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  • Writer's pictureBethany Lynn Alvey

New Beginnings in Old Spaces

Sunset over Patuxent River toward St. Mary's County from Solomon's Island. A large bridge stretches high over the river in the background, while empty pilings are lined up in the river in the foreground.
Sunset over Patuxent River toward St. Mary's County.

Something I often hear from directees is the feeling of, "Why am I still here?!" They describe feeling frustrated that they still relate to God transactionally, or still feel like they have to get their part of the equation right before blessing can flow into their life. Whatever their qualifier is, it feels familiar, and they don't like it. Part of the blessing of being their director is I have a bit of detachment from their circumstance, and can see they're not "still there." They have changed. They are revisiting familiar territory, but with so much more at their disposal than the last time.

I experience the same thing - I thought I was over wanting to belong to the group at all costs. I thought I had moved past seeking approval through performance, or having a thorough defense prepared like armor. I am SO BUMMED when it comes roaring back, seemingly out of nowhere.

We recently moved back to our hometown. It has been ten years since we lived here. So much has happened during that time, we feel like those versions of ourselves are totally different people, and they are in many ways. But our "thing" is still our "thing." I will always feel that pull of wanting to belong and the temptation to compromise who I am at my core for that approval and welcome. Now I have more tools to recognize when it's happening and why, and how to slow down the process long enough to not be hijacked by the emotions of it all.

I am practicing seeing this very familiar place with new eyes. Reintroducing the landscape to my senses, reintroducing myself to people who knew the old version, reintroducing people my old self knew to this new person they recognize. I am, truthfully, very happy to be here. I have missed the water (even the humidity), and most especially I have missed core relationships that nurture my soul.

And there's the tricky part. The old self longed for that kind of community - still longs for it - so much that I would quickly shush deeper parts of myself in order to keep that affinity going. I know that's unsustainable long term, and have been practicing living authentically and courageously, (emphasis on the word practicing). I am wary - not of being in the same place, but being the same person in the same place. So this social need I have as a person is in direct conflict with the healthy growth I need as a person.

Whenever there's a binary, there's an opportunity for oneness.

I am looking forward to the next phase of integration. I am serious about being a whole person. It doesn't need to happen all at once. But I am fully embracing the process. Yes, I will be a Christian and decolonize. Yes, I will be a mystic and a critical thinker. Yes, I will pursue my vocation and work. Yes, I will live in Southern Maryland and stay open to the world. And yes, I will learn that beautiful dance of belonging and individuation.

I may be in an Old Place, but this is a New Beginning.

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