For as long as my humanity allows for memory, I recall feeling out of step. A round peg in a square hole so to speak, gravitating to the grey in a black and white world, forged in the crucible of different. Even into early adulthood, the feeling was undefinable. There was a certain dissonance between inner and outer. Each step taken to fit in, to make myself worthy of the group, added to layers of masked perfection and an uninspired fairy-tale façade. I became quite adept at looking good even as I longed for validation that who I was and what I thought and felt made sense, but wishes are for fairly-tales, and as life began to unfold, the mask began to slip. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to disappear into the crowd, the circumstances of my story served to keep me on the periphery.
To this day, there is not a single distinct meaningful element of speech that defines me as “other”. There is certainly a propensity toward introversion that often leaves me discounted or misperceived. Born with a personality preference that craves solitude and finds enchantment in significant connections, I thrive in the internal, the mind and soul. I am overwhelmed by the external and shy away from chaos and noise. I delight in languid, philosophical speeches to thousands of the whosoever, and yet I am terrified by the awkward surface expectations of small talk. I am sensitive, perceptive, intuitive and frequently misunderstood.
There is also the extraordinarily unique make-up of my tribe. Children who bound into my life in quick succession. The birth of five in four years and the arrival of two sets of twins following a first born ironically named Noah, served to separate me further from the societally acceptable families that seemed to surround my reality. And amid the norms and expectations of both my upbringing and my calling, I was navigating a marriage that, despite the love we shared, had begun to shatter. Quite suddenly I found myself a single mother of five young children in an environment that seemed to find value in partnership and brokenness in singleness. I had become someone’s quandary and my efforts to blend in were futile.
And then there is loss because there is certainly nothing normal about grief. Everything is foreign in the landscape of loss. It is unfamiliar, uncertain and unpredictable. It strikes at the heart of our own existence and threatens our sense of rootedness. And as the world continues to spin on its axis, as the crowd seamlessly goes about living, because no matter your level of brokenness, the world doesn’t not cease its striving for your grief, you wear a new name, a new label, and a new title, one that further distinguishes you from the crowd. But of all of the things that seem to push me toward “other”, grief has been paramount at not solely shifting the earth beneath my feet, but in exquisitely unveiling who I am, because God often does His most profound work in the most barren and desolate places.
I have been different for the whole of my life, but it was grief that transformed my perspective from the periphery. Normal quite simply is not in my DNA, and I am one of the rare ones, destined to be so effortlessly myself. I am jagged and torn by so many years spent trying to fit. I am one of the mismatched, a paradox, and yet I am working on the acceptance of myself as a masterpiece from the brush of a creative God who never paints the same thing twice. I am wild and without borders yet rooted with a splash of logic and subtle awareness, and my sensitivity is the trademark of life and compassion. I am a girl living in the pursuit of authenticity rather than difference, and I have found no more captivating truth than embracing with grace what I cannot change and letting go of all that I am not. Belonging is far too great a price and there is profound perspective from the periphery. From here I can courageously and openly utilize eyes that often see too far, saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done. Life on the periphery is a testimony to the falling open freedom of vulnerability and transparency. It is about the allowance of pain, of change, of emotion and of uncertainty to the delight of becoming and for the benefit of others. From the periphery I am drawn to those who live in the shadow of “other” for they are far more captivating than then those in the spotlight of “ordinary”. My heart is open and my spirit empathic to those who join me on the periphery even as the world does its best to destroy that which it deems different. And to dwell on the periphery, to gain the perspective from the margins is to shoulder the great responsibility of inspiring others to be what no one else is.