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.

Wise investments

My whole life I have been a social person. I was one of those kids who was “friends” with everyone in school. I didn’t have one set squad as they call it now (I’m old and I don’t even remember what we called it back then). I also had non existent self esteem so I found myself quickly conforming to others behaviors and interest in order to fit in. I became a professional chameleon.

In my late teens and into my twenties, my identity was so lost in others that I had no personal dreams or goals. I was just doing whatever and I didn’t even know it. I had no idea who was using me, who I could trust, who I was using and who was a real friend. I am sure people tried to be true and genuine with me but I imagine I pushed them away or ran from them. Authenticity was terrifying.

In 2007, I became a licensed massage therapist. I loved being around people, sharing in their lives and being able to help them feel better. It quickly became apparent to me that I was more than a body worker. I found clients sharing their deepest hurts and fears with me. Asking me to help them pick out their engagement ring for their soon to be fiancĂ©. I got to know them and their families intimately. I became someone that a lot of them depended on for advice and counsel. I found myself spending time outside of appointments pouring into them, their interests, their dreams. I found myself caught up in hundreds of people’s lives.

For the longest time, I felt happy to do that. My life was way more comfortable belonging to others. I didn’t mind troubleshooting other peoples issues. If my brain was full of complicated scenarios and commitments, there was no time to be with myself. I didn’t have to unpack my life if I was busy diagnosing other relationships flaws. I found a sense of joy in investing in other people.

When I became a believer, I continued serving others and for a long time it was motivated by the same thought process: I am less than and insignificant so I will serve those around me. When asked about my own dreams, I still had none. I justified my continued behavior by telling myself how much of a servant Jesus was. I believed that I could live my whole life neglecting myself and pleasing others and in return, I would be a “good Christian”.

In 2015, I attended an event titled a Wisdom Conference. It was three days of teaching full of attitudes and lessons about being a wise human, about behaving from a place of knowing your value. On the second day, during my alone prayer time, I told God I needed him to have the speaker call out specific things for me. I asked for things that no one would know about me. I asked for a combination of things that was unique and deeply painful but that I knew needed healed. I knew I couldn’t shift my behavior without these beliefs being removed.

That evening, at the last session, the speaker started to close out with a call for members of the audience who sensed they needed some relief from embedded thoughts and actions. He began to call out one thing and then another, and then another and my breath stopped for a moment. He spoke all the things I had asked to be spoken. He called my brokenness out just as I had needed. I began to cry, (well bawl). The time that passed is unknown to me but it felt like an eternity and an instant simultaneously. And ok, if you don’t believe in God, that’s fine. I’m sure we’ve all heard voices in our head or sensed things that we’ve chalked up to intuition or our inner self. I will call this dialogue as coming from God because that’s who I think spoke to me. I clearly heard, “you don’t have to serve like you’ve been. You are free from that. You can serve from a place of true joy”.

In that moment, the things I had needed changed in my heart and brain immediately disappeared. I no longer needed to submit to others as if a slave. I would still put others before me in many ways but not because I had to, not to earn their love or friendship, but to show them Jesus. I would finally be able to give joyfully but still know my place in the world. I could see my value and it wasn’t increased by my deeds or decreased by my lack of giving. I was finally free to dream!

Fast forward to current day (cause what does all this have to do with anything)? The transition from bondage to freedom has been interesting. I have begun to protect myself from unsafe relationships, limit interactions with people who want to use me or be untrue to me. I will still be kind to them or do things for them, but I have learned to protect my heart and I haven’t since felt indebted to them. And as my work has now been removed from my life, my gym relationships have been hindered by my inability to workout and I have been at home, unable to really serve anyone, I find my vision even clearer.

Instead of chasing after things that make me feel less than, I choose to pursue things that have real world impact. I will replace empty conversations with authentic vulnerability. I will go out of my way for people who appreciate me and have gratitude even if they cannot reciprocate in action. I will put my family first, my husband above all, because what good are hundreds of friends if my marriage is suffering. And sometimes I will feel sad or hurt because relationships aren’t perfect but I will hold on tightly to that voice who affirmed me back at that conference and I will invest wisely.

Letting go

Sometimes I think life is just smooth sailing, everything’s going as planned (whatever that means) and I am the master of my own universe. Work is good, bills are paid, hitting the gym hard, feeling proud of myself, liking myself, family seems content, kids are doing well. It feels almost easy. And then something happens.

For me, it started on June 22, 2015. My husband fell while camping and broke his right ankle. At the time, he was a full time server, aspiring photographer. We went to urgent care and they confirmed two cracks through his talus bone. Somehow, in that moment, I had peace, I knew it would be ok. I turned to him and told him, “you never would’ve quit your job and pursued your dreams. Now you can.”

Being the caregiver, OCD person I am, I immediately increased my workload, started mental lists of how to accomplish everything in our lives, groceries, household chores, family activities. You name it, I had a plan for it. I had it under control….. but not really.

Shortly after Brent fell, I became very weak. I was suffering with pain in my back and my body began to break out with patches of eczema. In December of that year, I came down with a viral sickness and had to take 17 days off work. I had never been so sick in my life. I told myself I had it under control. I could handle it all…. but I couldn’t.

By January 2016, we had moved in to Brent’s grandmas house. We were in debt. I was defeated. My skin was so bad I ended up in the hospital. I was trying so hard to manage our life but instead of feeling accomplished and successful, I felt broken and exhausted.

It was then that I realized I was worn out because I was trying to do everything on my own. I was carrying the burden of every responsibility on my shoulders. I was clinging too tightly to the notion that I had some ultimate power over my life and my families’ situation. My letting go began.

Living with Brent’s grandma meant we sold most of our belongings and what we kept, was in a 5X10 storage unit. We had to let go of a lot of things. I moved out of the home I had rented for the past 6+ years. My son let go of the home he mostly grew up in. I let go of furniture and clothes and things that felt necessary . More importantly, I began to let go of my need to control everything and my belief that I was responsible for the success of my family.

In 2017, my family was blessed with the opportunity to long term housesit and in accepting, we emptied our storage unit and continued to let go of things. I realized there were all these things I hadn’t seen or needed for the past year. It felt easier to say good bye this time. I had learned to be content with less, to live in close quarters with people, to share space, to minimize my life.

And then, at 1am on Saturday, November 25, 2017, a drunk driver drove a car through the house we were sleeping in. The home we were housesitting at. When I say a car drove through the house, it literally drove in one wall, turned left and drove out the front. My husband and I were sleeping and woke to a home without walls. There were firefighters and sirens and police tape. I was traumatized and terrified. Every emotion you could imagine feeling in that instance, I felt. How does one even begin to process that experience? Calling my friend serving overseas and telling her that someone drove a car through her house. Trying to figure out what the next step was. I felt violated and scared and unprepared.

In the last four months, I lived in the tension of having no home, trying to feel grounded, navigating contractors and legal issues while forcing myself to be calm. I walked through conversations and interactions I had never imagined. I found myself unearthing strength and faithfulness I thought people faked in trials. The letting go continued. When your existence is disrupted in such a way, when you lose so many tangible things but still have your family and your life, you naturally let go of even more.

And here’s the kicker, on March 5, 2018, in a freak accident, I tripped over air on my skates and broke my ankle in three places. Yes, I play derby, but this wasn’t a typical derby experience. All of my thoughts of control and what’s important got immediately shaken even more. I can’t workout. I can’t skate. I can’t drive. I can’t walk. I can’t work. Everything that I thought was in my control, that was a choice, was disrupted. Because I can’t work, our money is also not in my control. So today, I gave up my studio space. I have been a massage therapist for 11 years. I have been out on my own for five of those years. I do not know when I will be able to work again and continuing to pay rent for a space I cannot use doesn’t make sense.

On paper, all these things seem like enough to break someone and trust me, there are parts of me and times that felt maybe breakable. From all of this though, I have found that it’s ok to not be in control. It’s a false sense of control at best but to even accept that is ok. I’ve come to truly appreciate my struggles because I have seen them only make me better. I have found a peace that does surpass understanding, a genuine calm in the storm. I cannot stop the “bad” things that life will throw at me. I cannot spend my life in anticipation of them. I’ve never felt more prepared for uncertainty. I’ve never been more excited for the unknown.