Subversive

My voice is a sword.

My brain and heart and eyes are all sorts of drowning in crazy. I can’t trust a damn thing any of them say or feel.

But I can keep speaking good. I can wield that sword.

I can speak of life-affirming things- like how Arlow crouches down with his butt in the air when he wants to play, and every time someone says (in words or actions) that they love me, and warmer days. I don’t have to check with my brain and heart and eyes. I don’t have to ask them to validate the good inherent in life. They can’t be trusted anyway.

I will speak what I know to be good and true, even when everything else in me is screaming in contrary protest.

My voice is the rebel-rouser of my body.

*

I met with my therapist yesterday. I was crying in earnest, completely drowning in the fear of this battle that is so, so much bigger than me. But then she said something that struck me as funny, and with tears running down my face, I started laughing.

And I thought… Is there anything more telling of hope, and that good wins, than when laughter shows up and is somehow bigger than our tears?

I can’t control my sadness any more than I can control my laughter.

I can’t control my depression or my panic.

But I can hold tight to this sword. And I can trust that God is as much in the tears as He is in the laughter.

And none of it is wasted.

A bigger-than-me fight isn’t reason to despair. It’s reason to stand firm and wait on the God for whom nothing is too big.

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The Waiting

It comes suddenly, in words or moments, while I’m engaging in conversation or watching the sun go down at day’s end.

Today, someone talked about painting their toenails. It was that simple, but I immediately felt the flatness of those words. “I used to enjoy that,” I thought, less with words and more with my heart. And then, “There is no life in that for me anymore.”

A few weeks ago, someone asked if I wanted to watch Shrek. Instantly, I was enveloped in a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe or think or function. And why? Because the best moments of my life feel empty and meaningless and not real to me.

That same day I was sitting on a couch in a house as much like home to me as my own. I was surrounded by so much good- snow and love and food and laughter and togetherness and cuddling. And I thought, “This moment is as good as life gets. I couldn’t want anything more for my day than this.” But I couldn’t feel it. And then someone said “Shrek” and I looked around the room at the faces of people I love and I thought, “How are these people living life? How are they finding the good moments and feeling them and using them as fuel to get them through the less-good moments?” And the panic grew until I had to make an excuse and drive home, the drive itself a blur. It’s terrifying to look goodness right in its eyes and not be able to feel it. Everything is hollow and empty. It’s like I’m watching life unfold through a haze. I can see it and acknowledge it, but I can’t touch it or feel it.

I’m taking it a day at a time, this messy unfolding. I am leaving teary voicemails for the people paid to help me. I am chasing, as best as I know how, after life.

I used to feel alive. I used to find joy in my hands kneading cookie dough, or watching the fading sunlight illuminate small bugs flying near the grass, or breathing in the scent of a new body wash. Simple things. The way my friend’s hands hold a cup of tea across the table from me, the squeaky sound the cats make when they jump from something high to the carpet below, the golden glow of lamplight in the evening.

I can’t feel any of it anymore. I can say, “THIS IS GOOD,” and know it to be true, but the goodness feels flat. Lifeless.

There is still a part of me that wants to pack my backpack with sin and run recklessly at God, daring Him to let me crash.

There’s also a part of me so committed to this fight. So, so committed to life and growth and my future. But also so completely overwhelmed with the pressure in my chest and the depression turning everything gray, and I can’t fathom how I’m going to do this.

The sun is going down. I have a whole night ahead of me, and nothing I can think to do holds any appeal. I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know how to pass the time. I can’t feel any good.

The sun is going down. And panic might be there, ready to greet me when it does.

But right now, I am writing. I am drinking hot tea. Arlow is asleep at my feet. And a shower is calling my name.

I will take care of myself the best I can. I will fight this the best I can. And I will believe, even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is leading me to fullness of life.

 

Endings and Amen

“Lord, the one you love is sick.” John 11:3

I’m sick.

I can feel it in the way my eyes see the world. The way my heart responds to good things. The way my brain twists everything up so much that nothing feels real anymore.

I can feel it in the panic that hits me out of nowhere, like a freight train, completely leveling me. But, unlike being hit by an actual train, I don’t get an excuse from living life. I don’t get to wave a white flag in surrender. I still have to smile and function and act like I can breathe.

How many times this week have I thought, “I’m going to drive myself to the ER. I need help.”

How many times have I had to force myself to walk away from the vodka at the grocery store?

How many times have I had to cry to heaven: “PLEASE help me choose You! Please, please, please help me remember what I really want!”

Oh, I could write a long, long list of reasons to live. I could write a long list of things I’m grateful for, ways I’m blessed. I’m loved. I’m loved and there’s nothing that matters more on the whole planet. And I love. Oh, how fiercely I love.

But the problem isn’t in the logistics of living. Yes, each day has trouble of its own, but the good outweighs the bad.

“How’s your day been?” I get asked. And always, or almost always, my answer is: “My day itself was good. It’s what I bring to the table that’s hard.”

It’s the panic. The depression. The fact that dying is as unthinkable as continuing to live like this.

My brain is sick.

I called my doctor three times today. I cried. “I’ve done all my coping skills,” I sobbed. “I’ve spent time with loved ones and read and listened to music and worked out. And everything I do makes the panic worse because nothing I do helps me feel connected to life. I can’t break through this inability to feel any good.”

I don’t know what’s worse- thinking someone could save me, or knowing no one can. I felt less panic when I believed there was help outside of me. That illusion has been shattered. No one can fix me. They can only love me. And that should be enough. Love should be enough. I will always preach that love is enough because I believe that right to the core of me. So why isn’t it enough for me right now?

“What if you choose to believe you were safe?” I felt that question linger in my soul this afternoon. What if I stopped fearing lack and scarcity and abandonment and loss and failure? What if I truly saw myself as held, and trusted that God won’t punish me for doing the best I can?

I’m sick.

“Lord, the one you love is sick.”

But if you know scripture, you know the story didn’t end there.

Choices and Chance

“I don’t know what I want!” I say. My head is spinning and there are options and I don’t know what to do.

And then I’m reminded that my wants should align with His. And my head stops spinning, and my thoughts narrow down, and I know what is right. And there’s peace in no longer vacillating between one decision or another because The Right One is so obvious, but I can’t stop wanting to take the alternate road.

I know there’s no life to be found choosing a path that’s contrary to what He has laid out before me. But sometimes I really just feel like I can’t walk that road anymore.

And I know it’s okay if “I can’t” because He can. But I still have to wake up and be the one to take one step after another. I still have to find it in me to love the hard to love, and take care of myself, and not let the lies (or half-truths) grow so big that my “I can’t” grows right along with them.

And I find comfort in the thought of taking the steering wheel out of God’s hands and crashing myself into a tree. Because then “I can’t” doesn’t matter anymore. Then there’s an ambulance and possibly unconsciousness, and then I’m someone else’s problem.

It’s like tossing a coin. And heads or tails it doesn’t matter because it’s not up to me anymore. The coin is in the air, and so are my hands- surrendering my future to chance. A

But this is where faith comes in. It’s easy to believe when believing only requires faith enough to read the Bible and listen to Christian radio. It’s another thing to believe enough to say, “Because You are who You say you are, I will carry this cross. Even though I’m tired. Even though I don’t want to. Even though I don’t understand. Even though I can’t.”

And this is where love gets put to the test as well. Because true love is bigger than warm, fuzzy feelings and prayers of gratitude for the good He provides. Real love is choosing to do the hard thing.

Lord, grow my faith.

Teach me to love You more.

The Act Of Living

When I was a kid, I used to watch the cartoon version of Narnia, and my favorite scene was when Aslan breathed on the statues and they came back to life. Hopes restored. Lives restores. Dreams restored.

All it takes is His breath.

Dead things come back to life all the time.

*

“Bless the Lord, O, my soul…”

I place my hand firm over my heart and pray that over myself. Oh, Lord. Teach me to live from that place- from a place of worship. Teach me to wonder at and be in awe over the majesty and mystery and miracle of You.

*

I laugh with people I love. We make eye contact and gently touch each other’s arms and we laugh and it is good. It is so, so good.

I sit quiet on the couch, not alone. There is comfortable silence and books and Mumford and Sons.

Arlow goes to his basket, digging through for the perfect toy. He brings it to me, presents it excitedly- an offering.

The sun surrounds us and the air is cold, but the sun is warm and it’s glowing like an embrace.

The kids and I sit, hip to hip, on the couch. Legs entwined. There is comfort. And I hope that when they look in my eyes, they see Jesus loving them through me.

I watch them play, and listen to them talk about their future. It’s all laughter and dreams with kids. They have so much to teach me. I have so much to unlearn.

Lord, teach me again that life is a gift.