I have two words to say to the woman who, at our 30th High School Reunion, pulled me aside specifically to say “I can’t believe you, of all people, ended up in this small town with such a small life.”
I am certain that by “small” you actually meant any one of a number of synonyms: cramped, limited, narrow, paltry, scanty, insufficient, piddling, or stunted. The venom in your voice suggested that you did. I don’t know why you said it, but I’m not offended.
You are right, my life is small as follows…
Humble. I live in a tiny house. But, this much I know. Unprompted while at another’s friends house, my daughter’s best friend announced to her that my modest, humble home is her favorite place to be on the entire planet because it is bursting with love more than any place she has ever been. More love per square inch.
Unassuming. I don’t have many things at all. Very few designer clothes, shoes or bags. A 2004 mini-van with a hole in the floor board and rust on the sides. Sparse decorations. Infrequent vacations. No boat or cottage home for the summers. Neither my things nor I take up much exterior space in the world at all. But, this year, a friend from college (out of the blue) sent me a text with a link to a Frank Turner song and specifically highlighted the lyrics “And then I remember you, and the way you shine like truth is all you do.” I occupy interior space in the lives of my dear friends who live around the world. In the past couple of months alone I have heard from several of them via text saying – “Thank you for always letting me be who I am without judging” – and – “I will never forget the kindness you show me” – and “thank you for being a true friend” – and – “…to my badass friend who rocks the curves and the challenges and the status quo.” I matter to them and I make a difference. I touch people and then live in their hearts.
Gentle. In 2015 I was able to help three women get out of their abusive domestic circumstances; almost like an underground railroad of one. One of these women I had never met before. That didn’t matter. I invited her into my family room. I invited her to ask me questions about divorce and abuse. I invited her to be human. And I loved her nonetheless. On Thanksgiving Day, her first Holiday without her children, she texted me to say: “You made a difference to me. And more than your ‘help’ with my situation it has been your genuine love, care and concern for someone you didn’t even know.” My gentle presence has changed the course of their lives for the better.
Hushed. In 2011 at the age of 14 my daughter had a massive stroke. She dug deep to get back to a state of healing that her own doctors felt would be impossible. And when it was mostly behind us she confided in me that the only reason she knew how to fight for her life was because I had shown her by example only, with my own health challenges and through the whisper of my very ‘small’ life, what true strength is.
Intimate. I share my feelings on a blog. I am writing a memoir. And I am getting ready to publish a book on Domestic Violence later this year. As a part of the latter, I am inviting abuse survivors to create healing art for other survivors. They have explained to me that the act of creating this art and becoming a part of the chain of healing has actually given them a degree of understanding about their own journey that they would not otherwise have. This is allowing them to propel themselves forward in life despite the injury ~ and subsequently making a difference in the world themselves.
Plain. Also known as authentic. I am me.
My days in this small town are numbered. I stay because of my commitment to my children despite the sacrifices it means for me every day. Has my potential been fully realized here? Absolutely not. But it has been something much bigger than cramped, limited, narrow, paltry, scanty, insufficient, piddling, or stunted.
In my second fifty years, I have already decided that am going to be big instead. This is no better or worse. Just different. But for now I will sit quietly in this small town, with my small life, and know that it is more than enough.