Monday, September 28, 2015

Pain Shame and Rug Sweeping

A few days ago, I came across a post on facebook that was being shared like wildfire among mothers -particularly young mothers.  A sweet sister had lost her baby just before delivery.  She wrote out her pain on social media which I'm not against, but I began to feel my own pain when she asked the readers who were complaining about being up with their own baby at night to remember: she had no baby.
I watched in sadness as my fellow sisters shared, shared, shared the article and shamed themselves.

"Such a good reminder to me to quit complaining."
"I needed this.  I'm such a whiner, and I need to shut up and be grateful."

My heart began to burn and I closed out of facebook -my serenity vanished and my heart swelled and ached in that uncomfortable, unmanageable way.
I'm all for gratitude in trials, I am.  I AM.
I am NOT for using gratitude to sweep pain under the rug.  Pain does not belong under the rug, especially when the hands holding the broom are coated in shame.

"I need to shut up and be grateful," sweep, sweep, sweep.

Using gratitude to shove pain in places where I can't see it for awhile or feel it for awhile is simply my way of trying to deal with my own pain... the VERY pain that Christ died for.  Sometimes I feel like He shouldn't HAVE to take it because it is so very "small" compared to other pain, but Christ doesn't care about the size of pain.  He suffered for IT ALL.
And for what it's worth, in this particular case, the pain of being up with a child at night while I'm sleep deprived, post-partum, nervous, confused, and trying to see straight through a blur of hormones that haven't balanced and sit on a bottom that does NOT want to be sat upon... IS INCREDIBLY HARD.  Not small pain by any means!

So many of my sweet friends who are battling post-partum depression, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, depletion, and anxiety were in tears over their own lack of gratitude when they read her post, and I wanted to hold them tight and say, "Give me the broom."
Because I know.  I KNOW that their own individual pain will come out from under the rug very soon and it will be bigger, more angry and probably out for revenge.

And the beautiful part about pain is what a wonderful, necessary gift it is.
Pain is the opportunity to turn fully to Christ, to have a conversation with Him about how it feels because HE HAS FELT IT.  He is the ONLY Man to know the pain of birth, hormones, sensitive emotions... He knows!
I've had so many frustrating conversations with caring folks who just don't GET IT -they WANT TO, but they don't understand what it's like to live in a marriage like mine.  But you know what?  GOD DOES, and when I take to Him honestly and say, "THIS HURTS!"  I don't feel God telling me to sweep anything.
I reverence gratitude in it's pure form, but I do not reverence gratitude in it's piggy-backing shame form.  I can't.
God doesn't want us to shut up and be grateful when we're up at night with a baby who won't sleep because someone else CAN'T be up with a baby they lost.  He suffered BOTH pains, and He desires BOTH PAINS.
Not just the "bigger" pain.

My trial isn't the kind I can take to social media and say, "Please remember when you're celebrating an anniversary that my anniversaries have been painful."
Does that make seeing posts with couples appearing happy hard for me?  YES.  But that is MY PAIN, and I WANT IT.  It's part of my journey and process.  I don't want others to stop posting their happiness.  Even when it hurts, even when I THINK I want them to be miserable with me, I don't.  Not really.
What I really want is to turn to God and say, "OUCH."
I have asked Him why.  I have asked Him if I'm not worthy of an easier marriage.  I've hashed out all there is to hash for now -and I'm sure I'll find more to hash today and tomorrow!
I've tried to sweep my pain under the rug.  I've tried to numb it out with food and business.

But the only truly healing thing I've done is taken it to God when I've been ready.  Sometimes I feel a release from the pain, sometimes I feel God nudge me toward work that still needs done.
Pain is a gift -a bridge in my relationship to God, and a teacher!  It isn't the nice, sunny, posh sort of teacher who speaks softly and has twinkly eyes... but I'll be danged it if isn't one of the most effective teachers I've ever had.

So many sweet women I've met have held back from living genuinely for fear of hurting others, and I must say: you are robbing the world.
Satan's trademark is taking truth and warping it -here a little, there a little.  I see him taking on the compassion that so effortlessly becomes women and using it for his gain.  He takes our desire to not hurt those around us who are struggling and morphs it into self-censorship of the vulgarest kind.  We are censoring our authenticity -we are hiding our lights under a bushel.
I don't believe for ONE SECOND that we are naturally out to hurt or cause harm.  Does it happen?  Yes.  But that is part of the plan, the path, and the test.   

But to try and manage another's pain? Can this REALLY be done while being true to ourselves?  No, it cannot.  Because their pain is not ours to manage.  Our OWN pain is barely ours to manage.

The world needs your authenticity.  They need to hear about how hard your children can be sometimes, even if it pains those who can't have children or who have lost children.  They need to know that your house is dirty -even though there are those who can't afford a house or who have been turned out.  I can't go around censoring myself under the guise of compassion because all I'm really doing is trying to manage the pain swirling around me.  But I can't, and I don't.  Because it negates Christ's sacrifice.

I have personally sat with a family member who has suffered a loss of a 9-month old baby, the loss of a late-term miscarriage at 20 weeks, several early miscarriages and 7 years of infertility... who told me how HARD it was to have kids who didn't sleep and who poured syrup on the floor and then PEED ALL OVER IT.

Her pain needed validation, all of her pain needed validation.

I don't want to invalidate the pain of the sweet sister who lost her baby -that is unimaginable.  I simply want to extend an invitation to the sweet sisters who immediately and so easily set themselves to shame and self-blame because of it.

I messaged a good friend about this, wondering why it was touching me so deeply, and she talked about the problem of "Pain Shame" we have, especially among women.
We feel shame because our pain is "less than" the seen pain of someone online -someone with cancer or loss.

God doesn't see our pain as "less than" and I don't believe He sees our pain on individual little strips of paper.  I don't believe He suffered for "sleep deprivation" and checked it off the list.
I believe He suffered for the deep pain I would feel attending church alone with two small children, little sleep, overcome with anxiety over my husband's addiction and lack of recovery -God suffered for my BIG PICTURE.

There is room under the rug for pain.  It's true.  And it's as good a place as any to put pain until we're ready to hand it over.
I just want to share my love, ladies, and say: your pain is worthy of God's suffering, no matter if you feel it isn't.

The pain I feel watching my dear friends so easily set to hating themselves for pain that needs validation instead is ALSO something God suffered for, and I've talked with Him about it!

Live genuinely today, feel your individual pain without holding it up against the pain of the girl next door.  Practice gratitude for what is in front of you right now and leave shame out of the picture.

Christ died for you.
We all have a measure of divinity within us -it is our equalizer.  I am JUST as much a daughter of God as every other girl on earth, and God suffered equally for us all.
I see now -I SEE -that His precious, sacred suffering for me was going, frankly, in vain.  I was semi-pro with my shame hands and my rug-sweeping.  Learning to put my own superficial management tools aside and take up God's atonement is hard work, but it is the best work.

Pain has gotten me there.

And for this, I reverence my own individual pain.  Today I will honor it, lean into it and learn what I need to learn from it.  I will take it to God, and we will discuss it together.

Pain is the pathway to progress.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Progressive Miracle

We are going to San Francisco this weekend.  In less than 24 hours, Danny and I will be alone in a strange city together.

Tomorrow is our anniversary.  Eleven years of marriage.
Eleven years really isn't THAT long, and yet -it's long enough to have three kids and almost lose each other.

Something hit me about a week ago -a hunger? a crazy urge?  I don't know.  All I know is that we booked some last-minute tickets, and The Word of the Week has been
For the last few years, I haven't worn a wedding ring.  I haven't been willing to DATE let alone go away for the weekend like we usually do for our anniversaries. 

I've had people tell me I'm crazy to stay.  I've had an inner voice tell me I'm crazy to stay.
Danny has had people tell him I'M crazy and he's crazy to try and stick it out with me.

Our critics have fallen into two categories:
1) Porn is normal, so come off it already
2) Porn is abominable, so leave already

It certainly doesn't make sense to people on the outside, and it doesn't have to.  At the end of the day when we're with each other checking in and talking about things that would boggle the minds of people who think we're nuts... we feel at peace, we feel at home.

A few weeks ago, I caught Danny's eye as we were watching youtube videos as a family.  I held his gaze, I held his hand, and the wordless connection was powerful -so powerful our eyes welled up.
We said "I love you."
But we didn't need to say it.

I've longed for a connection like that for YEARS.  I don't expect it to be maintained constantly, but to know it's there, to know I have access to it, means the world to me.

Danny's been gone all week... he's training in Ohio, and I'm at home dealing with this ridiculous chronic illness, three kids, three dogs, and three cats, and one overflowing toilet.
Somehow we are all fed and thriving.  Another miracle.

As he's been gone, I've felt some very old fears rise up within me.  For so long, I didn't care what he did while he was away, but lately my heart has opened back up.  I've learned that it's safe to begin to re-attach to Danny, and that is TERRIFYING because my muscle and brain memory tells me, "Loving means hurting."
That is TRUE.
But I'm learning that it isn't the end -that hurt can be a catalyst for growth, a chance for rigorous honesty as I express my feelings and needs, the gateway to an intimate experience with God.  Pain is information to me.

Danny has proven to me through time that he's HERE, even if he doesn't understand fully what I'm going through, he's going to sit with me anyway.

And so I'm re-attaching.
Does that make me crazy? 
It doesn't FEEL crazy, even if it looks crazy... and I know Danny will say the same thing.

This weekend signifies something huge. 

It's showing us that we've made strides.
It's letting us know that we're brave enough to spend money on ourselves.
It's come naturally, unforced and definitely unplanned (what the heck do I even pack?!).

And as I've mulled over what this trip means about where we are in our relationship and in healing our relationship, I keep stumbling on immersive gratitude and the realization that recovery has brought about miracles in our marriage and lives.

I'll meet Danny as he lands in Phoenix from Ohio and before he can even set foot into the hot AZ sun, we will be on our way to Cali.

Does this mean we've "made it?" That our marriage is in the clear?  That it's time to "move on" and get passed this seemingly never-ending trial?

No, it doesn't mean any of those things.

Danny and I will never reach the "MADE IT" point, either together or individually.  The more recovery work we do, the more we find TO DO, and it is the most rewarding, harrowing work we've ever done or ever will do!
Our marriage will never be in the clear. But what does that matter, if our faith lies in God and not in each other?  It's a harsh, harsh thing to accept.  It seems unfair and even unhealthy to some, but trusting in GOD and putting my faith, loyalty and love in HIM has proven to be the singularly most freeing act I've ever embarked on.
We will never move on from this trial, and I prefer it that way.  I prefer a marriage where we acknowledge frailty, where we check in and focus on connection, where we hone in on God. I prefer a home of healing.

To the outside world, it's just a weekend getaway for our anniversary.  It's as simple as that.
But to my world, and the world here in this little blog... it's a miracle, absolute, utter and completely.

Our critics have become a distant fog for us, and we're reaching forward and biting into this delicious, golden fruit called connection that has touched every facet of our lives.

And it means that I have more to surrender when he leaves on a business trip and stays alone in a hotel for a week.
It means risking being hurt more and again.  It means more open hearts, more open arms, and more joy as well.

It feels right.
Today, it feels right.

Maybe I'll sing a different tune when I'm triggered in California, but I'll worry about that Golden Gate Bridge when I get there.  Right now, I'm just going to hug the miracle.

And seriously, I need to pack.