when the fire dies

It’s pretty wild how we can go through times in life where we feel like the fire we have inside will last forever, consuming every messed up system and person in its path, forging ahead with bravery and righteousness.

For me, I knew my fire would sputter after a while, but now that it has, I feel much less sure about what to do next than I expected.

About a year ago, in the midst of my entire life falling apart, I wrote post after post excavating my inner self and all the burning anger and hurt that I was holding. It was cathartic and helpful and necessary. It was courageous. I’m a person who generally doesn’t like to rock the boat, and writing these posts — even on this little website where they wouldn’t get a ton of traction — was terrifying. There would obviously be people who didn’t agree with me, whether they ever expressed that to me or not, and I always feel a heavy sense of self-consciousness when I know someone may not agree with me. I plan out what other people may not agree with and begin to develop counterarguments until I’m having multiple fictional conversations in my head at once. It’s fun.

But now…

It’s been over a year since my marriage ended, albeit only a few months since it was legally official, and almost a year since I was fired from my first love, my church. It took me this long to realize that the more painful breakup was with the church, not my ex-husband. And I only just realized today that I will never be in the same position to get hurt so bad again, because I will never be able to throw my entire personality and being into one organization or person ever again. And that’s probably a good thing.

The hurt still catches me off-guard. I’ll be sitting in bed at night watching The Office, and all of a sudden, I’m crying, reliving the shock and hurt of the way it all ended. I’ll be having a perfectly calm conversation with a friend about other things, and I’ll say one sentence that brings tears to my eyes without warning. It’s the worst kind of breathtaking, but I’m also used to it.

Now that it’s a settled-in sadness and not a hot anger, I get a little lost sometimes. I knew what to do with the fire, but as is typical with high emotions, once they fizzle out, you’re left kind of bewildered that you ever felt that strongly, unsure of what to do next, and maybe a little embarrassed at the intensity with which you expressed what you were feeling in the moment.

Though, I don’t regret the way I expressed anything this year. I won’t take down any posts here or on instagram, even the most vulnerable and scathing ones. Even though I couldn’t muster up the same level of emotion now if I tried, I’m so glad that I established myself as someone who would fight to be honest and open through even the most confusing situation. I have had many people this year tell me they appreciate my honesty and openness regarding these massive life changes, and even though I know not everyone appreciated them (or even bothered to read them), they were worth talking about.

Lately, I’ve been really into plants. They’re calming and pleasant, and they give me something to focus on, something to learn about. There’s a nursery down the street from where I work that has an amazing assortment, and every few weeks I find myself walking the warm greenhouse aisles and waiting for a new little plant friend to catch my eye. There’s been such a comfort in finding tiny sprouts and helping them up out of the soil, and one of my favorite parts is when it’s time to re-pot them and I get to check out their roots and see what’s really going on underneath it all.

I definitely think I’m leaning on plants to help orient myself with the rebuilding of my life. The very deep roots I had established throughout my twenties were torn and cut up, ripped from their spot in the earth and shocked by the sudden change in environment. So I’ve been laid aside for the moment, letting some new baby roots come through, and trying to stay protected while I get my strength back up. I’m not quite sure yet what kind of soil I’ll sink myself into next or what kind of environment I’ll be able to thrive in, but I trust now that I’ll eventually figure it out without needing to know all the answers right now.

Caring for plants is calming. There is no rush, no fire, no need to speed up the process, no need to make sharp, hasty decisions. When it’s time to grow, it’s time. When a piece dies, another will grow. Where there was nothing, elements come together to create a little color. As I care for them, I care for me, and I continue to learn how to have patience for my own growth and change with as few expectations as possible.

One of my favorite things about my life right now is that I feel no rush. I went from a salaried job to working completely freelance, and for someone who puts a premium on security and stability, this is not something I think I could have ever chosen willingly. But now that I’ve survived it for almost a year, I feel

Part of this is an exercise in knowing myself, my desires, and what’s healthy for me. A major critique I have of the evangelical faith (that I know I’ve written about before) is that it teaches people, specifically women, not to trust themselves. It teaches that feelings are wrong and not to be relied upon and that the only method of making decisions is to ask someone outside of ourselves for guidance. Truly, nothing harmed me more during the first 29 years of my life than that mindset.

Now, like a plant, I take stock of my surroundings, my core, my extremities, my growth, and I decide what I need more or less of. And I communicate those needs to myself so that I can decide the best way to take care of any deficiencies or weaknesses. And I do my very best to take my time. Doing freelance work helps me stay on my feet without having to commit all of my hours to a traditional full-time job, and I’m doing my best to be open to every opportunity that comes my way without saying yes or no too quickly. It’s something I recognize takes a certain level of privilege to be able to do, but I’m grateful to get to take my time right now.

I’m sure that the aforementioned fire will come back one day over some other issue, some other hurt. And I will welcome it because there’s something about that fire that reminds me I’m alive, even when it hurts. I think we all need to have that fire at some point, to take a stand for something we believe in, to drive us to stick up for marginalized, oppressed, or hurt people.

There’s a time to slow down and a time to fight like hell. There’s a time to surrender and a time to defend. There’s a time for healing and a time for breaking yourself wide open to make sure you got all the rot and hurt out. There’s a time for everything, but if you are so used to ignoring yourself, you might miss out on the completely necessary experience of feeling it all.