A Conversation with My Portland Self

With the closing of PUMP Works, I've been thinking a lot in recent days about the me I was then. The me I was in Portland. The early twenty-something me.

The words talented and passionate come to mind.

I was ready to take on the world.

The words young and idealistic come to mind.

There was so much I had yet to learn.

And the words lonely and broken come to mind.

I didn't really know how alone I felt or how broken I was until I arrived in Portland for the first year of full-time ministry. I didn't know how much my friends in Abilene - my school friends and church friends, my mentors and professors - had been carrying me. I didn't know until they weren't there anymore.

I didn't know until I was sitting on my own trying to pull the threads of an idea together into a new program for PUMP. I didn't know until I didn't have people who knew my stories inside and out surrounding me on every side. I didn't know until the eating and the binges consumed me.

I didn't know how emotionally and spiritually unhealthy I really was.

I can see that girl, sitting alone on her couch. Hiding and afraid. Not understanding why the thing she had prayed so hard for - why the move and the job and the life which were supposed to make her the person she was supposed to be, which were supposed to make her better and worthy of being loved, which were supposed to make her finally enough - weren't doing that. They weren't filling up the emptiness and the loneliness inside her, and she could not understand why.

The me I am today, this me would live those stories different. The me I am today is, I hope, a little wiser, a little more patient, a little stronger and a lot healthier. The me I am today would have asked for help sooner. The me I am today would have built community instead of waiting for community to come and find her. The me I am today would have been a little more outward focused and a little less inward focused.

But even if a halo-y lit angel came down and told me God was giving me a do-over, I think, I hope, I would politely decline because the me I was then is a part of the me I am today. I wouldn't be this me without those hard and lonely times. I wouldn't know what I know about community. I wouldn't know what I know about living in recovery. I wouldn't know what I know about family. I wouldn't know what I know about God.

***

Maybe someday I'll have my chance at a Dickensian-ghost-of-Christmas-past type moment. Maybe I'll be flown across the past to my days in Portland and I'll have the chance to chat it up with the me I was then.

What would I say?

I might tell her it gets better. I might tell her about the healing she will find. I might tell her about how she will discover herself and the her God created her to be. I might tell her how one day she'll join the Peace Corps and travel across the world to live in South Africa. I might tell her how she'll fall in love and how her heart will be broken. I might tell her about the good and wonderful healing afterwards where she finally learns about her own beauty and femininity. I might tell her about Hannah* and the becoming part of being a mother.

I might tell her about those things, but those things, well, they seem like hidden things. They seem like aged wine. They seem holy and precious. They seem like moments that have to be lived.

They seem like spoilers.

No, I think instead, I'd tuck that one strand of hair forever falling out of place behind her ear. Look into her eyes and pull her close. I'd hold her tight in a way that says everything will be alright - in a way only she and I would understand. Then when the understanding had passed between us, I'd kiss her on the forehead, give her another quick squeeze and a deep meaningful, look - a look that says you can do this - and I would turn and walk away, knowing she can and she will.

She's not ready for aged wine. But she will be. And that's a beautiful journey she has to travel on her own.

It's one of those crazy, wonderful things about being human - being able to look back. To see what we couldn't see and to have the wisdom to say all that hard, all that pain, all that bad - in the end, it was something good.

 

*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all online activity regarding my someday daughter and her adoption.