I moved to Paris five years and one week ago today. Some days, remembering the normalcy of metro cards, baguettes and twinkly Eiffel Towers feels like squinting to understand the meaning of an abstract painting. People tell you it’s there, but you have to tilt your head and halfway pretend you understand before finding it. It just doesn’t feel real.
I’m not the kind of writer who wrote her first book at age 6 or interviewed the whole neighborhood to sharpen my teenage journalism skills. No, writing for me was a bit more like throwing up – it happened almost all of a sudden. Thoughts had been swirling, clawing and building up to a scream and then all of a sudden when they couldn’t be held in a moment longer, I started this blog. Sprawled out on the den floor at my parents’ house one summer night, I started writing what I was learning and seeing, sharing things that crawled up and surprised me as ahas! and what ifs. I wasn’t aware of it then, but I was waking up to something God had been at work on for a long time. This was the moment when I started my part of the dance.
The last year and a half, grief has cut in on that dance — this thing that happens between my heart, head and fingers. Because we’re friends, I think I’m ready to tell you that I stopped showing up here because grief is like a stage curtain falling. It forces a separation between your outer and inner selves: the outer keeps moving at its normal pace, going to work, birthday parties and the grocery store, but your inside self moves at half-speed, stumbling numb in the dark. Straddling the width of the two to share my inner self in the this outer space was just too much. In the wake of Rhett going to heaven, nothing felt worthy of disrupting the halt and silence that his physical absence brought. Some days still feel like that. Truthfully, there’s no coming back from this loss, at least no coming back as the same person.
Last week when I looked at the date and realized it was my Paris anniversary, and because I was already squinting to remember, I came back to this blog and the stories I shared those first few months abroad. Reading through funny first-impressions, not-so-great photos and details I had forgotten, I found myself thinking Good for you girl. That girl, who if I can see if I squint and tilt my head at just the right angle, I love that girl. I love how she flew through tears and fear across an ocean. I love how she discovered a city, a cast of characters and a new season of life away from what she had always known. I love how she saw and lived and shared that new life with freedom, joy and gratefulness. I found myself thinking I want to be bold for her.
So, here I am — showing up for her half nauseous and afraid (my inner barometer for knowing I’m on to something good), believing that good will come from this. The dance hasn’t stopped yet. It’s time to pull the curtain up and step back in.
So … will you join me? Is there something in your life you’ve had to step away from, but you still think about daily? Let’s be honest: life, more often than not, is crazy hard. Our hearts get battered, our plans get broken and yet, we have to keep moving. There are things that were planned for us long ago – and they are waiting for us. As much as a I wish some days that I could stay behind the curtain forever, I have to think that stepping back in is part of the rebuilding, part of the redemption, part of honoring those who have gone before us. I have to believe that stepping back in while I’m still afraid means that I’m much more likely to hold tight to the Father as we start. We’re working from His leading, His power, His courage. Life is hard, friends. It’s broken and unfair, but there is a God who has stepped into it for us. We are not alone. You are not alone. Believe that. Repeat that over and over until you start to feel the curtain flutter. Watch for it – it’ll come. And when it does, step back in.