I wrote this two years ago, and suddenly here we are:
My anxiety’s name is Ann. She is loyal and licentious. She is envious. She commandeers my joyful moments and replaces them with doubt. I call her Ann because “Ann”xiety (duh), but also I often have to remind myself that she is simply Ann emotion. She is not me; nor does she represent me. She does not have the final say because she is disobedient, ruthless, and deceitful. She has no one’s best interest at heart, other than her inconsolable friends depression and despair. She is simply an emotion that forces me to be intentional with my steps. She is separate. She is there, and I tip toe around her hoping she won’t see. But I also stomp my feet with purpose, unafraid of if she hears. Some days I feel her close like an itch I just can’t spot. Some days I tie her tightly and throw her out with all the rot. She will return, and that is fine. She is an emotion. She is excited by another. She is not me.
In another lifetime I wrote a different blog.
One full of prayer and grace and carefully crafted essays that I was brave enough to share with the locals because I wasn’t actually local. I was over 8,000 miles away. I stumbled across that blog tonight and I sat in bed crying, with my husband asleep next to me, as I remembered that girl. She seems so brave to me now. She boarded a plane with strangers, found solace in the Indian sunsets, relied on daily ramen noodles, and rode into the village on the bench seat of a beat up jeep to help care for the lepers. Those words she wrote… oh, what she says to me now… I need to hear it. Life is good. Community is good. Give thanks for joy and grace.
Lord, let those words soak deep into my days and permeate those dry, deprived places. Navigating life, personally and professionally, can wear a girl thin. I’m in the last stretch of school, which means a breadth of opportunities and also fear of losing each one, of making the wrong decision, of saying the wrong thing, of not checking off each to-do box. Never again will I be in this moment, with circumstances both so big and so small. So I can’t help but be grateful when I know some where half way round the world is a priest who once told me to take it slow, to avoid the temptation and downfall of “proving oneself.” I won’t allow myself to feel the frustration of still treading through those same thoughts; I’ll only be satisfied that she recorded those words to remind me yet again of such basic truth.
In another lifetime, maybe I was braver. In a different way. But I’m pretty brave now too. I’m brave enough to say that it’s still not all figured out, that I can find comfort from my college-senior self, that I still believe life is good. Community is good. Give thanks for joy and grace.
I mindlessly scrolled through my feed until I came across a photo of a woman in a hospital bed, smiling with her whole body, without a strand of hair gracing the top of her head. She was surrounded by three of her closest ones, wrapped in the deep love of family. The caption read that she was finally going home, and I smiled. I don’t know this woman, but I know she has been given a gift. I sometimes see faces like hers as I walk the halls of the hospital. The photo’s caption went on, describing their blessings and God’s goodness toward their family. All this through a variety of hashtags, with words smashed together because time is so crucial, not enough available to give each word its own beginning and end. Time was moving on, and her life was out there waiting to be lived. What a gift she had been given.
But then my smile fell. God’s goodness sent her home that day healthier than she had been in months. God’s goodness had made her stronger and whole, had extended her life, had buoyed her and those close ones during a dark time. I am truly thankful that such miracles exist.
But my ache is still raw and my thoughts go here:
what about when it doesn’t happen that way?
God’s goodness may not always feel that good. Sometimes it feels like a lonely house. A broken relationship that keeps gnawing at you. Being the new girl in the room. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Staying late when you don’t have the time. Sometimes it feels like the phone call that never came or the horrific one that did. Accepting help when you wish you didn’t need it. Ignoring the hurtful words of a coworker.
It’s a mess of things that can feel and truly be quite messy.
It can be hard to pull yourself out of bed and put on a brave face when it feels like God and his goodness didn’t show up, at least not in a way that you were wanting or expecting. Although unbearably tough at times, I listen to my heart beating softly and certainly. I hear him there. I reach out through the blurry tears to find a hand to steady me. I feel him there. I let someone hold me just a little bit longer.
So what does it take for us to continue repeating God is good during those times when we want to scream that he is not? Maybe simply separating God’s goodness from the good things that happen in our lives and the good feelings we experience throughout our days. These things are not the same. Maybe settling into the discomfort and knowing he has settled in too. I wish I could say that I have the answer, but of course you know I don’t. His goodness is a mystery that leaves me wanting more. I want daily to understand, to be more capable in the processing of my hurts and the hurts of others, to identify God’s goodness in every situation, no matter how dark, and still be able to smile with the gift.
I watched my grandmother slowly disappear over the last six months and yet the moment of passing was so full of shock, I still feel as if I’m reeling. I’m still quite sure that if I drive up her quiet neighborhood street, she’ll be there in her garden. Tending to tomatoes, okra, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, maybe even carrots.
She was always tending.
Tending to me and to others, in a way that a substantial loss such as this leaves me feeling sick to my stomach, empty, and angry. I once wrote about her here not knowing how deeply my own words might comfort me one day. Because those words are true, and I miss every quirky and perfect thing about her.
As my husband and I drove to my grandparents’ house the evening of her passing, I told him how much I wanted to be like her when I grow up. The words spilled out in a soft and silly way, an attempt to bring a smile to my own dismayed face. She was faithful to the life God gave her. She loved her husband well and gave fully to her family, her grandchildren, her friends. And she could befriend just about anyone. I can’t count the number of times that I warned my friends, “My grandmother will hug you when she meets you.” She rode bumper cars and roller coasters with us every year at Dollywood. She helped me grow my first garden. She was my and my brothers’ own personal nurse, with the dining room as her exam room. She was always one of the first people in the stands at my basketball games or track meets, walked miles on end to support my brother in golf tournaments, and adamantly sat in the front row to hear my oldest brother speak at church. She sought simplicity by nature, never fooled by the bright lights of this world. She showed up when it mattered because it always mattered to her; I knew I could count on her.
But with so much sadness comes an abundance of gratitude for having this woman in my life who cared so deeply. She was full of life and love and joy. Her hugs were full of energy. How proud she was of all her grandchildren and me is humbling. Having known her gives me confidence. The world would be a stronger, more forgiving and encouraging place if we all had one like her who fully believed in us. My heart hurts this week but in the best of ways, for my grandmother was a good one.
A spunky, beautiful, loving good one.
Be kind to one another, for those great burdens that weigh heavy on your mind and are carried through your days look quite similar to the burdens of your neighbor. Perhaps not. Perhaps yours are more complicated or more contained, larger than your arms can hold or stuffed into a backpack for long-term travel. Maybe your burdens are new or old, hairy or smelly or itchy or odd. But look next door and you’ll see that they’re the same, if you’ll let yourself believe that, if you’ll do yourself the favor (and your neighbor too).
I let myself cry today because the air felt safe and appropriate and true. Water spilled over the edge of my face mask in a hospital room that has grown too familiar; with a hidden smile, my eyes reveal all. I felt thankful for the kindness those around me offered, to allow the mystery of tears, to even share in it. My burdens seem so big to me; I know yours do as well to you. And they are. And I see that. So I plead with you to be kind to one another. For the world needs a ballooning of grace and joy and kindness to glide through the sky and overcome temporary, sorrowful burdens below.
For every bullet point on my gratitude list, I feel as if three more arise to oppose. On tough days, I’m too tired to bother. But kindness pulls me through. It can pull us through together if we’ll let it.
It feels like tears welling when I think too much and when I think too little. It feels like closing the door to keep it all, everything, out there and simultaneously yearning for someone to open the door, all the while knowing that if they do I don’t have the words to explain why I closed the door in the first place. It feels like being the outsider even though my name entitles me to this home, even though this home has felt to be just that for years before. It feels like a buzzing in my ears instead of the clear articulations spoken by the ones in front of me. What did you say again? It feels like trying to refocus again and again and again. It feels like forgotten prayers or even prayers that never come, like words that sit heavily on my eyelids, coaxing me to sleep, and then waking in the morning with hopes that God is a mind or dream-reader, surely he has known all along. It feels like going to bed too early and rising too late, with muscles that ache from the exercise I never got, with doughy guilt sitting in my gut expanding more and more. It feels like a silent house is yelling at me. It feels like Fear and Anxiety are my best friends, more loyal than I can comprehend. It feels like fingers crossed that I will not be noticed or addressed directly. It’s a discomfort that I want to describe to you, but as soon as my voice leaves my tongue, that sing-song speech well-practiced and fine-tuned, to meet your eyes, I know you have misunderstood. My depths are not your depths. I’ve confused you with my disguises so I leave it be again.