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  • Writer's pictureNajah Amatullah

#WinterWondering Ships

I think we all tend to want things to be permanent. Our bodies reach for homeostasis and so do our hearts.




But there is very little, if anything, that will remain and continue. As Lindsay Lohan sang on her only album, "The only thing certain is everything changes" ("La Bella Vita").

This is not a bad thing. We grow and change and develop. We change jobs. We change habits. And the majority of that change is progress.

We have to remember to think of life as a road. Everyone is traveling. It occurred to be today that we are walking and resting and eating and sleeping and walking and running so that when we die, we will leave a permanent mark in the spot where we last lived. Ann Michele's spot is pink and covered in glitter. We all walked away from Houston 2012 leaving pink glitter footprints for miles and miles along our respective roads.

When we hesitate or fight against changing, growing, leaving, moving on, we mess with the memories people keep of us. We don't have to know ahead of time what the lessons will manifest. The besties and witches Elphaba and Glinda sang, "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good" (Wicked).

Because I serve a God who, to paraphrase the Bible, gives beauty in exchange for ashes, who turns our mourning into dancing, who works every single thing together for our good, I don't believe that anything can negatively affect me in the long run. Even if something is painful in a moment or for a season, we can only grow from it. We can only learn better what not to do.

I also think we tend to cling too hard to the bad stuff. As Mark Antony said at Caesar's funeral: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones" (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 2). We forget how many times we laughed and remember how many times we cried. We forget the good days, because we expect days to be good and we remember the bad ones because that's how things ended.

When you're little and you grow out of your clothes every six months or year, it's never fun to wake up and reach for your favorite top or pair of jeans or shoes and realize that they don't fit. You may try to squeeze into them. You may think you're fat. You may feel too tall and gangly. The item of clothing that no longer fits may have been the only thing that made you feel powerful.

You cannot walk around in your new skin wearing that old thing and it is sad.

His path curves to the right. Your path continues straight ahead. You don't want to release your grip.

Her ship is sailing due north and you must lower a dinghy that will take you to a ship heading east-north-east. You don't want to row away.

But you must. If we don't walk our path, even when it diverges from the one we were used to walking, we will either meet the end of our lives sooner than originally intended, or we will leave that permanent mark in a place other than where it was needed.

Change will hurt. Pain often makes us angry. But it shouldn't. It's necessary. It's life. We must learn to hurt and smile and keep living.

Fourteen months ago, I needed a hideout, a taste of something different, a studio to dream in. A former coworker turned friend, Valerie, gave me that. After one long afternoon talking through problems, she offered me a different place to lay my head and cook my meals. I moved over a weekend in October 2015 and she and I had some really fun times; threw some memorable parties. We had a ton of long talks and a few great art-making sessions. She helped me level up in confidence in my beauty by taking photos of me.

When I think about that time, I think about the way Jesus said he would determine who are his true followers and who really loves him and who doesn't.

"He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say

to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom

prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I

was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your

home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was

in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did

we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or

a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we

ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth,

when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it

to me!’" - Matthew 25:33-40

Generosity like Valerie's separates real Christians from fake ones. That's not me editorializing. That's what Jesus said. Go read the verses after those I quoted.

Now I live alone in a small apartment closer to my family. I woke up one morning and the beautiful home, the proximity to culture and beauty, didn't fit me anymore. I was sad, but I'm not staying in that. I'm growing into something different. My prayer is that next year, I might be able to pay forward the kindness that was shown to me, and take someone in, give them refuge.

As we end one chapter and start another, as we walk down roads leading in different directions, "Here's to the was you been to the is you in/ To what's deep and deep to what's down and down/ To the lost, and the blind, and the almost found" ("Shout Out: The Blue Oneness of Dreams," Sekou Sundiata).


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