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How Did I Get Here?

March 6, 2017


From the angle at which I am lying in my bed, I’m able to peek out at the cherry tree that has just begun to bud. It’s cold outside, and completely perfect. I think, yes, this is Spring. The deep burgundy, backed by the early morning sky makes for a color combination that leaves me feeling grateful. These are details that should never be missed- a tragedy if they are ever ignored.


Birds are chirping; tiny heads tilting to the sun, flitting along on the possibility of bountiful branches, they get closer to our own perch. My four year old lifts the window as to get a closer look. The room fills with freezing air- we laugh as we try to still our breathing so that we can hear a woodpecker working away his morning.

I stare into his deep brown eyes, limitless, so full of wonder, at such a simple thing. I sigh.


How did I get here?


It’s getting colder and we can see our breath. We watch a robin, and a cardinal- he runs off to put his coat and shoes on. I curl deeper, down into the comfort of my bed, welcoming in the first morning air, my ears are open to the chorus that surrounds me. A feeling of blissful contentment flows over. A cry fills the air- his sister is up. It’s time to start the day. And surprisingly, it is all SO very good.


It is shocking, indeed, how good it is.


How did I get HERE?


I have asked this many times- shouting out to the Universe in a mix of raw emotion and confusion. Sometimes railing and shaking my fists in anger at the felt injustice of it all. At 24, already one failed marriage under my belt, and another life needing to begin. Heartbroken and disillusioned, I look at my young, sad self in the mirror, eyes of confusion and disbelief unblinking, stare back at me. I did everything ‘right.’ I’m a ‘good girl.’ I’m only 24, how could he leave? How did I get here?


Standing before my first collection of students in Kenya, 25 unblinking faces stare back at me-WAITING- expecting something wonderfully brilliant. I don’t know where to begin. Feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, thousands of miles from home, swatting flies and sweating bullets, I look around in wonder, and then out the window-it’s so green-and my heart is overfilled, I can hardly contain it. I believe it is joy- I look out my window into the endless green and murmur to myself, ‘How did I get here?’


Staring at my mother’s peaceful body as I press a bright yellow sunflower into her lifeless hand. Whispering to her the words of my childhood, you are my sunshine…my only sunshine….I lay my lips against her brow for the very last time while I am in this body, for she has already left hers. As my brother and sister kiss their mother good-bye, I take them into my arms, knowing that I am all at once, the oldest, and again, therefore the surrogate mother for them now. I silently weep as we place her gently into the ground. I weep for her, I weep for me, for everyone who has lost someone, or who inevitably will. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not now, not yet. How on Earth did we get here? The soul drenching grief feels too heavy to carry home.


Crouching behind a thorn bush, choking down panic and sobs, trying not to let them hear me. Because if they do, I will be punished. Sun is harsh and unforgiving on my back, sweat mingles with dirt, so much dirt, and rolls down my face. How did I get here? How did I get here? HOW DID I GET HERE? The tortured chant follows me back to my mat, where I take my place for the next 12 hours, seated in one spot, beneath a smallish tree. I have been ‘alone’ for so long, I can barely speak; and really, what is there to say anyway?


If I make it through this and go on to have a normal life, what on Earth will I ever tell my children? How do I ever explain this?


I’m just a school teacher from the Mid-West- these things don’t happen to people like me. How did I get here?

It’s just a regular Thursday afternoon, the sun is shining in a way that makes everything feel like it is dancing. I’ve got my third cup of tea brewed and ready- as I sip, I lean against the door way and watch my two children play together in the sandbox cooperatively, for once.  I look around me- I take it all in- the crumbs on the table, the crayons all over the kitchen floor, the sink full of dishes and feel that ever illusive, fleeting moment of contentment wash over me.


How did I get here?


Like a high speed train, memories bullet through my brain in snippets. Fragments of my mother in that blue cotton sundress with the little white flowers, her laughter as we munch popcorn and sing ‘Hi Ho’ together with Snow White- it’s my very first movie. My sister, drawing her boundaries, quite necessarily, by rolling an impressively straight line of masking tape down the middle of our bedroom floor. My mess is my mess she declared, changing her mind as she held my weeping and broken heart on that same bedroom floor, only a few years later.


Falling in love, running barefoot through the grass, the sound of August’s cry when he was finally HERE- the comforting whispers of the doctor, as I cried uncontrollably, of the fear mixed with life that had sprung up amidst so much pain-so much uncertainty. It’s all ok, you are so alright- you made it here. Finally.

And so, it is in those recollections, that I see how I got here.


We get where we are going by wading through disappointment and seas of unending struggle and unexpected pain- We get where we are going by surviving the deluge of rivers filled with epic sorrow and floating on the life preserver of grief-it’s a float, not a weight. We work indescribably hard, only to be disappointed, by ourselves and our own human limitations, as well as by others who were not completely honest with us or, to much to their surprise, to themselves. Likewise, we’ve soared on wings of second chances and opportunities- none of which we will ever be slightly deserving, but OH, how grateful we are for these chances, nonetheless.


And because Grace still kisses the world we live in, we have all the support we will ever need giving us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to continually find the courage to get up out of bed in the morning, and know that it’s all how it should be, and that we are exactly doing what we were meant for all along.


We have been put on this Earth for the purpose of experiencing the journey, although sometimes it may feel like we are only enduring. The destination is completely unimportant in the great scheme of the Universe, because, if you haven’t noticed already, we don’t get to control any of that anyway. Life doesn’t ask for our permission. We must continue to lament on her behalf.


An opportunity comes, we don’t know why, we don’t identify it as such, but for some unknown reason, we walk through the door, and before we can blink, or even think a thought, our entire life has changed. And THAT, that is how we get here.


I saw him across a noisy dance floor room in a far-away place many life times ago. He bought me a glass of white wine and started up a conversation, a dialogue that has taken us through hell and heaven and will carry us through those places, how many times, I dare not guess.


I look out the window again- he’s hauling loads of dirt with a wheelbarrow, he looks up, because he knows I’m there, but says nothing, sees me, in the first thing in the morning light. Our four year old crashes into him, breaking our gaze, the little sister continues crying.


How did I get here? It’s a longer story than can be told, just yet, as it is still being written.

But how beautiful it feels to have finally managed it. Thus far, anyway.


To have gotten here.

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Jessica Buchanan © 2017

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