No One Said It Was Going to Be Easy

The walls were lavender. 

The room is hued in a smokey purple as the autumn sun set. And the back of my hand finds my mouth, as the gasps pour out of me. 

I’ve contained them all day. Slowly being worn down under their weight, until I couldn’t contain them any longer. I breathed through them like contractions when sitting at a stop light, hands clutching the steering wheel. I swallowed them when scrolling through my social media feeds. 

Now, finally standing still, undistracted by anything in particular, I had stopped, and they started. 

I’m so scared right now. 

You probably don’t have to search your minds for very long as to what may have happened this week that would leave so many reeling. 

But it’s more than that. 

It’s the reactions after. Such anger. Such pain. 

This is not a place I, or anyone else, thought we would ever find ourselves in. Not a place we want to stay. Or, perhaps it is. Because this will eventually be comfortable. This place won’t challenge us.

But this place, if we linger here too long, will change us. 

My dad died in August. And I know that something so personal can seem so unrelated to all of this mess. But that pain has colored my world for the last nearly three months. It has shaded in areas I didn’t expect; drawn the light out in others that I never before appreciated. 

And I realize that…we all have such bigger things to worry about. 

Because there is something bigger than what’s dominating the news headlines right now. 

Since my dad left me holding his hand, beside a hospital bed, alone in a room for just a few minutes before I had to leave him for the last time, I have tried to decide what I was going to do with this time that I had left. 

Somewhere in there, in this fragmented mind, I made this solemn vow to love people. Wherever I could go. And what that looks like for each person, each situation, might be different.

But if I chose this path wholeheartedly, it might never change anyone else; but it could certainly change me. 

My pain is different than those of the marginalized. Those who are worried about putting food on the table. Those who are worried about whether or not they will have the chance to love the person of their choosing. Those who find themselves in unexpected predicaments, and are faced with hard choices. 

And yet, our pain, our hurt, is the same. Because we feel alone. We feel like it separates us out; makes us different in unpleasant ways. It makes us feel like we are scarred. It makes us feel like we aren’t whole.

Unwanted. Unheard. Under-valued. Unseen. 

I’ve carried this tornado inside of me for almost three months. Every time, I think I have made it through some of the hardest parts, something new tells me that I’m wrong. Like the fact that no one else in my family really cares for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, except for my dad. And he won’t be here. And there won’t be cranberry sauce. 

It makes me want to give up.

The last two days have been one of those times that it makes me want to give up. Such divides. Such contempt. 

What is the point?

I told my dad, in my secret heart, that I would try to use the days ahead for something good, something better; that wasn’t about me. 

And then I see the vitriol at its angriest, words burning red in my eyes from a screen. And I wonder what the point really even is?

I sat on my stair case today, that sun still meandering its way down the sky. My children knowing something was wrong as my insides turned out again, when I just wanted to tell someone that I hurt so, so bad, about so many things. 

And the words whispered into my ear: no one said this would ever be easy. 

It’s easy to love people when they are lovable.

When it detracts the least possible amount of energy and expenditure on our parts. It’s the times when people are wildly unapproachable that we must seek to love the hardest. Or else…we aren’t really loving them, are we? We wouldn’t be living by a mantra to tolerate and accept others if we back down when it would be really, really easy to. 

We would be giving in to pain. And if we stay here long enough, a single angst ridden track on repeat, the pain won’t ultimately change. But we will. 

There are days to fold up inside of ourselves, and give up. 

But we can’t. We just can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

The words we moms tell ourselves.

Brace yourselves, because I might sound like an Adele song in a few minutes time.

Actually, I’m not even worried about that…because maybe it’s a good thing?

I have exactly two existential crises every day. 

One at about 2 pm, and then one again around my children’s bedtime. 

Around 2 in the afternoon, I realize that my children are going to be home from school shortly.

So I ask myself if I would rather spend the last hour of my day with just a little bit less chaos than normal, thoroughly cleaning every part of my house that I can manage? This way, I don’t have to try to do it while my children lurk behind me, leaving their veggie straw crumbs and smudgey fingerprints all over everything they touch.

Or, do I want to sit on the couch, with a pile of carbohydrates in front of me, watch an episode of something mildly entertaining on Netflix, and actually chill??

It’s the greatest toss up a parent faces: rest or productivity? Both answers are correct. But both answers are also wrong. There’s regret either way, so choose wisely. Who made this game anyway?!

My crisis at nighttime, though, is different. 

I usually fall just shy of lovingly and ceremoniously putting my children to bed. I opt instead for the, “the only reason to be downstairs is an absolute emergency,” speech before I blow a kiss, flick off the bedroom light and close the door.

I turn left after hitting the bottom step, and I see a house in front of me that has somehow imploded in the last three hours despite the large part of the day I spent tidying it. This is around when I have to try not to lose it.

I find the gritty crumbs, and the crumpled pairs of socks left on the floor next to the sneakers that didn’t quite make it back into the shoe basket.

The training in life skills that we are giving our children hasn’t quite reached a level of osmosis yet, the concepts not fully etched into their daily consciousness.  Some do, like the please’s and thank you’s, and those sweet, gentle kisses on my cheek for no reason at all.

Enough to melt the heart of stone.

The rest, though? Not always so much.

Which is why I sometimes step on Legos, and identifiable sticky substances on my way to the kitchen to scrape off flecks of food stuck to the surface of my stove, and to finish cleaning up from dinner.

As a person coping with anxiety right now, the familiar hot flashes start to creep up, the tightness in my chest that I was sure wasn’t there five minutes ago begins to coil itself into a new, but all too familiar hissing knot. 

I wonder why I even bother.

I wonder how I can help my children better understand the lessons we are trying to teach them when so much of their young minds are filled with the knowledge of Pokemon, and the wingspans of the largest bats in the world. Yes, this is a thing we discuss at length around here.

I wonder what other people without small children are doing.

I wonder what I’m even doing.

The freedom to just sit and simply unwind before bed is a luxury I haven’t had in years. Much like privacy in the bathroom. Or the satisfaction of having empty laundry baskets once a batch of clean clothes are put away.

Worst is how the prevailing feeling that I have accomplished something each day is one that I haven’t felt the satisfaction of in quite a while. That novelty that my tasks at hand are finished, or can at least be set aside for the next nine hours to make way for rest. 

I fall into this pit so many times.

The pen of my mind begins its dark, recognizable scrawl as I pick off food stuck to the prongs of each fork in the sink, etching unkind words into my confidence the way a hot prong seers flesh.

I’m not good enough or diligent enough or productive enough or thin enough or joyful enough. I mark myself with each flick of my pen. I name myself with each shortcoming.

And this, friends, is precisely why I occasionally need the positive voices in my subconscious to sound like something like Adele; I need a chorus of confidence and truth to rain down on me when I try to remind myself of how great I am at what I do.

It felt awkward to write that sentence, to think of proclaiming that I actually believe that I am a good mother. How graceless or arrogant it seems when actually, it is a statement that can only be uttered because of profound grace.

These words I whisper to myself, in my own voice, is the poison in my well. Poison I would never want my children to taste or drink. Words I would go to war with to save my children from, and yet I spill them out carelessly all over myself, and then I blame myself for that, too?

Do I let myself feel the rhythm and hum of those words that proclaim me as more than a failure? Do I know that I need the loudest and strongest singular voice to drown out the dozens of pointed accusations hurled my way when I’m alone and lost in my own mind?

I need to follow that voice out of the hazy mist, back to some place where things are upright, where the only meter stick we measure ourselves by is one of love, forgiveness and hope.

The beat that calls us is how we know that we still feel. 

Sometimes, it is that still, unwavering voice that says no, none of this is true. Other times, it is the most soulful vibrato that you could imagine; it is one who roars back. I never know why sometimes it is one or the other, why sometimes it is steady, why sometimes it is thundering.

They alternate almost instinctively and yet cohesively.

I try to let those words wash over me, through me, to save me from myself.

To know that I am okay.

 

And with each listen,

I try again to believe them,

And mark myself anew. 

 

When you’re grieving, hope is the thing that carries you.

I keep having this vision in my head. 

I’m outside, walking. 

The sky is gray and wild. It’s raining, and the wind is battering my face as I ascend upward,  my feet digging into the side of a hill. I’m alone, surrounded by walls of gray above me and green before me. As I reach the top, I look to the closed, storming sky that is spilling out for miles above the rising slopes, unfolding in gray upon gray, cloud upon cloud.

And I shout. 

I scream. 

At first, it’s just blistering shouts of anger barely puncturing the air as it feels like I am heaving every drop of malice that I have ever stored up inside of me out into this great precipice of nothing. I scream because it feels like there is nothing good in me anymore, so why not unleash the torrent of bitterness that’s locked inside of me.

At first, I feel relief. 

Before long, though, the relief fades and the shouts turn to haggard wails as hot tears begin to pour out of me like the rain from the clouds on high. 

When I have released every drop of venom that I possibly can, the howls start, and I can’t stop. I crumple to the ground as the rain is still pouring, the wind now lapping angrily at the sides of my face. Now, I feel naked against the indifferent gray sprawl in front of me as the sorrows pour out openly from me the way the rivers dump into the ocean.

The way it feels like it is always going to be. 

Then I snap out of it. 

This is a confrontation, the one I want to have with God. In my mind, I feel huge as I march myself up that hill. I know what I’m going to say. I have been keeping score, and I know the ways that I have been wronged, and I assuredly climb to the top to receive my just recompense.

I will make someone answer for each offense that I have kept note of.

But when I finally stand at the top, and I let my full-throated anger and indignation loose, I realize that my screams are barely even audible over the wind and rain. I realize that my aching is but a dot against the horizon. A drop of rain into the ocean.

I finally feel like I am nothing. 

We went to the beach a few weeks ago, and my three children each had different perceptions of the ocean. One felt free when he was rushing headlong  into the waves. Another inched further and further out from shore the more comfortable and confident she got. And then there was the littlest, who did not trust me at first. 

As she stood looking out and registering the size of the ocean and her place among everything, she realized truly how small she is. She shrank back as the waves foamed at her ankles. But I was there, behind her, assuring her that I would keep her safe. 

She swallowed salt water a few times, and was sent spilling over backwards a few more. But she learned to navigate the inward and then outward flow of the water, and found my hands to hold on to when she knew that she needed to.

She still fell. She still cried. But in she went.

Now, God has His back pressed to me as I sit in the church pew indifferent and miles away and angry. And He says that he is looking out after me. No, He says that He moves before me, in ways that split seas open to guard my steps.

I will never be carried away, even though right now I want to be. I want to escape to where I don’t feel watched, so that I can unfurl these clenched fists in secret, and let hostility spill out of me.

For all of my inward thrashing, there is still nothing I can do. 

In other moments, I have a different vision of me. 

I’m climbing the same face of the same hill. My steps are still heavy, my grief still real. The face of the sky still upon me, and, yes, still angry. The sadness and enmity are still turning over and over inside of me. 

When I reach the top this time, carrying with me all of the losses and wrongs that I have tallied, at that moment, as I see the gray spilling out infinitely in front of me, those numbers are suddenly lost to the great expanse of everything, to the miles upon miles that we tread if we are fortunate enough.

Instead of hurling venom, this time I just say thank you into the wind. And while that quiet thank you is just a whisper, my shaky eucharisteo is carried beyond the wall of gray.

And suddenly, the pain that’s wrapped itself around my hurting heart is paled in comparison to hope. 

The anger that poured out of me before fell sharply to the ground like stones, but my thanks has wings, it’s the thing that carries me for miles beyond the storm. Disentangling wildly over hills of calamity, uncertainty and chaos. 

Hope is the thing that carries you.

Hope is the thing that carried our cross up a different hill, transcending veils between creator and man, past and future, life and death.

A cross borne into the back of the One, stinging him with each step, each strike, each nail. And with each step tread, marking the Earth in His suffering, He says that as we so suffer, He has suffered along with us before us. And surely He suffered the cost of hope more greatly than we.

Hope is sometimes the thing that hurts.

But hope is also the thing that saves.