What If I Have Stepped Wrongly?


Author’s Note: I started writing this back in late February/early March and it was really quite heavy then.

The question is always there in the back of my brain, pricking at my mind and my heart. What if I step wrongly? What if I put my foot in the wrong spot, step into a hole, and break my figurative ankle? What if I step before I’m supposed to, or I hesitate and miss my chance? Then what?

The past few months, I have been weary-worn. That’s exactly how I feel: constantly weary  and worn thin. As Bilbo would put it, “‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 42)” I’ve been sick; I’ve been busy with work; exhausted when I get home; and what is usually meant to help restore and recover my spoon seems to use up my dwindling store even more. This is unusual: the constant weariness, this overhanging gloom. And I can’t help but wonder.

Did I take a wrong turn or a wrong step somewhere? Did I leap before I looked, decide before I discerned? Did I step wrongly? Now, I do not believe in a “that’s what you get” God. I do not believe that, if I did step wrongly, he’s sitting on by with hands folded and a harrumph of “Serves you right for not listening”. I do believe that God allows us to make mistakes and our own decisions, even if they turn out to be the wrong ones for us. I also believe that he is waiting to help us find our way again, even if it needs must be by roundabout.

But is that what I’m dealing with here? Or is it something else? Have I misplaced my priorities and therefore my energy? Have I stepped wrongly? I have to admit that, sometimes, I feel like Job, leaving aside the obvious differences in our difficulties.

“Is not all human life a struggle? Our lives are like that of a hired hand, like a worker who longs for the shade, like a servant waiting to be paid. I, too, have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn. (Job 7:1-4, NLT)

I’ve only ever been in therapy during one season of my life and even then it wasn’t very long. So a question I am daring to ask myself and pray about is if perhaps I am suffering from more than just exhaustion, and, frankly, it’s a scary thought for me. Having been raised in the Caribbean, it’s very true that Indiana winters can be hard on me–the long dark, the gloom, and the cold. This winter it has been especially hard to shake, hard to find my way back to me. Now, as spring begins to come into itself fully, I feel a little lightening of my spirit. Is that what it was? Or was there, is there more to it? The truth is that I don’t know. But I will keep praying, keep examining, keep trying to pay attention. I only hope that, if I feel that nudge in my heart and gut, I will have to courage to actually pick up the phone, sit in the chair, and ask and answer the hard questions. I don’t know if I am brave enough for that yet so I would appreciate good thoughts, hopes, and prayers as I process through this and keep an examining eye on myself and my heart. Thank you.

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Works Cited: Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Lord of the Rings, Part 1.

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Bracing from Buoyancy to Letdown


Last week, I rode a high brought on by the spectacular live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar that aired on NBC’s network on Easter Sunday, starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon. I had never seen a production of JCS or listened to any of the soundtrack before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Godspell I was familiar with, but I had never gotten to know JCS, although I knew of it.

All last week, the strains and melody of “Everything’s Alright” were the undercurrent of my days. I even found myself singing the first stanza of the song to a student who was nervous and stressed about a test they had in my class. All week, this musical—this story of Judas, Jesus, and deep, soul-searing humanity—buoyed me up and kept me afloat. The actors’ faces have shown up in my dreams. Their voices have filled my quiet moments, my heart and soul birthing prayers from the lyrics they breathe and belt.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been a Godsend of a soul lift, one that I have needed deeply and dearly. It has been a difficult few months, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have felt heavy, off-center, not myself. Nothing has felt aligned—not my emotions, my prayers/time with God, my sleep, my libido, my energy, my reactions and responses, nothing. Often, all I want to do after a full day of teaching is hide in my room with my earbuds in and not speak or have to spend spoons on anyone. Of course, unfortunately, this means my family suffers from my lack of presence and being present. For weeks, it’s been this way, this off-centeredness, so to feel the buoyancy of this beautiful musical was nothing short of a miracle. As we head into a new week, though, I find myself fearing.

I fear the letdown. Buoyancy like this doesn’t last as the novelty becomes commonplace. I fear the shine falling off, the powerful lyrics becoming ordinary as I listen to them over and over. I fear that the off-centeredness returning, the heavy tiredness settling on my shoulders and sapping my spoons and energy. It is like the winter weather, which seems to refuse to let go as, morning after morning, now into April, I wake to snow on the ground where previously there was none. Like that unexpected snow, I silently worry that the low places will return, and I’ll crash back to earth again. That sudden stop hurts, like a lot.

This past weekend, as I embarked to the grocery store on my own (a rare thing), I kept my earbuds in as I did my shopping, humming and mouthing lyrics to JCS’s pieces, and there was a freedom there. A soaring amidst the mundane, and I realized how much I have missed it. I’ve missed feeling freedom. Freedom to be me and enjoy what brings me life and joy. Even though I am afraid that it won’t last, for now I will hold onto it. Hold onto that freedom, that soaring, those miracles amidst the mundane. I will keep on singing, sharing, and hoping that this is just the beginning of feeling like myself again.

What a T-shirt Reminded Me About Love


Today was the first day of my Spring Break, and I spent the day (and an empty house) running errands and sprucing up the place for Spring/Motherly visit/Easter weekend. As I knew that I had errands to run after dropping my daughter off at preschool, I simply pulled on jeans, flats, and a favorite t-shirt before shrugging on my coat (yes, it’s still ridiculously cold for spring). A clearance buy from UnlockHope.com, this shirt was a soft red with “Love is a Verb” lettered on the front in white stylized artistry. Yes, it is definitely a favorite: comfy and truthful.

A lesson I have taken to heart over the past ten years is the exact one this shirt expounds. Love is many things. It is not only a feeling, an emotion. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Love is doing for others, not just saying the three little words. As I moved throughout my day, I found myself contemplating the words on my shirt: “Love is a verb.” I started to look at my day’s activities in the light of this sentence. And I realized just how true it is.

I realized that I was loving my dear ones by taking care of getting the taxes done (almost always a depressing endeavor). We’ve had the same wonderful professional taking care of our taxes since the first year of our marriage because I fully and openly acknowledge that tax codes and laws are something I am complete and utter rubbish at. Utilizing someone else’s skills and expertise helps my family in the best way while also keeping us as safe from mistakes as possible.

I was loving as I washed dishes, cleaned the stove, and tidied the kitchen table, creating space ready for cooking and eating and ease of finding things.

I was loving as I filed away my daughter’s preschool worksheets and projects, saving evidence of her progress and growth for her grandmother to see, as well as the future.

I was loving as I filled the washing machine and folded the already-dried towels, ensuring that my dear ones have clean clothes to wear tomorrow and days after.

I was loving as I sorted through toys and tidied my girl’s table where she creates her art and plays with her Legos.

As I worked and cleaned, listening to my audiobook and pausing for quick text chats with friends (and even now as I sit tired and achy from the energy spent), I found myself sighing contently at the productivity and smiling at the connection my heart was making with my hands. Sometimes I forget that the everyday tasks I perform and the things that I do are love. Love personified. Love acted out. Because it’s true, dear ones.

Love is more than just a feeling.

Love is a choice.

Love is action, whether that action is holding space, tidying a sink full of dishes, hugging someone close and letting them cry, or listening closely without saying a word.

Love is indeed a verb.

Five Minutes in the Frost


Earlier this week, in listening to her The Next Right Thing podcast, I took Emily P. Freeman’s admonition to give myself just five quiet minutes to heart. So, this morning, as I took out the trash, I gave myself five extra minutes in the frosty outside. I wandered around the front yard, looking at the flower beds that I planted back in September, with the help of my husband and father in law. I can see the shoots of my flowers–daffodils and crocuses–pushing up through the mulch in defiance of the cold, and I find myself growing more and more excited every day. I’m ready to see their colors burst out in vibrancy after a cold, bleak winter.

The sun had just come up about an hour previous, and I could see the rays and glow branching out in the sky from behind our house. The air was bright and “clear and cold and so clean it almost sparkled” (S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders), and birdsong filled the new morning. It felt as though the birds were rabid to make up for those frozen silent weeks of the winter when the icy cold stole all sound and wrapped the world in a thick quiet. Later on in the day, as I left the house for errands, I noted the same flower shoots looking even perkier in the now fully-bright and warm sunlight.

Spring is coming, I can feel my heart sing. The sun, the light, the warmth, and the color are returning, and I honestly cannot wait. After a busy, hectic, stressful week, those five minutes did me a world of good.

 

The Cost of Self-Care


Why does self-care always come at a cost? Or, rather, why do I always require/attach a cost to it?

Real life case-in-point. this past week, I was diagnosed with strep throat for the first time in my almost thirty-five years and was ordered by my doctor to stay home from work on Friday. I did, and, over the course of the weekend, I did what I could to rest from Thursday evening until roughly 3pm on Saturday. I laid in bed when I could, slept as late as I could, took hot baths, took my meds, drank fluids, and made sure I fed myself. At around 3pm Saturday, however, I saw the overflowing sink, the cluttered stove and kitchen table, and decided that I needed to make up for the time I had taken off, to make up the day and a half that I had spent being a laze-about. I actually said the words “I need to make up for lost time” to myself. My kitchen needed cleaning; clothes needed washing; I had already bathed my child, but she still needed attention, few spoons though I had to offer in that particular area. I felt like I had to make up for taking care of my own sick self.

Now, let’s look at the facts again. I wasn’t being lazy. I had strep. I was legitimately ill. And, yet, I felt like I had to make up for the time taken to help my body begin to heal. So I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, sanitized the house, and did three loads of laundry, not to mention helping my daughter tidy up her daylong mess in the living room and look for the TV remote that she had lost. I pushed my body that is still working to fight off an infection and heal (and will continue to push—I still have grading to do and midterm grades are this week, along with preparation for our school’s accreditation visit) because self-care has a cost, and that cost is time.

Time cannot be held onto. Time cannot be gained back. Time can only be spent. Time can only be lost. So we are told. And, honestly, self-care often takes time that I just do not have.

I have a family.

I have a job.

I have a home to take care of.

I have responsibilities.

Extra time—or what feels as though it would require extra time—is something I often do not have.

But why? Why do I insist on having to make up for taking time out of all-important life, time that something inside tells me “could have been better used” than lying in bed and trying to get extra rest? Truthfully, I don’t know. Rationally, my brain knows that self-care and taking time for healing is important. However, we human beings are often anything but rational, me included. For example, I am sitting here writing this in my living room when, with my child already asleep, I could go to bed early.

Not to mention that this week, I lost a grandparent. The diagnosis, progression, and succumbing were immensely quick and unexpected. I live very far away from that side of the family, so I am somewhat at a loss as to what to do or even how to grieve in this moment. And I feel like that I don’t even really have time to figure that out. Time and the world keep marching on and so I must with it. Processing time is something I need but I almost feel as though it is a luxury in this moment.

The cost of self-care is time, time that I don’t have–or, rather, don’t think I have–and that makes me feel…less. I feel weak for “giving in” and “letting things slide”. I feel like I am less able to order my life than others. I feel as though I am not fulfilling my responsibilities to my family and our home. So, in my mind, I must make up for that. I must fulfill my role. I must make up for lost (read: wasted) time. This is a headspace out of which I am still struggling to break at almost thirty-five years of age. My progress in this area is imperfect and often feels minuscule to nonexistent, but that is why I am writing about it today. Acknowledging and exploring the reality of the dichotomy is at least one step forward I can take.

Through all this mental/emotional struggle this week, I have been gifted with and blessed by dear ones who have done their best to remind me that I need to take care of myself. They have showered me with grace, gentleness, and kindness in their reminders and sharing of this truth (yes, again, my logic and common sense acknowledge that this is true), filling in the spots where I have failed to grant them to myself.  So, thank you, friends. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your kindness, gentleness, and grace. I will try to follow your example and extend them to myself, too. I doubt I’ll be very good at it (at first, at least), but I will try. Everything that is said below has been said to me more than once over the past week. Thank you again, dear ones. I will try harder to remember this.

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We Can Be Heroes


My husband’s sermon today laid a strong finger on my heart and reminded me that the world may be scary but scary won’t stop me. Don’t let it stop you either. Love and goodness, kindness and generosity, mercy, and solidarity are more necessary than ever.

It’s time to #HeroUp, dear ones.

West River Friends Meeting

Scripture: Romans 12

Audiohttps://clyp.it/otju54tr

How can we live Godly, heroically in a world full of such darkness and evil? Honestly? There’s no secret to it. To be a hero, all we have to do is be good and do good. We need to love. And Christ gave us the most perfect example of such love.

Our culture is convinced that you cannot change the world by loving others. They’re wrong. We can change the world. Not instantly, however. Change through love is a process.

But how do we even start?

1.) We have to dedicate ourselves to the task at hand, to loving others. Love takes work.

  • Becoming a good person takes time and work and practice, commitment, sacrifice.
  • There are times when we will need to give up what is immediate, easy, or desired in order to do our best good. Love is work. Daily work…

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Stepping into the New Year


Today was our teacher work day ahead of the start of the spring semester. Honestly, last night, day one hadn’t even begun yet and I was already ready to quit. Just thinking about it made me tired, exhausted. So, today, I gave myself some very pointed instructions: take care of what absolutely must be done for Monday and Tuesday to flow as smoothly as you can manage. The rest can wait until later in the week. And I stuck to those self-imposed limitations for the most part. I stuck to it rather well, actually.

I’m not good that: sticking to limitations. I end up having arguments with myself that go rather like this.

Only go this far.

But—there’s so much to be done! Just a little more.

No, you’re going to get overwhelmed and freak out.

I’ll be…

You’re freaking out, aren’t you?

Yeah.

I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. I feel the need to take several more, just to make sure. Just to make absolutely sure that everything that needs to be done is done, every possible preparation is made, every security I can manage put into place to assure that things go as closely to how they need to go (read: how I want them to go) as possible.

This year, the odds are good that there may come quite a few situations that I will feel overwhelmed by and thus be tempted to take extra steps to try control said situations. My challenge and journey this year will be in taking just the next step. Not running ahead, not taking a few extra steps “just in case”, but in taking just the next step that I feel God has led me to take. And then wait.

When I was a child, I attended a private church-school and, every morning, we said the pledge to the Bible. I pledge allegiance to the Bible: God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

“A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” If you know anything about lamps, then you know that their circle of light doesn’t go very far. It will light your feet for the next step but only the next step. One step at a time.

This year, I want to lean into taking just that next step. Just the next step that I feel led to take. Faith, patience, courage, trust…all of these things lead into this action. I want to be better at it, at them. That is my goal for this year, that is my lesson, my learning: to take just the next step. The very next step. That’s all.

 

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