So, when tragedy and misadventure sweep in and you find yourself sitting on a patio in the middle of a shopping center in Suburbia evaluating all your hours, a surprise blessing sometimes comes creeping in on the heels of their destruction.
In my particular case, this came in the form of a chance at a clean slate. How often can a 28-year-old woman change everything about her life – career, city of residence, hours and hobbies and pursuits? The only earthly thing that really mattered in my life was now out of my reach: the six sweet children I had the privilege of sharing my life with for three years. Out of love and a desire to be kind to their family, I feel it best to leave the details in the past. The truth of how blessed I was to know them burns still, however. I will never forget them, and I carry them with me in my heart.
The reality on that patio last fall stands stark like a photograph: I was alone, and the ache was an abyss. Sometimes this is the only time in our lives when we are open to change. Sometimes it’s the only way we could ever be persuaded to consider the rhythmic harmonies of our lives and, if dissonant, make adjustments.
Last week I mentioned reconnecting with Nate Croft through social media. It was January, and my parents were visiting from Tennessee and staying in my little apartment here in Allen. My mom and I were curled up on the futon looking at Nate’s artful photography. We quickly noticed that he was using #vanillatothegrave with most of his posts.
“I wonder what that means!” Mom exclaimed, echoing the same question I’d already begun to entertain. So we googled it. That’s when we found Nate’s blog, vanillatothegrave.com, and read a witty and heartwarming story about how he met the Texas Guitarman, Mr. Gene Fuller.
Nate’s introduction to his blog begins like this: “If you could design your perfect life, what would it look like? That’s not a rhetorical question. Take a moment and let it sink in. What would you do every day? What would your schedule be like? Where would you live?”
These questions threw my sweet mama into a tizzy. She and my dad have lived in the same house in Farragut, TN, for nearly twenty years – a home my sister and I grew up in and love visiting and hope they never leave. My parents are settled, in a wonderfully wholesome way. While she (rightfully) sputtered about not being able to change the very fibers of her life, I sat thinking. Since the season of loneliness had started, my mind began to form an image of a rather bleak open road when I thought about the future. A wide path stretched out before me in black-and-white, both beautiful and terrifying in its desolation.
What Nate’s message did for me was to turn the fear of that unknown path into the thrill of making it diverge wherever I wanted.
How often can a 28-year-old woman change everything about her life – design a departure to one that best fits the shape of her heart?
This is my one, unexpected chance. I’m still dreaming up the details, but I’ve made a choice that very intentionally points my path toward what feels like home:
I’m moving back to Tennessee.