A dear friend recently said to me “I don’t know if I can believe in God anymore.”
She said there is just too much evidence that a supreme being has checked out, or never existed – or worse – is dead.
“The whole ‘God is love’ thing is a crock,” said she. To which I agreed. “There’s too much suffering,” she continued, selling past the close. Her heart was in distress.
God is love has been embedded in us, we are taught nothing less all our lives, and where does that leave our idea of love those times we feel thrown to the wolves?
So I asked her:
“If you cannot believe that God is Love,” I replied. “Can you believe that LOVE is actually GOD?”
There is no denying that Love itself exists.
It swirls around us, and flows through happenstance and doubt, overcoming both.
It is in every hug, good wish, faithful intention. It is being seen. It is being valued. It is in valuing others.
It is sitting with the hurting, grieving alongside them so they are not lonely.
It is miracles, yes; but it is also in pain. Love often piggybacks on pain.
If your cognitive dissonence disallows you your old belief system, can you worship love and live by the tenants of a loving life?
Not just your understanding of love, but the truth that it is the force behind the details in the microcosm and glory in the vastness of the cosmos. That love?
Love itself is God. When app other things pass away, it’s still standing, open-armed.
Because whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – go towards that. Be willing to get messy with it. Spread that stuff everywhere. Dole it out like there is a never-ending supply. (Because there is.)
When you find manifestations of love, you will find a God who won’t tell you he’s running out for cigarettes, only to never return. Or say he’ll give you something to cry about. Or any of the other hurtful things human fathers do.
Yes, we are raised being told that God is love, but we have been taught incompletely. We are the incarnation of God on earth. When living out love has a heretical flavor, it’s time to take another look at ourselves.
Maybe you’ve been hurt by the “church. Perhaps you have trauma. “God is love” not ringing true to you as a whole? Old Testament giving you wrathful vibes of a vengeful overlord?
I understand. But can you believe in LOVE my friend?
Love that will sit in that dark hole with you, because it’s not allergic to our shadow selves.
Love that comforts the broken.
Love as a force that rises to meet the victim.
Love as the catalyst for every simple contact we have for the hurting.
Where there is confusion, it’s the thing we can hang our hats on.
Where there is bigotry, it’s the force that overcomes.
Oh yes. I believe that all things loving and lovely, and pure of intention, are of God.
And that includes US!
I wish you peace, joy, and comfort today, dear reader. I wish you rest in a safe, warm Source of Love.
“Tomorrow,” said Mama Bear as she helped the cubs get ready for bed,“you’ll be going to the doctor for a checkup. Doctor Grizzly wants to make sure you are growing the way a healthy cub should.”
“Mommy, you left out some of the words,” said my astute four-year-old. Dang it. Her baby sister, just one year old, pulled away from nursing as if taking notes, agreeing: Yeah, Mommy!
My four-year old continued, “Don’t skip parts of the story, Mama!” She was bossy. Or what we refer to as “having leadership skills.” I was lying in bed with her just like every night, reading scads of books before launching into a playlist of my terribly singing lullabies to she and her sister. (I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but my kids didn’t seem to mind.)
We were reading from the classic “Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor,” and this time, I read the lines between those two sentences. “Doctor?” said Brother Bear. “We’re not sick!” “And what’s a check-up,” asked Sister Bear, a little worried.”
My daughter’s small voice sounds out the next line word-by-word “It’s. Just. What. It. Sounds. Like. Said. Mama.” She was reading already. She loved books.
When my girls were little, we would visit the library every week and come home with the maximum allowance of 15 books. We would read them all together, especially in the evenings, to wind down.
As my kids got older and could easily read along with me, their books got longer. Eventually, the books had whole chapters, and by the end of the day, I was tired. I’d read most of the books before and had in inkling of what I could leave out that wouldn’t compromise the plotline or sound like I was reading a condensed version.
That evening – like every other -I was exhausted. I was battling an illness I didn’t have a name for (and wouldn’t for another 20 years.) And I was anxious to get through the reading, do the horrible singing, and tuck them in for the night.
It’s not as if skimming a few paragraphs from “The Boxcar Children” made any difference, right?
Oh, to go back and read all the lines, little ones in my lap, where all was right with the world. To read the fifth book of the night with the same thoroughness as the first book. I would do all the character’s voices on the fifth book too. And I’d do it right.
Right now, I wish I could skip this chapter in my life. Not ALL of it – most of it is lovely. But some of it frankly sucks, and sucks badly. The world is in chaos, my body is falling apart at the seams, every single day is a battle to keep my joints from dislocating.
Every single day is a battle with chronic pain, and much like when I was a young mother putting her kids to bed, I’m exhausted. And the hardest thing going on is that so many of my dearest friends are facing catastrophic situations. Why must everything HURT? So many parts of life hurt.
But unlike the Berenstain Bears – whose issues always resolved within twenty pages and lots of colorful cartoon illustrations – there is no skipping stuff.
When I consider my life as a whole, the stuff I would have rather skipped when it was happening is the stuff that (warning: lofty platitude ahead) made me STRONGER. And oddly enough, had I everything to do again, I’d probably do it the same. But damn. What price for strength!
Had I skipped a chapter, I wouldn’t be sober from alcohol, which was robbing my very life. Had I skipped the part of the story where I came to the utter and complete end of myself, how could I become the beginning of a better version of myself. It was so ugly, my alcoholism. Going through the agony of early recovery? I thought it would kill me. I was so incredibly sick, inside and out. But had I not ridden out the withdrawals, I would have missed the best chapters of my life.
Had I skipped a chapter, I wouldn’t be married to the kindest, most wonderful man on the planet. He is my very best friend, and my personal hero. I would have been stuck in the same situation – one that I settled for because I didn’t think I deserved better.
Had I skipped a chapter, I would have continued to believe the negative things people thought about me. Worse, I would have continued to believe what I myself thought about me.
You know those children’s storybooks that let you choose your own ending? It’s kind of like that. But to know what ending to choose, you have to read the rest of the book with nothing left out. And there’s no skipping parts of the story, whether I volunteer to cooperate or not.
Here’s the truth:
Every part of the story is pivotal.
The crappy parts. Maybe especially the crappy parts. The boring parts too – they prepare you for plot twists and character development.
Skipping the hard parts mean never making mistakes, and thus, never learning from them. It robs the richness of relationships from you and stagnates your growth.
Skipping means you have to start again. Sometimes all over again. “Start again, Mommy!” my kids would say, when I cheated them out of words. It’s hard to follow a tale with incomplete information.
Likewise, life calls for starting over often. “From the top!” it will demand. Not condescendingly, but because it’s necessary to understand the story.
And yes, it is important to understand the story. It’s life.
The choices we make in the parts we’d rather skip are often the steps that afford us a happy life.
And I really hate that; because it seems like a bunch of wrenching awfulness just to get to a good thing. Right now, I’m not dealing with that so well. My anxiety tells me that if things were just different, I would be healthier. More productive. My pain tells me that I don’t care for my family to the degree I should. The struggles make me want to legit give up.
I’m learning to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, as the little-quoted sixth line of the Serenity Prayer – something I “read” to myself every single day from memory. And I NEVER skip any of the words!
Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next.”
So cuddle up with yourself, read the whole story. Ride out the hard parts of life, and I will too, and together we can make a reasonably happy life without skipping the difficult stuff. Very good things germinate from very difficult circumstances.
And hey – thanks for reading my words. God loves you and so do I, friends. ❤
I attended an Indigo Girls concert with a dear friend Friday evening. We had a blast! I didn’t think I was going to able to go at all, so I was thrilled to be there. But by the time I drove back home, I was in severe pain.
Some of us chronic illness patients are in some degree of pain 24/7. I’ve had to learn to conduct life with it, love with it, laugh with it, function with it.
People have alluded that we couldn’t POSSIBLY be in THAT MUCH pain so often. A person with chronic pain couldn’t possibly get dressed every day, or enjoy a comedy, or maintain relationships in the misery of constant pain.
But we certainly cannot writhe around on the floor screaming in agony 24/7. We want to, but we can’t, because after the writhing and fit-throwing, guess what? There is STILL pain – infuriatingly, but there is also still life to be had.
I have had too many tantrums to count, over the years, and I reserve the right to have others when applicable. They can be cathartic. But it’s not a sustainable mindset.
At some point you have to stop writhing and crying. The world goes on, and so must you.
So we learn to mask, and we mask the pain constantly; because life requires us to in order to function in society. We have families to take care of, and friendships to give attention. We have chores and duties.
It’s unfair in EVERY level to all parties involved.
But I see no benefit to being Pollyanna about my health – if I’m not transparent with y’all, who does that help?
So I write about it a lot – it’s 4:30 in the morning and I have tears of frustration in my eyes, and it’s the loneliest feeling I’m the world to be in my own body right now. Writing about it releases some of the pressure in my mind.
Just in case any of my chronic pain friends are also up at 4:30 in the morning ina fetal position, fighting nausea, or just feeling alone… please know you’re not alone.
I see you, I hear you, and I love you.
Better days will come – I know because I had one Friday. Sometime I even have a few in a row!
It’s the assuredness that on another day, there will be one more day trip with My Beloved. One more awesome concert. One more beach day. One more delicious meal (when I can eat.) In other words – much like working my recovery program – it’s done one single day at a time.
Invisible illnesses exist. People who don’t look sick can be very, very sick. Always be more kind than usual to folks, please. You never know what another human is going through. Love. ❤️
If we are eternal creatures having a physical experience for an allotment of years on Earth, it begs the question:
Why have a physical experience at all? Especially with all the heartbreak and tragedy raging all around us. What’s the value in being here?
No matter how crazy life gets, I truly believe there is purpose in our being Earth-side. And I recognize that having a human experience enables us to experience things others in the spiritual realm may not.
Take chocolate, for example. Do angels eat chocolate? We do. It’s delicious.
When they hear Led Zeppelin, so they feel the music in their physical bones? We can. (And it’s like climbing a stairway to Heaven!)
We have thunderstorms so rumbly, you feel the thunder in your chest.
Literal water falls from the sky, on the regular. That’s some legit Garden of Eden stuff there.
Water is one of my favorite parts of being human. How would we appreciate the Living Water that is our Creator, had we not known the concepts of thirst and satiation?
We can climb trees that have their own intelligence, and admire flowers that God didn’t need to make so pretty, but did.
We get to host the lives of other sentient beings – little furry forever friends. We get our faces kissed with slobber, and benefit from the vibrations of a purr, and although I know pets go to Heaven, I’m grateful for their pretense in this intense world.
We have telescopes to remind us how small we are, and microscopes to show us how intricately we are put together; for we are made of divine love, and stardust.
We have books – vast volumes of human history and human frivolity, ours for the ingesting.
And we have tacos, y’all. In all the universe, we get to enjoy tacos!
Best of all, we have one another. That’s really something – relationships. Just two Earthlings who took a shine to each other and become friends for life. What? That’s crazy! And I love it.
We have such grace and grief, both; double-edged swords that clear the rubbish of human drudgery to make room for the fruits of the Spirit.
If you are living under skin and over bone, you are on a quest. Get excited.
The world – even with its trials and tragedies – is one God so loves. It’s messy and painful and sometimes I’m not sure why he loves it. but I’m certain it’s loved because look around us.
May we find love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in our human experience.
Better yet, while we are questing, may we BE love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And May the angels and eternal beings on the other side cheer us on as we throw down the gauntlet, anxious with anticipation.
When you were a child, you weren’t allowed to exist as that very basic thing – a child. And so you didn’t know how to play without furrowed brows and anxiety for the longest time.
Look at you now, playful and free, laughing at the most juvenile humor imaginable. Look at you doing things just for the sake of FUN!
And sweet friend, I know you have suffered life-altering trauma and faced circumstances so devastating, you would have deemed it unsurvivable, had you known it was coming.
You thought, “well, I’d never be able to survive that – anything but THAT – God forbid it ever happened!”
But God didn’t forbid it.
And you’re still standing.
Remember when you let other people define you? A lifetime of stuffing your own feelings out of reverence for the OTHER person? As if you deserve no reverence for yourself?
Sisters, the Universe reveres you; surely you can do the same. Surely you can find that your worth is equal to the ones you make feel worthy.
Your own definition of you is the only opinion that matters in the least. Isn’t that ironic?
For a while, you were bitter; an undercurrent of constant anger running in the background of your ether, which is MOST “un-ladylike” of you.
Patriarchal pish-posh, I say.
Look at you now, with an open heart so cavernous as to swallow up the whole broken world into a wild love, and spit out the bitterness. You’re slaying it like a freaking LADY, and a badass one at that.
They tried to hijack your newfound happiness because misery loves company and you’ve SO over the weeping and gnashing of teeth bit. That’s hard for miserable people to accept – that you have the audacity to let things go.
Yes, now here you are. Has anyone bothered to read you the scoresheet?
You have made it through 100% of the heartbreaks, rejections, and tragedies you have EVER experienced.” That takes some doin’!
You are part of a mighty Sisterhood! Link arms with me and let’s meander through this crazy world together – a place of radical silliness, a penchant for overcoming, and self-acceptance.
I have always hated speaking in front of people. Since I was a child, it gave me the worst anxiety.
The top photo was taken several years ago at a ladies conference being launched by two of my church friends. I was to give my testimony as a recovering alcoholic and follower of Jesus to nearly 100 women. I was honored, but not at peace about it.
Everybody kept telling me that it was my duty as a Christian to share my story, and I was hearing the same thing from my 12 Step group: God wants you to do this as your “ministry.” If you don’t share, how can you reach people?
But there is NO flow to my speaking. If I am in front of more than five people, I stutter. I stammer. I break out in blotches and feel like I’m having a heart attack.
But God wants it, I’m told. He is trying to “grow” me. So I did, over and over again, but it was excruciating. And I never once had peace about it. The ladies still do the conference every year and it is a very popular event. They are wonderful humans doing stuff for God, so more power to them.
But that’s not me.
I didn’t fit in with that group, and was never invited back to speak. In hindsight, I now consider it a merciful act. I admire the women who can get up and speak to a large crowd without wondering what they are supposed to do with their hands (or the expressions on their faces) and deliver a riveting message. I’m just not one of them.
But I am no less than them.
And the question rattled around in my head for years – AM I doing the will of God? Well, that depends on who you ask.
“If you are scared to talk to groups of people and find it soul-crushing, and alarms are going off in your brain, that just means you’re on the RIGHT spiritual track because you’re making the devil mad.”
OR the other point of view,
“If it’s simple and there is a natural “flow” to what you’re doing, it’s because God is setting forth a clear path for you? There is an ease to being in God’s will.”
A jewel I’ve gleaned on this journey is that if someone else is telling someone what God “wants you to know,” take it with a grain of salt.
My advice? Dont use the suggestions of others who purport to speak on God’s behalf in lieu of your gut. The feelings in your gut have ancient knowledge. It is not a hedonistic to trust your instincts. They were placed there for a reason.
I don’t do public speaking anymore. The truth is, God knew it wasn’t my jam, but I had to learn it the hard way. I had to learn that one size does NOT fit all.
The thing is: I DO speak up, in the written word, where I can communicate love as God placed the ability in me.
Why are we doing the things we don’t enjoy for God?
As it turns out, there is a flow to carrying out the will of God; an ease. We don’t need to panic or fret. The his world has enough panic and fretting.
Stop doing the things that make your soul panic. Our faith doesn’t have to be powered by the expectations of others.
It only has to be powered by love. Express yourself as you’ve been created to do, and never-mind the rest.
A friend I admire very much recently posted a prayer request, shortly followed by this sentiment: “Don’t bother to pray for me if you’re sending good vibes, good intentions, positive energy, etc. only God can heal me.”
It made me sad for her.
Although I am actually inclined to agree with her ALL healing comes from Source. Powers of darkness ain’t gonna heal you because you asked “the wrong way,” because darkness doesn’t heal. Ever. It can’t.
You’re either getting your healing from God or not at all, no matter how woo-woo your friends pray for you.
But advising your friends who may believe differently than you who are wanting to transfer light, love, and healing to you to “please don’t, unless you’ll do it the right way,”
It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when you consider that prayer IS “focused attention” – another human being imploring goodness and healing and mercy over you from the one Power who can handle it.
I’m religious circles, we call that “speaking life” over someone. And it seems a pity to reject how ever one can best send love and light for a letter-of-the-law incantation approved by the church proper.
Eastern religions have a much better grasp on this concept. We, on the other hand, almost take a Christmas Nationalist stand about it. “By GOD there is ONE way to pray for me and the Bible CLEARLY says how to do it, so don’t come in here with your weirdo ideas, which are surely demonic, since I don’t understand it.”
When we eschew good intentions that loving people bestow on us because their way of loving us is considered sub-par to your own religion, it’s a loss.
If “good vibes” won’t heal you according to your theology, where do you assume such vibes originate? Where would good, loving intentions for you come from exactly?
When we throw away their manifestations of love for us because they use the word “energy” rather “than prayer.” … we are losing something very important. The humanity of ourselves, and by proxy, the humanity of Jesus.
You are petitioning the Highest Power that exists in the entire universe for MY healing and wellbeing. And if you do so while on your knees, or with a pretty rocks in hand (even the rocks cry out, remember?) I would be honored.
In conclusion, and with a nod to Dr. Dre (wait, I mean Dr. SEUSS:)
I am watching “Intervention,” which is a great series, but very heavy subject matter. I watch a lot of TV when I’m having a high-pain day. I used to feel guilty about watching TV in the middle of the day, because AYYYYYY! If I can feel guilty about something, I’m going to glom on to that shit. It’s familiar to me. But I’m learning to go easier on myself.
I watch Intervention because I admire interventionists, recovery is an incredible journey, and I’m a huge fan of observing “what makes people tick.” Psychology fascinates me. And mostly, I love the show because some folks rise from the ashes like a phoenix, and that stuff is inspiring.
Intervention hits especially hard because I’m an alcoholic. It’s been 22 years since my last drink.
When I got sober, I didn’t think it would “stick” but I just kept NOT having a drink that day. And then the next day, always eternally promising myself I would not drink today.
I now have 8,066 days alcohol-free. That’s a miracle.
I wish everyone got their miracle. I truly believe it’s possible for everyone. Not on the other side of this life, but IN this one. And I don’t know why I made it out of active alcoholism while many do not. It’s easy to feel survivor’s guilt about it. But that’s a blog post for another day.
On January 2, 2001, I took my last drink. I was turning yellow. My body was demanding alcohol by every day’s end. But when I would drink, my body would also reject the alcohol, in a most unpleasant and projectile manner.
And nobody knew how much I was drinking. I mean, NO one. So the shame factor was tremendous.
I was trying to drown Trauma that knew how to swim like Michael Phelps, without even knowing that’s what I was doing.
When I first got sober, it was on this brand new technology – the INTERNET! The support group was “Alcoholism in Women” AOL. Yep. America Online, people.
I’d like to write about that experience (maybe later this week?) Recovery puts you in a vulnerable place. One of those ladies is still a dear friend to this day. But some of them didn’t make it out.
Some of those precious, strong, beautiful souls lost their lives to alcohol. It’s heartbreaking.
As far as I can tell, the purpose for making it through something hard is to help someone else get through something hard. That’s why I’m open about why I don’t drink.
At the end of each episode of Intervention, there is a segment that shows whether or not the addict chooses to get help, and usually includes a short follow up. Some refuse help outright. Some go but don’t take advantage fully of the help.
But some of them – many – get their new start. They grab onto it with both hands, with the same passion they had for their drug (which is what it takes,) and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Makes my heart soar!
That’s what I wish for every addict and alcoholic. It’s possible for all of us, but we have to be willing to do anything to keep healthy.
If you are drinking more than anyone knows, If you feel hopeless and full of shame, If you cannot imagine your life improving vastly, If you think you’ve really blown it this time, If your heart is raw from a lifetime of trauma, If you wonder if you’re worth it…
You’re in the PERFECT place to claim a new life.
If you’re at the end of your rope, grab on to the knot – help and support – and it will become a ladder that leads you into a new life.
Recovery is so flippin’ Beautiful and REAL. And it’s perfect for YOU. It’s not for other people, it’s for you. So that you can have the life you deserve.
I think of my AOL sisters from time to time; the ones who didn’t make it out. I wonder where they would be now, if they just didn’t pick up a drink that day. I suspect at the heart of it, they didn’t believe they were worthy of a better, sober life.
So I’m just writing this today to tell you that you’re worth it.
Please out resources and help. There is no shame in asking for help. And do whatever it takes to live the recovery life. Glom onto it, obsess about recovery just as you have the drink.
We already know how to be obsessed; find out what switching obsessions can do for you (and the people who love you.)
Find out what truly makes YOU tick, because I guarantee you’re fascinating in ways you don’t even know yet. I’ll bet you’ve forgotten who you truly are, while in your addiction. Life is hard, but also so good. I promise. You can do this.
I used to think that it made me a horribly unpatriotic American if I didn’t know EVERYTHING going on nationally and globally. I now know that it only makes me a person protecting her fragile mental health. PERIOD. If it’s earth-shattering, it will crawl across my Facebook feed, and I will deal with the anxiety as it presents.
“I don’t know” is one of my favorite phrases these days.
As a former fundamentalist, I also used to think I had all the answers…. the important ones anyway. It was my security blanket; all I’ve ever known. But having shed that blanket, I can see how threadbare it was. I took it to bed with me every night because surely to know what’s going on is certainty, right?
“Fundamentalist” means that a belief it rooted in something so obviously true, it’s fundamental.
“I don’t know” was the antithesis of faith and the admission of weakness, back in the day. Thinking you know the purpose of your life and everyone else’s makes you cocky like that – demanding that no questions are asked, and no boat is rocked.
Knowing facts about people, places, things, and the state of the world has nothing to do with our primary purpose…
Which is to love.
Knowing is collecting “facts” with which to make judgments. Making judgements is central to our survival as a species but is useless when determining whether or not to invest in other humans. Above all else, we need connection; to be understood beyond “head knowledge.”
Knowing is not loving, you see.
“But what if they are all so WRONG?” I mean LOOK AT THIS MESS!
Yup. That’s a mess right there. Everywhere. Messy, messy, messy.
These days, I have no earthly idea what the hell is happening. If I peek onto a news site, I regret it almost immediately. I can’t handle what is going on in the Ukraine, although I pray for the people regularly. I can’t handle the imagery, the crushing sadness of it. I can barely handle what’s up in my own body some days.
Here’s the truth: It’s not that I don’t care. Empaths care entirely too much about what’s happening. I’ll say it: My fragile mental health simply cannot hande a constant stream of doom and despair. I absorb like a sponge and it’s really hard to wring myself back out when I “go there.”
“I don’t know” comes in handy in a myriad of ways.
I don’t know anymore where the world is going. I used to believe in prophesies of old, but they are awfully dark, and my mind is already prone to going dark places already. I have a tendency to wallow in my dark places, so I don’t need extra help gathering fuel for the fire. I’d rather be light and salt to this crazy place, and I’ve learned that if I’m a sniveling Chicken Little screaming “the sky is falling!” whilst running in circles, it behooves no one. Sniveling Chicken Little used to be my spirit animal.
I don’t know why I’m chronically sick and in pain all the time. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. I’ve read everything about my conditions. I know ALLTHETHINGS about it. It doesn’t help me put one foot in front of the other on hard days. That’s LOVE, baby. Not knowledge. Not fear.
I’ve shaken my fist at the Almighty. I’ve had cross words with God. All because “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!” But in my unknowing, I don’t blame God, bargain with God, turn my back on God anymore. Because even though I don’t know and understand the why’s of it, I don’t believe it hinders his great love for me at all.
I’ll go so far as to say, I wasn’t ready to surrender to LOVE until I was ready to say, “I don’t know.” And it’s a learning curve every day.
It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know things. But I hope Love never stops revealing itself to me, in its purest, unknowable glory.
You shall know the truth, and it shall set you free. And the truth is Love only. Pure and simple.
And if you are an extreme feeler too, this is your sign to step away from the media madness.
Good night / day, friends. What do you think about when you can’t sleep?
It is 4:30 in the morning, and I got up to pee about 2 long hours ago.
I am still awake because THOUGHTS. Here is a short list of things my mind decides to entertain in the stone-fold middle of the night:
1. I worry about my kids, especially in the wee hours of the morn. I worry for them individually and as a whole. I worry that I worry too much. I worry that I don’t worry enough.
2. A dear friend just lost another beloved pet yesterday, and my heart breaks for her, my own heart still grieving my special Catsby. Oh the loss, loss, loss of the past three years, across the board. The loss of people, animals, ways of life.
3. Why did I ever think God moved Heaven and Earth for me to get a good parking space, while children in the world are starving. SMH.
4. The intelligence of every living thing. This subject weaves itself in my waking and sleeping life. I dream of vast galaxies and our place in them. I ponder much on the minutiae too. Life-creating mitochondria. Every cell in every tree, leaf, and flower is bursting with evidence of divinity. Every single one of us is life made of a zillion pieces of life, the whole cosmos a part of us too.
5. We have no idea what lives in the ocean, really. And that’s part of the allure. Damn, I miss swimming in the ocean.
6. I miss my mother-in-law. Really miss her. She was really something special. I miss having a “mom.”
7. How much pain will I be able to stand before I can’t stand it any more with this stupid disease? Everyone has a limit; not knowing where mine lies can be scary.
8. Estrangement is the weirdest thing ever, but boundaries are the best thing ever. And that makes for industrial-grade emotional f*ckery.
9. Religion is the opiate of the masses, they say, and I’ve officially OD’d. Just LOVE for me going forward, thanks. I’m over labels. Check please!
10. Feeling long-expired pangs of social angst anew about that one time I was unintentionally rude to someone (but I was just socially overwhelmed.) Oh, and the approximately 7 million additional times I was socially awkward. OOF.
That’s just a sampling. I wonder what it’s like to have insomnia thoughts like: “I need to get the oil changed,” or “I think we are out of detergent.” What’s that even LIKE?
And so I’m finally tired now again, feeling the heavy cream of sleepiness pour over me. My mind eases, I feel God’s comfort. I open my palms in a physical relinquishing of worries before closing my eyes…
I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.
She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.
In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.
If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:
“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”
You get the gist of it.
I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.
She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.
She was serene where I am neurotic.
She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.
She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)
But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.
My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.
Or been rejected by her own family.
She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.
Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.
She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.
I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.
You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.
I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.
I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.
My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.
Authenticity over antiquated expectations.
Relationship with God over rules and regulations.
Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.
Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.
Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.
Happy Easter. I don’t want to be that person who bums everybody out with their posts of grief, but I have to tell you this Easter feels more like death than resurrection.
Death is present and lurking, but the joke’s on Death, because it’s defeated. It is finished. But Death – and about 8 billion other voices, if you give them credence – will tell you otherwise.
It is finished, even if we have to live in a broken world.
It’s is finished, meaning our suffering here is not part and parcel of who we are. We don’t take it with us. Only love travels that well.
It is finished, even when our hearts lurch with missing someone so badly it physically hurts.
It is finished, even though the sticky residue of suffering gums up the works, and the whole damn planet seems to have lost its collective mind.
I won’t ask, “Death, where is your sting?” because I call BS on that. It stings like Hell. It hurts like a mother-*. I’m not going to deny the pain of being human just to sell you on Pollyanna positivity. I’m certainly not going to sell you religion, which professes to have all the answers but I assure you, does not.
But Death, after the sting, is never the victor. Our spirits outlive Death. Nothing can keep us from the love of God. Not even ourselves.
He is risen, friends.
And I’m telling you that with a puffy frog-face from crying, unbrushed hair, balled fists, a heart full of questioning incredulousness, and deep pain. I’m writing this because maybe you’re hurting too.
Maybe you’re pissed off, and for good reason. Maybe you’re sick and feel hopeless. I just want to remind you that you are also risen.
Risen is by far more your identity than broken, or even dead.
Sometimes resurrection doesn’t look like glorious renderings of an ancient, empty tomb – beams of light streaming from within, all CBN Network-style.
Sometimes it looks just like you- in all your holy, grieving glory. Slogging through the messy inconveniences and crippling agonies of life, interspersed with great bursts of love and laughter. All of us redeemed ragamuffin kids of God, all of us made of stardust, mud, and love.
The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy, and my mental health is HERE for it.
It is helping my mental health because I am fascinated with all things galactic, and every time a new image is captured by Hubble, my worries seem to shrink. It’s impossible to be in wonder and see while nursing a grudge or fussing over a human problem.
Not that our problems aren’t real. Or important. They ARE important, even to the Being who came up with the crazy idea of eternity.
Infinite ness is not a concept we default to. We cannot wrap our minds around the concept of endlessness. But in a world where our troubles seem the most infinite thing we know, Hubble reminds me to zoom out.
Yes, I am hurting. My body aches. My heart grieves. The pandemic looms. The world’s a hot mess express.
Would you look at this economy?
This sociological crap-shoot we are calling “life.”
We become Chicken Littles, running in circles exclaiming, “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then we like to proclaim anyone who doesn’t join our panic is Pollyanna about reality.
Okay…but ZOOM OUT. Pan the picture wider, then wider still.
Imagine yourself and all your pain, a tiny speck on a giant blue marble – just one of billions. Imagine this as an image on your iPhone, in hi-def, as most problems seem.
Now imagine that the same Creator who spins planets in orbit cares intimately about what you do. He cares about you not only as a marble-dweller, but a miracle of cells and thoughts and feelings.
Imagine that this Being of Love is intimate with your every heartache and just as concerned about the state of you as He is the state of the Multiverse.
Just zoom out of the picture, wider and wider. See how perfect the orbits are? Check out those stars. Wow! Each and every one a sun. Each and every molecule of the cosmos is worshipping just by existing.
Existence is worship.
We cannot reach the end of it, just like we cannot reach yet end of Love itself.
Just zoom out. It’s going to be okay.
God is zooming in on us. Let your heart marinate in the magnificence of this concept – a Love so endless, Hubble will never reach it.
This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.
You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!
I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)
This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.
At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.
I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.
I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)
I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.
I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.
My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)
At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.
But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.
And I mean they rallied!
It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.
I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.
I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.
Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids. I worked on my own issues. I put up strong, necessary boundaries. I learned how to forgive myself. And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)
So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.
Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.
They are 26 and 29 now. My world.
Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:
When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.
And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!
These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!
But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:
The kids really WILL be ok. You ARE stronger than you think. It’s OKAY to ask for help. It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help! God has not abandoned you There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.
It’s not a great Thanksgiving. It’s not even a good Thanksgiving. About to launch into avent sesh. Sorry in advance.
The whole entire day was a comedy of errors. Oh my God, the anxiety. Plus, I woke up and couldn’t eat food. I’ve had four bites of oatmeal and about a tablespoon of each token TG food all day today. That’s it.
Food is my love language. And Thanksgiving is a Foodie high holy day. And I mean absolutely no sacrilege. Just facts.
I’m having a nasty gastroperesis flare, which is setting off a pain flare, which…you get the picture. My left side of my face had been numb for hours. Auras and face numbness are my harbinger off migraines. It’s what let’s me know it’s coming.
I’m sharing my day, I hope maybe someone else who is inordinately emotional today won’t feel alone. There’s this Norman Rockwell standard, you know? We expect it to be some type of way.
So worsening pain, complex family dynamics, cranberry sauce boiled over in a sticky mess. My knee is going out. I’ve been up since 4 am. I’m tired, weepy, emotional, and could easily slip into sadness.
Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday for me, as there is no contact with my family of origin. Sometimes I get tired of my life behind “pre-“ and “post” sobriety. Before and after. SO much is old me vs. new me. I’ve reinvented myself and I’m kind of proud of that. My new life is my heart’s desire, but sometimes I miss the key players who shaped me. It’s so odd. And painful.
But I can only be but so sad, really. Then I barrel through it.
When things started going sideways today – which was right outta the gate this morning – I said to myself, “Well, I guess I have a spiritual thing to learn today that can only be illuminated by a certain set of circumstances.”
My old spiraling behavior rears up on occasion. It is born of exhaustion, making mistakes, and burning myself out.
I’m taking the “shrug” approach. Whelp. I guess this day wasn’t meant to be easy. Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow.
Who the heck even knows. Certainly not me. This is how I’m trying to learn to cope with what passes for normal life in 2021: Own the mistakes, ask what very difficult things are teaching me, be deliberate about gratitude (and STAY deliberate about it.)
I’ve been doing a lot of work in acceptance. And truly, I admit to being outrageously blessed. Just not blessed with perfection, in ANY area.
At some point, being imperfect has to be “perfect” enough.
By the way, having your therapist tel you she’s proud of you? Yeah. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. ❤️
How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?
Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.
I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.
It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.
The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”
Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years.
It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”
I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.
No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.
He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.
Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.
How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?
In the tradition of writing transparently, I have to tell you that I am more anxious than I have been in years. Matter of fact, my heart is racing out of my heart this moment. Enough with the “flight response” already. I’m trying to live here.
The whole world feels like it’s a flaming dumpster fire, and I’ve been sick and in pain recently, which helps NOTHING. And then you’ve got the whole mental illness angle, which is LIT fam! (Gotta make a little joke to deal with life on life’s terms.)
Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, it’s how FEEL. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow of it’s potential. I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life. But dayum, that other shoe is awfully loose!
Our emotions are a valid barometer to measure what your mind and soul. And as extreme feelers, we have to keep them from running the whole-ass show.
It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and WAY outdated. Fear served me as a child; it doesn’t get handed the reins anymore because I choose to rebuke it, a thousand times a day. Plus, it seems to have visitation rights.
The Universe is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape. Handing off the heft of it has to be an INTENTIONAL act on my part. The trash ain’t gonna take itself out.
Anxiety feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise. The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.” And expecting the worst is my default already.
Feeding the doom is an old skill I homed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years. Yet in my lizard brain (the amygdala) launches a flight-or-fight response to beat all… a profound throat-punch to the Spirit. So then I have anxiety AND a soul bruise to complete the insult. And who needs that?
To be honest, some days Anxiety is the ringmaster of the circus which is my mind, but I’m in therapy and working on it. *Cue the clowns and dancing ponies. Clowns are terrifying, by the way, just like extreme worry. As it turns out, this IS my circus, and these ARE my monkeys.
Wake, surrender, make coffee, surrender, clean the house, surrender, make dinner, surrender … endless opportunities to surrender. Surrender is not a one-stop-shop. It’s a constant dance, at least for me.
God bless us, every one.
God, you are the Source of all that is good and all that is love. I can’t peek around the corners to see what’s coming next in this crazy world, in this disabled body. I trust that you have a bird’s eye view and my best interest at heart. I have to trust you are LOVE. ❤