Loneliness. It is a state of being that forms a cloud of insecurity around your heart and your mind. When you are in that cloud, you feel like there is not and there will never be someone who will care enough about you to be your true friend. You feel as though everyone you meet has already sized you up and found you wanting.
I can't help but reflect on loneliness now. This morning, as I have a moment to breathe in between the hikes and coffee dates and beach days that have filled this week, I feel so much gratitude. Loneliness is not a stranger to me. I know that cloud so well that when I stop in this silent moment to think about it, I am a girl standing amidst the chatter of a dining hall, grabbing a bagel and scarfing it while I walk to class so that I don't have to sit alone. I am a girl who feels utterly different than everyone around me, praying that I will meet just one person who will understand me and like me. And it is painful to be that girl. Loneliness is not something to wave away. It is a big deal. A very big deal.
Have you ever tried to impress somebody? Like when you were in middle school and wore too much eyeliner so that maybe, just maybe you'd look cool enough to get invited to an eighth grade sleepover? Or when you got your first job, and you worked late hours to prove to your boss that you were competent? I know I've applied way too many layers of eye makeup , and I've also done backflips to try to get my boss's attention. And while I may have felt admiration for the people I was trying to impress - I never loved them. In fact, I sort of resented them for not liking me the way I was.
I have always been fascinated by perspective. The fact that every person sees the world through their own positively intrigues me. The fact that mine changes once, twice, or even a handful of times a day puzzles me. Some might say that you need to stick to your guns at all costs, or that it's weak to let your way of thinking be altered by another's. But I say that only the strongest-minded people are aware enough of their own thinking to realize that sometimes there are lies and misconceptions braided into it.
There are some things in this world that I am not scared of. For example, I'm not scared of speaking my mind in a meeting. I'm not scared of cooking a new recipe for guests (although my mother would advise against that). I'm not scared of a classroom full of unruly students. But standing face to face with a stranger and talking with them about the mundane? Terrifying.
I'm not a shy person, usually. But today I was. I met somebody new and they were nice. But for some reason, I felt that they could not possibly be interested in anything I had to say, and so I stumbled on my words. I felt silly and insincere in my expressions. I found myself wanting to blame my discomfort on them, but I knew truly that something was going on within me.
Is this something that goes away as we get older? Do we reach an age, a number, when we no longer desperately hope the stranger or the friend across from us will think we are interesting? Is there ever a day when we will not find it painful to be vulnerable? Even as I write this, knowing that others will read it, I want to protect my ego and pretend I am completely confident in who I am. But I am not always.
There is verse from Psalm 46 that I love. It says, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns." She shall not be moved. When we go into new situations, when we talk to new people, we do not have to twist ourselves to be more interesting. We don't have to stumble over our words, searching for just the right one. We don't have to beat ourselves up for not knowing what to say and when to say it. Our insides don't have to be moved. We can be rock solid in knowing that God is in our midst.
It feels scary to admit that I feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, or less-than sometimes. It feels scary to admit that I'm scared. But maybe if we all acknowledge our own insecurities, they can start to feel less scary. Maybe once we know they are there and invite God into the midst of them, they will not be able to move us anymore.
My grandmother Christine was a wonderful woman. There was never a moment that I didn't feel her love. She made plain pancakes that filled an entire dinner plate, and cut them into tiny squares and drenched them in butter. She kept a box of ice cream cones on top of the freezer and pulled out the cherry vanilla ice cream when my sister and I spent the night. I didn't even like cherry ice cream, except when I was with her. When I learned to drive she told me she wasn't scared to ride with me. I knew she was telling the truth because she didn't push her foot through an imaginary brake every time we crossed an intersection.
Last night, my friend Hannah asked me, "Why The Coming Appetite? Why did you name it that?"
Grammie Christine coined the phrase. At least, she's the only one I've ever heard say it. A coming appetite is a noun. It is when you think you aren't hungry, until a plate of food is placed before you and, to your surprise, you eat the whole thing. It's a hunger you didn't know you had. Grammie would often defend her empty plate - shortly after claiming she didn't want anything to eat - by saying, "I guess I had a coming appetite."
I named this site The Coming Appetite to honor her, because I admired her cooking and I loved the way she made me feel. I named it that because it made me remember her, and I hoped others would remember her too. But my conversation with Hannah last night got me thinking. It made me wonder if there is something more to the phrase that Grammie used, and to the notion that we hunger without knowing it.
I mean, it happens to me all the time. A coming appetite. I don't know that I'm hungry for something, until I get a taste. I don't know I'm hungry for rest, until I spend time sitting alone on the porch and then feel refreshed. I don't know I'm hungry for connection, until a girl friend makes me laugh so hard I have to cross my legs. I don't know I'm hungry for Jesus, until I realize that my soul and my every moment is full only when I have dined on His love. And then - it's then that I realize I am positively starving.
Grammie Christine - she never left a full plate in front of her. She tasted it, just to see if maybe she was hungry after all. I think we all have full plates before us, too. Plates of peace and mercy, hot and fragrant. Plates of grace and forgiveness, so sweet on our souls. Maybe it's time that we take a bite - if only a nibble at first - to see if we too have coming appetites. And if so, let's eat until we are completely, utterly, and perfectly stuffed.
I have a ragged notebook in my lap. I spilled some coffee on the front of it and left it in my school bag with a leaky water bottle. The pages are curled and bled through and scribbled on. They don't flip right on the binding anymore, and get stuck and crumpled when I turn them. And right now, this notebook is my most treasured possession.
In November, I was feeling frustrated. It's a feeling that comes when I don't write. It wasn't that I didn't want to - it was that I felt I couldn't. Whenever I sat down to do it, I had nothing important to say. Nothing that anyone would care to read. I would pick up my pen, scribble a page, then flip it and write something new. No matter how badly I wanted to put something important on paper, I felt every word, every line, every idea was a waste of my time, and anyone else's. They weren't right, and I knew it.
But I still felt the quiet urging to write. So I made a deal with myself. I found a notebook that was simple and rugged, burnt orange with a soft leather cover and gold binding. And I decided that I would write in it everyday. One poem. I wasn't allowed to use the excuse that my words weren't good enough or important enough. I had to write. But nobody had to read it.
Was I a regular Pablo Neruda? No, not nearly. Did I ever feel like not writing? Mostly every night. There were many nights when I would climb into bed past my bedtime, and with squinty eyes and a drooping hand I'd scrawl a couple words on the page and call it good. There were a few days I missed. But, there were more that I didn't.
I figured that if I wrote every day for a year, and had over 300 poems to show for it at the end, maybe, just maybe, there would be something of importance there. The statistics were good, I reckoned. This afternoon, I filled my first notebook. For the first time in my life, I didn't put something down because it "wasn't good enough." I wrote the good, bad, and ugly. How precious that notebook is - a reminder of my foremost thoughts throughout the year's daily grind. It is full of thankfulness to the Holy One, sadness in the deep dark of winter, fear and anxieties, and rejoicing in daily pleasures and special treats.
Oh, how thankful I am that I did not put this down. This is the poem that I wrote this afternoon on the final page of my notebook, as I flipped through the pages of my thoughts and held them tightly against me.
Poetry should be
A direct line into
The darkest ponderings
And sweetest proclamations
Of the human mind.
For, everyone is a poet
If only they can be honest.
Is there something that is hard and lovely and imperfect that you, too, need to pick up and not put down? I urge you - start it today. Nobody else has to read it or see it or eat it or know it. But do it every day. The satisfaction is rich and sweet. As for me, I will celebrate tonight. And tomorrow, I will fill the first blank page in my next notebook.
I am sitting at my kitchen table right now. Outside, fat drops of rain are falling hard off the roof onto the porch. The drizzle today has been constant, and the world is a wet gray-and-green. Even as I sit, I am fighting the impulse to jump up and do something - anything - that would keep me from being still. I think, A cup of tea would be nice as I type and Oh, maybe I should just start a load of laundry so I can fold it later. I notice that my plants are drooping some and think I better water them. I look out the sliding glass door and fuss over the spots and streaks. I see that it's 4:39 and remember Ethan will be home soon, that I should start supper.
Something inside me, though, made me sit down here and look out at the rain. I've been wishing it would stop raining for weeks, it seems. I feel like I die a little more every dreary, mid-50 degree day. I want summer now. Maybe that's why I can't stop moving. Maybe it's like a day of waitressing; if you have lots of tables and busy yourself with running food and smiling at customers and cashing people out, you don't notice the time passing. All of a sudden, it's the end of your shift and you are left with a wad of cash and aching feet.
But... do I want to just be left with a wad of cash and aching feet? Is what I really want for the days of the school year to flash and finish and be just a memory, just a flurry of unceasing movement? I don't it is.
I think I am rushing towards summer because the moments now seem dull to me. I keep hoping that the summer will be full of sweet moments. I want it to be quiet when I want and loud when I want. I want long mornings and late nights and coffee on the deck and books on the beach. But then again, if my memory can be trusted to tell the truth (which it can't always), I remember writing just last fall that I was ready for a school routine and warm wool socks and bubbly Crockpots.
I think I need to be still tonight. I need to stop hurdling through one season to get to the next. I don't want to get through life with just achy feet to show for it at the end. We put up a bird feeder on our porch and since I've been here, looking through the glass, I've seen a chickadee, a woodpecker, and a cardinal. They chirped and picked away and scattered seed here, there, and everywhere. I can't read their minds, but they didn't seem too concerned about tomorrow. I think I'll sit and watch them for a while.