The Physician and the Entertainer

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Have you ever had a broken air conditioner, a broken dishwasher, a leaky toilet, a major mold removal project that resulted from said toilet, a car repair, a chronic illness, a raging pandemic, an economic collapse, and problems with your family of origin…….all at the same time? If you have, you might understand a little of what my mental state is.

Even so, in this time of great stress and trial, I find myself growing stronger every day. I have hope that the temporary stresses of today will pass and that tomorrow will bring less chaos and drama. My relationships with my husband and children are growing. I was able to go to church yesterday, swathed in a cloth mask and sitting a good distance away from any other families. I was worried that the strange circumstances of the meeting would make my anxiety worse. Sacrament meeting is hard for me even in the best of times, but bound in a mask breathing my own hot breath and unable to sing? I had serious concerns. Fortunately, I had no symptoms of anxiety. I had been assigned the opening prayer, which I forgot of course. After a few whispered reminders, I offered a prayer for the congregation. After the meeting, it was so wonderful to see and talk to a few good friends.

Last night, our family had a very nice long discussion about religion and church. Our son confided some of his feelings and concerns. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t a perfect Father’s Day. In some ways it was a very painful day. But if I’ve learned anything in the past three months, it is that pain and beauty can live together.

The family discussion lead to a dramatic dream last night that helped shed some light on the tremendous progress I have made since I started therapy two years ago. I am a much stronger person and I take much better care of myself now than I used to. Because of that, I have been a better instrument in the hands of my Savior to bless his children.

The relationship with the self is the key to everything.  The Savior taught that what comes out of a person’s mouth comes from the abundance of the heart; whether that is good or evil.  If a person hasn’t come to terms with their pain, reflected on their own sins and repented, and come in humility before God and submitted themselves as a little child to his will, how can that person connect with others?  How can that person have true empathy?  How can I understand another person if I don’t understand myself?  How can I forgive another person if I can’t forgive myself?  It all comes down to the heart of the self.  

And the only way to develop a healthy heart is to feed it and love it.  The only way to emotional maturity is to nurture and protect the inner child.  If the self is neglected, there is not an abundance of the heart, but a cavernous hole.  Like the silly man in the parable we are running around trying to remove motes from the eyes of others while a beam is sticking out of our own.  We are keyboard warriors ready to cancel and shame all the motes we see while stubbornly unconscious of the beam that is causing us so much pain.  Self-reflection and self-compassion is the key to a fruitful life.

And yet, I was taught to focus not on myself, but on others. It was considered selfish and sinful to be self centered. I was taught to be conscious of others and make them happy. That was my responsibility. Of course, that was nice for them…..but for me, not so much. I felt like a clown with a mask of cheeriness running around avoiding anyone who was suffering who couldn’t be fixed with a little distraction and entertainment. Drop off a meal, give a hug, check off a box, and run to the next responsibility while trying to stuff down feelings of resentment and depression. I may have made things pleasant for some for a while, but at the cost of my own soul.

Understand, I am not saying that what I was taught was evil. There is a difference between evil and empty. There is a difference between a person who acts happy and a person who is happy. It was only when I started investing in myself, understanding myself, and having compassion for myself that I began to make real and meaningful connections with others. My depression isn’t gone. There is still a ways to go before I reach that point. Still, I’m making steady progress toward self-esteem. Already I feel an abundance of heart. I can love my enemies, bless them that curse me, do good to them that hate me, and pray for those who despitefully use me and persecute me with an understanding of who the real enemy is. The enemies aren’t my brothers and sisters on this Earth. They aren’t responsible for all the chaos and pain in this world. They, along with me, are the victims of it. There is only one way to conquer Satan and that is with the constant help of my Savior.

And increasingly I am coming to him to know what to do next. Instead of the complicated calculations of how my choices will make someone else feel, I turn my calculations to the Savior. What would he do? What would he want me to do? Even if it makes someone incredibly uncomfortable, that’s okay as long as He wants me to do it. The Savior made a lot of people very uncomfortable because of his willingness to exist. It wasn’t his mission to make people feel good today, it was to save them. He was the physician, not the entertainer.

Everyone loves a good entertainer. We don’t go to the doctor to feel good today. Often there is the setting of bones, the taking of yucky medications, the reminders of healthy behaviors we have neglected, or even the revelation of a devastating diagnosis. It’s a lot more pleasant to go to the movies than to the doctor’s office. I’ve covenanted to take the name of the Savior upon me and take up his cross. What does that mean? It means that I am to do as He did. I am to choose to exist, to speak, to minister, and to love. That also means that I will make people uncomfortable sometimes. Am I greater than He? Am I smarter or more righteous than He was that I can somehow avoid the same outcome He had? No.

My inner critic insists, “You aren’t Jesus Christ.  You aren’t a doctor.  Who do you think you are to put yourself above others this way?”  To that critic I say, it wasn’t me who wrote the terms of the covenant.  He wants me to pretend to be Him no matter how imperfectly I do it.  He said, “Take upon you the name of Christ and keep his commandments.” Should the apprentice never take up the tools because he is unable to do as his master is able to do?  I am the apprentice and he has commanded me to take up the tools.  If I listen to you, who then is my master?  Am I not putting myself above the master I have covenanted to serve if I heed you?  So I say to my inner critic, “Get thee behind me Satan, for thou savorest not the things of God.”

And so I walk my broken and crooked path to Him who is Mighty to Save. If a narrow path means a lonely path then perhaps I am not so far off the mark. I can’t say that it has been a straight path, but perhaps it is a strait path.

Letting Go and Making Space

Photo by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

Every yogi knows that moment when you have to force yourself to let go. You’re muscles are fighting against one another and the pressure is so intense, and you breathe into that pressure and tell your muscle to let go. It’s tenuous at first. Your muscles don’t trust you. They aren’t used to you talking to them or paying them any attention at all. After a while of doing yoga, they learn to trust you and listen to you when you tell them to let go.

When you move into a pose like moon or dancer or warrior one, there is a letting go of the need to have more than one limb on the ground. There is a letting go of the grounding in one foot and increasing the grounding in the other. I feel at those moments that I’m flying. It only comes when I can let go.

Let go of the need to control. Let go of the need to understand. Let go of the need to be the smartest or the best at anything. Let go of the desperation for approval. Let go of the need to be self-sufficient. Embrace interdependence. Embrace your limitations. Embrace the complex relationship you have with others in your life.

Life is a series of deaths and new births. Our world as we knew it died with the birth of the coronavirus. Letting go of the past and what was familiar to us is hard. Embracing an uncertain future can be hard too. The death of an old and treasured plant is always a hard thing for me. My hydrangea on the side of my house is slowly dying. As I feel the sadness of letting go of what was, I embrace the future possibilities of that space in the garden.

This was our hydrangea bush last year in full bloom.

Relationships can be like that too. Sometimes it’s important to know when to let go of toxic relationships. It can be especially painful because even toxic people are valuable sons and daughters of God. The pain of what might have been combines with the pain of past trauma, and the loss of an important person in your life. That sadness reverberates on so many levels.

Due to a fertilizer mishap, the hydrangea bush is gradually dying. I’ve comforted myself in imagining what I can do with this space in the garden for the future.

It helps to look at that relationship space and think of the possibilities. The energy and love that you invested in that dying relationship can be diverted into new relationships that will be more healthy and rewarding.

The Savior gives us everything we need in the moment we need it. He gives me sufficient for what I need today in this moment. Enough health, enough strength, enough love, enough patience, enough humility, and enough wisdom to make it through each day. He carries my burdens with me and makes them possible to bare. Sometimes I have to let go of clinging to the blessings that used to be mine. I need to let the past go. Keep the happy memories. Treasure the good times, but throw away the dead and rotting remains of yesterday’s beauty. In a world where everything is temporary, there comes a time to let go. Only then can the future begin.

Nehor

Staring at the worn table I felt the waves of anger flow through my body. I slammed the heel of my hand into its unyielding weight. Again. Again. I was in my early twenties. I had a degree in a profession I wanted nothing to do with. I was working for minimum wage as a server hoping I could find fulfillment and happiness. Instead I was lonely and depressed. One critical customer that day had destroyed my fragile self esteem. Amid the raging pain, a little voice in my head whispered, “You’ll never be happy if you keep doing the same things as you’ve done in the past.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was starting to see. I had been running from my pain. I had a bad experience in counseling and I was running from the depression. “The right job, the right apartment, the right ward….if I can just get the right circumstances, my depression will go away. I can get off the medication.” I kept telling myself that like a mantra. Instead I kept having to increase the dose. No matter where I went, the depression went with me. No pill would fix it, and I knew it.

The little voice spoke again, “Look at the servers in this place. They live in sin and they are happier than you. You are a covenant daughter of God. Why do you keep running from your happiness?” It was right. My hand was throbbing with pain and my brain swirled with thoughts of self-harm. It was time to stop running.

It was shortly after that experience that I started therapy with Robbin. I was terrified. He told me later that I was so uptight that he thought I would explode right there. Over the years he would become like a father to me. For the first few months he kept repeating the same phrase, “What would happen if you just gave yourself a break?” Gradually I learned to soften some of my caustic self-talk. I started to find a friend inside my head instead of a constant stream of criticism. Ironically, as I gave myself a break, I found strength to push the depression aside. I accomplished more at work and my self-esteem improved. I was able to return to teaching. For a while things were great, and then after I had children, the depression came back and I went back to counseling.

Robbin had gained my trust, but I was still very guarded about talking about my parents or my childhood. Eventually, we started exploring some of the roots of that negative self-talk; the fear that was so deeply imbedded within my psyche. And I’m still exploring that. I’ve come to deeply appreciate and love the woman I am and the ways my life has been shaped. I’ve come to trust myself and my feelings. I’ve stopped running.

When I read the chapter in Alma about Nehor, I thought about flattering words. Flattering words give us permission to keep running from the truth. Flattering words are the words we want to hear. “The problem is with this job. The problem is with this ward. The problem is with this political party. If not for those things, I would have what I want. I would have what I deserve.” Flattery allows you to see no fault in yourself, no responsibility to change, no need for introspection. The small voice that spoke truth to me in that managers office at Tony Romas was not a flattering voice. It was the voice of the truth.

Nehor is a fascinating character. His flattering words had great appeal and his teachings continued to impact the people of the Book of Mormon long after his execution for murder. In the end, some of the worst atrocities in the book were committed by the followers of Nehor. Anyone who preaches that riches are the reward of the righteous and that our leaders should be popular and given special privileges because of their position is channeling Nehor. Anyone who stirs up the people to hatred against one another is channeling Nehor. We have many voices amplified by social media that would turn us against our fellow citizens. They want to use force to suppress those who disagree with them or speak out against them. That is unrighteousness dominion. The spirit of the Lord is still and small. It is a voice of reason and persuasion. It does not force compliance but seeks consensus. Sometimes it tells us hard truths like it told me that day at Tony Romas.

I didn’t want to go back to counseling. I didn’t want to face the demons in my head. I especially didn’t want to face the dysfunction in my family of origin. That has been the hardest part of my recovery because family is such an important part of my culture. My depression has forced me to choose between loyalty to my family of origin and my own health. I chose my health because anyone who truly loves me would want me to choose that.

The Savior promised his disciples that we would be his brothers and sisters if we keep his commandments. I am in His family. He is my brother and he will not leave me comfortless in the days of my loneliness. In the depths of my sorrow he will come to me. Of all mankind he knows what loneliness feels like.

On the outside, I still look like the same person I used to be. I still attend church and live the values I was raised with. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. I keep the Sabbath day holy. I read the Book of Mormon. I keep the covenants I made in the temple. But inside, I’m a lot different than I was twenty years ago when I started counseling with Robbin. The kindness and gentleness that I’ve cultivated toward myself makes me better able to feel genuine empathy for others. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have a lot of readers. I have hardly any family still in my life. That’s okay, because I don’t need those things to be happy. Happiness comes from being your own friend.

It has become clear to me that there are some who read my blog who don’t like the person I’ve become. They wish I hadn’t gone to therapy. They wish I would not have listened to the small voice that has guided my recovery. To them, my recovery story isn’t a recovery story. It inflames their fear and causes them to lash out. If this applies to you, stop reading. Take responsibility for yourself and your feelings. Stop doing damage to our relationship because you can’t handle my expression.

This blog is intended to help others as they approach their own recovery or the recovery of a loved one from depression. I have no desire to hurt or criticize anyone. I strive to put the spirit of hate, pride, revenge, and malice far away from me. If you judge me to possess those things, it is likely that your feelings are trying to tell you something about yourself. Rather than blame me for your feelings, I suggest that you stop running from your feelings. Listen to them. Find out where they are coming from. Often the most hateful people in the world hate themselves more than anyone. They refuse themselves the right to listen to their own feelings or deny their existence at all. When I am at peace with myself, I am able to walk away from a blog I don’t like. When I feel compelled to attack the author, it is a sure sign that I need to address the reasons for my being triggered. I usually find that there is some pain I am running from. Life is too short to live at war with yourself. Start the path to healing today.

If you don’t like the ideas I present or the things I say make you uncomfortable, don’t read them. If you choose to read them and they upset you or make you angry at me, that is your problem. Also, anyone who questions my good standing in the church because I am voting for a Democrat needs to do some introspection. I suggest you meet a member of the church who is a Democrat and listen to what they have to say. You might find that they are a better member of the church than you are. The Democratic Party is not all about killing babies and taking your guns away no matter what Rush Limbaugh tells you. I think its past time we allow Democrats in the church to come out of the closet. Most of the ones I know keep quiet about their views in order to avoid the stigma. We miss out on their valuable perspective because of our prejudice against them. They have suffered greatly in the time of Trump and that should be a concern to all of us. They aren’t our political enemies, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. My life has been blessed by my friendships with Democrats and Republicans and I’ve found that labels often hide people.

It feels good to post again. It has been a while. I hope that my expressions are acceptable before my Savior. Every twist and turn in my recovery, he has been by my side. In the depths of my despair, he has not abandoned me. Blessed be the name of Him who is Mighty to Save.

The World Burns

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

I see you, with your lighted torch

With your angry eyes and your thirst for revenge

I see you with your victim facade

As you take power you have an excuse to grasp.

You oppress the innocent and let the guilty go free

I see you with your gilded halls and your empty soul

Your insatiable wants and needs swallow the world.

I see you with your corpses of anger that grow every day.

On the altar of revenge, there are never enough victims.

To slate the thirst. Hate. Anger. Revenge.

And the World Burns.

I see you with your cynical laugh as you delight in sorrow.

I see the insecurity behind your bravado, the emptiness behind your mocking smile.

I see you. I see the hatred in your face for anything that shows you the reality of what you are and the master you serve.

I see you, and I am not afraid of you. The fire of your hatred may consume the world, but the ashes will serve His purposes.

He will win. And your orange clown show will disappear from the world stage.

I see you, as the world burns.

Come Unto Him

Photo by Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash

It has been a hard day.  Watching Minneapolis burn on the news has added to the feeling that our country’s troubles are just beginning.  I have been thinking about racial issues for a long time now.  Living in Texas has opened my eyes to the reality of the need for tolerance, an appreciation for diversity, and the unique challenges of a highly specialized and interdependent society when it comes to race.

I want to see the Democratic Party as advocates for minorities and particularly African Americans, but that isn’t what I see.  If the Democratic Party truly wanted equality for African Americans, I think more progress would have been made by now.  In fact, I see the Democrats exploiting the African American voting block for their own purposes.  They expect their votes and Biden said as much in his latest gaffe when he said that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” I plan to vote for Biden and the Democrats in the November election, assuming it happens.  I wish he hadn’t said what he did and I wish it didn’t reveal what is clear to me.  The Democrats exploit the racial divide.  They want African Americans to believe all non-Democrats are their enemy; that their party is the only place for them.  Unfortunately, Trump has done much to fuel African American suspicions about the Republican Party.  More than ever, the Democratic Party seems like the only option for people of color.  The big problem with this “white Republicans are the enemy” strategy is that although it helps the Democratic Party unite their caucus, it does little to help African Americans improve their situation.  Democrats give them false hope with promises they can never keep.  That false hope turns to cynicism and resentment when African Americans help elect Democrats who then cannot or will not deliver on their promises.  And yet, the Republican Party has never held much appeal for them.  With the rise of “compassionate conservatism” and the RNCs 2013 autopsy, there was hope that African Americans might have another party to choose from.  Now with the rise of Trumpism, there is little appeal for them and much to alienate them on the right.  

So, it is likely that little progress will be made for African Americans in this country.  The powerful in both parties are content with them where they are at.  The occasional outbreak of riots and the burning of a few buildings is unlikely to change anything permanently.  African American outrage will continue to simmer beneath the surface, fueled by the reality of their underprivileged position.  That outrage will burst into violence when the inevitable viral videos of police brutality against their most vulnerable members surface; a reminder that they have been mistreated and will continue to be mistreated.

And on the other side of this miserable coin, we have the police.  We don’t pay the average officer enough to support a family, then we demand that officers remain professional at all times even when confronted daily with the worst of our society.  Where do they put all the trauma and chaos?  What do they do when the compartment containing all the disrespect and pain bursts?  Who suffers?  The marginalized.  The weak.  The voiceless.  Those unfortunate members of our society who can be hurt by someone with a little authority and no one will care.  People like George Floyd; a black ex-convict trying to get his life together.  That officer knew the moment he got the call that George Floyd’s life didn’t matter.  He could take out his anger and hostility on him and people would look the other way.  How many other victims were there?  How many other times had this scene, or one like it, played out for this officer and he never had any consequences?  More times than I would like to imagine.

I’m not trying to defend what those officers did.  Just because it happens often, doesn’t make it any more acceptable. George Floyd’s right to life was taken by officers who were sworn to protect and defend him.  His life does matter! Those officers deserve the punishments that are coming to them.  But punishment alone isn’t going to fix it.  Punishment may help in some ways, but it will make it worse in other ways.  It may increase the resentment and anger of officers who feel misunderstood and unfairly judged.  It may encourage them to band together and defend one another against outsiders who don’t understand the difficulties they face.  Law Enforcement officers are vulnerable to Trump and his flattery of them.  He tells them they are justified in acting on their worst impulses.  He tells them that he alone understands their burdens and the anger they feel.  He will manipulate their emotions and their hostility to turn them against their superior officers and the elected officials of their cities.  When he calls for them to fight for him, will they follow his orders?  If they don’t sense that we the people care about them, will they fight for us, or for him?  

The ultimate solution to the larger problem is not punishment, it is empathy.  The solution is more listening and understanding.  The answer is self-reflection and personal responsibility.  The answer is the Savior.  We must stop listening to the most divisive voices among us.  We must start listening to Him who is Mighty to Save.  We can have compassion toward the African Americans.  We can stop the cycle of exploitation and seek real and permanent solutions to the challenges they face instead of empty promises.  We can provide and encourage mental health services for all of our police officers.  We can create a society where trauma is acknowledged and addressed within law enforcement and within the larger community.  We can better understand and appreciate the unique burdens our law enforcement officers carry and help them cope in more healthy ways.  We can empower them to be worthy of the honor their position demands.  Only then will both groups be able to build relationships of trust and cooperation.

But we Americans seem determined to destroy everything we have worked so hard to build.  We elected a horrible human being as our leader and our hearts, rather than reaching out to the Savior, are turning cold.  We have turned our hearts away from charity, forgiveness, and empathy.  Instead of turning the other cheek, we punch back ten times harder.  Instead of a soft answer turning away wrath, we shout more loudly and are heard less.  Instead of sound judgment and wisdom, we gorge on conspiracy theories and listen to liars with flattering words.

My heart breaks for my country and the suffering that surrounds us.  It is not too late for us to repent and change our path.  If we don’t, we are sure to destroy ourselves.  

Come Unto Jesus

Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,

Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.

He’ll safely guide you unto that haven

Where all who trust him may rest.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll ever heed you,

Though in the darkness you’ve gone astray.

His love will find you and gently lead you

From darkest night into day.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you,

If you in meekness plead for his love.

Oh, know you not that angels are near you

From brightest mansions above?

Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation,

From ev’ry land and isle of the sea.

Unto the high and lowly in station,

Ever he calls, “Come to me.”

Doing Calculus

Image by 준원 서 from Pixabay

Last night I dreamed that I was at my brother’s house.  There were pieces of fabric everywhere and unfinished projects.  I tried to clean up, but the boys were playing and making messes.  It seemed like I could never get anywhere.  There was a complicated game that involved the T.V. and a game console, and a doll that could blow up balloons.  I was trying to help the kids to make it work, but then the balloon started falling apart.  I was trying to tell my mom about how you could buy regular balloons to replace the broken one.  It was clear she was uninterested in fixing the toy.  I became discouraged.  It seemed that all my efforts were unappreciated and worthless.  I told all my boys that it was time to leave.  I was going to pack up my things and go.  J.R. started coming too and I told him he didn’t need to come.  I had summoned him by mistake.

I want to write on my blog again, but what would I say?  I’m hurting so much and I can’t share that burden with anyone.  I want to write again, but it seems that all my words are worthless.  Everything I have written, everything I have shared, all my thoughts……I thought I was being inspired.  I thought I was doing something great and brave and good.  Now I just feel alone and sad.

I read my Book of Mormon last night.  I think I’ve been subconsciously avoiding my scriptures because I’m afraid of my own connection with God.  It is easier to stay away than to feel things and get inspiration I don’t have faith in anymore.  I wish I were certain, like my parents, of my course and my rightness.  They are always right.  I am always uncertain.  Except I know they aren’t right.

That’s the thing about being where I’m at right now.  I know they aren’t right.  I don’t know if I’m right or not, but I know that they aren’t.  It’s like doing a problem in calculus that takes pages of computations to figure it out.  The person next to you has written a few numbers at the top and tells you they got it right.  You know they didn’t.  They didn’t do any of the work.  They didn’t spend the time to do the calculations.  But you don’t know if the pages and pages of computations have gotten you the right answer anyway.  And with their criticism blaring my ears, it just confuses me and makes me more uncertain.  And then I feel stupid for trying so hard.  Is it worse to fail after pages and pages of computations, or fail with one line of numbers at the top of the page?  Doesn’t it come to the same thing?  The wrong answer?

And that’s what I see in myself.  I screw up with my children at every turn.  Nothing is working the way it should.  I parentify, I neglect, I shame, I do all the things I know I shouldn’t do, but I don’t know how to do it differently.  I want to have my parents back in my life again, but I don’t want their doubts and their fears back in my life.  I wish they knew how poisonous their criticism is to me.

But they won’t change.  They’ve been criticising me for so long.  It is the only parenting they know how to do.  They don’t know how to have faith in the basic goodness and rightness of their children.  They don’t believe they are good and right.  They think children have to be forced and controlled and  stuffed into the “good box” in order to be good.  They don’t want them to do what the Savior wants, they want them to do what they want.  And it isn’t the same thing.

And yet I’m in the same place.  Fear.  Will my children make the right decisions?  Will they do the right things for themselves?  Will they fall into addictions and bad habits and sins that will cause them problems?  I don’t know.  I want to take comfort in the power of the Savior to heal them if and when they stumble and fall, but that fear is too powerful when it is magnified by my parents’ fear.  The fear has to go.

God has given us the spirit of faith, hope, and a sound mind.  I don’t feel those things right now.  I feel doubt and hopelessness and despair.  And yet as I write, I see that the fear is not so rational.  I start to see the good in myself and my parents.  I see the Savior waiting patiently next to me, waiting for me to push the fear to the side, partner with him, and move forward in making a better home for my children today.  I can’t change the past.  He’s got that.  I can’t predict the future, that’s in His design.  All I can do is live in this moment and do the best I can to follow the light I have within me.

And I’m sad because I can’t fix my parent’s fear.  I can’t open their eyes to the things that I’ve learned.  Some things you have to learn yourself and no one can give you a shortcut.  I think parenting is one of those things.  My Savior says that he has power for them too.  He has a plan for them too.  I can’t control it.  I can’t smooth the path for them.  That’s not what he needs me to do.  He needs me to listen to Him again and focus on being the best mom I can be for the special boys he has given to me to nurture.

There is a portion of His spirit in me.  I’ll keep plowing on in my calculus problem.  I may not get it right, but when I get to the judgment bar of God, at least I will be able to show my work.  To any good judge, the work counts for something.

I’ll find my faith again.  Through the clouds and shadows and dark nights, He is there.  He waits for me to find Him again.  He stands at the rock hard walls around my broken heart and waits for me to let Him in.  It’s time to cast fear aside and embrace certainty; not in myself and my infallibility, but in Him and the path He has for me and the people I love.  I can give all the broken pieces to Him.  He fixes broken things.

And as I put my trust in him, as I break down those walls again, I feel His love again.  I feel His hope again and I know that I can face another week of sickness and quarantine and needy kids.  It’s all in His hands and He knows the design I can’t discern.  My efforts will never be enough, but with Him, I can do everything that is needful.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Letting Go and Moving Forward

Image by Giulio Perricone from Pixabay

The hum of the motor, the shift of the grain.  It shrinks until its gone and in it’s place, the powdery staff of life.  A little water, a little flour, some salt, and some leven and you have Bread.  The smell of yeasty, buttery, homemade goodness defines comfort food.  There is nothing like it.  Maybe that’s why so many of us have taken up the hobby of bread baking during the quarantine.

I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of breads and sourdough starters. There have been some successes and some learning experiences. Sometimes the ingredients don’t go together right.  Sometimes the harder you try, the more you realize that things aren’t working.  You’re not sure what happened or what went wrong, but you can’t fix it.  It’s time to let go.

Let go of the past and what didn’t work.  Clean off your hands and get ready to start new.  New ingredients, new methods, new recipe; a clean start. If you keep trying to fix it, keep trying to control it, keep thinking that if you just add a little more of something, it will come together, you waste your time and resources.

When you figure out that you’ve been gaslighted and that you’ve been gaslighted for your whole life by someone who was supposed to love and nurture you, that hurts a lot.  And going back to that relationship is just going to give you more of the same.  And you know it, but you can’t stop yourself from going back.  I think, “This time, she’ll see that I’m not to blame.  She’ll see that I’m trying so hard.  She’ll see that I deserve to be loved and praised not blamed again.”

But I am blamed again.  And I will be blamed again.  Because that’s how it has to work.  It works for them.  And that’s the problem.  Because the same people are blamed and the same people are given a pass.  And they like it that way.  You can call it abuse, you can call it sexism, you can call it codependency,  but one thing I know– I don’t want it.

I have Him, and its enough.  Letting go feels so alien.  It feels like coming out of a cave into blinding sunlight.  Like a chick leaving an egg, once you take that step, once you leave that comforting place, you can never go back.  

But I’m ready to make that step.  I’m ready to let go of the past and embrace the future.  I don’t owe them anything.  I’m not going to be their scapegoat anymore.  I have a right to live with respect for myself and the path I’ve taken, the things I’ve learned, and the person I’ve become.  I’m not the person they wish I was, but I’m who I want to be.  I’m who He wants me to be.  

Why did they think they could control me forever?  Why did they think their manipulations would work?  Didn’t they see that it would end someday?  Either with my death or with me walking away at last?  It was inevitable.  Some relationships were meant to die and keeping them alive in a torturous zombie existence doesn’t fix anything.

So I’m letting go.  I’m letting go of the need to change them.  I don’t need to please them.  I don’t need their approval or their love.  It hurts to grow up and leave them behind, but it has to be.  There is no other path forward.

Poop Paintings

I’ve had something of a writers block for a while.  Being sick has had some interesting psychological effects on me.  About a week or so ago, an old acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook about soothing her child who was anxious about getting the coronavirus.  Her response seemed so inappropriate and callous to me. I’m still not sure if what I read was really what she was saying, or if my mind created something different, my deep fear.  Regardless, my reading of the post was that she was telling her child that she had nothing to fear from the virus because the vast majority of people don’t know how to take care of their bodies and because she and her family ate healthy and took care of their bodies, that they had nothing to fear from the virus.  She said that people who don’t understand healthy living sometimes get sick and sometimes die, but that they wouldn’t because they weren’t like that.

At first I was shocked and angry that someone would blame the victims of the virus in this way.  Also, I can’t imagine the psychological consequences that the child would experience if she or someone she loved became very ill at some point.  I thought about responding to the post, but I saw that there were already many comments on the post and I figured I would leave the contentious conversation to others to sort out.

Still, the post and the insinuation has stayed with me.  Blaming myself for bad things happening is a habit that I developed a long time ago.  It is soothing to think that I have some control over the random happenings of a fallen world.  If I am righteous, smart, and in tune with God, nothing bad will happen to me. I can have peace in my heart because bad stuff only happens to those who are stupid or sinful.  If I am neither, I am safe.

If you are vulnerable to a lie, it is hard to fight it.  You throw reason and logic and contradictory examples at it, and still it worms its way into your mind creating dissonance and conflict within the soul.

What did I do?  Why have I struggled with illness for over a month now?  I haven’t prepared healthy enough meals. I haven’t taken care of my body.  I haven’t rested enough. Maybe I went to the wrong store, didn’t disinfect the cart enough, or touched my face when I shouldn’t have.  I did something stupid or sinful and now I’m sick and I’ve put my family at risk. I’m not smart enough to know what’s wrong with me and fix it.  My repetitive yoga routines to soothe my aching joints help, but the pain keeps coming back. Why? Why am I not smart enough to know what’s wrong?  Why do I keep pestering my doctor during a pandemic for something I should be able to fix?

And yet I can’t fix it.  Blessings and medicines and prayer seem powerless against the relentless illness that never goes away.  And I battle the shame and fear that come with having a possibly deadly virus growing inside me endangering everyone I might come in contact with.  I guess the longer I am sick the more probable my Covid-19 test was a false negative, which sometimes happens. My doctor suggested that I get an antigen test, but I’ve read that those have a high percentage of false positives and negatives as well.  I wonder if it is worth it to spend $65 dollars on a test that is not likely to tell me anything reliable.  

Still, doing nothing is difficult too.  I’ve never been sick this long with a fever.  And it doesn’t get any better. Usually I have a fever for a day or two and then it starts going down.  I start out the morning feeling okay. I start doing my activities and I start feeling the heat and fatigue within an hour after I get out of bed.  By the afternoon, my temp is at or over a hundred. I rest and it comes down.

I dreamed last night that I was visiting my brother.  For some odd reason I had the idea that human feces was the greatest medium for painting.  I collected a bunch of my poop in a towel and mixed it with pigments and painted some pictures.  I wanted to teach my niece to paint with the filthy paint as well. Later in the dream I was ashamed of my art and the filthy paint I had used.  I remembered that I possibly had the coronavirus and that it can be spread through human feces. I desperately worked to clean and disinfect the bathroom before I put my brother and his family at risk.

I think this dream captured the shame and worthlessness I feel right now, and how intimately connected I feel to the illness I have because I used it to create art.  My desire to destroy the art and disinfect the bathroom reflects my desperation to cleanse myself and the filth of contagion that came from my body. I’m afraid that the illnesses in me both mental and physical could hurt the people I love and that even something like art, which is something my niece and I connect over, could be harmful to her because it came from me.

I’ve struggled the last week or so with my feelings towards my parents.  Our relationship is going through rocky times again. It is so painful for me to think that my parents are ashamed of my expression and that my writing causes them pain.  It makes me feel broken beyond repair and that nothing I write could possibly benefit anyone; that my creations are poop paintings to be ashamed of and discarded. I feel broken beyond repair and worse than useless; dangerous and harmful; someone to be hidden away.

Usually I come to my Savior at times like these and he brings me comfort and peace. For some reason, that peace and comfort has been beyond my grasp. Ben tells me that the sun exists even when it is hidden by clouds. Right now my Savior exists, but he is hidden from me. His love is there, but I can’t feel it. What is faith if it isn’t tested sometimes? So I am taking one day at a time with the faith that eventually the sun will come out again and that he will sanctify me and my efforts and my suffering for his glory. Blessed be the name of the Lord!