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Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter for the Anxious

It's Easter Sunday this weekend and I couldn't be more uneasy. All I have been able to think about for the past 2 weeks is the idea of stepping back into a church for the first time in months and the thought sends me into a lonely tower of anxiety I don't easily escape, while my nights have been filled with panic-stricken nightmares of trying to escape and run out of some church from my childhood. 

Sunday. It's approaching. And while the evangelical Christian realm is readying their flyers and proselytizing their church's Easter service, all I feel is dread. Dread over the songs that will be sung and the memories they will conjure. Dread over the lingo and the phrases that, all too often, were used and abused. Dread over having to be in an institution with all my questions and no answers. Dread over what panic may seize me. 
"How bad will it be? How long will it last?"

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Great. God knows the appreciation I hold in my heart for what Easter represents and means- meaning that is not lost in my anxiety. However, my anxiety is not subdued or lost in its great meaning either. 

For so many of us living with the consequences of spiritual trauma, Easter Sunday is not really a celebration- it's an anxiety attack. And whereas so many of us may have found a God that understands and is not offended by our pain and our fear of feeling it, that doesn't mean that others are not looking at us with worry in their eyes. 

I have never experienced an Easter Sunday like this. Easter is all about resurrection, but the resurrection I've become intimately acquainted with in this season is the resurrection of trauma long stuffed and pain long ignored. This is what I fear Easter Sunday holds in store for me, more painful resurrection. 

Sunday morning may end in a panic attack, but every morning has that chance. I know I can't be ruled by fear and I can't be ruled by what ifs. The struggle, however, is too too real my friends. 

This Sunday I'll be in church despite all my fears and anxieties. I may be asking for trouble, but it may be a great day. All I know is that I love my family and I choose to join them in this day. My mind will most assuredly be in a different place than the rest of the congregation. My thoughts will be divided between keeping the memories at bay and remembering all those who are in the same boat as me- us exiled battered seekers who, perhaps, this Sunday are just doing our best to survive the occasion. But take courage friends, if Easter shows us anything it's that the worst of struggles has an end; no pain lasts forever; and there's life on the other side...oh and multi-colored egg salad. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Is it too late now to say Sorry?"

Justin Bieber once asked, "Is it too late now to say, 'Sorry'?" ...all jokes that could be made aside, I wonder if sometimes it is.

When I think about the people who have inflicted the deepest and greatest wounds in my life, not a one of them ever gifted me with an apology. That does something to you. It certainly does something to the relationship, but it also does something to you. It's easier to forgive when one is asking for forgiveness, but even where it isn't asked for- forgiveness is still extendable. Forgiveness being that daily vitamin that one has to take over and over again until its nutrients overwhelm you and overtake you. But even where forgiveness has been and is continually being extended, that lack of an apology does something to you.

No one said, "Sorry" and therefore you were left alone. No one was on the other side of the hurt willing or wishing you to heal; in fact, there was someone on the other side who was omissive in your hurt. You had to become the bigger person. There was no hand offered to help pull you up the mountain of forgiveness in order to get closer to wholeness. (And for the record: Yes, I believe that Greater Love and The Healer is present and available to us in those times, how else could we climb, but I'm talking about human relationships here and no amount of godly presence can alter the pain of someone turning away- that loss demands to be felt and cannot be undone.) In not saying "sorry" they turned their back on your pain and that leaves a great deal in your hands to sort out and deal with.

And deal with it you did. You found your way (or are finding your way) up that mountain of forgiveness toward wholeness. You found your helpers and you found inner strength that you did not know you had. You found your way. That does something to you. You are not the same person. For better or for worse you are different and the lengths that you had to go to, the rocky terrain you had to face on your own, the darkness and despair you had to touch, taste, and feel- that does something to you.

At some point along that lonely mountain path you abandoned the need for "sorry", you found the strength to climb without it. At some point along that mountain path, those "sorry's" become invalid; they become more for the person who delayed the offering more than they could ever be for you at present.

I think about all the people who have inflicted the deepest and greatest wounds in my life and as much as I have clung to the injustice of their apologies withheld, I have no need for them anymore. To receive an apology would be a courtesy extended for their sakes, but the saying would be of little affect to me. Forgiveness has already been given whether they know it or not. For them to apologize and know it is given would be for their comfort and theirs alone. Why? Because I had to find mine another way. We all have.

And you know what? That's not the way it's supposed to be. That's not okay. That's not right. It's okay to be bothered sometimes. This is the harsh reality of freedom. We get to choose and there are consequences to those choices and not all consequences are felt by the correct parties in this life. Sometimes those consequences fall on the victims in a much harsher and more tangible and present sense than they do for the choice maker. Sometimes it is too late to say sorry. But if it's too late for sorry's perhaps it means you've arrived to some place of peace and there's encouragement to be taken from that. You made choices and that got you to the place you wanted to be even if all apologetic hands were denied. Despite someone else's choices to withhold, you now hold something precious and hard won. And that too does something to you.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

No one knows this garden like I do.

"No one knows this garden like I do."

That phrase kept replaying in my mind again and again as I weeded out the raised beds at my parent's home. When I first moved back from Australia, I took those raised beds on and I learned how to garden. When I knew I would be moving away I filled the beds with Florida native flowers that would continue to grow without needing excessive care. But the garden got overgrown and needed weeding. So on my last visit home I took to it. I could see where my mom had tried to pull some weeds and could tell that she got confused as to what was a weed and what was a plant. And how could she know? It wasn't really her garden.

"No one knows this garden like I do."

Since I took those raised beds on, I've watched and learned the seasons. I know what weeds are going to come up in the spring and what weeds are going to arrive in the summer. I know what they look like, what their roots act like. I know where to grab them to avoid getting stung. I know their tricks and how they like to hide among look-alikes. I also know what I've planted and where. I know what lies dormant and will come alive in its due time. And as I weeded those raised beds, my fingers remembering and finding their way about the soil, I pondered much as I always had.

Since anxiety decided to take a big bite out of my ass, one that forced me to pay attention and deal with it, I've been navigating counseling. So far I'm on counselor number two. Counselor 1 and 2, though entirely different, have taken a very similar approach with me- both have encouraged me to keep on the journey I've been on; both have made affirming me and my journey priority above giving correction or asking hard questions. To which my frustrated inner response has been, "If what I've been doing was working then why on earth am I seeing you?" The answer, I think, is that no one knows this garden like I do.

When I first took on those raised beds, every day was a lesson. Those raised beds were my Eden where I really sat and gleaned with God. One day as I was learning how to tell the difference between weeds versus something that was planted, I was struck by the tangible metaphor that was before me. Not only was I learning to decipher plants from weeds amidst the dirt and the leaves, but I was being taught how to decipher plants from weeds in the garden that is my story. There were so many things in my life that I uprooted because I was taught to believe that they were weeds and likewise, there were so many weeds I allowed to grow and to spread because I was taught to believe that they were true and good plants- plants planted by God. Here God was showing me things that He had planted and things that He did not plant, but had been allowed to grow and together we were on our way to restoring my garden. One of my counselors keeps telling me that I'm on my way and that I've been on my way for some time now. Maybe what she's saying is that no one knows this garden like I do.

I still struggle immensely with trusting myself. After spending so much time in a christian culture that capitalizes on humanity's wretchedness and fallen nature, it takes a while to de-program and let trust and affirmation permeate every facet of your life. I like to think that I got in this cave of anxiety and depression because of some failing of my own, but the truth is that life happens and every patch of dirt has its own weeds and struggles. I just need to trust my fingers to know the difference; to know when to uproot and when to wait. I need to trust that I know the difference between weeds that choke and destroy and plants that bless and enrich. I need to trust myself and rest in the beautiful truth that no one knows this garden like I do and the reason that I know it so well is because He has met me here and is ever present.

Perhaps the greatest instrument of healing I have amidst my pages of trauma, having been led to believe one thing or another about myself, is to know myself better and be able to weed out the lies with my own two hands.

No one knows this garden like I do.