Remember when you were little, and you were really sure that all your problems could be solved by moving to Australia?
That teacher who always called you by the wrong name would not be in Australia.
Your homework would never be due in Australia.
Your mom couldn’t tell you to make your bed if you were in Australia.
You wouldn’t have to share your gum with your brother because he’s not there, in Australia.
(This was, obviously, before you had Facebook and could bring everyone along with you on the phone in your pocket.)
You could just pack up some stuff in a bandana, tie it to a stick, and go. Why this was better than using a backpack, I have no idea.
If you could just walk away from the annoying stuff, all would be well. IN AUSTRALIA.
Australia kind of let you off the hook, because everything would be fine if you could just get there — but you couldn’t get there, because you were seven. All those troubles, then, weren’t your fault. They couldn’t be helped. Oh well!
I think we still do this.
Even when you were seven, the problem wasn’t really that your mom asked you to set the table, the problem was that you expected you wouldn’t be interrupted while building your epic backyard fort.
The problem wasn’t that you didn’t want to share your gum, the problem was that you were afraid there wouldn’t be enough left if you gave some away. (Or maybe the problem was that your brother always got everything and you never got anything. That’s another possibility.)
I still think it would be neat to finish making things without being interrupted. I still worry about whether I’ll have enough time and energy for myself, if I share with everyone else.
I don’t want to run away to Australia, because my people are here. But I still catch myself thinking that life would be easier if. Things would be better if only.
And since if only hasn’t happened, well: I’m stuck. Too bad, so sad.
It’s Australia all over again.
The truth is easier and harder. The truth is you don’t need a plane ticket. The truth is, a plane ticket probably wouldn’t even help.
The truth is some things are better here (wherever here is) and some things are better there (wherever there is) and some problems we carry along with us (wherever we are). We don’t just leave them in a box in the closet when we take off for faraway corners.
Fears, worries, expectations, comparisons: they’re very portable. They’re also very sticky and hard to set down.
So what do we do? Well, we practice. We practice setting down our expectations about ourselves and about other people.
We practice remembering how we belong to each other, how all the people you see — those are your people. Even the ones who look different than you, even the ones who grew up under different circumstances, even the ones who live in your house and knock on the door when you’re in the bathroom. All of them. They belong to us, and we belong to them, and we are the same, and we have to practice remembering.
We practice believing we are enough and we have enough. We practice acting on that belief, and we practice paying attention to what happens next.
We practice little acts of faith, we accept little moments of grace.
All of that — hope and faith and belief and grace and remembering and belonging — they’re all just as portable as our problems. Healing and wholeness will travel, but they’re here, too. They’re here for ourselves, for our people, for our communities. They just take work, and they just take practice.
We can do two things, then. We can work on making things better in this place, whichever place we’re in. And we can put down the heavy things. We can set them down, we can let them go, and then we can pay attention to what we pick back up.
When we find that we’re carrying them around again, we can practice setting them back down. Again.
We can pick up something else, on purpose. We can hold tight to what we believe, not what we feel stuck with.
We can practice carrying the other load, the one that is looking for peace here and there and everywhere, even in our own hearts and our own neighborhoods. It’s easier, and it’s harder, but we can practice.