Today, I walked around barefoot, outside, in the rain.
This might not seem like a big feat to some, but for me it’s huge. The last time I dared to be this kind of free I was seven, maybe eight years old. It was a cloudy day but somehow the sun managed to peek through the clouds and light up the day. I stood shoeless on the top marble step leading into my family’s home–partially shielded by the black, metal storm door that I held cracked open. The splatter of drizzle danced against the brown skin of my face, fingers, and toes. I smiled an open-mouthed, toothy grin. The rhythm of the rain was intoxicating and the saltiness of each raindrop against my tongue tasted like freedom.
My feet started to move of their own volition. One tentative step led to another until my feet were no longer on the cool marble stairs but the soggy concrete ground. Joy bubbled up in my soul as laughter spilled from my lungs. I ran up and down the sidewalk, twirled in circles until I was dizzy, and jumped in every puddle until I was out of breath.
Attempting to steal me away from the moment, my inner voice called out to me: You can’t stay out here doing this forever. My mother would finish whatever household chore she was occupied with and notice that I was no longer standing in the doorway. And on rainy days, my father came home early from work.
Just five more minutes, I pleaded with myself.
Five more minutes turned into ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty. Time disappears when you feel that kind of free.
I danced in circles to the melody of the rain until I could no longer walk straight. My giggles traveled up and down the mostly empty city block until the sound blended with the swish swish of car tires against pavement against rain–all creating a new song for me to dance to.
Five more minutes…
Five more minutes…
Five more minutes…
Thunder clapped, heavy and loud, waking me from the whimsy of the moment–only the boom wasn’t from a shift of atmospheric pressure way up in the sky. That atmospheric shift came from beyond the partially rolled down window of my father’s yellow pick-up truck as he drove into the block, yelling for me to stop.
Startled, I stumbled out of my dance, placing my arms out on either side of me to regain the balance I had lost. My eyes, now wide open, blinked furiously as my mind caught up to the moment and I remembered where I was.
“Get your ass in the house before you get sick!” was all it took for me to run as fast as my feet would carry me back inside. Even my rain soaked clothes couldn’t slow me down. But as fast as I ran, there was no outrunning the fire in my father’s eyes–it burned with disapproval. So I ran inside, slammed the door, and stayed there.
It’s been over thirty years since then and nearly two months since a still unexplained ailment sent me to the hospital for the second time in as many weeks. I couldn’t breathe. Surely it was COVID, as my son, although asymptomatic, had tested positive at school. Only it wasn’t. Scan after scan. Test after test. Still nothing definitive.
As I lay alone, in the hospital room, isolated, scared out of my mind, desperate for answers, desperate for healing, there were times when I had only myself and God to converse with. As a rule, in every situation, I look for the lesson and the blessing, even though often they are one and the same. I prayed, God help me to see it. But fear and anxiety were clouding my vision.
Thank God for the resources He brings into my life, for my husband prayed for me and took care of everything at home. My mother prayed for me and read me scripture. My best friend prayed for me and held my hand. And even a nurse came to my bedside with a book of scripture. “God told me you needed this,” she said.
Matthew 6:27 became my lifeline: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
It seemed so simple yet so profound. No.
Slowly, but surely, I felt a heaviness lifting away from me. My breathing became easier. My anxiety lessened, but a restlessness started growing inside of me as the lesson was revealed. I’ve spent entirely too much of my life locked inside, worried and fearful of the disapproving flame of others. It was time to come out. It was time to live.
The four walls around me in that hospital room became metaphorical for the walls I had locked myself behind so many years ago, and I no longer wanted to be locked inside.
I lifted the window shade in my room as high as it would go so that I could see all of God’s glory from sunrise to sundown and beyond.
I gave thanks to God for the new life He breathed into me with each passing second.
Eventually, I was given the all clear to come home.
Life feels different now. Certainly, no one knows what will come from one moment to the next, but I know that in a different way than I did before–I want to seize every moment, not be fearful of whether this is the last. I am the child of God, wife, mother, daughter, and friend I have always been, but today I don’t take those blessings for granted. And I pray for the strength and clarity and gratitude to make those things just as true tomorrow as they are today.
I wish I could tell you the fear and anxiety that has held way too much power in my life has completely gone away. As we all are, I am a work in progress. But whenever those feelings try to lock me away, I fight against them in all the ways I can.
I talk to God.
I listen to His word.
I hold tightly to the people I love, who love me.
I wear the dress.
I sing the song.
I write the story.
I push the doors wide open.
And when I’m called to, I walk around barefoot, outside, in the rain.