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The Hardest Part

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

In my mid-twenties I was a part of a circle of women connected somewhat randomly into a discussion group with a tiny spiritual undertone to it. From different life experiences we came together to dissect little and big moments, scribble in our journals in response to weighty prompts, and embark on guided meditation. The latter activity always lulled me into a fast sleep complete with audible zzz’s, to the bemusement of the other women actually meditating.

In this circle I met a woman whom I didn’t yet know, but sensed, would grow to be one of my greatest friends; someone reliable, relatable, thoughtful and always up for adventure to the point of where years into our friendship we declared each other our “yes friend.” A Yes Friend was so critical to surviving those messy and confusing and exhilarating years.

Alongside this friend, the circle also introduced a concept of self love that I have carried with me and referenced especially in moments of transition and challenge. In times of confusion, depression, or woe – moments where the last person you wanted to treat with kindness and compassion was yourself – instead of falling deeper into self-loathing, to instead transform into your own best friend. A best friend eager to cheer you on and remind you of your inherent awesomeness. The idea was to actually befriend yourself.

To greet myself with gentleness in times of challenge and to befriend myself: to treat myself with the same love, compassion and care I would give to a friend going through a similar difficulty. Alongside my yes friend, I had a reminder to say yes to myself during my lowest moments. The concept wedged itself into my brain and has never left.

As our five months of impermanence and home seeking are transforming into a settling of sorts, I am finding myself leaning into this idea of self-love and care as I try to find footing in a world familiar and foreign at the same time. My home is different, my career in flux, my friends far flung…and then I remember the constant in it all is me: tiny little me, grasping to find the right ways to befriend myself.

Here’s the truth: this is the hardest part. This quiet, raw, exposed WTF did I just do to my life?! The loud, messy, let’s see if I can spiral into every what if, every deep doubt, every breathless worry. The beautiful days and moments discovering a new place coupled with a complicated desire for recognizable markers of home. Feelings are all over the place, moments of peacefulness followed by dramatic and overwhelming loneliness or fear: it's a transition I invited, yet forgot would get so hard sometimes. This is the hardest part.

When we prepared for our trip we talked about moments we expected would be difficult. For instance, the last time I walked through the house (at that point empty of “our” lives) and the garden I’d spent nearly a decade lovingly cultivating. It felt strange locking the front door knowing I wouldn’t be walking back through it later. Or afterwards, driving away from Minneapolis – most of our possessions in a storage locker for a later retrieval and the rest in the back of our car. In these moments and others, I wasn’t surprised to feel a specific clenching in my gut and tightness in my throat. Change manifests physically.

From the beginning of planning we had vagueness about where this adventure was leading and when or if we would know it was over. In transitioning to a new city – even if temporarily – it’s quite clear the adventure is far from over and that I somehow didn’t completely prepare for how much this transition would at times knock the wind out of me, nearly knock me over with the force of a thousand what ifs…

On the road, we were exploring our desires around home and place: if there was a where that aligned with our greatest dreams and aspirations. We found a few places that really enlivened our spirits – and that we plan to return to – but moreso we found a specific desire for community-building that equal parts surprised us and seemed destined all along. (I wrote more about this in this post.)

Now we are settling in a place, the last place we imagined ourselves, the place I grew up, a place where I am stumbling over memories and expectations of self while Joel is – as is his nature – making the best of it. Maybe I was naïve to think I could return to the place I grew up, at the end of a search for home, and not be confronted by a whole new set of questions. Questions like: Who am I without my Minneapolis community nearby? How do I manage loneliness? How do I build friendships? Do I care for myself well while in the midst of change? What is my purpose in work? Do I have a vocational calling? Is my fear stronger than my faith in what comes next?

I don’t have many answers yet. Perhaps this is the hardest part of the hardest part.

It’s also another opportunity, of many I’ve found on this journey, to open myself up deeper to my fear and uncertainty, with hope of what is possible on the other side of those feelings.

Maybe I don’t need the answers just yet. Maybe there is purpose to sorting through all these questions unsure of the answers. Maybe this quiet and slowing down is making room for one of the best parts of the whole adventure. While the day-to-day loneliness can be overwhelming, and my job uncertainty scares me at times, there is also something within reach beckoning: terror transforming into excitement and a growing hopefulness. I recognize that in this - the hardest part - the lows are low and the highs are so high.

Yesterday, I walked a few blocks from our current home to the community garden I joined. It was my first work day with two other gardeners. Quickly we realized we all lived a few houses apart from each other. By the end of our hour weeding the garden, one of the woman said to me, casually, “Do you like badminton?” I felt my heart skip a beat as I imagined a casual, sunny Sunday hang…a new friend. As we walked back to our houses, she invited me and Joel to a game with her and her husband, assuring me our lack of athleticism mattered not. “Yes, I’d like that very much,” I said to her.

I was reminded of the possibility of this transitional time in our life and of this place: this still so new neighborhood with still so new neighbors and still so many chances to say yes. To say yes to the unknown, yes even to the low moments, and yes especially to myself - my own biggest cheerleader - as I stumble through, seeking my answers.

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