Toward 34: “If You Come Softly”

If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

-from “If You Come Softly” by Audre Lorde

Six months ago I wrote a piece about my corn plant that I had been slowly nursing back to health and how broken down things can be revived. Six months later, that plant is dying, wasting away in a corner of my apartment until I find the energy to throw it out. It cannot be saved.

Thirty-three took everything. It bared my entire existence and sucked it dry. It was the year that I learned that even those of us with a high tolerance for pain have limits. That you can cry so much that you shift the pH balance in your tears and they will start to burn you. That mornings and nights are the hardest times with the loudest voices inside your mind to quiet. That loneliness has no bottom to its depths. And that you can’t always save your plants. Even when the metaphor is you.

When your world falls apart, how do you begin forming a new identity?

I quietly entered 34. Afraid to touch something that almost wasn’t here. Ashamed to celebrate it when 33 was a reminder of all the ways that I had let myself down. That maybe I could have saved that plant.

The day before my birthday, I wandered around the art district of Tlaquepaque in Guadalajara, a dark cloud encircling me. I went to eat lunch at a bright blue and white spot on the corner, where an older couple took my order and made my food. I struggled through my Spanish to talk to them about why I was there, and they smiled at me and made sure I was taken care of. Before I left, they said that they were so glad I was here. I cracked in that moment, eyes brimming with tears, because, yeah — me too.

I returned to my friends that evening and passed my birthday in Tequila, with drinks flowing, music playing, and being twirled in the sun by a handsome stranger. There’s nothing like the warmth of the sun to revive you. To kiss your cheeks and remind you that this was also the year that you bet on yourself. That you became a morning person and said your prayers, lit your candles, and recited your affirmations. That you learned to more quickly say, “I need help.” That you called in community and they answered resoundingly. And that you remembered that what is for you will not pass you.

When your world falls apart, how do you begin forming a new identity? You look at the map of your life that shows you how many times you’ve done it before.

My corn plant is past the point of saving. But some things need to die so that something new can grow in its place. I have to make room for this new beginning. I am eager to see what this new spirit in me will be. I find it hard to be patient and to trust in the slow work of God, as the Prayer of Teilhard de Chardin reminds me to be. But it’s also all I have ever had. It is in the stillness of my morning meditations that I hear this new life taking its first breaths. That I can hear His whispers.

I had called 33 my Jesus year, but all I did was meet Him on the cross. I pray that He will guide me through this rebirth.

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