“What are you running from?”
I was asked this question a long time ago. Eleven years ago, to be exact. In a Starbucks, by a guy I no longer know but I remember he paid for my caramel macchiato and pulled out my chair, even though we were at a coffee shop and I thought that was weird. I found the question presumptuous. And impertinent. And too personal. Yet, somehow, even though I can’t really remember his face (I feel like he was blond?) or even his last name, his question has come with me as I’ve passed the markers of life—getting a master’s degree, getting married, getting pregnant—and as each milestone comes, bringing with it the responsibilities of adult life, the question becomes louder, more insistent. Stronger.
I think it’s stayed with me because, when it slips up to me in moments of quiet, I tell myself it’s not true. (Though I have a sense that, ironically, I’m trying to outrun a question about how I’m running from things—and that those things have unpleasant names like fear and doubt. Fear that all the good things I hold in my hands will slip through my fingers. Doubt that underneath the edges of this world, there is light.) Throughout the years, I’ve said, I’m fine, even as the darkness of things past seems much too strong and I seem much too weak in heart and soul.
But while the question is the same old one from the same old place, I’m different. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar—how the geography of your life is unchanged and yet you’ve been split into two because of something.
For me, it’s her, the little brown-haired angel whom I hold in my arms and who fills my heart with such a strange combination of fierce love and fear.
When I found out my daughter was coming, I started running within the perimeters of my life: I took on as much work as possible, I went to the gym incessantly, I saw friends near and far, I designed her nursery, I took pictures for my Instagram, I kept busy, busy, busy—and that busyness was exhausting, but that exhaustion was better than the stillness of my own thoughts.
Then she came. Juliet. Born on October 20th, a day before the hottest week of the year. And I quickly learned something about babies: You can’t outrun them. They tether you, they keep you, they pull you into their rhythms and mysteries, and suddenly you find yourself feeding your baby at 4 a.m. and you can’t go anywhere and you’re tired of looking at your phone and then the question comes to you in the dark: “What are you running from?”
You can’t put the baby down to go do something, so you must wrestle, but you are so very tired, so the wrestling turns to prayer: Lord, have mercy. And you pray for yourself and your little girl with a desperate sincerity you’ve never had before. Because it’s not just you now. It’s her, too. And while that darkness is still there, wrapped all around you, it begins to feel more like the thing that will save you rather than drown you, and you think there just might be salvation in the stillness of motherhood.
Autumn Krause is a wedding blogger and writer in Orange County, California. She loves fashion, writing, philosophy, and Instagram (@autumnsarahstory), and she has “everywhere” on her list of places to go.