One of my earliest memories occurred when I was no more than three years old. My big sister Emily, my brother Chip, and I were strapped into car seats in the white Dodge minivan, being driven around on errands by an adult who shall remain nameless. :) One errand was to drop something off at the home of some church friends. Since she would only be at the door for a moment, our driver told us to wait in the car. As she ran up to the house, the van suddenly began to slowly roll backwards. The car was in park, but the emergency break wasn't on.
I remember feeling terrified (By age 3 I'd already perfected the ability to immediately assume the worst case scenario). I remember thinking that the van was going to gain speed, plunge down the driveway and straight into the trees in the distance, and we would die. We started screaming. Emily climbed out of her car seat and jumped into the driver's seat, pushing buttons and turning the steering wheel, trying to figure out how to stop the car. No success.
I opened the sliding side door, leaned out, and stretched my hands to the ground. This is one of the earliest, most vivid sensory memories I have: my little hands reaching out trying to act as brakes, and feeling the asphalt scrape at my fingertips and evade my grip. My first experience of the nonsensical, futile things we are capable of doing out of desperation. As if my fingertips could stop a rolling vehicle! My mouth went dry and my stomach churned as I realized it wasn't working. I couldn't stop it.
The story ended well, obviously, because I am here to type it up. The grownups heard our screams, ran back, jumped into the van and applied the emergency brake well before we came near the trees. But I have never forgotten those few moments of terror, of trying to find the controls, of trying to stop the careening with my little hands.
My twenties have been wonderful in many ways, but they've also been difficult in ways I never anticipated. Particularly in the last few years, life has at times felt like it is careening toward the trees and I am three again, leaning out of a moving van to hold onto the ground, begging life to slow down and stop a minute, wondering why the grown-up isn't appearing to put everything right. Last year was one of these backward rolls, though I didn't even realize it for a while. I finally admitted to myself that I was running on fumes, and that wasn't sustainable. Help certainly arrived, but even then, do you know what I did? I complained because it didn't arrive at the time or in the way I would've liked. In September, amidst a discouraging job search and with a dwindling bank account, I moved back into the spare bedroom in my parents' house -- a "detour" many 20-somethings (myself included) joke about but actually fear, because we equate that with some sort of failure. Until about a month ago I was unemployed, which raises any number of existential questions for people in the DC area! My home for the time being is really far away from most of my friends, which scales back my social life significantly.
This wasn't the help I imagined -- in fact, I was emotionally kicking and screaming and sticking my small hands out the window until the very last second -- but I can see now that it is perfect. I was parched and shriveling in that backward roll but needed someone else to help make it all stop, because I was so used to scraping by that way. This is an absolutely needed forced rest. So instead of being ashamed by my return to the "nest," I can see it as a merciful chance to live rent-free for several months and save towards a move in the new year. Instead of isolation, I see it as time to get enough sleep and read books again and talk with my mom at the kitchen table and think about this blog again and experience evenings -- even entire weekends -- in which there aren't twelve things I have to be doing. It's also time to figure out some of the root issues beneath the hectic whir I've been living in for the last several years. This season won't last forever, but that's exactly why it's needed. I once heard my pastor say, "God always shows up -- Rarely early, but always on time." It was true when I was three, and it remains so.
What opportunities exist in your life right now that might help you stop the backward roll? They might be right under your nose, just dressed a little differently than you imagined...