I sat at her kitchen table and let it all out in a great gushing wind of angst and fury... and then I cried.
Not the big fat raindrops of the aggrieved, but the tight, burning leaks of the frustrated and anxious.
"Stop it," she said gently but firmly. "You're taking on too much, I can literally SEE it overwhelming you. Your shoulders are actually hunching under the weight!"
She was right. I was overwhelmed.
In many ways I still am and I travel back to that afternoon conversation every time the fear inside me cripples me for forward action, lying on the pillow thinking about all that needs to be accomplished but likely won't, not only in the day before me...but the lifetime.
The problem you see is changing.
I've been discovering the other side of having chosen the blue pill to swallow. I'm walking around like Neo, wondering how it's possibly better to be sitting in a ratty sweater eating nasty porridge with my head shaved. (if you haven't seen the Matrix...you should, it's a gooder :)
I've mentioned it before, but now it bears repeating that my life feels like it's changing at warp speeds and my heart is taking on convictions it previously didn't have.
I've been reading (isn't that a dangerous thing to do) and having conversations with both God and man and coming to some conclusions that are beginning to feel like the most important thing I may do in my life may very well be to change some of my most ingrained patterns and habits.
Yes, I'm talking about lifestyle. I'm talking about food; but I'm also talking about education, the acquisition of materials, the shift from consumer to producer, the environment, social change and social justice and faith. Last week I railed against Disney Princesses, but really I feel so many more pressing concerns on the person I am choosing to become.
I'm realizing how it must feel for someone to convert to a faith or lifestyle and while totally convinced within themselves they now live in the fishbowl of their choices feeling suddenly somewhat alienated from those around them not wanting to alienate themselves further by causing offense.
Obviously all of our choices are completely personal, as they should be and mine certainly are. I am in fact, not going to go into what my specific thoughts or opinions are on any of the categories I mentioned above because it's not necessary and it's not fair. Maybe in another time and place, but not here, not now, when the thoughts and convictions in my head are so new and thoroughly challenging that they've left me feeling rather like a featherless bird. I am that vulnerable.
That vulnerability is what drove me to tears on a Wednesday afternoon in her kitchen. My heart literally aches with desperation over issues so much larger than myself and my sense of powerlessness is infuriating. What I needed to be reminded of was God. And because she's wonderful, that's exactly what she did.
"Ashley, all you need to do is ask every single day, 'God, what do you want from me today? what are you calling me to, today?'."
"But," I challenged, " I feel that God is asking too much and there is no way I can every become that person in one day!"
"No," she agreed. "But God isn't looking for a finished product, He's looking for a heart that everyday wants to give it your very best, whatever it is, whatever choice, no matter how small or large is sitting in front of you each day. That's it. If it all ended tomorrow and you didn't accomplish a single one of the plans that stir your heart, He would be pleased with a heart that simply was willing to give it all an earnest go".
Aren't I blessed to have such a friend?
People have all kinds of reasons for doing the things they do; mine happen to be deeply rooted in my faith.
My understanding of being a follower of Jesus Christ is very much in line with the idea of living simply, humbly and deliberately as a prudent steward of limited resources. Living on less seems like a big part of the equation for me. Even though I am blessed beyond measure with material comforts and conveniences (many of which are the result of some very real generosity I am deeply grateful for), but I have begun to wonder if to choose to sacrifice some of them, may actually hold the secret to an even bigger blessing. Perhaps in our efforts to live within a smaller means, there is actually spiritual discipline and character to grow?
I am keenly aware that the move for a more sustainable way of life is well under way with communities of all kinds of people; some very much like myself and some very different. I would even go so far as to say that sustainable living is a trend, although that word runs the risk of trivializing something so very important to so very many of us.
The issues behind living with a smaller footprint certainly transcend the social notions of fashionable lifestyles. There are real concerns of scientific, political, economic and health natures to name a few, and those issues are so much bigger than my writing, research or even cognitive skills of reason could ever do justice to.
All I can say is that in the deepest, hungriest, humblest places of my heart, I feel a stirring that cannot be ignored. I'm hunting through that landscape, foraging for the first steps to hang on to and bring to fruition. On the outside I don't look any different, nor does much of my daily routine, leaving me naked to the accusation of hypocrisy I'm sure.
But I think I'm also taking those deep kind of breaths that clear both the mind and the soul; I'm taking one step at a time and I'm letting inspiration win out over guilt. I'm letting go and grabbing hold all at the same time and testing out the newness of my shaky granola legs.
I've joined the club but have no badge yet to speak of. I'm standing up and saying it simple:
Hi, my name is Ashley... and I'm maybe just a little bit crunchy.
p.s. I love you Al.