It's All Over, But the Screaming

This post has come about at least in part because I've been seeing a therapist. Together, we've been devoting time to processing the vital and intricate ways communication colors all the different roles I play: sister, daughter, co-worker, writer, instructor, friend, follower of Jesus, neighbor, citizen... none of these are less valuable than the others and communication is important in all of it.

And, the other reason communication has become so important is that life has a way of physically manifesting my inner chaos. Has anyone else experienced this?

Just as I found myself needing to have three potentially difficult conversations in three wildly different areas of my life, my asthma began acting up and I was put on new medication that continues to make my heart race and leave me feeling like I might not have enough breath to finish a sentence. Just as I am being called upon to stick up for the health of my relationships, boundaries, and growth, my voice feels weak and powerless, all but lost to a loud and chaotic world... a world where it feels like we must scream to be heard.

shouting-air-Longmire

I've never been a screamer. In fact, if you and I sat down together at a crowded coffee shop, you'd probably find yourself leaning close to hear me at all. I find this is more true as I get older. Words carry the weight of life and death. Our words (written and spoken) have the power to create wide open spaces for renewal and redemption. Our words also have the power to destroy, assassinate, and suck all the oxygen out of the room.

As I tip-toed carefully into all three of these conversations I felt the weight of life and death, the strain of my inhaler, and my courage wavered.

The first two conversations went well. Don't get me wrong, I dreaded them, I lost sleep over them, and then I was able to show up to them. I walked away from both of these interactions feeling like we had achieved a new level of understanding that strengthened each of us. Making time to have the difficult conversation relieved the pressure in the atmosphere. I learned that my small voice was exactly powerful enough to rise to the challenge. I felt like I was finally making some progress. Finally. 

And then, the third conversation turned out to be a miserable failure. A total disaster. The Hindenburg crash was more graceful than this conversation. It's less fun to learn lessons this way. But these hard won lessons are far more valuable.

Letting Go.

I am terrible at letting go. Plus, I am super capable at fixing things. This, I've learned, is a lethal combination. Sometimes we find ourselves at an impasse. Sometimes the other person is nowhere near a place where they can truly hear us. At this point, there are no magic words to right a sinking ship. But, man, I will nearly drown myself in the process. 

When and how do I let go with some healthy boundaries in tact? And why is it so hard to let go of something that is clearly not working?

I recently read Emotional Agility by Susan David. I've been recommending it to everyone, so I might as well recommend it to you as well. Please go read this book. David talks a lot about letting go of emotions that do not serve us. The agility part comes in with beginning to understand how and when and why we are so triggered and why we cling to such fixed and rigid ways of thinking.

She says, "Just saying the words 'let it go' is enough to bring us a sense of hope and relief. But those same words can bring up the anxiety that we will be left with nothing--that we have resigned ourselves to a hopeless situation. In truth, we are left with everything else. Clinging to that one small piece of emotional driftwood prevents us from feeling part of the dynamic system that is the universe itself... Not everyone will be able to embrace quite the mystical vision, but for everyone, 'let it go' can at least become 'hold it lightly,' and when it happens, the heart expands. This does not mean a passive resignation to fate, but rather a vital engagement with the way things actually are, unfiltered and undistorted by rigid mental lenses." (p.110-111)

The "anxiety that we will be left with nothing." It is so easy for me to fall prey to this mentality of scarcity. I don't want to live this way. I'm practicing being mindful of the larger picture. It is a practice. It is easier said than done, especially when my exit only flares a series of blistering text messages that further solidify my hurt feelings and reasons for leaving.

How do I gracefully exit when I feel he still hasn't heard me? When I want nothing more than to stay and stand and shout? (And fix it!) When I feel like I must stand up for myself because he has clearly forgotten who I am and all that we shared? When do I get to the 'vital engagement with the way things actually are?' Should I respond to him at all? Do I need the last word? What would be the point? Are there any winners here?

Nope. And, I'm not sure that's the point.

The day of the text messages was especially long and emotional. I cried all the way home from work. I cried and I prayed. "What is there left to say? What can I possibly do to stop the madness?"

My answer came clear and quick: Call out the truth. Call out the Good. And then, hold it lightly.

This all sounds so simple now. But, I needed some time to clear the rubble and remember what was good about him. I spent the evening journaling, processing, praying for both of us. Late that night, I found I did have something to say. I did have some apologizing to do. So that's what I did. I showed up (via text) to apologize and call out the truth and call out the good. I did not have to scream or lose my voice. I needed to be present and open and honest. I am a work in progress. I am learning to let go. I might be practicing this for the rest of my life. Bear with me. This progress feels slow.

 

I Blame the Chair

Don't freak out.

Believe me, I've got all sorts of excuses for being away so long, but I'd rather blame it all on one inanimate object which will never be able to retaliate. It's cleaner that way, right? And not at all ridiculous.

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A Pep-Talk the Size of a Mountain

In my own life, and maybe for most women, that mountain looks a lot like a particular type of waiting... waiting to fill the lonely ache for relationship with a mate, for the wholeness of a healthy couple. For some, it's infertility and waiting for the completeness of family to finally arrive.

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I Write Everything Down

In class, I've been talking with my students about S.M.A.R.T. goals and how to begin to implement real change in our lives. But it has got me thinking about the ways I set goals for myself. I write everything down. I know I'm not the only one on the planet who does this, but still... I live by lists and this is not always convenient...

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On Valentine's Day

At the risk of sounding cynical on what is otherwise a lovely day, when did those little conversation hearts start using such possessive and co-dependent language?

 

In response, I'm spending tonight carving my February block prints. Very soon, they might resemble these templates:

Can't wait to print these sweet cards!

In Print

It's always seems so funny/weird to see my name in print. But I just got an email from the Western Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature  - I've been asked to speak. I also ge tto be a part of the reading at the opening reception. This feels like an honor/humbling learning experience. I should start really practicing what I will say and read...

And speaking of things being "in print" I've been putting new cards and patterns up on Etsy. I'm really excited with how my profile of Oliver came out:

Super cute, right!?

 

Picture Windows

I think I drew this charcoal sketch of the view from my childhood bedroom window about 15 years ago:

 

It sits in my bedroom now, above my desk where I write, grade papers, and am currently trying to teach Oliver to fetch (it's a process -his goal is to teach me patience).

We (my family and I) said goodbye to our childhood home about 2 weeks ago. I found myself taking pictures of the windows - the views. I was really trying to avoid pictures of an empty house. I wanted to remember it full of us. In the end, everything went into the moving truck and as we walked down the driveway for the last time, I believe the walls were still vibrating from all the noise we made over the years. It never felt empty.

 

I did snap this one of the closet my sister and I shared:

 

(I'm not sure I'll ever find a dresser that will hold that much stuff ever again!)

My sister and I used to climb up to the top, and pretend that we were trapped on a speeding boat or a runaway train. I remember writing with my finger on the dirty window pane: "Save Us!" In my neatest 8 year old handwriting. Of course it was backwards to anyone looking in - which was pretty much impossible because we were at the top of a hill. And then the rain would regularly wash it away. It's funny the small things we remember.

Honestly, letting go of this home was rough but it was time to move on. This place will always be special but it's just a house and walls that kept us safe from the elements - what I will always carry with me is who I lived there with, all the noise we made, and the view from the windows.

 

 

Open it

I hope your Christmas was filled with joy and wonder. I've decided my favorite part of Christmas comes right after I hear myself issue this command: Open it! Open it! 

Making bright pink leg warmers for my niece, Payton; and a gray scarf for my nephew, Cole was fun but seeing them wear it was more than fun.

And then, tonight I got to celebrate Christmas with "the girls"... and I got to give them these:

These two are not fans of getting their picture taken... hence the B&W.

Oh what fun!

 

Surprising

I've been thinking all day about what I would say about love and the advent season...

Last night, at church, and every year about this time, I am reminded that the Isrealites were actually looking for a leader, they anticipated a war, they wanted the current government overthrown - to be released from oppression.

They followed a star.

What they got was a baby.

Whatever else love is, it's always so surprising.

Tonight I am grateful for the reminder.