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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

Gather, oh Brave Ones

Ok people, it’s time to get it on. 

The turkey, that is. Thank you Thanksgiving for giving us an annual reason to SLOW DOWN: to REFLECT, be THANKFUL, and CONSUME inordinant amounts of plucked poultry. All in remembrance of that peaceful fall evening when the Pilgrims and Native Americans swayed in a group hug and ordained white cloth doilies with canned cranberry sauce. Ahem.

(History is a funny thing told in hindsight).

So, let’s start with REFLECTION. Four score hindsights and one year ago…

… I was zealously shouting along to out-of-tune Bono covers with local Indonesians, sans electricity or musical talent but full of 80s commitment and gusto, sipping sandy warm beer. Six months ago, I was stalking grandmothers in swanky Shanghai parks, as they tried to marry me off to their eligible kin (with imported fancy cars and real apartments). Tonight, I’m listening to a Houston cab driver who loves Dire Straights but hates Thanksgiving, as families pick up families at the airport, thus jipping him on cash tips.

Life is a windy story. But a beautiful one to watch unfold. 

One year: three places. A tiny Indonesian island, 5k in circumference, where loved ones lived in baruga huts and crashed in hammocks. Life was simple; things were cheap. Lunch cost a dollar and included daily fish hand hand-caught from the ocean, rice, beans, peanuts, and the local special sauce. Cue China, where lunch cost 30 dollars and included weirdly glazed mystery meats, drippy noodle soups, and a mug of hot water. Life was complex and full of neon. Cue America, a former economic superstar now scraping pennies together for cab rides, finally returning to our families.

What really makes us happy? Honestly.

Slowing down helps us asks these questions. But slowing down takes enormous effort for some of us. I’m particularly bad at it, as I seem to have only 2 gears. Supercharged and superoff. I see it when I drive my stick shift off an exit ramp from the highway. I take my little Audi from gear 5 and, while I should be downshifting, I’m really braking. And then, when I’m stopped, I’m in neutral. Full force or full stall. 

Last year was pretty full force. Brash. Blustery. High gear with even a few dashes of courage. Recently, its been a whole lot slower. Unnervingly slow. I suck at slowing down, worrying my gears will stall into idle. Can I slow down without losing momentum?

Can you rust in your 30’s? 

Yet sometimes we need a mini-hiatus from our own self-induced chaos, our life at high velocity. Sometimes its a chosen hiatus and sometimes life forces that slowness upon us, the way a good mother slathers her kids with sunscreen. The mother slathers, the children writhe and restlessly complain, unaware of how thankful they’ll be for SPF when they hit 40.

The slowness becomes our protection. UVA approved.

The future is always around the corner and always more unexpected than we realize. But that’s the cryptic beauty. From a slower pace, we see this. We can look back over our lives, gather the threads of our successes, and speak our peace with our flops. From there, we find speckles of courage again, gather our breath, and begin to charge toward the edge. 

The engines rev, the angles sing, and we hear melodies beyond our spinning tires calling us to our next destination. Even if it’s in our own backyard.

There are forces larger that us at work in the world; hands that hold us that do not grow old. Any doubt we feel in the slow sludge must be brought into conversation with our truer nature, the part of us still slathered in SPF innocence and wonder. We were made for more, but we need slowness to prepare for our next full charge, our next full forced adventure. 

Such is the cycle and seasons of our lives.

History is always rewriting ourselves, as our we, torn between old stories we cling to and the ones we co-Author with the Divine. You can rewrite one life story 100 different ways but you only get one life. And it will always surprise you.

I never thought I’d be in Balinese hut, a Shanghai swag park, or a Houston cabbie. But that is the beauty of unfolding stories. Life is an orchestra of half-spoken fairytales, where the untold endings are way better our scripted illustrations. 

So, pre-Turkey, it’s the time of year to slow down and reflect on ways we have encountered courage. Maybe we wrestled it this year, but let it get away. Maybe it’s become our garden gnome that magically appears when we need it. Maybe its our castor oil we gulped down whole, while spitefully pinching our noses. Maybe you have mastered it and have a blue spandex S on your chest. (Ps send small, unmarked pictures please). Either way, in small ways, all of us have been beautifully brave this year. We have kept our dentist appointments despite our cavities and kept our honesty despite our failures. We have survived massive transitions and massive East Coast storms and massive amounts of our own childish selfishness.

2012 was an interesting ride, but here we are all still together.

Reflection turns us backwards and reminds us that despite all our tidy plans for the future, it’s really a crap shoot. But a beautiful crap shoot. This is the start of all good conversations. This is the edge we stand on. This is where faith enters, when we lay our doubts on the table and the Dealer says, “Who is in?” This is where our story begins again, as we shift into first gear and begin the conversation again. 

Bravery without belief is dead. 

“Life is a creative, intimate, unpredictable conversation, if nothing else,” David Whyte said. So let’s start talking.

In the next post, I’ll get to gratitude. And the post after that, I’ll get to plucking poultry. But for now, let’s stick with reflection, as you can’t be thankful at Turkey tables if you don’t recall what you’ve been doing. And we have all been doing a lot. And there is SO much good to remember.

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