And it can be easy to forget how truly difficult that can be – not just for children but for adults as well - to comply with this seemingly simple request. How often do I fail to use my words to express how I’m feeling, to ask for help, even when I have a pretty clear handle on what is troubling me? And, of course, many times still I, too, can’t actually find the words. This last few months has been one of those times.
We recently decided to move from Nashville to Charleston. And while Jill and I have both moved many times, this decision has been more challenging in a number of ways. Jill has commented that it’s the first time she’s decided to leave somewhere before it felt time to go – to which I’ve often quipped, “Yeah, I guess we’re ‘Seinfelding.’”
I think it’s been hard because it feels like an actual uprooting. We have grown to love this place. It is Nashville where we bought our first home together. It is Vanderbilt where we became a family of three and then four. It is East Nashville where family and friends helped us stumble into this new role of parent. It is 401 N. 16th St. – our “baker’s bungalow” - where we played “tickle-monster;” these Lockeland Springs sidewalks where we went on “super-hero patrol.” It is here where I found myself living out a great turn of phrase from a Rockwell Church song - I “stopped growing up and started growing in.” It is here where we together began in earnest to make a home.
It’s been hard because the dynamics have changed. Decisions are now made with someone and, at least for the time being, for our two little ones. I have been rather adventurous through the years but there is a new level of responsibility and accountability that I’m learning to balance along with self-interest.
It’s been hard because there is so much that I do not know. I do not know if I’ll be able to find another employer like Gilda’s Club Nashville; a special place that offers rewarding work and an all-too-rare work/life balance that allows me to be the husband and father I aspire to be. I do not yet know what house we will live in, if our neighborhood will have the same feeling of community, if the boys will make the transition to a whole-new-everything smoothly. And yet it is here, fortunately, that I have grown – through the exploration of theological education as well as the demands of parenting – to be more comfortable with uncertainty; more willing to release the illusion of control; more at peace with the unknown.
Of course, amidst the unknown, here is what I do know. I know that I want my sons to know their grandparents well. I want to spend time with family and friends while the getting-is-good and be a go-to person when time is running short. I want to be planted firmly and deeply wherever I am. I want to know a place intimately, be able to recognize the subtle changes and appreciate the beauty that is only recognizable from deep familiarity. I want to contribute to a broader community beyond my personal network. I want to know and be known more fully. I want to be more at home in this world.
I do not know how long we will be in this new place despite our expectations that it will indeed be awhile. But I do know that I plan to be all in. We will unpack all the boxes and finally hang those pictures on the wall. We will meet our neighbors and invest in making our community a better place not just for our two sons but for those around us – particularly the less fortunate.
And I know, too, that I am good enough, that we have enough; that we will receive enough; not in some perfect-as-we-planned-it way but rather in a pretty-as-graffiti/this is our unique journey/make a mosaic out of our fragments sort of way. And I sense, somewhere deep down below the anxieties and uncertainties, that this move is the next important step in making a home.
And so, for us, this process of making a home involves replanting ourselves closer to family; it includes a renewed commitment to cultivating the meaningful relationships that have supported us along the way – that have been the water and soil and light we needed at each moment – and to nourishing some fledgling relationships that we hope will blossom further.
But this next step of making a home has been hard because it is drawing us away from a place that already feels so much like home. And so, for months it seems, it has been difficult to find my words. Instead, I’ve been grumpy and sullen, restless and impatient, leaving those around me to wonder what is wrong, what is brewing underneath.
So, now it seems high time that I use my words. I am sad to leave a community that embodies many of the values that I hold dear. I am anxious that we may not find a fit that feels so comfortable, so natural. I am uncertain if the boys will remember this place and just how special and formative it was for them. I am frustrated that doors have not opened as easily or quickly as I would have liked. I am grateful for the kindness shown our family; for neighbors who housed us during a renovation debacle; for classmates and colleagues who fed us to help ease the transition into parenthood; for child care providers and teachers who nurtured and challenged our boys to grow. I am eager to get a kayak to explore my new surroundings. I am excited about the wide-open possibilities of a fresh start. I am buoyed by the boys’ enthusiastic anticipation of being much closer to their cousins.
* Images courtesy of Anderson Design Group - in Nashville of course