Monday, August 5, 2013

R.E.M. and My Apocalypse

 Please read this post knowing that until fairly recently, I thought any saying ever put up on a Pinterest board with a rippling pond in the background or on a motivational poster with a picture of a kitty cat hanging on by his wittwe cwaws was pure and utter garbage.
 I am very, very ashamed to say that I also believed that anything anyone got in life, they probably deserved. I had a limited, black and white perspective on life, and that included on myself. I was never, ever anything enough - smart, funny, pretty, interesting, worthwhile - not ever. An internal dialogue of criticism and scarcity is something that I continue to struggle with. But today I want to share some pretty serious things that are on my mind -- Please tune in again next time if you want to skip the Self Help portion of this station and get back to the regularly scheduled Looney Tunes reruns that are my usual fare.
I remember this wittwe kitty when I'm feewing bwue.
Today marks the three year anniversary of the day that my life fell apart. 

Do normal people celebrate such macabre milestones?
Oh well. I certainly never claimed to be normal. 

This date will be forever black in my calendar- a day I probably should reserve for mourning. Or crying. Or at least eating my weight in Ben and Jerry's. 
 But, instead, here's how I [try to] see it.
Our lives are a battle for control.
We battle to control ourselves, the people around us, and the elements. 
Two out of three are a complete lost cause. 
But still, we try.

...let me back up a little bit...

 Bren√© Brown, famous (and absolutely brilliant and wonderful) TED speaker, author, and shame researcher, writes about living a whole-hearted life from the perspective of the enlightenment she found through a mid-life spiritual awakening (i.e. nervous breakdown).
I can definitely relate. 

Three years ago demons I didn't know existed popped out of the woodwork of the life I had built to destroy every ounce of peace that I had. It left me without appetite for days, broken and shaking, and on my knees begging for mercy and relief in endless, pleading prayers. 

I'm sorry for the discomfort of this retelling. And the lack of specific detail given. Unfortunately judgment is so easy -- at least it's something I struggle with -- and I would hate to share my very real, raw truth with someone I wasn't looking in the eye. In my experience, though, we each have wounds concealed, and so I hope acknowledging mine without divulging exactly where I was tripped up and exactly how much blood I lost will suffice.

We all know and love and possibly are people who have encountered infertility, marital problems, struggles with faith, terrifying medical emergencies, loneliness, death, addiction, illness, and countless other trials where life just doesn't quite go to plan.
I have never been quick on my feet when it comes to my plans going awry. 

But working through the fallout of my dark day has meant making peace with my control issues.
The serenity prayer goes something like, "God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." 
Stuff like this, as well as the oft-overused "One day at a time", definitely used to sound unbearably cheesy to me, but I now understand what they are getting at and how the spirit of these mantras applies to my life. 
Lame! But true.
 Everything about me is just a little bit different than it was three years ago. Not because we're all always changing, which is true, but because my faith has been tested and my eyes have been opened to the fact that Everybody Hurts (sing along with me... "sometimes" ...Stuck in your head now, aint it?). The things that hurt us are different but the instinctive reactions are the same: close up, shut off, try to make it stop, fill gaps with anything and everything we can, avoid, lash out... 
Fight or flight is not just for the unwitting prey of jungle cats, my friends. 

But the only real solution is to give up control. And since no one on earth is perfect, that means that no one is trustworthy enough to be given control. That's where I have found the real life application of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life. Now, the Atonement is something that I have heard and read and studied and prayed and thought about my whole life, but I know that I never really understood what it meant until I was finally given a personal experience that I couldn't survive alone.

As I struggled for months with my disaster fallout, reading one sentence finally clicked everything together in my mind and allowed me to piece together the answer to all of my questions: How am I supposed to let go of control? How can I ever have trust - for myself or my loved ones or my future? How can I keep from becoming so broken ever, ever again? Will I ever be whole?  

This was the sentence: "The love of God, yours for Him and His for you, will help you form one relationship to which you can give yourself without reservation."
That was it - the key to beginning to unlock the answers to my aching, up-at-night, tear-soaked-pillow questions. 

I have always believed these the following: God is perfect. He made me. He loves me. 

And because those things are true, I don't have to worry about protecting myself by fighting with or fleeing from pain and disappointment. I don't have to worry about screwing up everything. I don't have to worry about the choices of others hurting me. I don't have to be afraid of my future, whatever it may bring. 
I just have to take one day at a time living my life, trying my best, choosing the best things I can, and trusting that God will take care of the rest. 

 Because, really, I have no other choice. 

Trust me, if I could, I would snatch up the Life Steering Wheel for myself and everyone around me in a heartbeat! I would be so darn good at fixing other people's problems and making other people's choices!
Or so I'd like to think.  
 But I only can control me- my choices, my reactions, the things I fill my life with. 
And that's where the one day at a time part kicks in. Every day as I pray I promise to give control to God and ask for help and peace in return. So far, I have been blessed beyond reason, even though my life is far from perfect. 
A new kind of Serenity Prayer.
Most of us will have one day, or perhaps many (but gosh, I hope not) days in our lives that level our world. Fragile buildings of relationships, trust, confidence, happiness, safety- all can be destroyed without so much as a by your leave. And in those moments we will feel alone and covered in dust, scrapes, and probably more than a little asbestos, with the choice to pick up the salvageable pieces, dust ourselves off and rebuild, or lay down, take a deep, satisfyingly carcinogenic breath, and die.
I just want you to know that 
with Christ, there is always, always, always hope.  
 And, to me, there is nothing cheesy about that.

It feels as though my life revolves around the events of my black day three years ago. Although a large part of me would be glad to have the power to erase that day from my and your and every calendar, I have to admit that the End of My World as I Knew It ([and I Feel Fine]... now try getting that song out of your head!) became the foundation upon which I am, with the help and strength that my faith brings, rebuilding everything I can. And I believe I am building it all a little stronger, a little brighter, a little taller. 
My buildings all still have weak spots - glaring vulnerabilities that I try to embrace or crappy craftsmanship that I have marked for remodel if only I ever get the time/patience/balls. There are buildings that I have rebuilt slowly, with fear of collapse and a vivid replay of the awful destruction I have already survived in every brick and beam. 
But I kept building.
Because I don't have to be afraid of collapse. I don't have to feel the pain from old scars.
I just have to choose to trust God. I have to do the best I can today, and hang onto the knowledge that God is aware of me.
Every day.
One day at a time.

P.S. To order your own motivational t-shirt (the ones that I print in my mom's basement) please send $5 to 5555 Hang In There Wittwe Kitty Lane; Unicornia, OR 55555


Bethany said...

I find it humbling and also awesome that our trials are picked specifically for us to strengthen our weaknesses. They are so very, very personal. For the longest time I just focused on surviving them, with no thought to pondering what I was meant to learn or gain from them. Honestly - life needs an instruction manual. But since I put more focus on growing from them I have been able to move past some of them and actually get to try new ones. That's both a relief and a horror, actually.

Also, you really are a phenomenal writer and I enjoy everything you write, including the painful, soul-baring, cheesy stuff.

Katie said...

I. Love. You.
Even though our trials are different, I feel so comforted to have a friend like you that gets it...that gets why I can't go to church somedays, why I feel like a walking emotional disaster and why sometimes, I look at people like you, that I admire, and burst into tears.
Thank you for making me feel not so alone in the world.