Alone

Cameron Flaisch Photography

Over the years I’ve become accustomed to doing things on my own. The most notable in the forefront of my mind being Christmas Eve two years ago: After curling my hair, donning red lipstick, heels, and a dress for our Christmas Eve service at church I got halfway down the road and realized both my headlight bulbs were blown. Not only did I miss church that I had tirelessly prepared for, but also stood in the middle of the Walmart parking lot using my phone as a flashlight and figured out how to change out my headlight bulbs on my own.

The list of “milestones” I’ve experienced solo beyond that incident would be exhausting to count, but includes the likes of buying a car on my own, applying for loans on my own, and going on my first flight ever on my own (also to a foreign country, might I add, without a phone or any real bearings). I’ve made large purchases, traveled to foreign lands, and attended many corporate functions without someone by my side to lean on in times of indecision or uncertainty. I’m the poster child for “alone.”

Truth be told, it doesn’t always suck. It can be frustrating at times – when I should have someone to call for some mechanical issue (or light bulb problem) or when I need to move furniture. But in reality, it’s made me hike up my britches and get on with life, to use a very colloquial phrase. Life is too worth living to sit around waiting for someone to walk it with you. Though we live in a patriarchal society that prides itself on marriage and family, my purpose does not wholly depend on the presence of another human being by my side.

I say none of this in the vein of bashing marriage or unity of any sort, but quite the contrary. I think marriage is a beautiful thing – to find someone you love the best and worst of, who loves you just the same, so much so that you desire to bind yourself to that person for the rest of your lives is a rare and monumental thing. There are over 3 billion people on the earth and one person manages to find one other person with which they desire to spend all of their sleeping and waking moments. Love is one of those things I don’t think we’ll ever quite understand. It is deeper, wider, and much more expansive than we could ever anticipate explaining. It is beyond us.

2017 has been such a fun year. I started off working a million twelve hour days in a new position I grew to love. This particular work environment comes with its share of challenges and problems to solve with no day ever a duplicate of another. It is a level of organized chaos that I enjoy more than even I can comprehend by combining stability and instability in a sort of vacuum. Some things are always the same, but many aspects of this position are new and different each day, no matter what. There are enough variables that work is never static. And this altogether excludes the people I work alongside, who in and of themselves provide the best entertainment and challenges.

It almost seems silly to reminisce on days when I could only hope to escape Rome because I can’t imagine being anywhere else now. I don’t negate that somewhere deep down I will always love and cherish and be challenged by international cultures and lifestyles and, perhaps, one day end up on a far off adventure, but for now this is home.

I know people who have been married for decades that still feel alone, still feel isolated, still don’t know what it means to be loved. The privilege I’ve had to experience so much in life, especially the experiences I’ve had, have shown me that life is never truly lived alone.

Here is where I write some cliche about how people have always been around when I needed them and how God showed up in some magical way in the middle of my most alone time. These things are true. I could write you a novel on the number of people who have helped me so much, but I won’t.

What I really want to tell you is this: when you see the world with open eyes, it’s impossible to feel alone. Somehow life always lines up.

 

-April 2017
📷 Cameron Flaisch

Advertisements

2017: Month 7

Hey friends, it’s been quite some time since I’ve settled into this space for a breather. The first six and a half months of 2017 have been full of fun surprises and little moments worth celebrating.

Let’s see.. I have taken yet another position within the company I began working for last October and I love my job. I’m working in a position that requires me to be relational; it has opened the doors to so many great friendships and allowed me to cultivate older ones. No two days are ever the same; some are much more difficult than others, but I get to work with an incredible team of people that I love being around, even on the hard days.

I moved from my little basement to a quaint little home in downtown Rome, complete with a stoop for sunset-viewing or catching the first rays of sunlight on a Saturday, and room enough for a table to seat eight. I’ve been here since late April and I’ve already hung things on the wall. That’s one of my greatest lessons in the last five years: put your artwork up on the walls. Hang your curtains. I have a tendency to leave a space undecorated if it feels transient, in a sense not allowing it to become a home. I remember having coffee with my dear friend, Theta, in January. My deepest desire at that point was for heavy furniture – something to hold me down. A place to put down roots and grow after being uprooted again and again, year after year. Theta told me a story of a transitional time in her adult life where God told her specifically to hang up curtains in her home even though she and her family might not be in that one location for very long because the importance of making a space a home, full of hospitality and rootedness, weighs much more than the time one spends in that space.

So, that’s what I’ve done. I put one piece of art up the day I moved in for this very purpose. Now there are curtains on two windows, floating shelves on a wall, and various artwork hung in each room. Since then, I’ve managed to collect enough heavy furniture to keep me from moving for a long time. I’m thoroughly enjoying this sweet life season, especially in the heat of a Roman summer. I’ve never been more thankful for this little town of mine than I am right now. It is the greatest place to put down roots and grow.

Welcome home.

My Love Letter to Christmas

Dear Christmas,

We’ve endured a love-hate relationship for as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of waiting for dad to get home from the fire department at 8am on Christmas morning before we could open presents. Mom would barricade us in the back of the house until his arrival while she made breakfast. We would sit in the hallway impatiently testing our boundaries until the front door opened. I distinctly remember running into the living room to find all the Barbie accessories set up and ready for play one year. And on another Christmas morning the purple velvet dress, hat, and shiny Mary Janes on my favorite doll. These are probably my two favorite memories from childhood Christmases.

Often encircling these fond memories are the shroud of deciding which day to schedule our celebrations, as dad worked a 24-48 schedule, whether or not one brother or another was happy enough with their gifts, and which day our extended family would finally corral themselves together. As I have learned of late, corralling any sort of people following vastly different schedules is nigh impossible.

And even yet, this season has been marked distinctly by questions in my own heart. For years I begged friends and family not to buy presents for me: a boycott of sorts. I’ve struggled with the finite details – that Jesus actually graced us in human form during some warmer month, perhaps spring or summer, rather than this wintery day we mark each year in red and green.

We didn’t trek through rows and rows of evergreens in boots with red-handled saws to find our perfect Christmas tree until my high school years, or perhaps thereafter. Bringing a tree in as a sign of Christmas celebration was “too pagan” or “too baptist” according to the group I learned many of these traditions from as a child. And even as an adult, the roots in paganism and fertility goddesses made me question the additions. Santa barely showed up on a gift bag here or there or in a movie we watched, let alone as the bearer of gifts.

And why should I receive gifts upon gifts during this one day in late December that marks not our Savior’s birth. Rather, they stand as symbols of our own gluttony and gold-lined credit cards (because rarely do we spend within our means here in America) while we turn blindly from those whose hearts hurt from loss or fingers from cold during this time of year. I could easily stand on a soapbox and shout the distortions of our society, drawing credibility from suicide statistics and the increase of homelessness in our great nation. I could draw upon the very nature of our hearts to trim everything in gold and white so as to hide the flaws, instability, and staggering decay within. And yet..

Christmas, you offer more than just these blaring issues and faults. Somewhere beneath the mountains of ripped paper and decently overpriced gifts there lies a quiet hope and a twinkling joy. When glittering ribbons settle and we’re all in our corners wearing new socks caught in the aftermath of short-lived excitement, something else stands quietly still in the corner.

Those evergreens, pagan though they may have been at their roots and fake though they may have come in boxes from Walmart or Target, they stand forever green. What better example of our faith? What better example of our Savior, even? No matter the scientific season of His birth, He came during a time of winter, a time when life lie dormant beneath years of silence and separation. This one God with us stood starkly green contrasting the gray fog and cold white snow that covered the earth, a quiet reminder that Life, that Love and Covenant, like breath still reigned.

There again, joy, like heat, shines red in this season – in ribbons and tags, wreaths and ornaments, sweaters and twinkling lights. This still small hope of life and love ignites the cold that often settles deep within us, from rejection, pain, or distrust, and burns away all the pieces taking up spaces without purpose. Joy light shines through our brokenness, our pain, our callousness, and gives us tender hope.

So, Christmas, I don’t hate you. Sometimes I think you cause us to act preposterously, but only exposing issues already existing within our nature. I appreciate the whimsy and the silliness you bring as we don hats and ribbons and sing loudly for all to hear. But most of all, I appreciate the quiet hush in this season that can just be heard beneath the silver bells and crooning of Bing Crosby. It’s quite a different hush than the one between crucifixion and resurrection. We wait still with bated breath, but with a much different tone of anticipation: one highlighted by shining stars rather than dense grey skies. This silence listens through the stillness for the sounds of a baby’s cries. Our hope still rests entirely on one man showing up, but less weighted by the sins we bear. It is still. It is small. It is hidden. Even in the placidity I hear trees stretching and bending, waking themselves for the coming hope as joy breathes new life into cold bones.

 

Joy, oh joy, for Christ is born
the babe, the son of Mary.

 

 

photo cred: Liz Monroe