This year has been a big one, so to speak, in countless ways — and it’s not over yet. It’s a year full of some of the most difficult days of my life, and those of my family, and simultaneously a year of abundance and blessings. I fully feel the second part of that statement. God has shown up time and again this year, and I’m encouraged by the challenges and the victories because I see how He is there in all of it. He is a good, good God. Every day, I’m learning more and more that so much of life truly is about our perspective, the way we choose to see and respond to what’s in front of us — no matter who or what we believe in.
Shortly after Christmas last year, my dad was hospitalized. On January 3, 2019, he was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The doctor who broke the news to us, while kind, was vague in terms of my dad’s chances of beating this and how long he might have to live. We learned a week or so later that, were he to continue without treatment, the cancer would likely take his life in 4-6 weeks.
So once an abscess in my dad’s intestine was treated — another story altogether, one where I also 100 percent see God’s hands at work — he started a month of inpatient chemotherapy at University of Michigan Hospital. Another round of outpatient chemo followed in March. In April, we learned my dad had several strong matches for a bone marrow transplant, and at the end of April, he successfully received a bone marrow transplant from a 20-something-year-old man in Germany. While the transplant was successful, my dad was not in the clear, and I would argue that May and June — though still full of blessings — were his toughest months and the most challenging for all of us. I know they were for me.
“Home is not a place; it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern
I feel fortunate to have found and known—and continue to find and know—home, a sense of home, in places around the world and among people around the world. I often find the people are more important to that feeling than the place itself. Though the two in combination, when the feeling is right, are quite a powerful force.
Of the places I’ve lived and traveled, Michigan and Patagonia carry the greatest feelings of home for me.
There’s seemingly always been a pull between here and there. But when I was unexpectedly back in Michigan in January and February and then again in May and June, that pull on my heart was different. It felt stronger in that I could more clearly see the value I find and feel in each place, if that makes sense. I could more clearly see what each place holds for me.
It was also different in that I wouldn’t describe this pull as a tug of war. It’s a gentle pull. There’s a respect between these two places that occupy my heart. They each carry meaning and importance. They each carry a significant part of me.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to sit down and just write in recent months. To write about how I’m feeling. To write about the mountain tops and valleys of life and everything in between. To write about my family. To write about the pull that I feel between here and there — at a time when “here” was Michigan and “there” was Patagonia. That pull is the same, but “here” is once again Patagonia and “there” is now Michigan.
I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me in recent months. I feel as though life is a bit of a blur these days, and I’m having a tough time bringing everything into focus. I feel as though I’ve been running on autopilot — I can’t imagine how my mom, or my dad and sister, must be feeling — trying my best to support, take care of and be there for my family, those I love and myself.
I’ve felt dried up, void of emotions and words. At times, I’ve felt as though there’s nothing left for me to give to those I love or myself. I’ve felt numb.
The last 2-3 months could be a novel in and of themselves. I suppose all of our lives are that way to some extent. Each day carries so many ups and downs and details that are small but important.
I’m getting ahead of myself. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure where this story begins, but I think this is a place to start.
I’ve been thinking on this idea of letting go a lot the past few weeks. With relationships, work, projects, challenges, dreams and more, when do we let go? Not everything is ours to keep, and sometimes, I think it’s tough, especially when we’re in the thick of it, to know when we’ve given it our best, need to step away, cut our losses and let go.
I suppose it doesn’t mean that we let go forever. Perhaps it’s a matter of days. Maybe a month. Maybe far longer than that. Maybe forever. I don’t know.
I was speaking with a friend months ago about this. She shared a practice of, in our minds, placing the thing that seemingly needs letting go of on a leaf in a stream and letting it float away. Rather than crumpling it up and throwing it out, we release it out into the universe — giving it the opportunity to float back around into our lives, if and when the timing is right, or to simply float on with no return. In letting go, we must relinquish all hopes and expectations for what that letting go might mean.
The other night, I sat in bed reading through pages containing goals and thoughts I’d intentionally set and written down at the start of this year.
While I keep these dreams tucked into my computer sleeve, it had been awhile since I’d read through them. Since I wrote them over several days at the start of the year, I know them fairly well. However, in reading them anew, I was struck by the language tied to each goal — and the way I’d envisioned this year overall. There’s not one word or phrase that stands out. It’s more the combination of all of them together. In reading them with fresh eyes — and a fresh perspective of a me who’s lived six months since I wrote those goals — I saw a lot of naivety in the Emily I was at the start of the year.
My dreams still hold true. What’s changed is that I’m less focused on the outcome and perhaps more focused on the process. I know the process is part of tackling each dream. I knew that when I wrote those goals. In writing the goals, I wrote about why each was important and what it would take to see it through, and while I spent time answering those questions for each goal, I think I failed to see just how important those questions and their answers were.
In tackling your goals, you have to love the process — almost more than the end goal itself.
“you are a season of becoming” — Danielle Doby
With each passing day, between traditional media, social media and our hyper-connected world, I feel we’re becoming more apt to celebrate dreams realized, projects completed, “overnight” successes and the highlights of life. We’re more apt to share the milestones of any given time period than we are to share the process itself.
The reality is those moments are a fraction of our entire lives, and in sharing and celebrating those benchmarks, I feel as though we lose sight of the process.
A few years ago, after a particularly tough night — one of those nights where the weight of the world seems to come crashing down all at once — my mom wrote these words on a Post-it Note for me and left them on my bathroom counter.
“I love you, Em. You don’t always have to be so strong.”
I have that note saved in a box somewhere up in the U.S. And even though that note is not physically with me here in Argentina, my mom’s simple-yet-profound words are with me always.
You don’t always have to be so strong.
I’m realizing more and more that I tend to carry the weight of what can sometimes feel like the world on my shoulders and that no one is putting that pressure on me but me. I think this is human. I think we are all guilty of this to varying degrees.