Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Long Surrender: The Only Way Is Through

Today, I listen to the new album from my favorite band - Over the Rhine's "The Long Surrender." And I lean back, reflecting on surrender, acceptance, and a favorite word of one theologian - "docilitas". Being docile, submitted, accepting, in a peaceful, active serenity.

Sometimes, the only way to escape is to relax, the only way through is to go through.

Last night I met Ree - the Pioneer Woman. She sat for hours signing books, posing for pictures, smiling, writing, making small talk. I was in line for over three hours - and that was with a color-coded wrist band.

And even snaking around the edge of the Border's book store was sublime. I was where I belonged: in a book store, among a bunch of women, waiting for someone I was a fan of. Even though I had a squirmy toddler with me and I was dying of thirst, I was where I wanted to be.

And it's been a while since I felt that feeling: of being where I wanted to be.

We're living with my in-law's at the moment. In a state I'd rather not be a resident of. With my Kitchen-Aid mixer packed in a cardboard box and my Pioneer Woman cookbook packed heaven knows where. I live in a dorm-room set-up, cramming essentials and essential non-essentials side by side: computers, dressers, extravagantly large Craig's List free TV with XBox, my baby on the other side of the adjoining bathroom. Three rooms comprise my life - bedroom, bathroom, nursery. All other space is shared space, shared with Nana and Grandma and the ubiquitously Southern "Papaw." I keep thinking of the nursing home residents I knew who boiled down their possessions to what they could fit in one shared room - one single room if they were lucky and their children were financially able to provide it.

It's been a long surrender. A long way to sharing life with people who were family who I didn't really know. A long way through grieving the loss of cold winters and letting myself enjoy seventy degree February days. I chafe and squirm and wrestle as forcefully as my toddler squirms to escape my arms.

I could pin it on my Scottish blood, where independence is prized above all. I could ascribe my restless angst to human nature. 

What I really wonder is how, every day, I feel gratitude welling up in the midst of my squirming bid for escape. I feel deep contentment when I brush the hair off my little boy's forehead, when I watch the sleeping form of my curled-up husband, when I help Nana reach something. How can I feel both? Because I do. I squirm and smile at the same time. I chafe and rest simultaneously.

I could say something trite, like people should want to be where they are, instead of longing to be where they want to be. But I think that betrays our deep heart-long for heaven, even when we try to make heaven here on earth.

I long to be where I want to be. Sometimes, I don't even know where that is. Last night, I accidentally discovered I was right where I wanted to be. I am where I want to be, most deeply: with spouse-friend and baby. I am where I want to be: listening to lyrics that take me home, wherever home is. I am where I want to be: in a safe place with people who want me.

But some nights, I squirm for my Kitchen-Aid mixer and cookbook, that are not where I want them to be: packed in cardboard that is scampered on by lizards. 

Will I ever surrender? 

Should I, when I long for something good?

Do I have anything left to surrender?

Right now, all I know is that finding ourselves right where we want to be sets us free. Maybe it sets us free to be where we squirm, just a little bit longer.


The Fuller Family said...

"Chafe and rest" is a good description. It's never easy to move back into the nest! We had to do it for several years, so I fully empathize.

Hopefully, your little family will get on its own feet before too long, but in the meantime, forced intimacy can create some memorable times, and it's possible you may look back with longing. You probably have some wonderful opportunities to learn "old-fashioned" skills, secret family recipes, and possibly some stories of your husband's or your in-law's youth.

Back then, I didn't want to do anything but get out of their house and into my own, but now, I regret the opportunities I missed.

Kimberly said...

"I squirm and smile at the same time. I chafe and rest simultaneously."

you have summed it up perfectly!! (and without being preachy!) i so hear you! Bless your heart...