Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I Have No Friends*

I didn't intend for such a long silence when I wrote this post, but the emotional turmoil from which it came, and the subsequent response, was overwhelming. This week, I have needed to take a rest. And let me tell you, my rest has been easy. Somehow, this turbulence that I've been dealing with has lessened. Because so many people responded. And because amazingly, God met me.

Writing does something for me. It helps me to see more clearly. Last week I wrote and edited for hours, and I began to see the foolishness of my thinking. That post was the culmination of many things over a period of days. There was a book. And someone's story that I heard. A sermon or two. And your encouragement and nods of agreement. Friday truly felt like a new beginning for me.

I want to thank you. For responding. As I read your emails, and comments, and texts, most of them made me cry. Some because of their content, but mostly because they were there. Because so many of you cared enough to respond. They have truly ministered to my soul. At first, when I would read a response and cry, Malachi would say, "Mommy set [upset]?" Then after a couple of times, he started to say, "Mommy set again?" And then he pretty much ignored it. Weeping. Just life as usual around here.

In retrospect, maybe I should have turned off the computer and Smartphone so that I could get all the crying done at once, and no disrupt my day and alarm my child quite so frequently(!)

It hasn't been all cupcakes and rainbows. I am normally a private person. I don't post Facebook statuses full of drama. I don't share my business with the world. So to put it all out there like this has been very humbling and scary for me. I am still feeling nervous about it. When I run into people, the sinking feeling I have sometimes, realizing they might have read such private thoughts, is horrifying. I feel exposed. If I'm honest, sometimes I reallyreallyreally just want to pretend it didn't happen. But that would be to look a gift horse in the mouth because this feeling, and this exposure, really is a blessing. It has been a relief to be open about it, to have conversations about it. To know that its not hidden anymore. That I'm moving forward.

I am believing again. I am having understanding that I didn't have a week ago. It doesn't feel very personal yet. I feel sort of like I'm just getting reacquainted with this God who I've been been distant from for years. But I'm taking tentative steps in the right direction. And He is meeting me there. I don't know how much I'll write about this. I really do want close friends who I can live life with. But I don't know how much I can take of feeling like I'm writing my most intimate heart and sharing it with literally anyone who wants to read it. Not everyone in this world is "safe", and it is a hard thing to share private thoughts through a blog when you wouldn't feel like you trusted them face to face. But I also know that it can be helpful, for me and for others, to read and relate to my experiences. So we'll see what ends up here.

One question I've been thinking about as I've started sharing this with people more personally, is "How did I get here? Spiritually and relationally?" Why have I been going through such a difficult struggle almost completely alone?

Spiritually, it was a progression that probably started with a book I read. There were some doubts that surfaced and no one to hash it out with. There was a church situation that totally bummed me out. There was a change from full-time ministry to a regular vocation. I wasn't sure why it all happened, and I wasn't thrilled with the way life was turning out, or how hard it was to live the ideals I thought I believed in. There were more questions and no still no one to hash it out with. And then more life. And more questions. It just seems like the questions never got answered, and resulted in more questions, until I have felt really, totally confused.

Relationally, there is a lot I could say. About how I've tried and how I haven't. I haven't shared this fully with anyone except my husband and its not always because I think other people have it all together. Sometimes it is, and I know that's a lie. It's often because I don't have relationships established to share something so personal. The place I have been in emotionally is so raw that, for me, being real is more than most people are up for at some social event. It's not that I haven't wanted to talk to someone. It's just that you all don't understand the mess that would cause. I'm a Cryer. Not a normal cryer. An ugly, puffy, red-faced cryer that is really...conspicuous. I can't just ask someone to coffee, say, and dump on them my entire history without the ugly crying. And I have a kid. So I can't just "get into it" anywhere. So, being that it doesn't ever seem like the appropriate place or time for all that, and nobody wants to be the needy new friend when the other friend hasn't shared equally, it never happens. For me to be real without it always resulting in a display of my emotional wreckage means that I have to work through the wreckage. Deal with it. Heal from it.

There are times when I have reached out and alluded to this issue in my life. Sadly, the responses I've gotten have been spiritual platitudes at worst, and at best, completely inapplicable to my situation. I've received shallow advice that is supposed to fix it in twenty-two minutes like a sitcom, and "I've been there" statements when they are comparing mountains to molehills. It's so hard to share this and not be taken seriously, that it just makes me resolve to not talk to anyone else about it.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. But where are the friends who will just listen, and not try to fix it? I can't tell you how many advice sessions I have nodded my way through when I just wanted someone to listen. Don't say much. Build my trust. And share your struggles too. No, not those ones. The real ones.

Sometimes I see people, and wish I were like them. I'm sure you do it too. Not the people who have it all together. The people who seem real. The ones who really care. The ones who are warm and open. I am not that person. But I want to be. I want to be the one who can reach out when someone clearly needs a friend, but I'm not in a place where I'm very good at it. I can make a meal, I can invite you over for dinner, but I have a really hard time getting past the surface level interaction that I really wish was out of the way. And so do they. Even when I haltingly make the first move, it is often not reciprocated with equal vulnerability.

I'm hoping this whole thing will be the start of something new in my life. A rekindled faith. And also, real friends. The kind that tell me what's really going on in their lives. The not-so-shareable stuff. And vice-versa.  The kind of friends that depend on each other, and whose kids grow up together. Don't you want the same thing?

Since I wrote that life-changing post a week ago, I have had all these people reach out to me. Ask me to coffee and playdates and who knows what else. And I plan on taking pretty much everyone up on it. But I'm realizing how rehashing the same story over and over will get a little old. And I'm thinking that it would be so much better if I have a new story. Something that goes like this: I was down and out. Then I asked for help. And there you were. Now I'm not down and out anymore. Here's what God is doing in my life. What about you?

*  For the purposes of this post, I am using the word "friend" to mean, "intimate friend". I have friends. Don't be offended if you consider yourself my friend. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure. :o)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Absentia

I am working on a new post, but I am just emotionally exhausted from the intensity of the last week. I can't seem to get the gumption to organize the jumble of thoughts in my head. I kind of just want to take a nap.

Here's what I learned this weekend: If you want people to read your blog, title your post something provocative. And if you want to feel loved, write a post sharing deep dark secrets and that you feel completely alone. You will soon realize that you are not.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In Which I Overshare. No, Really.

Sometimes things come to head in life and you have to do something about it. Today is that day for me. Perhaps its a cop-out to do it through a blog. But, I actually feel quite the opposite. I am terrified to post this, and also relieved. I have always cared what people think about me way too much. I don't want to disappoint people. But I'm going to set that aside because confession is good for the soul, and because the consequences of disappointing people are dwarfed by the consequences of remaining alone in this. And I have never been regretted being honest. So here goes...

I am hurting. I've been hurting for a really long time. There are several reasons why, and they are all doozies, including anxiety, depression and codependence. But the main reason for my hurt is a deep-rooted, overwhelming, persistent disappointment with God.

For years now, I have questioned God and his love for me. Not for anything I have done. It's not shame or a self-esteem issue. I know that the basis of God's supposed love, if it is real, isn't based on my actions. My problem is His actions. How can I trust that God loves me when he lets so many bad things happen to so many people? How can God care and simultaneously allow so much suffering in the world? How can He allow so much suffering in my own life? Why doesn't He just fix it all? So its not just His love for me that I question. It's His loving nature. His sovereignty. His desire for good in my life and the lives of others. His ability to change people. All of these things I doubt.

Doubt isn't really the right word. Question isn't either. It would be more accurate to say I don't believe that God is love, even though I guess I know it's true. How's that for a completely weak belief in God? Believe me when I say this isn't some small, niggling, passing doubt. This doubt has been my thorn for years, and it has eaten away at the core of everything I believe in.

I still hold Biblical values as the foundation of my life, however much I doubt. But my doubts are so serious that I cannot practice more than token Christianity because, deep in my soul, I think that if it were true, things would be so, so different. In the world, and in my life. And yet, I call it doubt, because I know that it is my belief that is wrong, not my belief system, if that makes sense. In other words, I believe that if I get past this, I will not find myself an agnostic or an atheist or a Hindu. I will find renewed faith in the real Jesus, not the one that I am disillusioned with, but who He really is.

There have been moments of Light here and there that have kept me from completely losing faith. I truly believe these moments are from God and He is giving me crags in a rock to hold on to. I know He can handle my doubts. I'm just tired of doubting. I want so much more for my life. I want more for my family and more for my children than the picture of God I am showing them. I am a shadow of the person I was. I am tired of being stuck at this point for so long. Tired of being disappointed and the resulting apathy.

One thing this has taught me is that people are never what you see. Everyone has a past. Everyone has hidden struggles, and we often feel quite alone in them. I heard something yesterday that rang so true for me, that "we compare our inside to other people's outside". We think that no one can relate to us. It's not true. I know that most people have deep struggles that, like me, they feel alone in. The problem is bridging the gulf between our islands. Personally, I think my struggle would be less of a burden if I just had close friends who were going through it with me. But how do you get there with people you've just met? And how do you just dive in with friends you've been estranged from for years? I can't seem to figure that out. There is a Part II to this post, and that is the topic. I was hoping to post it tomorrow, but an impromptu camping trip might throw a wrench in the timing.

I actually see a light at the end of this tunnel. He does love me. And I think I'm getting to the point of really believing that again. Joshua and I have been attending Celebrate Recovery, which has been good. It keeps these struggles in my face, so I can no longer push them back for months at a time. I have such a heavy weight on me, and I want so badly for it to be gone. I'm not sure how to get there, but something is changing in me. I feel paralyzed by the fear of moving forward. Of what I will find about myself that is ugly and seems better left hidden. But in spite of that, I also feel terrified by staying where I am. It is so bad for me. It is so bad for my family. So in spite of my fear, I am writing this post to reach out.

I have this feeling that in order to move forward, I can't stay in the solitary place where I've been. So, in lieu of feeling free to share this with a friend over coffee (or better yet, having a friend that has been walking with me through this for the last seven years), I am putting it out there in this not so anonymous, but slightly less vulnerable way. To let whoever cares to know that I need your support. Your prayers. Your friendship. Feel free to reach out. I am hoping for it actually.

P.S. I know that not everyone who reads this is someone that I would choose to confide in in "real life". And that is a risk I take. But please think twice before you hit SEND. Don't preach at me, feed me platitudes, shame me, or minimize my hurts. Limit your response to that which is truly loving and helpful. Please.

AND if you feel so inclined, I would love a comment letting me know you read. Writing a post like this feels scary, and it helps to know that people are actually reading it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Update on Breastfeeding

Malachi is 26 months old now, and we are still going strong with breastfeeding. I'm so excited we've made it this far. I can't say that I had a goal in mind as far as nursing was concerned, other than I hoped to at least make it to two years. I also have thought about child-led weaning, but I have felt more comfortable with the idea that we will continue as long as both of us want to.

We used donor milk for almost a year, to supplement the breast milk I wasn't able to provide. But since about 15 months or so, we were able to stop that altogether. We night-weaned around 21 months, but he wasn't nursing most nights anyway at that point.

When I got pregnant, I knew that it could really effect our nursing relationship. I tried to be mentally prepared for whatever might happen, including me deciding I was done at some point. It got uncomfortable right away, and has continued to be. Malachi has never given an indication that my milk changed taste, but it did dry up completely at some point in the last few weeks. Still, he nurses. Morning, naptime, and bedtime, and sometimes in between. At this point, I don't see him quitting because of pregnancy-related changes. If he weans, it will be because he is ready, and would have been ready anyway. And that makes me happy.

He has recently decided he loves cow's milk, which he previously shunned wholeheartedly. To distinguish between his two "milks", he calls one his "binka milk" (drink of milk) and the other "mama milk". Melt my heart. 

So, we have a new baby coming in 4-5 months, and I am curious and excited about the possibility of tandem nursing. I'm nervous about how he'll feel about sharing. I'm looking forward to having some help with engorgement, and giving him his fill of milk again. I'm also hoping that it will give him an extra boost of immunity through the winter with a newborn in the house. 

I'm so thankful we are still nursing. He wiggles. He flails. He bites (not on purpose). He drives his truck all over me. He caresses my face. He rests his hand on my breast. He giggles. He offers milk to his toys. I love it when he stops playing and asks to nurse. He's my big boy, but he still loves his mama's milk.