I came searching for an old blog to share with a friend who is going through some really hard times. When I found it, it surprised me to realize that it was a solid decade old. I mean, I know that. But ten years is a long time, and it’s strange to me how that much time could have passed and yet, so much complicated grief still pulses through my life.
Could it be that severe loss and deep trauma just reshape us somehow? That, even after the actual loss has been recovered from, the cellular memory of it and it’s shocking lows and unexplainable pains can be so intensely painful that the trauma always feels near? I don’t know, really?
I do sometimes wonder why my recovery continues to not be complete.
I messaged with some of my friends this week. Friends who have lost children. The most egregious of all human experiences. The years have passed, but the pain continues. Grows even.
I was chatting with a Crossfit friend, and she reminded me of what she’d told me about herself when I met her over two years ago. I remembered but I guess I’d forgotten. She lost her husband. Unlike mine, hers was a real death with a funeral, but what she said was so incredibly spot-on with my own complicated grief process that, even for a moment, I gave myself some room and said, “Well, gosh, no wonder this has been a bad process.”
This thing called grief – it wakes us up to a life we never wanted. And even though happiness finds its way back to us and the sun eventually shines again, there is, deep within, the haunting agony of it all. The deep deep scars that com.plete.ly changed who we were. On good days, we’re good. But on bad days, we’re really really not.
As I read these decade-old words just now, eyes blurry from tears, I’m struck by a lot of things.
Probably first and foremost, I’m struck by my own faith and spirituality. The doctrine-laden paragraphs that oozed from my fingers without effort. The way I was so unabashedly…. Christian. My very deep and abiding ability to trust. I don’t think those things are necessarily gone, but I have, as a person, changed so very much since I wrote these words.
My faith went through a two year blackout. How I found my way out is still a mystery to me. And when I’m super technical about it, I don’t even think that *I* found my way out as much as it was a case of me being sought and pulled out. Verses about “leaving the 99 to find the 1” come to mind.
But even after all that, the words stutter to be formed. The knowledge – which is now experiential and not just mere head knowledge – is still all present but I am… I dunno… quieter. Not so quick to go on a holy rampage with 10,000 Jesus words and Bible quotes. In some ways, I feel guilty about this. In others, I feel that my faith has some real substance to it now. What was, before, the good hearted scrambling of a young girl/woman who was li.ter.all.y drowning in the pain of the life I was living, who could barely help but scream the words of the 23rd Psalm every time I was lucky enough for my head to break out of the surface of the water and afford me a breath, now, who I am as a child of God is a quiet and silent thing. There isn’t a lot of fanfare anymore and anything that even remotely resembles being “churchy” brings on my own gag reflex. Not because being a Christian is a bad thing but because people can be super shitty. And the shittiest people I’ve ever known also happen to be the type that speak the way I used to speak and who show up for little “c” church every Sunday. THAT is what almost did me in.
But it didn’t.
The other thing that hits me hard is just how desperately unhealthy I was. I mean, I had all the proper reflexes that any good Christian girl should have about trusting God, but my deep and abiding need to control the circumstances of my ex-husband’s recovery (or not-recovery, actually) were as real as the blood that pulses through my veins with my every single heartbeat.
I am relieved to say that that girl is no more. She has been utterly healed, and she no longer thinks that way nor is she stuck in a word where she is surrounded by inhumane treatment at every turn.
As many of you know, I started Crossfitting a couple years ago. And as much as I try to not be an annoyingly stereotypical Crossfitter who can’t shut up about it, the staggering equability between Crossfit and the really hard shit that life throws at you sometimes is something that would be hard to miss… if indeed you’ve lived through tough shit. The thing I love about CF is the constant “I can do that now” that I get to experience. And maybe it’s only the addition of 2.5 lb plates on either side of my bar getting me closer and closer to a new PR, but it’s still an “I can do that now” moment.
As I read this old blog, the air is heavy with “I can do that now”. I can deadlift that now. And I can say no to abuse now. I can clean that weight now, and I can choose sanity now. I can climb ropes and do pull up’s and stand on my hands now. And I can also move fairly effortlessly through life with no need for constant crutches, emotional bandages, and continual assistance.
My life is insulated with caring, loving, trustworthy people who have healed me all the way down to my core. Well, except the part of me that just seems to be forever stuck in trauma, but I don’t think that will ever really end, so, there’s that.
Last week, I saw a picture on Facebook of 6 girls who had flown across the country to see each other. They do this every year. I know this because I was once one of them. The group of 6 was originally a group of 7. We bought cutesy things like keychains and t-shirts that said “the lucky seven”. We’d known each other since our odd and strange upbringing in the same cult and had been there for each other for many many years.
Seeing the picture brought an instant physical response of nausea in my stomach. I recalled with startling clarity how it all happened. How six friends flushed me down the toilet in the middle of my divorce, in the middle of my nervous breakdown, in the middle of the most intense agony I’ve ever felt. I remember how not even one of them called me. I remember reading their words of disgust in me – all for something I never did in the first place. One of them sent me a message letting me know she’d forgive me once I stopped lying and was wiling to be humble. Another one messaged me to tell me that she was now wondering if I’d just made up all the stories about my life with Brian – that maybe it was him who was the injured spouse.
Oh, there was a lot of flapping around, but mostly there was just blood. Needless blood. One of the girls was friends with my Bill, and she clearly didn’t want me to date him. And so when I did anyway, she made up a story of abuse and took it to the rest of the girls – my lifelong closest friends – and without even a second thought, without even a freaking phone call to me to ask what really happened or what my point of view was, I was removed from the group. My access to our message board – the message board *I* had helped create – was terminated immediately. The girls that *I* had invited to this small fellowship were now disallowing me. During the absolute.worst.moments.of.my.life.
But what is most distressing is the fact that I held on for YEARS that they would one day call me and get the story straight and I could be allowed back into that group again. That nasty little group of nasty little women.
The me that I am now is appalled by that. Why in the actual hell would I want to be part of such a capricious arrangement?
Ugh. There you have it. Nasty little people who call themselves Christians doing nasty little things – and making it really hard for their victim to even want to remain inside the same faith.
I looked at the picture for a solid minute before I took the time to find every one of those girls’ profiles and block them. The faces that used to bring such comfort and pleasure to me have transformed into nothing more than ugly ogres. (Sorry for that, I am just realizing now that I still probably have some anger to deal with toward those gals.)
But guess what. That girl is gone. The girl from ten years ago who would tolerate such vile treatment from those she had never wronged and then WANT DESPERATELY (for years) to find my way back into their hearts.
So there you have it.
“I can do this now.”
I can say “no freaking thank you” to toxic people as well as ambivalent friends who love me to my face and hate me behind my back. I can see the difference between love for the sake of filling one’s own emptiness and for the sake of sharing one’s own abundance. I can attract goodness and honesty and integrity to myself because the stains of yesterday got washed away in that horrible flood that I lived through and now I’m a new person.
I wish the heather from today could have somehow spent some time with the girl I was a decade ago. I’d tell myself to hang in there. I’d tell myself that one day my life would be so bursting with happiness and health that I wouldn’t even be able to contain it. I’d tell myself that pain really can be productive.
I still sometimes wonder how I ended up here. I wonder if there was a quicker and less expensive path. I wonder if my introversion is really introversion or just the result of emotional wounds that leave a person permanently tired.
I still mean all of these words. The ones I wrote a decade ago while I spent 2 years with my head held under water. The years that I loooonged for death as a relief from life.
I still feel the same way as I did when I wrote it ten years ago. Life has muted me, I suppose. I am less vocal. Less able to be vocal. But I do still choose to Be Still before a living God who has known me all of my days. I am still aware of his grace toward me. His loving kindness that brought me out of my that shallow grave and stood me up and healed my wounds. Yes, some linger. Maybe to remind me always of my great need. But the other parts of my redemption suddenly seem so much more thorough and evident as I took this trip down memory lane.
This one has always been a favorite to me. I learned it when I was young and my life was filled with things that I needed to be rescued from. It was a quiet theme that played over and over during the dark night of my soul. And it plays still. When I am at work and my mind is not busy. When I’m driving in my car or folding laundry. Gentle reminders to be still – wherever life has me at this present moment. In joy or pain. In happy or sad.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Still a favorite.