Anyone who knows me is probably surprised by this, because I am the messiest person in my house (or any house… or dorm room… or any room). I tend to hold off on cleaning until I absolutely have to. Like, until you can’t see the floor in my room messy.
So me choosing to clean doesn’t exactly happen. But all my roommates were out of town, I didn’t have a field trip or any pressing work to do, and I felt the need to be productive. So I went for it. Cleaned the kitchen Saturday night, and the living rooms Sunday.
It’s simple, ordinary work really. I had the time and a house to myself, free of distraction and of people coming and going. It was just me and my music and some out-loud talks with Jesus about all the things.
I scrubbed the stove,
I swept the floors,
I wiped windows and doors,
I washed dishes and organized pots.
All ordinary work, usual chores from the chore chart. But I think sometimes the Lord speaks most clearly through those little, ordinary acts of obedience. It’s through the ordinary that the extraordinary comes through, if we’re paying attention.
While cleaning the living room on Sunday, I was listening to a Holy Week playlist on Spotify (from Sacred Ordinary Days– so good). A thought popped into my head about Spring Cleaning– when we transition our homes from winter to spring, thoroughly deep cleaning our homes to prepare for the light of spring to come.
While spring cleaning wasn’t really my intention this weekend, it kind of ended up happening– I opened up the curtains and let the light in as I swept and scrubbed and cleaned from head-to-toe, letting the bright sunshine from the 80 degree day bathe the room in its light.
I was sweeping, singing along to the music playing from my speaker, when a voice popped in my head. I heard a quiet whisper:
this is what I’m doing in you, too. you are being cleaned and made new.
I couldn’t help but scratch my head a little… huh? What the heck? I’m being cleaned? From what?!?
Then a verse (a favorite of mine) popped into my head:
“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
“Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”
(Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT and The Voice, respectively)
He is doing a new thing. But in order to do a new thing, I’ve learned, we have to take care of the old.
To do all that changing and making things new, we have to clean out the old ways, thoughts, and images I have in my head and move the new things He’s doing straight into my heart.
So I started thinking about all the things in my life… in my heart that need cleaning. And together, Jesus and I are beginning to change those things– a lot of the things, I learned, were things we’d been conversatin’ about the night before while cleaning the kitchen. (I’m glad I used that time to pray and be productive, Jesus!)
So we clean.
We scrub all the old thoughts, ideations, and excuses away;
We sweep the dust from the past out from under my feet– and into the trash, where I can’t keep looking for it;
We wash off the dirt and grime of overthinking and overanalyzing every word and action;
We shake off the feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and not being good enough;
We dust off the worries and fears of the future, the uncertainty of what’s next;
We have to usher out the old habits– the old ways I try to control my circumstances, the old places I go to for help and comfort (food, Netflix, isolation– the list goes on, people) and the old things I run to where I don’t want to run to His arms (people pleasing, striving, running away from my problems…again, Jesus has never been my first place to run to, y’all).
Notice this is all in present-tense. Because… I suck at all of these things. I am nowhere near complete at this process. Hell, I’ve barely started having more conversations about this stuff with Him– this is the stuff of me and my therapist (and maybe a few people in my inner-circle, but even that’s not so much these days).
But alas, He wants me to be a new thing. Just like everything with me, this is a work in progress. Barely even that– it’s merely the beginning of the cleaning process. I haven’t yet to figure out what or how he wants me to clean all these things (and actually do this thing called life), but at least I’ve heard him say that this is what He wants of me. And today, that’s enough to at least get the job started.
So I’m slowly beginning this cleaning process, albeit begrudgingly. Remember, cleaning is not my forte nor my favorite pastime (understatement of the century). Especially this kind of cleaning– the kind where I have to go deep into my own mess and the muck and try hard to get it cleaned. Because these messes? They aren’t surface-level. They’re deep and filled with muck and grime and cobwebs, where I’ve put them off in the corner to be forgotten or left them for dead. But like the spring cleaning of the house, this cleaning must be done, too. Because this is what the Lord has called me to do. Just like I had an urge to clean the house, he is nudging me towards this cleaning and remodeling of myself and my ways.
He wants me to be the best version of who He’s made me to be; in order to do that, I have to clean out who I was and who I’ve been, and start to let him make me new and clean and shiny again.
This isn’t just a one day kind of cleaning, I have a feeling (sigh). It’s going to be a process. It’s not an easy process. I hate hard things, y’all. And long things. Especially when they have to do with me and all my baggage and mess. There’s going to be a lot of sweat and work involved, I’m sure. Tears too, probably. But at the end of today, I got to rest and relax in a clean house, comfortable and content. I had done what I needed to do, and that
was enough. That’s what he wants in my life too– for me to rest and relax in who He’s made me to be. But to get there, I have to do this spring cleaning within me. Out with the old, in with the new– it’s not just a thing we say, it’s an action we take.
But he promises he’ll make things new if I do this cleaning thing. He’ll bring beauty from the mess, if I let him into the middle of it. He promises he’ll make a way for me to get through, even though this cleaning process is probably going to be long and dark and unsure. He promises a way. He IS the way.
It’s time to let Him do a new thing in me.
It’s time to open up the windows let the light flood in.
(was introduced to them via the Holy Week playlist linked above. I.love.them.)
“Why is it so easy to look for help everywhere but the feet of Jesus?”
I read that in my Lent devotional Thursday night and felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
I hate asking for help. I suck at it, if I’m being truthful. As I’ve written before, I’d rather be the helper than admit I’m the one needing help.
Asking for help means relinquishing control. Admitting that I need people or need something. It means having to surrender my power and plans and say that I can’t do it on my own.
I hate that. I want to have it all together and do it all by myself, for myself.
But I can’t. I just can’t.
My first line of defense definitely isn’t to ask Jesus for help. Hell, that’s usually my last desperate plea, begging for help when I finally get off my high horse and admit that I don’t have it all together. Clutching at my last shred of dignity in myself before I finally give up the ghost and surrender it all to the One that knows me and my life better than I do.
Truthfully, my first line of defense is to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay.
That’s usually coupled with my knee-jerk reaction to run like the wind from all life’s problems. (I talk about this more later in this post. The realization of this particular defense mechanism came about in therapy over the past few months, and is worth its own blog post in the near future).
But seeking out help? Not my strong suit.
During Lent, I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah, a book with a lot of my favorite pieces of scripture in it– but not a book I’ve studied in order or in its entirety. (It’s long! And there’s a lot of scary stuff in there I don’t want to read! All the more reason why I’m reading it!)
One thing I’ve realized about the book of Isaiah so far: it’s a tug of war between God and his people.
He wants so desperately to help his people. To be a God of mercy and justice that protects His people. He wants to be a God of love and not of wrath.
But they don’t get that. They keep living lives of destruction and lives away from their maker. They do everything in their power to run and survive on their own terms, by their own means.
And it’s destroying them. Literally.
I’m about 1/3 of the way through, the past few days getting into Isaiah 29-31. There were a few verses in these books that pricked me. Scripture isn’t all warm and fuzzy and comforting, I’ve learned. I usually look to scripture for comfort and support, but it’s not always that– it can be harsh and reality-shaking. Sometimes it pulls the wool off your eyes and makes you see right into the heart of your sin. That’s how I felt reading these verses– a shiver went down my spine when I realized the weight of who I was in the story.
Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. They do their works in the dark, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing”? (Isaiah 29:15-16, CSB)
The Lord said, “How terrible it will be for these stubborn children. They make plans, but they don’t ask me to help them. They make agreements with other nations, without asking my Spirit. They are adding more and more sins to themselves. 2 They go down to Egypt for help without asking me about it first. They hope they will be saved by the king of Egypt; they want Egypt to protect them. 3 But hiding in Egypt will bring you only shame; Egypt’s protection will only disappoint you. (Isaiah 30:1-3, NCV)
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the Lord. 2 But he also is wise and brings disaster. He does not go back on what he says; he will rise up against the house of the wicked and against the allies of evildoers. (Isaiah 31:1-2, CSB)
I love the Message version of that last verse:
Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking that horses can help them, Impressed by military mathematics, awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders— And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God. Still, he must be reckoned with, a most wise God who knows what he’s doing. He can call down catastrophe. He’s a God who does what he says.
How many times in my life have I said something to the effect of,
-I’ll do it myself!
-I can figure this out on my own.
-I don’t need anyone else’s opinion or advice.
– It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.
-I know what’s best for my life. It’s my life, after all.
-God doesn’t care about little me, so I’ll just do this without him.
-I know this is what I should do, so I’m just going to get it done on my own.
And fill in the blank of many more similar statements that I’ve said over the course of my life… I’ve always been an I’ll-do-it-myself-or-not-at-all type of person. I like being the fixer, the one that makes everything all better.
But I’m not. I’m not the one that can fix everything and make it right or better. I can’t do this life thing on my own.
I’ve put all my confidence in who I am and what I’m capable of…which I’ve come to find out is not much. At least, not much without Him.
“Pay attention to what I say,
you overconfident daughters.” (Isaiah 32:9 CSB)
That’s me. The overconfident daughter, always trying to strive and do all the things without help to prove that she’s enough on her own. The one that thinks she’s in control and does everything in her power to maintain that control.
I can’t plan my life or get through it without the One that made it. I’ve tried making plans down to the detail and watched it all blow up in my face (hello, student teaching! hello, panic attacks and anxiety disorder!). It’s no fun, y’all.
Yet I keep doing it.
I keep planning and ignoring God’s plans, thinking I know better.
I keep trying to carry the weight and the burden on my own.
I keep refusing help and guidance when it’s what i really need right now.
I keep thinking I know best, I can do it all, I can balance all the plates and all the things without God or anyone else…
and that’s sin. Right in front of my face. It’s the first time I’ve called it that, but it IS.
The sin of pride. Of thinking I know better than God what my life should look like. He made it, yet I know how to live it better? To claim that he doesn’t know what he’s doing?That’s 100% pride.
Relying on myself and my own limited capabilities is denying the power and strength of God in me. It’s denying that God’s grace is what makes me sufficient, not me or my own strength.
Trying to be self-sufficient and “do it all” is not self-sufficient at all. It’s selfish. It’s me trying to put my hope and trust in myself and my lacking human abilities instead of believing and trusting in the God of abundance.
Putting my hope and trust in myself and the temporal things this earth offers, instead of seeking Him and His help, does nothing but lead me down a path of exhaustion and struggle.
The people of Judah did the same thing. They were in trouble, in fear of Assyrian soldiers on their border, and kept turning to their own devices for saving. They tried to save themselves, and look for someone else to lead them into safety instead of the one that made them. So they ran from God, and into the arms of another.
The people that they found to lead them into safety? Egypt. The very people that enslaved them.
They sought out an alliance with the people that had hurt them in the past. They chose to turn back to what they knew instead of walking into the unknown… even though what they knew was nothing but bad news.
A quote from my devotional reads: “Yet in crisis they turned to what they could see and remember, rather than seeking God’s merciful path forward.”
So, when Judah discovered the Assyrian army on the border, they ran. But they didn’t run to the safety of their God… no, they ran to what they knew. They ran thinking of how they could fix the problem, leaning on their own devices and their own abilities. In crisis, they reverted back to what they could see (instead of trusting the unseen, they depending on pagan gods and the like), and what they could remember (they were enslaved by Egypt, sure, but hey, at least they were alive! and they knew what to expect! *eye roll*) They thought that they could handle it on their own… which clearly, if you’re running to the people who held you as slaves, is very untrue. 😉
Despite this, God still wanted to be their help. He longed for Judah to turn back to Him and let Him help them. He still wanted to be the place they went for safety. As my devotional reads, “but their faithful God longed for them to turn upward toward His mercy, and forward on the path He made for them.”
Upwards toward His mercy. He wants us to focus on Him. Fix our eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith, as it’s written in Hebrews 12:2.
Forward on the path He made them. He wants them to not run back to the failures and mistakes of the past, just for comfort or security. That’s what He’s for. But he does want Judah (and us) to keep moving forward. He’s got the path set out. He’s got it planned. (and He doesn’t need our help planning it, or us trying to plan it ourselves). He calls us to move both upward towards him, and forward on the journey he’s got us on. We can’t stay put. (ugh).
I’m quite like the people of Judah, I’ve learned. In fact, I wrote in my Bible study book as I read this story, “man, I’m like Judah.” Gut check!
When I get overwhelmed or I realize I’m not in control of a situation… I run. I hide. I get out of there before things get worse or I get hurt or rejected.I surround myself with what’s familiar and what I like instead of getting out of my comfort zone to do something new. I rely on old habits and security blankets to find solace instead of seeking God for comfort and peace. I don’t like when things get too hard or uncomfortable for me to do on my own… so when they get to that point, it’s easier for me to just give up and move on.
When in crisis, I run for the hills. I run to find comfort in things (food, Netflix, books, internet, sleep, social media, the list goes on) and what I know (striving, fixing, working to be enough, people pleasing, ignoring problems, burying my feelings, hiding, isolating).
I really AM like the people of Judah. I don’t look upward or forward for help. I look at me, and try to fix myself.
Why is it so easy to look backwards but not forwards? WHY is it so easy to fall back on the past and the old way of life when the one Jesus has for us is so much better?
Why is it so easy to look for help, comfort, solace, EVERYWHERE but the feet of Jesus– our true Comforter, our Prince of Peace? Why can’t I depend on him? Why can’t I need him?
For me: I like the old way of doing things. I like my comfort. I like my easy way, where no one gets hurt and everything’s safe and cozy. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s predictable and I know what to expect. It’s not going anywhere. Sure, it’s not making me better or changing me… but at least I’m not going to get hurt or rejected or fill-the-fear-in-the-blank by staying put where I am.
but that’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus calls us to focus forward and upward– towards His plans and path made for us, and to Him for comfort instead of slipping backward into familiar territory.
Going forward into the future where things are unknown? Flipping terrifying. But that’s why He is our help. Our only solid, never-changing, constant help in trouble. That’s who he is. That’s who he wants to be for us. For me.
He wants to be my help. He wants me to WANT His help. He wants me to believe that I need him and his help.
Therefore, the Lord us waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. (Isaiah 30:18 CSB).
He is waiting on us. Waiting on me.
He is waiting to show us mercy. He’s waiting to be our help, to love us back to life.
But we have to accept his help. We have to run from our self-sufficient selves and deny that we can do this on our own to get that mercy and compassion. We have to quit running from Him and run toward Him and His promises.
I have to lean on Him for help and strength in every situation, and quit depending on myself to get it all done (when that’s not what he wants of me in the first place).
“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” (Isaiah 30:15 CSB)
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by helping yourself or planning your life on your own.
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by handling your problems on your own.
It doesn’t say your strength lies in striving and being enough on your own.
It doesn’t say that you’ll be delivered by running and hiding.
It says that by returning (instead of running) and resting (instead of doing it all yourself), He will deliver us. He will lead us down the path He’s planned out for us. And our strength will be in our confidence in who He is and His promises for me, instead of it being in who I am.
By being willing to accept His help, He will help me. He will guide me and bring me comfort when life looks differently than I expect. There’s nowhere I’ll go without his presence. There’s nothing I can do to be separated from His love for me.
He is in control. He is sufficient for all of life’s worries and fears. He will help me, comfort me, and be my safety.
Admitting my need is so hard. I HATE being needy. I HATE relinquishing control and surrendering to the fact that I need help. But there’s no way for me to do this life the right way without relying on God– without admitting that I NEED him every hour of the day, I need help with every aspect of my life. It’s hard.
But when I admit that? I quit running to those old habits and familiar thoughts. I quit running away and giving up because I know it’s not my strength or sufficiency doing the work. And I realize that I can do all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unknown or scary or different they may be– not on my own strength, but through strength the Lord has given me.
Help is a tricky thing. Relying on someone or something else isn’t always guaranteed. But relying on God to help me means I can unload the burdens life on my own has given me. I can let him shoulder the failures and rejections and fears and stresses, and He will be sufficient and strong enough to hold them all.
Because I am not strong, y’all. I am frail and weary and all kinds of needy without Jesus.
But with his help, I can be who He made me to be, and follow the path He’s called me to be on. By needing Him, I no longer have to rely on myself to do and be it all.
In my Bible study book, I wrote this prayer as I was reading Isaiah 30: Lord, help me to WANT to NEED You.
I want to need You, Jesus. I want to need Your help. I know I need it, but I want to need it instead of not wanting to accept help like my usual striving self. I want to rely on You and your help instead of trying to help myself. Because I’ve learned, helping myself does nothing but send me to places and things that won’t sustain me like You do. I can’t plan my own life. I can’t depend on the things of this world to comfort me or help me. But I can depend on you, the author and perfector of my faith. I can lean on you, and you will deliver me into rest. You will provide comfort and a hand to walk me down the path you’ve made for me. I want to need you, Jesus. Help me ask for help. Help me to want to need you every hour instead of thinking I can do all of this on my own. Lead me to seek help at your feet instead of the places I run to– the things that bring me only temporary comfort. Help me to seek you first before I run and hide from the problems life gives me. Because I can’t do this on my own. Amen.
This song has been on repeat as of late…
I lift my hands to Heaven Here my heart surrendered I tell my soul again You are Lord of all And though the seas are raging You will speak and tame them In You I find my rest You are in control
“That was awful. Why did you think it’d be anything but?”
“Oh, that was definitely directed right at you.”
“Everything is going to get messed up.”
“You messed up, so you suck.”
That comment was totally about you.
“You are the worst.”
“This is all going to go wrong.”
“No one’s listening.”
“You are just in the way.”
“Something is wrong with you.”
“You aren’t wanted.”
“Maybe the world would be better off…”
“You can’t do it.”
“No one cares.”
“You’re a screwup.”
“Life isn’t worth it.”
These are just some of the voices that I hear on a daily basis, fighting for me to embrace and accept what they say as truth. Day in, day out, every action is accompanied by some rogue thought that is planted in my brain by the likes of mental illness. And these are just some of them. They just begin to paint the picture of what it’s like to live with these struggles, one telling you that everything is wrong and the other saying nothing is worth it.
Depression and anxiety are the backseat drivers of my life, taking over my every thought and move with an annoying comment or an “are we there yet? (but worse)” every five minutes. They nag and they pull at every fiber of my being until I begin to emotionally, mentally, physically unravel. And then I just collapse under the weight of it all hitting me at once.
Some weeks these voices take over my thinking, like a tape recorder constantly playing in the background of my days, trying to scream at me with things that my brain wants me to think about myself.
Some weeks they scream loudly after every mistake or every conversation, overpowering any kind word or thought about myself.
It’s been one of those kind of weeks.
It’s been a rough mental week, which means I’ve been dealing a lot with the extra loud screaming voices in my head- the ones from anxiety telling me to overthink everything and be hyper sensitive, to the depression ones telling me that I’m not good enough or that no one cares. I deal with these external voices day in and day out, but sometimes they’re louder than I need them to be.
I’ve been studying the book of John over the past few weeks with She Reads Truth. John is my favorite gospel and one of my favorite books of the Bible. I’m a little behind (what’s new?) so I got to Day 12 this week– the story of The Good Shepherd (John 10). It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, but this week, I felt like I read it with fresh eyes– or through the eyes of my mental illness. What I took away from it this time around was different than what I’d taken from it before.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:9-18, ESV, emphasis mine)
I was reading quietly, nodding along… until I got to this:
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
A thought popped in my head that I wrote in my SRT study book: There are a lot of “hired men” represented in my life.
A lot of voices, thoughts, what have you that set up camp in my head and heart long enough for me to believe them. But then these voices and thoughts run off and hide when met with truth– proof that they are not the voice I’m supposed to be listening for.
Anxiety doesn’t care about me. It flings me to the wolves when the going gets tough and overwhelms me with fear and worry.
Depression doesn’t care about me. It makes me hyper sensitive to the world around me, makes me numb to whatever feelings I need to feel, and forces me to think I’m not worth caring for. It forces me in front of the wolves, fleeing behind me to avoid what’s next.
There are other voices too– voices from people that tell me I’m not enough, or people that tell me I’m this or not that. I’ve had people tell me who I am and what to do and not to do my whole life, sometimes I don’t think I have a voice for myself at all. I’ve listened to a lot of voices– from people, media, etc. There are a lot of voices vying for head space, vying for attention.
There are a lot of voices I’ve listened to before I listen to the voice of the Shepherd. These other voices take up precious headspace from the one true voice I should be listening to.
The voices of anxiety trying to make me worry about every little thing (instead of trusting that the Shepherd will care for me and won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
The voices of depression tell me that numbing myself to feeling makes everything better (instead of going to the Father for comfort, knowing that He was human and understands feelings). Depression tells me that I’m not worth anything and I should give up (where the voice of the Shepherd tells me that I am a daughter and because of that I am worth it all– and that in Him I can do everything).
The voices of others tell me I have to look like this or act like that, that I can’t do this or be that, where God tells me that I have a purpose and he will be faithful in making that purpose come alive– no matter what it is or if I’m qualified for it. (He prefers unqualified people from the likes of the Bible, so I’m good there!).
All these other voices makes it hard to hear the true voice. The voice that promises to guide me day in and day out. The voice of the one who made me and knows me well.
Even when I don’t know the road ahead of me, I can breathe knowing that there’s a Shepherd calling me by name, a Shepherd that knows me and won’t let me be snatched out of his hand.
Something tells me that His voice is worth listening to over the voices in my head. Even when they scream louder than His calm whisper. Even when the thoughts are overwhelming to the point where I can’t hear any voice, let alone the voice of the Shepherd.
His voice is the only one that can guide me where I’m meant to go.
His voice is the only one that can bring me comfort when I don’t know where to turn.
His voice is the one that stills the waters when they’re raging around me and I feel like I’m going to drown.
His voice is the voice that leads me to full life. Abundant life. Those other voices, like the hired hands of the fields, can’t offer that.
It’s time to stop giving in to the voices that scream at me versus the one that brings me life.
I need to learn how to live against the voices and follow the one voice that guides me out of my past and into the future, no matter if I can’t see it. Because choosing to be against the voices that lie and steal and destroy leads me to the voice that gives me comfort and beauty and a full life. And that is the voice that I need to be following, not those others– no matter how loud or convincing they may be.
I am found (he saw me at my worst and still wanted me).
I am chosen (he calls me out by name to be his).
I am beloved (loved enough to have Him die for me).
I am wanted (he wants a relationship with me– he is the lover of my soul).
I am helped (because he gives me strength to do all the things).
I am cared for(because he gives me rest).
I am healed (by his wounds).
I am free (bought with the blood).
I am a daughter (because He is my heavenly father).
I have a hope and a future (because he declares that he has a good plan for me)
I am held (by a Father who won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
I am enough (because of Jesus in me).
I am forgiven (grace sets me free from all I have done and will do).
I have nothing to fear (He has me in the palm of his hand).
These are the truths I should be clinging to (and many more). These are the words from the voice that loves, the voice that guides me into everlasting and full life. These words come from someone that isn’t going to up and run when the world gets tough– no, these are words from a Shepherd who is my Father, my comforter, and my friend. And His word promises me that His voice will bring me wherever He leads me… that His voice will comfort me with truth and love, not with fear or doubt.
His voice is the only one worth listening to.
And His voice is the only one I was truly meant to follow.
It’s time to fight back against the voices that tell me otherwise.
I tearfully said this to my counselor this past week. Towards the end of our session, it came out pretty much like word vomit– completely off the cuff, part of the inner dialogue of my brain that just came spilling out in a vulnerable moment as she was wrapping up our conversation.
This conversation stemmed from an ongoing internal dialogue I’ve been having since… I don’t know, the beginning of time? But really, it’s been a recurring theme in my life, a wound that I finally acknowledged out loud recently:
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible. like an outsider, different from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like the odd one out. Overlooked or uninvited. Invisible. Unimportant.
I was always the kid without a partner in school projects, hoping the teachers would choose for us so I didn’t have to go through the agony of being left out; I was always one of the last ones chosen for whatever team sport being played in gym, usually opting to miss out and watch from the sidelines.
I live with a fear of being forgotten and missing out, or of being dropped as a friend for someone or something better. (It’s happened more than once in my life).
I’ve always felt alone in a crowded room. Alienated. Ignored.
Invisible is probably the best word to describe it: I’m there, hearing and seeing everything, but no one sees me. No one understands me (or tries to).
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I was in my own world separate from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like an outsider in my family. My personality is vastly different from most of my family members; my opinions are different (and have been since I was a little girl, but I didn’t speak on them until I was older); my interests and hobbies have always been polar opposite of what my family enjoys (I never have and never will consider watching football or any sport fun). I’ve always been different. And it’s always left me feeling like something was wrong with me because I was so different, because no one was quite like me (or expressed an interest in anything like me).
There’s nothing wrong with it, I’ve realized; it’s just how it’s always been with my family. But that doesn’t make it any easier feeling like an outsider with your own flesh and blood. When you don’t have anything in common with the people you spend most of your life with, and no one acknowledges your differences… it makes you question yourself. So I did, for a long, long time. (And I still do sometimes).
(Trust me, sitting at the Thanksgiving table eating your Thanksgiving dinner alone while the rest of the family watches football will make you question your invisible-ness even more than normal. /sigh)
This has been a theme of my life in other places, too.
I’ve always felt like the outsider in my friendships… the one that could very easily be left off the invite list, or could easily be forgotten about at the party.
I’m the one that loves and loves hard… and it feels like I don’t get loved back. At least in the ways I need to be.
I’m always the one checking on people, writing notes or sending encouraging texts. I’m always the one listening intently. I care about others’ feelings and stories and passions and quirks. I make sure to remember certain things about people. And yet that’s never reciprocated. It’s appreciated, and I love that I encourage and love people this way– but it never feels good when I’m the one needing the encouragement and support and don’t get it. No one ever does what I do for them in return (not that that’s why I do it, but it would make a girl feel loved every now and again).
I feel invisible when I try to hold conversation and share my stories and thoughts often. I’m always overshadowed. I’m interrupted and talked over constantly, making me think what I say doesn’t matter (which has been another ongoing theme in my life since childhood, so yay). I’ve not been paid attention to or taken seriously… sometimes to the point where I’m thinking, do people actually SEE me?!” (I sometimes choose to be obnoxiously loud so that I actually know people hear me, because sometimes it feels like I’m not even there. Oops).
It’s happened more than once just this week. It sure doesn’t make you feel good.
I’ve had this issue with friend groups… former roommates/suitemates… you name it, I’ve probably felt like the outsider looking in at one point or another.
Sometimes I feel invisible in my own home,
my (now former) schools,
It’s hard to speak up and actually make your presence known when you’re afraid no one’s going to listen or care. So I just sit in the back, or away from people, hiding and daydreaming.
I was the girl who got rejected by her ex-best friend when she found someone better (and then got dragged through the mud as a result, oh middle school drama).
For the longest time, I was the only friend in my friend group that came from a blended/broken/divorced home.
I was the kid that was bullied (for what reason, I don’t remember truthfully) in middle school and felt alienated and alone because of it.
I was the ‘different’ one in my friend group in high school (the choir kid in a group of drama kids).
I was the Jesus-obsessed holier-than-thou roommate my freshman year of college (which I now realize was the worst kind of me to be– sorry, suitemates). Then I had the roommate that was my friend (or thought was my friend) but rejected me shortly after we started living together. Then I lived by myself, because it was easier than being rejected by another roommate.
I was the one friend that graduated a year later than the rest, starting my ‘adulthood’ journey later than everyone in our friend group.
These days, I spend a lot of time alone, the odd one out in my house of 5 where everyone else has kind of buddied up (on accident, but still). I’ve had the same best friend for nearly a decade, but I barely see or hear from her unless I initiate it these days. I get it, life gets busy and things change… but it doesn’t hurt any less.
I text friends back often and usually immediately. My texts could go response-less and ignored for days.
I hate always being the one to initiate things. I hate being the one that cares so much. I want someone to care enough to text me, to invite me to do things. It just doesn’t happen.
I really just hate feeling alone.
These things truthfully are not about me and shouldn’t get to me in this way, but they just open and re-open wounds: I don’t belong. I’m not cared about. I’m not wanted. I’m too different. I’m not worth the effort or the time. So while these things look small, they have a huge impact on someone who has lived in this mindset her whole life.
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible, the outsider looking in. Anna Kendrick wrote in her memoir that “I’ve been prepared to be an outsider most of my life.” It couldn’t be more true for me. I’ve always been more anxious, more sensitive, more… just different I guess.
I don’t want to be invisible. I don’t like being an outsider, or feeling alone when surrounded by people.
paradox: a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
I’m pretty sure people with mental illness could be a study in paradoxes.
One day last year I was chatting with my mom while running errands, and she asked me if the coming weekend was daylights savings. When I responded yes, she exclaimed, “oh! we get an extra hour of sleep, Jordie.”
“But it gets dark at 5pm!” I said, exasperation and pure sadness tinging my voice.
“True. That’s the worst thing about it, I guess.” my mom says, and continues on.
Yeah, that’s not the worst thing about it for me.
Today I was on my way home for Thanksgiving break. I looked out the window to see that it had slowly become pitch black on the 40 minute ride. It wasn’t even 5 o’clock yet.
I sighed, staring out the window into the darkness.
The darkness. This is why I hate daylights savings time.
My anxiety and depression overwhelm me when the sudden darkness and the long nights of the wintertime start.
I hate it. Hate. it. When it gets dark at 4,5 o’clock I feel like my day is over in the afternoon. It makes me feel like everything is enveloped in darkness and it’s going to last forever and I get sad and despairing for the night to be over. I get shaky and clammy and fearful when the world gets dark and quiet.
And yet, I can’t sleep when it’s dark. My body freaks out as soon as my head hits the pillow in the pitch blackness, and I toss and turn fitfully until light breaks through the next morning. It’s like I suddenly wake up and decide that it’s time to do all the things I apparently didn’t do during the day.
The dark is when I get most of my work done. It’s when I read, when I write, when I have quiet time.
It’s like I simultaneously shut down and wake up when the sun sets. My depression shuts me down when the sun goes down, yet because of my anxiety, I’m afraid to go to sleep. So I stay awake, hoping the dark fades soon enough.
How does this even make sense? Short answer: it doesn’t. But it’s how my brain works these days. I hate the darkness, yet it’s the only time and space I fully function.
I’ve been a night owl since college– all the late nights of paper writing, studying, and hangouts with friends caught up with me and have forced a nightly rhythm that I didn’t have before. I’d stay up till 11,12, 1am when my high school schedule typically put me to bed before 9. Totally out of my norm, but I slowly started loving those late nights of typing or late night chats that gave way to either late or coffee-filled mornings.
But it wasn’t just those school or friend things that kept me awake late. It was those things at first, but those didn’t stay the reason I went to sleep late.
I started staying up late- really late- when the panic attacks started.
I was scared. So, so scared. I was afraid if I’d sleep I’d not wake up the next morning. I was afraid I’d die in my sleep of some unknown sickness, so my solution was to not sleep. Sleeping meant I was dying. I’d cry and fight sleep with all my might. So I’d stay up till 3, 4, even 5 am– I’d be attempting to sleep as my mom was getting ready to leave for work. Attempting being the key word. I’d be in my room (both at home and in the dorm) alone, scared that I wouldn’t see the next day.
I thought that if I could avoid the dark by staying awake until the light, I’d be okay.
Then I’d do it all over again the next night. It was a constant, terrifying cycle for 3 or 4 months.
I was absolutely, devastatingly broken in this season.
Thankfully the introduction of medicine and therapy specifically for my anxiety helped me find solutions to get sleep– even though I was still slightly terrified of dying in my sleep.
2 years later and I’m still fearful of that happening.
Life circumstances have changed and have forced me back into the rhythms of the morning: living with 4 morning people who consider 5-6am a normal wake up time (why why WHYYY?!?) and who typically go to bed before 10 has forced me to change my ways a bit; working a job that sometimes equates to 12-14 hours days has left me perpetually exhausted and in dire need of sleep, so I’ve been going to bed generally earlier than my college dorm days, pre and post-GAD diagnosis.
I’ve been getting up at 7 or 8 to read my devotional and prep for the day, still groggy from my broken sleep the night before. I’ve been going to bed around 9 or 10, depending on how long my day was and what the next day looks like.
And yet. This change has caused my sleep-related anxiety to creep back in. This forcing early sleep has made sleep almost near impossible (or good sleep impossible– broken sleep is barely sleep). I’ve been back living in that fear of not waking up the next morning for the past few weeks (especially since daylights savings ended). It’s kept me from getting good sleep, waking up every 3 or so hours. I’ve been back to being alone with my thoughts and fears at night, when the house gets quiet and still at 9, 10pm. When the house gets dark so early (especially when the outside matches the inside of the house), it causes my brain to get all jittery and fearful at the nighttime. It causes me to get overwhelmed by the darkness and freak out. So my anxiety has been back in full force lately, once again causing me to stay awake later in the night for hopes that the morning would be here soon. I don’t have the “luxury” of staying up till the sun rises these days thanks to the nature of my job, but I instead toss and turn in my sleep, waking up every few hours hoping that I’m okay and the light has returned.
There are some nights when I need to pace or talk to shake out of this feeling, but no one in the house is awake, and my pacing would disturb the people sleeping so I just sit in my bed overthinking everything that’s giving me anxiety. When the lights go off in the house, the lights turn on in my brain– and it makes me feel anxious and shaky until I wake up to the light’s return; and with that, I feel like I can breathe again.
At least when I would have those rough anxiety nights in the dorm, I could waltz out of Elam and go for a walk, breathing in the outside air for a few minutes and calm myself down. Or I could find a friend/RA usually awake that I could talk to. Adulthood (or our Leap year version of adulthood haha) is different. I don’t have that same buffer, that same out that I had when the anxiety started in college.
So now I’ve got to come up with new ways to curb the anxiety in this new life chapter. Wee. I thought I was done with this, people.
I want the nighttime to just be nighttime. I want it to signal rest and sleep and peace like it does for so many others, and not be this place of fear and overwhelmingness. I want to feel safe going to sleep, and not feel most alive at night when my anxiety is amped because of the darkness.
I thought being afraid of the dark was for childhood. But this isn’t just fear of the dark; it’s fear of what the darkness brings. It’s fear of perpetual darkness, the feeling that the darkness will envelope me and not let go.
It’s the fear that I’m not going to wake up from the darkness the night brings. The fear that the light won’t come the next morning or stay long enough to keep my anxiety and sadness at bay.
So now I must deal with this fear of the dark– not the actual darkness, but the feeling it gives me when the sun goes down and the lights go off. Because I know the light is coming… I just wish it stayed longer and came back sooner.
I don’t want to be fearful of the dark. And I don’t want to live waking up at the dark’s arrival, fearful until the light returns (only to start this cycle over the next day). It’s exhausting living in this way.
My brain really hates living in this state of paradox. I really hate both hating the dark and it being the time I’m most awake, living in this state of anxiety that the dark ushers in and won’t let go until light comes back the next day. It sucks feeling like this; it sucks living like this.
I know and believe the light always comes in the morning… I just wish it’d come soon and last longer than the night.
For most of my life, I’ve lived based off the expectations of everyone around me.
I’ve made my life decisions based on what other people thought. I listened to every voice around me but my own.
I grew up surrounded by opinionated people. People who know better than I do. People who know me better than I do (or claim to, I should say).
I was told what I liked and what I should do with my life. (my grandma growing up wanted me to be an engineer… hahahahahaha)
I was told what I believed and why.
I was told who and what to like and dislike. What hobbies to have or not have. What to wear and not wear.
All of the external voices in my life overpowered any internal voice I had.
I’ve always listened to everyone else’s opinion instead of mine. I’ve let others make decisions for me instead of me deciding for myself. From the simple to the life-changing, I don’t typically let myself make a decision on my own– I have to ask everyone around me, and usually go with what they say (even if it’s not what I want/think).
I’ve always longed to please everyone around me, hoping it’d make me loved and wanted. So I did what made others happy, or proud, or safe, not taking into account my feelings or wants or needs.
I cared care more about pleasing everyone except myself.
I worry about how people will react if I do or say something that doesn’t align with what they agree with or what they want me to say/do– so I tend to just not say anything and shove my own desires and feelings under the rug. Because I want to be loved, accepted, seen– and I’m afraid if I’m not what everyone else wants me to be, I’ll be unloved or forgotten or rejected. So I seek everyone else’s approval over what I really want in the hopes that they will see me– but they truly don’t see me then. They see what they want me to be instead of the real me.
I’ve relied my whole life on other peoples’ expectations, to the point that I’ve let everyone but me control who I am and what I want… to the point that I don’t even know who I am and what I want for myself.
I’m afraid if I disappoint people, or don’t listen to others’ advice or opinions, that they won’t love me or will stop caring about me.
So I please. I let others’ opinions reign supreme over mine. I let others tell me who to be, what to do, what to think, in the hopes that they’ll love me if I do.
I’ve spent my whole life letting others take claim and control of me.
And it’s taken me until now to realize this about myself.
My sophomore year of high school, my English teacher challenged me (and the whole class) to think for myself. We were having an inner-outer circle discussion on The Jungle (ohhh that book), and a lot of people didn’t know how to justify what they believed– me included.
She said something to the effect of, “if your reason for believing something is because your parents believe it or said so, then you don’t believe it. That’s THEIR opinion, not yours.”
In one fatal swoop, she taught me that in order for an opinion to be mine, it had to actually be mine. Not my mom’s or dad’s or grandmother’s. Mine. That’s when I started researching the “issues” for myself and began embracing my own political beliefs– despite them differing from my family. (I think my dad’s learned to just agree to disagree with me at this point. 😉 ). (Thanks for that lesson, Scott– you were my best English teacher for a reason).
I learned how to think for myself when it came to politics. So why haven’t I learned to trust my own voice for every other aspect of my life?
Last weekend I finished Shauna Niequist’s newest collection of essays, Present Over Perfect. I don’t know if there’s another book I’ve read that’s taught me more about myself than this one. It’s caused me to stop and re-evaluate a lot of things, and has actually made me want to act on the things Shauna said and the questions she asked. Usually with books I learn something and try to apply it to my life, but this book made me want to actually transform and change things in my life.
One of the big themes of the book is letting go of people pleasing, of not listening to the voices “out there” that aren’t her own, of not letting others expectations define her. She writes a lot about how she spent so much time listening to other people and letting others make decisions for her when she really wanted to do or think the opposite. Her thoughts on this made me take a step back and see how much I struggle with the same things.
“Along the way I’ve realized that most of the hard work during my last couple seasons has been claiming authority over my own life. This is not a group decision. We’re not voting for ‘most this’ or ‘most that’ in our yearbooks. This is actually my life, and it doesn’t matter a bit if it would be lovely for someone else to live. What does matter: does it feel congruent with how God made me and called me?
And I’m finding that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.”
This is my life. Not anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or okay for someone else… because it’s not their life to live. It’s mine. And it’s not made for anyone else to live but me. It’s really mind-blowing how simple a thought that is.
“What ways of living have you simply acquiesced to, because someone told you to? Because it seemed smart or practical or easy? Are those the best words to describe how you want to live?”
I’ve pretty much given in to what everyone around me has told me to do my whole life for those very reasons: smart, practical, easy. And I’d say that those and other similar words would be the words I’d want to describe me: capable. in control. good at decision-making. practical. strong. happy-go-lucky. peacekeeper. sacrificial. That’s me, or what I think I want to be. But I don’t think those words are the heart of what I am.
“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, they don’t get the pen back. Not easily anyway.
I was an author who didn’t know how to author her own life. I thought that outside forces would guide me benevolently, rightly. They did not. And it was not their job. It was mine. I abdicated authority for my own choices. And what it led to was a broken body and depleted soul.
And now some years later, I know that I am responsible for stewarding my own life, my desires and limitations, my capacities and longings.”
I am responsible for my own life. My desires and longings. My capacities and limitations. They are all mine! WHAT A CONCEPT.
I am in control. I have ownership of my own life. I can make choices and decisions as opposed to falling under what people think I should do or say or be.
I write my story. No one else should be allowed to hold the pen but me. Even if letting outside forces guide me is really tempting, it ceases to be my life and my story when I relinquish that kind of control.
“These days I want to love deeply and well, and that’s really different from pleasing. Love is often quieter, and it’s never connected to that anxious proving and tap-dancing that so many of us have learned to keep people happy.
After a lifetime of believing that the voices that mattered were Out There, approving or disapproving of me, I’m learning to trust the voice within, the voice of God’s Spirit, the whisper of my own soul.”
Now it’s time for me to learn how to listen to my voice and my wants, as opposed to letting others’ voices or opinions rule my decisions (or let me feel guilty about my decisions after the fact). Pleasing people isn’t something that I need to give my life over, y’all. The voices Out There have nothing on the Spirit inside me, the voice God gave me to learn from.
This book for me was an invitation to actually be who I was made to be.
But now I have to actually figure out who that is, because all of me is made up of pieces of everyone else.
This is so much more than peer pressure, y’all.
It’s letting other people– family, friends, co-workers, whomever- define who you are. It’s giving power and control to people that don’t need it. It’s trusting every external voice and thought over the internal voice God gave you.
It’s believing what everyone else says about me instead of believing myself.
One of the things I’ve been working through in therapy is how much I struggle with this letting people decide what I’m doing and where I’m going and what is happening without giving as much of a care of what I think or want. I never really realized just how much control I’d relinquished over the years– I’ve let my family decide my plans and goals and even where I lived at one point; I’ve let my friends decide that they want to be my friend if they need something; I’ve let my mom decide that I have to stay close to home so she can depend on me, even going as far as not letting me get my license so I don’t have the freedom to go as I please. (At 24 and still license-less, this has to do more with me at this point, but it started out being her decision at 16).
You know, for someone who considers herself a control freak, I have a lot less control over myself than I thought.
I’ve gotten, as Shauna writes, wrapped up in what someone else wanted for me. Or what a lot of someones decided what was best for me. Whatever would earn me love, gain me approval and worthiness. But it didn’t. Instead it left me unknowing who I am, having to re-learn and recover parts of me that I didn’t know were mine to have.
So… what do I do now with this brand-new information? (All of the Friends jokes for life!)
I think it’s time for me to sit down and figure myself out. Without the noise. Without the external voices telling me I’m this or should do that.
It’s time for me to figure out who exactly I am.
It’s time for me to decide what I love and don’t love. For me to do the things I want to do without fear of what everyone else is going to say/do/think about it.
One of my favorite lines from Shauna says it this way:
You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling.
What are my loves? What are my dreams?
What are my quirks and pet peeves and idiosyncrasies God put deep inside of me?
What do I need?
What are my passions? What sets my soul on fire? What makes me come alive?
What do I want? What do I want? (It’s worth saying twice)
In one of Shauna’s essays, she mentions a question someone asked to get to a desire/dream: if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?
I really want to sit and think about an answer to that– because that is where my deepest desire would be. The place where my passion and talents and availability collide.
One of my favorite essays was titled “On Snow”; it centered around a verse in Job:
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ (NIV)
She goes on to talk about how the snow is made to do exactly one thing. Just one thing is the whole mission: fall on the earth.
Snow doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. it just falls.
“God says to the snow, “Fall on the earth.” That’s it. Just do one thing. Just fall. Essentially, he’s saying: just do the thing I’ve created you to do. You’re rain: so rain. You’re snow: so snow.
God’s asking me to be the thing he’s already created me to be. And he’s asking you to be the thing he’s already created you to be.”
Shauna then goes on to ask: “What are the things he’s asking you to do, the things he made you to do, the things you do effortlessly and easily?”
What was I made to do? What do I do effortlessly and easily? I’m not sure just yet.
Shauna asks about our child self, looking at the “loves and skills and passions that God planted inside us” as kids… but if I’m being honest I didn’t have any hobbies or passions or desires as a kid that I can think of… because I was made to think/do what everyone else wanted. It comes full circle, you see? When talking about childhood dreams last week at work, I said I didn’t have a childhood dream. I was half truthing there– I had dreams, but they got squashed by people telling me they were impossible or wouldn’t work out because of x,y,or z. So I just didn’t dream out loud anymore for fear of someone telling me it wasn’t going to work out. And eventually, I stopped dreaming and just lived off of what other people told me I should be.
So I’m still figuring it out, logistically speaking. But I can tell you it won’t be what others want it to be or think it is. Just because others know me doesn’t me they know me. No one can know me like I know me, I’m learning… because no one else is me.
Shauna asks at the end of that particular essay: “What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for his purposes?”
I need to leave behind the expectations and wants of everyone else.
I need to leave behind the idea that everyone’s voice and opinions are more important than my own (especially in regards to my own life).
I need to leave behind the idea that my life is made to please people in order to get the love/value/approval that I crave.
I need to leave behind this fake me, built on everyone else’s hopes and dreams and wants for me. I am not that girl, the girl that is made up of what everyone else wants her to be. Nope. I am me. 100% me, the girl that God designed and made me to be– unashamedly, unabashedly, me.
And I need to walk away from the voices and opinions that want me to be someone else.
It’s time for me to listen to my own voice.
It’s time for me to decide who I am and who I want to be.
It’s time for me to choose what I want to do with my one wild and precious life, as my beloved Mary Oliver would say.
It’s my turn to control what I do and say and think, where I go and who I spend my time with. I call the shots of my life here. God gave me a voice and a gift when he gave me this life. It isn’t for anyone to take and claim as their own. It’s all me.
And it’s time to reclaim the parts of my life back that I’ve given to everyone else.
So. Who am I?
I am Jordan. And I am the me I want to be: the loud, punctual, homebody, passionate, nerdy, imperfect, affectionate, laughs-at-everything, Jesus-loving, introverted, plus-sized, sarcastic, slightly inappropriate writer that God made me to be– and no one else’s opinion on it matters.**
**(Imma probably need help actually living/believing this come tomorrow, peeps. Change is hard. Especially when it’s 24 years of change being made. Send help.)
“So he got up and went to his father.But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Prodigal Son, Luke 15:20)
One of my favorite moments at my job (so far) happened today.
Kids started arriving; we always have a couple of siblings who get dropped off by parents since they go to a different school, and they started trickling in shortly after my arrival to community house.
Gabby and Eva were the second sibling group to arrive. Eva is the younger of the two, a tiny kindergartener missing her two front teeth and known for her meowing skills. Their mom dropped them off and said hi; I knelt down and outstretched my arms for a hug, as I typically do to Eva when I see her and if she’ll let me (girl is tiny and so dang huggable!). Usually I sweep her up, hug her and put her down quickly so she can get to playing. Today was different, though.
When I picked her up, she quickly nestled her head deep into my shoulder, wrapped her tiny arms around me, and sighed, comfy and content. She closed her eyes and rested on my shoulder for a good 30 minutes. Every once and awhile she’d turn her head to see who was coming through the door or if someone asked if she was okay, but she’d quickly return to her warm spot in my arms. I asked her if she was okay or didn’t feel well; she nodded yes when I asked if she was just tired. So she rested. I’d ask her if she was ready to go play or get down, and she’d shake her head no. She just wanted to be. She just wanted to rest.
And I was her safe place to do that.
One of my goals in life is for people to feel safe around me. Safe to confide, safe to be honest, safe to seek comfort or a listening ear. I want my students to feel like they can trust me; I want my friends to feel like they can be themselves when I ask them how they’re really doing.
And I want to feel safe around people. I want to be comfortable enough to let my guard down with someone, to snuggle into someone’s shoulder and just breathe– no reason, but just for comfort and love. I want to feel safe to be honest and open without fear of being dropped when the real me is seen. I’m good at making others feel safe (at least I aim to be- I hope I am). I’m not so good at letting others be a safe place for me to lie my head down and be real with.
As I was holding Eva, I was at peace. I just knew this was where I was needed in the moment, just snuggling her. Time stood sill as I sat and comforted her in that quiet moment; no other task mattered when she say cozy in my lap. I could have been playing with kids. I could have been chatting with roommates or volunteers. I could have been supervising snack or preventing fights.
But that’s not what was needed in that moment. I was exactly where I needed to be.
That baby needed to be held.
Don’t we all, sometimes?
I need people to be my safe place. To be the place I run and let hold me when I’m tired and need to just breathe for a bit. I’ve never let myself get close enough to someone to let them in that far, but the older I get and the more life crap I work through, the more I realize how desperately i need to let people hold me and be that safe place in my life– instead of me being that person for others with nothing in return.
Eventually I asked Eva if she’d like to get a snack (she hadn’t eaten yet since I picked her up when she got there), so we walked to the snack cart together before I went to get ready for the afternoon.
As I was holding her, I was praying, thinking silently about this moment. This is it, isn’t it God? This is what You do for me. This is what it’s like when we finally let ourselves find rest in your arms.
It was the embodiment of Matthew 11:28: “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
When i finally give up my “I can do it all on my own, I don’t need anyone to help me handle all the things” tendencies and run into his arms, He always is right there, in that exact moment, whenever I need him.
Just as I was there to be a resting place for that sweet babe, he’s there with open arms, ready for us to find true rest and peace in the only place it can be found: in Him.
Who knew a sleepy, comfort-seeking five year-old could teach me so much about the character of God?
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
During communion at church last week, I began to pray. Before I could even say anything, this was what I heard:
Where are you?
Where are you?
Distant was the first word I thought of.
It’s not that I’m in a bad place or anything. Things are good. Busy, but good. Still loving my job. Adore my kiddos at work most of the time. Still content with my roommates and our house. Family stuff is fine. Anxiety has rough the last few days, but otherwise stable. (Took a nose-dive on the depression side of life a couple weeks ago but have recovered, thank you Jesus).
I’m doing okay. Life is good.
Yet I’ve become distant. From God, from friends, from everyone.
I get caught up in the busyness and the day-to-day to-dos of this busy season and I’ve just kind of let myself go.
Succumbing to sleep (because energy is lacking these days) and numbness because it is just easier than answering questions and digging in to what really matters.
I’ve not been taking care of myself or my faith by praying or journaling or reading (scripture or for fun). I use the guise that I don’t have time but I do. I play on my computer and watch netflix because after a long week of working, I just don’t have the energy to sit and read and listen. I just don’t want to be convicted or brought out of my comfortable numbness right now.
Lately I’ve pulled myself away from people– mainly because I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I have a lot going on in my head and don’t know how to articulate it without overdoing it.
Worrying about the future. Unpacking what I’m learning/doing in therapy. Overthinking everything. Dealing with anxiety and overwhelming fear.
So instead of unraveling all of that into the lap of the people I’m close with, I pull myself away. Choosing loneliness because it is easier than the alternative of letting people in too deep.
It’s a lot easier to look busy by watching Friends on an endless loop than it is to instigate and hold conversation and choose to not be lonely.
I’ve too been pulling away from God because I just don’t know what to say or do anymore. I’ve been so distracted by everything else in my life that I’ve let myself get away from both people and God.
It’s a lot easier for me to get far away from God when I can’t see him in the flesh. When I can’t talk to him while he sits across from me. It’s a lot easier to be distant when he is distant in the literal sense, you know?
But I don’t want to be distant.
Well… I do and I don’t, if I’m being honest. I want the benefits of being near without the work. I want to feel close to people and to God without actually being close to people and to God. That requires vulnerability and work and more than I want to give. It requires people actually asking me more than how are you? and small talk questions, and it requires me to actually say more than I’m fine or okay. It requires me to be the one to reach out and talk instead of waiting on people to come to me. At a conference I went to this weekend with a roommate, they talked about how you can’t wait for community to come to you– you have to pursue it. Dangit, how I want that to not be true. It’s much easier sitting around waiting on people to talk to me instead of me initiating the talking.
Nearness requires me to actually be near. To actually be close enough to be honest and willing to share and not hold things back. It requires people actually knowing me, not parts of me.
It’s easier to choose to be lonely instead of admitting I’m lonely and need to have conversation– both the simple small talk and the tough life talks. It’s easier to choose being distant and alone than to reach out and take the initiative to talk and share with the people I’m close to. It’s easier to let people in on the surface of my life and not actually know me.
It’s easier to choose the extra hour of sleep and keep my Bible closed and my prayers short, than be honest with a God I struggle to know and understand.
Last week and this week at church, we talked about God’s presence with us.
Last week we were in Exodus talking about God not going with Moses to the Promised land.
The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’2 And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.3 Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”
continued in vs. 12–
One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
15 Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
Brandon talked to us about the intimacy of Moses with God– how He knew God so well and so closely he was able to intercede for all of Israel and convince God to go with them (even though they’d betrayed him continuously, and would continue to do so).
Moses didn’t want the blessings of God without God. He wanted God’s presence more than he wanted the blessings God had promised. Moses didn’t want the blessing if He wasn’t going with them.
Brandon then asked us: do we want to know God like Moses knew God?
I do. But I don’t want to work for it. I want the intimacy (which is a word that still freaks me out, btw) without the work it takes to get there.
Today we left Exodus and started Numbers. We talked about how the people began to doubt God’s promise and jumped ship from following Moses because they were afraid of the people that were living in the Promised Land. So they tried to find a leader to lead them back.
They didn’t just doubt the promise God have given them– the promise that the land was theirs, no matter what– they doubted His presence. He was with them in the form of the Tabernacle– it was carried at the helm of the group, symbolizing that the Lord’s presence was leading them to their promised land. Yet they still feared. They still doubted that they could get the land. So they gave into their fear and ran for the hills, and God reacted (letting them go but giving the promised land to their children instead! oops). They were afraid that his presence, his promise wasn’t enough.
Andrew said something this morning that gripped me, as an anxiety sufferer: fear grips us. fear seizes us. Fear changes our ability to see reality as it actually is.
It really does. Fear steers my life most days. It really does distort reality. My fear of intimacy and connection causes me to see people as uninterested or annoyed or uncaring about me. My fear of people knowing me makes me think that people don’t want to know me and how I’m really doing. My fear of being vulnerable about my life and my struggles makes me believe that they aren’t important and people don’t want to listen. My fear of people not wanting me keeps me from being real and honest, for fear that they’ll walk around. So I continue to keep my distance, continue to close myself off for fear of people really knowing me. I’m only as honest as I want to be.
My fears about God really knowing me keep me from being honest with Him, too.
I want to be near. I don’t want to be distant. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’m going to put the work in of being vulnerable and real and it not be reciprocated. I’m afraid I’m going to be vulnerable with the wrong person and they drop me at the slightest sight of my skeletons in the closet. I’m afraid that being honest and intimate with people isn’t worth the work it takes. I’m afraid if I’m near to God, He’s not listening or not going to care. Sometimes it feels like i’m talking to the ceiling instead of God, and I’m scared if I actually talk instead of just list my prayer requests that they’re just going into the air, useless.
I want to be near. As much as I don’t want to put in the work to be near, I know it’s necessary. But I’m scared if I put in that work, I’m going to fall short or fail. If I put in that work and no one listens, or no one cares, or people laugh when I tell them what’s going on with me? I don’t know if I can handle that.
So, to answer the question I asked myself during communion: I’m distant. And, I’m afraid of the costs of choosing to be near– and I’m afraid that those costs and risks outweigh my want to be near.
I long for nearness. I long for connection and closeness, for honesty and intimacy with friends and the Lord.
But I’m scared that if I reach out, no one will reach back. And I’ll be left more alone than I already feel I am.
You Revive Me: heard this song at a conference this weekend. Never heard it before. the words struck me.
I love Housefires (aka the originator/songwriters behind Good Good Father). This song is wonderful. (The actual song starts at about 1:25)
I am a very emotional person. I am 100% feeler, per my INFJ personality (it’s probably my strongest attribute on the MBTI scale, with my intuition a distant second). I always think with my heart before my brain. I’ve cried at many things- from serious to silly to stupid. (I also cry when I’m angry, which makes taking my anger seriously a bit hard).
I am very sensitive, and my skin is thin, if not translucent; things people say (or how they say them), no matter how harmless they might have been, have a tendency to stick with me for a long time. Or forever.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my emotions.
My whole life, I was told I was too emotional. Too sensitive. Too soft. That I was a big, fat crybaby. I needed to toughen up and not take everything to heart (I still hear that one probably on a weekly basis from my mother). No one was going to take me seriously if I was all emotional about it, I was told.
I grew up in a family that wasn’t touchy-feely or emotional much. Sure, we had our moments like all families do, but I never felt comfortable expressing my emotions– and when I did, I got admonished for it. I could probably count on one hand how many times I’ve seen my grandmother cry. (I remember when my great Aunt Ann died, but can’t remember another time– not even when we lost Papa). Hell, I’ve cried twice just today.
Because of this, I never had much of an outlet to express my emotions as a kid, so I never really felt like I could talk about them. Or even how to talk about them. My family doesn’t understand, so I couldn’t really go to them and just talk about how I was feeling unless I’d like to be ridiculed or lectured at for being too soft or too sensitive. Our chats and discussions were always on the logistics– how’s school, work, the future, politics, etc. Nothing about how we are feeling or what we feel about a certain thing. It was always logical, straightforwardness. No emotional insight. Nothing to nurture my natural sensitivity to a crazy and dark and scary world I was fearful of living in.
Last year after having a tearful conversation with him about stuff going on at home, my dad told my mom over the phone, “you know our daughter has an emotional problem.”
As I got older, I started hiding my sensitivity to emotions and feelings. I put a wall up between me and my emotions, deciding that it was easier than expressing how I really felt.
Eventually, the tears stopped. I just decided that it wasn’t worth it anymore. Sure, I tear up sometimes, and cry at serious things. I cried leaving Cozumel and at graduation– all the big things. But actually letting myself feel sad– sad enough to actually produce tears– it doesn’t happen much anymore. I could talk about hard stuff– things that hurt like hell when they happened– and I didn’t as much as bat an eye. Sometimes I would even try to make myself cry when I felt sad about something, but it never worked. I was desperate to feel something. But I fell out of touch with my emotions because of the years and years I was told I shouldn’t feel them.
When I got to middle and high school, I put a wall up– and let my emotions build up inside until I would explode– whether in anger or sadness. It depended on the day. It was totally unhealthy- but I was afraid if I expressed my emotions as they happened, people would perceive me as weak or inadequate… like I felt as a kid. I stuffed everything inside and shoved my true feelings under the rug.
I hid my true self behind a lot of facades: being a good student and a church kid and a writer, all these other things I did or said to keep myself busy from actually assessing the situations I was in and trying to process how I was feeling about them. I never really let myself feel what I needed to feel about all the things I was going through at this point in my life (which was a lot). Internalizing them was more comfortable than expressing them and getting let down by peoples reactions. It was easier to become numb to my emotions instead of letting myself actually feel them. In hindsight, this was when depression was given a foothold in my life– I stuffed my emotions and hid my feelings to the point that I was numb. I gave up on my emotions entirely– and in turn, I gave up a lot of myself.
I was always led to believe my emotions made me weak. They were a weapon used against me. They were not a positive attribute– they did nothing to help me. They just made me seem too fragile, too weak. And maybe they do. But I don’t think that’s all bad.
In all honesty, feeling my emotions makes me stronger. Because to me, they show that I have felt something. If I feel deeply about something, I must be passionate about it– and it must be worth feeling something over.
As I’ve gotten older, and faith and mental health have come into the equation, I feel like
I am more in-tune with my emotions. I was given the blessing (and sometimes curse) of empathy. I feel for and with people- and now, I’m starting to allow myself to feel my feelings as they are (and not try to hide them or let them build up).
It’s hard tearing that wall down, if I’m being honest. It’s a lot easier to feel nothing. Numbness is a lot simpler of a life to deal with than actually trying to pay attention and understand my feelings.
But it’s a sad way to live, y’all. That’s what I finally figured out: when I was numbing myself, i wasn’t fully living. I couldn’t be fully happy, or angry, or anything… i was just numb. I realized that my emotions are all tethered to one another; I couldn’t just stuff my sadness and tears down without stuffing my other feelings too.
i want to live in a world where i can feel all of those things when I need to.
For counseling last week, I had to watch the movie Inside Out. I was late to the game on this one– I had wanted to see it when it came out but never got around to it. When I watched it for therapy, I was sick and tired (it was late), so I didn’t really grasp it and its meaningfulness at first. I took notes to talk to my counselor about it (it is a great movie) but that was about it.
This past weekend, I was nearly done recuperating from sickness and decided to watch it again. It was even more impactful the 2nd time.
Basically, it showed me that we need all of our emotions– joy, sadness, fear (yes, a little bit of fear is needed), anger, disgust– in order for me to be me, I need to feel them all. Not at the same time for the most part, but they work together to help me understand what’s happening in my life. They work together to help me form and understand my memories. I can look back at college with both joy and sadness, because there were high and low moments, along with feeling nostalgic about that time period. I can think of certain memories and feel angry that they happened while happy that they’re in the past. In order for us to find happiness, we need to know what other feelings feel like.
It also showed me what happens when we try to remove an emotion or one emotion tries to run the show. Joy (played hilariously by Amy Poehler) thinks that Riley (the main character whose brain this movie plays out in) should always be happy– joy should be her primary emotion. And it was! Riley lived a mostly happy, care-free life until a major life change (moving from MN to CA) altered her memories and her emotions. Joy struggled with keeping Riley happy in the midst of all this stuff going on; Riley struggles with trying to figure out how she’s supposed to feel– she’s always been this happy-go-lucky kind of gal, but now suddenly all of her other emotions start to take turns controlling her thoughts and feelings. Joy tries her hardest to push the other feelings out of the way so Riley only feels joy, even if she doesn’t want to.
Joy tries to make Sadness (Phyllis Smith was amazing in this role) disappear in Riley’s life by creating the “circle of sadness”– this small circle that Joy made was the only place Sadness could go and be sad. She couldn’t touch the memories or the control panel without affecting Riley, and Joy wouldn’t let that happen. What Joy did, though, was compartmentalize Sadness– and when she did that, she caused the other emotions to eventually go haywire (along with messing up her core memories and causing Riley’s personality to be altered– Joy kinda messed up everything when she tried to unbalance Riley’s emotions, hint hint). When Riley’s emotions went haywire, she ended up shutting down– her personality shut down (represented by “personality islands” that showed the different facets of Riley’s personality and passions) and she basically went numb.
Yet when Joy let Sadness take the reigns for a bit– when Riley admitted she was sad about the move and overwhelmed about school without her friends– Riley found help in the form of her parents supporting her feelings and bringing her comfort. Then, Sadness was able to quickly return the reigns to Joy so Riley could find ways to be happy in her new situation (like making new friends and joining a hockey league).
When she allowed herself to be sad, Riley was able to feel joy in a deeper way– it was easier for her to feel happy when she’d felt sad for a time. When her feelings were no longer compartmentalized, Riley was able to truly express her feelings and understand them.
Now, I’m not gonna lie: when I watched this movie the first time, I hated Sadness. She kept trying to mess things up! Why can’t she just let Riley’s memories be happy? Why would she constantly have to bring up the sad points of otherwise happy moments?
Why can’t she just be happy? I thought. Why can’t she just let Riley be happy?
Then I realized: I ignored sadness in my own life for so long. I strived for perfection, for everything to be perfect and good when truthfully everything inside of me was falling apart. I wanted everything to be happy and full of joy and perfect– even when it was so not. I identified so much with Joy because I thought if I just pushed Sadness and other feelings aside, I could be just happy and life would end up going perfect. If only, old me. If only.
So Sadness frustrated me because I’d fought against sadness to the point whereI blocked it out entirely– and ended up numb. I don’t want sadness– I don’t want my memories and emotions tinged with tears and frustration. I want things to be perfect and joyful. So I avoided sadness and got upset anytime I got sad, apologizing and trying to validate my sadness, coming up with excuses to discredit my tears.
I compartmentalized my feelings for so long— I still do, honestly. I only let myself feel sad around certain people for certain reasons. I live in constant states of fear and anxiety. I let annoyances bubble up inside of me until I burst angrily.
But sadness is the one I compartmentalized most of all– I had my own circle of sadness in my brain. I built a wall and blocked sad feelings out in the hopes that I could be this cheery, happy girl everyone wanted me to be. I wanted to not cry– to not be so sad and emotional and a sensitive crybaby anymore.
But I learned, just like Joy does in the movie, that I can’t choose to be one emotion forever. Eventually, I’m going to have to feel something else– otherwise I’m going to go numb from feeling altogether.
I got my wish. And it made me numb. Because that wall didn’t just block me from feeling sadness–it hid me from all of my feelings. It forced a veil over my eyes from expressing any emotion. A cast that covered not only my brokenness and wounds, but the good parts too.
Here’s some basic feelings math: If you don’t feel happy and you don’t feel sad, you don’t feel very much.
I wasn’t super sad at all about anything, yay! I wasn’t crying about every little thing! Victory!
But I wasn’t super happy, either. I just felt meh. Indifferent. And that, in hindsight, is worse than crying about something, no matter how serious or silly. It may have been silly, or seem silly to someone else, but it felt important– and it made me feel something.
I just want to feel something.
Just like Riley needed Sadness, I need Sadness too.
It’s OK to feel sad sometimes. It’s needed.
It’s OK to feel angry sometimes. It’s also needed.
It’s OK to have fear, or feel gross, or whatever emotions play out in your life.
But what’s not okay is not letting yourself feel anything for the sake of trying not to feel one thing. It doesn’t work. If one emotion goes down, they all do, people.
All emotions are valid. All emotions are needed. And feelings deserve to be felt.
so now I choose to feel them.
Even if it makes me look weak.
or like a baby. I’ll take the title crybaby over unemotional all day, erry day.
Even if it isn’t logical to be upset at whatever it is i’m upset about.
or if I’m letting something or someone get under my skin.
or if it means you see me differently or can’t take me seriously.
Even if I’m labeled sensitive or soft– what’s wrong with being those things? Really though? I haven’t figured it out.
One of the things I’m learning in counseling is that I have to quit relying on others’ expectations and reactions. I need to focus on my expectations (and rather, I need to make my own expectations because mine are other peoples for me, oops). And part of that is letting go of this notion that others expect me to be this strong, happy go lucky girl who isn’t emotional or sensitive.
I am strong. I am emotional and sensitive. They are not exclusive. Now I cry at the serious and the silliness. It’s OK for me to feel something to the point of tears– it means it meant something. I care about what other people are going through and choose to cry with them instead of telling them to stop crying or not to waste tears. Tears are valid and necessary and healthy.
I’m still working on this— it’s still hard for me to feel enough to actually express my feelings. It’s a work in progress, just like me. I’m hoping that by writing it out I’ll actually hold myself to believing these things. Someday I’ll be able to tear that wall down and truly feel and express my emotions again.
Someday soon, I hope. Because I miss that tender place in my heart– that place where I actually felt things hard.
But it begins with baby steps: like when I sat and cried the second time I watched Inside Out. “It’s all beautiful,” indeed it is, Joy.
My therapist said this to me at my most recent appointment. She said it a few times, actually, while reiterating how far I’ve come from what I’ve been through (which is a topic for another post).
It’s nice having someone else validate that your life is/has been batshit crazy. Because it has. Even when I’ve pretended otherwise.
I very rarely admit to myself how much I’ve been through. How much has happened in my 24 years.
I tend to shove it all under a rug. Pretend it’s “normal” when it’s anything but. I just shrugged my shoulders at my junk, barely mentioning its existence until asked. And even when asked, I tend to leave out the more unsavory parts– the parts I’m either ashamed to admit or fear people will judge me for.
I struggle to face the reality of what I’ve been dealt. Instead of actually dealing with it (and the emotions attached), I’ve hidden it under the rug, letting it collect dust until someone lifts the rug to sweep the underneath.
There are some things I let people see. I let people in to my world when it comes to my battles with mental illness, because I learned that not only did it help me to be open about it, but it made others too. Sometimes I’m open about other stuff. But it’s rare.
Truthfully, sometimes I just leave things out of my story because they seem too crazy or ridiculous to be believed. Or because there’s so much that I forget details. For real, I asked my mom a question a few days ago and she reminded me of a pretty important story/detail I completely forgot to clue my therapist into. oops.
I’m not talking about honesty online, for the most part; there are just some things that are kept off the interwebs because I don’t think I should leave them out there for the whole world to see. I’m talking about real-life, face-to-face vulnerability with friends and people that know me. Writing is the best way for me to unpack and sort what I’m experiencing and thinking, but sometimes things are better left unsaid (or unwritten).
I don’t need or want the whole internet/blogosphere to know my life. I just want the people in my life to know it. At least I do sometimes.
Some days I don’t think most anyone knows all of me. Except maybe my therapist. (and I haven’t had enough sessions yet to even scrape the surface with my newest one).
I don’t think this is a bad thing, necessarily. But I wonder sometimes what it would be like if i was completely vulnerable and honest with people. If i was fully trusting with my story.
I’ve hidden parts of my life for fear’s sake for so long. I’ve hidden under Elsa’s “Let It Go” philosophy: conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.
It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve realized just how important specific hidden parts of my story are to who I am. Through therapy and actually sharing parts of my life that I’ve kept hidden for so long, I’ve made some huge strides in connecting the dots in my life… oh, I’m like this because this happened. Or I do things one because of this thing or that experience… Insert more vague examples here.
Sarah Bessey last year (on this day, actually) posted this about sanitized stories we tell each other… how we are only vulnerable with parts of the story, how we only let ourselves feel the feelings we’re comfortable with.
How we compartmentalize our life stories to fit into what we want them to be instead of being raw and 100% real with each other.
She said this in said post:
“I do not feel like I am allowed to be traumatized: it turned out fine. Look!”
There are so many times I feel guilty for talking about the things I struggle with. I see other peoples’ lives and what they’re dealing with and I think, how do I even have a right to complain? Look at what they’re going through! My problems are so minuscule compared to theirs. I should just not share what I’m dealing with.
And then I also think about the whole look how far I’ve come angle. I’ve overcome so much! I’ve got a college degree from a great school that i love, I’m working at a place I love doing what I’m passionate about. I have great friends and a God that loves me. I have hobbies and passions and things that bring me such joy. I have no right to complain. I have no right to talk about where I’ve been because of where i am now… right?
How can I be traumatized by my trauma when others have it so much worse?
Because my trauma is my trauma. And it needs to be heard.
My feelings are my feelings. And they need to be felt.
My struggles are my struggles. And I don’t need to put myself through the Grief and Suffering Olympics just because someone else’s right-now is worse than mine.
My suffering is worse because it is mine, unique to me, and how I feel and deal with it differently makes it worse to me. And it doesn’t need to be kept under a rug because of fear of being less-than.
My right-now might be OK, but that doesn’t mean my trauma from the past is less-than.
And it’s OK-more than OK, actually- to share your brokenness openly with people.
“If we don’t deal with our trauma, our trauma begins to deal with us. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings, they have a habit of peeking around the corners of our lives, breaking in at the most inopportune moments.”
I’ve spent a long time avoiding my trauma– all of it. All. of. it.
I’ve said it’s too much or I’ve said it’s not enough.
I’ve thought it wasn’t important enough to share.
I’ve feared people would see me differently or feel sorry for me.
I wanted to be the friend everyone could lean on, instead of having to lean on others.
I’ve worried people would leave when they see the whole me– the whole mess, the baggage I’d rather leave at baggage claim for someone else to deal with.
I’ve figured no one would care. That I’d be better off showing the shiny, good parts of my story than the whole shebang.
As Mike Foster said in his book Wonderlife:
“For so long, I thought I had to be so strong. I believed the lie that said that I could only show healed scars but not open wounds (THIS THIS THIS). I practiced bogus authenticity. I mastered carefully orchestrated, controlled vulnerability. I held back my heart because I was scared. Scared of rejection. Scared of losing love. Scared of people thinking I was week. (Italicized words my own)
I could have written that exact paragraph word-for-word. It’s why I’m carefully veiled about my vulnerability: I only share the things that won’t scare people off, the things that people won’t be shocked by. I don’t share all of me because that is a lot of me and I don’t think people want to know all that. People don’t care that much to know my whole story. Right?
Now I know this: it doesn’t matter. I’m not sharing my life story because I care about what everyone else thinks.
Instead, I’m choosing to deal with my trauma. I’m deciding to be vulnerable because I need to be honest with myself about where I am instead of being fake vulnerable because I think it’s what people want to hear. I’m choosing to work through my feelings instead of shoving them under a rug.
Because I’ve let my emotions fester underneath the surface for so long.
By not dealing with my past and my baggage, I’ve inflicted my own deeper wounds that have been hard to recover from. I’m still recovering, and probably always will be. The anxiety and depression I’ve struggled with stem from stuffing all my emotions away– from letting the hurts from my past go unnoticed and uncared for.
As Sarah puts it, I let it manifest into this mental hell. This mind-numbing battle between me and my brain. A battle that damages every damn thing I do and think and say. I hate it.
And I hate that I’m just now figuring out the things that have made me think and feel this way. If I’d worked through this stuff as a kid (or even as a teen!), I may not have struggled this much. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, y’know?
If I was just honest with myself, that I was hurting, man would life be different. If I’d been honest that I was in need of help, in need of something to fix the brokenness I didn’t realize was there… a lot of things would be different.
We’re a lot different when we admit we have baggage to deal with. I’m a lot different when I admit I have baggage I need to deal with.
In the latest She Reads Truth study (on Hosea), Amanda Williams shared that she and her husband spend time “admitting our brokenness” with one another. I love that. I love the idea of admitting our brokenness– admitting where we falter, where we’re struggling, what baggage or struggles or pain we come with from our past or our present. But I don’t admit my brokenness– or my full brokenness– like I should with the people I trust to hold it.
I want to be willing to admit my brokenness. My not okay-ness. I want to be honest with my answers to how I’m doing and what I’m struggling with. I want to hold my story up to the light with people that I love and that love me back, and say: “this happened. here’s how it hurt me. here’s how I’ve overcome.” Because with people beside me and a God for me, I have been able to walk through a lot and make it to the other side. Now i just need to work through the muck I left in the rearview mirror.
I want to be willing to admit that I am one broken, screwed up individual. That I have a past that isn’t pretty or fun, and that a lot of what I struggle with today stems from pain I still am dealing with from it. That I am far from perfect and am desperately in need of grace. And I want to be willing to admit that, no matter who is listening.
I don’t want veiled vulnerability and bogus authenticity. I want to be real and honest with everyone I meet.
I want to learn how admit my brokenness, one life story at a time.