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when feeling trapped…remembering spring…

I am claustrophobic. Have been as long as I can remember.

I despise tight turtlenecks and multiple layers of clothing for this reason. Tight spaces also bother me, as do crowds that I cannot see a way out of. If you’ve eaten out with me more than a few times, you know I need to be able to see the exit door of the restaurant from where I am sitting. And I am especially anxious in difficult situations that I am struggling to extract myself from with some level of grace and/or dignity. Essentially, I don’t like to be trapped–by materials, by people, by spaces or by predicaments.

That said–I adore being cozy; in close physical proximity to those I love; snuggled under blankets on a cold winter’s night; wound up close in intimacy; a really warm and soft hoodie; on my couch with lots of pillows and a Harry Potter marathon on the SYFY channel. I love my tribe and I’ll stick with them come hell or high water.

See, I choose those things and people. I do not choose trapped.

I’ve known the feeling of being trapped both physically and emotionally, and I imagine you have too. It’s something like being stuck–not sure where the best chance or opportunity to move is, even though you know some kind of movement is needed. Some sort of shift has got to happen, if not by our own making, by sheer luck or grace or unexpected mercy.

The last 10 days, I’ve felt trapped/stuck by the weather here in Kentucky–there’s a reason this state has a high rate of Vitamin D deficiency y’all. I mean, I love it here, but this last stretch of never-ending rain and gray has me ready, if I could, to hop the first plane to somewhere sunny and warm with a large body of water nearby. I don’t like being land-locked (trapped) either, and right now, the dark gray Ohio River, threatening to swell its banks, does not feel like a welcoming body of water that would take me anywhere good.

Folks I love are feeling trapped in other ways–by professional frustration, family heartaches, grief that won’t let up, the vast and unknown landscape of loss, financial stresses…you name it–and I feel their ache, their angst, deeply. When you can’t see how something difficult or hard or painful or suffocating could ever possibly let up…

Last night, on a whim, and crossing my fingers that the gas grill still had some fuel left from early fall, I decided burgers were in order for dinner. Also hot dogs (because picky children). And baked beans. And mac and cheese. I stopped just short of corn-on-the-cob and homemade ice cream as my commitment to imagining a long spring evening couldn’t stretch quite that far. You see–there was sunshine yesterday. Also M pointed out on our way to school that, “Mama! It’s not quite so dark!”

And these two small things were enough to remind me that spring is coming. It really, really is. And as I stood there, shivering while I flipped burgers, I could almost hear the sounds of friends and family gathered on my deck–cold and barren now, but just a couple of months away from becoming our central gathering place once again.

Spring is coming.

And just in case my metaphor is not clear, let me say this: it’s coming for you, too. I swear it. I know that right now you might feel as if nothing will every be okay again. I know that right now you might be worn and afraid and exhausted. I know that right now you might be so very sad. I know that right now you might feel so very stuck. So trapped, by whatever season of life you find yourself in.

But I promise you–it will not always be this way. You’ll sing again. Smile again. Feel like you again–maybe even like a better you. Your grief–while it may never go away–will not always dominate your life. Your pain will not always be your first thought. There is life on the other side of whatever’s got you.

I know exactly where the day lilies will pop up. And where the hydrangeas will bloom. And I know what color the azaleas will be. And I can smell the barbecue sauce and hear the smack talk over corn hole and taste the ice cream churning and hear kids laughing and the dog barking in happy harmony with them.

Spring is coming.

Spring. Is. Coming.

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