I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life. It’s strange how from the earliest moments I can recall–around age three–until just a few months ago, life always was moving. Childhood was busy being a kid in the 70’s. I went to school, played outside, rode my bike a lot, swam in the pool, rode any amusement park ride I was given the opportunity to, had a great imagination, watched a small amount of television, made friends, lost friends, read a countless number of books…my life was very similar to those around me at the time. Once I turned fifteen, I added working to my list of activities. I loved my job and worked as many hours as I could. The reason was simple…my dad owned a gas station, my brother worked there, he was a few years older, and he had a lot of friends who would come hang out there at night. Good looking friends. Friends who drove really nice cars. Heck, friends who drove! Did I mention that many of them were really cute? It didn’t take too long to add dating to my list of things that kept me busy. 🙂 High school gave way to college which was followed by marriage (before college was even over) which was soon followed by motherhood (two weeks after finishing college). Motherhood was multiplied by four in a matter of five years. Four wonderful babies celebrated and one grieved in a period of five years. To say I was busy would be the biggest understatement of the decade! Then, and this only seems sudden in hindsight, my babies were grown. One married, one engaged, one moving into an apartment, one working full time…one by one, and all too quickly, I found myself with all this time on my hands that I had never had before.
Simultaneously, as my babies were moving out, my body began to let me down. Earth is not a utopia. There are diseases and ailments that have yet to be cured. As I wrestled with the news that I would be facing the challenge of living with a chronic illness, I wondered what the diagnosis would do to the dreams I used to have of life after full time motherhood. I’ve written in the past describing some of my dreams. Top on my list was owning a hobby farm where I could have animals and a barn. I thought about maybe exploring some career options. I have a degree in elementary education but the fact that it’s from New York state and I do not live there makes it almost worth nothing. Besides, the thought of teaching full time was out of the question now. With days that it takes every ounce of energy I have just to get out of bed, being in a classroom isn’t even a remote possibility. I dreamed of possibly baking for a living. I love to bake–cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, breads–if it uses butter and sugar, I enjoy making it! Baking, though, takes energy as well. Besides, unless I have someone to bake for, it isn’t really worth doing it. Owning a bakery was once a dream. Now, it can be placed on the list of dreams that just can’t come true.
It doesn’t take much to feel like I have no purpose. And having no purpose makes it difficult sometimes to keep moving forward. I started to feel stuck. I still do actually, but perhaps there is some light showing in my dark tunnel. It is ever so faint and very far in the distance, but it is a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the utter darkness that has settled over me lately.
There are two branches to this hope. One I feel comfortable enough sharing. The other will only be vaguely hinted at until I am sure I want to walk the difficult road it is on.
I have had several people over the last several months tell me that they enjoy what I write. I actually find that amazing because I feel that what I write is often depressing. I began writing for my own therapy. Writing processes my thoughts and gets them out of my head. Once out, I am often able to step back and look at them in a different light. Usually that ends up being a good thing. Sometimes it has backfired on me. Not everything can be perfect I guess. Anyway, I enjoy writing. It is something that, once I start, I often find myself unable to stop. The words come much more quickly as I type than if I were to sit and talk with real people. In fact, I often try to not talk in front of real people…the fear of rejection or judgment is very intense when I do. I think anyone who knows me well would attest to the truth of this. In addition to being told that some enjoy reading what I write, I’ve also been told that perhaps I should think about writing as a job. Hmmm. I have actually thought about that. In fact, when I was in junior high school, my dad asked me if I had given any thought to what I might want to be when I grew up. At the time I told him I would love to write for magazines or newspapers or even write my own book series. Writing is not new to me. I have always enjoyed it, but it is only recently that I felt brave enough to share what I write and be vulnerable about the reality of my life.
That brings me to the second thing going through my mind–the reality of my life. I have been honest about my struggle with MS as well as my struggle with depression and addictions. I hid the latter of those things for a very long time. Again, how could anyone believe I loved Jesus if they knew I often was so depressed I wished I could die or that I once was addicted to alcohol? I did share those things, though. Overall, the response was positive. Of course there are always a few who think they have the right to tell me that if I really believed in the power of Jesus than I wouldn’t be depressed. I’ve even had some tell me that if I had more faith I would be healed of my MS. Those comments hurt. My personality is such that when someone I care about makes a statement to that effect, I began to wonder if perhaps I really don’t have enough faith…it becomes a vicious cycle of bad thinking that takes some work to get out of. I believe this is the reason I am so hesitant to really be open about some things. Today, though, something happened that has made me consider that perhaps I am wrong in this matter.
A long story short–I am going through a Bible study on my own through the book of James. I download the individual videos since I don’t have a group of women to watch them with me. Today’s lesson was all about two words, anguish and joy. They seem to be opposite concepts, but today I learned that is not always the case. The crux of the lesson was that God can take the very thing that caused intense anguish and turn that into a passion, a joy almost in sharing how God brought you through that time. There is something in my life that has caused tremendous anguish…anguish so difficult that I have literally felt at times that my heart would be ripped out of my body. It is something I am not quick to share with anyone and only a few know about it. Many people who think they know me might actually be shocked to find they really don’t know me at all. In fact, it is only in the last two years that I have realized how this anguish has shaped my thought patterns. I have also realized how many people I have hurt along the way because of this. At times, the shame of it all is just too much to handle. And yet, it seems God is trying to tell me that this very thing–this horrible part of me I desperately hide–is exactly what He wants to use to touch other people. I am admittedly struggling with that thought. I feel like Moses when God spoke to him from the burning bush. “Please God, use someone else. I can’t do this.”
I don’t know where this will all lead. I can’t even say for sure right now that I will survive the ride (figuratively) if God decides to take the rollercoaster of my life down this wickedly terrifying hill. I just know that my spirit is unsettled. I desperately want to see my anguish turned to joy…not just replaced with joy, but literally turned to joy. I’m just afraid the cost will be too high.