Vanlife and re-wombing

My mom stayed in El Terreno for 42 hours while Phillip and I went to Mexico City to try to get some money back from the government. Her main duties were providing companionship to the dogs, and maintaining the solar power system. Plus there were lots of little details keeping her busy throughtout the day!

She was prepared for this adVanture; when I was born, my parents were living in a one-room cabin without electricity or plumbing. Heidi was a toddler - I think an infant and a toddler would be much harder than Max+Hannah+Gris+Fly. Certainly a similar lack of sleep.

Though she was up for the El Terreno challenge, I doubt my mom would want to re-live her house-in-the-woods years. She’s said my time in the womb and first year of life were the most stressful in her life. My dad was building a house for his parents and they had conflict and tension. My mom was lonely and my dad was stressed. A tornado sent us all into someone’s basement and tore windows off the new house.

As a kid I sketched plans for my dream house, which I wanted my dad to build. Would I have this fantasy if I understood how draining that house project had been?

Now my dream house is a nicer van with an electric engine that we can run off solar panels. Our van has been a cozy womb in El Terreno. Sure, it’s often too cold, too hot, full of flies, full of Max farts. We’ve shared it with mice, rats, mosquitos and at least one scorpion. The bed isn’t comfortable and we’re always finding poop, mud, grass and mice heads in it.

But our van is familiar and stable. It’s been our safe place as we live outside our comfort zones.

Before birth, the womb is a safe place for our most fragile self to develop, grow and transform. Serene: diffuse light, muffled sounds, cozy warmth, gentle sloshing.

As adults, how can we get a few inches of protecting flesh around us? Food, hoarding, substances add layers of insulation. We can retreat into ourselves with anger or co-dependence, tv or facebook, pornography or ambition. Adults seek new wombs for comfort, for security. We might inadvertently grow, but we might just hide. If we ignore confusion we prevent insight. If we dull our emotions we stunt wisdom. If we escape conflict we avoid opportunity. If we deny boredom we miss self-awareness.

What wombs give us just enough safety, plenty of nourishment and healthy challenge, too? A church family that holds us in our pain and also nurtures our discipleship. Loving relationships in which we’re known, accepted, and also told the truth. Spiritual practices. Journaling. Book groups. Creative pursuits. Therapy. Spiritual direction.

There’s no guarantee. Therapy or spiritual disciplines can reinforce - even justify - our stuckness. We can find permission to stay victimized or self-righteous.

Of course, when we womb up in drugs or sex or other distractions we find God is there, too, for we cannot go where God is not.

Which doesn’t mean we might as well live hedonistic lives, trusting God’s presence in it all to redeem our messiness. But we also don’t get to be so perfect that it’s up to us to heal or develop ourselves on our own. We need one another’s care. We need our own courageous honesty. We need God’s creating and re-creating power.

A womb that supports us to love who we are, trust who we are becoming and reach into the future with faithful voracity. Phillip, and our marriage, is that kind of womb for me. I wouldn’t have cherished a stable, comfortable, easy relationship if I’d met him earlier in my life. Timing is everything, usually:-)

Now we’re back to US-based adVantures, which means the van is routinely a vehicle, while in Mexico it was a house 95% of the time. Van-as-cozy-womb doesn’t feel right when we’re on the side of an interstate and it’s 17 degrees and Phlilip is working under the hood or on the roof. Or when 100’ trees fell on and around us.

Even when broken-down, the van is our dogs’ safety zone. It’s full of knitting and books and clothes that enrich our lives. It’s not simply our stuff that comforts us; living in this van has shaped and focused the purpose of our lives for this season. Purpose is more comforting that wool socks or a fan, especially on lousy days.

Our purpose is shifting as we’ll be moving into a house this fall - at least into a couple rooms of a house. How many nights will we spend in the van in 2020? I predict 90.


mom April 02, 2019

wow, lots to process in this post! thank you for that.

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