When people ask what I've been up to post-Ocean Beauty, I give a few different responses:
Taking deep breaths.
Taking furtive steps toward graduate school.
My personal favorite is to tell people I'm a feminist stay-at-home-wife (a perfectly legitimate option--see point two in the link--but those who know me well nevertheless chuckle). Somewhat ironically, I have been experimenting with baking and cooking of late, but it's more for the thrill of participating in a creative act than anything else. My dear friend Marissa also recently sent me Shauna Niequist's latest book, Bread & Wine, so I've been inspired to attempt some of her recipes (and subsequently ate an entire pan of gluten-free brownies by myself last week--apparently I love almond meal?).
My favorite thought from Bread & Wine:
"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, not matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd (the actual space is)."More and more, I think about what it means, practically speaking, to be someone whose company and way of living makes others feel as though they are enough, just as they are. I don't want anyone to feel they must dress stylishly or have an impressive job or be cunning and clever to be appreciated by me. So much of life already feels like a ruthless competition, everyone willing to kill to get what they want, scrambling and scraping as they fight for value, recognition, respect. I think about the people who lack pretense, who cultivate hospitality and transparency in their lives without being showy or calculated about it, and I know there are still steps to take, layers to peel back, before I arrive anywhere close to where they seem to be in their lives.
Some practical applications at this moment in my life include simplifying my purchasing habits, putting less stock in fashionable clothes, asking questions when I don't understand (such pressure to be "in the know" in this Information Age), being honest about the less glamorous parts of not having a job, and being mindful of the images and thoughts I put on social media (for me, this means Facebook/Instagram/blog) so that I'm not creating a false or overly manipulated version of myself in a public space.
I also hope next steps involve getting to know some individuals who are not like me (white, educated, upper-middle-class evangelical).
Essentially, this season of unemployment is a tangible practice for me to be present and not make plans. It is about refusing to settle for quick solutions to feel okay again, instead pushing through the hard questions and critical thinking, that I might emerge truly changed on the other side.
I hate this. It's uncomfortable. It goes against my nature of lists and steps and goals. And yet, the humbling process of admitting out loud, I don't really know what I'm doing here, is exactly the sort of posture required if I am truly to move away from image control and toward healthy intimacy and transparency. It is an uncomfortably obvious opportunity to practice what I preach, to learn the lessons I say I want to learn by actually living it out. So I try to be honest, when people ask, about the reality that I recently quit my job and I don't have any grand plans for what comes next. I'm just muddling through the best I can, listening to my gut and the Holy Spirit and good books and true music and my loved ones who know me and pray for my best in life.
The work being done in life post-Ocean Beauty is sometimes abstract, like those ethereal and slippery questions of identity and transparency, and sometimes as palpable as cooking an apple crisp and brushing flowers with my fingers on walks through the neighborhood. I am glad, even in the midst of my confusion and questions.