I’m reading a book.
This, if you know anything about what my life looks like right now, might be the most surprising statement of this whole blog.
Anyways, 3 pages in (because that’s literally only how far I’ve gotten since I bought it. I know, I’m embarrassed too.), there’s a quote I’ve heard many times before, “the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows.” I think that must mean there’s beauty in familiarity. A sense of returning. Coming home.
Today I’m returning to one year prior. One year ago this week, I boarded a plane and ugly cried the entire five hours flew to Ecuador. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I could write you books on the things I’ve learned since I’ve been home. The things I’ve struggled with, the things I’ve overcome. It’s never ending. But the one thing that I keep finding myself saying over and over again lately is simply, “I want the beauty back.” There’s something else about this good ole familiarity that, as time goes on, seems to become mundane. And I think most people’s existential crises come from the threat that it’s impossible to find purpose in the humdrum Tuesday nights of everyday life. “Help! More! Hear us world! We are scared of being boring, useless, meaningless people!”
Journal Entry 9/25
I want the beauty back.
That’s the season. It’s not cute. It’s not aesthetic. It’s me, searching high and low for the beauty. It’s me trying to bring it back and then taking a small impatient dive off the deep end out of frustration when it’s been 24 hours and I haven’t made any progress.
I’m exhausted. And I’m doing everything in my power to not let the people around me see that right now. I’m restless and I’m being careless and I’m making a lot of mistakes. I know, everyone does, but I’ve been making way more than usual. Sometimes, they’re even intentional, because my heart wants to feel something so bad that I don’t even care if it’s regret anymore.
This cry for the return of beauty has been the stuttered pleading prayer for months since I’ve been home.
On the Race, we used to play this really ridiculous game where we would try to guess which time of day best described each person on our team (Look… I know, okay? But there just isn’t much else to do in Northeast India). Today my morning classes got cancelled so I was able to get off – yes, off – work at 8 am and get so much stuff done. As I was driving home, the weirdest peace came over me and before I could stop it, I thought, “Wow, if I’m anything, I am definitely a 9:30 a.m. on a slow, easy, off-day Monday morning.” Aside from the fact that this too-late-to-take-back thought gave me secondhand embarrassment for myself, I couldn’t believe how at home I felt in that moment. A song came on the radio that I’d heard driving through the Appalachians in Virginia a month ago and it took me back to that beautiful drive. I’d left work and run all over town looking for a pair of shoes for a friend just to realize that they were actually at the store 1 mile from my job and I tried to be angry about the gas I was wasting but there was something about the return of a generous spirit so strong that I just couldn’t be anything but present. I had missed serving so much that I wanted to take the air out of that moment and bottle it up. The sun shining on the river as I was crossing the bridge to go home made it sparkle in a way that I don’t even want to try and use words to describe. I called and restarted my yoga membership. I signed up to run a 10K at the end of this month. My Monday morning email from my favorite author was overflowing with good (and so relevant) stuff. My soul was so full of a 9:30 Monday morning.
This doesn’t mean that from here on out, the drought is over. But it does mean that I have the little memory of rain to give me hope for the next one. I wish I could give you a map or be the wish granting genie that can bring the river back to your wasteland, but I don’t have the one-size-fits-all key. I think life does that on purpose. Maybe it thinks one set of yellow brick instructions for billions of people to follow all the way to a purpose would be boring, the one thing we’re all trying so hard not to be. So I can’t give you a secret passcode, but I can tell you what I’ve learned.
- If you start no other project, take on no other job, the one thing you should strive to do before the year ends is learn what it means to love well. I think sometimes this phrase is inching close to becoming a cliché because it’s being used so often, but really, it’s so important. This looks different for literally everyone, but it is well worth it to learn the unforced rhythms of modern love by taking a little extra time to invest in the people around you and walk with awareness for those you just pass on the streets. This world is uncertain. Be someone who carries hope.
- Start thinking in terms of hallelujah anyway. This also happens to be the title of the book I’m reading right now which you can find here. Sometimes things happen that we didn’t account for. That we couldn’t have predicted. Our wastelands somehow find themselves in a wasteland (ya feel?). There is so much freedom in the day we choose trust over control and just say, “you know what? Hallelujah anyway.” (btw the devil hates this.)
- Self care. I feel like this topic can be really overcomplicated because it’s gotten so much media attention over the last few years as things like holistic wellness and mental illness awareness have become more publically discussed and promoted. This is another thing that looks pretty different for every single person. For me, it looks like making better food choices, getting up for yoga and the boldness to say no the party when I know I’m too tired. I don’t always do these things perfectly every time, because personally, I think self care (and honestly just the time that has to be set aside for it) can be really hard in today’s world. Figure out what works for you and pursue it – your body, your soul, your heart and your mind are all big, influential parts of you. Don’t leave them behind. If you don’t know where to start, wash your sheets.
I know it’s not an overnight thing. And I know what it feels like to just be straight dog tired and longing to feel something. Anything. What I want to tell you is that in the midst of your frustration, dig deep and pray and meditate until you’ve properly aligned your spine and have rhythmic breathing and are full of peace, dude. But this life is fast and the clock doesn’t stop. We still have responsibilities and our lives are full, the good kind, but the tiring kind. The charming language looks good on paper but practicality is a whole other thing. I think the second part of our job is just to not to beat ourselves up when our frustration gets the best of us and remember how beautiful a thing it is that we decided to keep going where most people tap out. That once upon a time, we wanted to grow. We wanted the beauty back.
I hope today you find newness in familiarity, a ray of light in the routineness of life. I hope you hear it in a song that takes you back to a beautiful moment and refreshes your soul. I hope you find purpose in a tiny overlooked detail. I hope you say hallelujah anyway ten billion times and it never gets old.
And I hope that once you’ve done all you can do and you finally throw your hands up in surrender, the beauty finds you.