Two weeks ago, I made a promise to Lisa Blair. We decided that we would each post something on our blogs by that Monday. Lisa, of course, stayed true to her word and posted some lovely thoughts right on time. I, however, procrastinated, lamented about my lack of creativity, pretended to study for my Finance midterm, and clicked repeatedly on articles with titles like “Must-Have Spring Shoes for Every Budget.”
Anyway, it’s officially April you guys. APRIL OF 2017. What is happening? WHO ALLOWED THIS?!
In January, I was one of *those* people who picked a word for the year to dwell on. In light of my recent realization that I may have some issues with performing for people (thanks to the Enneagram), I decided to choose a word that would pull me away from the constant voice of activity and pressure and work. The voice that echoes in the heads of 3’s, saying you haven’t done enough, don’t screw this up, you have to work harder, and don’t forget about your laundry. I chose a simple, small, annoyingly clear word:
The process of me trying to rest properly is hilarious. Tomorrow, from 10 to 2, I will rest. I will rest SO FREAKING HARD. I will be the most perfectly rested human that has ever existed. I will conquer this challenge called rest, damn it.
It was a bit ridiculous. After a couple of months though, I started to get the hang of it. I began reading fiction again, something I’ve loved since I was little and haven’t done much for several years. I cooked some meals instead of eating that one Southwestern Trader Joe’s salad every day. I de-cluttered my room. I said no to more things. And best of all, I went to Iceland.
Iceland was the ideal place to rest, for so many reasons. First of all, I went with amazing, kind, and super laid back people. On top of that, we didn’t have wifi all the time (so no infuriating tweets to scroll through), and most areas outside of Reykjavik were extremely peaceful and quiet. It was a beautiful week of good conversation, laughter, and stunning landscapes everywhere we turned. I was surrounded on all sides by things more beautiful than I had ever seen, and my heart had never needed it more.
There were too many wonderful things about Iceland to count, but my favorite was our “secret” hot spring. We ran into some fellow travelers one day while getting lunch, and they gave us directions to this little spot, tucked away in the midst of some hills, invisible to cars on the main road. It was somewhere around 30 degrees outside, and the wind whipped at us while we changed and ran from our truck to the pool. It's a perfect memory: sitting in a little hole in a mountain, surrounded by cold wind and mud, but encased in a warm, comfortable cocoon. Safe and sound in the hot water, (which I still can’t wrap my mind around – science, am I right?) and flushed with happiness because we were in each other’s company.
As we continued to drive around the country in our camper van, I would pull out a book to read every now and then (because as we have established, I’m a nerd). On this trip I happened to be re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This book was actually my favorite of the series to read this time around, because there’s just so much packed into it. While parts of it are very painful and sad, a level of depth is added to the characters that really pulls at your heart. In fact, I’d advise particularly sensitive readers not to finish it while alone on a plane – you may burst into tears and alarm other passengers.
Yes, I did that EVEN THOUGH I HAD ALREADY READ IT.
What I love about this book is that it highlights deep, ever-developing bonds between Harry and many of the other characters. It’s in this book that Harry experiences yet another horrible loss, after all of the trauma he’s already faced. Throughout this one, he’s moody and irritable. He constantly yells or snaps at his friends, choosing not to accept their help. He says things he regrets, and doesn’t listen when he’s given advice. But strangely, the more he lashes out, the more his friends and mentors rally around him. In spite of his behavior, they make sure he has their support, because they know he needs it now more than ever.
Although this is a “children’s” series, the themes have hit me so deeply in so many places. I think it’s partly because the characters are so perfectly flawed. Every single character in this story, no matter how brave or heroic or brilliant, messes up terribly at some point. And yet, the solidarity of the Order never dissolves. Harry and his friends would do anything for each other, and will always reconcile – no matter how horrible the offense.
I mean, just look at them.
Ever since I've started resting and trying to calm down about impressing people, this reminder has been running through my mind over and over, like a familiar song I had almost forgotten.
Failure is inevitable. You are not, and will never be, perfect. But don’t despair; you do not have to be perfect to be loved.
You can be a weirdo who takes giant books on vacation with you, and still be loved.
You can say the wrong thing, or make a mistake at work, and still be loved.
You can look or dress or speak a certain way – maybe in an unusual Luna Lovegood sort of way – and still be loved.
You can disagree strongly with someone close to you – and still be loved.
You can annoy someone, hurt someone, even turn your back on someone, and still be deeply, unconditionally, permanently loved.
As someone who likes to earn things, this concept is baffling to me. But perhaps J.K. Rowling was right about love. Perhaps love is the gift given freely, sacrificially, and selflessly. The thing that we never deserve, but always need. The thing that gives us hope, courage, and protection from all the darkness. The thing that keeps us safe.
Rather than a prize to be won, love is the simple choice to stay by someone's side. To say with confidence, you drive me insane sometimes, but my life is richer and more meaningful and more beautiful when you are in it.
I have people in my life who have chosen to do this for me - when I've been annoying, difficult, impatient, and selfish. These people, more than any others, have helped me understand true love. They've helped me see that I don't have to work for it, or strive for it, or chase after it desperately in panic. I don't have to perform or achieve goals or do anything heroic to get it.
And neither do you.
So if you need me anytime soon - I'll be resting.