Thursday, March 17, 2011

Goodbye, I Love America.




I found God, on a blanket, on wet grass, in the midst of thousands of people, wiping away tears and looking up into a gorgeous lit up sky confronting my fears.

I found God, at my lowest low, unsure, afraid, broken. Something about laying on your back and looking up and being lost in a crowd, something about being so small in the grand scheme of things, when the last few weeks where everything in my life was so infinitely big and glaringly huge just comforted. Something about knowing, knowing that my God had me, that my God was going to take care of me, that my God had a plan and that this was part of the plan. That my God had not left, that my God had not forsaken me, that my God was right beside me carrying me....something about that night, and that day, something clicked.

And perhaps it was the band, or maybe it was just because I love love love fireworks. Perhaps it was because this, this festival had been a constant in my life in Springfield, a tradition. My favorite part of the year, and my favorite celebration in Springfield. First as an international student, and the last time, as a wife. And I remember begging to go, campaigning to go weeks and months ahead. I remember, that year, all the things I did and had to do and I was angry and I was sad and I was heartbroken for this girl I didn't know anymore, and this girl that let herself be broken, and this girl that let someone else decide her happiness, and this girl that always asked how high instead of no.

And that year, 18 days after the moment where everything changed, I was determined. Determined to do this on my own, determined to get there even if I got lost, determined, even if I didn't know who I was and didn't know where I was going. Determined, in reclaiming, in taking back, in not letting this be another loss, another casualty, another thing to write off. Determined, to be in control.

Thank God for GPS.

Thank God for my mom who said nothing and everything by just being there.

And thank God for friends, who packed a blanket, a big hug, and pushed, and said, you can do this Racheal, you...YOU can do this.

Don't back out.

Don't get scared.

Don't say it's too hard, or that it's too much or whatever other excuse you're going to justify it with because you're scared.

Don't, don't because if you do, you lose.

You lose in a huge monumental way.

And it's way too early to throw in the towel, have faith, child, have faith.

It will all make sense and it will be something you will look back on someday and just know.

So, for the first time, I got to stay. I stayed until the lights went out and the last band played their last song. I stayed until the parking lot was mostly empty, and I had roasted corn and did whatever my little heart wanted to do. I stayed and had fun, I walked around, I got to go to the main area, I didn't have to sit in the parking lot in the car, stressed out, bribing. I got to listen to the bands, I got to actually see the stage more than a random pass-by get back to the car immediately.

And like so much before, it was eye-opening.


The next year, we took a picture under the same arch from all the years before, a staple.

Except it was different.

This time around, I knew who I was, I knew where I was going, and I knew what I was made of.

This time around, I knew where God was, I knew what He could do, and I trusted in that faith completely.

This time around, instead of fighting or the silent treatment or the begging, I got to share an amazing experience with someone I loved. I got to relax and breathe and not worry about what the consequences would be. I didn't worry that he would be mad because there were so many people, I didn't have to apologize that there was such a ridiculous amount of traffic.

But more magical than that, we not only stayed, but we hung out in car, rolled down the windows, and just talked.

And this is why I know it is different this time around.

Because he is different.

Because I am different.

And no matter what we go through and no matter what we fight about, he won't happen again.

At first, I was so afraid, so sure, so tired of the same scene playing and replaying again, not realizing that every time before, I had only scratched the surface. That the yucky and pain and hurt had to happen, that the hard work had to be done, that the demons needed to be confronted and exorcised. That until I learned to talk about it, to acknowledge it, I would always be stuck on repeat.

And that is why I am grateful.

Because that first night, 18 days out, that was the night I learned to say me.

I choose me.

I pick me.

That was the night I learned to reclaim me.

That was the night I knew, for sure, that God had my back.

That was the night I had happy and grateful tears mixed in with the grief.

That was the night I learned to fight, fight harder than I had ever fought before and dig deep.

And this summer vacation, the journey, the reliving and retelling. The playback, the creation of new memories, the letting go, the returning. Of saying thank you, of saying look how far I've come, of saying, I did it. This summer vacation, a celebration of so much, of life, of being here, of just being.

This summer, this was part of the plan too.

In fact, this was the main reason my trip extended far far beyond what I was comfortable with into a two month break. Because this, this was important.

And so while it breaks my heart that it is over, it is also in some sense poetic.

Because this, this is the letting go.

This is the returning.

This is the closure, the tying up of old stories, the creating anew.

Goodbye I Love America, I will miss you, and I will always have so much love for all the experiences, but most of all, thank you.

Thank you for being there for me as a new international student.

Thank you for being there for me as a stepmother and as a wife.

Thank you for being there for me when my life was falling apart.

But most of all, thank you for being there for me when I learned how to laugh again.

In all the years, I never did find that watermelon stand.

But I did always find that spark of happy, that pure grin-so-hard-my-face-might-break, when the fireworks started.





"The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle."

~Anais Nin