Being Mindful

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” -Sylvia Boorstein

What is mindfulness really? I think it’s another word for surrender.

Mindfulness is surrendering our control to the God who is somehow more intricately involved in our lives than we can know.

Mindfulness is choosing not to analyze things to death. It’s choosing to let what is be. It’s choosing to feel the weight of your emotions and, rather than try to change them, to let them exist as they are, knowing they won’t last forever.

You know what the opposite of surrender is? Panic. At least for me.

I can feel the terror rising. I can feel my throat closing.

And under that?
“I can’t do this.”
“This isn’t how life is supposed to feel.”
“I have to make this go away.”

It’s like being under a wool blanket. It’s hot and black and there’s limited oxygen. And I can’t kick my way out from underneath it.

I know there’s a world outside of the blanket. I know there’s light and life and air. I know that exists. But not for me, not right now.

And so I practice radical acceptance. Gratitude. Thought-monitoring.

Mindfulness.

“It’s okay. It’s okay to feel this way.”
“Emotions don’t kill people.”
“Emotions don’t determine truth.”

Am I still under the blanket? Yes. Is it hell? Yes.

But when I surrender, I am inviting God into the hell with me. I am saying, “Here’s where I can’t,” and then trusting Him to meet me in that place.

 

When It Rains

After work today, Arlow walked in, went to the pantry, grabbed a dog bone, went to the living room to eat it, and then fell asleep on the couch where he is currently periodically farting.

Replace the dog bone with a beer and my dog is a 55-year-old man.

*

I told a couple people today that I feel like a flashlight in which the batteries are dying. I still put off light, but not enough to illuminate anything.

When I told my therapist that tonight, she paused a moment and then said, “Do you write this stuff down? Because sometimes I hear a book in you.”

I hope so.

#reasonstostayalive.

*

Midday today I found myself driving in the rain, surrounded by gray. And, for the first time in my life, I was not only annoyed with the rain, but I was actually pissed off at it. Like, angry enough to want to raise my fist to the sky and yell: “I am sick and tired of your sh**. Pull it together!”

Thankfully, I’m crazy, but not so crazy that I believe the rain can hear me, so I just silently fumed rather than actually giving the rain an earful.

Still, every time I got out of my car I felt angry with the cold and wet and lack of sunshine. I was raging against it, refusing to surrender to what was, and it was making me miserable.

So I decided to try to embrace it. I took my hair out of its ponytail, stood outside my car, tilted my face to the sky, and I let the rain fall down on me. And I breathed. I felt the coolness of the rain on my skin, my hair curling as it grew increasingly wet, and slowly I felt myself starting to smile. Because how often in adulthood do we take the time to stand in the rain? And really, water falling from the sky? It’s kind of incredible when you stop long enough to wonder again at the things we have become so desensitized to.

And so there I was, smiling at the sky. Once I stopped raging against the rain and decided just to accept it, I suddenly didn’t feel so angry.

I talked with my therapist tonight about how I think my panic is often the result of me trying to rage against the depression, particularly when it settles itself on top of me like a heavy, wool blanket. I try to kick it off, try to get out from underneath it, try to see some light, and I can’t. It’s all heavy blackness. And I can’t fix it . So I panic.

But when I don’t try? When I just accept that this is where I am right now? When I remind myself I haven’t always felt this way and won’t always feel this way? When I stop raging against it, stop saying, “I CAN’T FEEL THIS WAY,” and instead focus on breathing? The panic is much less likely to be next in the series of events.

Radical acceptance. Mindfulness. Thought monitoring.

I prefer sunshine.

But the rain won’t kill me.

Breath

Arlow is laying on the floor by my feet right now.

He played all day at daycare and is probably tired, but I keep studying his face. Is he okay? Is he bored? Depressed? Am I being a good mom? Does he know I love him?

This is my brain always.

Does he know I love him? Does she?

And also: Am I enough? Am I lovable?

Followed by: Yes, they know you love them. And they love you, they love you, they love you.

*

Not everything is fragile.

Love isn’t supposed to be a fragile, fleeting thing. It’s a commitment. A thing that just is and that cannot be lost. Because love doesn’t forsake us.

I am alive because I love.

And I am alive because they love me too.

That, love, (and Love), is the solid ground beneath my feet when all the world grows hazy and unreal to me. When my brain is flooded with a silent scream, and my chest is tight from trying to keep breathing, love keeps me committed to this fight.

*

I remember when things used to matter to me, not just consciously, but in a life-affirming, deep-in-my-soul sort of way.

How the dishwasher exhales steam when you open it, breathing wet, warm air onto your face.

The calming way the sunlight comes through the window in the early morning if you leave the lights off.

I remember who I used to be. I remember when life held magic and possibility and felt like a hug from the Lord, even when it was hard. I remember how just the simple act of existing felt like a gift.

The entire man-made world is designed to make life better. iPhones; and boats; and vacations; and TV shows; and recipes for something homemade and warm and delicious. And God gives us love. Love and sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass and bananas and hugs and Himself. The entire world is infused with good, reasons to laugh and enjoy, and I can’t feel ANYTHING.

I read good books, and drink warm tea, and let myself be loved, and bend low to kiss Arlow’s wet nose. I laugh at jokes my coworkers tell, and hold doors open for people, and plan to go see movies with those whose company makes my life better.

I’m doing everything I can to try to make myself, the me I really am, return. The me who can feel joy in budding flowers and the smell of a freshly cut cucumber. I am desperate to stop floating somewhere above this world, unable to feel or touch anything, like it’s all a dream. I am begging myself to come back.

But the harder I try, the more panicked I feel. Because it isn’t working. Trying harder isn’t always the solution. But this? This version of living? This isn’t going to work for me either.

*

I text my therapist tonight. “I need to know if anything–grief or experiences or lies I’m believing–is contributing to this depression and panic,” I said. “I need to fix it. I need to not feel powerless. I need to be me again.”

Someday I’ll look back on this season and I won’t see it as wasted time.

God hasn’t brought me (or kept me) here to suffer.

And even now, I can see His hand in all of it.

I am currently here with two of my favorite kids, in a house that feels as much like home to me as my own. And I have a place here. I belong here.

And regularly people text me and tell me they’re thinking of me and love me, or that something funny or good happened in their day, or that they need prayer or to talk to someone who understands. My life matters to people. I know that to be true.

And I have a job that I love. It’s hard, brutally hard at times, but rewarding. I have lots of time to myself, and I regularly get home early, and my clients are so lovable. It’s the perfect job for me in so many ways.

And Arlow. My whole heart loves him.

All of that is God.

And the way I feel Sundays, surrounded by my church family, watching the band play and candles on stage flicker, and knowing we’ve all come together with our brokenness and joy to worship the Lord? Oh, it’s so undeniably God. His hand in my life. An unmistakable gift.

*

Maybe I don’t need to try so hard.

Sometimes “trying harder” just breeds panic, especially when you’re already doing the best you can.

So I’ll look down at Arlow, and rather than worrying that I’m failing him, I’ll say, “He is loved. And he knows it. He is resting because he feels safe and secure and relaxed. He is resting. He is not depressed.”

And I’ll look at myself and offer myself the same gift of speaking truth. “I am okay. I am still breathing, in the midst of the crazy I still have the breath of God in my lungs, and that is not a mistake. I am going to be okay. I am held. I am loved. I am His precious child. And I am not going to be gone from myself forever.”

Sometimes you have to stand firm and wield your weapons and fight.

And sometimes you have to be still and know.

And that’s a kind of fighting too.