July 30, 2018
It's been a good summer so far. Historically, summer fills my well. It's a growing, energizing, and restorative season for me.
But the AT (and some things that proceeded that experience) knocked me off my rocker for a couple years and it's been a steady climb back to a place of mental health and vitality.
I feel the most grounded and secure; emotionally healthy and vital that I've been in five years, maybe longer. I feel myself, I feel like me.
My confidence has returned.
Which is not to say all things are fabulous. They're not. We are carrying burdens, painful losses, and questions remain unanswered. But overall, things are good, and sometimes really good, and I don't feel wrecked by life. (Can I hear a hallelujah!)
I don't feel broken anymore. And at least a majority of the time I feel I have the tools to handle what comes my way. This is a vast improvement from four years ago and from the crippling self-doubt I've experienced with bouts of anxiety since.
Why has my confidence returned? A few things contribute.
Living in one place for three years (with no plans to move in the near future), a salaried job for Damien, the gift of time healing old wounds, a deeper and more expansive spiritual practice, strong community and local connections, seeing good things happening in my kids' lives and helping them successfully (so far) navigate the teen years, my own meaningful paid work and contributing financially to our household (paying down a debt).
The summer we moved to Montreal I couldn't write because of the anxiety I was experiencing. I can remember the feeling as clear as yesterday. The solace I sought in drawing instead, learning CBT, holding onto the truth "this too shall pass" even though I didn't "feel" it at the time.
I remember the silent evening walks with Damien because it seemed there were so few safe, trigger-free topics of conversation. We carried a lot of pain that summer. (I wrote a post for our wedding anniversary that Damien vetoed for publishing. A first ever in my blogging career. "We" were very tender.)
The future felt so unknown, the present felt tentative and fragile.
I have a different faith and a different marriage the summer of 2018 than previous summers. I have an understanding of pain I couldn't identify with seven years ago. I've learned to be present to discomfort (what choice do you have?), sometimes for long seasons. I have walked through valleys and up out of the lowlands.
But now I bear the knowledge that those exist, they're on the map, and someday I will return to those lands, carried by new losses, transitions, and foundation-shaking upheavals. I pray and hope I will walk through those valleys with the hard-won experience and bone-deep knowledge that I have the inner resources, including a connection to the Divine, that I need.
I've learned so much about myself, chiefly that I crave security and my sense of well-being is directly proportional to how secure I feel. And so my security must be be rooted in something beyond circumstance and situation (I seek this in the Divine) but I will always be trying to secure my circumstance and situation. I can't not. It's a facet of the Divine - security and safe places - that I embody in the world.
I seek to make my relationships, the communities in which I belong, and the places I'm called to serve, safe.
I secure the perimeter. I set up boundaries, structures, and routines to bring stability so people can flourish in those spaces. (Which happens to be my primary modus operandi in homeschooling - you're safe here to grow, develop, to be who you are.)
This is a tension in my life - seeking/living/embodying security and learning to find security beyond the physical. Perhaps the next seven years will be learning how to live, work, and grow from the energy of this tension. We'll see. It's a goal nonetheless.
Things change, situations pass. We go through new hard stuff and we learn from it. We can open our hearts to share our pain and we can heal. Kids grow, marriage evolves, and we try to find joy in the tasks at hand, often fighting to keep hopeful.
Then you wake up one fine summer day to realize you're living the unknown future. You made it. Here. And you think, maybe the future-from-this-point that seems so hazy and unclear (Where will the kids go? Where will we go? What will the kids become? Who will we be without the kids at home?) will work itself out, the same way the present came to be, one summer day at a time.
Living, not in the past, and not in the future, but in each present moment.
After I had this all written, edited, and ready to publish I listened to Jen Hatmaker's podcast episode Getting Vulnerable with Brene Brown.
Mom recommended it, she said, "I have listened to other interviews with Brene Brown, read her books (heard her Ted Talk, etc.) - but this interview didn’t feel like just a repeat of all of the above - and it really talks about stuff that we’ve shared - I think you’ll find it good whenever you’re able to catch it."
That's my mom. Sending helpful stuff my way, based on knowing me deeply and intimately. God, I love her!
I listened and found Mom's advice to be true. This interview touches on so much of what I've experienced. I think many of us feel the same about Brown's writing and research.
At the end of that interview Brene says this:
But I think the biggest learning that I have from the research for me, is that if you own the story of suffering, of struggle, of pain, you can write the ending. If you do not own it, if you do not lay it out and take up the pieces, if you orphan it, it will own you. So you can either own suffering, or suffering can own you. ... we have to keep in mind it's a season. It will end. You're not alone in that. But the only way the only way through it is through it.
And it's the birthplace of moxie. Moxie doesn't come from all the good stuff that happens to you. It's from working through the bad stuff.
Maybe that's the best way to explain where I'm at this high summer. I found my moxie again, in the rebuilding after the breaking, in new opportunities after loss, in holding-on after letting-go, and in the sharing the pain and the process.
One day at a time.
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