Usually, some time around December 31st and January 1st, I open my PC, type in the address of this blog, and start typing what I refer to as “A Year in Review”. Some years those entries have been fun to write; other years those entries have been excruciatingly painful. This year, I have decided to switch things up a bit. You see, the year 2017 held some trying and painful times, that, if I can be brutally honest, rank as one of the worst years of my fifty years spent on earth, with a handful of happy moments to give just enough buffer to keep me from total despair. Instead of painfully agonizing over and reliving those times of angst, I instead decided to measure my growth in this year in three important categories:
- Where do I stand physically compared to one year ago?
- Where do I stand emotionally compared to one year ago?
- Where do I stand spiritually compared to one year ago?
In full disclosure, one particularly painful event, one that spans across the three above mentioned areas, while it probably is the most important event of the previous year, I have chosen to not record here where others can read it. I can count on one hand the number of people who know of this situation. If you are wondering what I am referring to, then you don’t know, nor do you need to know. The few who I have let into that searing pain I did because there came a time that if I didn’t have someone I trust to talk to, I probably would have been very close to ending my life. Even with those few trusted souls, I found myself on more than one occasion fantasizing about my death and calling on God to just take the breath of life from me, He obviously said no since I am still here typing.
The first area I mention is the physical side of me. In the last year, up until just a month or so ago, I decided I no longer cared about my physical self. More specifically, I no longer cared about exercising, eating right, and watching my weight. Actually, I did watch my weight. I watched the numbers on the scale creep higher and higher. I listened to doctors lecture me on the weight I gained in correlation to my physical activity. I brought home paperwork from the doctor pointing out the dangerous slope of pre-diabetes and how this condition could be reversed by a sensible diet and exercise plan. I didn’t care. I gave up the high water intake I once had and resumed to well over one hundred ounces of Diet Coke a day. Yes. A Day. I saw myself in the mirror and felt intense self hatred. I struggled to get into jeans for work. I justified my sugar habit by telling myself grandmas are supposed to be fat. At the end of every work shift, I would come home to exhausted to cook. My husband, also exhausted, was always open to my suggestion of eating out. We are poor accountability partners in this area. There was always chocolate cake or apple pie or a host of other sweet treats to consume as we vegged in front of the TV every evening. Now, one year later, I have more than thirty pounds to lose in order to be at a healthy weight again. My physical self also took a hit this year with MS progression. I have experienced worsening of existing symptoms and emergence of new. A cancer scare in June resulted in a surgery that took much longer to bounce back from than I thought would be. Two hospitalizations for pneumonia in the fall also left me much weaker than I thought would be the case. Even as I sit and type this, I suspect pneumonia may be gathering its damage on me again.
Emotionally I also took a hard hit this year. With the extreme pain of not knowing if my life had a purpose, I decided the best way to go about protecting my heart was to isolate. It wasn’t difficult to do. In a sea of people, the ones who disappear under the radar are those who have no special contribution to offer. The more I isolated, the tighter depression gripped me. I pushed people away enough that, eventually, most of them stopped trying to be my friend. I found myself fighting back tears on a daily basis. Even at work, I would go in the back so my tears could not be detected by my coworkers or customers. My most favorite area to work was back in receiving, for there, I was alone with boxes and labels. Since all three of these areas are connected, it goes without saying that the physical toll on my body influenced the negative emotional toll. At the end of my rope one day, I found a doctor who could help me try to get my emotional state back in balance. She has been, hands down, a God send. She listens to me and takes into account my preferences.
The last, but probably most important area I take into consideration is where do I stand spiritually compared to one year ago. This is a delicate area for me to consider, and I plan to be very careful as I address it. Physical issues coupled with emotional issues made the spiritual side of me thirsty. The problem, though, was that I looked to satisfy that thirst in other ways. I tried the aforementioned Diet Coke. I tried desserts. I tried television to take my mind of the nagging that, I know now, was God trying to get my attention. For half of the year, I continued to ignore the proddings from God. I believed he didn’t care about me nor did the people in our church. I told myself I didn’t need them. I didn’t need God. That changed late one night this summer. This area still causes much pain. I liken the pain to that of myself as a child, falling off my bike in the street. Upon running home in tears, my father would patiently pick the pieces of gravel from my cuts. “Yes, Becky,” he would say. “I know it hurts, but an infection would hurt much more. By taking out the dirt, it may help to prevent infection.” This has been the issue that I have argued with God about. It has been the issue I have let control my heart, my mind, and my life. I threatened God. I blamed Him. I accused Him of not caring. I shook my fist at Him, pointing out that even His people around me didn’t give a damn. God let me have my temper tantrum. In fact, He let me have multiple tantrums. He knew eventually I would grow tired of the yelling, the pummeling, the blaming. He waited until I was ready, and He met me where I was–a broken, dysfunctional human with little power to effectively change myself, let alone my circumstances. The past few weeks have found me spending time in Psalms, relishing in the fact that David was brutally honest in his prayers. The past few weeks have found me leaning hard on the shoulders of a few coworkers. They pray for me. They check in with me. They love me in the mess that is me right now. The ladies I work with know the specifics of this pain; they are a handful of the few who do. I still struggle at the thought of going back to church. I still find myself sometimes shaking my fist at God or entertaining how I can end this life of pain and misery. It has been a slow climb from the pit, and I am not even close to the top yet. Some days I believe that soon I will be rescued from that pit. Other days I am sure I will die in it.
Looking back, it appears that this year I am farther behind on the road in all three of these areas than I was a year ago. In a sense that is probably true. But, you see, I can also look back over the year and smile at some of the blessings God has given in the midst of the intense, scalding pain. I have a husband who, I’m sure, loves me more now than he did last year. My mom is a ridiculous 88 years young! And, in September, we welcomed a new grandson into our family. Asher Timothy made his debut at a tiny 4 pounds 11 ounces. Yes, he spent every day of his hospital stay in the NICU. But you would never know it now! He has outgrown newborn sized clothes AND 0-3 month size clothes! He has chubby little cheeks and a double chin! And his smile melts my heart as I am in awe that God would bless us in this way.