“Go,” He said, but He didn’t say what would happen if I went. He didn’t tell me that most of what I feared would come to pass, that I would be right about what would happen, that I’d want to faint, run, hide, that in the “Go” I would feel I couldn’t keep going. He didn’t tell me that I would be so vulnerable, that I would lose control over my own experience. He didn’t say how fragile I would feel walking out into real life and being real in it, even if it knocked me down.
He also didn’t say that I could do it. He didn’t pat me on the back and say, “You’ll get through this” or “you will be a smashing success” or that “go” would make me a popular person.
He just said He’d go with me. He wouldn’t leave me. He said that I wouldn’t really be alone, even if I had nothing in common with anyone else, even if I couldn’t open my mouth for shyness, even if everyone else paired off early and didn’t welcome interruptions.
I’ve moved my entire life. I was always on the outside, always the one looking in on previously-established relationships, wondering what it was like to have one of those. BlissDom was no different, even though I was a community leader. That status seemed to set me apart further. Many of the community leaders knew one another, and new attendees assumed I had a group already. I spent most of the weekend by myself, in spite of my attempts to interact with others.
But I was a Community Leader. I was supposed to look out for the girls wandering the halls. Nobody ever said who was supposed to look out for me. I sure wasn’t going to let on how lost I felt.
During my first session, I excitedly set up my “Photography” sign and waited for someone to come and sit with me. Four tables without community leaders filled up behind me, and not. one. person. came to my table.
I felt naked. Exposed. Mortified. Overlooked. I felt like a fool, sitting there swallowing tears, waiting for the floor to open up and swallow me. I wanted to bolt from the room, but the session had already begun.
I slipped into the full-length gold-and-glitter dress I hadn’t worn since my Connecticut wedding reception, still surprised that my body fit into it after it had carried and birthed and nursed two children. I put on brand new strappy heels, new black-beaded bling. I re-touched my makeup, fixing the marks my crying had left, re-tucked a strand of hair that had released itself from my clipped-back style.
I felt broken. I felt… beautiful.
Friday night was “Girl’s Night Out.” Joe Jonas and A Rascal Flatts concert, tickets for two free drinks, girls on the dance floor, and speakers turned up so loud a body couldn’t think. I stood alone near the bass boosters, just under the speaker so that the screaming sound went over my head. My whole being pulsed with the heavy beat; my heart changed its rhythm; an old, familiar ache washed over me.
“Don’t be a victim,” she’d said in another session. “You can choose.”
So I chose to be alone, pulled a Roman Holiday moment and slipped my shoes off beneath my dress, hid them in my black Lola bag, stole away by myself like Audrey Hepburn in Rome. My bare feet swished beneath the soft gold of my dress. I felt as if I was walking in Galadriel’s careful steps, seeking Frodo and the Ring.
My morning session followed me, and the quiet resolutions I’d made on the plane, a simple a Capella rendition of The Rainbow Connection. And laughter. Her laughter, the feel of her hands beneath my own, the Christmas lights surrounding the ice. “Push, push, left, right” – As if it had happened yesterday, I could hear the smile in her tone as she skated backward, pulling me on, teaching me how to live outside my too-careful self. She would have known how to dance, would have given me courage to do more than observe everyone else living.
I found marble, and sparkle, and solitude, put my bag down, wove in and out between the white columns, finding my way to the center of the Gazebo where I knelt, no longer running, and lived into the ache and memory that shadowed me.
Going, living, being human and being His – it’s not a recipe for a perfect existence. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever tried. It requires me to hold the things that are true about me instead of pushing them away, pretending to be someone – or something – else. It requires me to hold the things that are true about God, believing that no matter how my life plays out, He is still near and still good.
It means that I’m not going to be able to just “put on” my growth, that it will be real, and it will become part of my story, my own myth, the tale of the one God and a girl who believed He was who He said He was.