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?

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Love Wears Work Boots

I stood in the middle of a two-lane road today and screamed at someone.

I was trying to be thoughtful. I was trying not to inconvenience anyone. And it back-fired. (Yes, that is self-pity you hear in my voice.)

I was going for a walk, and I reached the road. I could’ve hit the crosswalk button, but then the cars would’ve had to stop, and I knew I could cross to the center median before the car to my left even came close, and that I could wait there a few seconds until the car to my right passed.

But instead, just as I was stopping at the center median, the car to my right slammed on his brakes and started screaming at me about not hitting the crosswalk button. He was irate and dropping f-bombs… and so what was there to do but defend myself in typical Tamara style? It’s the social worker in me. I can’t keep my ever-loving mouth closed when something feels unfair.

And so I faced him, moving deliberately out in front of his car, and I screamed: “I WAS WAITING FOR YOU!”

More f-bombs on his end, and then his tires squealed and he drove away.

And I resumed my walk.

Only it only took me a few minutes of processing before I burst into shoulder-shaking, hiccuping sobs. And I walked that way, crying, for the next fifteen minutes, making people uncomfortable while I passed.

And, admittedly, the driver was maybe not even wrong for being mad. I’m sure he thought I was going to cross the road in front of him.

But I also know a typical person, even one who was angry with me, wouldn’t have screamed like that and swore repeatedly at me.

I text messaged Laura after that. “I don’t think I’m feeling very ‘love wins’ today,” I said.

*

I was reading a book description last night.

“…finding strength and courage in the most unimaginable places.”

“Determined to dictate their own fate…”

“…give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive…”

“Brave and defiant…”

“…friendships that will both nourish and challenge her.”

“A beautiful testament to love, family, and the sheer force of will…”

“…a figure of abiding grace.”

If someone were to write a story about my life, I would want it described in that way.

I want to live a beautiful story.

*

I was talking with Pauline yesterday about fighting for truth, about not letting my emotions dictate my behaviors.

I told her how I felt, and then I said: “But the best thing I can do for [this person] is to set my emotions aside and fight for truth. And I want to do that.”

I do. I want to love well. I don’t want to make my emotions, (which, let’s face it, are often the product of lies and fears), the priority of every situation. I want to choose love. I want to choose them over me.

After I said all that, Pauline reminded me that she’s talked with me for a long time about fighting for truth. Admittedly, I have kind of rolled my eyes at it before, believing my emotions to always be the truest, most important thing.

Then Pauline said, “It strikes me that God knows you through and through. He created you. And He knew that, in order to commit to this fight, He’d have to put you face-to-face with something you really valued.” Then she paused and said, “And He knew you’d fight if it was for [this person].”

It’s so true.

God doesn’t put us in situations that hurt, but He uses them.

Our pain isn’t without meaning.

*

Love, love that puts the other person first, that shushes our own scream for comfort and security, it’s hard.

It’s a series of deliberate and conscious choices.

Whether it’s space or a hug, a night out or a long conversation, you show up (metaphorically or otherwise) in the name of love.

And, for all the ways you can’t make things better, you lift that person up in prayer. You plea and petition with the Lord to do for that person what you are incapable of doing.

You take a deep breath and you do the right thing. Over and over and over again. You tell your other emotions to sit down, and you call Love to the bat.

And you text a friend. You ask for prayer. Because Lord knows how hard it is to make smart choices, especially when your emotions are involved. You say, “Please pray with me for strength to make the right choices, and for my perspective to be based only on truth, and for my heart to be filled with peace and patience.”

Because we need each other. Loving well takes being loved well.

*

A few days ago, Pauline asked me how I’d like to be remembered when this life of mine ends.

And, without hesitation, I said: “She loved well.”

Reality

Sometimes it’s hard for me to know what’s real.

I don’t mean to say that I am out of touch with reality, (although that too, sometimes ;-)). I have no problem being able to say, “This happened today,” and know that’s true, but the trouble comes in when I, without realizing it, start assigning meaning to the events of the day.

I look at the facts and start answering for myself “why did that happen?” and “what does that mean?” Like an architect examines a structure for stability, I pace back and forth over the events of my life, examining them second by second, inch by inch, asking the questions: “Is this thing solid? Am I secure? Am I safe?”

I don’t feel very safe today.

And that’s why I say I don’t know what’s real. Because nothing bad happened, it’s my own analysis of events, my own answers to the “why’s” and “what’s” that has me feeling like the ground I am standing on is shaky.

And is it? Am I safe? Is it shaky? I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know what’s real and I’m scared because I need to know I’m safe.

Which brings me to another one of those fork-in-the-road moments though, doesn’t it? I can either choose to act out of my fear, or I can choose something better for myself.

I can choose to view my day through the lens of fear and trauma, or I can choose to view it through the lens of: “Where was God?” That doesn’t make it any easier for me to know whether or not I’m safe, but it does help me get back to the basics of what ACTUALLY happened today.

Remove the emotion, get down to the facts: Where was God?

He was in my slow-start morning.
The willingness of Laura to bring by my medication.
Having people to call when I need to be emotional and messy.
The warm day.
Watching Arlow play at the dog park.
Finding a ball at the dog park, after realizing I forgot to bring one of ours.
The woman I met, who I talked with about her divorce and daughters and dogs.
Not hitting traffic on the drive back home.
A good sermon.
Flickers of hope.
The invitation to have dinner and s’mores at a friends’ house tonight.

*

I heard a sermon today about the men who lowered their friend through the roof of a house to get him to Jesus. They would’ve done anything to get their friend to Jesus. They weren’t concerned about being impolite or interrupting or making a hole in someone’s roof. They just wanted Jesus.

And I heard that, and I thought about my theory about love. How loving someone means doing the least selfish thing.

But what those men did? That was pretty selfish. And it might not have even been motivated by love, but by need. And yet, Jesus still responded to it.

People can’t handle desperation. People can’t handle it when you come to them with a “cut a hole into someone’s roof” category of need. But God can.

With Him, I’m safe.

But He’s not here.

He’s in my day, but He’s not here.

And I wonder if it’s more important for me to love Him well in the midst of this life that is too hard for me, or if it’s okay to come to Him desperate and ruled more by need than by love.

Here’s Where You Get To Choose

It’s easy to love people when things are good. It’s easy to love them when you feel secure and comfortable and loved in return. But what about when loving someone starts to feel scary?

What about when it hurts like hell and everything in you wants to demand they fix it?

That’s when you get to decide what love really is.

Do I love people because I want to feel comfortable and secure and loved in return? Because that isn’t love; love isn’t self-seeking. Love wants the best for others, even when it’s uncomfortable for us.

And it’s the hardest thing in the world in that moment, when your emotions are so big, but you have a choice. And when everything in you wants to scream and cry and demand and control, but you choose not to? That’s when love puts on its work boots and becomes genuine.

*

What about when you’re misunderstood, and the core of who you are is threatened by a person’s inability to understand you?

What about when everything in you wants to tell them they’re wrong?

That’s when you get to choose.

It’s a moment, just a split second, and the decision and the person are both before you, and you want to let your emotional reaction have a voice because it hurts to feel misunderstood and they need to know they’re wrong. But that isn’t your only option, it’s just the easier one. And you get to choose.

After all, is it possible that the God who is too big for us to comprehend could have created two people who have different opinions for a reason, and that maybe neither of us is right or wrong?

*

When the walls are closing in on you and nothing feels right or easy and there’s an actual physical pain in your chest and a bottle of pills in the bathroom and you’re so, so tired…

That’s when you get to choose.

Am I going to do the easy thing, or am I going to do the thing that feels impossible?

Am I going to give in to despair or am I going to stand up, even when nothing in me feels it, and say, “I’m not gonna let life steal my hope.”

You get to choose.

*

Over and over and over again we get to decide: “Where am I going to go from here? What am I going to do with my pain?”

But at the core of all of these decisions is this question: “Am I going to trust God with my heart?”

And in that, too, we get to choose.

*

I make the wrong decision so often.

Thank God He can redeem it.

Things Being Loved Teaches You

1. You are lovable. You are not a burden, a charity case, or a waste of anyone’s time. You are chosen. You are wanted. You belong.

2. No one will be able to make you feel secure about your relationship with them until you start to see yourself as lovable.

3. It is safe to exist, just as you are. It’s safe to ask yourself questions like: “How do I feel?” “What do I think?” “What do I want to say?”

4. You don’t have to perform. Love doesn’t require we show up “put together” or “perfect”. Love doesn’t want facades, it just wants you to come exactly as God made you- flaws and all.

5. Your flaws don’t make you “bad” or “wrong” or “less than.”

6. You can speak freely. You don’t have to weigh every single word you say. It’s okay if you’re not always understood, if people don’t always agree, and if what you say isn’t funny, because you’re safe.

7. Not everything social interaction is a test. Love doesn’t demand you keep proving yourself.

8. You don’t have to view your life through the lens of “How do I not measure up? How much about me do people see as ‘wrong’?” You are not inferior. You are exactly who God intended you to be.

9. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to try to be like others in order to measure up.

10. Love doesn’t walk out on you.

11. Not everything in life has to feel scary.

My Heart Will Choose To Say, Blessed Be Your Name

As I was getting home from work the other day, I saw my neighbor outside in his front yard feeding birds. And I kind of watched for a minute while I gathered my stuff and I smiled because I get it. I get how animals can become your family. Even animals who don’t live under your roof.

And then I watched while he got into his truck and backed out of his driveway.

And knocked our other neighbor’s garbage can over.

And kept driving.

And so I went over to pick the garbage can up and move it off the road, and I thought about how isn’t that just the perfect example of the complexity of human beings!? We are such contradictions.

And I found myself wondering, “Did he not care that he knocked their garbage can over? Is he just mean?” But I don’t think so. I think he was embarrassed because he probably suspected I saw it happen. And I get that too.

*

When Will and Gabe stayed with me, they kept pointing out when I was talking to myself or my pets or the TV. And I would roll my eyes and laugh and tell them, “That’s because I’m alone so much!”

And I mostly found it funny, but I also found it curious because I hadn’t realized how much I talk aloud to things that can’t talk back!

Or maybe I did realize it, but I didn’t realize it was weird!

I still do it, though. I’m okay with being weird. 😉

I catch myself when I’m talking aloud to an essentially empty room now, though. And it makes me smile and think of the boys and how I’m not really that alone if someone knows me well enough to tease me about the frequency with which I talk to myself.

And so I’m talking to my cats or the toaster or my own self and there’s just fine print, this gentle whisper, that I’m held. By Him and by others who love me. I exist in their hearts even when I’m alone.

I am loved. I belong. I fit.

There is a place for me in this world. And it is a gift. A soft, comforting thought on which to lay my head as I fall asleep at night.

I matter.

To Him, yes.

But also to those I love.

*

I don’t know how to settle my brain and heart as scenes from my 28th year of life flood through my brain without my consent.

And so I ask Jesus to give me a new script. How does He see my upcoming birthday? How does He want me to feel about turning 29?

Shame?

Like I don’t deserve it?

Embarrassed because what right do I have to celebrate something I didn’t even want?

Afraid?

Of course not. And yet that’s mostly how I feel.

And I miss my mom.

Or maybe I don’t. Because I remember many painful birthdays from when she was still alive, when I went to bed crying and feeling unloved.

Maybe I just miss being delighted in. Being someone’s daughter.

But I still am Someone’s daughter.

And I know that. And it sustains me. But it doesn’t feel like enough. And what is wrong with me that my heart is so full of ache even though I’m trying my hardest to give it wholly to Him?!

…How does He want me to feel about how there are more people in this world who passionately dislike me than who passionately love me?

It is all SO painful. This messy, complicated world, in which I can’t grasp onto anything and call it mine and secure and trust it not to leave.

I can grasp onto Him, of course. But not tangibly.

And so that’s my prayer as of late. “How do I find a home in Your arms when You aren’t here?”

I know that He loves me, but how do I make that really matter to my heart? How do I make it matter enough that I can confidently say that I don’t need anyone else to love me because I have Him?

And what is wrong with me that so much of my insides are screaming for something I can’t exactly name?

And so I lay it all down as best as I can. I give all of it to Him- a sacrifice. Because what else can I do but run to Him over and over and over again with all the things I can’t control and don’t understand?

And I say, “I trust You.”

Because that alone stops the screaming.

I trust You.

And it’s beautiful. When I refuse to think about what was or what I don’t have or my fear about the future, I am able to breathe deeply. Because today? It’s good.

Thank you, Father. Thank You for all You’ve brought me through.

Thank You for how You love me so relentlessly.

Thank You for carrying me through this beautiful, brutal world.

Thank You for helping me to see it–in all its bruty–as a gift.

How He Came

 

I fell to my knees when I got home from work yesterday afternoon.

I walked inside, set my purse down, pressed my forehead to the ground, and wept.

And I said, “I NEED YOU. I am here, kneeling before You because I NEED You! I need to pee and I’m hungry but I NEED YOU THE MOST!” Because I did. My stomach was growling and my bladder was full but even more than that discomfort, I needed Him. My need for Him hurt more. It was the more pressing issue.

And I cried and cried, the kind of cry that feels like it will never end. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Multiple times a day. In bathrooms and cars and my shower and bed and on the couch and with my face pressed to the carpet. Forever weeping, emptying my heart out to the Lord in tears because words aren’t always enough.

And yet even while I’m teary and snotty and crying audibly like a child, (it’s all quite dignified and mature), I know He’s there beside me.

I know He was there yesterday afternoon, kneeling at my side, His hand on my back. And He didn’t say anything. He was just there. Present. Letting me wail and weep… and not making me do it alone.

I wonder if He ever feels limited. I wonder if He ever aches to hold us, to be physically present with us, to talk face-to-face.

And so I try to soften my heart to that possibility, to filter my pain through the belief that Jesus is there, at my side whispering, “I’m here, child. I’m right here.”

It helps to keep that in mind because otherwise it all feels like too much to bear – Christmas, grief, longing, embarrassment, the involuntary recap of 2015 as it comes to a close, trauma, shame, fear, sorrow…

There’s a vise-like grip on my insides when I think about what I don’t have and may never have,
and what I’ve only fooled myself into thinking I had,
and what I do have,
and why it isn’t what I DO have enough?,
and why isn’t knowing I have Him enough?,
and what is wrong with me??!,
and maybe I’m destined to live this life of being alone forever because I can’t seem to learn my lesson that God is all I need!

But even as I write that I sense Jesus smiling and saying, “Forever is an awfully long time, child.”

And He’s got a point, that all-knowing Creator of mine. And so I try to smile back. I try to roll my eyes at myself, to hold a place for my sorrow–which is real–but to also acknowledge the melodrama.

Forever IS a long time.

And He isn’t up in heaven letting things down here just sort of work themselves out or burn themselves to the ground or whatever. He doesn’t have a “whatever” attitude about anything. He is intimately involved in everything. Not a single thing escapes His notice.

And it doesn’t take Him “forever” to accomplish good things.

Sometimes it only takes a second.

And I try to believe that, to cling to His goodness and foster a bubbling sort of hope within me as I come face-to-face with a new year.

I try to force myself to be excited about it- to praise Him in advance for the good things this upcoming year will hold.

But I can’t seem to really say that without feeling some trepidation and disbelief. Because I’m tired of looking at hard things and calling them good, or seemingly impossible things and calling them possible, or dark situations and modeling my God with a: “Let there be light!”

I’m scared to believe there is good in store. Because I’ve been there, done that. And it didn’t pan out as I had thought it would or prayed it would.

And that HURTS.

And yet, if I stop speaking light and love into this world, if I stop fighting to bring heaven down to earth, where does that leave me? Would it make me any less alone? Any more secure or safe?

It’s scary to hope.

But it’s scarier not to.

And so I look at my situations that seem hopeless and I look at my broken dreams and broken heart and I say, “No. You don’t get to despair. Lift your head. This isn’t the end. God is doing a good thing. Hope on, tender heart. Hope on. Dreams? Stop calling yourself broken. Situations? Stop calling yourself hopeless. Heart? Have you forgotten how much the Lord loves you? Rise up! Take heart! This is not the end!”

And I don’t feel it. But I say it. Because I know it to be true.

It’s hard not to involuntarily recap 2015. My mind is filling with images and memories and things I felt and thought over the course of the year. And I’m remembering… and it feels unreal and too real all at once. It feels both like it never happened (how could it have happened!?) and ongoing.

And it’s too much. It’s terrible. So, so awful.

I can’t bear it.

And so I keep trying to hand those images and memories over to the God, whose ability to heal and make things whole and redeem and restore knows no limits.

And so I say “NO!” to my brain and the panic that threatens to fill me inside. I refuse to entertain those memories or wonder things or replay things or get caught back up in the trauma of it all. Instead, I lay it all down at His feet and I wait. I wait for Him to speak to my sorrow and trauma and fear; I want for Him to heal; I wait for Him to redeem.

And I’m on my knees, and I’m weeping, and I think I could weep forever. But I can’t. I can’t cry forever. Grieving is important, but there’s a limit to what is healthy and what isn’t. And so I demand my heart rest a moment and lift its eyes to heaven. I instruct all that’s within me to take a break from my grieving and sorrow to seek the Lord- to beg Him for comfort or clarity or peace.

And He shows me a baby in a manger.

Helpless. Innocent. Needy. Fragile.

AND FULLY GOD.

And I’m there, with Mary and Joseph and the animals, beholding the Christ-Child. And there’s no place for weeping or sorrow or grief there. Only awe. Reverence. Worship. It’s quiet and still and holy. And hope and love are ALIVE. They are real. They are living. They are a Person.

And I’m there, looking into the face of Wild Hope and Love Unfailing. I am there, beholding the infant Jesus. And I belong.

And I’m there, with Jesus, and I’m also on my floor, tears streaming down my face, needing to pee and thinking a little bit about lunch.

And that is where I was yesterday when Tucker came over to me and started chewing on my hair.

And I laughed. Wracked with grief, unable to do anything but fall to my knees before God and BEG for help, and suddenly I was laughing.

Tears were falling down my face, and JESUS CAME!, and my cat was chewing my hair, and I was laughing.

And maybe that’s life- the good and bad all rolled up together in one brutiful package.

And so we go forward, heads held high, speaking light into impossibly dark situations.

We go forward with hope.

Because we know this is a battle.

And we know who wins.

Love wins.

Hope wins.

Light win.

Joy wins.

And it’s a miraculous thing, but even in the midst of our most intense grief, our loving Father can surprise us with incredible joy.

And so I rise from my knees. I stand, arms outstretched. I lift my head towards heaven. And I hear His gentle beckoning: “Arise, daughter.”

Oh, carry on, warrior heart. The Lord is on your side.