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Waymaking at the Train Station

Union Station

I am sitting in Denver’s Union Station. I’m not taking a train anywhere, but the station is pure magic to me.  The coming and going, the people, and their packages in hand and suitcases on wheels, the silver-grey, silver-bell tree that defines the words “blue spruce.” It feels like some movie maker could lift a scrim to suddenly reveal what this place was like December 1, 1952. Or December 1, 1922.

(Siri: When was Denver Union Station built? “1881,” she says, in her knows-everything voice.)

Even better. Now I get to imagine sitting here on any first day of December in the last 141 years, and everything just became more magical.

This morning, Peter greeted me with a cup of coffee and the suggestion to go.  In his words, “Get out of town, and have a day full of wonder and all the solitude a girl can handle.”

So I am having a day of Waymaking, when I step out of my places and spaces to find something new.  A new way. I drank a holiday beverage that was the exact same beautiful shade of the barista who poured it. I have eaten crackers and cheese, a brie so soft it could only be called pillowy.  I have supported independent bookstores, and I thank you for nodding to the s at the end of that noun.

(In related thoughts, why doesn’t the library feel the same way that the bookstore feels?  What is that magical hygge in the bookstore, and why can’t it be replicated?)

I’m going slow today, because I have a tendency to get busy when I get nervous.  Distractions protect me like a helmet.  They surround me like a cocoon.

But cocoon is not the right word, because a cocoon is a place of transformation, and busyness is not transformation.  Busyness is more like a crowded storm cellar.  December One arrives and I scurry to build long lists and walls of words so I can hunker down and survive the storm.

Once, on a vacation when I was a little girl, we were at the hotel pool when a tropical storm blew in.  My dad wanted to stay outside to watch the hotel staff turn the tables and stack the chairs in an organized frenzy, while the palm trees curved like a letter f. He found the whole thing fascinating, but I couldn’t enjoy the magic and the wonder of the wind because I had trained myself to be afraid, to run for cover, to get inside. To be afraid of the fear.

Anne Lamott says the part of me that knows I’m afraid isn’t actually afraid.

If that is true, and I think it is, then what if there is no danger in the fear I feel on December 1? What if it’s safe to be curious?

I’d be a fool to say the storm can’t hurt us all, but the fear itself has no power.  So there’s no need to run from it.  No need to hide in the storm cellar. I can feel the fear and let it lead me to curiosity, instead of letting it force me to withdraw into architecture that will only need to be dismantled sooner than I think.  And given the choice, I’d rather feel curious than afraid.

Today, my son told me that he has discovered that he doesn’t like the holiday season. And that felt like sadness incarnate, a fail at parenting, a fear confirmed. Try as I may, it turns out that I haven’t fixed Christmas for him.

But how could he feel differently? How could he like it?  How could I have taught him anything else?  How could he have learned anything different?

I have most sincerely taught him to feel how he feels.  And he feels like he doesn’t like the holidays.

I wish it were different.  But then I spent many years wishing many things were different.  Wishes hardly seem to matter. They’re more fragile than gingerbread frosting.

If I’m not afraid of my feelings, I don’t need to be afraid of his either.  His feelings don’t mean I have failed.  He feelings mean he has found his words. All I could say is that I understand completely. I let him feel how he feels.

I don’t have to match the energy in the room.

I don’t have to match the energy of the storm.

I can watch and learn and be curious about it all.

Given the choice, I’d rather feel curious than afraid.

This week, I read the words of Scott Sauls: “Sometimes, the best, most life-giving way to lead is by suffering well.  Sometimes, the best, most life-giving way to lead is by refusing to allow death, mourning, crying or pain to dictate the story line of our lives and history.”

Quite beautifully, that sounds a lot like Waymaking.

Tricia Lott Williford

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