Once upon another time, before I knew which life was mine, before I left the child behind me; I saw myself in summer nights and stars lit up like candlelight, I ‘d make my wish, but mostly I… believed. – Sara Bareilles
Take me back to the time when I was maybe eight or nine, and I believed… When wonders and when mysteries were far less often silly dreams and childhood fantasies…. before rational analysis and systematic thinking robbed me of a sweet simplicity. – Nichole Nordeman
Two of my dearest friends asked me last night why I’ve not blogged in the last few weeks.
What happened? Did we miss something? Did you stop writing?
The short answer: no.
The long answer: I had nothing to say.
Correction: I had nothing very pleasant to say.
If you’ve followed this blog for an extended period of time, you’ve might have noticed a change in tone these past few months. I’ve gone back and read my recent posts. I notice it. There’s an edge to my writing that – while true to life, and perhaps valid – is not what I’d like to be.
That’s probably because there’s been an edge to me lately that’s not what I want to be.
My snappiness doesn’t really make sense. We’ve actually gotten great news. David’s cardiologist, family doctor, and every other specialist we’ve seen has said, don’t worry. Your heart is fine. The tests show nothing structurally wrong with your heart.
I should be happy. We both should be relieved. It was just a blip. It was just a random, one-off thing that happened to us. There’s no rhyme or reason. It just happened. It will probably never happen again.
But neither of us can seem to let go.
David has good reason for that. Before March 13, he was the most optimistic person I’d ever met. He’d always believed only good would happen, because that’s what he’d seen. Good things happened – to him, at least. I was the one with the faulty genes. He was indestructible…
…or so he thought.
The past nine weeks I’ve witnessed a version of my husband that looks nothing like the man I married.
Don’t get me wrong: That’s not necessarily a criticism.
Some people think that the person they marry should always stay the same. They hope their spouse remains forever and ever exactly as they were the day they got married. It’s a romantic idea – and very sweet if it happens to you. I’ve admired people who’ve had those kinds of relationships, but I’ve never really understood them.
The relationships that make sense to me are the ones that get better with time… like the people within them.
The trouble with the wine-and-cheese relationships (the ones that get better with time) is that they don’t get better by magic. We don’t meander through life whimsically accumulating wisdom like a ship accumulates barnacles. We don’t trickle along a tiny stream without noise.
We trip over rocks. We gasp at the sting of salt water. We shiver when its cold.
We cry. We hurt. We worry.
We call it growing up.
Instead of accumulating wisdom, we collect wrinkles – not tiny crevices that betray our biological age, but emotional canyons that are so much a part of who we are and how we now see the world that not even we recognize them.
We snicker at those that don’t have these soul wrinkles. In our heads, if not with our mouths, we call them immature, childlike, naive, inexperienced, even dorky.
But what if we’re wrong? What if its us – the jaded, cynical, and ‘experienced’ – who are really immature?
After all, it doesn’t take much effort to become hard.
This morning my girls lamented their ages.
Mommy, I want to turn three again, moaned Elliana.
Why, girlie? I asked.
She sighed a high-pitched, whistle-like lament. I just liked three so much better than four.
David and I shared a smile.
Then Noelle piped up. I want to be a baby again too.
Why? We asked.
Being a baby is so much easier than being six.
I’m with them, David said.
I laughed. And how old would you choose to be?
Twenty-seven, he said.
I looked down. I knew what he meant. He wanted to go back to before I got sick.
I nodded. Yes, twenty-seven was good, wasn’t it?
Twenty-seven is the last time I remember being not tired. It’s the last time I remember not hurting all over. It’s the last time I remember feeling young.
Later, he said: you know that’s not really what I want, right?
Yes, I agreed.
– Our lives are really better since all this crap has happened.
I looked up from the book I was reading. You wish you could be who you are now, but still have some of that twenty-seven-year-old version of you, right?
-You know we can’t go back, right?
David paused a long, thoughtful pause. Then: What if we could?
What if we could?
I’m not talking about time travel. I’m talking about going back.
If we disciplined ourselves to, could we reclaim that part of us that still wonders, still stands in awe of beautiful things, and still accepts mystery? Could we rescue that child-like part of us that still engages, still laughs, and still hopes?
I’ve been accused of being too into things. I’ve had people tell me they just don’t like to get into things like I do. They like stuff, but they don’t like to go overboard, they say. They might not say it, but the implication is clear: they’re above that. They’re more mature than that.
I’d say I don’t understand them, but I do. I’ve been that person. I could easily become that person again.
But I think we’re missing out on something if we assume that being mature means losing all that’s great about being a child.
Children engage with things. Children wonder at things. Children hope for things.
And while Paul is right in his warning to put childish ways behind us, too often we confuse childish with childlike. This is good advice: WhenI was a child, I thought like a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. We should put childishness behind us. We should dispose ourselves of irresponsibility, self-absorption, and whining.
But instead of actually moving beyond those things, too often we embrace just slightly different, more adult forms of them. We’re still irresponsible – we blame others for our problems. We’re still self-absorbed – we can’t look beyond our own pain. We’re still whining – we can only focus on the bad.
We’re still childish.
We’ve just packaged it up in a cool, ‘mature,’ socially-acceptable picture.
But I want out.
I want to wonder again. I want to hope. I want to believe that happy endings are still possible. I want to see find dandelions remarkable and pick fresh flowers for my table. I want to hug the people close to me. I want to make forts in my living room. I want to sing at the top of my lungs and not feel ashamed.
I want to keep that part of me that’s still five years old.
More than ever, I think I need her.
Two Sundays ago, perched in our lawn chairs in picture-perfect, twenty-degree celcius and eighty-degree fahrenheit weather, flip-flop-clad feet propped up on our front steps, David turned to me.
I think we’re right on the verge of something amazing, he said.
I laughed. I hope so.
No, I really think so,he said.
I met his eyes and saw the man I married. The one who believes everything is going to be okay. The one who makes fun of all my attempts to be cooler and more important than I am.
I saw the man who inspires me to be child-like.
And I would shed this grown-up skin I’m in, to touch an angel’s wing. And I would be free. – Nichole Nordeman
I think you’re right, I said.
Hope in the middle of happiness means very little. Hope in the middle of hopelessness means everything.
It’s worth hanging on to, even when there seems no reason for it.
I think that’s what we might call a mature immaturity.