On being single, fear, and hell

Today I got stung by a bee. As my leg turned red and swelled, I wondered… “Am I allergic to bees? If I am, how much time before something worse happens? And if it does…would that be so terrible? The world wouldn’t have to deal with the real me anymore…might be a relief for some…the kids would get a better mom…”

I don’t think I’m allergic. But the thoughts were there.

This year has had its ups and downs for the whole world. People who are quarantined together might envy those who are single, and those who are single and physically distancing from society might envy the couples. Kids have adapted to a really strange new normal…and whether they go back to school or not…nothing is the same as it’s always been.

Change is hard. Adaptation is hard. Growth and humility are hard. Accepting that there is often no easy solution to life’s difficulties is hard.

Recently, I’ve seen some single/divorced friends post on social media how they’ve found love. I’ve never been more aware of how possible it is to feel two polarizing emotions at once…happy for them that they’ve found love, but sad that I’m still alone. These polarizing emotions aren’t new, to be sure. While going through divorce I felt happy to finally be living honestly, but guilty/bad that I was ruining others lives. Life is a paradox.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2020 it’s that I’m apparently undateable…and I’ve been evaluating that more to figure out why. If you have any insight…tell me gently, please 😂 I’m a work in progress.

I often wonder what it’s like to be in love…I’ve felt it twice, but it wasn’t reciprocated…so I don’t know if it was real. No one wants a mom of 4 with spiritual baggage/PTSD as their girlfriend…or maybe it’s my other weird quirks? Lack of a filter? All of the above?

***********************

This summer we used the fire pit in the backyard a few times, before the property manager said we can’t do that anymore.

Once, Seva was using a stick to adjust the newspaper under the logs and a spark touched her finger. She instantly jumped back and said “Ow!” as I jumped up to make sure she was ok. We ran her finger under cold water and put some lavender on the burn.

This incident made me think about God, and hell. In my upbringing, we were always told that God loves us more than parents love their own children. I believed this for a long time…it was a powerful and very comforting thought.

Then while overseas, and struggling with lots of thoughts/questions/feelings regarding all these wonderful people around me going to hell, I read the Bible cover to cover and began to struggle even more. So much death, so much killing (often by God or in his name) and the struggle of course got deeper. My turn from Christianity to Agnosticism stemmed from the thought of a loving God sending 70-80% of the world to hell, because they weren’t saved. I couldn’t reconcile it, along with so many other topics…even though Jesus seemed pretty great. God was too scary.

As an imperfect parent (understatement) – when Seva burnt her finger I couldn’t stand the thought of her having a burn. I don’t want her to be hurt. The never ending eczema has always been bad enough…the last thing she needs is a burn. Even when my kids don’t like me, or disrespect me, or maybe someday don’t want to call me “mom” because they feel I don’t deserve it…I would never want them to burn or suffer for more than one second.

But God loves us more. And he’ll let us burn and suffer for an eternity if we don’t worship him. It’s a conditional love. And I still cannot reconcile this.

This summer I was reminded by someone that if I’m right (that maybe there is no hell), then I don’t have anything to be afraid of. But if I’m wrong, then I have a lot to be afraid of…because {hell} is my destiny.

Most days, I’m not afraid. I do not fear death. It is everyone’s destiny – and if there is a creator – figuring out faith has got to be a lot simpler than what a bunch of men with concubines made it out to be. Truth is out there.

At times I fear being alone in this world…because what if this is all there is? If I never have a companion…if I never meet my soulmate…that will be hard. If I’m as unloveable as I often feel…that is a more helpless feeling than any other. I love life, but it’s so much more enjoyable when experiences are shared. Seeing someone you love experience joy is more wonderful than experiencing it yourself.

This isn’t a cry for help or attention, it’s just an honest post that’s been brewing in my head during this pandemic year. I recently saw an ex-evangelical who is very open with her struggles post “I still have a testimony. You just don’t want to hear it” and I felt that with every ounce of my being.

A few years ago my dad (whom I love!) tried to talk me out of divorce by telling me that “marriage is for our holiness, not our happiness” while I cried and told him that when I hear songs like “You Look Wonderful Tonight” I die inside because I’m so lonely. Just recently, he asked me if I was dating anyone. This was a first…and I melted. If we can all accept each other as imperfectly as we are, where we are, there could be so much more peace. Everyone’s journey is different.

My process has been messy, but I suppose there’s often a mess to clean up after years of guilt, shame, and trying to numb your feelings/questions so you can be accepted…now I’m just trying my best to be real…and give others the freedom to do the same.

**********************

When times are especially hard – I go to this sundial at my old apartment and “talk” to my grandma. She loved sundials, and she loved me in all my true self weirdness. A couple years ago my aunt told me that I had been special to her – and she would want me to know even now that “I’m worth it.” Sometimes that’s all my self esteem can cling to, and for now that’s OK. 💛

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

On Finding Yourself

Whew, what a month July was. I can’t possibly write this post without acknowledging the news that everyone my age (and slightly younger-older) who went through the wringer of purity culture has been buzzing about…and that is the divorce of Joshua Harris. While I have about 1000 things I could say about this…I will recap for those of you who are unfamiliar with this man and keep my comments to a minimum…I promise. Joshua wrote a book in 1997 entitled ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’… a book that promoted not only the idea of not dating until one was ready for marriage, but throwing out dating all together and going the route of courtship instead. Basically, when a young Christian man meets a beautiful young Christian woman that he would like to marry, he should ask her fathers permission to court her and they then can begin their hand holding journey towards marriage. Oh, and it’s best to not kiss until the wedding day, ok? Lest ye be tempted!

This book was devoured by church youth groups, teens, single young adults…and taken as the best way to guarantee a godly, successful marriage. Joshua had learned all of this wisdom from Jesus speaking to him, the Bible, and other godly individuals in his life. Those of us who read it and dog-eared every other page took it as truth. The Lord speaks to men, after all!

Well, Joshua Harris is not only getting divorced, he has also announced that he is no longer a Christian. While I’m sure there are plenty of concerned believers who are sad about this, I feel all 😊🙌🏼😊🙌🏼. Joshua and his wife have undoubtedly been struggling for years, staying together because they “should,” and now they can finally be free! Along the same vein, Derek Webb (a popular/influential Christian musician at the same time) and his wife announced their divorce a few years ago, along with his faith deconstruction which led to Atheism.

You guys, I promised I’d keep my comments to a minimum…but the validation SO many of us feel from this news has been quite a high. People are “coming out” in a sense – and the honesty is so refreshing. Men who thought they knew what was real/true in fact did not know – and we’ll get back to this point in a minute.

******************************

With summertime nearing an end, my kids have been fighting quite a bit. Their love language happens to be movies, so the other night I had an idea – I would show the girls ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ – knowing this would invoke questions, deep conversation, and perspective. Some might call me morbid, but I prefer ‘realist.’ I feel it’s important for this generation of instant satisfaction kids to understand what was happening on our earth not even 100 years ago, and is still happening in countries like Syria even now.

Not only did the movie greatly impact the girls – the reality that people were tormented and killed for being Jewish, the fact that Anne and her family (and several others) remained in hiding for two years without a breath of fresh air, as well as the concept of surviving on so little for so long. I think they enjoyed, though, seeing that Anne and her sister squabbled, too. 🙂

What really impacted me, however – seeing this story unfold in a different light now as a single woman – was Anne’s strength to go against what everyone else advised. She was told over and over that she thought too much, she knew too much, she wanted too much, her desires were lofty, she should be like “other kids.” But Anne found herself in her writing…she was able to escape to her true self when she sat and wrote…and she always hungered for more depth and experience. It was as if I saw the movie with new eyes when Anne would sneak off to the attic to be with Peter…I couldn’t help but smile and cheer for her in my heart…she got to experience love before her life was taken away too soon.

What also was reiterated, this time around – is that there is a danger when men are convinced that they know what’s true for everyone. Not only a danger to young vulnerable hearts as I mentioned above, but a danger to physical lives and entire societies, as well.

*****************************

What was sandwiched in between these two events over the last week is what brings peace and purpose to this post, and clarity to my ever searching heart.

Last Saturday there was a ‘Spiritual Open House’ just blocks from my apartment…and I had felt drawn to go ever since I heard about it. There would be a dozen or so providers offering sessions of healing, readings, meditation, spiritual guidance, and just peace in general. I was intrigued.

When I arrived I had to pick a provider to meet with – and many of the slots had already been taken! Apparently there are many searching souls, no? 🙂

I instantly was drawn to one whose bio mainly spoke of his connection to nature and the earth, as I have always felt that connection too. Of course I was leery, because men who know it all = skepticism, as you may have noticed by now!

The provider was far from arrogant, and what I learned during that 20 minute session has lingered with me, and I have been dissecting it further ever since. We sat in silence for a few minutes, different things happened during this time, and his insight all struck true in my life.

What he said that hit me the most though – is that “unlike men, women have a gift of intuition, and this gift must be appreciated and nurtured.” Wait, what?! Women have that gift? Truthfully, I have always known that about myself, but I was always told that was the Holy Spirit (which is also a male – don’t get into an argument with church leaders over this one! All of the trinity is MALE). Should I interject here that only men wrote the Torah, Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon..?

I was floored. Growing up in the church, I was always instructed to die to myself daily, nevertheless I live but Christ lives in me, etc. etc. etc.. My heart could not be trusted, because my heart was sinful and bad from the start. Jesus was what I needed every minute, because without him, I’m nothing. See where complexes can develop?

But deep down, I’ve always known that we’re all created/born differently, and that is good. Babies are not sinful when they cry – they are hungry/cold/tired. We are not sinful for discovering what we love and going after that passion – we are human and we are living.

******************************

Since before my divorce was final I have been on a journey of finding myself. Some call this selfish, I like to call it living honestly and making mistakes along the way as I seek to live a full, happy, meaningful life. I have experienced what it’s like to have deep conversations with other adults who don’t know what is true but believe that something is true, and it’s so refreshing. I have been reminded what’s it’s like to hold hands with someone I like, to have first kisses, and to feel the rush of my heartbeat as I get nervous around guys (yes, I am still straight, even after all of my male bashing ✌🏼). I have learned that I don’t need men to make decisions for me, to own my body, or to tell me everything that “God says or wills.”

I hear songs from my pre-Christian youth and I smile remembering myself at the age of 12, singing every word to ‘Whoop! There it is’ with no regard to what’s appropriate or what’s not, or how silly I looked. I go out for drinks with girls who were my best friends before I “died to myself” and they remind me that I’ve always been a little different – and we laugh and laugh. 😊

If I say nothing else, I’d like to leave you with this – be free. Be who you are deep down, before the influence of what other people thought/said got to you. Be the soul who lives in your heart. Let yourself love and be loved (I’m still waiting on that part)…and remember, there is danger and harm when anyone thinks they know it all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on On Finding Yourself

Re: Jennifer Knapp

Eighteen years ago, as a college freshman at a Christian University, I heard word that Jennifer Knapp was going to be giving a concert at our school during part of a three day ‘Come to Jesus, you college kids who are wandering off the path and drinking {sarcasm}’ tour. Wow, was all I could think. I had loved Jennifer’s music for all of the late 90’s – her expressive, soul-searching, self-denying music had spoken to my heart and I couldn’t believe that I would get to see her in person! She was a role model for many young Christian women at that time – namely spirited women who were trying to suppress their “sinful” (read: normal, human) desires and be who God wanted them to be. She radiated acceptance and hope. I liked Jennifer.

Needless to say, she was amazing. But even at my young age of 19…I could tell that she wasn’t quite free. Her music was deep and alive and touched my soul…but something was off. And then, Jennifer disappeared for a while. What I didn’t know was that she was doing an incredibly mature thing…and her book ‘Facing the Music’ tells the story.

Before I go any further I must share the full circle story of seeing Jennifer in concert as a young naive college freshman. Last fall, I was beside myself when I heard that Jennifer was on tour again…and would be doing a concert right here in Columbus!  I knew I would have to go, even if it meant going alone.  I wasn’t sure where she had landed in life, in her faith shifting process…but I knew she had released secular music (that I somehow missed out on while we were living overseas). I couldn’t find anyone to go to the concert with me, so I sucked up my insecurities about going stag and I went. This choice proved to be life-changing.

I arrived early because I hadn’t even bought a ticket yet (I’m currently kinda poor, tbh) and while I was standing in line a kind woman offered me a ticket for free, as she had one extra. Wow! Not only this, but I met several other awesome ex-evangelicals in line…women who grew up with Jennifer’s music and had stayed loyal through her shifting. Turns out, non-judgemental people who don’t have life all figured out are pretty fun to hang out with. 🙂 We were all giddy with excitement to see Jennifer in concert.  Like star struck pre-teens at a NKOTB concert, really. We got our drinks and shared our life stories while we eagerly awaited her to take the stage.

What happened that night was incredible. Here I was now 37, “dead and broken” according to Christian standards, seeing someone in concert who was once so influential in my faith. She played her new music first (which I wasn’t familiar with at the time…but is now the music carrying me through this season of life) followed by her old music, which was beyond nostalgic for everyone in that room. I know this because we were all singing every word, emotions running high, arms lifted and smiles on our faces. Many of us burned by the church, now experiencing freedom singing old lyrics that we no longer believe but were once instrumental during a season of life. I don’t doubt that this was a healing experience for many. Something Jennifer said that night is that we all have value and we are all redeemable. This is so true…but something that is often hinged upon the condition of returning to faith, the message portrayed to us by many.

Here’s a little taste of that night…

And here’s me meeting Jennifer! 🤩

Oh, and did I mention that she’s gay?

*********************************

‘Facing the Music’ is the story of Jennifer’s entire life. Born as a twin to teenage parents, her life was anything but easy. She always had a passion and a natural talent for music, but faced many hardships. As the story goes, she got into drinking and was “saved” freshman year of college (this is the time when young adults are most vulnerable and ripe for the saving, anyone involved in college ministry can attest). As a gifted musician, she was told time and time again that God had a plan for her music and she was to use it for his glory. Jennifer had a few very successful years as a Christian music artist, but was worn thin and got burnt out. When she took a break from the demands of music production and performance she discovered/found her true self, and her love – who happened to be a woman. Rather than give every detail…I thought I would share some snippets from the book, and let her words speak for themselves 🙂

When Jennifer came out, she was no longer welcome in the Christian music world, even though she remained respectful to the powers that be at all times. Yet, music was her “calling,” and the struggle was very real. Life does get complicated when you mix your faith with your profession… especially when you happen to be imperfect in the eyes of those above you.

I could share so many more pages…her insight in coming to terms with herself and spirituality is just profound. And her stories of adventures in Australia are well worth the read. 🙂 Perhaps she says it best in this way:

“The entire world could, would, can and will forever offer its opinions about how to be the best version of yourself that they imagine you should be. Yet none of us will ever be able to live any life other than our own. There comes a point where the only real thing, the only choice we really have, is the choice to be responsible for the journey that is our own. I gave up on my journey once, and I can’t imagine doing it again.”

*********************************

The beauty of humanity is that we are all different but the same.  We all bleed, feel pain, loss, love, and joy in similar ways. Whether we are gay or straight, black or white, are raised Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc…we all have souls that long for connection, love and purpose. The fascinating thing about this faith shifting/discovering self process is that what once was incredibly scary – the mystery of “not knowing” – has now become so very freeing. And it’s stories like Jennifer’s, and so many others, that encourage me to keep pressing forward. There is love on the other side.

From her CD Letting Go, which she released after her long hiatus from music, one of the many songs that has really touched me is On Love. Lyrics below.

Loneliness is hard. Let’s continue to be real and honest with each other. Though life can be difficult when you go against the grain, I’m hopeful that the end results are worth the process. Thanks for letting us in on your journey, Jennifer.

**********************************

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Romance, Sex, and all the things.

It’s been a while since I wrote.  Hence, this post comes with a forewarning – as it has been brewing in my head/heart for months, yet I have been waiting until I could get my words right so as to offend as few as possible and not violate anyone’s privacy but my own.  It will ruffle Fundamentalist’s feathers to be sure, and perhaps tip a sacred cow or two…so if that is not your style, please do not read any farther!  I understand that this kind of warning is similar to telling a child “don’t touch that” – so if you are still curious then please proceed with caution.  I am prepared for the inevitable unfriending that occurs whenever I share my thoughts, and I hope for fewer “you shouldn’t say things like that” messages since I am no longer in ministry.  However, if you are going to respond by sending me Bible verses – please, only send ones written by women, ok?  And do let me know if those exist, thanks!

Recently I read and shared this article on FB which got a lot of feedback.

https://www.npr.org/2018/09/18/648737143/memoirist-evangelical-purity-movement-sees-womens-bodies-as-a-threat?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180918

The author speaks of the effects that the evangelical purity movement has had on women over the years, and I (as well as many other women) resonate with it greatly.  One of the things I have enjoyed most this year is connecting with other women on topics such as these, women who are in difficult marriages, in the midst of separation, or post divorce.  Now, I know that sharing all the details of my own divorce publicly is not appropriate on this platform, and I am more than willing to meet one-on-one to share and listen.  However, what I do want to discuss is one of the many “pieces of the pie” of many issues when it comes to divorce for a lot of people.  Romance and sex.

I realize that all of our backgrounds and stories are different, yet I think a lot of people across different faith backgrounds can relate to these experiences and feelings.  My hope is to give you the courage to have freedom, to be honest and to find yourself.

Growing up in the church there was much advice to young teens about their sexuality (and what not to do).  Gather together a bunch of horny teenagers, quote many verses such as “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (By Solomon, the most PERVY guy ever, with at least 1000 sexual partners, but yes let’s quote him and twist it around 360 degrees and apply it to purity and monogamy – GAG).  We would sign pledges, get a white rose and maybe even a special “True Love Waits” ring, and read all the books about why we shouldn’t even date until ready for marriage.  Oh, and by the way teenagers, don’t masturbate either – because that’s wrong too.  All the sexual desires you feel towards your crushes – that’s called lust and sinful nature.  Pray and get your heart right with Jesus, teens!  Only side hugs – you don’t want to tease the boys by pressing your breasts against them!  They won’t be able to help themselves and they’ll start to lust!

Now, if you were a teen like me, you dated a little (or a lot) and got close to the line one too many times.  You felt shame because of what you were told, even though the experiences you were having were oh-so-great.  The guilt piled high, yet you enjoyed the physical connection – because it turns out touch and connection is quite healthy for humans.  Maybe once you became a young adult you got involved with college ministry and the stakes rose even higher – “Do not do a,b,c,d,e,f,g….x,y,&z.” And if you become depressed by this exhausting standard and sexual deprivation, what you need are more dates with Jesus!  Let him meet all of your needs (I still never understood how this works in regards to actual physical relationships, but OK).  “Saving yourself” for marriage is the ultimate goal for many a Christian, because that is the best and intended way.  It is when you become one with another person.  It is a sign of a covenant.  It’s the biggest deal of all big deals.  What comes along with this mindset is that A+B=C…saving yourself for marriage equals great married sex.

What I discovered though is that this formula is a great misunderstanding and in most cases, is not true.  Year after year in many various Christian women’s groups the topic of sex would come up…and women who once had such high expectations were disappointed sexually.  We would all talk of needing to give ourselves pep talks in order to be intimate with our husbands (even though we knew it would just be 5 minutes and then we could sleep), how it’s not what we thought it would be, and how foreplay was “such a thing of the past.”  How sex was a box we needed to check for them, something we just had to “get over with” once a week (or month) as a wifely duty.  We would joke about how sometimes it wouldn’t be as bad as we thought it was going to be, and that joke was only kinda funny.  We would discuss things like “Is it wrong to have to think about something else in order to have an orgasm during sex?”  These are questions and struggles that many married women have.  And how for some reason it was a struggle to be romantic with our husbands, even though we “did everything right” and saved ourselves for marriage.

Then there was the guilt and shame.  It’s because of “x, y, & z” that sex isn’t enjoyable now.  It seems to always be enjoyable for the men, but not for us.  From time to time we would have the (very reasonable and legit excuse) of pregnancy and breastfeeding for our low libido, but often that low libido would come at times when we weren’t pregnant or nursing.  For women arousal is multi-factorial, and this is something we often don’t learn until we are in the midst of a struggling marriage.  We dissect our marital issues with counselors and the depth of problems goes back years and years.  Many times sexual issues are due to a lack of freedom that was impressed on us as young teens making our purity vows – our bodies are meant to be a gift enjoyed by our husbands someday – end of story.  We spend years turning off our desires and feeling wrong for having them, only to find that when we are supposed to have them they’re gone.  By that point the men have us as their brides – there’s no turning back now.  The wooing is done. We have to “work hard” at our marriages to keep everyone happy.  Divorce isn’t an option.  Here we go.

Some people are able to work things out when they get to this point.  Maybe if they had romance initially they can rekindle it again.  But if they got married for reasons other than romance – spiritual, convenience, financial, arranged or otherwise – that will be much more difficult to do.  Especially if one spouse has majorly faith-shifted…ahem.

Many of us have a light bulb moment when we realize and accept that our marriage is over.  Un-fixable issues build over time, and then maybe one day you’re watching Property Brothers and it all hits you like a ton of bricks. 🙂  The guilt you have carried for years comes to a full head and you have to go through the thick of it.  But, there is finally freedom on the other side.  As I have discovered in myself and with the many women I have met with this year to discuss this topic, all of those feelings that we once thought were bad are still there and they’re good.  Letting go of the shame associated with physical pleasure is a life-giving breakthrough.  Finding the balance between casual dating and marriage is there somewhere, and I am hopeful that we who are on the other side will find it someday.  True romance that is not forced is the real gift to be embraced, not our “purity for the wedding night.”

I have only begun on this journey, and like all big steps in life I will make mistakes…and you might too if you’re on it as well.  As a single adult starting over my goals in life are companionship, empathy and honesty – and the title of this blog post when those goals are met or along the way. 😉  Cheers to you in the thick of it – life is gray and it will be OK. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Feelings

My favorite childhood book was ‘Feelings’ by Aliki. Amazingly this copy has survived the last 30 years and is still (taped together) in one piece…

3F76AB6A-1BB3-4065-9C70-CB6E5ED0934C

Towards the end of second grade, Aliki made a visit to our elementary school.  I think we were all a bit start struck as she read to us from her books, and afterwards we eagerly awaited our turns for her to sign each and every one of our chosen books.

4AD5EB99-DA27-4F63-A52E-0744490D88D7

To this day, I can still quote most of the stories in this book of such a common, yet complex topic.  Little did I know at the age of 8 that feelings would be such a huge part of re-discovering who I am at 36…

************************************************************

For the last several months, I have been unpacking in my mind and in my heart why I “feel” so much.  Why I have always “felt too much.”  Why this has been a problem for so many years.  Why it is now becoming the key to setting me free, as I give credit to feelings as being just as real and valuable as the air we breathe.

************************************************************

During my time in college and post-college ministry, the concept of fact over feeling was of great importance.  It doesn’t matter what you feel, what matters is what’s true.  Since I (felt/knew?) I was called to a life of overseas ministry because I loved foreigners, any ill feelings that came up along the way didn’t matter, I just had to stick with what I knew to be true.  I.E., Every single thing in the Bible, what my leaders said/thought, and what I thought I heard God say to me.  For someone who is a deep feeler and thinker…I can look back now and see the recipe for disaster slowly brewing.

The Bible has a lot of interesting things to say about the heart (aka, feelings and intentions).  It is deceitful above all things and desperately sick  – Jeremiah.  God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight in him – Psalms.  We are to guard it, because everything we do flows from it – Proverbs.  He removes our hearts of stones and gives us hearts of flesh – Ezekiel.  The pure in heart will see God – Matthew.  The word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart – Hebrews.  We have to love God will all of our heart, soul, and mind – Everywhere in Bible.  I could go on, and on, and on.

Basically, I think we can all agree that the heart, feelings and intentions are so confusing and important that even the men writing the Bible kinda went back and forth on the topic.  The hearts a mess, the hearts the best.  Sometimes you can’t trust it, sometimes you can.  God will give you what your heart desires…only if those desires are from him.  Boy, that’s a tricky one for many a youth full of desire!

********************************************************

For a few years of life, what I felt and what I knew/believed to be true lined up pretty well.  Sure, there were some squiggles along the way, but for the most part my feelings and “truth” (evangelical Christianity) meshed well.  When questions would come up along the way, I would comfort myself with the happy/feel good verses from the Bible and carry on with life.  Jesus will fix everything, end of story.

Now, if you share my sense of humor – this would be the time to look up the song “Turn it Off” from the musical ‘The Book Of Mormon’ and enjoy a chuckle.  If you are easily offended then please don’t do so…because, you know, feelings are valid! 🙂  Anyway, I would turn off the doubts by reminding myself of God’s promises…even though I was at times scared $hitless of my thoughts and questions.  I would quiet myself enough to find peace, and that was good enough for a few years.  Until the feelings started to outweigh the “truth”…and internal attention and reflection needed to be given to those feelings.

**********************************************************

Let’s talk about love for a minute.  In general, there’s the “Love is a feeling” camp, the “Love is a choice” camp, and the “Love is a feeling and a choice” camp.  Think about it… Can you have one without the other?  If you choose to love someone but have no feelings for them – how good is that love for either of you?  If you feel love for someone but make no choice to love them when times are tough – how strong is that love for either of you?  In the situation of human relationships – is the feeling of love important?  Yes.  Is the choice of love important?  Yes.  Because without both, the relationship cannot thrive.  So it turns out feelings do matter, in accordance with choice/truth in the relationships we have with each other.

**********************************************************

Think about what brings you peace.  Think about what makes you upset.  Think about what makes you smile.  Think about what makes you cry.  Are those feelings valid – to you – based on your life experience and how you’re wired as a person?  Yes. What happens when we try to shut off and ignore those negative feelings – or when we deprive ourselves of the positive ones?  Poor choices, and over time death of our souls.

**********************************************************

Have I made mistakes over the last decade of my spiritual journey for truth?  YES!!  Have I unintentionally hurt others while on this journey?  Yes.  Have they unintentionally hurt me?  Yes.  Do we all have the same freedom to be true to what we think, feel, and love?  Yes.  Something I keep learning is that times change, people change, but our deep feelings and longings remain and they must be given worth.  When we choose something important without feeling we will inevitably be burnt out from that choice.  When we feel something deeply without choosing to persevere we will not survive.

Here’s to living honestly, to giving attention to our feelings and the feelings of others, knowing they are deep and they serve purpose ultimately in giving one another the freedom to live life. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Self Care

Recently someone whom I love very much (and who amazingly, still loves me!) sent me to Florida for a little self-care weekend.  She asked me what I needed – I told her the ocean speaks to my soul – so she sent me there.  She is a life-giver.  Though she doesn’t want any credit, I am beyond thankful that she gave me this gift.

IMG_2374

First sight of the water – I couldn’t help myself. Don’t take pictures while driving, kids.

For as long as I can remember, the beach has been a source of wonder for me.  From childhood through adulthood the awe has never faded, the fresh saltwater air begs you to breathe deeply and just “be” when you take that first barefoot step on the sand.  Staring out at the ocean I am always small and reminded of how big the world is.  The anticipation and excitement in finding beautiful shells takes me to this place of “I have no clue how these are made” – and I’m realizing I love that place.

Admittingly, I was a little nervous about how I would handle the flights.  For the last several years I struggled with having panic attacks on planes as we flew back and forth overseas – as I was always terrified that God was going to let something terrible happen “for a reason” and we would all surely die.  Yes, this fear is irrational, as most of the fears we deal with are – but anything is possible, and my view of God (based on the Bible and experiences with leaders in ministry) had produced much fear in me.

This time around as I boarded that first flight I decided to take God out of the equation (bear with me here).  These pilots had surely flown thousands and thousands of hours before landing a job with a commercial airline, so they must be good and trustworthy.  They are well equipped to handle the weather and do not want to crash the plane – as they likely have families to go home to.  We will all be fine, and I will be in Florida soon.

And you know what??  It worked!!  No Xanax needed, no panic whatsoever.  I was fine.  I had accepted and trusted their knowledge, intentions, and capabilities – and though there was turbulence, I felt no fear.  This was mind-blowing for me.  I cannot even remember the last time I did not panic on a plane.  I had discovered something new.

For the rest of the trip, I decided I would have no fear.  I honed into my inner doula – I would treat the earth as I treat the birth process – with respect first and then trust.  Knowing that things could go wrong but they most likely won’t – and if they do I will call 911. 😉  I decided to respect and trust my surroundings with carefulness but with a sense of adventure – not allowing the “worst case scenario” to creep into my mind at any time.

And yes, it was amazing.

IMG_2462

I explored endless beaches.  I visited places that were familiar, I visited places that were new.  I went out into the ocean over and over again, not afraid of what I could not see.  I did bucket list activities, including kayaking ( I have always wanted to – never thought my first time would be on the ocean alone!!)

IMG_2547

Who knew kayaks are heavy? That was tricky to get off the rack…and down into the water…

IMG_2549

Omg, I’m in the kayak…and I’m heading out to the bay…! Deep. Breaths.

It was truly beautiful out on the water.  My heart was racing, but I told myself “You are not bleeding, the sharks want nothing to do with you.”  I was all alone – but I was fine.  I loved the experience…but learned that next time I would rather share it with someone.

For sentimental reasons, I drove by my grandparent’s old house in Longboat Key.  It didn’t look the same, so I didn’t take a picture of it – but I know my family will enjoy this shot of the street sign 🙂  Lots of feelings, lots of memories.

IMG_2578

Most importantly, I had loads of time to just walk the beach by myself and think.  I tried laying out on the sand and being still – but apparently I’m not so good at that – ha.  I preferred to explore while processing life in my head…and that worked just as well. 🙂

IMG_2589

An old spot from my younger years ❤

As I pondered many things, what I found that I kept coming back to is that I am deeply wired to be honest.  When I looked back on my life, this is how I’ve always been.  And this is what has gotten me into trouble time and time again in Christian circles and in ministry – my honesty.  In college I changed my major and devoted all of my time, energy and heart to loving others through the outlet of campus ministry. When I applied to join staff I was asked to wait 6 months and re-apply because I was too honest on the application and over-shared.  Were they just in asking me to wait?  No.  Had I done anything wrong?  No.  Am I so glad that I was not accepted onto their staff team?  YES.

The cycle continued over the following decade of my life, as I lived honestly and was repeatedly reprimanded, asked to change things about myself (that were just part of who I am), asked to wait, asked to leave, etc. etc. etc.  Being alive and being honest was always wrong, even though my heart and my intentions were good, and I loved Jesus and people more than anything.

As I struggled through questions regarding the character of God in the Bible and the truth in stories such as the book of Job, and in the whys of what happens to people on this earth I was constantly hushed, told to just “have faith” and un-friended in subtle ways.  I have struggled for years with the character differences between God & Jesus yet was told over and over to believe they are one in the same “because the Bible says” – and I need to not question these things.  I need to just keep believing that “everyone needs Jesus” and then they will be fine – end of story.

But I had Jesus, was fine for a few years and then not fine.  My soul has been empty and unfulfilled, even though I have a family and a home and we’re doing “ok.”  I spent years living under the mindset of “You must die to yourself, Melissa!  So that HE can live!”  But guys, this was getting me nowhere.  I tried, I really did.  “Oh, it’s because you need to let go and let God!!” Ok, but what?  What does that mean?  Go live out in a village and don’t complain about the squatty potties and just accept the fact that every single person here is going to hell unless God uses you to save them?!?!  Otherwise, damn.  Too bad.

And so I thought about all of these things during my self-care weekend.  I thought about how over the last half of my life I had lost myself…because I believed that sacrificing our wants and needs for the greater good is what’s really important.  But is it so selfish to want to be happy?  Is it so selfish to want to (occasionally) spend time in beautiful places?  Is it so selfish to want to discover who you really are – and to start truly living?

IMG_2656

I saw this at a shop and I thought it was really funny.  Inappropriate or not – appreciation for humor is something I do know about myself…and that hasn’t changed! 

*******************************************************

On the last morning of my trip, I knew what I needed to do.  I woke up early to a storm, drank my coffee and got ready.  As the storm passed I got in my rental car (did I mention I rented a car by myself?! Little firsts..) and drove to a familiar beach that I had not been to yet on this trip.  I had yet to “hear from God” or “feel his presence”… but what I was really longing for was to have an experience where I felt my grandma’s presence, too – because Florida was such a special place for her and cancer is a jack-ass and took her way too soon.

So I did what she would have done – I went out to a sandbar after the storm.

IMG_2685

“The treasures are just under the sand” she used to tell me as we would look for sand dollars together.  I stepped up to the sandbar, took a deep breath, looked up to the sky and then looked down.  And there it was —

IMG_2687

It’s a good thing I was alone because I could not stop crying…like, ugly crying.

Right when I saw it I started sobbing – as I bent down to pick it up I immediately felt her presence.  I looked up at the sky and said “Thank you, Grammy!  Thank you so much, I miss you so much..I know that you’re here…I miss you..” In between tears I would walk and see another one, and another, then another.  As I stacked the sand dollars on my hand I remembered her smile when I found my first “treasure” as a child – the excitement we shared was mutual and I felt the joy of discovery at 36 just as I felt it at 6.

IMG_2740

And so, it’s ok.  It’s all going to be ok.  I still don’t know what’s true – and that’s ok.  I’m at peace with that.  Maybe there is an after-life…but I don’t have to believe there’s an eternal punishment.  Maybe there is a God…but I don’t have to believe in a book written solely by men in a patriarchal culture.  No one knows for sure what is true – and the freedom in accepting and embracing that reality is a freedom I have never felt before.  Everyone’s life is different – and the best we can do is live each day being true to ourselves and good to others.  Honesty is what brings us back to discovering who we are, life is too short and frail to pretend anything else.

IMG_2820

Goodbye ocean. And thank you —

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Being ‘OK’ with the Unknown

Blogging can be a tricky pastime to navigate.  Those of us who write often do so to share our thoughts, experiences, and ideas with others to find some kind of common ground.  It often brings a sense of release to get the words in our heads out onto a screen (no longer paper!), helps us to process and think about all sides from different viewpoints.  When I first starting writing, I don’t think I intended to expose my entire spiritual journey / faith shifting process to the public eye…but if there’s one thing I always hope to be it’s authentic – and life happens for most of us differently than we ever anticipated.

What makes the writing tricky though can be the responses from vastly different types of people.  In being vulnerable I hope to encourage and be relatable to others who also may be struggling or confused with the faith that they were brought up in.  This does happen, however what also happens is I offend and upset people who are secure in their faith.  I understand that this is to be expected – but it’s taken me awhile to be OK with that reality and keep moving forward.

So, here we go.

To be honest, I don’t have many real life friends who are also in a “faith shift” – i.e. re-evaluating what they once held to be 100% true and infallible and shifting those beliefs based on life experience and the world around them.  As a former Evangelical, sharing these struggles with others in that community often does not evoke a good response.  Evangelicals (with good intentions) always try to rope me back into the beliefs I once held, using scripture and often reminding me “But you know what’s true…”. Not allowing me to be in the process of figuring out truth only adds to the internal struggle of something is wrong with me…and I’ll never get better.

As I wrestle with these thoughts and questions, there are still things that I hold in my core to be right or wrong, and other things my opinions have gradually changed on.  For example, I still believe with all my heart that ending a life is wrong.  No matter how big or small or who they are, it is not our job to end anyone’s life.  We are to be life-givers.

Is there really a hell?  After living in a Muslim country where the Bible would tell me that my neighbors and 94% of the population are going to hell, I have had to re-evaluate.  In fact, according to Christianity about 70% of the earth’s population are going (and has been going) to hell, and I just can’t swallow it anymore.  It’s too cruel.

I’ve also learned that love is more about a person than it is about a gender.  I know heterosexuals that are staying in their marriages because it’s the “right thing to do”… regardless of whether or not either person is happy.  And I have friends in same sex relationships who truly live out love.  So, who am I to say what is right or wrong?  Love is a good thing, hate is not.  These are things I’ve learned.

But, is there a God?  Was/Is Jesus God?  Does prayer do anything?  How much of the Bible is true?  I don’t know the answers to any of these questions anymore.

And so, I reasoned in my soul that 2017 would be the year of accepting the unknown – and being OK with it.  Not “comfortable”… because I’m not quite sure yet if that’s possible?! 🙂  I am open to what 2018 (InshAllah) will bring, and in the mean time I will continue to read, check out churches, and engage in open dialogue with anyone who wants to chat about these things (without lecturing me back into Christianity, please!).  I’m accepting my Agnosticism because acceptance without condition is the only way we can grow.  I will continue to extend grace to others who are in process, because it’s a hard place to be and I know that having just one person who understands is like a breath of fresh air.

Love to you, friends who struggle ~

10154537_10153966577075072_1618514614_n

An old photo…but my happy place where the world “makes sense”…

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

One year out

One year.  This Friday (Seva’s birthday, ironically) marks one year since she and I left Azerbaijan.  Jason and the big kids left one month later.  So much was a mess at that time – her skin (which is still a daily battle), my hormones, and all of our emotions.

I’ve been trying to determine over the last several weeks why I’ve felt so down.  We’re back in the U.S…isn’t that what I wanted?  We got to see the leaves change varying colors after missing it the last two falls…and though beautiful…there was still a deep void.  Should I adjust my Zoloft?  Maybe, but probably not.  Breastfeeding hormones?  Maybe.  PMS?  Always a contributor.  Exhaustion?  Of course – but what parent isn’t exhausted??  Ha.

Then last week while I was driving alone I realized, as I saw the last of the colorful leaves falling, I was still grieving.  November has always been a somewhat difficult month – remembering two miscarriages that happened the week before Thanksgiving several years apart.  But now there is more.  November was the time I failed at overseas living a second time.  Not only failed as a missionary (I had done that long ago), but failed as a Christian.  November marks the time when fear took over and I threw in the towel.  I fully acknowledged that faith had left my soul, and I had no confidence in God being in control, I needed to leave.  I was terrified that if I gave birth there my baby would die.  Because God is not always good.  And I was tired of seeing my three year old itch non-stop and hate being in her own skin.  Skin that I gave her.  Skin that my body and my husband made, or God made, either way the feelings were/are negative.

After my last post, I received a few messages from people inquiring what I meant by spiritual abuse.  Once again, I am horrible at responding (I’m sorry)…mostly because re-surfacing the wounds are too painful, so I shove them down further and further hoping that one day I will forget.  Forget the way my godly leaders made me feel.  The other day I saw the word “crisis” written in a letter to my husband from someone above him in ministry.  I instantly had a knee-jerk reaction, heart racing, hearing the heavy accented voice in my head from years back… “You sure do have a lot of crises out there.”

Yes.  As a twenty-something American mom of a two and three and a half year old living out in the village with no mom friends who spoke English we had some crises.  Every time my kids were sick I was terrified.  Sure, I was being ridiculous.  Any other Christian mom would have handled it just fine.  God brought you there, of course He will keep you safe.  And if your kids get a mysterious village illness and don’t make it – it’s all for the gospel – it’s all worth it.  And by the way, put your kids in child care all day so you can perfect the language and check all the boxes on the “perfect organized missionary” list, ok?  You should know how to make the local dishes by now.  You should know the ins and outs of the bazaar by now.  You should be at this spot on the cultural adaptation curve.  You should be managing your time better.  It’s a shame that your husband has to help with the dishes because you don’t have it all together.

Oh, it was all a damn shame to them.  The godly leaders (that our former church always praised) didn’t approve of me from the start, and I get it.  I don’t have the best filter and I say things that make people uncomfortable.  But if I were to list all the hurtful things they said to me, and about me, this blog would be too long to read.  And as a young woman who looked up to them, I interpreted their words as words from God, because clearly they were really close to Him.  As the wounds got deeper and affected my daily mindset, we still “just didn’t get it” and all problems were clearly with me.  It didn’t matter that I had a heart for women in that country, I didn’t have my $hit together, and that affected the team and ultimately the leader’s success.

One would think that after a three year hiatus, returning again in the absence of those leaders would be no problem.  After all, we won’t live in the village this time.  We will have community with other English speaking families.  We will have access to more “comforts.”  We can do this if we just try again.  Jason will thrive, I will exist day to day.

But it was too late. My faith had dwindled, and the fear became too much.  I believed that if there was a God I was afraid of Him, and He was through with me so He would let anything happen.  The more I read of the Bible the more upset I became, so I had to put it away.  A Christian family living in a Muslim country and the wife has to hide her Bible because the contents are too disturbing, great.  There were so many days I was hanging the laundry out on the balcony and I imagined that if I would just accidentally fall over this could all be over-with…my husband could get one of those amazing faithful Christian wives and everyone would be happy and fulfill their calling.

One year.  One year of grieving the loss of a relationship with my Savior.  Though truthfully it had been longer.  “You just need to come back to Jesus,” those with good intentions say.  Oh, if only.  I have seen the behind-the-scenes strategies of “Don’t follow your heart, follow this model” for winning the lost to Christ, both during college and as a career.  The emptiness and loneliness started so long ago that it has taken over my heart.

I think that when expats return to their home country they have these visions of good times with old friends, re-connecting with old relationships and picking up where you left off.  After our first return this was the case, but after the second return my identity was too changed for old relationships to resume.  Loneliness follows me everywhere, and when you go through a faith shift you lose community.  I have accepted the words that those leaders spoke to me long ago, that I “just don’t understand how I make people feel”, and that explains my lack of relationship.

Never would I have imagined that I’d be at this point.  No one ever hopes that their spiritual life will go from healthy and thriving to “gone.”  I carry the guilt everywhere, and hope that my kids will have a good life in spite of the 10 moves they’ve had.  The baby has no concept of where we lived before he was here, and has been spared from seeing his mom have panic attacks about x,y, and z overseas.  But now he is stuck with a faith-less mom.  He will know that there is more to this world than white picket fences and VBS with treats because the kids will tell him stories of Azerbaijan, for that I am thankful.

One year out.  My schedule is full with work and helping others, because I don’t ever want to be a burden again.  I take each day as it comes and struggle to make concrete plans.  I went to counseling for a time, but life is currently too busy and during this season the wounds are too painful.

Yesterday I went to an Azeri friend’s house to celebrate her birthday.  It was a good time of mom community, and I empathized with the ladies struggling with our language.  I hope that I can love the immigrants (legal or otherwise) that are here, in the same way that local Azerbaijanis and other expats loved and accepted me.  I hope that I can be Christ to them, even though this whole Christianity thing has brought be to the lowest point in my life.  Because Jesus was a pretty great guy, who didn’t exclude people because they didn’t have their $hit together.  In fact, I think it was the perfectly religious people he had issues with.  He came for the sick, not the healthy.  And boy are we all sick.

img_5396

Last fall, having “my drink” there.   A gift from another expat friend…good memories of bonding with expats over coffee.

img_3316

This fall, having “their drink” here.  New memories of bonding with foreigners here.  Life is a paradox. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Seven months out

It’s been more than half a year since we moved back to the U.S.

A few weeks ago, on the kid’s last day of school, our oldest said: “Mom, it’s the end of the school year – where are we moving to next?” Sigh.

I’ve lost track of how many different homes we’ve had along the way…maybe 10-12?  Somewhere in there.

The girls have adjusted relatively well to being back.  Seva cycles through phobias but her eczema is so much better.  Vera has tics that come and go, and vary in frequency and intensity, but we know these tics are associated with her nerves and stressors and they eventually calm down.  She has improved so much with her reading, and for that we are thankful.

Jonah has had a more difficult time, he misses his friends in Azerbaijan and buries his feelings by getting absorbed in other things.  It makes me sad for his heart.  I feel guilty more days than not, but I am trying to choose to look at our last several months in Azerbaijan as a gift – considering I wasn’t quite mentally/emotionally stable enough to return.  He is making new friends, thankfully.

The kids have picked up all kinds of lovely inappropriate words and ideas from being back in public school again…but it is what it is and we’re all doing our best to adapt and cope. I’m trying to teach them we don’t say things like “scare the hell out of Coen” etc. 😮

Jason and I also have our ups and downs.

It’s a process.

********************************************************

A few months ago my lovely cousin offered to pay for me to see a counselor.  Oh, I need it?  Haha.

After some procrastination, we finally scheduled the first appointment.  Then, a baby wanted to be born on that day (not mine, a client’s 🙂 ) so my husband went – kids in tow.

He said it went really well, and that I would like her a lot.

The next day, the pastor from that church offered (for the church) to pay for my first 10 sessions.  Guess I really needed it? 😉  It’s ok, I know.

During our first visit, she asked if I “felt the freedom to end up wherever I end up on this spiritual journey.”  I said I did not, but I so long to.

We have met several times, and it has been really good.  She too lived overseas for a time, and has experienced a lot outside of our country.  It has been good to process with someone who understands.  There have been tears, to say the least.

Without sharing too much detail (as I tend to do), perhaps the most meaningful thing so far has been the acknowledgement of events that happened years ago as spiritual abuse.  Unresolved events that caused deep hurt have fed into my {anger} issues with Christianity.  And just as we wouldn’t expect someone who had been physically or sexually abused to return to that same relationship, I can’t just return to the source of my wounds.

And so.  The journey continues, life goes on each day and I am hoping for peace.  Our family takes each day at a time – just like every other family.  Jason takes the kids to church, and I stay home to rest and think.  I try to pray, but since I don’t know if I’m being heard – it’s hard.  And it’s lonely.

Thankfully, we still love people and we miss a lot of you, so if you’re an old friend and want to meet for coffee Jason or I would enjoy that.  We know we’re “different” now and life is hectic for everyone, but life is also short and YOLO. Thanks for reading – ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

On Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy is wonderful and difficult.  There is no need to list the reasons why – most women talk about it so openly.  The joy of baby kicks and a growing belly, the pain of aching muscles and lack of comfortable sleep.  The excitement grows each week that passes by – trading nausea for leaky…everything – looking ahead toward the end goal of a dreamy birth and an even dreamier baby.  We tolerate the changes and can easily explain away our tearful emotions – pregnancy hormones!  Soon this will all pass and I’ll be holding my sleeping, smiling baby while wearing my skinny jeans and feeling fabulously in love with my new little family.

Yet what we don’t talk about so often is the reality of missed expectations and the changes that affect every aspect of our health and well being after pregnancy.  We create a birth plan and commit our souls to it – but when does life ever go as planned?  Without flexibility in our birthing hopes we start out our postpartum journey already in a pit of “should haves” and mom-guilt.  Even when birth goes about 50% according to plan, there is often still grieving that must take place – even with a healthy mom and a healthy baby.  We invest so much mental and physical effort (and excitement) in preparation for labor and delivery that we fail to give any thought to the healing process – stitches, bleeding, new pain, a tiredness like none other and oh yeah…a crying baby.

Of great significance are the hormonal changes taking place the moment baby is born.  Our bodies go from growing a human(s) to creating food for the human – and the switch is fast.  From the moment we deliver the placenta our breasts begin to produce food – whether we have the energy to do so or not – our bodies are always putting baby first.  Before we know it we are weepy and feel emotions of thrill, sorrow and joy within the same minute.  We feed our baby(ies) more than we feed ourselves and we ache to hold and protect our baby whenever anyone else holds them – even though sleep is needed now more than ever.  Hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that were increasing during pregnancy now decrease, and we might think and feel things we have never felt before.  Some might equate these feelings to PMS on steroids, or the sort of depression that comes with grieving a loss – even though we have reason for such joy.  For others anxiety kicks in and every decision is plagued with worry and second guessing.

Before baby is born, we think of things like breastfeeding and bonding with such blissful anticipation.  Yet when we find ourselves sitting in bed at 3am in the dark after what feels like only minutes of sleep and now feeding again, sore nipples and spit-up soaked clothes and a baby that cries unless he’s nursing…the reality of selflessness kicks in and there was no “plan” for how to cope with this.  We see our partner sleeping and feel angry, jealous and maybe even bitter – why do we get the pain of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum??  Initial pain with breastfeeding can be just as difficult to get through as labor, and we start to feel like “the whole package” is just unfair.  It might even feel like a cruel joke on women – and we lose sight of the fact that eventually there will be the baby bliss that everyone talks about.  We instead think I must be different and something is wrong.

And then, once the thrill of new baby wears off and no one comes to visit anymore…the loneliness hits.  Oh, the loneliness.

And this…I fear, is where our culture and recent generations have gone wrong.  In talking only about the good things, we negate the hard times (because yes, they will pass) and we allow women to isolate and sink into depression that often goes unnoticed.  While there is nothing wrong with medication* (been there) to help us cope with these changes I think what we’re missing is that the postpartum process is meant to show us we need community.  In our country in particular, we have adapted a mindset of handling everything on our own and just getting through it.  In the past and still today around the world, family and friends come alongside the mother for 40 days so that she can rest and invest all her energy into healing herself and caring for her baby.  Yet must importantly of all – aside from the help with meals and cleaning (which is awesome!) – she isn’t alone.  She has the community of other women.  Women who have been though it, are going through it, and will go through it.  The assurance of “You’re normal and things will get better” is more of a gift than anything else.

What if – instead of pretending everything was great every minute with our new babies, we responded honestly to questions of “How are you doing?” with “Well, I’m in love with my baby…but I feel quite like $hit.  I’m leaking from everywhere and haven’t showered for 3 days.  I’m starving and smelly but I just keep holding the baby because I don’t want him/her to cry.  I feel guilty sleeping because my house is a mess and my other kids need attention.  I think I brushed my teeth today, though, so that’s good.” And then maybe that friend would respond with “Oh, I remember the feeling!!” and we breathe a sigh of relief.  Instead of crying maybe that new (or experienced) mom will smile, or even laugh. Or maybe she’ll cry and her friend will tell her it’s OK.  When we feel understood or known we can more easily cope – whereas loneliness and isolation only feed into depression.

We live in a fast paced world, and unfortunately we don’t always have time to visit with each other or help ease the burdens of our friends.  But if postpartum depression is something that as many as 1 in 5 women deal with – whether they’ve admitted it or not – how much good could we do by simply texting or calling a new mom and asking “How are you doing?” Be prepared for them to say “Like $hit” and offer them the gift of empathy.  We’re in this together ladies – and we get the gift of bonding with these sweet (and not always sweet) kids that make us cry, cuss, and curse our x chromosomes.

IMG_9554

A bad day.

IMG_9766

A good day – the following week.

P.S.  I’m still not in my skinny jeans.  But I love my family.  Chaos and all.

*Anti-depressants are good and often necessary.  Please talk to your doctor if you have signs of postpartum depression.  And don’t be afraid to talk to a friend, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment