Unpacking the Last Ten Months (Part 3) #FindingHope #FinallyCaughtUp #NeverGiveUp

Heaviness was in full swing and then Lent began.

This was my second Lenten season as a Catholic and again my faith served me well. I’d decided after lots of thought and prayers that for lent I would spend thirty minutes a day every day walking the indoor track at the gym while praying. First of all, I hate exercise. I mean really, really hate it. I suck at it. It is one of the things that I consider to be one of my weaknesses. I’m not even remotely athletic and I trip over air and did I mention that I hate it?

I thought setting the intention of walking and praying would combine two important things I needed to do especially during my busy semester. Turns out I was right. I managed to walk every single day during Lent for thirty minutes a day. I was so excited that I was able to keep my commitment to walk and there were some days that it was incredibly difficult to do so. One night I was walking at 9:30 after the longest day of classes ever. But I managed to do it. I made my daily walk with Jesus and I know that is how I survived the semester. Lent was an extra tough season for me.

I walked a total of 78.68 miles with Jesus. (Specific right? You can thank my walking app for that.) I prayed about so many things during that time and asked a lot of questions. Sometimes the walk started with “God I don’t know how I’m going to make it these thirty minutes, you’re going to have to carry me through this.” And I made it through every single walk—He carried me through like He always does. We talked about my job and the future of my career. During this time I was in the middle of the interview process in order to be rehired for the same position. The interview process took a lot of my time. I was searching for some stability in my life. I was hoping that knowing the outcome of the job would help with that. I desperately needed to mark some things off of my long and heavy to do list. When that process was over it helped but with the end of interview process came the next large to do list item—my doctorate. That’s right starting this fall I will begin my doctorate program. I registered for my classes last night.

Jesus and I discussed this again and again. Pursuing my doctorate was never on my things to do with my life list, but now it is and it is happening. And I’m having a hard time with it. I’m sure I’ll eat my words at some point and I will be able to look back on this and see some semblance of the tapestry God is weaving in my life.

Why does this bother me? It’s not the work that truly bothers me (although that doesn’t thrill me either) and I know I can do this. I’m more than capable.  This is what gets me–I don’t want another title. I don’t need another framed certificate on the wall. No, I want framed wedding photos and family portraits instead. I don’t need another title—I need my family. Another professional title is meaningless to me. I’d rather have the personal title of wife and mom/step mom. And I have no idea how to get there. I have no idea how to earn those.

I make the joke that I need a new last name before I’m done my doctorate. Then all of my higher education degrees would have a different last name on them. (Bachelors – my maiden name; Masters – Files; and Doctorate ???) That may sound silly but somehow I feel like it would make getting my doctorate feel less burdensome. If I knew I’d have my own person to share it with, our own family to share it with at the end then maybe it would feel less burdensome to me. It really feels like more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking my education or career for granted but those things have been settled for me for quite some time. My heart isn’t settled. Again same story. Different day.

But of course feelings are just feelings so all of those maybe’s and theories could be completely untrue. I’m working very hard to see all sides of this.

I know I’m looking at this through the lens of pain and not the lens of opportunity. This is something I’m working through right now. Prayer by prayer. Day by day.

During one of my Lenten walks with Jesus I found myself saying, “God I don’t know how this is getting me to my family but I trust you.” As I made the lap, the sun was shining through the skylight casting little prisms across the track lanes. As I came upon the prisms, the miniature rainbows had formed the shape of the cross. What better reminder of God’s promises—a rainbow shaped cross! I had my phone ready to take a picture when I came back around but within that minute and a half the cross was gone and in its place scattered prism lines. God never forgets His promises. I know that. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it to the actual realization of those promises and that added the next layer of grief to my life.

I knew (and still know) that God is going to deliver on His promises but when and how? I haven’t made it to that promise yet but like my Lenten walks with Jesus, it is step by step, day by day. Some days are easier and my pace is quick and light and others are tough, my pace slow and heavy.

I’ve cried so much this year. I know part of that was from physical and mental exhaustion and part emotional exhaustion. I’ve taken to counting the span of days between tears again. I know they will eventually be further apart than before. The seasons always change and so will this one.

I lost my hope during this time but I still had my faith or so I felt. That may sound ridiculous but that’s exactly how I had been feeling. A hopeless heart with a head knowing, trusting, and believing in God’s abilities to get me to where I belong, to get me to who I belong with.

It’s a little ironic I named my new vehicle Hope and yet I felt like during these past few months I’ve lost my hope. A few weeks ago, I was at the gym taking my walk (I’ve continued the habit after Lent now I pray the rosary while I walk followed by a few moments of focused listening) and it hit me, I never lost my hope I just couldn’t feel it. The sadness, the grief was blocking the feeling of hope. I felt like hope had died. Some days hope would prevail and lighten my heavy heart but as quickly as the light would fill me it would dissipate into the darkness.

I’ve been working on getting myself back to me or at least caring for myself these last couple of weeks. Manicure, pedicure, fresh hair—those things coupled with drives with the windows down and the music up, good coffee, friends, and writing. Those are the things that help level me out (on top of prayer of course but I’ve been doing that all along the way.)

I heard a song on the radio the other day and I’ve decided it is my current theme song, “The Stars Are on Your Side” by Ross Copperman. Music speaks to me and it is one of the ways I feel God speak to me. During my walks he tended to use Journey a lot (which made me chuckle) and there’s a few other songs that remind me to never give up, but this song soothed me and helped me understand that my hope was never lost. It was hidden beneath exhaustion and grief but it was never completely gone. It was always there waiting for me to notice it again—to feel it again. It was the new dependable car taking me to and from work. It was the friends and family continually praying for me.

It is the light in my eyes, the faith in my heart, the reason I keep moving. It was, it IS all around me.

Nothing is wasted when God’s involved and I know He’s in this. All of this. So, I’ll take care of all of these things on my plate. I’ll get up each day and do the things I need to do because at some point he’ll be there (my person,) at some point they’ll be there (my family.) Because like I’ve found myself saying over and over recently to people hurting and struggling, “God never forgets His children. And He never forgets His promises.” While this may all take so much longer than I wish it would, I am His child and He hasn’t forgotten me. He remembers me and the promises He made with me. I have nothing to fear.

Same goes for you. You have nothing to fear. If you feel like your hope has died today, remember it is still there even if you can’t feel it. Don’t give up just yet.

Get up, raise your head towards the sky, and let hope wash over you. Never give up on your always and forever no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it hurts to wait for the things that are already set aside as yours, the day will come when you will be living a life that you never thought could be yours.  One day we’ll look at each other and say I’m so glad we didn’t give up on our always and forever.

Faith welcomes hope. Hope waits for love. And love is yours–always and forever–yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Love never fails. Love never dies.

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Unpacking the Last Ten Months (Part 2) #TraumaticTriggers #Coping #Grief #Healing

I’m baaaaack!  Here’s part two of my longest blog post ever. (See prior post for part one if you missed it.)

What caused my latest tailspin of emotional turmoil?

It was a weeknight in January and I had to make the 911 call. Thank God I didn’t have to do this one alone. The roommate and I heard a loud bang bang and moments later I was on the phone calling in the single car accident. Sadly, there was nothing we could really do. Thankfully the emergency personnel arrived quickly and dove into their work. A scene reminiscent to one I remembered all too well. I stood as close as I could to the accident site that night—just a few steps away from my driveway as the roommate and I prayed for the person. We prayed so very hard for him.

Things were different—this person wasn’t Chris but he was close to his age, this was a car and not a bike, it was night and not the evening, I’d made the call instead of walking up to the person on the emergency call, this wasn’t my husband but he was someone’s special person.  I watched the medical examiner get in his truck and make the calls. In that moment I recognized the aftermath of tragedy that was about to rain upon an unsuspecting family. I worked through the event doing all the of the right things with a level head but this time I was fully aware of the state of shock I was in. I knew I would crash and I did in the days after. The crash was slow but no less violent than all the times before.

Death had come banging at my door. It didn’t stop around the corner before my house—no, this time it had banged at my door. This time I didn’t drive past it. It had come directly to me. I made the call for help—a  call that felt helpless and completely fruitless.

And thus began the tailspin.

I was locked in my traumatic response the next day and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I did the things I needed to do, went through the motions as the shock waned and the emotions filled in the cracks. The sadness weighed me down. I prayed so hard. I went to my nearby special spot because I didn’t have the energy to drive to the grotto. I couldn’t cry but still the tears were choking me. My roommate experienced a similar response and I hated that he was suffering too even though I took solace in knowing that I could coach him through it. I went to dinner with my family that evening and then came home still stuck in the emotional process of the tragedy.

It wasn’t until a short phone call that night with someone who understands me well that I was even able to feel the emotions pour out of me. I sat on the floor of my bedroom recounting the accident, my voice finally breaking and tears pooling in my eyes. I was so frustrated with myself and my reaction. But somehow that listening ear on the other end of the phone, acknowledging the level of crap I was facing and giving words of strength helped me keep moving through the trauma.

Although I was working through it, it was a slow walk through the darkness. More and more people around me began moving from this world to the next.  Funeral after funeral. Loss after loss. Heaven’s doors must’ve been opened wide during those few months.

The compounding losses left me feeling unbelievably sad, incredibly frustrated, and angrier than I’d been in years. Then I was physically ill—again. This time I woke up with the room spinning and it scared the crap out of me. I was dizzy and all I could think coming off that terrible migraine a little over a month prior was that I had a tumor or something awful. (Yes, I’m dramatic and no I don’t need Google to help me come up with possible diagnoses. I have a wild enough imagination on my own.) I went to the doctor to find out that I had vertigo. Annoying especially when I suddenly had to walk slow and deliberately and I couldn’t make any sudden movements as to not invoke an episode.  Oh yeah and I couldn’t drive for almost a week. Goodbye independence. Hello new level of irritation.

During this time, I decided it was time to say goodbye to the truck. I’d started the process of purchasing a new vehicle the week before my nasty vertigo put me down and out. I was so upset that I couldn’t drive my truck into the dealership to trade it in and obviously I couldn’t even drive my new vehicle home either. It sucked. Like majorly sucked. My heart was bleeding again. I was cussing a lot. I was so angry. I was not myself. I was struggling.

I was so incredibly frustrated at how with even the passage of time, all the counseling, and healing that I’d been through I still had this type of reaction to death. At least when it comes to the traumatic scenes, it feels like I should be over this. I’ve learned the lessons, done the time, and should have moved on to the next level. Why don’t I have a handle on my emotional responses yet? Why can’t I be in control of my reaction to this? Why can’t I just be past this?

Truth is I am better than I once was at this even if I’m not at the level that I want to be at. This is where I can recognize how my overachieving nature is both a double-edged sword of positive and negative. It is good that I push myself to be better. That self-imposed need to move further and be better is a positive thing. However at the same time I could easily slip into the trap of berating myself for not being at the level of healing I think I should be at with these responses. If I step outside myself, I can see that I handled this well. I coped well with what was thrown at me. Did I cope as quickly as I wished I would? No, but this isn’t about wishes its about the reality. I would rather brush the trauma I’ve suffered off as no big deal, but  it still is a big deal. In a few short hours, my life went from ordinary to tragic and then somehow I’m expected to return to ordinary unscathed. If a friend was telling me this story, I would tell them that’s an unrealistic expectation to hold themselves to because it is.

I’m not saying poor me here. This isn’t a pity party; however, it is a moment of raw honesty. It’s a weird thing to wish so deeply that I’d never went through tragedy and yet at the same time I’m so deeply grateful for how it changed me. Rather a more proper statement would be I hate how tragedy wounded me but I’m grateful for the healthy coping habits and lifestyle that it forged.  None of it was easy though and it’s always a new level of challenging.

I was so deeply heartbroken over so many things from January to April and it truly has taken me until these past few weeks to begin to feel myself again. Writing this out allows me to see outside myself for a bit. In doing this I can truly acknowledge the level of difficulty and cut myself a break for all the feels and all the sadness I was working through. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back. 😉

Talk about a lot of heavy. I promise my third and final post will be a little lighter. 🙂 Till then remember to love yourself. Be kind and compassionate towards your needs and your wounds. What’s inside of you seeps out to those around you so put the goodness inside so it can shine through onto others.  

Til next time Love, Hugs, and Sunshine! <3

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