It started with Cheyenne’s unofficial diagnosis. Feet to the glued the floor while my hands strangled the white cashmere scarf as I walled off any more comments from the therapist. My world of being the perfect mom, of raising three healthy children, creating a beautiful marriage, and living the good life in the flatlands of Nebraska wasn’t what I thought it was.
Something cracked. I could sense it ever so slightly then came the foreboding more was coming. The fear reminded me of childhood moments–the sand rumbling beneath my feet, sifting away as water came crashing through the gullies and washes near our Arizona home. Sometimes it would come slowly and I would face off the thunderous roar. Standing in the middle of the wash, bare feet planted firmly, I watched as it snaked towards me. Loud and rushing past my toes. Seconds passed as the roar became thunderous and the water began rising faster, up to my ankles, my shins, my knees before I finally heeded my brother’s pleas to get out of river before I was washed away.
If I stood there any longer, I would be gone. Water over my head and washed away. These past few months felt as if I was a child again, standing in the gullies of our hot desert home. How long could I stand in the rushing water before asking God to help me, to anchor me against the raging tide of life? How long would I brace myself in the water before the current pulled my legs out from under me?
Next came Elijah’s need for testing and his diagnosis of not being normal or average. Two kids–neither average. One autistic, the other severe ADHD with OCD tendencies. Perfection gone.
Then came Alex. She came unexpectedly, making me smile as butterflies filled my heart and yet, I felt the water rushing towards me, the sand shaking away. Foreboding, waiting…waiting for the flood.
It flashed with the grim moment no woman wants to encounter. Doctors withholding information, no eye contact, and no “Everything is fine.” She left as quietly as she came, no heartbeat and me going under for surgery hearing my husband ask when we could try again.
The raging river came when I was benched from my ministry position with pointing fingers. The moment when I broke, my world that I had worked so hard to perfect for years came tumbling down, crashing into a million pieces. All that I thought mattered, washed away.
The world I had carried on my shoulders was suddenly too big, too heavy. I sat at the round table, not making eye contact with my team–them seeing how truly weak and broken I was.
Later on in the quiet, sipping my coffee, I sifted through the pieces of my life I didn’t know what to do with.
We dream of cozy homes, arms that embrace and reach for us in the still of the night, sweet child smiles growing into success…but my dreams of being the perfect mom with the perfect life that I had worked so hard to build shattered.
Doors closing, dreams shattering, perfection flawed… the final onslaught of “Now what,” came with losing a sweet friend to mental illness, walking away from my online magazine, a new diet and another diagnosis of menopause at 31.
At this point, I had two choices, drink myself into oblivion or learn to look outside of myself.
Looking outside ourselves opens us up to the world and strangely enough, it is what heals us. It becomes the anesthetic that kills the pain. I opened myself up to new possibilities, new friendships, different worlds, different hurts. I walked through a friend as she miscarried the baby she had dreamed for three years. I held another who was facing her past of sexual abuse. And for the first time really heard my husband dream. When we learn to be still, we see the inner world of others, their joys, circumstances, pain. What makes them smile and what their child’s favorite juice is.
Moments over cups of coffee or savory lemony tea unearth our human-ness, our need to connect. Our hearts beating with the same understanding. Like a salve, it soothes our weary souls and allows God to pour his spirit back into us. We begin to let go of our expectations in this life. We see ourselves naked and bare, stripped of status, obligations, and begin clothing ourselves with what really matters. Family, relationship, God.
I chose to look outside my world and do something I never thought I would do, I adopted a dog, started running and poured my heart into nourishing my family. Strangely enough, being able to cook something hearty, filled with flavor–the comforts of home and infused with love gave me a chance to focus on healing my heart. The sounds of forks clinking plates mixed with smiles and sibling rivalry brought a sense of satisfaction and peace. Another piece to pick up and place at the center of what really defines life.
Finally I could hold my head above water and go with the tide, letting it carry me instead of fighting it. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if I went to the store in sweatpants, who saw me or who knew about any of the imperfections of my life. Falling to pieces may be just the best thing to happen to me or anyone. It allows us to become still, to look up as the river carries us through heavy rapids. We can truly look at our lives in holy fragments as he plucks us out of the water letting him revive us as he picks and chooses the pieces to glue back together. The picture will look different, imperfect, perfectly flawed but free to be who we are.
These past few months of have a combination of flash floods, being swept downstream and floating but I’m finding grace in it. The more learn to let go, I can be still and know he is God.