Stream-Of-Consciousness (This Is How I Process)

“I will throw myself, wholly, at the Lord. I will choose to flourish and grow in whatever environment, in whatever season, He has me,” I thought tonight.

It was a thought that came through an act of immense willpower- like choosing to snack on broccoli when all your friends are eating donuts. (Although there’s a time and a place to indulge in a donut, too, don’t let me wrong. ;-))

It’s a good thought. A noble thought. But to put that thought, that desire even, into practice? To walk through this life of people who misunderstand your heart and leave you feeling more alone, to walk through the tangle of fears about finances and change and relationships and What Ifs?, to repeatedly show up for your life even when it’s hard… AND TO WILL YOURSELF TO SEE GOD IN IT? I’m convinced that takes Heaven’s help.

Over and over again I have to remind myself I ultimately have two choices: I can either give up, or I have to do what I just stated above.

There is a third option, of course, but it leads to passivity and depression. No longer expecting God to show up. A sense of “this is just what life is.” I’ve walked that road too. But if “something better than this” is our goal, there’s only one road paved with that hope, and that’s the road that leads to the Lord.

So we choose to say, “Here I am, Lord.” We show up and invest in this day we’ve been given and CHOOSE TO BELIEVE His holy, sovereign hand is working in our midst, even when we’re unaware. We lean in to our lives, going forward, one step at a time, even when doing so feels like the equivalent of choosing to walk through flames.

My therapist told me tonight to be careful not to let things snowball. I don’t have to continually do a complete inventory of the things that are hurting me or scaring me or making me want to dig a hole and crawl in.

What I have to do is ask myself, “What can I control?” And if I can’t control something, I can grieve it, I can process it, and then I have to choose to go forward anyway. It does not do me any favors to cling tight to the things that hurt me, to rage against them and demand they be different when that isn’t something I have any power over. I have to be deliberate in saying: “This thing sucks, this thing hurts, but not EVERYTHING does. And over all things, the sucky and the good, God reigns.”

I KNOW it will be cancer to me if I let myself go down certain trains of thought. I want to, though. I want to sit here and tell myself I’ve ruined my life. I want to hate myself for how my choices have led me to this place I’m in today. And sometimes I even want to hate the baby growing inside of me. I want to scream and cry and claw and beg to go back. I want to undo it.

But I can’t. That isn’t one of my options. Grief? Yes. Processing the very real things I’m feelings? Yes. But over and over again going back to this truth: My God is a God who redeems. To rest my heart on that and let go of all that is out of my hands, to leave it, instead, at the foot of the cross.

The baby in my belly is a blessing. TRUTH. My life is in His hands. TRUTH. He loves me wildly and fiercely and protectively. TRUTH. Is always, always working in my life and in me. TRUTH. There is always, always, always hope. TRUTH.

And so, rather than hating this day I’m in, and rather than dreading what the future holds, I have to embrace what is and accept what isn’t any longer. There’s no other option. Or, there is, but one of them leads to death, and one of them results in living a life of suffering. And I deserve better than that. So I choose to believe. I believe that this day the Lord has made is GOOD. I believe He is working, that He knows my heart, and that my future isn’t doomed and destined to be worse than my past.

My therapist tells me over and over again that she believes in me, that she knows I’m going to be okay, that I’m not a quitter (which is laughable to me given how many times I’ve tried to do just that!), and that she is proud of me. And even when I don’t agree, I take those words to heart. Because I know she really, really means them.

But the key to my okayness doesn’t lie in me. Left to my own devices, this season of my life might come just as close to killing me as past seasons have. So I do what I have to do and I choose life over death and suffering. I choose to throw myself wholly at the Lord, to bury myself in Him, to hide myself in Him.

Perhaps there’s no better time to invest in the going forward than when you think you can’t. Because it’s only in fully committing yourself to the Lord and His will for your life that there’s any hope of things getting better. When life is going pretty well, you can kind of just coast. You can wake up in the morning and let time carry you through the day. But when you need things to change, when you just can’t do it any longer, that’s when it requires us to step, to move our feet, to not just show up for this day, but to engage in it. So I will. And not because I’m super holy and selflessly God-minded, but because I need hope. And there is none of that to be found apart from Christ.

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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.

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.”

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.”

Saturday

“Ready, Freddy,” I asked my client.

She turned to look at me. “Freddy? Why do you call me that?”

“Just because it rhymes with ready,” I said, smiling and offering a shrug.

She looked pensive for a moment, and then the conversation changed to something else.

After we got back to her house and she opened the door of my car to get out, I said, “Take care, girly. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

To which she responded: “See you soon, Freddy.”

*

He yelled at me when I got to his house. He was irate, towering over me, his build reminiscent of Shrek.

Usually I let him yell, I figure he’ll eventually wear himself out. But today I didn’t have it in me. “I’m going to go,” I told him while he continued to yell, and then I turned and walked away, while he screamed after me.

I took a deep breath when I got into my car.

And then, thirty minutes later, he called. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just sorry… and yeah, I’m sorry.”

And I smiled.

*

He gave me flowers. Rhododendrons in a Crystal Light container.

“These are for you,” he said, handing them over.

When I got home, I put them on the ledge outside my front door.

*

A month ago, she threatened to kill me. Two weeks ago, she glared at me through greasy bangs.

Today I helped her make some phone calls, and at the end of our time together she hesitated and then said, “Thank you for staying.”

Then she asked me for a hug.

*

These days are the Saturdays- the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

*

I cried. She put her hand on my knee, witness to my tears, loving me.

And then I repaid the favor later that day.

*

These are the Saturdays.

Snot And Suffering

There’s dog snot on my pillow, and I have to be up in a couple hours anyway. So, insomnia.

thumbnail_image1(He sleeps with his eyes open when he’s not feeling well, apparently. Isn’t that cute creepy? ;-))

Anyway, the wide awake-ness has me thinking. Or rather, trying not to think, but seeking God on the real issues underlying the stuff on the forefront of my mind.

Such as:

Do I believe God can turn it all around?
Yes.

Do I believe He will?
I don’t know.

Do I believe He always does the best thing for me?
Yes.

…Do I believe the best thing for me might be endless suffering?
I don’t know…

Things That Cling: Lint And Me

Sometimes I feel like my body collects heaviness as I move through my days.

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
The house I had to go by myself to see about renting.
The rude driver.
The Friday night alone at home.
The $900 spent at the vet.
The dog who still isn’t feeling well.

I feel like black pants moving through a white lint and cat hair filled world. (I excel at analogies. I know.)

And how often is The Thing not even really the issue? How often do the experiences of my day hurt so badly because they reinforce things I fear or believe?
“You’re all alone.”
“You’re no one’s child.”
“You better learn to be okay with doing life by yourself, even when it’s hard and scary and you don’t know what you’re doing because no one ever taught you to be an adult before your mom got sick and died and your dad abandoned you.” (Run-on sentences? They are the things of my brain.)
“You have to fight and beg and claw and scrape at this life if you want anything good.”
“Everyone leaves.”
“There is nothing special or purposed for you.”
“There’s nothing lasting or safe to trust in. Everything is fluid and ending. Everything is loss.”
“You are not enough.”

I am this tender, trying-to-heal heart doing life under the suspicion: “Everything hurts and it always will.”

And although my brain would argue vehemently, does that not hint at a belief that God can’t be trusted?

*

I sobbed into a pillow last night. I cried like my tears were a burning acid in my heart, and the more I could get out, the healthier my heart might be. I cried tears that doubled as prayers.

And then I stood. I stood, arms out in the shape of a ‘t’, and begged God to come and rid me of all that clings to me and threatens to weigh me down. (Everything in me wanted to stick with my earlier Black Pants analogy and say I begged God to be my lint-roller. But I didn’t. Until now. Because at least I have partial self-restraint.) “Here I am, Lord. All of me. These heavy limbs and weary heart. I give it all to You,” I said. “Undo me. Heal me. Take away my pain. Draw me to You.”

And then I reached my arms upward and said over and over again: “You are good, You are good, You are good.” Preaching to my soul. Speaking truth and life over my pain.

I don’t know what I’m doing. In life. As an adult. As this person in this body with this life here in Washington.

I don’t know how to carry this heavy heart with me through my day and through experiences that constantly bump up against the wounds I’m working so hard to heal. Can healing still happen when the wounds keep getting poked at?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything and I hurt.

But God.

But there is this God who holds it all together. Who knows and sees and allows (for my ultimate good) every single thing that happens to me. There’s this God who desires my healing and my life to overflow with joy.

There’s this God who says illogical, irrational, crazy things, like that suffering produces hope.

There’s this God who says not to try to comprehend what is happening through our own limited understanding, because He is greater and bigger than what we can conceive.

There’s this God who says the story He is writing is good, even when my heart and the news and so much of what I see over the course of my day is anything but good.

I’m Black Pants in a white fuzz world. Which is ironic because I refuse to buy black pants for that exact reason- ain’t no one got time for such impractical wardrobe choices; I got things to go that don’t involve picking at lint all day.

God is teaching me something, even now. He is healing my heart, even while it is screaming.

He is restoring me to life.

*

I told my therapist the other day, “The pain in me is screaming.” It’s hollow and gaping and making a sound that is more inhale than exhale.

But when my depression was worse, when life felt not worth it, this pain in me has its own gravity or force, like a black hole. It wanted to suck everything into its scream. But not anymore, hallelujah. Now it exists as its own separate part of me. It isn’t all-consuming.

“The pain in me in screaming,” I said. And then I added, “But so is the joy.”

I am equal parts on-my-knees-weeping-with-sorrow and hands-reaching-towards-heaven-rejoicing.

Because:

The table of laughter and conversation, which I was not invited to be a part of.
But the text message conversation that made me laugh. The “I love you, always.” The learning to trust that love means something; that love doesn’t always walk out.

The house I went to see about renting all by myself.
But the person who sent me a list of questions to ask the landlord while I was there, who said she was sorry she couldn’t be with me. And the person who prayed with me beforehand, that I’d hear God’s voice clearly when I went to see the place.
And the God who smiled at me as I stood there in that tiny home with its brand new kitchen, holding my yellow post-it-notepad with questions scribbled on it, trying to look like I wasn’t feeling scared and sad and out of place. The God who clearly whispered: “This isn’t the one for you.”
And the ability to trust Him enough not to get ahead of Him, afraid nothing else would ever come along and that I better take this not-right-for-me home before I was left with nothing at all.

The rude driver.
But I have a car that’s paid-off and reliable. And the driver was rude, yes, and not being safe, but God protected me.
And He is teaching me that other people’s emotions or thoughts or opinions aren’t reflections of who I am; they aren’t problems for me to solve or things I need to internalize and apologize for.
He’s teaching me to breathe through my natural desire to get hot with anger. He is teaching me to pray for these people who are mean, and not in a pious/removed/too-holy-for-anger way, but as a healthier, more productive way of dealing with the anger than swearing. Because the problem of the mean driver is actually a bigger problem, and that is the problem of his soul.

The Friday night alone at home.
But I have a home I love. And there was the sound of rain outside. And tea.
The eventual receding of the panic and tears. The ability to breathe in trust. How every time I get through intense emotional situations, I come to a place of deeper peace and surrender.
And God is parenting me: “Emotions come and go. Let them. Remember, you were laughing earlier today. You’ll laugh again. You’ll feel hope and peace again.”

The $900 spent at the vet.
But I have pet insurance. And people who love me and Arlow, and who have hit the pause button on their day today to pray for us.

The dog who still isn’t feeling well.
But the friend who called and said she’ll bring me chicken broth for him tomorrow. And the other friend who called and gave me advice on how to keep his vomiting at bay so that we could both get some sleep tonight.
And the gift of loving a pet so deeply. And how that is a small reflection of the way God loves me.

*

Mourning what I don’t have, while wildly grateful for what I do.

Panic that leads to peace.

Suffering that leads to hope.

This God who is so much bigger and so much more good than my broken heart would at times have me believe.