Still

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*if you want to understand life better, you should know about addie zierman. She writes this blog that is amazing, and she wrote one in particular that inspired this a good bit. addiezierman.com. seriously. she’s great*

The last night we laid our bedding spread out across the suddenly empty living room and watched a movie on my laptop, which was propped up on a taped up box full of books. We lay there, as the lights by the pool went out and the view from the patio doors dimmed. Our breathing synced slowly, and it felt so very final. We were full, from the last college hour. From a lunch of fierce hugs and leaking goodbyes. From a week of piling, tipsy and emotional, onto couches and amassing a last onslaught of inside jokes. Full of the things we weren’t sure we would have again. We lay there in the dark and wondered, or at least I wondered, if we were ready.

And in the note Becky sent to me, she told me I was. I set it aside when she handed it to me on the sunny porch of Jamba Juice during study hall. I went back with it shoved in my backpack and leaned deeply into what little I had left of the dream. I read it for the first time, that night in the fading  glow of the pool lights as Jen and Lauren slept and we were one thing for the last time. It said “you are so ready for this”

How could we have been? How could we have been ready for the change that was already sweeping over us? I coasted into Oklahoma mere miles in front of a devastating tornado. It missed me by twenty minutes. How could we have been ready? For the crookedness of every church service, for the staleness of the moments together…How could we have known? How could I have been ready for the dense fog that would settle over my heart?

There was no way for me to be truly ready. And as I re-read Hamlet, I started to realize. I felt the words so deeply in my bones. “there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow…readiness is all…let be”.

I always loved Hamlet. It’s centering, somehow, to read the words playing in my head so frankly on a page in language I cannot quite wade through. So that they make sense on a different plane. I can see myself shot all through the pages. I can feel the tension in his arms as he says this, knowing that the onslaught to come is inevitable. Knowing that his defenses are weakened. And in the knowledge of that, he can barely be ready. And he stands there, with his jaw tightened, claiming finally that something invisible and profound has guided every step. Letting the wave sweep his feet from beneath him to carry him into the deep water.

Readiness. I knew starting probably last September. The edges of the picture were starting to sharpen, and I knew the darkness that hovered at the edge of the world I was leaving. I knew, and I confessed it to them that night at prayer awakening. I let the words out in a slow hiss, and we lifted them as high as we could. We took communion, and I let it settle deeply inside of me, absorbing every last piece of together. It stayed there, suspended above me, until that day in July when I blinked and found it crashing down over my head.

There are some things you can never be truly ready for. We sit together in the dimness again, on the same couch, and it is clear that we were never ready for this. That we could not have preserved it.

“there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow” and we chase a God who sees us. Who lays out this tangled snarl of path that carries us forward. The fault lines begin to stabilize again under our feet, and I am panting, doubled over trying to catch my breath. The fight has been what I expected it to be, but that doesn’t mean I was ready. As Hamlet stands, knowing the struggle will be his last, he begins to understand that his story has an ending. That no amount of preparation or anticipation can carry the words past the inevitable duel and arrival of Fortinbras. The story ends, and he confesses weakly that the end is coming whether or not he is ready.

It comes for Horatio, in a different way. He’s the only one of the lot who stays, I would imagine with the last monologue of his friend dangling in his ears. To be ready in this is so much different. To be ready for the days beyond the last page of the book. To be ready for life that is not a comedy or tragedy or drama. It just is. “let be”. And maybe the speech was less for Hamlet and more for his friend. Maybe the readiness was not so much embracing the end as it was embracing the hazy uncertainty when the ending isn’t your own.

I don’t suppose I ever really expected to get to the other side of this. It’s one thing to embrace the drama as the story fold in on itself, but it’s another thing entirely to be Horatio, looking out on a future with uncertain form. It’s another thing entirely to see my own “exeunt” written at the bottom of the final scene, and to be left standing in the wings uncertain where the story goes from here.

So I survived it. And Becky was right, when she wrote that note in what feels like another lifetime. I was as ready as I could be. Someone asks me, as I sit still trying to catch my breath…”still?”.  “yeah”

It is still hard, but I am still fighting. It is still hard to understand, but I am still believing. It still feels futile, but I am still following. The word envelopes this moment so beautifully as I am still and waiting in a fragile way to see what on earth could be coming around the corner. I am sure that I am still not ready. But all you can do is let it come. Because you’ve made it through so much already.

“Not a whit. We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.”

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