Georgia

Tomorrow morning I am ending a five day trip to my hometown of Georgia. I came home to surprise my younger sister for her graduation party. It just so happened to be my nephews birthday so I got to also celebrate him. I moved away when I was 18 (20 years ago). It was actually more like I ran away as fast as I could and never looked back.

For the past 20 years it’s always been bittersweet to come home. I don’t have many good memories here. This state isn’t full of all my old friends. In fact, there’s only one person from school I still keep in contact with. At times, being home has been more stress and pain than it seemed worth.

Coming from a large family, it’s hard to always get along. I am one of five children and we are all married and four of us have children. Once we all had spouses and children of our own, our lives became even harder to intertwine. We now had to accommodate our significant others, our busy kids schedules and then maybe find time to spend with our siblings and parents. Sometimes our spouses didn’t like our siblings. Sometimes we had old issues from childhood that got in the way of us being kind to each other. Whatever is was, it has made family time challenging to say the least.

Living in Ohio, I think it’s been easy to disconnect emotionally and physically. Absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder. It made it easier and easier to convince myself that I just didn’t care. Missing birthdays and special events didn’t feel sad because I had let the hard parts of family become more powerful than blood. It didn’t hurt to be away from my brothers or sister or nieces and nephews. The distance wasn’t even a thought really.

Maybe it’s just getting older or maybe wounds have begun to heal or somewhere in between but this trip, this was important. This felt necessary. I wanted to show up for my sister. I wanted her to deeply feel my love and support for her. Even though we haven’t gotten along all our lives and as adults, we haven’t been very close that often, me showing up wasn’t optional. I don’t know why I decided this. What changed inside of me? I do know I am beyond elated with my decision.

When I walked in her house to surprise her, she was overcome with emotion. She began to cry and we hugged one of those embraces that you don’t ever want to let go from. We spent the day together with family and friends celebrating her. We didn’t fight. There wasn’t a moment of tension or animosity or discontent. We were two sisters, laughing and being bound together. I was able to share kind and genuine words in a card. I was able to show her in action just how much she means to me. And in that day, in this trip, I felt like years of struggling subsided. We were friends again. We were like we once were as children sharing a bedroom, staying up late and giggling with each other. We remembered why we love each other so much.

Then came a lunch with my sister in law and mother. Just that sentence can be tough for some families. Meshing so many different personalities can feel impossible. Attempts to be kind can fail miserably and tension can create years of avoidance and awkwardness. But today, today was perfect. Lunch was full of joy and common ground. Three woman in three different stages of life, bound together by blood and marriage, able to somehow put aside fears and insecurities and opinions to just enjoy each other, lift each other up and love one another. And somehow, in that meal, the beginning of healing began. The value of family was renewed. The desire to continue to work on things was recharged. And again, I was grateful for showing up.

Growing up in Georgia was awful in many ways. I’ve referenced some things previously and am sure I will explain so much more as my blog continues. I don’t have fond memories. I don’t often leave feeling sad and anticipating my next visit. This is the first time I’ve really had a heaviness within me. I don’t want to miss these moments. I feel so connected and joyful and I don’t want it to stop.

I’ve always felt like other families were somehow better or closer than mine. That mine was so screwed up and I almost wanted to just find replacements. That’s not been a constant feeling but it’s been a pretty overwhelming one at times. I am so glad that feeling is fading and being replaced by what I can only imagine will continue to grow into more love, more joy and more closeness.

In life it can be a simple switch turned on and off when it comes to friendships and I’ve always felt that it was that way with family. Once I’d felt hurt and betrayed enough, I didn’t have to open my heart to whatever or whoever the cause was. I could pretend the person didn’t exist and even imagine they never existed. I could harden my heart to the point that I truly believed I was happier without my brother or sister. What I’ve come to find is that isn’t the case. I craved connection from my family so much and felt so discouraged and hurt at times that I decided to protect myself by shutting them out and shutting myself down. Maybe everyone doesn’t desire closeness with their family. Maybe it’s a fantasy to believe that old scars can be healed and forgiven. I choose to hope in the opposite and open myself back up because one trip like this is way better than all those years of indifference.

They don’t know it yet, but one day they’re gonna love you

The other day I watched The Greatest Showman. The title is a line from the musical. Spoiler alert (but not really): The main character is talking to the bearded lady about how the crowd will initially feel a certain way about her (scared, mortified, disgusted) but eventually they will learn to appreciate her and see her beauty. I got teary eyed (ask my son, that’s not surprising). Once I was the bearded lady (sans beard). Once I was scared of how people would view me. Once I feared rejection and avoided things because of that fear.

The day before I watched the musical, my church gave a message about the beginning of our stories and the danger of viewing our life from the starting point of what’s “wrong with us” verses what’s amazing about us. How our whole life will change if we begin from how inherently good we are instead of how flawed we are. How the story of Jesus isn’t about “fixing” ourselves or others but about seeing the goodness in ourselves and each other and living from that space. Loving people and ourselves above all because we are lovable even in the midst our struggles.

Man, the timing of those two messages really hit home and got me thinking. My story had always been about what was wrong with me. How could I be skinnier, smarter, richer, better. I always operated from a less than, always striving to change myself place. My relationships also always started with a “what’s wrong with them” thought process. It’s awful to say but it’s the truth.

And because my brain only understood how to see problems and flaws, I became a critical, obsessive person. I wasn’t able to see the talent and beauty in myself, my son, my husband, anyone. I wondered how others survived in the world. I judged everyone, everything. I spoke peoples liabilities and sins into life and in turn, that is who they were. I spoke my own negative thoughts into my own life and I continued to be that person.

Until a few years ago, I was still a 320lb drug addict who made horrible decisions (on the inside, in my mind). I fed myself the messages that I wasn’t good enough, I felt insufficient and I was motivated and influenced by a lot of external factors. I wanted people to like me, a lot. It mattered if I disappointed people, too much. I just wanted to make everyone happy, to fit in, to be accepted, to be cool. It was like every day of middle and high school over and over again. Constantly replaying scenarios in my head, over analyzing exchanges, punishing myself for being “lame” and editing myself to accommodate my “friends”.

I always thought that stuff magically went away as an adult. I didn’t realize that was much more about my insides than my age or surroundings. I brought that energy into my life. I carried that baggage into my work, gym, friend group. It was me not my circumstances.

As I write this, I think about years of poor choices in hopes of attaining love, status, any sort of recognition. Running a race to prove my worth, posting a video on social media and rechecking my likes and comments because it mattered so much. I recount the too many times I overextended myself for someone because I thought we were friends only to realize that I was mistaken about our relationship. The yes’s I said way too often because I was too fearful of the consequences of a “no”.

By nature, I am a kind, generous, loving human. I will always be that way. I will constantly care about people and deeply sense others pain. I will never be indifferent to suffering and I will forever want to be helpful. Sometimes, my decisions will disappoint people and I will care if that happens. But my intrinsic value exists because I was born awesome and so was everyone else. The five year old me, the most true version of me, the person I hid away and lost because of life, is so amazing and that doesn’t change just because someone doesn’t recognize it.

And when I sense someone not seeing my value, I just say to myself, “they don’t know it yet, but one day they’re gonna love you.”

Maybe everyone should break an ankle

I don’t even know if this is profound. Just some ramblings maybe. I had felt like these past three years had been a season directed towards something. I wasn’t sure what that something was. I’m still unsure what it is. I suppose we are constantly moving in a forward direction with some sort of objective but also not really knowing. Moment by moment, with every interaction, our plans can shift, our path can change. Sometimes we achieve our “end goal” only to realize that was a stop along the way. We desire more, we dream bigger, there’s never really a destination.

I kept believing that these past three years, where my husband and I continued to live a life of less and less, meant we would end up living like gypsies, in a tiny home, traveling the world. Maybe we would be long term campers, adventuring with only a tent and truck for our “home”. Was my future going to include mission trips and a minimal life in some third world country? Could we be moving to a tiny apartment in New York to pursue other business avenues? All these thoughts raced through my mind constantly. I’ve spent the past three years interpreting our situation and aligning it with different ideas I thought would be fun or make sense.

Here’s what I found: I was totally wrong. We just signed a lease on an apartment. We are not jet setting to Haiti. We turned down the New York offer. While we will always adventure, travel and camp, there’s no Airstream in our future (yet). All of these years of letting go, giving up, selling things, minimizing had accomplished two conscious things and I’m sure bunches of unconscious things that we will discover in the years to come.

The first thing that’s happened is I have become a less controlling, more laid back human. I don’t feel so emotionally attached to things or processes. My anxiety doesn’t increase thinking about things breaking or being ruined. The couch cushions don’t need to be perfect. My husband is allowed to load the dishwasher however he wants. The groceries can be put in the fridge in a hodge podge, disorganized way. My medical bill for $42k didn’t even freak me out. I have thus far, totally detached from my idea of what is valuable, what’s worth stressing over and what I should cherish.

The second, and even cooler thing to happen is that my husband and I have to furnish our new apartment. We have nothing but beds and clothes and our camping gear. We have to buy a couch, nightstands, kitchen items, trash cans and bathroom items. We have to decorate and coordinate things. We get to pick out a whole house full of items. All the things we sold or donated we need to replace. But this time, we get to do it together.

My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married and when we did say our vows, he moved into my house. It was totally furnished and everything was mine. We lived there for three years before we moved in with his grandma and then into our house sitting situation. I’m six years, we had never had a home together that was ours. We had never shopped for our things. Neither of us realized we had missed out on such a fun and intimate part of being married. We didn’t know the joy of picking out plates and dishes. We hadn’t shared in establishing our home and life together. It had always been my stuff or his stuff.

I think it’s interesting how we just transitioned into a life that made sense and didn’t see the lack in our decision. We never got to feel excited about sitting together on a couch that we handpicked. We didn’t know the happiness that came from discussing vacuum options. The investment that happens when you share in decisions. Its more than just buying things, it’s creating a foundation for a home to live in, to host people in, to feel proud of, to feel wrapped up and cozy in unity.

And all of this began when he broke his ankle three years ago…..

Forever changed

Today is a remarkable day. I received the word from my orthopedic surgeon for “no restrictions!” I am six weeks and two days post surgery. I broke my ankle in three places only six weeks ago. I have two plates and nine screws in my ankle yet today I put on two shoes and walked out of my appointment with NO PAIN.

How the heck did that happen? It seems unreal. The doctor was beyond surprised. He said, “you are ahead of the game!” I am just sitting here at home and crying. I am overwhelmed by the miraculous and speedy healing my body underwent. I keep wanting to say, “I am shocked” but I am not really surprised. I am grateful. I am joyful. I am forever changed.

Remember all those time you drank too much, or stayed out too late or insert bad decision? Remember the regret the next day, the promises you made to yourself? The declarations of change you firmly believed only to see yourself back in that spot days, weeks or years later.

I spent the last six weeks in that space. I felt rocked physically and emotionally. I saw my life halted and I felt the heaviness of reflection in my heart. I made declarations of change, I re-evaluated my time spent, I mulled over relationships and dissected my attachment to things. At the end, I felt like I had come home for the first time. I felt fulfilled. I found a deeper sense of my true self and a higher respect for honoring that person. I am forever changed.

As I sat in my room, alone, blasting Hillsong’s new album “There Is More”, tears pouring out of my eyes, I heard a voice in my head say, “you’re never going back.” And so I want to clearly and abundantly profess that truth. I want everyone to know that I AM NEVER GOING BACK! I refuse to give in to my old life, full of busyness and distractions. I will not neglect myself and put my happiness at the bottom of the list. I will not exhaust every muscle in my body to prove something to someone. I will not succumb to the expectations of others. I will not forget this experience. This will not become a distant memory. My feelings through this, the revelation of my value, the friendships that matter, I will not let slip from my memory.

I am forever changed.

The power in words

Speak life. It’s a common phrase. There are tons of writers and speakers who discuss this topic. The whole “Law of Attraction” and other theories and books related. There are studies that show plants thriving when talked to daily. In biblical terms, there are an overwhelming amount of verses that reference the power in our words. Speaking life into others and conversely, speaking death over people.

Some people would say the whole subject is a joke. Admitting that there is strength in words but not maybe truly believing in how much depth. Some may say it’s all coincidence or serendipity. Christians believe it’s all part of being faithful to God and His goodness for their life. For most of my life, I had no stance on the topic. I never even gave it any thought.

My cognition became my words and my words became my truth. I believed I was a failure and so I often lacked the ability to succeed. I did not see goodness in my life so I manifested a lot of disappointment. My brain would repeat my liabilities and I would perform in a subpar manner. I would defeat myself before I even attempted things. I would quit in my heart and then my body would follow through with giving up.

A couple of years ago, I started to really evaluate my brain and mouth and heart. I dug into the connection between the three, how I could influence myself and in turn my life by just believing in goodness. If I approached every situation with a positive attitude, my outcomes would surely be better than the alternative. If I see the worth in myself and others, I would always be hopeful and extend grace. And even when things don’t go as planned, I could still smile because no situation is all bad.

When I broke my ankle a little under six weeks ago, I made sure to begin speaking my healing over my body. In the emergency room, the night I broke it, my son called me distraught. He kept saying he was sorry and sounding sad and scared. I told him, “it’s ok, it’s going to be ok.” My husband looked at me and said, “we need to turn in one of our cars, we can’t afford them both” and I told him, “we will be fine, we will not make fearful decisions.” These statements are not because I am something special or a better human than others. I’ve just seen my God show up and I’ve seen the power in being faithful and full of hope.

When friends texted me about my surgery and my down time, I made sure to say I believed I would be miraculously healed. I specifically said I believed I would be healed faster than anyone from this injury. I constantly spoke all the positive things that I saw in this time of rest and recovery. I did not allow myself to become trapped in the fear and sadness. I know nothing productive is birthed from that space.

Yes, I felt and thought fearful and sad things at times. I am human and cannot control emotions or thoughts. But I refused to operate from that perspective. So here I am, five weeks and five days post surgery. I have two plates and nine screws in my ankle. I have scoured the internet for blogs and groups related to this type of impairment. I have asked people with similar injuries. I have looked up plenty of websites about bone healing and recovery times. I am not saying I am the fastest healing person to exist. How could I definitively know that? What I am saying is that I am being restored in a miraculous manner. I have range of motion and function that I cannot find in another who went through what I’ve gone through. I have not been emotional broken from this. My family has not been bankrupt by this. We will walk away from this more steadfast, more courageous and full of peace.

The most valuable me

I had this amazing revelation this week. I realized a truth I had never completely believed. I felt feelings I had never known possible. It blew my mind. It’s still blowing my mind. It’s simple and basic yet somehow, I didn’t experience it until now. And I imagine I will go deeper into this belief as I grow older but to truly have my eyes opened for what feels like the first time, man, that’s something special.

So what the heck am I even talking about?

Me.

My value.

I remember being a child and doing chores and hoping that I did them well enough to gain approval from my parents. I would anxiously wait while my father checked my bedroom for dust or toys that were out of place. I held my breath as I stared at his face, interpreting every muscle movement. Are his eyes happy? Is his brow creased? Does his body movement convey joy or did I do a poor job? And whatever his response was, meant I had increased or decreased my worth with him. I interpreted our relationship to be wholly dependent upon my ability to please him, to behave in a specific manner and to accomplish tasks to his satisfaction.

As a teenager and into my twenties, I was surrounded by “friends” who partied and did drugs. Our lives were solely intertwined for the sake of using. Our connectedness was based on our desire to get high and our actions reflected that. We were kind to those we could get drugs from. We pretended to like people who gave us freebies. If someone’s parents had an unlocked liquor cabinet, well they became our new best friend. The first person to have a car became our favorite acquaintance. My clouded mind and belief system led me to find value in those that had things to offer me and I only felt desirable if I had something to offer others.

As a young woman, I believed that the best and easiest thing I had to offer was my body. Although society is shifting, when I was growing up, it was common to see women get what they wanted by sleeping with men. Not only could I obtain tangible items by letting men use me, I thought maybe I could earn the intangible gifts of love and emotional intimacy. The more I let myself be taken advantage of, the more I affirmed my lack of importance.

Even in the workplace, I found my truth to hold up. A valuable employee is one who performs well, who brings in money, who recruits more customers and who behaves in a specific manner. Once those things stop, the job usually ends. And as a consumer, companies treat those with larger bank accounts with more regard. A fancy car implies a more valuable human. Name brand clothes must mean something. Aesthetics become an asset. Everything and every moment is defined by external factors.

And so my brain and my heart have spent a long time attempting to earn my place in life. Good deeds on top of following the rules were just some ways I could be important. Giving of myself til I had nothing left. Sacrificing all of myself for anyone. Not understanding how to engage with someone simply because they’re a human. Not believing anyone would care for me outside of what I could do for them.

Yet here I am. Five weeks into the most helpless and incapable time of my life and people still show up. Not everyone, but enough. I have never had nothing to offer. I have always been able to strive and provide and help.

I thought maybe people liked me because I am a valuable massage therapist. Or maybe I’m a good friend because I always bring yummy snacks to events. I love lending a hand and am always good at contributing to others. Maybe that’s what has gained me access into people’s lives. Whatever it was, it was always material.

But I haven’t been able to work. I can’t help out. I don’t have anything to offer anyone right now but me. My heart. My words. My compassion. I am offering up what has always been the least valuable parts of me and somehow, I still see people showing up. Somehow, I find myself feeling valuable. It’s crazy to some I know. If you grew up being told you were important just by being born, then this whole post might not resonate with you. But I didn’t.

The most treasured version of me has nothing to do with things and in turn, the most priceless parts of others is singularly connected to them just existing. While I find sadness in reflecting on a life lived with such empty expectations and connections, I am even more overcome with anticipation for a future lived to the fullest with a perspective rooted in truth about the most valuable me.

I am not bored

Today marks four weeks since my ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) to repair the three breaks in my ankle. I am one week out of my cast and three weeks away from the possibility of driving again.

The other day my husband asked me if I was going crazy yet. This question, along with many other inquiries about my “suffering” have become pretty common. Everyone assumes that this season of physical brokenness, no working and depending on others is enough to drive a person mad. To be honest, I would’ve assumed the same thing prior to this experience. If you told me I would be out of work, unable to lift weights, have to rely on people to leave my house and ask for help with simple tasks, I would have freaked out. The thought of that used to make me feel helpless and scared. I too felt sorry for someone going through something like this.

When my son was born, I was essentially a single mom. While his dad was around physically (sometimes), he was very absent emotionally and financially. I lived in a state with no family and almost no friends. I learned very quickly that I was going to need to be self sufficient for myself and for my son. I became the dad and mom, the provider, the cuddler and the disciplinarian. I worked as many jobs as I had to while also attending college. I loved feeling like I was taking care of business, that I was handling things, that I was in charge, that I had everything under control. I decided that I could not trust anyone to take care of me. If I wanted something done, I needed to do it. Delegating tasks only added to my frustration as I would go after others and redo whatever it was I had requested they do. Basically I was an island with a “no trespassing” sign up and my son was the only visitor allowed to stop by.

Six years ago, I married the love of my life. A man I trust. A man I believe will never truly let me down. Obviously he disappoints me when he says he will do chores around the house and forgets but I am talking about the real deep stuff. I know he will be faithful to me, I see his care for me, his heart for me and my son. I’ve seen him cry over my tears. I’ve heard him pray for me. I’ve seen him invest time and energy into our family. Yet somehow, I still kept a slight wall up. I still believed that I was separate from him in many ways. I still found myself trying to be the sole caregiver. Trying to take over everything. Trying to be the strong alpha and also the soft omega.

Growing up, I had many reasons to harden my heart. I felt a lifetime of betrayals before I even became an adult. Because of my lack of belief in others, I grew into an adult who made decisions that only solidified my thought process. I found myself in relationships with self-centered people who lied to me. I was a selfish and deceitful person so this shouldn’t have been shocking. I felt like the world was indifferent to my suffering. I felt undeserving of care and grace.

So back to the original question, “am I going stir crazy yet?” and the answer is an abounding no. I am not bored. I am not even close to frustrated. I don’t even understand how I was functioning before. My schedule was overflowing with things before I broke my ankle. A typical day included an hour of Crossfit, two hours of roller derby practice, five or six hours of massage, some house cleaning and chores, maybe some errands and grocery shopping and sometimes (not every day), a shower.

In the past four week, I have spent hours writing, resting, spending time with my husband and family and friends. And not time doing activities but time spent talking, truly engaging, growing closer to the people I care about. I have had countless moments of true helplessness where I humbled myself and allowed others to care for me. I have found peace with the calm. I am not counting down the moments til I can fill my schedule back up. I am embracing this time of healing. This season of physical brokenness that revealed an internal fracturing of my spirit. I am watching my bones and body heal as I sense my heart also going along on this restoration journey.

I think it’s easy to focus our eyes on the end goal. To anticipate the moment when our suffering is over and we can resume our existence. But life didn’t stop when I broke my ankle. Vitality doesn’t stop in the suffering. Life is always happening and I don’t want to miss a single moment. I’m more alive now than I’ve ever been.