Stream-Of-Consciousness

The sky looks like gold and fluff and the sun is setting over the water. And I watch. And I take out my phone to get a picture. And I plead with my soul or mind or heart or whatever within me might be listening, “Let this matter to you.”

And Arlow thinks, if I’d just let him off the leash, he could for sure catch the motorcycles that drive by us. And he breaks into a run, only to be pulled back by the fraying fabric connecting us, and he bites at it and growls and refuses to move, and I pull him along saying “no” as firmly as I can, but I smile because he is his own little being and I love that he is himself and not just an extension of me. And people stop and tell me how beautiful he is, and sometimes he’s good and sometimes he jumps on them or pees on their shoes, and I say, “I’m sorry, we’re still working on manners.” And at night he curls up beside me and I watch his breath fog up the screen on my phone, and I pray that someday I won’t feel so disconnected from a life worth living. And I thank God for the ways He’s sustaining me, even when it doesn’t feel like enough.

And I read about the woman who lives with depression, and something in me turns to fire and I want to run, but I can’t, because the fire is me. And I beg God, with all the hope I have left, to not let that be my story. I can’t live my entire life wishing I wasn’t alive.

And I watch people do their lives. The barista at Starbucks, the man in the truck beside me, the baseball coach. And I think, “How?” And: “Why?” And: “What do you know that I’ve forgotten?”

And I hold babies and love people fiercely and want for them life and love and laughter and happiness. And I would protect them, if I could, from anything that would try to steal that. And I value life. I value their lives. And so why can’t I feel any sort of connection to my own?

And I’m scared.

And I dream I’m sick. Physically sick. And I’m not scared then, I’m relieved. Because no one will expect me to fix myself. No one will blame me for being sick. No one will say it’s because I’m not strong enough or don’t trust God enough. I can rest. No one will lock me away and take away my rights. They won’t withdraw. They will come near. Because it’s not my fault if I’m sick. It’s not my fault. And there’s more compassion and understanding when a high fever or broken bone are involved than when we can’t make ourselves remember that it’s a gift to be alive.

And I read: “I waffled between becoming an animal in a howl and pulling myself together into a tight numbness.” And I get it.

And the doctor calls out of duty to check on me. And no one can fix it.

And I can’t understand this God who supposedly leaves the flock of sheep for the one. And I need Him to do that for me.

And so I pray and worship and beg and sit silent under the fading sun and call everything Him. I let it all be a hug from Him. And I’m tired. I’m so tired. Because it isn’t like actually being hugged. It’s not rest or peace for my soul. It’s effort. It’s grasping and clawing and fighting tooth and nail to do this life and believe it to be beautiful and Him to  be near.

And my therapist and I discuss my life, and I can’t remember a time in the last eight years where I felt at rest. Taken care of. I’m always powering through on my own strength. Alone. Except for the God who feels no nearer than my deceased mom. And it’s not enough. It’s not. enough. But I fight not to let myself believe that. Because our God is a God of abundance and not depravity, right? And so I’m always trying to be okay and call life beautiful and tell myself that what my insides are screaming for is safe in the hands of the God who promises to provide for us.

And the medication and sleep and going through the motions and asking for prayer? I’m sure they help. But it doesn’t feel like provision. It feels like effort. Just another way I’m emptying myself out in the fight for life.

And I don’t see a solution.

And I’m so scared of being left. I’m scared of them leaving, of being unlovable. And I’m scared of leaving myself, of becoming a hollow shell of a person just waiting for God to do what He’s promised to do. And they’ll blame me. Because He doesn’t fail us.

And I wonder if I’ve been believing God to be good, while simultaneously believing He is mean. Because what might be good eternally can feel really mean to us today, right? At least that’s how I’m making sense of where I am and this life I’ve been given. He is good, even when He feels mean.

And that is terrifying. Because what hope do I have then? What hope do I have of a life that is full and rich if I believe the gifts He gives might feel like pain? What hope do I have of a life that, through tears and laughter, I can feel connected to and can say, “I choose you. I choose you through it all. Because this is the life I’ve been given and it’s a gift and God is near and I’m so, so blessed. And the hard? It can’t steal the beautiful. And, my God, is this life beautiful.”

And I want to be able to look hopeless people in the eyes, and hold their face between my hands, and I want to tell them not to listen to the people who want to make sure they don’t forget that life is hard. And I want to say, “You’re not weak for struggling. And yes, life is hard. But nothing you ever face will be as hard as where you are right now. This is as bad as it gets. And there’s better for you up ahead. I promise. I know because I’ve lived this same story- the story of hopelessness and a brain that is trying to kill you. I know how tired you are.”

And then I’ll take my hand and place it over their heart, and I will speak these words over them, and pray them at the same time: “It WILL be okay. Our God is good. He is GOOD. And He loves you fiercely. And this fight you’re enduring right now? He and I are so proud of you. You are not alone, and this won’t be forever.”

And then I’ll whisper to them, as God has done to me many times through another’s words or embrace or the fluffy baby ducks on the water: “Hear me, child. There. Is. Hope.”

Rain Like A Hug

I stood in the rain, smiling up at the sky.

The other Sunday afternoon Costco shoppers were gathered under the covered area by the door, but I stood in the parking lot, letting the rain wet my hair and face and soak my clothing through to my skin.

Because surrender.

Letting go. Letting go of how my hair looks and whether or not my make-up is smeared. Letting go of whether or not my Toms are collecting water and my sweater is growing heavy with the weight of the rain. Letting go of standing alone. Letting go of being watched. Letting go of looking crazy.

Surrender.

Standing in the rain, arms open wide, ready to embrace what the sky, (or life, or God), has for me.

“It makes me feel like a child again,” I told Irene when I finally made my way to where she stood with the other umbrella-unfolding, coat-zipping, hood-donning shoppers.

And I was smiling.

Because He is in the rain.

And the sun.

And having someone to say goodnight to.

He is in the puppy, with his arms around my waist and his head resting on my chest, snoring.

He is in surrender and living life with eyes open.

He is in the tears I fight and the ones I drown in. He is in the calm and the tired and the laughter that bubbles up unexpectedly.

He is in my inability to find the words to pray, and my willingness to come to Him as child with nothing to offer but my understanding that He is God and I am not.

He is in Monday morning and Friday night.

He is in warm beverages and warm hugs and pulling the covers up to my chin with a contented sigh before I fall asleep at night.

He is in my panic and my desperation and my questions. Because He enters in to even those things He doesn’t author. He enters in and refuses to leave us standing alone.

He is in the huddling together under the covered area at Costco, discussing with loved ones whether or not to make the mad dash for the car or wait for the rain to die down.

He is in the husband offering to pull the car up while his wife and waits, dry and warm.

He is in having shelter from the rain.

He is in choosing to stand beneath the gray sky.

He is in the rain.

And so I spread my arms open wide.

Open Hands

“Write down the thoughts you have before you start to feel like giving up on life,” she said.

And so I did. I took the pen and I wrote, and I was surprised at how quickly things flowed. They’re all there all the time, these thoughts I’m battling. But these thoughts? They are, at least some of them, true. And how do I handle that? How do you battle truth? You tell it to sit down because God’s truth is bigger. Right?

But does His truth undo other truths? Can I tell my circumstances that they are inferior to hope and the good the Lord has for me? Can I tell my beaten-up heart to trust?

That’s what I’ve been doing. For months. Years.

But what do I do when I’m powering through on the promise that God is good and that He can be trusted, but things don’t get any easier or better? What do I do when the condition of my heart is only getting more and more dire, no matter how much time I spend reading the Bible, and raising my hands in worship in my living room, and falling to my knees in the shower, and leaving my house to socialize with people or walk the dog or go to work and help others?

What do I do when I’m coping and fighting, and every single day everything in me still doesn’t feel any interest in this life, and all I am is sorrow and grief and EFFORT. So. Much. Effort. I am doing everything I can to look at my life and say, “It’s okay because God is good and He has a plan.” But it’s not okay, and God is still good and He still has a plan, but IT’S NOT OKAY. So what then? What now?

“I can’t fix it,” I wrote on my list yesterday. And then: “I want Jesus.”

I can’t fix it.

I can’t feel like this forever. I can’t do life like this. I can’t.

And I can’t fix it.

I am only His child. Only He loves me in the way everything inside of me is screaming to be loved.

And I’m telling myself that’s okay, that He’s enough.

But it’s not true. It’s not okay. He IS enough. But somehow also, He isn’t. And I don’t know how that’s possible, but no matter what my brain knows, my heart keeps shattering into smaller pieces as I try to power through this life on His being enough.

He isn’t here. He isn’t here to hold me. I can’t feel Him or hear His voice.

So it ISN’T enough.

As we talked yesterday, I cried. At first it was one solitary tear, clinging to my eyelashes, which I tried to discreetly wipe away and onto my pant leg without her noticing, but then it was the tears that make your chin quiver and your voice fail you. And I couldn’t stop crying. Our time was over and I was sobbing and I had to leave like that, with her reminding me to stay safe. And I sat in my car and sobbed into my hands and nothing about it was okay. Nothing about this is okay.

And I can’t fix it.

But then there was the kid whose love language is also touch, and he touched my shoulder and the top of my head in his little boy, trying to be annoying way. And there was his brother, who fell asleep in my car, and I reached over to keep his head from tipping and waking him up as I went around corners. And the toddler, his legs entwined with mine on the couch. And the dog who let me cradle his head in the crook of my arm, and who fell asleep, snoring, while I rubbed his belly.

But I woke up this morning, and I called my therapist, and I cried. And I am all tears and grief and there are moments of what I’m screaming for, moments of connection and love and belonging and Jesus, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough.

“I don’t want you to think everyone’s life is so much happier than yours and that you’re the exception,” someone else said to me today.

But that isn’t my fear. My fear is the opposite. My fear is that no one is happy. My fear is that everyone feels like this. Because then what hope do I have? I need to believe this world has people in it who are happy and glad to be alive. I WANT everyone to be happier than me.

*

There was a woman at McDonald’s the other day, sitting at a table, scowling, looking like she hasn’t been hugged or loved in a long, long time. And I thought, “There is SO much better for you than this…”

And how can I say that? How can I feel that for her when that hasn’t been my experience at all?

How do I tell people about the healing, miraculous, all-consuming, powerful love of our God who is nearer than our very breath, when I’ve been telling myself that for months and I’m NOT OKAY?

What is true?

Is this all there is? Is this the More Than Enough, Abundant Life He has for me? Is this it?

I don’t know.

But it’s not okay.

And it’s not enough.

And I can’t fix it.

And so I open my hands. I come empty and broken and scared and with no answers. I have no answers. I just have questions. And even those I offer up to Him. I don’t need answers, I just need help getting through today.

I come to Him screaming for a love that I don’t think I’ll ever have again.

I come to Him wanting to give up and just run to His arms and be done with this pain and suffering and fight.

And I come to Him saying that He is good. You are good, You are good, You are good.

I don’t understand. And I don’t know how to endure this. And I am drowning in a sorrow that I can’t fix. And You are good.

The Deconstructing

I had a dream last night that my childhood home was being remodeled.

I was standing in the living room, watching people empty it out. Everything that makes a living room a place of comfort was being taken elsewhere. No more couch or TV or coffee table. No more lamp or bookshelf. It was just a room, empty.

And I didn’t understand the remodel. I didn’t understand why it was necessary or how it would benefit me. “Will the house be bigger when it’s done?” I asked. “Nicer? Fancier?” No. Not really. Essentially, the floors and walls were going to be replaced, updated. And it wasn’t going to look any different when all was finished, but it would be more efficient. Not nicer, but better. Not fancier, but stronger.

And I listened to what process was going to be taken to make this happen, and I felt angry. Displaced. No longer at home in my own house. I was told that one by one, the walls would come down. One would come down and a new, “better” wall would be built in its place, and then the next wall would come down and the process would repeat itself.

And I said, “How long are we going to have to live without a wall!? It’s going to be so cold in here!”

And I don’t remember getting an answer. I just remember standing there, in the empty living room, not okay with the process my home was undergoing, and trying to understand how I would ever feel okay in a house that was cold, exposed to the elements, emptied of comfort.

*

I wonder how much of that is a metaphor for what is happening inside of me right now.

*

I watched a client’s child fall asleep in her arms this morning, his too-big body still finding rest and comfort on her lap. One thumb was in his mouth, and with his other hand he was absentmindedly playing with her hand- rubbing her fingernails, grabbing her fingers, finding comfort in touch. And slowly, his eyelids grew heavier and heavier, his blinks growing longer and longer.

And she watched him sleep while she talked with me. She smoothed his forehead, making sure he wasn’t getting too hot, and brushed his hair back with her hand, and wiped a fallen eyelash from his face.

*

I can’t fix it, this scream inside of me. This tightening of my chest. This desire to run from something that can’t be escaped.

I can’t fix it.

But I can let myself be His.

Because if we humans, flawed and sinful, care about even our child’s stray eyelash, how much more does He care about us?

This Is How You Let Yourself Be Held

I know God is a good father.

But I wish He felt like a good father a little more often.

Certainly He can’t expect us to do this life without knowing His arms around us- without sensing ourselves held, beloved, in His warm embrace?

“I want to cry. I am so, so tired,” I told someone yesterday.

And I laughed. Yesterday, I laughed so hard I couldn’t talk.

And I got a migraine.

And I slept well.

And I held a child.

And cuddled a dog.

And I sobbed.

And I feared today coming.

And I wondered what the point of all this is.

And I asked God if I’ll ever feel okay again.

And I checked in with myself and was disheartened, but not surprised, to discover my outlook on being alive is still the same.

I’m so tired.

I am fighting so hard. I’m doing everything I know to do, and this life? It feels… Well, it feels like I’m carrying a cross. I’m doing something I don’t feel like doing, each second choosing to put one foot in front of the next. And not only don’t I want to do it, but it HURTS. Each second, each step, it’s so painful. And yet I’m choosing to walk. I’m choosing to live in the pain.

And I ask God big questions. And I tell Him bold things, like, “This is WRONG. This can’t be what You have for me. Something isn’t right. This can’t be all there is.”

And I sob. I get angry and I get scared and I can’t breathe and I want to jump ship. I want to be done with this life I never asked for in the first place, this life that I don’t see getting better any time soon.

And my head fills with heavy things and everything is spinning and I have no control.

And then I close my eyes.

And I whisper the only prayer that comforts my heart: “Just hold me.”

Because it’s all spinning and the cross is heavy and I’m in so much pain. And time just doesn’t freaking stop. It just keeps going and it doesn’t care if I’m tired.

But I’m still His.

He is still my Father.

And, even when I can’t feel it, I know He is holding me.

I know He is good.

*

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord!” -Ps. 27:13-14

 

On Choosing Therapy and Choosing Faith

I didn’t want to go. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to blame the medicine my doctor gave me, and turn off my alarm, and pull my covers up over my head, and go back to sleep.

I laid there, blinking heavy eyelids, weighing the pros and cons with my groggy mind.

Arlow moved closer. Rested his head on my leg.

I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to go.

Forty-five minutes later, my energy drink and I were settling down in a leather chair across from yet another therapist.

My hair was barely brushed and my eyes red-rimmed from a tiredness that extends way beyond a need for sleep, but I was there- with teeth brushed and face washed and wearing something that wasn’t pajamas.

And I leaned forward, and I talked, and I forced myself to be engaged in the process. I didn’t abandon my bed and my dog just to sit there and nurse a sense of hopelessness after all.

But even while I sit there week after week, barring the door of my mind against hopelessness, I still feel sort of numb to the whole experience of therapy, like I’m just going through the motions.

And I never leave feeling any better. I never leave feeling like I’ve gained clarity and perspective where once things were dark. But I leave, with my next appointment reminder in my hand, and I know that I’ll continue to show up, even if I don’t want to. Even if I don’t know that it’s going to help.

And I wonder what “help” would even look like, and if I’d even recognize it as help right away or if it would come to me disguised.

For instance, maybe help will come disguised as early mornings with tired eyes and a therapist who is watching the clock to make sure we don’t go over our fifty minutes.

And so I show up. I show up with tentative hope, and I participate, and then I climb in my car and I don’t feel any better, but I choose to lift that hour up to the Lord.

I think therapy, like so much in life, is an exercise in faith.

Therapy is choosing to bury the seed in the dirt and wait.

And you don’t dig it back up to see if it’s starting to grow. And you don’t despair over the still-bare dirt. And you maybe don’t even watch the dirt at all because whether or not the seed ever grows is not up to you anyway.

And you tell yourself that if it grows, it’s because God is good. And if it doesn’t, it’s because God is good. And so you don’t put your hope in the seed, but in the God who can be trusted with it.

And so maybe that’s what help looks like. Maybe it comes disguised as dirt.

And maybe it isn’t one thing. Maybe it’s a series of things- continually choosing to do “the next right thing”.

Maybe help is getting out of bed. Maybe it’s going to therapy. Maybe it’s even going to work.

Maybe help is calling someone to ask for prayer, or showing up at church when you’d rather stay home, or breathing deep and reminding yourself that it is a gift to be alive.

Maybe help is going for a walk and forcing yourself to smell the air and feel the breeze and smile at the people you pass.

Maybe it’s running the vacuum because, even though you don’t want to, you know you’ll feel better when the bunny fur and chewed up dog toy are no longer on the carpet.

Maybe help is saying, “I love you,” and shamelessly waiting to hear an, “I love you too.”

Maybe it’s getting ten hours of sleep because that’s just what your body needs right now. And maybe it’s ordering a large pizza for just you.

Maybe help is just not giving up. Maybe it’s continuing to row the boat across the vast Pacific and not stop looking for land on the horizon. Because you KNOW there’s land. You know it.

And whether it’s the horizon or the dirt you’re waiting on, ultimately all you can do is lay aside your “How much longer?!” And so you look around at the blue sky and the warm sun and you choose to believe that there’s good in the waiting. And maybe that’s what help looks like- choosing to believe in good.

And so you do. You choose to believe. You choose faith.

You choose to trust in the One who bends low and whispers in your ear, “HOPE.”

Lessons from Dogs and Flowers

I didn’t want to go for a walk.

But I wanted to eat a bunch of Macaroni and Cheese, so the walk felt necessary.

Sometimes you have to act without asking yourself if you want to. Sometimes that practice is dangerous, like when you’re struggling to want to live, but sometimes it parents you right out of the house and into the fresh air against your will.

“Can you please stop smelling everything?” I asked Arlow at the start of the walk. I was grumpy and tired and I just wanted to be in my pajamas in bed. “I don’t actually want to be out here. I want to go home. Can we please hurry this process along?” I asked him.

But my dog, my forever-curious lover of life, refused to share my goal. Every plant, shadow, hole in the dirt, and bloom seemed to beckon him: “Notice me!” He is forever reminding me sometimes the journey really is the best part, whereas I am always so quick to rush to check things off my to-do list.

And so I tried to still my inner sense of hurry and impatience. I tried to see things through his eyes.

And something happened as I passed by the same twisted trees and stacked rocks I have passed by many times before- I stopped feeling bored.

I felt my legs working to propel me uphill. My heart beating. My body reminding me, “I am ALIVE.”

I noticed how, even in a few days’ time, plants had started growing over the trail. “How do you already look different, trail?” I asked, as I surveyed the ever-expanding green before me.

I counted the snails we passed and listened to the river rushing by on my left and I walked further on the trail than I had ever walked before because, right when I was considering turning around, I saw golden sunlight up ahead. “Look, Arlow!” I said, “Sunlight!” And so we climbed, seeking out the golden light of the fading sun.

*

At church on Sunday, I took home three flowers. Daisies? I don’t know. My plant knowledge is limited. I placed them in a vase on my kitchen windowsill when I got home. I adjusted them so that they were facing me, so that I could smile at them while I did dishes or waited for the tea kettle to whistle.

But they, like Arlow, also had a lesson for me. By day’s end yesterday, I noticed all three of them had turned to face the sun.

They were seeking the light.

Because they knew their life depended on it.

And they don’t panic as the sun goes down. They don’t wither or fade or droop. They just stay there, poised, staring heavenward.

Because they know, somehow, that this is just the way of things- daylight fades into darkness. Summer fades into winter. There is an ebb and flow. But in it all, through it all, we are held.

Darkness–winter–it isn’t how the story ends. The sun comes up.

The sun always comes back up.