It’s The Climb

I woke up this morning at 1:23 a.m. I don’t have to work today so I did a bad thing…I picked up my phone and started scrolling through Facebook. I watched stupid videos that made me laugh, avoided the ones that would make me cry, and generally let an hour of my life drain away, never to be returned. Then the inevitable happened.

It was accidental but inevitable. In a list of “People you might know,” a person popped up. One I never wanted to see. But there she was. And suddenly sleep was no longer an option. I just stared. My heart rate increased. And I felt validation.

Validation that I was, indeed, fat, ugly, worthless, a fool, and quite simply not worth anyone’s time.

Social Media is a double-edged sword that I find I cannot live without. I love being able to laugh at silliness, rejoice in my friends’ lives, grieve with those who hurt, and escape reality for a while. But reality prowls in the background, constantly lurking and seeking a way to get in through the bubble of escapism I have created. And when it succeeds, the open wound that is my life is exposed to raw, visceral pain.

After my heart rate slowed, I forced myself to move on. The very next post I came across was an article written by Wil Wheaton. It was titled “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. I am not ashamed.”

Wil Wheaton is an actor famous for many roles, but most notably in “Stand By Me,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and most recently “The Big Bang Theory” in which he plays himself.

I was stunned to read his article. I found myself glued to every word. He spoke a language in which I, too, am fluent–a language of panic attacks, fear, sadness, existing instead of living, mental illness.

One passage in particular struck me like a lightning bolt.

“We can remember and we can remind each other, that there is no finish line when it comes to mental illness. It’s a journey, and sometimes we can see the path we’re on all the way to the horizon, while other times we can’t even see five feet in front of us because the fog is so thick. But the path is always there, and if we can’t locate it on our own, we have loved ones and doctors and medications to help us find it again, as long as we don’t give up trying to see it.”

It’s a journey. The path is always there.

I have felt for so long that the path I’m on leads nowhere, because I have been stuck or walking in circles because the fog has encapsulated me. I have stumbled, fallen down and wanted to curl up on the ground, giving up, not moving forward. Sometimes, I simply say, “it’s just too hard.”

Then something–a hand from a family member or friend, a song on my playlist, a post on that two-faced social media engine, a Bible verse–reaches out and taps me on the shoulder. And for a moment, the fog lifts. It lifts just enough so I can see that path. It hasn’t disappeared. It’s still there, beckoning, calling, and the sunlight offers hope and promise.

Wil Wheaton ended his article with the statement, “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic depression, and I am not ashamed.”

I keep waiting for the fog to lift completely, for the depression to end, for life to magically become happy and wonderful and enlightened. But as my very wise and wonderful sister once said to me, “It’s not a destination. It’s a journey.”

Miley Cyrus called it, “The Climb.” They’re both right.

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometime’s I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb.

Thank you, Wil Wheaton, for tapping me on the shoulder and helping me to my feet. The fog has lifted for a moment and I can see the way…at least enough to take the next few steps.

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Luggage and Bone China

I have recently come to the decision that it is time to sell my beautiful china, crystal and silver. A million years ago, I, together with my then-fiancé (when we were idealists and full of love, excitement and hope for the future) picked out the patterns, knew what fit with our personalities and registered for our adoring fans and family members to gift to us for our wedding.

We loved to entertain and in the early years of our marriage, and even somewhat into the latter years, the china was pulled out for special occasions. Let me tell you–I know how to set a beautiful dinner table!

Since the divorce I have been steadily moving into smaller and smaller domiciles. I moved out of a five-bedroom home to a 4 bedroom home to a 3 bedroom home. Now I’m about to pull the trigger on renting a 2 bedroom apartment. If you know me at all, and know anything about my genetic lineage, you will understand that “Pack Rat” is my unofficial middle name. In my defense, I come by this trait honestly.

My great Aunt Beulah lived in her parents’ farm house for all of her life. When she retired from teaching, she decided to sell the property and move into a “retirement” home. Sorting through her belongings was a mountainous task. And believe me when I say the Smithsonian had nothing on Aunt Beulah. Her attic was stock full of the most amazing trinkets, treasures and trash imaginable. Doll carriages, broken furniture, chests full of forgotten memorabilia. Bags and bags of expired food and stale M&Ms. And boxed handkerchiefs.

Yes, handkerchiefs. The beautifully embroidered cloth kind. As a teacher in the mid-20th century, she commonly received gifts in the form of boxed handkerchiefs from her students. She had stacks of these buried in corners and stuffed in closets. I even took one and used it on my wedding day as my “something old.”

When she moved to the much smaller apartment, my mother and her sister, along with their husbands, did wonders to pare down the junk. One more move into her family’s lake cottage pared things down even more. Her final home was a nursing home and she somehow managed to still surround herself with the most incredible assortment of junk!

Well, I am proudly following in great Aunt Beulah’s footsteps, in both the collecting of and the need to get rid of junk. With this upcoming move, I decided it was time to think about selling some of my things from my marriage. My china, for instance. And my silver and crystal. I never use it anymore. I am holding onto those things purely for sentimental reasons, and the sentiment has been anything but pleasant lately.

I mentioned this decision to a coworker today, and without a moment’s hesitation, she said “Hell yes. Sell that stuff now! It’s time to pack it up and move on. You’ve only got this one life. Don’t let these things hold you back, Lynette.”

It was such a simple statement but so powerful.

“It’s time to pack it up and move on.”

So I am. I can almost hear my friends and family applauding, nodding their heads and saying, “it’s about damn time, girl!”

So this weekend, it’s going away. My china. My crystal. My silver.

It’s time to pack it all up. I’ve got some moving to do and I don’t want to lug it with me anymore.

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It Is Well

I feel a profound sense of sadness some days. It’s different than in months and years past. This–this feels permanent. The other days were simply so overwhelming that the emotions essentially short-circuited me. I had no choice but to reboot and try again. And again. And again.

Now, I feel that this new operating system is becoming so old as to be almost obsolete. It’s time for a complete upgrade. But the sorrow holds me back.

Sorrow is like a ground-soaking, steady rain with no end in sight. The drops fall in a steady rhythm without stops and starts. They just keep falling. The sound soothes and lulls me into an almost trance-like state. And I get stuck.

I have asked God “why?” for so long now that it pops out before I even realize it. Why, why why? It’s like that scene from the movie “Steel Magnolias” when Sally Fields’ character is openly, and gut-wrenchingly, spewing out her grief at her only daughter’s Funeral.

I have watched that scene so many times, I can almost quote every line. I silently stand behind one of the bushes at that cemetery, sobbing quietly with the rest of the women. It doesn’t matter that it’s not real. It doesn’t matter that nothing about that situation directly connects to my life in anyway. Except it does.

When Sally Fields starts screaming “I wanna know why! Why!” I become her, screaming out those words myself. “I just want to understand!” But understanding, answers, explanations…they never come. Even in this movie, where a happy ending would have been as simple as a few extra characters typed into a keyboard, the answers never came. Just hollow, echoing sorrow.

Sally Fields eventually says, “life goes on.” How? How does it go on? How is it possible?

That phrase makes me think of an age-old hymn penned in 1873 by a successful businessman named Horatio Spafford. Mr. Spafford and his wife Anna were the proud parents of five children: four daughters and one son. In 1871, that one son became ill and died from pneumonia. Shortly after that, Mr. Spafford lost almost all of his business holdings in the great Chicago fire. Eventually, the Spaffords rebuilt the business and once again it flourished.

In 1873, the family decided to travel to Europe for a visit and made plans to depart from New York. An unexpected business issue arose and Horatio had to stay back, delaying his departure by a few days. Anna and the four daughters went on ahead as planned. Approximately four days into their trans-Atlantic journey, their ship collided with another vessel and in twelve interminably long and shockingly fast minutes, the boat sank, taking with it the four Spafford daughters. Anna alone survived. When she finally arrived in Wales after being rescued, Anna sent a telegram to her husband. It stated, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

One of Anna’s co-survivors recalled hearing her say, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. One day I will understand why.”

Recently, a shipwreck washed ashore here in my town.

It was major news in the area and experts speculated the wreckage was from the late 1800s, roughly the same time as the Spafford’s ship sank. It was awe-inspiring and humbling to think of the hands who not only created the ship, but the souls that perished on that ship. It was a powerful moment, wrapped in history, mystery and, yes, why’s. Why did it sink? How many were lost at sea? Why did the ocean keep the secret of this shipwreck to herself for so many decades? Why did she suddenly decide it was time to let go and move on?

I cannot fathom the depths of pain and sorrow that Horatio Spafford experienced as he, too, boarded a ship and sailed directly in the path that would take him over his daughters’ watery grave. It is said he penned these lyrics on the journey to meet with his wife.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

How? Why?? I don’t think I could ever have that strength to write such words. Was he angry? Did he scream and shake his fist towards heaven in a belligerent gesture? Did he stand on the deck of his own ship, sinking into a puddle of hopelessness? Perhaps. But most importantly, he stood up. And he went on.

This has always been one of my favorite hymns. The sweeping musical score paired with the hauntingly beautiful lyrics touches that place in my soul where music defines me and we recognize each other.

Life is a constant river, flowing and buffeting all of us upon its waves. My goal is to become the kind of person who is able to say in my darkest hours, “Praise the Lord, praise the lord, oh my soul!”

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!

It is well with my soul. Life goes on.

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She’s A Brick House

I heard something the other day about bricks as they specifically apply to walls. The comment was made about the theoretical brick walls we all erect in our souls in order to protect us from pain, hurt, sorrow, disappointment, and just plain icky-ness in life. But the way the comment was made struck me like, well, a brick wall.

“Walls keep our hurts inside,” was the comment.

Inside? No. That’s not how it works. We keep those things outside. But the thought wouldn’t leave my brain and soon my epiphany of the day finally occurred.

I began to watch, listen and learn from conversations around me. People often times harbor deep, horrible, life-altering pain inside their souls. But to face those hurts is unimaginable and even more painful than the original cause of said pain. So instead of keeping future, unknown hurts out, people are keeping them in, nestled safely behind a strong brick wall, not easily torn down. No blowhard, big bad wolves will get to these walls.

I began to think about what my internal hurts and sorrows and disappointments look like, but when I tried to put a name to them, I found discomfort. A lot of discomfort. This was definitely not my happy place.

I faced them, however, with not a little trepidation, and tried to list the biggies:

A. Rejection: he didn’t fight for me and I was left alone and empty.
B. Loneliness: I miss him, dammit!
C. Regret: What if….? Why did I….? Why didn’t I…..?
D. Anger: how dare he?
E. Self loathing: I’m a mess…who would want me? I’m fat, ugly, my life is a disaster, I’m in debt, and my house is one mess away from being an episode of “Hoarders.”

I mean seriously….those are just the biggies! I didn’t even touch on the little ones.

I came to the conclusion that no one is exempt from the brick wall of avoidance. We all do it. #thestruggleisreal makes a ton more sense to me when filtered through this scope.

I have heard many things about divorce recovery: “It takes 5 years to recover from a divorce” and “it takes half the time you were together to recover from a divorce.” I am 2.5 years post divorce. So in the instance of the first statement, I am halfway there. In the second timetable, I’ve got hell of a long way to go. Half of 18 years is 9. Not to mention the 2 we were together before marriage.

My point is this: I think that until I begin tearing my brick wall down from the inside, brick by brick, I will be, in essence, trapped by my own pain.

I can’t do that. No more. I want to move forward and to heal. I have healed a lot, but this epiphany seems to suggest the next phase in my healing process will take some heavy lifting on my part.

She’s a brick house, indeed. She’s got lots of bricks to repurpose into a new house.

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Webs and Flows

If you have ever sat in silence on a beach and did nothing but contemplate the ocean waves rolling ashore across the sand, you will notice many things.

First, every wave is unique.  Each one is like a fingerprint and the ocean has millions upon millions of unique fingerprints.  No two are alike.  Some are gentle and have very little break, while others break quickly and come ashore full of noise, froth and movement.  In specific spots on the planet, there are waves that are giant sea monsters, taking on a life of its own, growing taller than some multi-story buildings, and curling back in on itself to form a pipeline.  Personally, I prefer the gentle, quiet ones that cause little disruption and are beautiful in their simplicity.

The next thing you might notice about the ocean is that it is a moving force.  If you look further than the breaking waves on shore, out in the distance, you will notice swells, peaks and valleys that never quite fully form into the waves their counterparts eventually become.  It’s like a pan of liquid coming to a “rolling boil.”  While not much happens on the surface, it is obvious that much is happening below.  It is awe-some and not a little terrifying.

Lastly, the most obvious part of the ocean waves are the aftermath.  The receding water comes sweeping in with majestic and powerful force, after building up for perhaps several miles, then just as suddenly as it breaks into a wave, it is gone, taking most of what it covered back out to sea:  shells, trash, toys, jewelry, clothing, and the occasional sea life.  Sometimes, too, the waves leave gifts upon the shore, gifts from other parts of the sea that have been swept out, taken from one place and deposited in a different location altogether.

Mostly, waves sweep landward, destroying sand castles and erasing words written in the sand by playful beach-goers.  There is nothing left.  Nothing, that is, but the sand.

The sand has a magical quality about it of just swallowing up the water, reforming into a flat surface and never giving up any of the secrets formerly imprinted there.

So many times I wish my life were like the sand:  constantly wiped clean and rid of all the detritus that clutters my days (and my house!).  I could start with a fresh slate with every single wave.  But what would I lose?

I would lose the memory of happier times, the joy of current moments and the lessons learned along the way:  essentially, I’d be trapped in a “Groundhog Day” web, never able to escape and move on. The more I would struggle to free myself from the strands of repetition, the tighter their grasp would become. I would wither from lack of sustenance–experiences that would help me grow–and eventually cease to exist. How altogether unpleasant.

The other day I walked along the beach at sunset. The sand was almost not visible for all the shells covering its surface. The waves washed over those shells leaving them sparkling in the waning sunlight and making them appear new and fresh.

I stopped, mesmerized by the picture at my feet. The sand was literally buried beneath a layer of shells. Imagine each one of those shells as a different life experience. Some of them are perfect and whole, without blemish, chip or discoloration. But look closely at the picture. Most are damaged with holes, cracks, divots, stains, and missing pieces. Many are simply fragments of what once was beautiful. I found many pieces of what I knew were once stunning displays of sea life. And diving head first into cliche-land, I identified absolutely with those shattered pieces more than with the beautiful, whole and perfect shells.

I am such a broken creature, with chips, cracks, missing pieces, and edges worn down by repeated bashing of the waves. And yet, like those shells, I am beautiful. I don’t always believe it and often times I see the exact opposite of beauty when I look at myself. But the truth is undeniable.

There is beauty in brokenness. The web that entangles my life also creates something so ethereal and so precious.

It creates me.

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