Every year around my birthday I like to spend time reflecting on the year behind me and choosing at least one positive intention for the coming year. This often looks like focusing on a word or a thought and then using it to evaluate how I spend my time and energy throughout the next year. It's a very centering and moving experience for me.
In 2013 I chose LOVE as my guiding word. I was expecting to be pouring out love, but instead I've found myself needing the love of others in ways I've never known. This is what I wrote on my Facebook page at the end of last year.
"As this year draws to a close I'm reminded of all the moments over the last year that left me completely dependent on the compassion and support of those around me. From the loss of a parent to becoming self-employed farmers to gathering courage to speak up for the under-served. I'm an overly sensitive, compassionate, motivated, change maker that carries a heavy burden with me almost all of the time. I'm thankful for a loving husband, wise children and friends who do not try to change me, but offer acceptance, a listening ear, forgiveness when needed, hugs and most of all unconditional love."
If I'm honest I cannot even remember what my word was for 2014. I shared it with a few people-so maybe they can recall. So much of the last couple of years has become a blur in the darkness for me. That said, one word keeps rising up for me over and over again as a new year is upon us: TRUTH. You see, I unknowingly (and maybe even a bit unwillingly) made a commitment to step out into darkness several years ago. A few personal experiences and disappointments left me so full of determination to help others as it relates to Food, Birth, & Community that I just couldn't stand still. I knew that helping others farm or have access to good food would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard. I knew that advocating for the rights of birthing women while providing support for all women (no matter where they are right now on their journey) would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard. I knew that living in authentic community with others would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this darn hard. Now I know.
If you have ever seen me out and I looked any combination of tired and worn out, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, elated, excited please know that it's because of this: I know. The darkness I stepped into a couple of years ago has been filled with stories of failures, pain, loss, bullies, anger, confusion. Without even knowing it I was shedding light on a whole lot of darkness (some of which had never seen the light of day). Some people-including myself-were not ready for those things to be revealed. Most difficult were the things inside myself that were revealed along the way-my own darkness is what surprised me most often.
I always thought I'd write a book or share publicly in someway my thoughts on food, birth or community. But really-that's already been done. When I think through what I've really learned over the last couple of years-it's how to keep on keepin' on when they show up. You know who I'm talking about-the adult bullies. The folks who use intimidation, fear, power, social rules, greed "insert any negative intent here" to hold people like me (and maybe people like you) down. They take our dreams and try to figure out why they won't work, they use words that crush our spirit, they point out our faults, they "keep us in our place" and the most difficult thing is they try to get others to join them so they appear more powerful. If we aren't careful they can make us scared of our own shadow and bring up terrible memories from the childhood playground. So if I sum up what I've really been doing the last couple of years it would be overcoming my fear of adult bullies so that I could have the courage to follow my calling. Because the only way to receive the true success that comes once you have hope, love, respect, dignity and the determination to follow your path is to care about others who are being held down. In listening to your stories I've learned that this is exactly what you are struggling with too. This was most often at the center of the darkness.
During my Hour with God on the evening of the winter solstice I prayed to be able to let go of the things that are not meant for me anymore. I prayed to be emptied and made small so that I would be ready for something new. I envisioned all of the things I have been given or created or used over the last few years drifting by and floating away. I prayed that over time God would give me the wisdom to know which things to pick back up and which things to let go on by-maybe for someone else. I prayed that God would give me a word for reflection. I was given three words: Truth. Write. Listen.
There have been so many times over the last couple of years where none of this felt right for me. It often times felt too hard, too messy, too ugly, too dark. I think that those feelings rose up most often when I was required to hold the truth inside and particularly when that truth was about the good that was being revealed too. There have been times that my light was too bright on an area of darkness others were not ready to see (including myself), but also times when the light being revealed of those who were never meant to have light should have been revealed more honestly. Today, as I step out into light I realize that none of this was meant for me until I had been through this darkness-alone. What the darkness did to me and through me and around me was to prepare me to be a more courageous, loving, compassionate person that could use what I've seen in a way that creates good.
I'm really not sure what any of this means specifically and that's where my faith comes in. My time in the dark shifted my faith more than anything else. I questioned God and if he even existed-maybe you've done that too. I questioned who I am and every decision I've ever made. I was forced to bring up memories and thoughts and truth that I never wanted to see again. There were many times when I believed in myself too much, or Nathan too much, or success too much. Today I look at the future with a gentle peace as I'm called to speak truth, write honestly and listen to those who have and are now walking through their own darkness. More than anything I'm thankful for the strong, amazing women I'm surrounded by each day. They speak truth to me in ways that has lifted me up and carried me through the darkness. They've seen me at my worst and listened to me talk way too much. They've encouraged me to step into the light saying, "it's time". So thankful for them. I'm realistic that all of these things will be hard, but blessed to have been able to release enough of my burdens so that I can finally step into the light. I'll be seeing you in new ways in 2015, peace to you.