on losing god along the way

It’s been two years since I’ve visited this space. Two years waiting and wandering. I wasn’t sure if I would ever come back. I’m not who I was. Innocence has been lost. All the things I thought I had figured out in my twenty’s are now questions again.

I feel softer and jaded. I have no answers; and I’m not even sure I want them anymore.

Somewhere along the way I lost God, or God lost me. It was on a beach in North Carolina. I yelled at God from the waves because death had found me. One was the death of a child on the cusp of manhood; the other was the death of a friendship that had been a cornerstone of who I was. I was gutted and grieving. I yelled at God on the beach and thought that was the end of it.

I came home and continued plugging away. It took me months to realize I had said goodbye to religion on that beach. Several more months to say out loud that God was dead to mebeing intentionally dramatic so it felt a little less final.

I could pretend. I bowed my head as appropriate. I could say the right words. I could nod along when others spoke of God. All the right motions that had been ingrained in me since I was eight years old. But where there had once been something on the other side, now it felt blank, a white sheet of paper…nothing there.

It’s been two years. I’ve played my part well. But I feared coming back to this space because this is where I can’t fake it. Writing has always been sacred…I can’t hide here. I can’t write pretty things for the sake of the pretty words and cute turns of phrases. Writing has always been spiritual for me. It’s where I’ve found God and God has found me and I was scared of what would happen on this other side. But here I am. Without any answers.

on becoming self-aware

I don’t like coming face to face with myself.

I don’t like confronting demons.

But I have learned to appreciate those moments of clarity because they become moments of self-discovery—while they often knock me flat on my backside and turn my world upside down, they also cut through the lies I’ve been allowing myself to believe.

I think the catalyst happened at the end of November. I self-harmed in a way I never had. I don’t know what triggered it (although I have some ideas) but I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and called it a day.

That was the absolute low-point; but it didn’t really get better. When I get too overwhelmed, I retreat. I don’t know how to reach out and ask for help, so I self-medicate. And my medication of choice is alcohol—so, I started drinking. It allowed me to numb out when I was alone; and it was something to take the edge off when I encountered social situations I didn’t feel equipped to handle.

There were moments when I thought, “this isn’t good for you, slow down,” but I couldn’t shake that desire to not feel anything. 2015/early 2016 was a year of loss. Relationships that had become part of my foundation fractured. I moved through it as graciously and with as much dignity as I could, and I grieved when it grabbed me and forced me to my knees. But another loss. Another hit.

And so the drinking became a pattern and then a habit.

And the landslide only stopped because I had to make a decision and it should have been an easy one. But it wasn’t. I waffled back and forth in ways I haven’t before when it comes to this. I started begging for answers and clarity.

I finally clicked over to my Enneagram App* after enough stray thoughts that I should explore what happens to my type (nine) when it’s disintegrating.

…When 9 goes to 6, reactivity and worry replaces passivity…

…Goes to self doubt; feels a sense of frozenness…

…Result of…handling change/loss…

…Becomes suspicious; anxiety intensifies; is more pessimistic

I felt breath fill me in a way that had been absent. It was the ah-ha moment—clarity. I knew I was unhealthy, but understanding why and naming it allowed me to understand and be gracious with myself. It gave me the freedom to set some boundaries, but more importantly, I was able to be kind to myself. It wasn’t my fault that I had experienced so much change and loss; I was grieving and it was OK to fall short.

It’s OK to fall.

//

Through the lens of the Enneagram I have learned to be kind to myself as I live and grow. I am on a journey, not yet finished. Through this language I have found a way to reconcile the who I want to become with the who I am right now. One is not better or worse.

I couldn’t become the one without the other.

As I’m moving through a place of disintegration to a place of (hopefully) integration, I’ve learned some things.

Doug told me I get mean when I’ve been drinking. Another friend recently brought it up because I have hurt her. Both these instances invited me to self-examine—an examination I wanted to avoid. Doug, that kind man that he is, knows I have a hard time “just being,” so decided a long time ago to not worry about it (the meanness) because he loves me. He knows it’s not the real me. She hasn’t made the same commitment so it was fair of her to say something.

I didn’t like being called mean so I had some hard conversations with Doug. I wanted to understand more about what I was experiencing and why. In my pursuit, I read more about nines.

I’m a gut type in the Enneagram, one of the “hostile” types. To quote Richard Rohr,** “Gut people react instinctively…Life is for them a sort of battleground…They are concerned, often unconsciously, with power and justice…Gut people are…ruled by aggression…” So flattering, I know. My pastor once said the other two types (heart and mind types) have a hard time understanding the gut type. We rub them the wrong way.

But here’s the thing—I’m a nine, too. So I am gentle (most of the time) but my wings are high-tension and energy laden (so says Richard Rhor). The clarity I found is not that I’m mean when I’m drinking; it’s that my nine-ish gentleness gives way to my other two wings, who become more dominant, so I say what I mean, but the gentleness (that usually lets me get away with it) is missing.

Now I’m not saying it’s OK. It’s not better or beneficial to drink so much that I throw powerful words around—my power comes from being a gentle prophet. When I lose that, I lose part of myself and my unique gifting.

I am saying it makes sense. I am a hostile person. What Doug calls mean, is mean through his lens. What my friend called to account is true—but knowing that it’s an innate part of me that I get to work through gives me the freedom and the power to make the choices I want to make.

In other words, I’m not just being mean—I’m just being more than what people are used to getting from me.

//

Even before she confronted me I started Whole 30. Because of the drinking. Because while I want the freedom to chose, I am also a creature of habit and comfort, so I needed the drastic disruption to create new, healthier-for-me rhythms.

It’s only been eleven days.

IT’S BEEN ELEVEN DAYS!!

I’m not sure which is true. But I feel myself moving towards a healthier space. I feel myself accepting myself as I am and working to become the person I want to be. I find myself confronting my weaknesses, but not striving against them. Instead, I am lovingly examining and coming to terms with the mistakes and the selfishness.

I am learning to carry the weight of being a nine with the glory of being a nine.

*http://www.enneaapp.com/

**The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

on uncertainty

The black cursor blinks at me…waiting for the words. Just like me. There’s a silence, a void. A whispering that I’m straining to hear but I just can’t make it out.

The end of a breath before the next one begins. That moment when maybe it won’t come…panic? Fear? Resigned? Hope?

What’s waiting beyond the next that I can’t see?

For the first time in my life there are no clear next steps. Things are good and permissible. And the choices are overwhelming.

It’s a forced waiting…not one of my choosing.

I remember feeling life moving inside me, waiting for the moment when he would take his first breath outside of me. I chose that waiting.

I remember waiting for her breath. Another choice.

The third…the waiting was different but no less intense. Every morning just before the sun broke across the sky searching for the email that would have come in the dead of night while I lay sleeping…

I feel those same pangs. That longing and waiting—but what exactly I’m giving birth to now, I have no idea.

I’ve turned inward. The prayer of examen, breath prayer and meditation have been a way to connect with the true self.

The invitation whispers—go deeper, get smaller.

How come no one ever told me you never figure out life? There are no answers.

It’s a placing one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes it’s a trudge.

Sometimes it’s a dance, a frolic, a skip.

But it’s always surprising movement and interruption. It’s always learning and growing, adapting and changing.

There is no arrival.

There is an end.

on pattern mixing

My favorite thing to do besides play Barbies was to play dress-up. My mom had saved all her old fancy gowns and I spent hours in the basement or my bedroom putting outfits on and strutting around. I played house; I pretended I was a model, or an actress.

I also loved putting outfits together—I think I must have changed my clothes four times a day because each new activity demanded its very own outfit. And the patterns…flowers with polka-dots; frills and pink lace with denim shorts, lime green and yellow flowers.

It’s been fun watching my daughters play with clothes to express themselves. Kyler recently wore her favorite twirly dress and then another twirly dress with her arms through the sleeves as a cape. I knew what she had in mind but the execution is about what you could imagine.

shoesOne day I was sitting outside with this little girl, my legs propped up on the table reading. Her legs were on top of mine and I saw our shoes side-by-side. I had opted for the practical gray converse while she chose the sparkly mulit-colored pink and glittery shoes. Little girl me would have fallen in love with the impractical shoes that don’t go with everything because they were fun and playful.

When people talk to me about the patterns I mix and match, I tell them I just pretend I’m five years old. They laugh and assure me it doesn’t look like a five-year old dressed me, but they’re missing the heartbeat of what I’m communicating. I started choosing grey practical shoes when I listened to what the world said to wear—or rather, I chose the jeans and t-shirts because I was scared I would choose wrong and people would laugh at me.

I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be the fairy tale, princess pattern-loving mixed up girl. That felt unsafe in this world that can be so cruel and judgmental. So I played it safe and chose simple solid, color palettes. I knew what I was drawn to, but it wasn’t accepted.

But I never stopped eye-balling all the things that were flowy and long and full of patterns. I never stopped wanting to mix things that didn’t look like they went together.

I have loved my late twenties and thirties because I’ve re-learned to play. I’ve learned to love what I love and not apologize for it. I’m no longer interested in if it’s the most flattering cut, or if other people would wear it, or if it’s currently “in.” I have gone back to what I’ve loved as a child. I spent most of my teen and early twenties learning to suppress my individuality…and now I’m finally listening to my sassy five-year old self who unapologetically loved what she loved—princesses, fairy-tales, and all the patterns all the time.

So if this is new to you, but like me, you’re eyeballing all the things and want to start playing, I invite you to start.

What colors and patterns are you drawn too? What makes you feel like your most true self? And it’s OK if you’re copying someone else. We forget that that’s how we learn and then we fine tune and make it our own. We learned to talk by mimicking our care-givers. We learned to walk while holding onto someone’s hand, or the random piece of furniture. The more you play, the more you’ll figure out what you like. My former roommate has an edgy, rocker almost gothic style—I copied some of her pieces, but now pair them with other things so they have more of a fairytale vibe. I liked what she did, but I made it my own.

shoes2
jewelry from Noonday Collection, tunic from Goodie Two Shoes, shoes from Tom’s

Start small…I was at a trunk show the other day and a woman was trying on patterns for the first time. I suggested she start with a pair of leggings instead of the tunic she was holding because she could wear a solid top and wouldn’t feel overwhelmed every time she saw herself in the mirror. Confidence and feeling comfortable are so important. Starting small gives you the ability to add-on and build confidence. Scarves, shoes, belts, and necklaces are all easy ways to add pattern and/or color. Then you can practice mixing and matching those pieces with other things in your closet.

Ignore the mirrors. We lived in Uganda for two months during our adoption process and there weren’t any mirrors around. I wasn’t able to check myself out, or examine an outfit from every angle and it was so freeing. If you love what you’re wearing and feel comfortable in it, the mirror shouldn’t be the final judge. It’s a tool, like a curling iron. You don’t ask your curling iron how your hair looks. Do ask friends, especially as you’re learning. I have two that I will text when I’m trying something that feels risky to me. I trust them to help me fine-tune.

Be brave…or at least tired. Sometimes I’ve done the weirdest stuff because I’m just too tired to care and it ends up looking great. Sometimes I’m feeling brave and so I’ll try something new. I may never wear it again, but I learned that a) people loved it or b) no one even noticed/cared. And honestly, most of the time it’s the latter. I wear clothes every day and most of the time no one cares to comment one way or the other. And so I learn to dress in what I like because the world isn’t really paying attention to me. I’m not Taylor Swift—and there’s tons of freedom in that.

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