(a continuation from cereal for dinner, ramen for breakfast)
you know those days that seem never-ending? they’re unhurried and everything seems to drag out and take its time: getting out of bed takes an hour longer than it usually does; making breakfast is more painstaking – taking the bronze saucepan out the cupboard, then boiling the water, and pouring the oats into the saucepan, followed by a dash of cinnamon, a little ginger and maybe some nutmeg to enrich the taste. I take a yellow ochre bowl from the other cupboard, pour the cooked oats in and add some oat milk to simmer it down a little.
and today, I even have time to make coffee without hurrying out the door, and wondering if I remembered to brush my teeth or not. God, I even have the time to actually wait for my coffee maker to make a pot full of freshly brewed coffee! all whilst savouring breakfast, gazing out my window people watching, tree watching, squirrel watching as the rain falls without a care in the world of who’s day it’s disturbing. I smile a little to myself. I love autumn, immensely. I’ve embed it into my life in more ways than is possibly normal. it’s incredibly satisfying to see the first fall of the leaves from the trees, watching them twirl their way down, burying the grass beneath them.
today is one of those excruciatingly, yet satisfyingly slow days. I can actually sit and be unsocial for a while, I can watch the leaves fall outside of my apartment without worrying about whether I have ten billion other things to do, because I’ve actually given myself a moment to rest and withdraw from the outside world. a moment, I rarely get anymore. as I often forget to rest in moments of haste, trying to hustle my way in life without actually revelling in what’s right in front of me before I hurriedly move onto the next thing. the thing is, I can’t even fake that I enjoy rest. which is ironic considering I’ve made a career out of teaching others to wait, be still, and give themselves grace within the mess. but, honestly, it’s easier said than done.
lifting myself from my couch, bowl in hand, I walk to the kitchen washing the bowl and spoon in the sink then, placing them both at the side to dry. I open my cabinet, and decide I’m going to make some cupcakes today; whilst taking out the ingredients my doorbell rings. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Iva popping in to give me a run down of the past few weeks.
last time we saw each other, she was more of a mess than I was, which is a common occurrence for the both of us – I’m normally the one that gives the comfort and advice, whilst she rants about what’s worrying her. but today, I barely have the energy to even deal with my own problems, let alone hers so let’s hope that it’s either not her, and if it is, it’s a short visit.
drying my hands on a kitchen towel, I swing it over my right shoulder and go open the door. it’s Iva. she beams at me, her braided black and forest green hair up in a kinda messy bun, a brown scarf wrapped round her edges, and thin gold hoops dangling from her ears, with a pastry bag in one hand and her bible in another – which means she’s coming from church, considering the bakery is five minutes from it.
she’s wearing yellow dungarees, over a cropped black jumper one side falling off her shoulder – I will never get over how she can simultaneously look so put together yet, also in such disarray.
“I’ve missed you, Cade.” she says pulling me into a hug before sauntering into my apartment. “aside from that, you look terrible.” I laugh because with Iva, it’s not a compliment if there isn’t an insult in there somewhere.
to be honest, she isn’t wrong. I threw on an oversized rust coloured knitted jumper, and some mom jeans this morning, tied my hair up in a sloppy mess and didn’t bother with anything else. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone today, last person being Iva.
“well, hello to you too.” I shut the door behind her, as she plops her long self onto my black velvet couch. she spreads herself over it, plopping her bible onto the floor next to it holding out the pastry bag to me.
“I brought doughnuts. the weird cinnamon roll ones that you like. I don’t understand your liking for them, but nonetheless, there’s at least three of them in here.” she shakes the bag, before thrusting it at me. I catch them in time, before they managed to hit the floor, which would probably have left me in a ball of tears crying over £6 worth of wasted doughnuts.
“you know me so well.” I smile at her, whilst opening the bag and the sweet sweet smell of cinnamon hits me. I dig my face into the bag, inhaling the smell. how do they make doughnuts smell this good? “these are fresh, I love you.”
lifting her head from the couch, she grimaces at me, “you have a problem.”
“I know, but that’s besides the point. do you want coffee?” I ask her, despite knowing what her answer will be. I make my way to the kitchen, taking out grey and dusty pink mugs for Iva and I.
“mhm, yes please.” I smile to myself whilst I pour coffee from the pot into the mugs. grabbing some coconut sugar from my counter top, I put a teaspoon in for myself and two in for Iva. I take the oat and coconut milk from the fridge, pouring oat into my mug, coconut into hers, stirring the contents before putting everything back and making my way to the living area.
I hand Iva her coffee as she sits up, legs crossed and frowning at me. knowing what’s coming out of her mouth next, I sit myself down on the wooden floor on the other side of the room. my legs spread out in front of me, hands curled round my mug.
“what’s been going on Cade? no one’s heard from you in weeks. we know you’re introverted, and that you have moments like this every so often where you disappear off the face of the earth, but this has been going on for a while.” she looks directly at me, worried and honestly, I don’t feel anything. it’s easier to not talk at times. especially about what’s going on inside, it’s better than to keep going on about it up until the point where it gets boring for those around you.
“I’m okay… I’m just taking some time out to reevaluate. the person I am right now, isn’t the normally mellow, and worry free Cadence you know. I like the solace, and it’s better this way… in this moment.” I break our gaze, and focus on my mug. taking a sip, I sigh a little hoping I’ve managed to slip through a crack, and gotten her to stop talking.
“you do know it’s okay to let us love you where you are?” she says, shifting herself a little, her right leg now bent, the left tucked neatly underneath it. her mug is resting on her left thigh perfectly balanced, “you don’t have to retreat and bury yourself in a hole when you’re trying to sift through the fog and haze?”
“that’s easy for you to say, Iva.” I let out a bitter laugh that surprises me just as much as it surprises her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to come out like that. I just… it’s hard for me not to be bitter in some way when people keep hurting me, or when I don’t fit into the boxes they’ve set for me I‘m left to the side, always feeling like I’m the one that’s done something wrong for being who I am.
“you’re loved, Iva. you are loved by everyone and it’s seen in every area of your life. you light up every room you walk into and at times it’s hard for me to follow suit behind that when I’m more likened to Edward Cullen, and you, Alice. I’m tired of the pretence; I just wish it was easier to feel like I’m wanted and needed.” I set the mug down on the floor beside me, drawing my knees towards me burying my head in between them.
“I can’t be around everyone when I don’t know how genuine they are. I’m tired of people being fake, Iva. sometimes, I just need time out for it to just be God and I.” lifting my head up, I lean back into the sofa I’m resting on, allowing my head to recline.
I can hear Iva drinking her coffee, the sound of the fluid passing between her lips and down her throat filling the heavy silence between us.
it’s still raining outside. the wind howling like there’s no tomorrow, children and parents laughing alike, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, cars dallying in the background. I love the atmosphere of the world on sundays. everything seems to slow down, and the hurry of the week is halted as if everyone is in remission.
“you don’t allow yourself to be loved, Cade.” she finally says, filling the air with her words, “you give love endlessly without allowing others to give back. and, I don’t know what you’re running from.
“it’s okay to allow yourself to be loved. you don’t have to put up a fight for everything and everyone. it’s okay to let yourself be loved. I’ll say it a hundred times over even if you don’t want to hear it.” leaning forward on the couch, she sets her mug down on a wooden coaster on the coffee table. unfolding her legs, she walks over to my side of the living room, setting herself on the floor beside me.
“God gives us people, Cade. we aren’t meant to go through life alone, and even though we have moments where we doubt and worry, we know we can go to Him for that – which, I know you’ve got that part pretty much nailed – but, He gives us people because we aren’t made to be alone.
“and yes, maybe you’re right that I light up rooms when I walk into them.” I scoff at her, rolling my eyes, knowing she’s smiling even though I’m not looking at her.
“don’t let your head swell, Iva.” I say to her, whilst she laughs.
“it’s not swelling, I promise. but Cade, more seriously. even though I may light up rooms with my presence, I am who I am, because I’m rested in who I know God has called and made me to be. I love the light, I love summer and beaches, bright colors, and all the earth tones. I listen to Colbie Caillat’s ‘All of You’ album on repeat way more than I should, and tea makes me happier than coffee does, but that’s who I am. that’s not you.
“if only I could show you how different your light is. your light isn’t the kind that’s there on a busy summers day during the holiday. it’s not the kind that lights up the morning at 4am in the summertime. Cade, look at me.” I gently lift my head up, still avoiding eye contact with her.
there are way too many truths she’s telling me that I was not prepared to hear today.
“Cadence, your light is a bonfire. it’s the type that is fire; it glows in the dark and it isn’t obvious at first, to be honest, it’s never really obvious, but it’s steady. it keeps people warm, and it brings them home without them even knowing they need to be brought home. it’s the type of light that makes you want to stay at home on a day like this, drink hot coco and chat with an old friend for hours. it’s constant, it’s consistent, and it’s a safe place.
“and, you may feel like there’s not much to it, but Cade, you glow. you warm up every room that you’re in, and you need to learn that it’s okay to be you. it’s okay to not be the sunshine, because that’s not who God has made you to be. you are the home that gives people a room to stay in, and be themselves.” Iva takes my hand right hand, finally making me look at her.
“honey, it’s okay to not fit into boxes. you aren’t made for that; but, you’ve got to learn to fill up your own space, and warm your own rooms too. you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. not everyone likes fire. it burns for hours, it’s relentless and it’s captivating. you don’t have to be other people’s definition of successful, beautiful or kind to have value.
“you are you, and that’s more than okay. live in that truth, and allow yourself to be loved within that.”
Iva lets go of my hand, giving me room to finally breathe. I let out a breath, not even realising I was holding it in the first place.
moments pass before I can even think of words to say. so, we both sit and listen to the wind, the rain still pattering on the windows, watching the sun set. it’s like the sky is on fire; reds, yellows, oranges and pinks all enmeshed into one. God, I love autumn sunsets, there’s something about them that brings you home, and I love home. the resounding feeling that you’re meant to be where you are, even though everything looks chaotic outwardly, it makes sense to you because that’s your mess, it’s your mess, but that’s besides the point. we’re all a mess, but we all have our normal, our own definitions of beauty, and it’s okay to define ourselves by the standards we set, and not what others set of us.
it feels like an hour has passed between the words Iva has said and my silence, but in reality it’s probably only been about 10 minutes. I finally look up at her, mug still in hand, legs crossed and feeling the most raw and vulnerable I’ve felt in a while, and say, “thank you.”
she knows those two words say more than I could ever really express. she gets it, and without another word, she envelopes me into her arms, “you are so loved, Cade.”