The stones in the middle of the river.

I pay attention to the sky more than I used to. For a long time now, I’ve seen without seeing. When I tell people I feel like I’m just waking up – this is what I mean. The cotton candy edges of clouds float across the ombre blue sky. To my left is light Robin Egg Blue – straight ahead it deepens into rich ocean hues. Same sky, different perspectives. All I have to do is turn my head.

It is Friday afternoon, we are camping and I have walked away from my friends. Something inside told me to go down to the river. To greet it alone. Is this my intuition talking? It is hard to tell – when I was living in the worst of the disease of addiction, I often believed my self sabatoging actions were intuition. But I’m starting to learn that God speaks to me through the gut feelings, the inescapable urges…and that God only speaks in love. What I thought to be true is no longer my truth. I’ve been having that same realization for awhile now.

People always told me I was passionate but I don’t think that’s true. I have always been emotional, but I am starting to believe that’s not the same thing. I couldn’t tell you the difference in words – I can only feel it.

I think about Caryn. Caryn was passionate, though her passion lay beneath, like a river running underground. You had to dig to get to it.

I think of how we spoke the same language of lies to ourselves. That none really love us. That no one would miss us if we weren’t around. That life’s cruelties can never be overcome. That we weren’t brave. I tell her: sometimes, in my deepest pain, I feel closest to you. Because when you left, you left out of pain and for the past year and a half, that is what I have been focused on. It was so big, that was all that I could see.

It’s time to change my perspective. It’s time to look at a different piece of the sky.

I think about the story of Pandora’s box. Hope may be the most important four letter word I can think of. Even more important than love. Because I’ve learned, love doesn’t always save us. But hope…hope is what really keeps us alive.

I have been hopeless. I have been dead while living. Someone once described hell to me as the absense of all light. To me, the absence of light is the absence of hope. Without hope, we literally live in hell on Earth.

So when I say I’ve been to hell and back, that’s what I mean.

I was wrong – maybe God doesn’t speak in love. Maybe God speaks in hope.

Saturday morning, we do yoga in the rain. It starts as a light sprinkle – a few drops scattered around the small clearing in which we have gathered – like Peter Pan sprinkling fairy dust so that Wendy could fly. As we move through the poses, it increases to a steady light rain – consistent, but not hard enough to chase us away. We continue, moving our bodies carefully so as not to slip on our mats, laughing when we inevitably do.

I look at my friends surrounding me, and instead of a lump of fear of losing them clogging up my throat, I see how beautiful each and every one is and a sense of gratitude settles in my chest. When I turn out of a lunge and reach my my left hand to the sky, I raise my face to receive the rain.

I want to learn how to speak a different language. I want to learn how to blow that spark of hope in my Pandora’s box of a heart to raging fire. I want to learn how to describe passion. I want to continue to scrape away at the emotional barriers I have set up and learn from each piece that flakes away.

Saturday night and I’m back by the river again. It’s dark around me, though I can see the outline of the black mountains against the inky grey sky. Such a contrast from the bight colors of day, but still so beautiful. As I walked away once again from the activity of the crowd gathered in the pavilion – the chatter, the laughter, the cheering – I feel a sense of peace so large and consuming, it was if it was always there. In the pavilion people laugh together and the sound echos in the night as I walk further away. I’m not separating myself by heading in this direction – in fact, my heart is becoming closer.

I think of my girls, my Caryn, my Kate. I smile at the memories I have been of us walking this same dirt road two years before. Kate’s dimples when she smiled, the way her pigtail braids swung when she ran. Caryn’s thoughtful presence, sitting on the concrete side of this little bridge with her long legs hanging over the side and water flowing beneath her feet. All of us chain smoking, because that’s just what we did. Right now, my heart is so full of love for them there is no room for grief. That doesn’t mean I’m healed from the scars of losing them – that means that right now, I can be present with myself and their love. Something I struggled with even when they were alive. Because being present wasn’t something I learned until recently. God, how I wish they could see me now. How I hope in some way I can’t comprehend, that they do.

Soon, I will stand up to walk back and rejoin the crowd. I get to walk back to laughter and singing, teasing and dancing. I get the gift of returning to the warmth of those who found me during dark times. To the people who are continuing to teach me on this journey where Caryn and Kate left off. Though secretly, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a hand in those who surround me now.

“I prayed for you”, we tell each other. And it is so true. I prayed for Caryn and Kate before I even knew how to pray, really. And later, after I lost them, I prayed with tears running down my cheeks to not be lonely anymore – to find a way to be a part of instead of apart from. I’ve never seen a prayer of mine so directly answered and to this day I am still in awe.

Is this my life? After all my years of sorrow, do I get to experience joy? It is like walking into a warm building after years of wandering in the cold. I cry sometimes from the sheer disbelief of it. I cry because putting down the weight of my past hurts sometimes. I cry because new skin growing over old scabs is uncomfortable and scary. I cry because I came so close to being dragged under and somehow I think I’ve made it out. I cry because I believe today I can be happy and in all my years on this Earth I’ve been longing for feeling at peace in my own skin. I prayed for this before I believed in answered prayers. How glad I am I was wrong.

 

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