The air is thick tonight with rain that never comes. It slumps just out of reach, heavy and inert, and it’s enough to make one scrrreeeeeaaAMM in the hopes of startling something loose in this too-big, too-still cosmos.
It’s been a summer of not enough anything. Mostly time, but patience, energy, resources, they’ve all been threadbare from the first sun-steeped day, and my heart has been pushing against frayed seams until I’m sure that this time it’s going to fall all the way through.
I have a word that has buried itself deeper and deeper into my waking mind this year, and it gets bigger the deeper it goes. Generosity. It won’t let me go, this notion of interconnectedness, of burden-bearing and of being the hands and feet of miracles. I search for meaning in everything, so I keep trying to peek behind the scenes and see why the idea of generosity would grab me from the inside out in a season when I have the least to give. I’m wallet-empty, word-empty, strength-empty, drained and going cross-eyed from so many nights up late trying to beat inertia at its own game, and I can’t begin to imagine where this giving would come from, but it insists it’s important and won’t let me say otherwise.
I have another word too, a word that swoops instead of burrows and wields a different kind of claw. Failure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to sit down here with you only to find all my words replaced with that one. We’ve been in Italy for five years now—five!—and I’ve wanted so often to commemorate our anniversary of leaping into the unknown and to marvel at the milestones in our rear view. This word, though… When it comes, it comes with the single-mindedness of a sharpshooter, and it bores through me on its first try. All the milestones I haven’t reached in five years, all the blunders I’ve made, all the regrets stretching as far back as I can see, and will I ever be able to see the terrain of my life story any other way?
My version of reality is something like a giant snowball of the experiences I have accumulated, and sometimes I forget that there is another side to the snowball, much less that reality—real reality—might not be limited to what I can see from my cross-eyed, failure-pecked mind. I’ve said things in the last few weeks like “My only purpose in life is to clean up messes,” and it’s felt like the truest, most dismal truth, especially with bright red ginger soda splashed across the newly mopped floor. I’ve shut out the quiet invitation of an hour alone with life-affirming words because I haven’t done enough to earn that privilege from myself. I’ve lost heart before even starting a day’s work, and my reality has been cordoned off in every direction with harsh yellow “Failure” tape. The rain has just hung in the air, unresponsive. Not a droplet to pin our hopes on.
I know it’s not the big picture though. I know because this notion of extravagant generosity has my face between its hands and I can’t look away, even when Failure reminds me I have nothing with which to be extravagantly generous. There is a reason, and when it shows up, it won’t have to fight for my attention. I also know that this stretch of crusty snowball I’m eyeballing is not the truest true because life is cyclical. The rain might slumber out of reach for weeks on end, but it can’t hold out forever. And when the sky finally opens up? You better believe I’ll be waiting.