Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I read something the other day that has really stayed with me. Honestly as I was reading it, I felt it. It rang so incredibly true that I truthfully wondered how I couldn’t see it before. Have I been so world-washed that I no longer know what my feelings and emotions are? Or are we all more comfortable with accepting the status quo, conforming and never ever stepping out and away from the crowd to become aware of our own thoughts and emotions? We are more and more overscheduled, over-tasked, overly connected via never ending social media feeds but not more enlightened, compassionate, helpful, concerned. There is a disconnect. 


We run and we run and we run. 


I run and run and run. 


There’s rarely a quiet moment and if there is we simply must post it, wait for the “likes” and feedback that seems to give us justification and validation in this world. Our connectivity to others is more than any other generation. At our fingertips is more information than we will ever be able to consume; in our hands is both a tool and a distraction; we have an addiction to our devices that is so commonplace that we don’t even notice the disconnect happening. 


And we are exhausted. Worn out. Tired. Frazzled. We glorify those terms and wear them as a badge of honor. It validates that we are doing life well-at least based on worldly terms. But what if? What if we replace all of those earned titles above with the word “lonely”? Are we the most connected people on earth and yet still possibly the loneliest? 


Stick a pin in that for a moment. Because “lonely” is not something we talk about or even give permission to talk about. It’s almost-gasp-a cultural faux pas. And to bring it up in even a hushed tone can get you shot down. So, we instead overschedule, overstimulate, overshare, overindulge and try and try and try to cover “lonely” with anything but talking about “lonely”. 


I suffer from loneliness- a loneliness that I’ve lied about, that I cover with exhaustion, that I try to fill with stuff and smiles and an armor I rarely talk about. Last night in the screaming quiet of my room- all alone- I couldn’t shake the internal struggle by which I was consumed. My loneliness has become anger. You see, “lonely” doesn’t feel good. It hurts. It’s an internal ache that I haven’t figured out how to cure. And it feels weak. Our society has branded it weak and I’m hell bent on not being weak. But I’ve been lonely for years. I have years and years of practice assembling an impenetrable suit of armor. And I wear it well. I’m so used to armoring up daily and filling my quiver with the weapons of “exhaustion”, “busy”, “frazzled”, “focused” that no one, including myself, would ever be the wiser. Not even I was fully aware until I was slapped to reality with a book I wasn’t even fully enjoying. And now I must sit with knowing what I know or turning a blind eye, continuing to do as I’ve always done and ignoring that soul-sadness I feel. Daily. 


I know my soul feels it. I’ve touched on it before very superficially in writings, but I’ve never actually labeled it because I truly think my eyes were opened only just a night or two ago. I’ve longed for connection, true connection and belonging for a long time. I resent deeply those who say they are “friends” at face value when it’s truly only an acquaintance-type relationship, one where the invite to the shopping party is only to get credit for my purchase. And I naively do it. Every time. Because I am craving that inclusion and belonging. I’m not the one asked for intimate coffees, or girl’s nights, or trips, or walks to talk. I’m asked to “do” …for them. It has nothing to do with me. It’s 100% for them, to benefit them and I’m asked because I always help. I’m a helper. A people pleaser. A yes-man. My heart is used and abused and when they’ve gotten what they need, I’m cast aside. It happens again and again and again. I don’t know how to do boundaries well. Because when I try, it seems to end the “friendship”. But it never truly was anyway. 


I sat with all that last night and couldn’t turn my damn mind off. It hurts. I’ve had somewhat unsettling thoughts lately- none I would honestly act upon or even retell the details. That would be the quickest way for someone to lock “lonely” away-because she’s a freak and broken, after all. Nope. I love my kids way too much for any of that. But I do think things recently. I’m truly ready to go home. The world is a lot…it’s too much. Because “lonely” hurts deep. And I want to walk with Jesus. I’ve asked Him to take me home, but I don’t think I’m done here yet. I’m not doing “here” well though. I can feel it. If I must put on angry armor to get through today, why do I have to continue to walk and carry that heavy load? I simply don’t know. But I know I can’t be the only lonely one in this world. And for that reason only, do I put these thoughts and emotions to print.  


This is not a cry for help by any stretch. I don’t want consoling comments or direct messages of “I’m concerned about you”. Those truly lock that angry armor into place even tighter. I don’t know why. To say I’m complex is a huge understatement. I feel things so deeply but don’t know how to share them without the awkward way that defines me. Sometimes it’s ok to just…open the door; open the door to all the things we don’t like to talk about. And loneliness is at the top of that list. This is my hand reaching out gently to all who feel the “lonely” and thought it was exhaustion, to all the “lonely” who use “busy” as a badge. I’m in the arena with you. I’m here. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Cleansing Rain

 I drove through town this morning without the all too familiar droning of the radio. Normally, we turn it up loud and sing and seat-dance our way across town. But not today. Today it was just 2 chattering and excited-for-another-day-of-camp little boys, their listening mama and the soothing sound of the rhythmic rainfall. It didn’t take long for it to completely wash over me and draw me, if only for that moment, closer to the Lord. It was His permission to be present. And, oh, the things I felt. 


Today. Today is the morning after another “last”. I haven’t let many of the “lasts” sit for too long; I’ve bypassed the sadness that comes with growing up a child and marched forward into the next thing. But the quietness of the car and the permission of the rain gave way to the floodgates of my always guarded emotions. Perhaps it’s because there is but one child home with me today which is odd to say the least. Perhaps it was the finality of the “last high school moment” fully sinking in as I drove. Perhaps it just is what it is. You see, my foolish pride boasts of my steely emotions. I’m very proficient at putting my blinders on and doing the next thing. It’s gotten me through some very tough moments. However, what if I allowed myself to sit and feel. Feel all the things. I admit it’s not a comfortable place to be but quite possibly it’s the better place to be. Weren’t we endowed with all these emotions? Not simply strength? Joy and sadness are not mutually exclusive. We can be both joyful and filled with hopefulness for what is yet to come and equally sad and nostalgic for what has ended and is behind us. 


And the last “last” sat heavy with me this morning. I’m not good at crying. I’ve never really learned how to do it; or more truthfully, I’ve become so proficient at the not crying part of life that I’ve refused to allow myself to feel that emotion that can be so healing. It’s not a sign of weakness. Not at all. Allowing oneself to feel, to feel ALL the emotions, is a strength, awareness of your own humanity and a better understanding of what it means to depend fully upon our God. It is beauty. The steadiness of the falling rain this morning felt very much as a metaphorical cry for me this morning. It may sound foolish. And that’s ok. Because after I dropped off my boys, it was just me, the quiet whispers of God and the steadiness of falling tears washing away the hurt, the stains of humanity, the sins I fall into, and my stubborn dependence upon myself. It was a cleansing. It was a permission to be sad. 


Often, we hear and probably repeat the saying “don’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it happened”. And I’m stymied by the idea that we refuse to be both. I want to experience and feel all the emotions. Give permission to ourselves and others to be 100% present in this life, and yes that means we may have to feel sadness and be ok with others’ sadness. I don’t want to “get through it” my entire life. I want to feel the full spectrum of emotions sewn into my very being as I was knit in my mother’s womb because that is His true design! I want to love fiercely, feel fiercely, express my emotions fiercely. Living in the moment doesn’t mean marching on to the next moment with blinders on and never feeling the weight of life. 


My boys are all growing up-as they are meant to do. And that leaves me in this emotional juxtaposition of joyful hope and deep sadness. They need me less and less and in much different ways. They have this exciting autonomy and independence that is both beautiful to watch and assist and yet still heartbreakingly painful. My job as their mom, my ever-present role, ebbs and flows. It changes. Yes, I will always be their mama. That will truly never change. However, as a mom to all boys I’m very aware of my role. Boys leave their mamas. They tend not to return. As it is designed by their Creator. I’m raising them to be used by Him, after all. I know my role is fleeting. I feel it more and more and I am saddened that it will, no doubt, be over some day. One day…I will not be someone’s joy, or the one they look for in the crowd, or the first hug after something great or something horrible. Right now, I am the keeper of their world…of all their emotions, moments, tears. My role as mom has been exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t change any part of that. But it won’t last. One by one they will leave the safety my arms and my home and spread their wings. And I will cheer the loudest. Always. But they will find their place, their path and it won’t be next to mine. And that makes me sad. 


And today, God sent the rain to give me permission to cry. So I did.