When I was a vegetarian, I still reveled in peeling garlic. Fresh garlic was such a novelty. Giddy is a word that would properly describe how I felt when I was peeling garlic. And chopping it with a big knife? Sigh. It's bewildering to me now, and sweet in a kind of sad way as I look back. The wonder of loosing wonder over a simple thing.
Vegetarianism came at a convenient time. It was cheap. A bag of dry beans can go a long, long way, folks. We ate a lot of beans. Joyfully. Then my gallbladder was removed after our second daughter was born (because Vito's cheesy bread is vegetarian, too. Oh Vito's, how I miss you). My body could not be without meat any more. I tried for months. I was sick, sick, sick. So I ate meat (thereby eating less wheat which was the problem all along unbeknownst to me), and I felt better.
Eating meat again came at a good time, too. Life was settling in and demanding just a little bit more practicality. Have you ever lived through a period that seems to siphon the magic and wonder away. Is it as simple as losing youth? I don't know. What I do know is that it felt like big time loss. The cost of maturation, for a good long time, did not feel worth it. The exchange of what was left of my airy, flighty, tetherless joy for real chops did not feel like a great bargain. Eating meat in exchange for less lively digestion, however, felt pretty easy to live with. It was so easy that I wonder why I didn't start questioning the ideals I'd created for myself in my early twenties right then and there. I didn't. Instead, I wallowed lyrically through their long, slow, dramatic death.
There's been this strange recognition happening lately. The shadows of those magical vegetarian years are dancing in the corners so insistently that I have to remind myself that now is not then, and it's not supposed to be. I mean, this is made clear by the largeness of our children, the stress in our faces, the absolute difference of life now. Oddly, the last ten years, which have been wildly varied and sometimes tumultuous seem to be congealed together, like cold bone broth. One large gelatinous structure. I have to keep the fire on to realize that time is still flowing.
The sacrifice of ideals for action has been a major player both in my thoughts and choices this year. What does it mean when you lay down the dream to build the vision? Is this what's supposed to happen when you actually start working? Is this why people give up and hide out and stay in dreamland? Because I thought the results of the investment of magical positive spiritual thinking would be more. . .sparkly. But what it is is two feet on the ground. Ground that looks like dirt. And it feels like work. Not special, fluffy work. But work. Determined work.
I wish I could say that this hadn't come as a surprise. That when I was reading and studying religious history, practice, and ministry that it clicked and I was expecting life to keep being gritty, but I hadn't understood. I mean, I expected hard. But I expected it to be hard like climbing clouds not like digging six foot holes. So when I made the switch from dreaming to doing a few years ago, and the slow dawn of recognition hit, all of this seemed so unbelievable that I rejected it. I fought life looking different. I fought playing in a different league (it seems to be my way--resistance). I didn't understand this was the service I was looking for. I still don't get it sometimes. I only get it long enough to make the next right move. And you know what? That's okay. Forward motion, baby.
It's hard to imagine my ten-years-ago-self thinking that capability to serve would feel like a most beautiful blessing. These days, it feels like magic. The expectation of spectacle has been replaced with a contentment with steady motion, healing, learning, doing. I was not expecting this. I was not expecting there to come a day when I would thank the Good Lord that someone invented garlic powder, 'cause ain't nobody got time to peel garlic in this house these days. I wasn't expecting pretty much any of what life looks like now. And maybe that's the gelatin in these last ten years. Surrendering expectations in order to step into Life is big holy dirty work.
After my train wreck approaches to living in accordance with Spirit, I'm fairly convinced that God isn't concerned with perfection. All attempts are smiled upon. The initial nudges to course-correct are gentle, and only resort to lapel shaking when the listener is in la-la-land. A place I love to be. If infinity tries and infinity hits of the reset button on Grace and Gentility isn't magic, I don't know what is.
At the end of the day. . .or the decade. . .I suppose trading wonder over garlic for wonder over Grounded Grace is much more than forward motion. Even if there were hundreds of days I imagined myself lost and hopeless, all has been well all along.
All is so well. Resting is that is always a great idea.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.