As I write this (early January, 2023), I am in Toronto at the home of my dear friend, Tanya Geisler. I was scheduled to fly there nearly three years ago, but had to cancel at the last minute because of my dad’s sudden and unexpected illness, days thereafter, his death. Then Covid. And border restrictions. And leaving my job. And moving across the country. And life. Now, at last, as of this past Thursday, I am here.
Tanya and I met online more than a decade ago. 2010, if I were to take a guess. I knew of her and somehow, shockingly, she knew of me. I decided to invite a small group of women to an in-person event, certain every one of them would say no. Three days together with no agenda—just time and space. All of them said yes, instead. Tanya was one of them.
She flew out of Toronto. Changed planes somewhere in the U.S. Landed in Seattle. Took a shuttle to the ferry dock. Took a ferry to Whidbey Island. Took another shuttle to where I picked her up. Then, having never seen me in person and after travelling for far too many hours and feeling a three-hour time difference, she jumped out of the van and literally ran to me, arms wide open. That embrace? Words fail me.
When I got here three nights ago, I felt that same embrace.
I leave tomorrow. She’ll embrace me one more time. It seems too soon. I cannot, would not trade these precious days for anything in the world.
My mom, knowing how much I love the writing of Ann Patchett, recently told me about her latest book, a collection of essays entitled, These Precious Days. My library loan expired before I got all the way through it, but I’m back on the waiting list. Before it was out of my grasp, I highlighted these words:
I’d been afraid I’d somehow been given a life I hadn’t deserved, but that’s ridiculous. We don’t deserve anything – not the suffering and not the golden light. It just comes.
This is how I often feel when I reflect on my relationship with Tanya. I don’t deserve it. Maybe better stated, I’ve not done anything to deserve it. It just came to me, and to us. It’s precious, sacred even. It’s a gift of grace.
In truth, there are countless, countless people and stories and memories and experiences in my life that are just like this. They have “just come”—in both suffering and in light. They have changed me, strengthened me, shaped me, and ushered me more deeply into a sense of awareness and acceptance and gratitude.
Precious, to be sure.
Why would we turn “precious” into something that is, well, less so?
I don’t have definitive answers, but I am reminded of a story . . .
I got married when I was 31 years old; my husband was almost 48. Given our ages, we were determined to get pregnant as soon as absolutely possible. After five years of infertility (and unsuccessful treatments), I was convinced it would never happen.
You already know how this story played out. I have two amazing daughters. Emma Joy is 26 and Abby is 24. I remain stunned and humbled by their presence in my life. Miracles, both. Precious, to be sure.
But let’s go back to those five years. I did NOT, in any way, see my suffering as precious. In point of fact, I didn’t even allow myself to suffer. At least not visibly, consciously, wisely. Every twenty-eight days I’d give myself a good talking to: “buck up, accept your lot, get it together, trust God’s plan!” If you hear a ridiculous degree of harshness, you’d be right. Even typing it now, I feel a lump in my throat. In many ways, what I told myself (without realizing it until this very moment) was to NOT be precious; to not consider myself more highly than I ought, to not see myself as “entitled” to that which I held most dear and of great worth and price.
Isn’t this sad?
My longing deserved to be precious and dear. My suffering and grief deserved to be precious and inestimable. My hope deserved to be precious and prized. Instead, I told myself that I was being affected, fragile, and pretentious.
We can be so quick to dismiss that which is rich and tender and vulnerable in our lives. To Ann Patchett’s point, we can, all-too-often, see ourselves as undeserving and so, not notice what “just comes.” When what’s precious comes to us through suffering more than light, it’s that much harder to see it as such.
Before I turn this around (which I promise I will do), I’m wondering where all of this lands for you. I’m wondering if, like me, you have stories of suffering that you didn’t allow, experiences you couldn’t let yourself grieve, hopes you couldn’t dare hold onto. I’m wondering if, like me, you have been far more inclined to see yourself as undeserving and so, in light of such, have not given yourself permission to take in, revel in, and honor all that is precious in your life . . . and in you.
I cannot be talked out of this truth: The definition of “precious” defines you—valuable, of great worth or price, honorable. The synonyms for “precious” describe you—adored, cherished, dear, inestimable, loved, prized, treasured.
You are precious, to be sure.
Tomorrow I will fly back to Charlotte NC. I’ll go through customs, take the shuttle to my car, and then make the 3.5 hour drive back to Hampstead. I’ll feel tons of gratitude for the days Tanya and I have shared. I’ll be lost in thought about all we talked of together. I’ll be happy the weather is at least 20-30 degrees warmer. I’ll wish I weren’t driving back in the dark. I’ll listen to an audio book. I’ll stop for gas and probably drive-through dinner. I’ll pull into the driveway, see the porch light left on for me, and say a prayer of “thanks” that I’m safe, that I’m home, that this is my life. All of it is precious—when I choose to see it as such.
I’m certain the same is true for you.
May it be so.