Sixteen Eight

We've been going through a lot lately in our family. Realistically it's no more or less than anyone else. We all have our stuff, and our stuff is important to us. God understands that, and we're not in a competition about whose stuff is better or worse.

Our stuff is complicated, as most stuff is. My mother in law came to live with us, after another fall and her doctor's determination that she should not drive or live alone anymore. Forty-three years is a long time to be mistress of your own domain, and the transition to sharing space with people again is a challenging one, but we are all learning and adapting to our newest family member here in Houston.

We're in the process of buying a house. We were supposed to close today at noon, and I had a carefully laid out plan of how we would get things done, getting John out to El Paso to empty his mother's storage unit, moving big stuff from our apartment to the house, even friends who kindly offered to take Sarah on Saturday so I could manage things without my helper.

Tuesday evening we found out there was additional documentation the underwriter decided they needed, and so our closing moved from Thursday to the following Tuesday afternoon.

I will admit, there was a moment of sheer panic. Our lease is up at the end of October, and we have no backup plan. My carefully laid plan fell apart in front of my eyes, and there was a short period of time that I wondered if the whole thing was falling apart.

And then I remembered that God's timing is not necessarily my timing. I've put my faith and trust in him, and I know that he will work this out for good for our family. He has always worked things out for good before, and this is one thing that is now out of my hands, and in his totally. Ever see those "God is my co-pilot" bumper stickers? Well for my sake, I need God to be the pilot, because if I'm the one responsible for flying, this sucker is going down.

And so I won't let this shake me, or my faith, or the greater plan God has for all this stuff we're dealing with right now. As the song says, he gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair.

Maybe the reason we're not moving this weekend is the torn-up parking lot at our apartment complex, that we didn't know about until we got home yesterday. Maybe it's so that John can be with me the whole time we move. Heck, maybe the forecast is wrong and we'll have lots of rain the next couple of days, and wouldn't get much moved anyway.

Whatever the reason, I'm trusting in the one who writes my story and guides me on my way. He's got a much better plan than mine, and I'm so happy I get to be part of it.


On the Wagon

I've been attending Weight Watchers meetings since early May.

I say attending meetings because I have gained and lost the same 4.9 pounds over and over again in the course of those several months. Essentially I'm paying for group therapy once a week to try and sort out my messed up relationship with food.

I hit a high number this week. I'm "doing" Weight Watchers and I hit my highest weight ever. The last week or so has been full of eating my feelings, curling up in a ball every opportunity I get, and just trying to survive.

As the saying goes, depression lies. It tells you that you're not good enough, and you're not really worth it anyway, no matter how many people tell you otherwise. Eventually you start believing it.

I've been trying to keep things compartmentalized. I have my work silo and my home silo and my church silo and my Weight Watchers/health silo. It was an attempt to be good at at least one thing. I can be good at work and church, so that's not all bad, right?

What I'm learning, and what my Leader has become a cheerleader for me in, is learning that it can't be all separate. It all has to fit together. I need to be sane and whole and take care of myself in order to be good at the other things. I can't be the best at anything if I'm not taking care of my biggest instrument (which is me.)

So, time to put together a master plan. Develop some overarching priorities and put myself higher than last on that list. It's not selfish, it's necessary.



Remember back in 1992 when Queen Elizabeth II declared an "annus horribilis"? Prince Charles and Princess Diana were divorcing. Andrew Morton wrote a scathing tell-all. The former Duchess of York had pictures of herself on the beach as her toes were sucked by a financier. And then Windsor Castle caught fire.

2016 has been something of an annus horribilis for a lot of people. Current Presidential elections excluded, it seems a steady string of beloved celebrities are going on to their Great Reward. We've had hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts, earthquakes, police shootings (both of and by), ensuing riots, rifts between friends and family over things that seem to divide us more and more even as our world becomes smaller and more globally-focused.

I can't say this has been my favorite year, but it's certainly not been a dumpster fire either. We've faced a lot of challenges as a family, but we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I've not blogged, because a lot of what has been on my mind has been raw, or fueled by exhaustion and fear. I know we're "supposed" to be transparent and honest, but if I'm being transparent and honest, I've doubted myself a lot over the last 10 months or more.

But finally. Finally we are seeing forward progress. We close on our first home next week. John's job, while not ideal, is working well and has been very understanding of his trips to El Paso when his mom wasn't well, and then again to get her when she had to come stay with us. My job is going well, no complaints, other than my usual two year itch, wondering what the next step will be. But for now that next step will be about getting myself ready, rather than just being bored and changing.

Sarah started kindergarten, which has been a blessing for us. Many of the behavioral issues we saw in preschool are going away, and even though she pushes buttons and wants to do things herself, we're seeing improvement.

And we have friends. Friends here, in Kingwood, that we visit with, talk to regularly, and enjoy being around. It finally feels like home (even though "home" is always where you're from, or where you Mama is).

So while I will be somewhat glad to watch that calendar roll over to 2017 in a few weeks, I am grateful for the opportunities 2016 has brought us, and will continue to bring. And maybe my brain and my heart can put together the right words again to share. That's the hope.


Reflecting on 2015

One of my favorite podcasts is Around the Table. Jacey and Maggie make me feel like I have these two girlfriends I've never met, and I look forward to hearing what they're talking about every week. 

This was their last podcast for 2015, and they did something I thought was neat, and so I'm shamelessly stealing it for my own blog reflection. Tsh Oxenreider over at The Art of Simple has Twenty Questions for a New Year's Eve Reflection. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't have hours on New Year's Eve to pause and reflect on all twenty of these, but I figure if I tackle one or two here and there, it will be a positive way for me to reflect on what has easily been one of the hardest years of my life. 

To start, I'll answer the first question (seems as good a place as any to start.) What was the single best thing that happened this year? 

There are things I could pick, individual moments that were precious, or that I will carry in my heart for a while. I could talk about my new job, that allowed me to provide for my family in a way I would not have been able to otherwise. I could talk about a wonderful trip to my mom's in July and a great weekend with them. 

I could even talk about the way John and I have grown closer through our challenges over the last twelve months, and how the hard times have made us stronger. That's been something I am very, very grateful for. 

In the big picture, I think getting a real diagnosis for what is wrong with me is the best thing that has happened. And the reason I say that is because now I have more than just a feeling of being wrong, or sick, or tired, or all the other things I tried to power through, because I am a Strong Woman (c) and Can Handle Stuff.

I have made so many mistakes this year because I couldn't put a finger on what is wrong with me. I kept forgetting things, trying to find ways to remember, and then forgetting them too. So stressed I could just manage to get through hours and days. It affected every relationship I have, it affected my work, my volunteering, my everything. I tried it on my own, and I failed, so miserably.

But the positive of that is that I have learned a big lesson on being okay with asking for help - not just with "stuff" but with the emotional stuff of life. I have learned to depend on God, on my family, my friends, and that there is nothing wrong with not being okay. Most people aren't, is what I'm finding out.

We can all be "not okay" together, and that's the best part of 2015 for me. 


On not being okay

I have struggled to figure out how to write this, and have decided to just come out and say it.

I have anxiety and depression, which manifests itself in panic attacks, among other things. 

I am not suicidal. I don't want to hurt myself. But I feel guilty. I worry. My brain cannot stop itself from going to a worst-case scenario just this side of complete and total disaster. I worry that I am not good enough to do something, and that even trying is pointless, so why expend the energy?

This is not a new phenomenon, but I finally took the step of going to my doctor and talking about it. It has gotten worse over the last couple of years, and in the last few weeks has been fairly non-stop. I started having honest to God panic attacks. 

I truly thought I was going to die. I have never, ever in my life been so scared. My brain knew, somewhere, that it was not really that, and that I needed to pull myself together, but I just was incapable of doing that.

I am grateful for a good doctor who understands, and was able to explain that it's okay that I can't manage this, and that's why he is there, and why they make medications to help with this sort of thing.

I still feel guilty. There are so many worse things going on in the world. There are people who have problems that make mine look small in comparison. This confession is not an attempt to get attention, or meant to imply that somehow what I'm dealing with is worse than what anyone else is. But for me, this is now normal. I at least understand that there is a reason for why I can't stop the reaction, and hopefully it won't take long for things to kick in.

But part of me thinks - you used to be the person who had things together. Do you really want to admit that you don't? To say that you're not okay and that you are asking for help... that's not what strong people do. (Even when asking for help means taking a pill.)

What I'm starting to understand is that sometimes the hardest thing to do, that takes the most of the strength you have, is to say that you're not okay. I talked myself into and out of my appointment on Wednesday. But if I want to be a better wife, a better mom, a better person.... I have to do this and work on taking care of whatever is going on in my brain.

It means I have to get through the holidays, and they're stressful enough already, and figure out how to create calm in the midst of the storms of life. That's going to take time, and change (which terrifies me in a different way.)

So 2016 suddenly takes on new importance for me. A year I'm starting off by admitting there is a problem, and taking steps to correct those problems. My prayer is that by this time next year, all our lives are improved because of the change I need to make. 

Until then, I have to be willing to say "no" to some things, and not be afraid to ask for help. 


The Power of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

I love listening to Michael Hyatt's This Is Your Life podcast. Season six, episode three is called "Change Your Story, Change Your Life" and is all about the narrator voice in our head, and how to deal with the story your narrator tells you.

One of the key things I took away was the idea that we need to write down the negative comments from our narrator, and determine whether that voice gives power to your life, or if it is just being ridiculous. Once you recognize it for what it is, you have the opportunity to re-write your narrative voice, and give life to that story.

I am so guilty of allowing my fears, my insecurities, and other feelings to write my internal monologue. It goes a little something like this...

Self, we should start taking classes to finish that Bachelor's Degree we want so badly.
Oh, but you're way too old for that, and you have a little girl to think about. Do you want to be an absent mom? Do you want her to remember Mama playing with her, or do you want her to remember Mama with her nose in a book all the time? Won't she grow up feeling like her best is never good enough, if Mama was always pushing herself?
But Self, we're doing this for her too. So we can have a better life...
 Really? You want to deny part of this is about your own personal ambition, to finish what YOU started and didn't complete? This is really all about you; stop fooling yourself.

And on, and on, and on... my internal narrator finds a way to make everything somehow selfish, somehow about my own ambitions and nothing more, and that if I were a Good Christian Person I would simply plow along the row I am in, working hard and not focusing on moving too far out of my own line, for fear I might somehow be greedy or overly ambitious or not a good wife or mother or daughter or whatever it is I am doing at the moment.

Yet somehow, I think God makes us for "more than this" - we have this desire to do more, and be more, and give more, and love more, and grow ourselves larger than we can imagine, because what is the greater demonstration of God's love than to allow it to overflow in your life, and give out of that abundance.

I stink at filling my own cup. I'm lousy at sharpening my saw. But what I learn more and more as the years go by is that I cannot keep filling someone else's cup when my own is empty. What I pass along is less than my best, and if I want to keep passing along the best to others, then I need to keep my own cup full of good things.

That's the real lesson I want to teach my daughter and my bonus daughter. Take time to take care of yourself. Remember it's not selfish to do what you need to do for yourself. You only have one body - treat it well. You only have one mind - feed it all the information you can. You only have one soul - give it the best of your time. If you can't do those things, what you give to others will be less than your best.



Two Years

It doesn't get easier.

You just learn how to live with it. 

I don't know that I have the right words to explain it, which is odd for me.

I miss my little brother, and life has not been the same since.