(and even longer letter to share it)
It has been a whirlwind few weeks. Travels reminded me of what I have left behind and what I am walking towards. I find myself home... and happy to be here... though I thought I would not. I had expected to find myself bathing in a tub of depression, confronted with all that I am missing and the interminable loneliness of my small town college life... so much so that I may have actually duped myself into feeling those exact feelings for a moment.
This year has been a loooonnnng and hard year... perhaps the hardest of them all though the easiest to endure as the pain this time serves a purpose. It has been a very necessary and good year of growth. Twice in this last year I have left this place and each time I found myself tripping all over my old insecurities... suffering from a terrible lack of confidence that I am and will continue to be this new person that I am in the midst of becoming. Earlier this Spring I returned to PA after a week in DC and found myself completely lost and confused as to how to be when I was there. I found myself face to face with old friends... old family... old streets... and all those old feelings of darkness. I did not know how to act to those people who knew me last as a bit of a mess... a bit irresponsible... a bit of a drunk... a bit of (in my eyes) a failure. I wanted so badly to prove that I was differen,.. that I have changed and moved on... that I found myself tripping all over myself trying to figure out how to act. I came home wondering why it was so important for me to have the approval of all the people that I had spent years rebelling against. Even worst, I came home battling all those things I had felt at 15, 16, 17. Insecurity, despair, judgement, self-condemnation, a failure. I wanted to open a bottle of something and smoke a pack of cigarettes and simply go wild. My therapist (yes, I have one) says that I was having flashbacks. That the emotions were being felt presently though not from the present. She said I was grieving. I thought I might want to die. I was so afraid that maybe I hadn't really changed. That maybe I would wake up and be that person again and that person is/was/would not be fit to be Sephira's mother.
After a few days of confusing aggression, anxiety, fear and many tears (and even more frantic phone calls to far away friends), the feelings did pass... though I believed they were stuck there forever. I had literally been waking up every night in a sweat of fear that I was back to the same old me. It was horrifying. But it did pass. And wounds born years ago finally healed.
But this trip was different. This trip forced me to face the loneliness that I was beginning to convince myself as being unbearable. I was becoming afraid of it... afraid that it had become a permanent fixture in my life. Loneliness, if not assessed correctly, can be equated to insufficiency, to being unlovable, unwanted, and so broken beyond repair. Loneliness, if one gets lost in it, is despair. It is easy to believe when one is alone, that one will always be alone and therefore that something is very very wrong with yourself. In this case, me. The thing is, I've known all along, and still know, that I am where I am supposed to be. That this season is a time of shaping and healing and I have never doubted that this is where God has put me. I also know that this season is not over. But I lose sight of that... often... very often. When I got to CA, it was probably the 3rd sentence out of my mouth. (For those of you who don't know, I went to CA to visit my incredibly patient and enduring friend, Joey, whom I met in Africa, and who listens to my late night rants and raves of insecurity and then reminds me that God loves me and everything is going to be ok). Throughout the whole trip I struggled with what I wanted, where I thought I needed or should be, who I was going to be. All of this being such a great indication that God is not done doing what he is doing. If I am at a place in my life where I can literally wake up in the morning and decide who I am going to be that day, then I have not let God finish making me who I am. I wondered if I wanted/needed to be back in CA, surrounded by friends who know me and understand me. I wondered about school, about a job, about marriage, about drinking, about smoking, about sex. I debated and debated and talked my head off about it all. And then I came home and talked some more.
My first night home I was angry at God. Very angry. I felt like giving up. I felt like all this striving and working and pain of change had been in vain. I felt that I was only a breathe away from the old me and that I wasn't really any different and that if being different means being alone then there is no point to it anyway. I felt that I had hit a roadblock and didn't know how to move foward from here. I've been seeking and searching and trying to find a place, a church, a teacher, anyone to show me, teach me... how to pray... how to get closer to God... how to hear his voice... how to surrender. Because at the moment, I felt like it was me doing all the work and that is pointless, because that is striving in vain and won't create permanent change. I asked God to please just show me anything/anyone that I could trust to teach me, to take me to the next step.
Joey told me to shutup and read The Celebration of Discipline. That was yesterday. Today I know I will be ok. As we all know, I talk... a lot. Ok, I really talk a lot and when I can't talk, I write. And the more anxious I get, the more I talk. I could never lie to my mom growing up because the anxiety of the lie forced me to talk it out until I felt better. It's still the same. Somehow I think that I can talk sense into things. That if I talk about it enough, it will be forced to make sense.... or maybe I can just talk it into making sense. But I never knew that was what I was doing until last night. And then I read...
"One reason that we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust...
When God lovingly draws us into a DARK NIGHT of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness... This is a serious mistake. Recognize the dark night for what it is. Be grateful that God is lovingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait."
I instantly realized how hard I have been fighting this dark night. My dark season. Frantically calling friends every five minutes for reassurance that I am ok... that this is ok... all a part of the fight. My therapist keeps telling me that my issues with God are my issues with trust. So my issues with silence are my issues with God. I have been exiled into this year of silence... just me and a toddler and a tv.... fighting nearly every single second of it.
I am ready... finally. I am ready to sit still.
Because what I realized most on this trip is that my frantic fighting, my inability to surrender... the ongoing conversation, and my inability to shut-up... forever keep the spotlight on me. I cannot hear or see anything else around me. I do not hear it in the voices of my friends when they are tired or themselves in pain. I cannot see where I need to step in and lend a hand. I do not pause to ask how someone else is doing. I am forever focused on me. I am lost to my sickness and pain and useless to the rest of the world. And that should be the only thing that I fear.
So if I call you... remind me that it I am ok... and to find a chair and sit down and take a deep breath and be silent. And then hang up... but make sure I've asked how your day was before you do.