If we’re friends in real life maybe you saw the baking I’ve done this week in my Facebook story. If you did, it’s possible that you’d assume things are great and that I’m busy doing allofthethings to the very best of my ability and maybe you’d feel like you should be doing more and I do not want you to feel that way.
Truth of it is I’ve started my days shocked awake before 3 AM, certain that the phone call is coming. The call that will rush my body to my mother’s side as we watch him struggle for days and then struggle to let him go.
Truth of it is I’ve started my days with tears all this week and they have come in all of the quiet moments that I’ve allowed, the minutes that I’ve not filled up. They rush at me in this silent way and so I drown the silence with tasks.
Truth of it is the anxiety has been so intense that my heartbeat very nearly shatters my chest. My hands shake if I let them be still. My mind is constantly reassuring itself that this particular worst has already happened, though it never can be quite sure, and continues the pattern of reliving moment by moment the days leading up.
So, if you saw in my story all of the baking, please know that it is a symptom of the pain and loss and intense anxiety I’m fighting over here. I can not be still or I certainly will collapse again to the kitchen floor, rush out the door and not stop driving until the gas or the money runs out, cry out at the top of my lungs to the frozen night.
This grief drives me.
There is more; I made it to the shower only once this week. I wore my pajamas all but one day, I have had to force myself outside to care for animals. I have barely been able to put my device down. I have worked more than I should. The anxiety I tie up in these days is familiar and I can fight it only so much. I mostly try to use it now. Not let it control my every moment, but put the fear to work. Though, I doubt this battle will ever be won.
Of course I’ll allow time for appropriate processing. Don’t worry. I’ll be at the cemetery this weekend. I’ll sit with my mother and we’ll cry and maybe laugh, and we’ll miss him as only a very few people can. It will be hard, and good and necessary.
But next week will be more like this one. Endlessly doing; this will get me through another winter, another season of remembering the boy he was all those years ago…and how we lost him. I know the Spring will come, it has unfailingly done so year after year. I always wonder if this time it won’t be so terrible, if my heart won’t break into pieces again, if my mind will understand that this loss is in the past. And every year I am broken open again as if I am sitting in the hospital holding his hand for what seemed like so many days and such long, long nights.
Allow the grief dear friends, allow every wracking sob to come, allow it to wash over you. For a time. These days in early March, near the end of winter, this is my time. Unfailingly year upon year, I allow it to overtake me while I wait, knowing the truth, yet not being able to convince myself of it either; Spring will come again. I will make it througb.
I went back and read something I had written recently. I was sort of dumbstruck by how it was all laid out and tied together and perfect for where I’m at right now…sometimes I am amazed that God has given me the ability to string sentences together. I will occasionally reread something and forget that I wrote it. I mean, I know that I’m not changing anyone’s life, save my own, with these thoughts scratched out on paper, but I feel good about my writing.
Maybe this seems proud or boastful, I suppose it is a little. It’s good to have something that I feel like I do well though. The truth is, most of the things in my life I’m okay at. It’s like my sourdough, try to follow this with me…
I received a sourdough starter from a kind friend last Spring when there was no yeast to be had, thanks pandemic. I’ve managed to keep it alive and not a moldy jar of rot-soup for nearly a year now. I’ve baked a lot of bread in that year and made a lot of treats with my discard and I even took my starter camping. So, I’ve kept it alive and I bake with it regularly. Yay me. But really? The hooch forms almost weekly and I nurse the bacteria back to health. The bread gets baked as we run out, not when the starter is airy and bubbly, so the rise is rarely great in my dough. Sometimes, okay often, I forget a bowl or two of dough on the counter overnight and hope for the best as I dump it into a hot kettle at five AM. But the people always love the fresh bread. They devour the cinnamon rolls and sweet breads, they’ve even learned to bake some of these treats.
So my sourdough-ing is what I would call half-assed. Could I do better? Oh my gosh yes. Am I going to? Probably not anytime soon. It’s good enough. Why would I put more effort into it? This is the story of my days. Things get done, and they are pretty good, and that’s enough.
I feel like this is how my writing should be perceived as well. I typically type out all of my thoughts quickly before any of the children decide to wake for the day. I rarely have time for much editing or thinking about what I’ve had to say. I hit the “publish” button before I can change my mind about saving the rambling, half-crazed thoughts I’ve shared. Sometimes this is the case with my writing; I’ll go back and wonder how this was a coherent thought and why on earth I posted it.
Honestly though? Most of the time the things I’ve written have helped me when I’ve gone back to them. I already know that my writing is for me, though I am led to share these thoughts with the few of you who gather here. Writing is how I process the ache and the hurt and my tears and also how I acknowledge and celebrate my joy. While the ramblings may not always be sensical (we’re pretending that’s a word this morning), they always help me. By getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper they feel more real, and are less intimidating.
This morning I am reminding myself that it’s okay to write for the sake of writing. Not every shared thought needs to make others feel good or help them on their journey, the words can be just for me. The overflow of internal dialouge doesn’t always need to have deep meaning, this can just be a place to let those thoughts overflow. If the words I share are helpful or meaningful to someone else I feel like that’s an added blessing of sharing, but they are not the main reason I write.
Well, this has been quite the incoherent ramble…see, I’m trying to convince myself that the writing is good for me. That it is at least as helpful as a therapist, because I’ve been wondering if I should talk to someone who can help. This years anniversary of my brother’s passing hasn’t followed my typical pattern, and though I know why this year is different I’m still struggling. Though I’ve been resting at Christ’s feet I still feel the overwhelm and can’t get out from under it. The sadness that is plaguing me won’t let up, but on the couple of days I’ve spent time writing, I’ve been less-sad. The tears have not come as easily or as often if I take this time to think things through on paper.
This is true. The writing does help.
Is there something that saves you from the ache? What is that thing that feeds your soul and lessens the sadness? If you’re not sure, I encourage you to find it. It will take work, but really? It’s okay to half-ass it if that’s what it takes to get started. Because it can’t help at all, if you don’t do it at all. And seeing it help a little may encourage you to give more to it when you can. Praying for a few of you who are struggling as I sit in the quiet of this early day, there is rest for you, I can see it.
Things are weird right now, right? I’m sure they are with you too. Even though a lot of you reading my page are homeschoolers, this whole lock down on everything good (the library) and fun (museums, theatres, gyms) and perfect (empty parks in spring because everyone else is at school!!!) has me feeling a little like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe.
I’ve tried to decide how best to respond to this whole calamitous disaster (oh, the drama) and have found that my personal feelings are all over the emotional map. One day I am pep-talking a friend who is on edge because small-people-overload and the next I can not tear my own eyes away from the media espousing imminent threat to the well being of my whole family.
My posts over on my facebook page have been following this up and down trend with my emotions and I feel like I need to get a handle on it. My personal faith that God is good and that He will work all things for good has definitely not been clear in the messages I’ve been sending out into the world.
While I have been sitting in the quiet, praying fervently morning and night (and multiple times in the noise of the mid-day), I dont know that those prayers are being felt, that friends are seeing the results as God breathed. Even as I praise God for providing healing, or rest, or a mental break, or physical supplies or….I wonder if the people receiving these things see them as from God.
I know that I should pray in private and my God who knows all things done in secret will hear and answer my heartfelt prayer (see Matt. 6:6). I also know that prayer is my most powerful weapon and that I, personally, am called to pray. It is my gift and my deepest calling. I don’t always understand why this is “all” I get to do, but I trust that it is what I must do.
How do I share God’s gospel with those I am praying over? Or, is it enough to lift them up, to check in with them and to let them know that I am in fact praying? If they do not believe in prayer or in God are my prayers enough to them? Do they want more from me? These are the questions I ask at the end of my prayers some mornings. Though, not every morning. There are days when I trust that all I am doing here is exactly what is needed.
I don’t claim to know all there is to know about intercessory prayer, but I believe that it works whether the person being prayed over believes or not. I trust this because I have seen it. I know that even if a person rejects the power of prayer, they can still be blessed by it. There are no limits on my God and no limits on the prayers he asks me to lift up to Him.
Ultimately, I pray His will be done and I teach my children this same prayer. Not my will, not what I want or even what I think is best…but His good and perfect will be done in my life, in the lives of those I love, in the lives of all those I pray over. This giving up of the outcome of my prayer has done two things; first it allows me to trust God more completely. If I do not dictate the outcome of a situation to God I feel that I am fully putting my trust in Him, which is exactly where my trust belongs. Secondarily, it frees me from needing to know what is best. Because I do not know. I can not know, or even assume what the long term plan may be. Even when the right-now answer to prayer feels wrong, I can trust that God knows better than me. Even when it feels upsetting or scary or weird, God knows what is best.
Maybe that is part of why I “just” pray. Because I can’t explain that to an unbeliever. I can’t tell them how God not healing or not providing or not changing a situation can still be good. I can’t explain that, but I know it to be true.
When my brother passed away due to a sudden, inexplicable accident at just 17 years old it would have been easy to say that I could not see the good. When my mother offered no condemnation and complete forgiveness in a time of all-consuming grief, it would be probable to say that I could not understand. In a blinding time of overwhelm you would assume that I could not see the goodness of God. And yet, in the inexplicable, all-consuming, overwhelming crush of this experience I felt God’s presence, His hand in each decision, each action, each moment. He was there through the horror of that time for us and He is here in this time of hurt for His world.
I’m not sure that I’m doing justice to what I’m trying to say here. I don’t want to, or like to, write about my brother. It always seems to lack the power I hope the message will present. It never feels like I can use the correct words to express the weight of losing him or the strength that God poured into my mother and my sisters in that time. I’ll leave it here today though and hopefully, prayerfully, you will see what I’m trying to say by including him.
…I’m checking in a lot more with people in my circles these days. I need to know what they need. I need to know how to pray for them. I need to be there in this way, however unknown it feels and however inactive it keeps me. It may not be what you think you need, to you it may feel like I am not doing anything at all. But I’ll still do it. I’ll still lift you up, whether you ever know it or feel it is not up to me. That part is not for me to control.
I have decided that I will continue to be transparent and let you know when I’m feeling the crush or the fear that this world is throwing at me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust that God’s got this, it means only that He needs me to come back to Him in prayer. It’s a good reminder that I can rely on Him. If you need prayer, and, I mean, we all do, won’t you message me?
This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.
There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.
I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.
I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs, I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.
You wouldn’t be wrong.
But…you wouldn’t be right either.
There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.
The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?
I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?
Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.
I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?
Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?
I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?
Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.
Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.
I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.
This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.