(Note: although I “published” this post on my blog in September 2017, I actually began drafting the first part of it a few months ago…sharing that detail in case any parts of the post seem “dated.”)
When I was a little girl I liked the “Terminator” movies. (And I liked the Rocky movies, and I liked watching Transformers, reruns of Good Times, and Jem. And?!?!?!) Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, John Connor, the futuristic robots…all of it fascinated me.
Near the end of the second Terminator film Sarah is reflecting over what the future holds for her, for her son John, and for the world. For over a decade Sarah’s singular focus had been on preventing a future laden with destruction from occurring; now everything was new and uncertain. The future, once bleak and doomed, was now full of question marks – unwritten. A blank slate.
In recent times, that sentiment has resonated with me. For the nearly three years preventing a disastrous future occupied much of my thoughts, energy, time, and finances. Like Sarah Connor, the grim possibilities this dreaded future presented were frightening and unacceptable to me and the only rational response was for me to resist with every ounce of me even if a positive outcome seemed unattainable. And yet now it is here. Full of question marks. Unwritten. A blank slate.
“No fate,” young John Connor explained to the reformed Terminator in one scene, “No fate but what we make. My father told her this. I mean, I made him memorize it up in the future as a message to her…the whole thing goes, ‘The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make.'”
(You can view a video clip HERE that is ~2.5 minutes about why that message about preventing an apocalyptic future was so significant to Sarah. Content warning: No speech, just music. Also lots of death, destruction, violence, nuclear war, and just plain old doom. The movie is still good, though. And because Sarah is just bad @$$, HERE is another clip with her – same content warnings apply.)
|(Image is a carving of the words “NO FATE” into a wooden surface. The knife used to carve the words is visible, lying to the upper right corner of the words. Image is black and white/grayscale. Image credit: Terminator Wiki/Benzinga|
For Sarah, that concept fueled her and allowed her to persevere through seemingly hopeless circumstances…the idea that future is not necessarily pre-determined; that we can impact what is to come, what is to be, by the actions we take in the present. But what does it mean for me – now? What does it mean for others? What does it mean for the cause, for my people, for my family, for my community, for the future?
The short answer is…I don’t know yet. I really don’t.
I’m a Christian. So this is probably the part of the post where I would be expected to relate some complex tale of hardship and explain how God still manifested light in the midst of it. This is also probably where I am supposed to be gushing about how much I ALWAYS KNEW God was going to come through for me. How much people need to rely upon and trust in God’s Word. How faith and grace can transform near-impossible situations. You get the point.
And there would be nothing wrong with any of those sentiments…except that if I was to utter them, I would be dishonest with both you and myself. Because though I do believe God has been present in my life and has carried me through immense challenges where it seemed impossible to go on, I didn’t always know what was going to happen. I hoped, and I prayed, and I worked. I hung on. But I didn’t know for certain what the outcome would be. I had no way of knowing, though I certainly hoped. But what was to come…well, that was a huge question mark. An unknown.
And I still don’t know. I don’t. Some people seem secure in these things. They don’t struggle with “what if” thoughts and with doubt and with fear and with anxiety and with the fact that they just don’t know what is going to happen. I, however, do. I won’t give up. I won’t turn away. I will keep going and keep fighting. But I have more questions than answers. And even when the clouds seem to be lifting somewhat…even when the pain is not as acute and I am able to not only imagine, but perceive that the weight is subsiding a little in my own life…even when I give God thanks for visibly working in the storm, I still don’t know what the future holds. I still don’t know what to expect. I still don’t know what comes next. I still have questions.
Questions like how to deal with times when circumstances aren’t as bad as you know they can be, but they still aren’t good?
And/or when your personal circumstances, though certainly not optimal, are tolerable, but the circumstances of those around you are even worse?
How do you get strong enough to not only maintain your own survival, but succeed in providing meaningful assistance to others to do so?
How do you ensure that you are contributing what is truly needed, that you are empowering others to ponder, seek, express, and own their own needs and solutions are simultaneously being background support, not unintentionally taking over in one’s zeal to truly help?
And how to know that you’re feeding adequately into the lives of others?
And that you’re also developing and not losing yourself?
And how do you do any of this in an authentic way that builds some sense of hope for facing the future while also openly acknowledging that loss hurts, brokenness exists, life disappoints, betrayals sting, people die, trauma scars, and good things end?
And what about when you fall?
When you totally eff up?
How do you mitigate the damage your actions and/or words have caused while extending yourself some grace?
How do you actually revisit hurtful things in your past to “learn” from them in a meaningful way without triggering or re-traumatizing yourself?
How do you reconcile the fact that there are some really jacked up and unsafe people in our “safe spaces” that you will never fully succeed at avoiding because they have embedded themselves into our communities and may never be able to be extracted?
And that sometimes these unsafe, maybe even toxic people actually do good work and/or help others even though you know for a fact deep down they’re still POS’s? Do you take the good with the bad?
How do you deal with the fact that some of your ways, your habits, your coping mechanisms, your thought patterns, etc are likely unhealthy even though they technically work?
How do you unlearn, truly?
How far can we get without knowing? Without answers? Maybe no one knows. Maybe we’ll never actually know?
Is the way forward to accept that we will never really know? That there is no fate except that we make because in order to make it, we have to continue our voyage with what little we know and what little we have, aware that part, maybe a large part of our path appears to be shrouded in shadows and uncertainty?