Today, the awareness that I am not made for this place bears down on me with the force and relentlessness of a waterfall.
I’m trying to follow orders. At least I think I remember a point when someone grabbed my shoulders and shouted, “Just stay alive! I willfind you!”
Was that real? Is someone actually coming?
Today, it feels like a real struggle to survive. I’m no more made for this wilderness than Cora was. I’m scrambling through the underbrush, looking over my shoulder, clawing uphill, and sometimes held captive by the enemy tribe.
Daniel Day Lewis in that movie is irresistible—I’d probably follow him if he called me into the wilderness, too.
For a while, we’d be happy and I’d be delighted by the curiosity and novelty of life in the forest. But I could never make a home there. The day would come when I realized I’d signed on to living somewhere I’d never belong. And I’d get through my days and there’d even be good ones and eventually any memory of the old life would fade, but there’d always be this nagging feeling.
A nagging feeling that, on some days, would flood and spill over and pound me with its roar and anguish.
I. Don’t. Belong. Here.
Apparently, some people—many people—don’t have to live this way. A dear friend pointed that out to me last Friday.
She said “Perhaps there are some people who just struggle. Not because there is something wrong with them, but it’s part of what they do while they are here on this earth. It’s like their souls are closer to the surface, more exposed, or something. (I probably don’t know what I’m talking about here, but it sounds good, huh?) Things are hard because they already know they don’t belong here. The rest of us have to watch them sometimes to remember we don’t belong here, either.”
These words were a balm to my heart because, as I find myself in a dark and difficult place (again), I claw at the idea that I could have prevented this by living better. If I had learned the rules, followed them better, taken precautions, planned ahead, looked both ways before I crossed the street, listened to God more—I could have avoided the struggle. Other people aren’t in this place where I keep finding myself because they managed to do all that better than I did, so I just need to try harder.
This time around, I consider all the ways I went about trying to live rightly, and not a one of them saved me from being here. From being in a place where I bear my brokenness aloft because it’s all I have to show for myself.
It’s doesn’t matter what map I use—I could throw the map out altogether—if the terrain has a dark valley or a desert, I’ll find it. Without fail. I’ve mostly acquiesced to the possibility that “Trying harder” won’t spare me. And I don’t have to be surprised when I find myself back in this place.
I feel pounded, but then I remember it’s by a waterfall. This present day, on this planet, I’m standing under a waterfall and perhaps its grace after all.
This bit from Annie Dillard comes to mind:
“Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you can catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall…These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present…You don’t run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled.”