“We have a surprise activity for Saturday morning,” June told me over the phone a few days before our weekend together. “I want to keep it a surprise, but I do want to tell you a little about it so that you can be prepared. We want you to bring mementos from your journey. Things that are special to you and Cadence.” While I couldn't remember the name of the artist, I remembered that the Johnson's had done something artistic a few years back. I wondered now if this was what June was talking about. I didn't say anything. I love surprises. I spent the rest of my commute to work thinking of the items I would gather before we left town in two days.
We picked up Myles and Chelsea on our way to our Saturday adventure and drove to a little town outside the metro area. Brad pulled up to a beautiful house with a sign over the garage that read “The Torn Edge.” We met the artist at her door and were welcomed into her home studio. It was brimming with the raw materials of soon-to-be masterpieces. Wood and metal in the forms of window frames, screen doors, and ceiling fan blades were stacked floor to ceiling. It was an upcycler's dream space.
We settled into bar stools around a wooden work table. Michelle introduced herself and shared the difficult life stories that had culminated to bring her to this place. She described how she found healing by making art out of scraps. I love a good metaphor, and I was sitting in the middle of a powerful one right now. Through scraps of wood, torn paper, and metal, Michelle had created a new work life for herself, learned how to make beauty out of brokenness, and how to share that healing process with others. She was showing that the bad things of life; sickness, death, poor decisions, fear, and depression can be transformed into beauty. She was living proof that God can make something good come from any dark circumstance.
Brad and June looked at me and said, “We've brought you here to create your own art piece.” I was overwhelmed by the fact that they thought of creating this space for me, but also that they had spent time gathering items from their end of our friendship to contribute to the art piece. They pulled out photos, programs from church services we'd experienced together, presidential memorabilia, and scripture verses. These people are extraordinary. If you have the privilege of being loved by them, it is a singular experience. You can't help but become a better version of yourself in their presence and under their wise, loving influence.
Michelle's son invited my daughter to play inside the house. This too was a gift because it gave me time and space to feel my emotions and express them. I began to cry about an old hurt that while time does seem to ease, gets reopened from time to time. I sobbed and wept. June came around the table and held onto me. She mothered me and cooed to me and let the tears fall and the sobs shake my small frame. She and her family gifted me with their presence that day.
As I laid out my mementos on the table and began to arrange them to tell my own story I saw how the events of the past four years had brought me to this table. My job elimination, my dad's life-threatening illness, and three more years of our family's employment insecurity. They had been heart breaking, aggravating, and exhausting experiences. They had also prepared me for making decisions that needed to be made.
I felt the weight of the crossroads before me as I moved these mementos around. I am forty and now single. The new decade is significant, but made all the more so because I'm forging it on my own. Behind the activity of working my way through the 4040 list of activities, I had also taken a stand for myself, my soul, my daughter, and our future. The weight of a mismatched union lifted from my shoulders. I feel strong and good and lonely. But mostly strong and good.
This same weekend another friend reflected that when a sister became a widow she felt unmoored. “I played getting married and house and having babies as a little girl. I never played being a widow. I don't know how to do this.”
I know exactly how she feels. I played the same things constantly growing up, but playing divorced, single mother, solo homeowner never factored into my imaginary play. It's a strange thing to feel the relief of the end of something that needed to, while also feeling deep sadness and loneliness. There are many adjustments to be made in this new life. Sharing time with my daughter, having so much time to myself, adding grocery shopping and lawn mowing back into my weekly routine. Finding out what good companions solitude and silence and a daily writing habit are.
The tears dried and the work of creating my art piece began. As I watched Michelle guide our work, I began to feel a lightness and expansiveness in my chest. It was a sensation I've not felt before. I liked it. It was a physical manifestation of what I was feeling in my soul. Hope. I felt Hope. And Joy. And Peace. And Love. All Good Things.