‘Float On’: Meditations on “Home,” Day 2

I ran my mouth off a bit too much, oh what did I say?
Well you just laughed it off it was all OK.
And we’ll all float on OK.
And we’ll all float on any way.
– Float On, Ben Lee

I’ve been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out when I felt like O‘ahu became home. I was tempted to write about my students, who certainly feel like home, but I’ve done that before, multiple times

And it’s true– my school is the place that has felt most like home the past few years. 

Still, I had a life before teaching, and I have a life outside of it. I’m different than the girl I was when I moved here (which, consequently, I’ve written about as well). I have well-worn places on island that I love, and when I am away I crave seeing the green that I think only exists in Hawai‘i. There are restaurants, beaches, and parks that I’ve experienced on my own and with people. When those people have left my life, I’ve had to learn to reclaim them for myself.

And I thought about writing about that: what it means to re-learn a place after you’ve separated from the person who brought you there.

Then, I realized that those experiences were not “home” at all. Those people were not home either. I’ve known what home was all along, and that made me realize what I had done to find that on O‘ahu.


I wonder what happens if I turn left… here. I thought to myself as my feet pounded the trail. It was a sunny January morning, and I was enjoying a Monday off from school. On a whim, I decided to run to Mānoa falls, a common tourist hike due to its easy trail and pay off of a lovely waterfall at the end.

I’ve done the hike multiple times, and now occasionally run it when I’m looking to change up my training. After passing tourists (upon tourists upon tourists), I reached the falls and taken a long deep breath. I was about to turn around and head back when I saw a trailhead to the left of the falls that I’d never noticed before.

I was about to shrug it off and keep moving, but my heart tugged in the direction of the trail. I had no plans that day– nowhere to be and no obligations– and I figured I might as well spend the time moving.

I turned up onto the trail, and was immediately surprised at how much more calm and serene it was compared to the bustling falls below. A few feet more revealed a bamboo forest.

After snapping a quick shot, I began moving. The trail was nearly empty and it was silent as I walked.

If you read this blog often enough, you know that I’m a distance runner in normal practice. I often spend large swaths of time on my own, running, often silently. I have written that I find this meditative, that it is often a practice that helps return me to myself.

This exploration, though, is a different kind of meditation. Yes, when I run alone I can work through problems. I can walk and go within myself, trying to move towards a greater understanding of something.

On a hike, especially a hike I’ve never done before, it is difficult to zone out in that way. For one thing, it’s not safe. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and footsteps, lest you fall down a mountain or something equally dangerous.

You would also, however, miss out on some truly beautiful things.

There is a different sort of meditative nature that takes over when I hike. I think of it as a form of “hyperawareness.” It’s something hunters and foragers talk about when they are “in the zone.” When I enter a new space, particularly in nature, I notice the colors more deeply or am more attentive to the sounds around me– partially out of safety, and partially because I am eager to appreciate the new surroundings.

When I first moved to the island, I was terrified to go hiking on my own. After literally falling off a cliff about one month into living here, I was certain that death awaited me on O‘ahu’s trails.

It took a few months, but eventually my desire to run and explore won out. I found myself waking up early mornings to race up the steps of Koko Head or enjoy Kuliouou on my own. I’d go on Yelp and search “running trail” and choose a new place to go and explore.

I see now that, beyond being new ways to check out the island, it was these solo ventures that made me come to see the island as a place where I felt safe enough to explore it on my own. Frankly, a number of my experiences of O‘ahu — restaurants and concert venues– been colored by the people who brought me there. They were, at the time, a gift shared, an experience to enjoy with someone else.

Of course, I can reclaim a place if that person has left my life, or enjoy it again with the friends that haven’t. I normally do, but while these experiences have provided me with knowledge, they don’t always allow me agency.

When I am hiking or trail running on my own, I don’t need someone to guide me or hold my hand. I didn’t need to be shown somewhere. The only permission I need is the openness of my own heart. The only guide to follow is my instinct and the trail marker. If I feel like I’ve made a wrong turn, I just stop, take a breath, look for the next sign or simply turn around.

There is something ultimately encouraging about that: Yes, the trail is often muddy. Sometimes the path is unclear, but attempting to navigate them on my own has taught me an invaluable lesson: maybe you just need to push forward. You simply have to keep floating on and hoping that the most lovely vistas lay ahead of you, if you only keep moving.

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Escape: Meditations on “Home,” Day 1

“Last time it snowed, you were one person. Now, you’re another.”

– The Paris Letter, Jon Robin Baitz

The last time I was in this house, it was nearly two months ago to the day.

I’d try and recount the weekend in detail to you, but I’d be lying if I said I could. Here is what I remember about booking the trip, and the first twenty-four hours.

1.

I booked the flight to leave O‘ahu for the weekend with one word on mind: escape. I had stopped and taken a good, long look at the life I created for myself. I spread it out on the table, nodding slowly while surveying the contents. It was lies and taboo laughter. It was reckless leaps and bad choices. It was too much red wine, gulped down alone in my apartment while waiting.

I looked at that life and said, “NOPE.”

So, I shamelessly decided to run.

I needed to be “away” in every sense possible. Not turn-off-my-phone away. Not go-on-a-solo-run away. But hop-on-a-plane-and-have-an-ocean-in-between-me-and-my-life kind of away. So, on April 30th I booked a flight to spend a few days in Kona two weeks later. Alone, in what I saw as “my parent’s house,” as I had never grown up there, I wanted silence. I wanted a blank canvas. I wanted to live a life that wasn’t mine.

2.

I got on the plane to Kona feeling jumpy and distracted. I had created a web of emotional turmoil that I had no clue how to see myself out of.  Somehow in the thirteen days since booking the damn flight, my life was more complicated.

Still, a part of me had been tempted to call off my trip. Was I running from my problems? Was I just shirking off responsibility? Should I stay? I had a million questions running through my head and coming from all sides.

“How did you get here?”
“What comes next?”
“Do you know what you want?”
“What are you going to do?”

The small, quiet voice lingered: escape.

I took a breath, turned away from my ride, and walked into the airport.

3.

My arrival in Kona is… disorienting, to say the least. Normally, Kona’s airport is a precursor for the kind of weather I will face: sun. Always gorgeous, occasionally brutal and unrelenting, the landscape is usually black rock and bright light, with little-to-no shade to protect you from it.

This time, the plane landed just as the sun was setting, and Kona is all dark blue sea and black jagged edges. Stormy palette, I think to myself, the sixteen-year-old-girl in me amused at the clichéd connection between the colors outside and ~my heart~.

I have visited the island multiple times, but rarely on my own. I normally arrived for work events that I needed to get to immediately, or with another person, or to run into the eager arms of my family.

“What time will you get here?”
“Did you land yet?”
“Do you need anything?”
“Where are you?”

As the sun sets to dusk on a mid-May evening, I got off the plane and onto the street. I looked around and realized that, for the first time in a while, I was truly obligated to no one but myself.

In an amusing twist of fate, I ended up in a silver, souped-up Mustang. It has an engine I will be unable to use to full capacity and a sound system that I don’t know what to do with.

It was absolutely perfect.

4.

I bought wine. And beer. And Goldfish and ice cream and junky dinners and girly magazines and I think nail polish?

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Oh, cereal. It seems I also bought cereal.

I took the above photo and sent it as a signal to some folks that I was a) alive and b) clearly on a path to try and find Jesus or myself at the bottom of a tub of Rocky Road or swirling somewhere in the Apothic Dark. After sending the picture, I looked at it and shook my head.

“Is this going to help?”
“Will this make you feel better?”
“What do you need?”
“What do you want?”

I uncorked the wine.

5. 

Text messages. There were lots of text messages. There was more wine.

6.

I took the hammock my mother bought and keeps, strangely, indoors, and turned it facing the TV. I painted my toenails alternating colors, like when I was thirteen.

I started swinging myself back and forth, trying to find a rhythm while trashy TV plays in the background. Oddly, a line from Hamilton: The Musical wormed its way into my head.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…”

I laughed long and hard as I sang it to myself. My phone pinged with a new message, and I was equal parts terrified and eager to see it. That night, my phone had hosted fireworks and firestorms, and I wasn’t sure which I would get when the screen lit up.

“When are you coming back?”
“What does this mean?”
“What do you want?”
“Where do you go from here?”

I closed my eyes and took a breath.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…”

7. 

An hour later, I went into my room to get something (A magazine? A blanket? I cannot remember), and end up sobbing on the cold tile at the foot of my bed. My head is buried in the covers.

How did I get here?
What was I going to do?
What comes next?
How could this happen? 

The ticker-tape ran behind my eyes as I tried to wash the questions away.

8.

I woke up the next morning, head throbbing, face puffy, sprawled on my parent’s bed.

The sun shone through the large, sliding door that leads to our backyard. The image was almost too-perfect: the sky bright blue, the grass so green it was Crayola-esque; it’s as though the saturation of this moment has been doubled.

“Look around, look around…”

I picked my head up off the pillow and look around.

“What are you doing?”
“What should I say?”
“Should I say anything at all?”

I dragged myself off the bed and into the living room.

9.

The hammock was at an odd, 45-degree angle to the couch. My towel is on the floor beneath it. There was a half-empty bottle of wine, uncorked, on the counter. There was an open box of cereal next to it.

“What happened here?”

I closed my eyes.

10.

When I opened them, I started laughing. Hard.

This wasn’t the bitter cackle of the night before, though. It was cleansing. It was open and cathartic. It was the laughter of someone who had fallen down the cliff, tumbled over the waterfall, crashed their car and rolled it, and still managed to get up, look down at their body, and say, “Holy shit, am I alive?! I am alive!”

I laughed more and shook my head for a moment, then I looked around the living room. This wasn’t the sterile, cold, silent retreat of “my parent’s house,” where I could pretend like my mess wasn’t real or my own. This wasn’t a question I needed to escape either. This was the home I needed to clean.

“Well, I guess it’s time to get to work.”

Where Have You Been; Where Are You Going

Without warning, I gulp in a sharp breath, as though I’ve just emerged from hours underwater. My hands immediately go to my eyes, shielding me from… something. A known-yet-unnamed darkness that has haunted me for years. There are some nights when it drowns me and I wake up gasping for air.

My boyfriend stirs and begins to slip his arm around me. Instinctively, the touch makes my body jump. “Hey,” he whispers, “it’s okay.”

I blink my eyes open to early morning sun. My hair– long and barely manageable this summer– curtains over my eyes, the black streaks making a strange, abstract patchwork of the white ceiling.

My monster sits, waiting to see what I’ll do next. The adrenaline that flooded me during the dream and when I woke up begins to dissipate, leaving me feeling tingly, raw, and unbearably sad. Hot tears spring to my eyes and I almost lie down at its feet, ready to surrender momentarily to the darkness.

Then, I begin to breathe. I hear my own voice, steady and sure, in my mind. “Walk back towards yourself.”

I slowly inhale another breath. I count the seconds I can take to bring in air, filling my  once gasping lungs. I count the same number of seconds to let it go. I remind my body I am not drowning now. My feet are on solid ground. I’m ok.

“Walk towards yourself. You need to walk back to yourself now.”

I let my muscles melt back into the bed. I let myself be held.

“Walk back to yourself.”


I guess I’ve been pretty quiet for a while.

I shared with EdWeek that, to be frank, I sort of got kicked in the teeth this semester. Not by my students– who are wonderful, magic unicorns of joy in a ridiculous world– but just by the nature of being a 28-year-old who is trying to adult and often failing miserably.

Between my own personal shenanigans (there is no better word. I’ve checked.), deciding to act in three shows back-to-back, attempting to ensure I still meet writing deadlines and trying to restabilize myself, I guess something had to drop. So, I’ve been a little quiet– at least in the digital space. Trying to keep up with the world at home made it hard to stay informed of the world abroad.

I’d be lying if I said I regretted any of it, though. As much as I’ve missed engaging in intense educational discussion, I feel like I’m finally starting to get back into my own skin. Or maybe I’m running away from the images of what I was. Anyway, I have more in-person connections with people I care about. I am writing and reading more. I am trying new things physically (namely CrossFit). I am quiet with myself more often.

So, what’s next?

For the first summer in years, I don’t have a job. With the exception of shows and rehearsals, I am sort of a dirtbag who has been going to the gym and reading books and writing.

Slowly, though, I think I am finally beginning to creep, to crawl, to walk back towards myself. It’s a strange feeling. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. But I’m happy that I finally get to try.

 

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Some favorite photos of me– no make up, frizzy hair, taken without preparation– from the yearbook students this year.

 

 

The Breath Before

I don’t often write fiction. I don’t think I do it particularly well, but I’ve been reading a lot of Junot Diaz this weekend and I guess I wanted to see what would happen. Here’s an excerpt. 


 

You are sitting with your back against a white, wood-paneled wall. The sun is streaming in. It is Winter, yet somehow still bright out. It is early morning and the cold seeps through the cement of your crappy apartment near the subway and all the way through to the wood of your wall. The cold is soothing on your back. It is 6:25 in the morning, and you are unsure if what is happening to you right now is real.

Moments before, you had snuck to his phone and looked through. A cardinal sin, yes. But you have a gut feeling. That’s how you justify it. Or maybe your life-long desire to Nancy Drew your way out of situations has reared its ugly head again. Or maybe you were just curious. Maybe all three.

Anyway, you do it, and after snooping through some text messages, you find photos. Lots of photos. And videos. Some girl whose face you don’t know, but in that moment it doesn’t matter. Later, you will wonder if she was in on it, if she knew, but, in the end that won’t matter either. She didn’t promise you anything. All you know is that the photos are there and the photos mean it’s the end and the photos rip you down the middle.

Now, you are sitting against the wood wall, trying to understand what your life looks like in this moment.

Later, after you have kicked him out of your small studio, you will realize you need to be at the lab in twenty minutes. In a daze you will find clothes and your coat. You won’t know how you got there, but the doors will swoosh open. You will duck past the interns waiting to be briefed by you. “Hi, Doc!” one will call out as you give a small, tight-lipped smile back. Later, he will remark to his friends that you seemed off that morning.

You will find your way into the office. Dan, your lab partner, will turn to ask why you’re late. He will see your face and know. He’ll wrap his arms around you and you will allow yourself a single sob. A convulsed release of the air and pain that have been sitting in your chest since 6:22 that morning when you saw the photos. He’ll give you a squeeze, then you’ll release yourself from his embrace, smile, and say, “Here we go,” before you turn to do your goddamn job.

That’s for later, though. Right now, you are sitting in your room, your back against a cold, white, wood-paneled wall. You look at his body splayed across your bed, his feet hanging off. You pull at your lower lip, your nervous tick he always picks on.

When you found the photos, your stomach tightened, you caught your breath. Suddenly, for a second, you saw only white, before it faded away and the photos and the videos were there again, as clear as day. It was as though your brain has taken a screen cap of that image, so that later when you are deciding what to do, it would throw the memory of this moment back front and center. Your ears start ringing. It will not stop until you make it into Dan’s arms later that morning. You drop to your knees, before getting up, putting on the first dress you can find and sit on the bed.

You find yourself there now, your back pressed against the wall for stability.

Later, after you have woken him and told him what you know and told him to leave, he will sit there, his eyes red and wet. He will apologize, but he will know better than to ask for another chance. He will tell you he still loves you, and how sorry he is before you finally get him out the door. It will take nearly an hour.

That hasn’t happened yet, though. That will be the memory you sit with later that night over a glass of whiskey that you are crying into: the image of him on the edge of your bed for the last time.

Right now, you are sitting at the other edge of your bed, you back against the cold, white, wood wall. You pull at your lip and furrow your brow. You wonder for a second if you could simply erase the image. If you could make things easy. If you could continue unabashed and unabated.

You know you cannot.

You take a breath. In. Out. You take another breath in and reach over to shake his leg.

“I need you to wake up now.”

Are You Any Better Off?

Stop. Breathe. Again.

Good.

I am looking out on the ocean at Diamond Head, wiggling my toes in the sand. It is near sunset, and the tide has come up to my ankles. I look down towards surfers leaving the water and couples taking sunset-selfies. This is a nice beach. I think to myself.


Four years ago to the day, I stood on a beach one bright May morning not far from Diamond Head and thought the exact same thing, this is a nice beach. It was my first morning in Hawai‘i, and I had woken up early to go for a run. I explored my new surroundings, amazed that I had actually made the jump and moved here.

When I came to Honolulu in 2012, I had a whole host of reasons why I chose to leave Southern California:

  • I had never lived more than an hour from where I grew up, now was the time to leave.
  • I had never “adventured” after college the way I had wanted to.
  • I was young and figured,”if not now, when?”
  • It was time to ~let go of my stuff~

All of these things were true, in some form or another. Still, none of them were at the true root of why I left: at the time, I hated who I had become.

I don’t mean that in a terribly self-deprecating way, but I had made choices that were actively against the kind of woman I wanted to be. I stayed in relationships that left me feeling hurt, disrespected and jealous. I was selfish and deceitful, with the justification that I “deserved” certain moments of happiness in my life. I drank too much. I partied too hard. I was reacting moment-to-moment only seeking the next high of happiness or excitement because I was a “twentysomething” and that was my right, dammit.

So, I ran. It’s what I’m best at, after all. I didn’t ghost; I found a job and made plans and tried to make a place for myself, but I packed up my life and ran as far as I could. I stood on that beach, the morning of May 1st, 2012, hoping– as cheesy as it was– that it was also the dawn of some, elusive, better version of myself.

Four years later, to the day,  I am standing on a beach looking out at the ocean, facing that question head-on: Am I better off now than I was four years ago?


The tide tickles my calves as it comes up further. A breeze wraps itself around me and reminds me of the mantra I used a moment ago. I close my eyes.

Stop.

I think about the girl I was at twenty-four. I moved here and grew. What I didn’t fully realize was how much growth can and will sting. That it still involved choices I would come to shake my head at. Becoming “better” doesn’t protect you from getting hurt sometimes. It also doesn’t prevent you from hurting others. What I see now is that the depth we can hurt each other is matched only by our depth to love each other as well.

Breathe.

Four years later, I have a longer lens with which to look back on my life. Amid the tense and exciting moments, I take stock of the pauses, the silence. Sometimes all we need is a moment to move past our initial, irrational response.

On the cusp of reactionary implosion, our brain can kick in if we let it. It can read the situation, triage, and clarify what needs to happen next to move past this. The silence isn’t complacency. It’s the time where our mind took a moment to cement in the lesson or the story or the power we would need. It stores it deep inside ourselves, a reserve of strength and wisdom saved for the next time we need it.

Again.

The way we learn is cyclical. We come to understand something, we face it in a different context, and all we can hope is that we handle it with a little more grace than we did before

If anything, the scars we had from the last time should serve as a map we can read as we navigate through this current struggle. ‘I have been here before,’ we remind ourselves, ‘I will come out on the other side. I know what I need to do to get through this.’ We begin the familiar rituals we do to heal. We try to learn. We try to get better. We don’t always succeed, but maybe, just maybe, this time, it’s a little easier.

Good. 

I open my eyes. I look back at the ocean. I have run Diamond Head many times, but rarely stop to come down to the beach and take a moment to breathe. I look at my legs and feet in the water.

I see the scars on my body, I see the parts of myself that have already stretched like new skin over healing hurts. I see where I have grown. I see the wounds and the dark parts of myself that still need to heal. Maybe the difference, now, is that I see the shape and color of the work that will go into that growth.

In some ways, not much has changed. And yet, everything has changed.


An initial version of this included the following passage from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and I felt compelled to share it still. It’s one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it. 

But as I wrote his name now, I knew I was doing it for the last time. I didn’t want to hurt for him anymore, to wonder whether in leaving him I’d made a mistake, to torment myself with all the ways I’d wronged him.

What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t  have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

– Strayed, Cheryl (2012-03-20). Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 1) (p. 258). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Lies I Unlearned When I Chose Love

Little known fact about me: my parents and older brother call me “baby,” ensuring I will be some Filipina child’s “Tita Baby” some day. 

Anyway, this is a letter to myself– now, myself in the past, and myself going forward.


Baby,

The world will tell you that you need to guard  your heart and only give love to people  that “deserve” it.

Maybe they’re right.

And they wouldn’t be the first. “If love be rough with you,” a poetic but hot-headed man once said, “then be rough with love.”

Another man once wrote, though, that if you lead a loving life, it is natural— if not essential— that you will fall in love. You will tumble head first into vats of it. Love will be gooey, messy and unpredictable. It will get in your eyes and under your nails, and you will find it dried behind your ears days after you thought you had finally scrubbed yourself clean of it.

And that’s beautiful, but it’s terrifying. It will scald you. It will go up your nose and make you cough in that painful way that rips open your throat. It screws up your clothes, staining in a way and no amount of bleach will get it out. This love shit will seriously fuck you up.

But stop running from it, baby. Stop running from love because you’re scared that you’ll never be able to scrub it away. You’re right. You won’t. It will leave a permanent mark. It’ll burn you in ways you weren’t ready for.

But stop running.

Here’s the lie you must let go: the belief that love only looks like one thing. To choose love is to understand that love comes to us in so many forms.

Love is not just kisses and rainbows. Love is bigger than presents and the person who holds you when you cry. Love is not only the arms of someone else. It is not always soft. It is not always simple. It is not always laid out and easy to reach. Sometimes you think you’re there only to learn that love is at the top of an impossibly long, climb.

Sometimes, love is the brutal, honest truth laid out on the table, looking at all the parts of that truth and making the choice. It sees all the shaky, scary bits and says, “Yes. I’m in.

Sometimes you have that conversation with a partner.

Sometimes with a friend.

Sometimes with yourself.

Still, that’s not the only way love manifests. It’s the text chain with a friend reminding you of your own strength. It’s the head tilt and the quiet question, “Are you okay? What do you need?” It’s the kid who puts everything on the field for you and for them. It’s the moment you hear your own heartbeat and feel joy.

Here’s the other lie: they have been trying to convince you that your heart will only produce so much love. They are convinced that you will meet your quota. That someone will see your secret stash of it and steal it and not give you any in return. That will happen. It will fucking hurt like hell. It will make you feel frustrated and sad.

But it won’t mean you don’t have any more love to give.

So, even when it’s difficult, choose love. Even when you know you might get hurt, run towards love.

Well, don’t run. Walk. Stroll. Take your time. Know what it really means to give and receive it. Sit with the knowledge that you will hurt other people. Love doesn’t guarantee constant happiness, but it does create joy.

But choose love. Walk towards it even when it annoys the shit out of you. Choose love even when it is ripping you at the seams. There is a fine line between DEconstruction and REconstruction, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

You will get burnt. You will be betrayed. You will realize that what you thought was love was actually something else, or that it became something else. You will cry and feel sadness and be hurt.

But you are no fool. Don’t believe that choosing love makes you naive or a dupe. You are not unworthy. Just because love transforms or leaves or isn’t enough doesn’t mean you were weak or wrong. Your ability to give love was never a weakness. In reality, it’s the greatest strength you possess.

So, stop running FROM something, and move towards love. When you see it at the top of an impossibly long rope, climb it and ring the bell for youself. Even if you fall after, you got there in the first place, the echoed ringing a reminder of how powerful you really are.

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The Miracle Is That We Are Beloved

The worst part of death is the terrible silence. It is absolute– a void so empty it is rich in its darkness.

Be it of a loved one, a relationship, or a period of our life, there is always still the silence. The pause after the final breath. The moment when any denial we had about what was happening is stripped away. We can only look down at our hands and know, ‘This is my reality now.’ I heard that silence when I hung up the phone with my grandfather after telling him goodbye, knowing I wouldn’t be able to see him before he passed. I felt it when I returned home from an ex’s, with three years of my life reduced to a few garbage bags in a now empty-feeling apartment. There is nothing we can do but look down at our hands and realize that our previous reality has shattered, and that there is a looming darkness we can only face.

It is easy to feel unworthy in those moments. Everything we held dear has been stripped from us, it seems, and we realize just how fragile we are, how human and imperfect we are as we stumble through life. It is easy to look in the mirror, see nothing but the pain and darkness of that death and feel like we will never find the love or joy or happiness we are certain has left forever with death.

And yet.

Growing up, I had a priest who once reminded us that the renewal of God’s love at Easter didn’t, you know, have to take place on Easter. “If not today,” Fr. Fred told us, “Easter will come.” Even if it was not that Sunday morning, we were reminded that at the end of it all God’s love renews, heals, saves. Even after we have beaten, spit on, and ridiculed Christ, God still decides we are worthy of His love and forgiveness. 

I am reminded of this now, on an Easter Sunday where I am in the process of rebuilding. The darkness we face after a death isn’t a completely false one. Often times, it is an important reminder of our own humanity and imperfections, of the places we faltered and failed.

The darkness isn’t the lie; the lie is that we will never find that joy again.

I know that the miracle of God’s love is not that the world is perfect or that everything is good. The miracle is that, with those imperfections, we are still beloved. The miracle is that even when we are sure we are horrible and hopeless creatures, God reminds us that we are still worthy of love and grace. If we allow them, we still have people and moments that move us to uproarious laughter and countless joy.

This morning, I send a friend of mine a quick Easter message saying, “Rejoice! His is Risen!” He replied in kind and mentioned how blessed we were that we looked inside the tomb and see that is empty.

There, too, is the miracle. The story of Easter does not run away from the notion of death itself. Christ is still crucified on Good Friday and mourned for those three days. We all have parts of ourselves that die as we seek renewal. God’s love doesn’t make death disappear. The resurrection is not a wiping-the-slate-clean reaction of naivety. When Christ looked down and showed us His hands after the resurrection, they weren’t magically devoid of scars. Christ still bore the wounds of His past and crucifixion, even after He rose.

Easter is not about easy fixes or magic healings. It is when we acknowledge both death and the imperfections that came before it but do not stay in the darkness with the decaying forms of our past. The tomb is empty. We don’t have to cling onto those parts of ourselves anymore. Instead, we decide to walk out of the darkness with Christ and rise up better than before.

So, as this Easter comes, I am eager to walk forward in the miracle of God’s love. I look down at my hands and see the reality that they are still weathered and broken from the last part of my life.

This is my reality now, and that is okay. It is good. It is blessed. I have no need to dwell in these past pieces of my life. Instead, I stand up and walk forward out of the tomb and towards light.

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