Laying in bed is suddenly the only thing I can do. I am not sick. I have not worked my fingers to the bone. But my heart is heavy enough to drag my body to the mattress. To the heating pad and the soft lamp and the fan for white noise. All the comforts of my own bed to hold the weary carrier of my soul.
I was driving today when I felt the hand of the Comforter reach out and gently touch the place that lies buried. Buried beyond my own ability to reach. The deep ache. The place that cracks open when you are on your knees, and stays shut tight when you are on the go. I was singing
“Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you, and it is well with me.”
“It is well with me”
Words like these break my heart. Dismantle me and comfort me all at once. Because I am walking “through it all”. I am in “through it all”. You are too. I can't fix it. Yours or mine. I stand in love, and hope and wait and grieve.
It isn't that I suddenly “feel” well. It it much deeper and scarier and better than that. It’s in the ache in my heart, the questions, the confusion, the sadness, the anger, the bored, the fear, the loss, the hate, the discontentment, the humiliation, the anxiety, the emptiness. It’s in it that I sing “it is well with me”. I sing both because it is both. “through it all, it is well”. It’s not a command to speak something out in an attempt to make it true. It’s an invitation to what is already true. A Love beyond disillusionment. A call to go deeper, further. It is the Hand of the Comforter taking mine and saying, “I know Dear Heart, and come on. Come on”.
When I was a kid I said I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up. I was always coming up with something. I liked my English teacher in 5th grade, so I was going to be an English teacher. I loved looking at the stars, so I was going to be an astronaut. I liked clouds so I was going to be a meteorologist. I liked movies, and pretty people, so I was going to be an actress, or a model. I wanted to be smart, so I was going to be highly educated. I wanted to help people, so I was going to be a missionary.
None of these things ever quite hit the mark. I didn't know it then, but figuring out who I was really mattered to me. It matters to everyone, it's extremely important. But according to the Enneagram (best personality test ever) my Basic Fear is "Of having no identity, no personal significance." And it's true. When I'm not doing well, one of the first things to happen is my inner dialogue starts to go on about feeling "pointless" and "inconsequential".
One time, as a teenager, I remember talking to my dad about what I'd like to "be". I said something like I wanted to be able to inspire people - I wanted to motivate and encourage the world. I imagined it would be something along the lines of public speaking, or about some very specific cause that I hadn't yet found, but was looking for. As flawed as this idea was (in that I am not overly gifted in public speaking) it was the closest to the mark I think I ever got. I wanted to inspire people. It is the thing that has continued to be true in me.
I'm 34 now, and still haven't quite figured it out. On bad days, it still bothers me. I'm married, I have two kids. I worked while my husband went to school, and when we had kids, I stopped working outside the home and started working as a stay at home mom. I have fought, and continue to fight the "my life is pointless" stay at home mom- battle. Yes I know my kids are amazing, precious gifts. I know I'm privileged to be able to stay home with them, and I hurt for my friends who want to stay home with their babes, and can't. But I struggle oh - so - much with the menial tasks of home life, the isolation that comes from not getting out enough, and having too many conversations with a 6 and 2 year old, and not enough with adults. (or at least people pretending, as I am, to be an "adult" ). I even have days where all I do is avoid the conversations with the 6 and 2 year old, and all but physically go off the map completely. Then I am hit with guilt for not engaging my children, for wasting the gift of time with them that I've been given, for not appreciating that my husband is a solid, loyal provider and just wishing he were home RIGHT NOW so I could get away from these needy humans for a couple hours and somehow invest in my true calling and purpose on this earth.
Yes, I get it backwards. Daily. I grieve that I'm getting it backwards, and get it backwards, SIMULTANEOUSLY. Then I cry, apologize, hug and kiss, and try not to yell for 10 minutes while I still feel wretched and wonder what I am doing to these innocent, incredible little guys for whom I am responsible. Then I pray, because "this" kind of mom was never on the list of things I wanted to be when I grew up.
I'm being this honest because I don't believe I'm alone. I think honest people live life like this sometimes. Maybe your drama is different in it's details. But getting it backwards, and hating it - it's all of us. It's our common ground. Our painfully beautiful, sacred common ground.
I'm not going to ever "figure it out" when it comes to exactly what I should be doing every moment with my life because, as I've come to believe, that isn't the point. I'm meant to be looking. I'm meant to be joining others as they look, and proclaiming the assurance markers on the path as I find them. Telling people, "look! beauty is up this way! Just around this corner!" Or going back to the really dark, really ugly places on the path and linking arms with others as they try to decide if it's worth it to keep going. Remembering. Witnessing the ones who ended their journey there. Witnessing the ones who crawl on, bloody, bruised. There is no "figuring it out" there. There is weeping, and praying, and being present to your own life. There is linking arms and holding presence for another's life. There is falling, and failing, and apologizing, and trying again. In this solidarity and love in the muck, there is beauty.
That beauty is the thing my heart gets called back to. It's the essence of the point, though it gets displayed in many different ways. And when I look back at the things I wanted to be when I grew up, I see that the beauty was the theme in it all.
My teacher was kind to me, and she had a passion for teaching, - I didn't want to be a teacher, I wanted to be kind, and passionate. Beauty.
The vast expanse of space and stars and moon tugged on my imagination and sense of wonder. I didn't want to be an astronaut, I wanted to imagine, and discover. Beauty.
Clouds loomed big and billowing, or dark, cracking and thundering, or light and swirling - reflecting every imaginable color and hue - displaying the heavens art on the largest scale imaginable. I didn't want to be a meteorologist, I wanted to inhale and exhale color, to create, to proclaim glory. Beauty.
I recognized that physical beauty effects others in a favorable way - emulating relational love and adoration. I didn't want to be an actress or model, I wanted to be loved and adored for the very essence of who I was. Beauty.
I enjoyed thinking and exchanging ideas and thoughts with others. I enjoyed learning and growing. I didn't want to "be smart" I wanted to thrill with delight at new knowledge and deeper understanding. Beauty.
I believed I had been given the gift of Love beyond measure through Jesus. The answer to the deepest longing of our hearts. I didn't want to be a missionary, I wanted to bring the compassion of God to people in a raw, real, transforming way. I wanted to know it more deeply myself. Beauty.
I'm not going to "figure this out". I am going to hunt the beauty.
This Easter has been fun, filled with love and music and rich family moments. And I've been so grumpy. Not exactly at anyone, maybe not so other's would notice. But things have been more on my nerves than usual. People saying mean or rude things on Facebook. Inconsiderate drivers, slow cashiers, people being rude to slow cashiers. My son's 8 thousand inquiries into the "why's" of the most boring things on the planet, and his inability to tell me one interesting or useful thing he learned in school that day. And did I mention Facebook? Facebook has been really @#$$ing me off lately. Ridiculously so.
And none of it exactly has to do with Easter. But it doesn't exactly NOT have to do with it either.
The last several years of my life I got the opportunity to engage in a more traditional Easter experience. I went to Ash Wednesday services. I gave something up for Lent. I went to Good Friday services. I participated in the Stations of the Cross. I spent time reflecting on the sacrifice that I believe has saved me, and on the Savior I have come to love deeply in my 34 years. I reflected on the areas of my life experiencing death, and resurrection. I love to reflect. It's a part of who I am, to spend time thinking about what is symbolic all around me of the God I serve. I know not everyone likes to do that, not everyone is wired that way, so for some people it's a struggle. I hadn't noticed it being that for me, until this year.
That level of reflection didn't happen in my life this year. I could blame it on the fact that I'm in a different church culture right now and Easter isn't celebrated quite the same way…and that is part of it. A really little part of it. Because I'm in Tulsa, after all. Land of churches. Churches everywhere. So many churches. I could have found whatever services I wanted to, and probably only a mile or two away from home. I just. didn't. want. to.
I didn't want to reflect. I didn't want to think about what Jesus suffered. About how he was betrayed. About how humanity misunderstood. I didn't want to reflect on the deaths and resurrections in my life this year. Didn't want to think about where my heart is grieving and even where there have been new buds of life reaching up. I wonder if plants feel the pain like I do, breaking the soil as they spring up, stretching as they unfold into spaces they've never been, into shapes they've never been.
I don't feel like I've been hiding, or withdrawing particularly in my life. I know that's something I need to look out for. But being "non" reflective…that's not something I know to look out for, or something I particularly know what to do with. I wonder if it's one of those times in life when I should leave it alone, and let it run it's course. Back to the plant analogy, seeds that are germinating end up losing their "seed" essence under ground. They lose who they are for a while as the necessary changes are happening so they can become much more. If they thought about what was happening to them in that moment without understanding what was coming, it would probably look disastrous. Certainly uncomfortable in their "skin" considering their skin was becoming inadequate to contain them.
I feel a bit…underground. Uncomfortable in my skin. Not dead, not even dying. But not exactly myself.
(This shirt is for sale on etsy and I seriously need it!)
I'm a writer. Whatever that means. I'm a person who expresses herself well through writing. I like to write. I've been told I'm good at it. All that. But you wouldn't know it by looking at my blog over the last 6 months.
Most of my writing energy has gone into naps. No, I mean it, I've napped away my posts, poems, letters, thoughts, ideas. My mind hasn't stopped writing, but somehow the idea of sitting down and writing it out is just not appealing. Maybe it's because I get interrupted every 2.5 seconds by a screaming child. Which is happening right this moment. (apparently the kindle game Aiden was playing wasn't behaving)
Or maybe it is that even though a lot is happening in my life right now, I can't find a solid topic to "blog" about. They all run together. So much happens so fast and as soon as I think "I should write that down" it's melded into the next thing and I can't catch it. And maybe a lot of this is because of the getting interrupted every 2.5 seconds. (Since I wrote that last paragraph I fixed the kindle, showed Josiah how to turn on the xbox, and listened to him yell and whine down the hallway about how it's not working. He is currently nearly weeping over it.)
I have heard a lot of people saying lately how if you have a hard time being at home with your kids in America you should stop complaining and realize how good you've got it. I disagree. Yes cherish your kids and don't convince yourself your life is a catastrophe, but it doesn't help to tell yourself to shut up. Staying at home with the kids is hard. Especially this day in age when our role as women in our society is so confusing. We need to talk about it. Not all of us "knew" from the time we were little girls that this is what we wanted, and now that we've decided it, most of us realized that we don't have all the tools we need to be who we want to be. (the xbox game is broken and full on weeping has commenced)
Today I had 2 lovely ladies over for lunch while Josiah was at school and Aiden was napping - ladies in my church who I want to be friends with. Ladies who care about some of the same things I care about - and our conversation re-awakened something that's been slowly burning in me. Passion. We shared parts of our stories, kindly listened, curiously asked questions, 2 hours went by and it wasn't nearly enough. We briefly skimmed the idea of a woman's heart, shame, desire, books and authors we love who talk about the same things, and a hope so bright and warm sprang up in me that I immediately began to fear and feel insecure and full of self doubt. Another part of a woman's heart. I know I'm not alone. I wouldn't be surprised if they felt twinges of the same as their day went on.
We have all been disappointed by life and people and find ways to kill the hope in our hearts because we have felt exposed and betrayed by it.
I came home from picking up Josiah from school and felt so uncomfortable in my skin and tired and like 4 years of sobriety hadn't happened and alcohol was the only thing that would make me feel okay again. I felt frustrated that even though I have forged character in this area, the craving could come back with such force. I knew a battle was raging, and I knew I needed to step in and fight it. So I took a nap.
I laid down on the couch and while sesame street and blues clues entertained my boys (sort of) and Aiden jumped on me, hugged me, or threw legos at my head. I dozed and hid and felt so tired of being so tired. I wrote a blog post in my head (I never remember them, but when that happens I know I need to get on my computer) while I tried to go back to sleep until Bill got home. I just wanted to be numb.
I'm not mad at myself for doing that. I think the best thing to do for yourself is the kindest thing. However, kind and self indulgent aren't the same thing. Kind and lazy aren't the same. Kind and irresponsible aren't the same. You get the picture. I'm still learning to decipher which is which when I'm in the moment.
(Bill is now home from work and the bedroom door is closed, hallelujah)
While I was pretend napping/getting pummeled by my sweet boys (who need to brush their teeth!) I was thinking about how I need to end this napping away my thoughts and words problem. I need to find a way to express my heart and process even though the interruptions come in full force as soon as I grab my laptop. I might not even get to say what I want to say. I might not get a publishable post but I will have honored the fact that I have something to say.
I remembered a little bit of who I am with those ladies today. I remembered that I am passionate and curious and have thoughts to share. I felt a little more alive than I have in a long time. Maybe in moving this summer I earned myself a 6 month long nap, maybe it was the kindest thing I could have done for myself. But I think it's over now, and I feel good about that. I'm ready to be awake.
It has seemed strange to me that some
people from my past have been in front of my face and on my mind
recently. Not just one or two, from one or two incidents, but
multiple people, stirring up all kinds of forgotten feelings and
worries and pain. Some of it has been from conversations. Some from
social media. Some in my mind, for no apparent reason, just there and
not going away. I recognized a connecting thread this morning. This post
refers to a specific event, and specific (unnamed) people, but it
reaches much further than that into my mind and heart and past. Many
people, many events, the same pattern and one answer. Thank God for
A few years ago I was disappointed by
some people who were very dear to me. The dearness of them made the
disappointment particularly painful, and surprising.
I've been thinking of them, and others I've been disappointed by. My mind has been playing
a cat and mouse game of chase, one that exists on auto pilot in the
recesses of my mind. The question is the mouse “How did I let that
happen, and how do I make sure it never happens again? What did I
miss?” The answer is elusive and takes up a lot of ambient mental
energy. It leads to more questions, usually ones I can't answer
without guessing, so it's a time waster. And it is something much
more ugly than that. It becomes dehumanizing. I'll explain.
In my story I have discovered
(recently) a theme that goes back into my childhood of believing that
people are mostly liars, especially when it comes to caring about me.
As long as I am performing a service or being pleasant or maintaining
whatever image is wanted I'm “cared for”. Once I stop, the caring
stops. And sadly, I have evidence of this in my life. So this isn't
about refuting the fact that people disappoint. It is, unfortunately,
about what happens to the soul, my soul, in the attempt to not get
First I usually am outwardly angry, and
inwardly terrified that somehow I made it happen. It's my fault, I'm
defective, this wouldn't have happened if I had been more...fill in
the blank.Then I chuck all that and say screw them, their loss, if
this is who they are I don't want them in my life anyway, I should
have known. Which leads me then to the long trek I take down “Why
didn't I see it” lane. I thought they really cared. I believed
them. I trusted them. I must have cared more than they did, why do I
always do that? They are such good liars, and now they are out there
fooling more people, someone should stop them.
I make myself crazy going back and
forth with these questions and accusations. I don't want to feel
victimized again. I want to pick the right people with the right
motives every time, so I don't have to feel stupid for “caring
more” about the wrong people or getting taken in thinking someone
cares about my heart when they care about a service I can render.
And then I don't have to think about
whether or not my motives are right with people. I don't have
to turn the other cheek, because they will have never gotten to the
the first cheek. I don't have to deal with real people, and I don't
have to love. Because in the end, that's what got rejected. My love.
My imperfect, human, messy love. That's where it hurts.
The cat and mouse stop running around
and all the threads of how this and why that and never agains...they
go quiet when I say to myself, “I still love them.” Not in the
“I'm drumming up goodwill and happy thoughts because I want to get
them out of my system and what the heck it's been over 2 years and
the holidays are coming so, yeah, love all around, even for those
My “I still love them” hits me at
the core. It admits that I miss them. I wish I knew if they ever
thought of me. I wish I knew if I mattered. I hope good things are
happening in their lives. It's the memory of how empty my life felt
after our falling out. It takes the wind out of my self contempt, and
out of my idolatry of them. Somehow real love does that. It lays me
open, and humbles me. The kind of humbling that lets your soul
And this is where, in recent days, I've
found my feet. I don't have to be ashamed of loving people who may or
may not have loved me the way I thought they did. I don't have to
worry about whether or not they meant to be deceptive. The questions
are irrelevant. Yes, discernment is good, being wise is important,
but along with it doesn't have to come skepticism, fear, hatred, self
protection, etc. After all, the Bible tells us that Love covers a
multitude of sins, and friends, we all have our own multitude. I do.
In “protecting” myself I have let myself completely, in turns,
dehumanize them, and myself. I worshipped them. I abhorred them. I
trusted them. I rejected them.
I also loved them.
And love them.
If I turn it around on them it looks
like this. They cared about me. They lied to me. They helped me. They
dismissed me. They wanted what I offered, not who I was. They loved
who I was.
They loved me.
I do not know if they “love” me.
That is uncharted territory, and I won't lie, because this thing I'm
doing here is confession. It's the truth I'm mining for, and I don't
want to wrap it up with a pretty bow and say “they still love me”.
I don't know. I hope so. I don't think I'm being skeptical. I know
how ugly endings can taint love until it becomes unrecognizable. I
hope that hasn't happened.
What I do know is that there is Love that is pure, and when I find my feet there the ugly parts
reveal themselves and start to fall away. I think the more often I
can get my feet there the better I'll be able to tell where my wicked
heart has been fooling me. I want to learn to live there.
(This post is not a veiled attempt to get anyone's attention. I already had one friend check in and make sure we were good - I don't want anyone worrying about that! The individuals this is about would know if it was about them, and I seriously doubt they read my blog. This is just me, sharing my process and journey, and trying to understand what it means to love and forgive and be human.)
I read a poem this morning. Mary Oliver. I imagine I will meet her one day in Heaven and thank her for speaking my language and offering her soul.
This poem was called "Great Moth Comes from His Papery Cage".
Maybe you aren't into poetry. That's okay. Just stick with me a minute.
Gone is the worm, that tunnel body. Gone is the mouth that loved
leaves and tomatoes.
Gone are the innumerable feet.
He is beautiful now and shivers into the air
as if he has always known how,
who crawled and crawled all summer.
He has wide wings, with a flare at the bottom.
The moon excites him. The heat of the night excites him.
But, where did the dance come from?
Surely not out of a simple winter's sleep.
Surely its more than ambition, this new architecture!
What could it be, that does it?
Let me look closer, and a long time, the next time
I see green blooded worm crawling and curling
hot day after hot day
among the leaves and the smooth, proud tomatoes.
I see my redemptive God in this. I doubt God thinks the worm any less beautiful than the moth, though He knew we would. Imagining how God must feel about the worm, his own creation, is comforting, since I feel so much like one these days. "Crawling and curling hot day after hot day". Not seeming to get very far, needing every bit of every leaf and tomato I can find.
I have had times of coming out of my "papery cage" as well. I have seen myself transform. Where I depart from the moth is that as far as I know the moth doesn't have a choice. It probably couldn't choose to stay a worm…I don't know. I can though. I choose to be the worm, or to let somehow, miraculously, the hot days of crawling turn into a shivering dance. The choosing is my part. The rest is God's. I cannot give myself wings. I can willingly crawl, and willingly wait as I am given a body better suited to my new and truest nature.
She asks the question - "What could it be, that does it?" - then leans toward an answer by saying she will look "closer, and a long time" when she sees the worm again. And I resonate - I say yes, it is this inching along that I'm doing.
This getting up every day, opening my fists every day, getting angry, returning to a kinder, gentler place, getting tired and letting myself rest, feeling small and petty, asking to be made more spacious and generous, feeling grief and letting myself grieve - inch, inch, inch, crawl, curl, hot day after hot day - it is this that is doing it. It happens in the deep, deep places, and in the small, small moments.
Reading this was a distant reassurance marker for me today. A sign saying - you aren't super far away yet, but head back this way. The small moments and the deep places have been problematic for me lately. They are also usually somewhat unseen. And I feel unseen. Even by myself. Disconnected, lonely. Then the inching along feels like an insult. Like I've been put on an abandoned road by an uninterested, preoccupied God who expects more than I can give and punishes me when I stumble. Who's attitude is "do what I want, or leave me alone".
I can't tell you how many times I've called God a jerk since we moved here.
And something happens in that small moment. I clench my teeth and my fists and I replace my loneliness and sadness with rage and disappointment, and I harden. And I curse God for taking away my alcohol when he knew how it would help. And I turn the world inside out and turn even the gentle, kind, healing places into nothing more than things/people I am ashamed of ever needing so much that I deluded myself into believing they were real.
It is cruel. And I confess it because there are too many of you out there who have been gentle, kind and healing, and you are exquisitely real. Gifts I do not intend to throw away.
My confession is an inching. An aching, longing inch. I am crawling toward the day my papery cage opens for me again, and I emerge winged with my course set on the moon.