A middle school girl shouts to me in the busy, white-tiled hallway, “Hey, who are you?”
“Well,” I say, stopping to turn on my left foot while the stream of students flows by us. “I’m Evi Wusk–you say Evi like Chevy–Er, I’m Doctor Wusk. Who are you?”
After telling me her own name, she gets to the point, “Why do you walk like that?”
“Well,” I say, pretending not to be a little thrown. “It’s actually a cool story. When I was born, my left knee was sort of on backward, so it bent funny.”
“Like this?” she says, bending her arm in a contorted Z, scrunching up her face.
“Yes,” I laugh. “The doctors said I wouldn’t be able to walk. So it’s cool that I can walk like this, I guess.”
“Cool,” she says. “High five!” she says, offering up her hand. “I didn’t mean to be mean.”
“You’re fine,” I say, as she skips away, back into the flowing sea of students.
I turn and grin, knowing that the younger me would burn on the inside after these conversations, which happened a lot more often. Today I’m fine with it, glad to have had a real interaction, glad to have met this spark-plug person.
I’ve been at my new job since August 18th. It’s time for writing again. The transition has been needed, as I’ve wanted to do this one differently. I did a count for a book proposal I’m writing and realized that I’ve had six jobs in the ten years I’ve been working–just five more than my life-long farmer father.
A part of me finds this embarrassing, wishing I had more longevity on my resume, but the realer part knows it’s been a journey of trying to listen to call, trying to be what’s me. In retrospect it seems that a few of these call stories have been more of a wrong number type of situation. . . but even as I write that, I know that each of those turns, each of those spaces, has led me here.
And I’m glad we’re here.
I’m thankful for my darling family, my two and four-year-old who are exhausting and awesome. Last night I lay on the couch with my little O and felt the warmness of his head, his blonde hair growing long in a way that’s rebellious and cute, and I just squished him there for a minute knowing we won’t be this us for long.
Whether we’re shifting professions or not, we’re always changing, always learning something and waking up a different person than we were yesterday, and yet we’re the same. The last year, more than any in my life, has been one where my edges have roughed off. The unbecoming has left me more me.
And I like this me. She seems realer and talks slower. I think her hair is going to be less blonde, her shoes more comfy, and her clothes a little softer. She’s more okay with being her intense self–really sad and really happy–and not often in the middle like she’s spent so much time wishing she’d be. I actually think that’s a cool part about her.
Maybe I’m made like that on purpose. Maybe it’s a gift. My new job is the part-time coordinator of high ability learning at a school where I’ve worked before. It’s a good school where people are organized and passionate and just kind. I say just–but it’s the rubber band that’s brought me back. I was nervous for this roundabout route; not the me anymore who was here before. But neither is anyone. We’re all growing, all finding new things to learn, all somehow walking a different path than we had planned.
The sun comes up again and again and yet the seasons change.
I haven’t posted anything here for awhile, and yet I’ve been writing. This new job opens up a space for words in a way I’ve been ravenous for. So I’ve been feasting on words, like some caged animal, just freed into the wild, and feeling more awake even though I’m getting less sleep.
Isn’t this what we all want, to do something that’s truly us–not the us we always show everyone, but the deep us that’s a bit quieter, a bit more of everything than the middle we wish we’d be.
A beautiful writer and human from Lincoln, Deidra, tells a story of her husband as a young boy; his mother was a shopper. She would take him along to the large department stores, lower her gaze to his level and say, “If you get lost, just stay put and wait for me. I’ll come find you.”
I love this story, and love the parallel between us and God. In Gifts of the Dark Wood, by Dr. Eric Elnes, a minister from Omaha, I read a beautiful message about call. I’ve been so white-knuckling this thing all along, asking if I’m a pastor or a full time mom or a teacher–all the while terrified that I’m gonna get it wrong. Eric, like me, wants to listen and notice, to hone in on the “gentle intuitions that arise within human consciousness,” these tugs that come at my belly and my heart, the physical sensations of joy, peace, aliveness, the pattern that asks us to not jump dangerously at call, but to move with intention, incrementally, a little more here, a little daring there. But he writes something that I hadn’t heard in all my reading and searching about call. He writes that if we misinterpret, they’ll keep coming. If we miss it, they will repeat.
Ah, the grace in that. The warm-butter grace that slows me down and reminds me that I’m enough without beating myself on the back, without moving faster, without trying to organize myself better. I’m addicted to this grace, surprised by it again and again. I love that grace and pray that I might communicate and be that grace, that we all might feel less alone. Only touch that grace, like a finger making ripples on a smooth pool, and everything changes.
I’m feeling realer, like this middle school girl I met this week. In some ways she’s a little rude, but she’s just being her on the surface, and I prefer the rudeness to the pretending. And maybe I’m gonna be a little ruder, post more before I’m ready. Dare to open the gift of me. I’m unwrapping the bow and worrying less about who’s looking, at who gawks at the way I walk. I say that like it’s easy, but it’s hard to unlearn a life of wondering what others will think. Maybe the truth is that others aren’t thinking about us all that much anyway.
To live my own junior high years with a scoliosis backtrace equipped me–gave me empathy, helped me realize the hurt so many swim in Monday, then Tuesday, and then Wednesday. But it also left me wanting to hide, to be anyone but me. Me, after all, wasn’t a good thing to be. Me was broken. Me was a sinner, sinner, sinner. Me wasn’t enough.
I know now this was wrong.
And not that I am perfect, but what if our perfection is just that imperfection that we’ve been railing against? What if, like Nadia Bolz Weber, an ELCA pastor recently said in a piece on her beautiful church on PBS, “the jagged edges of our humanity are what actually connect us to God and to one another”? She’s a polarizing figure, but one who makes me proud I’m a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a piece of the larger Lutheran Church that will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation coming up in 2017.
So the plan for this this small-town Nebraska Lutheran gal–for today–is to stay put and wait for what is coming to find me. I’ve spent enough time Googling jobs and chasing achievement and trying to find this magical something that will make me feel like I’m enough. I am. We are. Loved and forgiven. The end. And also the beginning–not just enough, but we’re each unique and important, here for something, here for each other, here to take in the crazy beauty and experience the terrifying and awe-inspiring polarities of life. I’m a writer and a mother and a girl who is at her core thankful for all of this–the beautiful and the awful. All of it together–including us–is a gift. And for that today, as I sit with new smelly candle from Target and my cup of green jasmine tea, warming my hands and my insides, I’m filled with thanks.
Gratitude melts me like grace. A different flavor of butter, but melty nonetheless.
This week I read a book like a love affair. I gobbled it up, and snuck glances in the corners of my life. I don’t remember the last time I’ve read a book so fast. I’m not in the habit of saying that we should do stuff–There’s enough should-ing on ourselves without me adding to the din–but you should read this book. I’m gonna read it again.
This book matters. Her voice is real, and her story dares us all to embrace the gift that is us. I don’t know her, but I love her. She’s like me. She’s probably a little like you. Her views on things are–like Nadia’s–a little polarizing, but they’re honest, maybe a little rude, but her on the surface. I got tingly so often while reading this book. I’m learning to trust those tingles, to listen to them. I think they’re a part of what makes me me–a good part, not one to ignore. I’m a bookworm in the real sense of the word. Worms take soil and churn it in a good way. Maybe that’s part of what I want to do with this me.
So if you can, read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. It is intimate and searing, and it’s made me think and feel below the thinking about God and identity in a way that melts like that grace butter.
So cheers to being all buttery at a new job in a new school year as the brown dry leaves fall on the green wet grass in my back yard. Things are changing, like they do. And I am thankful for so many things today, Gratitude Gal again, at home in my own skin.
“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water then with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” – C.P. Estes