I haven’t yet shared the story of how I got engaged because it is something that I am still processing, something that still feels so raw and big and monumental that I haven’t yet had the time to ponder in my heart the way I want to. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be ready. I wonder if people are ever ready for the events that change their lives, or if maybe we all spend every single day waking up and realizing we don’t know how we got here.
I got engaged on the first of July, under the summer heat, just down off a busy highway by a creek that ran with murky water. I knew it was coming but the moment caught me off guard, perhaps as all big and grand moments do. Despite my desire for something small, lacking in the grand gesture department, I felt the shift the moment when he came to me by the water and took my hand. Maybe in that moment I knew. I knew my life wouldn’t be the same. I knew I was walking towards my future in a way that most women feel when they are walking down the aisle. Perhaps that is why I lingered by the water a moment longer than necessary, whispering to the man soon to be my fiancé, “Come, look at this. Do you see?” Do you see this snail and this slug and this frog, this life that exists within murky waters, that is thriving in this place that looks like a wasteland? Do you see this water, flowing, carrying with it everything I’ve left behind?
I remember once, during my first year of college, going to the river. I had this burning desire to create a ceremony for myself, to let go of this heavy pain I had been carrying since the death of my cousin, the confusion and the inner turmoil and the desperation that had been etched into my body by his hands before they turned ice cold. I needed a release for myself, a cleansing ceremony so I could finally feel forgiven, so that I could stop looking for affection in strange men and food and self-hatred, to be free of the ghost I was carrying along behind me like it was my birthright. By that river I begged and pleaded to be clean. I had forgotten, or perhaps I didn’t know then, that suffering isn’t the birthright of any human on earth. That to let go, all I needed to do was let go. I wanted to be clean, free, but what I didn’t know was that I already was.
I remember in my late teenage years bringing with me a jar of sand and ash on a family vacation. That vacation was a purging time for me, when I brought so many toxins into my body it made me sick, and when I exhaled them with just as much ferocity and weeping. The jar of ashes represented this grief that I was carrying around with me, this mournful howling that filled my bones ever since I became so ill I thought I was going to die. I collected this ash and howled and wept over this empty space in my body that had once been full, over what had been taken from me while I was sleeping. And on this particular trip, after having arrived with grand intentions and my jar of ashes, I slipped out to the pond with the water that flowed and was recycled and came out new, and I let my ashes slip between my fingers. In the days that followed I shook and bled and howled, but when I left I felt the work of refinement that had taken place.
The water, that had represented so much pain and heartache for me, where I had released and burned and purged and wept and vomited and begged for forgiveness, the same water that flowed at the river and at the pond because everything is recycled and flows and moves, flowed before me in the moments before he took my hand. And I sat there, with my feet dangling into the coolness, on the edge of a log, and I had a feeling that this meant something. I didn’t know what, only that this moment and this water and this log and that slug inching its way across a rock and him and me and the flow all meant something. I could feel the newness on the wind, and I wanted to savor the now. I almost had a moment where I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get off the log. I didn’t want to leave behind the water, the slug inching its way across a rock, this breath. I didn’t want the startling entry into something new, to be birthed into a world which I didn’t yet have language for, to enter the flow.
But I did. And I remember that last breath, the sharp inhale before I rose off the log and took his hand, following him up away from the water. I was stepping into something new.
I followed him up the steep incline of shifting rocks and pebbles, the ground shaking and giving way under my feet. And then I saw it, the words he’d written on the side of a bridge, the words asking me to be his wife. And I felt the rebirth. In that split second between my recognizing the words and what they meant and my yes, I felt the starting over. And I knew I was ready. And I knew I was afraid. And I knew with every fiber of my being that I was born for this. And I knew that the water that had always flowed and carried my pain and hurt and agony was still moving, and I must too. It was time to step away from the old and enter into the new. It was time to enter into the flow that was all around me and in me and through me.
My hands tremble with anticipation and fear and promise and wonder as I stare down at this ring on my finger, the one I never wanted but am becoming so grateful for. It reminds me that redemption runs deep, that the old passes away and the new comes, that I must be willing to step into the flow, that love wins. Love wins and love wins and love wins and I am and I am and I am.
Adjusting to this new season has felt thick and hard, and at times I wonder if stepping into new waters was too much. My legs tremble and leave me aching for the shore, for what I knew. This engagement season has felt so full of redemption and healing, the kind of healing that cuts deep and burns through, the kind that purges the soul and washes clean, like flowing water. It is bitter at first taste, yes, but it is sweet. There is something for me here, and I am as sure of it as I am sure of the wind. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. I can feel it deep within my bones, in the places that I once thought of as void and empty.