Thoughts for Thursdays – A Way Marker, a Journey (Wendell Berry)

Tonight marks an ending for me, and a beginning. After more than a year, I am heading back to…

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I should be calling it. Tomorrow is the first day of training for the volunteer placement I’m doing at with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Is it work? Is it normality? The phrase ‘real life’ pops into my head, but life has definitely been real–often starkly so–over the past year, so that can’t be right. After the training follows the actual volunteer placement, and immediately following that a month working with at-risk girls up North.

I’m going to have the kind of anchor that I think we all cling to in a way. You know, the one that allows you to respond to the question ‘so, what do you do?’ with an answer that others are accustomed to hearing: ‘I’m volunteering at/working at…’. This is much easier to say than ‘I am a spine-healing warrior forging a path through pain and healing, discovering whole new worlds inside of myself and flourishing my potential through exploration and experimentation, while standing up to the trials of spending so much time with myself and feeling left out, left behind, and overwhelmed while the world turns and I sit still, awaiting the moment when I can spring forward again in a happy, healthy body, into new adventures and over new horizons’, although this is, and will probably remain, far closer to the truth.

But though the journey here has been long, often dark, often confusing, filled with some very low valleys and some very bright insights, I do not feel I have arrived at a destination tonight, so much as I am laying down a way-marker. I am here to mark a change, an emergence from my cocoon of healing into whatever the next step holds.

I’m terrified. What if my back can’t handle it? What if it causes me intense pain? What if my body isn’t ready for this emergence that my heart and head have been screaming, crying, trying for? What if I have to bow out from something I’m so excited for? What if, and this is the scariest of all…what if while I’m doing something while volunteering and I re-injure myself to the point where I was this time last year…or worse?

I know these fears. They are concerned for me. Of course they are here with me tonight. I have spent 13 months in new territories of physical agony I had not known before, and with them came all sorts of emotional agonies too. I have come to know myself and my body intimately, although there is still more unknown than known. I have been living in a place so very different to any I have seen before and, quite frankly, totally different to any place any of my loved ones have ever inhabited: this has made it lonely. The fear comes with the change out of this place, and sidles along beside every expectation I hold about this change and every hope for the future.

I am stepping off what has felt like a very still riverbank into the the fast-flowing pace of life that I haven’t felt in a very long time.

I hold a tender pride for myself tonight, for reaching this moment, for simply surviving and emerging. I cradle carefully the tiny glimmer of hope that wishes so fervently that this way-marker is taking me out of this particular journey and onto another.

So a little thought, a little gem, a little gift for you tonight while I face this new adventure: a quote that perhaps, more than anything I’ve yet written about, embodies what this particular journey has felt like for me, and might offer you something to ponder:

It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
– Wendell Berry

And, and oh, oh how I never imagined this moment: I am overwhelmingly, over-spillingly full of gratitude for everything that I have learned since embarking unwillingly, screaming and kicking and cursing and crying, onto this particular journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times…thank you.

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