“Who am I?”
The loudest question echoing in my mind of late – the tension of my heart. A fun question when you know the answers, a haunting one when you don’t.
I wonder if caterpillars have midlife, existential crises like humans do.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized the person standing in it? Has even your own reflection become a stranger?
It is so routine, so habitual, that we overlook the slightest of changes in appearance. The nuances in color. The subtlety of texture. We glance over the minutia of change.
One day, it hits us. We stop in our tracks, frozen by unfamiliarity and cold air.
There is a change in the wind. The canvas of the woods shine a different hue. It seems so sudden that the leaves put on their yearly red-ish, golden outfit. Without invitation.
For us Southern Californians, we are reminded that Autumn is a thing. A sigh of relief. We sigh again because we can see it in the air for once.
This past semester was a season of shedding leaves.
I have occasionally toyed the thought of plants being able to feel pain and emotions. You know, human things and such. If they could, I think I now have an idea of how shitty of a time of year Autumn and Winter must be for them.
It is a time of death and release. It is a time of amputation. Imagine having to amputate your body parts a couple times a day for a few months. Imagine doing it every year, like some twisted family tradition. SoCal has it good.
It is time of acknowledging the outlets and instruments we use to receive sustenance and life from the world around us, only to saw them off.
It is a time in which we must face the reality that our leaves do not work anymore. No matter how hard we try to cling onto them, they will eventually fail us and leave us as unsatisfied and lifeless as they are. They will brown and die. And we will have to let them go. We will watch little children play with them and trample on them with their size-three rain boots.
Maybe it would be better if trees didn’t feel things.
Maybe I should just be a plant.
The recent months of my life have been bitterly cold. I have watched, often in horror, my leaves slowly change color, wither, and die. They’re not working anymore. It seemed like every week brought a harsh gust that would blow through my branches. My leaves – the things and people I depended on for love – would be lost in the wind.
I have been stripped bare. I’m almost naked, save a couple leaves. Wintertime is here and it’s not as holly jolly as I remember it to be.
To confront the truth that the devices we depend on for love no longer serve us anymore is terrifying, to say the least. Those places are now off the map. A coffee smudge. Be it money, status, family, significant others, self-image, knowledge, busyness, or what have you, our fears are eventually realized when we discover that those things will never quench our thirst.
For me, it was friendship.
I have wanted to run away countless times this semester. I don’t know where, but just far away. I didn’t want to face the reality that my friends could not love me in the way they have so faithfully in the past. I was afraid no one could ever understand me anymore. And the people who could were not there. I didn’t want to confront the prospect that I just might be as alone as my fears told me I was.
When the memories you’ve tried your hardest to bury begin to surface, you run. The places we run to may differ but we all run somewhere. Human nature, I suspect.
Who am I?
When your soul is being tortured, you start to see parts of yourself that you didn’t think could live inside of you.
Amidst the darkness of loneliness and depression, I must confess there is still something strangely beautiful in death. In seeing the autumn leaves adorn our city walkways like ornaments. In the crisp, icy winter wind. In the letting go.
Even as I release the thorny rose from my grip, I see beauty and bloodstains. I can’t always tell which is which but there is something oddly remarkable in that.
There is pain, there is promise. There is heartbreak, there is hope.
Jesus once met a woman who was thirsty for relationship, a little like how I am myself. He invited her into a season of Autumn. Her leaves happened to be lovers.
“Give me this living water you speak of”, she begged Jesus, her desperation now more real than ever.
To which He responded, “Then give me your thirst.”
Here’s to new wineskins, autumn leaves, and hungry caterpillars.
Here’s to springtime.