This post is by Abby Hollingsworth, our May Pilgrim in Residence. It’s hard to believe I’ve known my dear friend Abby for almost 10 years, and nearly as hard to believe where our journeys have taken us since we first met one hot summer day in Nashville, TN, at Belmont University’s summer orientation. This month, Abby will be sharing about a recent journey she never wanted to take and how she turned it into a journey of intention. As she was in this season, I had a feeling it would change things forever, and it’s such a gift to for Abby to share her journey with us this month. (PS: You’ve visited Abby’s place before if you’ve read my Travel Wardrobe post.) -Lacy
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.”
There are journeys you take on purpose—that you plan for and await with anxious excitement. There are others you find necessary, if not ideal, and you prepare with great care for the task at hand. Occasionally though, you may find yourself on a journey you didn’t see coming, don’t want to take, and can’t possibly plan for with a simple checklist of to-dos.
In August 2012, I was faced with this third kind of journey. My young marriage was at a crossroads, and as we spent a summer packing our tiny apartment for the next phase of life, it became clear that we weren’t headed for the same destination. We settled on a semester apart to clear our heads, search our bruised and foggy hearts, and make a plan for the many years until death do us part that still stretched ahead.
You could call it a separation. You could call it the first step towards the end. I chose to call it walkabout—an exercise in metaphoric reframing that saved my life on a regular basis as the journey of the next year unfolded.
By claiming walkabout as a metaphor for this unexpected relocation, I took ownership of my journey for the first time. When everything seemed out of my control, this image of wandering as a rite of passage gave me power, courage, and a bit of gumption. I would never have chosen it all on my own, and I didn’t know where it would lead, but I felt the weight of it as a personal adventure to find myself in the wandering space between.
When the Penske truck arrived that August, we loaded it with boxes bound for California, Illinois, and Arkansas. My husband went to begin a PhD program on the west coast, my double-sided pillow top mattress went to my parents’ garage in Illinois, and I packed my Civic with everything else I couldn’t live without and headed South—to Fayetteville.
I’d like to say I chose Northwest Arkansas for my walkabout, but the truth is it chose me. My friend Emily offered an open room, a fellowship of broken hearts, and a community of people ready to accept an unconventional traveler. We became family for each other in a way I couldn’t have predicted I would need.
In the hills of the Ozarks, I found room to ask the hard questions. Who was I if not the wife of this one man? What would I be willing to sacrifice and for what great end? What parts of my soul were being neglected in my frenzy to keep it all together? What did I really need to feel alive?
I found a community of friends, many also in unreasonably hard seasons of life. And they found me—saw me like I hadn’t been seen before. In the desert of walkabout there is no room for pretension—all are wanderers in rags and mud-caked faces. All are searching and willing to share any bit of truth they find with those who will listen.
that calls you a poet,
pours you a scotch,
asks questions without answers and lets them hang heavy in lifting air,
lets you come into yourself without watching you change,
asks you to carry another’s burdened box of unthinkable hard,
and blesses you over and over again,
a fountain recycling,
a spirit of abundance.
When I pulled into Emily’s driveway that hot August night, I couldn’t have known how my first months of walkabout would change me. I was happy just to be settled for a time after a long summer of heavy transition. Yet before I even turned off the car, there were strangers grabbing bags from my trunk and taking them inside my new home. There was chili waiting on the stove and children I didn’t know hugging my leg. There was love on tap, and I had never felt so thirsty.
How can you use the power of metaphor to reframe a hard situation or season in your journey?