I’m reluctant to write about it, not because I believe in things being jinxed or anything like that. Because it feels personal on a deeper level than words can travel. I’m not sure I can convey well what it is.
I was at work on Saturday. I’ve just started working as the spiritual care person at an elder and long-term care community in Saratoga, which is where I grew up. I had ridden my bike to work, even though it was really hot (and also technically it was Sierra’s bike, not mine). Last week I walked to work, through town, a stop for coffee, down Broadway, up alleyways. Saratoga is full of alleyways, magical spaces in-between everything else. The last time I walked to work in Saratoga I was about nineteen years old, heading to my waitressing job from the apartment I was sharing with friends for the summer.
So I can walk and bike to work now, when I’m in Saratoga. It makes me so happy, this simple thing.
I was at work and it was kind of quiet. I was busy cleaning out my chapel/office space and folks kept stopping in to say hello. One woman wanted to be sure “this place is going to stay open.” I assured her it would be as open and welcoming as ever. She told me about her life, her family, how she walks each day and stops at the chapel to sit in the quiet. Her name was one of the names I associate with a beloved Great Aunt; it made me feel a sense of home.
It is a funny, warm and satisfying feeling, to have gone home, to where I grew up, to be with people there I have known for most of my life, and to find a place within that place that feels like home, too. To be a chaplain in an elder and long-term care community is … brace yourself … a dream for me. To walk the halls; to become part of a place where humans of all shapes, sizes and abilities are honored is deeply, wholly satisfying. I am disarmed with every encounter, by the kindness, the joy, the integrity and the depth of commitment I’ve encountered there, in the staff and the residents. “We are so glad you’re here” is a phrase I have heard many times as I’ve gotten to know the lay of the land these past few weeks. A couple of days a week I get to put my spiritual care superpowers to work outside of a church and … there is no other way to say this … I love it. I love everything about it.
Something nearly foreign has happened to me this summer: I am at peace. I have lived for a long time with upheaval and uncertainty, with chaos and commotion. I have traveled hither and yon, made myself available to everyone in all places thinking that was what I had to do. I exhausted myself mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. I paid a high price for trying to make a lot of things work that were never going to work anyway.
This summer I have sat with a lot of unease, mined these past years for clues to places I need to mature, prayed, learned the subtle art of the release, forced myself to choose quiet and solitude over activity for the sake of activity. I have come to understand the treasure in loyalty over novelty. I have let go of the mindset that a magical day in the future awaits when everything will finally be good and right. I have let go of pretending I’m OK with always not knowing what the hell is going to come next and displaced it with clarity, intention, plans. Oddly, magically, the universe seems to like my ideas for my days to come and has fallen in line, post haste. Weird. Also, awesome. Thank you, who or whatever you are out there fiddling with the control panels of my life.
I have developed a keen eye for recognizing my people in the ways in which they cheerlead me on, want for my gifts to manifest in the world in the same ways I do, stick around when the chips are down, show up when I need a hand. They are the people who will sit with me all afternoon talking about everything and nothing, hug in ways that say this is love, smile a lot, say thank you a lot and get it when I need another cheeseburger. And a milkshake. Always a milkshake.
I have learned there is a terrific side-effect that comes with consistently choosing gratitude for the treasure placed daily at my feet: peace.
In short, I have become aware that this is happiness. This moment, right now, this summer, this is happiness. My reluctance to write about it stems not from a fear that it is so fleeting and delicate that it will disappear soon after the words hit the screen but rather from the reality that words are poor purveyors of this sense I am having that the bones inside my skin are finally, wholly, completely, deeply mine.