Family

“For a lot of people, family is everything…” she says. And I gulp. Because it’s true. Family is everything, and where does that leave me?

*

“Black and white thinking…” she says.

“People expect you to trust in unconditional love, but you’ve never experienced that…” she says.

“You have an intense fear of abandonment…” she says. And then: “Boundaries are not synonymous with abandonment.”

*

I am in so much pain. Gulping, gasping pain.

Acceptance really is the antidote to suffering, though. It doesn’t eliminate the pain, but it lessens the suffering.

I can’t force myself to be anyone’s family.

I have to accept that.

*

“Do you think you romanticize family?” she asked.

No. I know families fight and feel misunderstood by each other and that they don’t always love each other well.

But in my moments being part of a family, the belonging somewhere, the being wanted, it’s like a hug. Even if things are uncomfortable otherwise.

Knowing you belong to someone, that your life isn’t just important to them in a detached, removed, peripheral sort of way, but that your life is intricately intertwined with theirs? It’s got a protective quality.

I am doing my life alone. Not unloved, but alone.

My life isn’t intertwined with any others.

I wake up in the morning alone and I go to bed at night alone.

Family is everything, and I don’t have that.

I want to scream that I can’t live this life, that it’s too hard. I want to beg for someone to love me like family. I want to scream about how it’s not fair and I’m not strong enough. I want to hurt myself for being unlovable and difficult to be in relationship with. I want to hurt myself for not being the kind of person people want.

But if I give in to those emotions, where does that leave me? Caught in this panicked spiral, unable to breathe, and dangerous to myself.

I have to accept it.

*

This life is too hard. It didn’t used to be. I used to love life. Back when I had a family. Back when I belonged somewhere. Back when there was someone to say goodnight to.

My family was dysfunctional and I don’t miss them in hindsight, but before I realized how unhealthy they were, I was so much happier. And now I’m alone.

They said they’d be my family.

But I’m alone.

And I have to accept it. Or else this will kill me.

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The Things That Save Us

When I was younger, even as recently as my mom’s death, I believed I could get through anything as long as I had people who loved me.

I no longer believe that. At least not in the same way.

Because I’m realizing that, come nightfall, no matter how many people have loved me during the day, it’s just me. It’s me and my twisted up heart and my knotted up stomach and my spinning brain. And the “I love you’s” and hugs and all the holy, beautiful reassurances that I’m loved and not alone, they buoy me, but the pain is still there, giving me one of two options: endure it, ride the wave, trust the process… or fight against it, panic, suffer. And it’s my decision alone to make.

And so here I sit tonight, with loved ones a phone call away, and other loved ones sleeping in the next room. I am not alone. And yet.

So I do the only thing left to do: I turn my shame-filled eyes toward the One who can help. And I raise up a string of prayers- desperate, afraid, pleading. And in the same breath, the acknowledgement that I have no right. I have no right to turn to Him now, relying on my status as His child, when I haven’t been living like His child lately. How bold of me to go to the Creator of all things, who I’ve essentially rolled my eyes at and shushed for the last month, and ask Him for provision, protection, peace?

But that isn’t how our God operates. He doesn’t turn us away. He doesn’t make us beg and plead and suffer to earn back our right to call Him Abba. He is merciful and full of grace and ever-present.

And I can see the holy in all of this, the progression of my life. It’s good and it’s healthy to realize the love of humans has limits. It makes life worth living, but it cannot save you.

It’s good for me to not try to squeeze Jesus out of people, but to still live with eyes open to flickers of Him that occur naturally in them.

It’s good for me to know that at the end of the day, it’s Jesus. People can pray for me, but they can’t answer my prayers. They can’t be my solution. Only Jesus can do that.

And so I come to Him and I sit and I ask Him for things I have no business asking Him for. And He lets me talk. And then a shhh that I pay attention to, and He holds my head in His hands and His eyes aren’t filled with accusations or anger, but with love. And the shame? The fear that I don’t belong to Him anymore? It melts away.

Moments

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I’m grateful for the moments that don’t hurt.

Thank the good Lord for moments when you think, “Yes. THIS is how life is supposed to be. Hard? Sure. But not lonely. Not without hope.”

When you reach your hand out and someone grabs hold? Thank God for moments like that.

I locked myself in a bathroom stall, put my head in my hands, and proceeded to cry all my makeup off during church today.

About ten minutes after I left the privacy of the bathroom stall, Cendy came up to me to talk to me about helping with kids’ church, but she paused mid-sentence. “Are you okay?” she asked. Then, “How can I pray for you?”

And a little later, Laura caught a glimpse of me across the room and sent a text: “I see you. And I love you.”

Thank God for moments like that.

I went for a walk today, without Arlow. I walked a tree-lined trail to a rocky beach, where I sat, opened a book, watched some crabs scurry, listened to the waves lapping at my feet, and sipped a Diet Dr. Pepper. I breathed in the smell of the ocean and the warmth of the sun on my skin.

Thank God for moments like that.

Songs that resonate with you heart? (This one is killing me–in a good way–right now.) Mid-day naps on the couch? Long walks and good conversation with someone you love?

Thank God for moments like that.

Love, Attachment, and ER Visits

​”Attachment theory teaches us that our assumption that we can and should control our emotional needs and soothe ourselves in the face of stress is simply wrong. Research findings support the exact opposite.

*

My arm was stretched across his abdomen. There were no words, just the gentle inhale and exhale and the sense of being safe.

She told me she loved me. She told me I don’t repel people. She told me not to give too much power to one person’s negative opinion of me, that not everyone sees me that way, that she doesn’t see me that way.

We laughed and drove to the coast. Comfort and freedom. Silliness and honest conversation. Singing ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’ over chips and salsa.

He said my smile is unreal. He said he can’t get enough. He said he likes my eyes and my freckles. He took me in and found something special there.

She said I’m brave.

She thanked me for my honesty. She said I could tell her anything.

We watched our dogs play. We laughed and talked and there was no judgment, just being present with one another.

She asked me what my plans are for Labor Day weekend. She wants to see me. She wants to spend time with me.

He offered to come over and spend time with me. My heart hurt and he offered to come over so that I wasn’t alone.

She text messaged me a quote. Encouragement in words. A reminder that I have support in this process I’m going through.

Her kids draw me pictures. She calls me when she’s sad. I call her too. We are family.

But I sat outside the ER alone, barefoot and barely clothed, so sick I couldn’t even tell the taxi driver how to get to my house.

I don’t think that’s okay. I will never, ever think that’s okay.

Love walks through fire.

Love is a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.

Love shows up.

*

“As adults we don’t play with toys anymore, but we do have to go out into the world and deal with novel situations and difficult challenges. We want to be highly functional at work, at ease and inspired in our hobbies, and compassionate enough to care for our children and partners. If we feel secure, the world is at our feet. We can take risks, be creative, and pursue our dreams. And if we lack that sense of security? If we are unsure whether the person closest to us truly believes in us and supports us and will be there for us in times of need, we’ll find it much harder to maintain focus and engage in life. When our important attachments are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.

Lessons From The Road

No one can do it for you.

They can love you and care about you, but they can’t fight your fight for you.

People could talk to me and pray for me, but they couldn’t drive for me. No one could come rescue me and bring me home.

*

You can’t control how you feel, but you are in control of how much you suffer.

You can say, “I can’t…” and “This is not okay…” all day long, and it doesn’t change your circumstances one damn bit. All it does is increase your suffering.

You have to breathe.

Don’t rage against what you feel- let it be.

Trust the process.

*

Bad feelings aren’t necessarily bad things.

Stop labeling things as bad just because they feel bad; a lot of good is born out of things that feel really bad.

*

You don’t have to give sucky emotions power by calling them truth.

Emotions come and go. We have to be careful not to let them determine our truth.

*

Some trips are about fun and some trips are about growth.

*

Sometimes it’s important to stop calling the contents of our hearts “wrong” or “bad.”

When you find yourself aware that not everyone sees the world in the same way as you do, maybe it’s better to draw the “wrongness” of your heart closer to yourself rather than push it away. Maybe what feels wrong is actually a unique wiring.

Maybe the key isn’t in making yourself be different, but learning how to embrace what is within you.

Maybe sometimes what we think are our flaws, the ways we struggle, the ways people don’t understand us, maybe the unique way we see the world is actually a secret God whispered into our hearts, and the trick is to learn how to let that widen us up to living bigger and deeper, rather than letting it make us feel discouraged or close us off to life.

*

On the road, all by yourself, you have no choice but to sit with your pain when it arises. You can’t drink it away or overdose it away or refuse to get out of bed, because you’re not home and you have a dog and someone has to take care of him.

And also, being all by yourself, thousands of miles from home, you suddenly realize how terrified you are that you’ll somehow die before ever getting home. You worry about car accidents, mostly, but also murder a little bit when you’re sleeping in a dark parking lot in your car. You worry about your car breaking down and your finances and what if you never get to go home again?

And you realize there’s a whole, beautiful life waiting for you at home. And it’s not perfect, but its yours, and dear God, how badly you just want to be back home where you get to live your imperfect, beautiful life.

So you sit with your pain. And you promise yourself you’ll do that at home too. You promise yourself that even when you’re back in the land where drinking and overdosing and trying to use other people to save you are options, you won’t do that.

*

You have to take some deep breaths and do the things for yourself that you can do- like not text and drive and stop when you need a break and call and talk to people (without begging them to rescue you) when you need to talk.

And you have to trust God with the rest, like no flat tires or car troubles and getting you back home alive.

If you carry the weight of the things God’s responsible for, it will suck all of the beautiful living out of your day and replace it with fear and worry that you were never meant to carry.

*

Every time Arlow makes eye contact with me, I say, “I love you,” or, “How are you doing, baby?” And I do that not because I’m insecure, but because that’s how I communicate.

And that’s how I communicate in my relationships also.

And so when people don’t do that with me, when they go days without talking to me, it feels like they don’t love me.

But not everyone communicates their love in the same way you do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

 

*

Sometimes you can be royally pissed off and sitting in a park in New Mexico and hating everything about life, and then a woman and her kids will come sit with you and want to pet your dog, and you’ll be even more cranky because you didn’t ask for company or small talk.

But then you’ll notice the woman has a tin can labeled “Please Help. Need Food.” And she won’t address it. She won’t ask for anything. She’ll just set it off to the side and slightly behind herself. And she’ll talk about the weather and her kids and where the nearest CoinStar is while she watches her kids wrestle with a dog twice their size.

And you’ll reach into your wallet. Because MFing New Mexico sucks and it’s hot and dirty and no on drives well, but God clearly led you and your bad attitude to this park where a woman with a genuine need and a smile happened to cross your path.

And what a gift New Mexico turned out to be.

*

If you walk your dog in Texas, people will literally stop their cars to conversationally say to you, “That’s a big dog!”

They will also give you the water out of their car and hold the cup for your dog so he can hydrate.

*

The same part of my brain and heart that were terrified to be so far from home are the same part of my brain and heart that feel four years old.

“I’m so scared,” and, “I want my mom,” came in the same breath.

And maybe that’s how we parent ourselves sometimes. We say, soothingly and with a voice laced with love, “I know.”

But we don’t let that stop us from doing the hard, scary thing.

*

If you sit down in a park in Mississippi and sob into your hands, if you’re too weak to hold your dog’s leash anymore and so he runs wild and free while you cry, no one will even notice.

*

I used to think people who picked their scabs were disgusting.

But then I found myself bored and stuck in traffic with a bunch of week-old mosquito bites.

*

A rainbow feels like a personal promise to me in Utah just as much as it does here at home.

*

You can’t outrun your problems or your pain.

You come home at the end of a long road trip and you’re one part, “Thank God, I made it!” And, “Thank God I am back in the right time zone! And thank Him for my bed and my shower and my plants and cats and clean underwear and closet full of clothes!”

And you’re one part complete, black depression.

The road trip wasn’t a solution, it was a lesson.

And now it’s time to put to practice what you learned on your drive.

Now, in this really hard moment, you get to say to yourself, “No, I CAN do it.”

And in the face of blackness, I get to say to myself, “No, I WANT to live.”

*

“You’ve got a big heart. The way you see the world, it got you this far. You might have some bruises and a few scars, but you know you’re gonna be okay. And even though you’re scared, you’re stronger than you know. If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding, if you face the fear that keeps you frozen, chase the sky into the ocean, that’s when something wild calls you home.”

Attachment

I’m not sure what it is about nighttime that makes me feel like a four-year-old.

I just want to be held.

And it’s that part of me, (amongst others), that I am trying to extinguish by driving across the country. Driving, driving, driving, driving- trying to learn to be okay being on my own, trying to unlearn this overwhelming desire to be a part of a family. Trying to accept that I may have ruined my life in some really significant ways. Trying to surrender to what is when it’s not something I can control. Trying not to go home until I am ready to do my life and stay safe.

I feel stronger during the day. My heart is far from light, but I smile. I smile, I am better at staying in the present moment, and I cry without letting my sadness and grief become bigger than me.

But at night, I’m four years old and I want a mom.

*

I read (er, listened on tape while I drove) Your Brain On Love, which is a book about the neuroscience behind attachment and relationships.

It has helped me have compassion for the four-year-old part of me.

– As human beings, we are wired for contact. We need to feel tethered to another person.

– We all, even as adults, need that primary attachment figure, (usu. a parent or spouse).

– For a secure attachment to form, we need to feel that we have access to our primary attachment figure, that there is somebody that is available to us 24/7.

– A primary attachment figure is also a “secure base.” A secure base is essentially the ground underneath of you. People who are afraid that their secure base might be crumbling begin to act very strange.

– It’s not true that we can’t love others until we love ourselves. Nor is it true that we have to learn to love ourselves by ourselves.

– It is not uncommon for people wired like myself to struggle with nighttime. Nighttime–going home alone, going to sleep–can feel to these people like the ultimate separation, which can cause a surge of anxiety. Often times people wired this way will try to soothe their anxiety by reaffirming that their relationships are secure, that they’ll still exist in the morning.

– There is no such thing as people who are “bottomless pits.” If someone seems needy, it’s because there’s something happening in that relationship that is serving to maintain their fear that they’re not secure. For instance, the more distant someone becomes (for whatever reason), the more needy and clingy a person is liable to become. Not because they can’t get enough love, but because they don’t feel secure.

*

How much about me needs to be healed, and how much needs to be embraced?

How much is a wound, and how much is normal?

How much is me expecting too much from life and relationships, and how much is what I need as a human being in order to function?

Living Into The Questions

“[The world is] so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need   to sit down and write about it.”

*

A lady at the dog park made me cry today.

Arlow jumped on her. But in his defense, he didn’t until her dog jumped on her.

“You need to get control of your dog!” she said to me.

And I thought, “Yeah. I need to get control of a lot.”

*

I am trying to embrace the fact that I am a person. I am trying to honor my heart and who God made me to be. I am trying to stand tall and firm in my own body rather than grasping and begging for other people to validate me and fill me up.

My friend, Erika, and I talked today about how I’m an empath. How I basically go through the world without any skin- feeling everything so deeply.

And she talked about how it’s important that I take care of myself, that I put up boundaries so that the world doesn’t overwhelm me.

I never really thought about that before, about being uniquely wired to be sensitive, about needing to take care of that truth about me, to honor this quality rather than shame myself for it, to give room for my heart to tell me what it needs.

*

We also talked about why I can’t hold love; why I am empty of love almost the second someone says, “Yes, I love you.”

She said that’s a foundational problem because all of the world is, at its core, about love.

She said to be aware of that, of my inability to hold love. To try to live into the question, to try to open myself up to finding healing for whatever part of me in wounded in that way.

*

“Is life worth it?” I asked her at one point. “I just need to know that life is worth it.”

In response, she said something then that I’ve heard before: “That’s black or white thinking.”

She said some days life is worth it, some days it’s not.

She said, “Welcome the tension, because if you don’t, you’re fighting a battle you don’t need to fight. Allow pain to find a home in you without trying to make yourself be somewhere else. Be present with it. And then you’ll discover you’re able to move on.”

*

I don’t know how my story is going to end. I don’t know what happens next.

But I know there’s grace for me in this season.

So many people are pouring love into me.

I’m so blessed.

And still, I hurt.

*

“The funny thing about writing is that more often than not, you write your own way into truth.”