, and yet it always remained special and solid.
San Francisco, like Los Angeles, is an incredibly transient city. People get married and move (guilty). They change neighborhoods or get out of the city entirely. They leave in pursuit of a new job, a promotion, a person. And that can be okay, but it does mean that when you’re the one who stays, you’re left to adapt to a new makeup of your group. Your squad. Your people.
When you’re the ones that leave, like James and me, you’re forced to adapt too, but the change is drastic. It’s not a gradual adjustment to newness, it’s a completely jarring and sudden shakeup of your life. It’s like jumping from the hot tub straight into the pool, the change shocks your system.
Going Into Shock
I think that’s what’s happened to me since moving to LA. I’ve been in shock. I haven’t grieved well. I haven’t handled things properly. And it’s affected my marriage, my health, and any attempts to form relationships here.
Even as I write this, I want to wave it off, and say, “Well, no actually, it’s alright. I mean, we have friends, and we have James’ family here, so it’s okay. We’re doing okay.”
But the real truth is — and this probably comes as no surprise to anyone that’s read my writing as of late or had a conversation with me since our move to LA — I’ve been struggling with optimism. My mind so quickly goes to fatalistic thoughts. About myself, my body, my career, my marriage, and certainly about finding community in this new place.
It’s as though I (ridiculously) believe that hope will set me up for failure and disappointment. Or, more accurately, that worry and grumbling will prevent it. Of course, that leaves me with a chronic, low-level case of misery, and it’s certainly not fun for the people around me.
If I’m honest, I feel like a silent rage has been hovering beneath the surface of my soul. Outrage at the reality of moving from our beloved San Francisco to this place that feels totally foreign, and unfriendly, and cold (despite the constant warm weather). Anger that our first few months of marriage have been tainted by the loss of our friends, my family, my job, and all that’s familiar and — in my view — good. Frustration with the fact that it hasn’t been pure newlywed bliss. It’s been hard, and I feel like I’ve lost my bubbly optimistic self.
Instead, a hot, bubbling rage spills over with the slightest provocation. An unflattering new DMV photo, a missing ice cream scoop, or another morning where the coffee wasn’t made correctly. I don’t like who I am in those moments, but I seem powerless to stop myself. Because I am. I need Someone to help me.
Worrying Away the Disappointment
Meanwhile, I turn the bigger concerns over and over in my head like a stone tumbling in the ocean waves. They cycle through my psyche until they’re smooth, until they hurt less. I rub at my worries until I can just stick them in my pocket, weighing me down, waiting until I need to pull them back out again in order to worry away the disappointment some more.
But the bitterness still lingers beneath the surface, and it comes out most often when I’m in the safe presence of my loving husband. Far too often, he bears the brunt of my frustrations. My emotion pours out in angry bursts like fiery lava that eventually cools into a hard black exterior of protection. But he gets singed in the process…and so do I. After fuming for a while, I tend to the wounds I’ve caused and end up feeling even worse than I did before the blowup.
So I try honesty instead. I try opening up to James about how bitter I often feel about this move. I try answering truthfully when people ask the question, “So, how are you liking LA?”
But then I just end up feeling like a jerk with James and a downer with all these new people who are only trying to find some point of connection with me.
And, I’ve forgotten about The Person who wants to listen to all my fears, who gathers my tears in a bottle, who hears my cries and wants me to run to him instead of running around in circles.
Hearing His Call
But he’s kept calling out to me. In fact, it was his call that led us to LA in the first place. And yet, I’ve spent too long acting as though I’m the victim in some cosmically tragic plan to strip me of all my securities.
Thankfully, God is steadfast when I am not. He’s the same, and he speaks the same gracious words in loving tones over and over. Soothing my soul, tugging at my heart, pointing me back to him. That’s what brought me here, now, writing…finally.
Throughout my life, writing has been a source of comfort, clarity, and communication with God. My journal and my prayers are a safe space where I meet with God, where I can pour out my heart to him, and I can hear from him as well. On occasion, some of those words find themselves here — on this blog or in the pages of a magazine (on the even rarer occasions when someone decides to publish them) — when I feel there’s a greater truth I’m learning that could benefit someone who finds themselves in a place similar to mine. A recognition of anyone else who feels left behind, lost, or lonely. A comfort for other displaced souls.
The purpose of this blog has changed over the years, and that’s how I want it to be. I want myself and my writing to be a vessel for the truths God is teaching me now, for the ways he wants to love on the people I love too.
So, right now, on this porch, I empty my pockets of the worry stones that are dragging me down, drowning me. I choose to breathe freely again, to take in sweet deep breaths of pure oxygen. Breathing in God’s love and protection, and breathing out all the fear and worry that would poison me.
God’s spirit. God’s breath. His words. His love. They fill me up, they course through my bloodstream, they reinvigorate me. They’re changing the makeup of my cells and changing me in the process. Something new is happening here, and I’m ready.
I wrote this piece a couple months ago and sat on it a while before posting. Perhaps it’s for the same reason I struggled to write in the first place: inertia. Thankfully, I feel some of that momentum coming back. In the peaks and valleys, God is still good at being God. Focusing on that truth helps carry me forward, no matter what the day brings. Hoping this post encourages you wherever you are at as well.