Roots {Part III in the Date with Destiny Series}

Monday, June 22, 2015

Continued from Date with Destiny - Part I and Date with Destiny Part II.

The rain cascaded in tiny rivulets down the century-old old window panes. She stood there with her head pressed against the cold glass. A pretty 7 year old girl with straight, blond hair. Her watery blue eyes fixed on the winding road past the long lane to the house. With a sharp pang of worry in her tummy, she imagined the worst. Mom was late again and these were the days before cell phones. As the moments inched by, the knot in her tummy grew tighter and larger. “Where was she?” “What if there was an accident?” The storm was getting bad. As the worry grew, it never occurred to her to tell someone about her fears. There was a safety in the secret. She could pretend she was strong. The imaginings in her mind were hers to protect.

Soon after, it was time to move from the hundred year old farm house where she played in the mud, pretended in the barn, and swung a million miles on the swingset. Oh, the memories of picking dandelions in a snowy summer field of fluff. Her favorite was the swinging, though. As the cool breeze caressed her skin, she sang. Songs from classic musicals like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and The Music Man. On the swing with the songs on her lips, she was free...

And now she was moving from the deep country to a new town. It would be a fresh start in a new school. She thought a lot about the move. As a quiet and shy girl, how would she make friends? 5th grade is an awkward time, anyway. But she would be strong. She wouldn’t show her fear.

She loved her new home with it’s many outbuildings for exploring and large trees for leaf piles and cool summer shade. New friends were made and a bus bully was found. The quiet girl tried to shrink each time she got on the bus. Tried to become invisible by burying her nose in a book as she sat on that bus seat, but bullies prey on such children as these. The endless taunts made her turn ever more inward. Each morning as she waited for the bus, that same old knot in her core grew. Sometimes it seemed like a permanent feeling in her body. And once again, it never occurred to her to tell anyone. So, she began to wield control over the things that she COULD control. Things like her grades, and being the boss of her sisters, and any other thing that felt like she was strong and capable. Anything to quiet the worried voice in her head.

That voice told her that the world was a dangerous place sometimes. Out of the blue she would think the worst about everything. Her mom had Alzheimer because she always forgot her keys and her dad was going to die because he had to take high blood pressure meds. The voice was terribly creative and would soon grow much stronger.

Has worry been part of your life, too? It's tough, but necessary to look back on the past and explore how old thoughts, behaviors, and patterns impact life's journey. Mine would eventually lead to a physical and emotional breakdown at the age of 37, yet I'm finding that the darkness is finally setting me free.

Overdrive (Part 2 in the Date with Destiny Series)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Continued from Date with Destiny - Part I.
Please read Part I first.

I am proud to come from a line of hard working, stoic German farmers whose family motto was work hard, play hard.  My problem is that I have the work hard thing down cold. Play hard...not so much.  I once heard a cousin describe this tendency as Overdrive.  That word resonated so much with me that it became a prominent theme of my journey.

This is how Overdrive looks in my life...The idea of mediocrity screams FAILURE. There's no such thing as giving up, just work harder to overcome any issues that crop up. Oh, by the way, asking for help equals giving up. Emotions are held deep inside because, frankly, they are awkward and don't move me any closer to the goal. The norm is to become so obsessed with the achievement du jour that many other important aspects of life suffer. It doesn't matter if it's work or hobby. Overdrive does not discriminate.  Long hours, laser focus, nothing less than perfect will do. One of my therapists calls it Too Much Activity combined with Perfectionism. I call it Overdrive.

Here's the thing about Overdrive. The world loves it. It  yields feel-good things like praise, promotion, and all kinds of success. Once you have a reputation for Overdrive, people want you on their team. You become the "go-to" girl, admired, respected, and celebrated. And after you experience that kind of recognition, you start chasing the high again and again.

Yes, perfectionism and overdrive are drugs. Just as addictive as popping pills or chugging drink, Overdrive becomes a way to numb the pain and fill the void. Except like drugs or alcohol, the high never lasts. Overdrive addiction is dangerous. Very dangerous. It does not carry the stigma of other addictions. You don't try to keep it a secret. In fact the world just keeps offering more. More opportunities, more requests, more favors, more, more, more. And you are striving, and perfecting, and controlling, and consenting. You are building a kingdom that cannot stand.  The weight of it will eventually crush you. And this is the irony of it all. My kingdom would indeed fall, but then the quest for true freedom would begin.

The Date with Destiny Series unveils the story of my seemingly charmed life resulting in a physical and emotional breakdown.  It is coming, indeed.  But before my world falls apart, there is a past to explore.  Where was this Overdrive born?  When was the seed planted?  I have a few theories.  Stay tuned for those in the next chapter of the Date with Destiny Series:  Roots.

Date with Destiny - Part I

Sunday, March 1, 2015

If I made a different decision, could I have avoided it all?  Avoided the pain?  Avoided the breakdown?  Avoided the trauma?  I ask that question of myself many times.  For a myriad of reasons, I am confident the answer is no.  Perhaps I could have staved it off for a time, but my landslide was coming.  It had to come.  My date with destiny had arrived.

The time was early fall 2014.  I sat in a meeting at the girls' school. I am part of the marketing team, a volunteer group of staff and parents who advise on ways to promote the school internally and externally.  We had a problem on our hands.  No one had volunteered to chair the school's annual auction.  Held in the spring each year, the auction is the primary fundraiser for the school.  It is a big deal.  The event raises anywhere from $80,000-$100,000 and a large portion of that income is included as a line item on the budget.  Without an auction, we were in trouble.

At this time of the year, the planning should have been picking up steam, but without a chair person, we had nothing.  And the clock was ticking.  That's when the little voice in my head piped up, You could do that, Laura.  You could chair the auction.  I admit that the idea was equally intriguing and frightening.  Ironically, I distinctly remembered sitting at the auction the previous year and thinking, I'm so glad I have nothing to do with the planning of this event!  It is a complex deal with as many logistics and moving parts as a political campaign.  And yet, there was this part of me that suddenly wanted to take on the challenge.

The achiever/perfectionist/people-pleaser in me was quickly giddy with the potential of leading such a huge endeavor.  I could take this on and do it as it had never been done before.  The soft-spoken voice of reason, on the other hand, had a few concerns.  I knew my husband, Justin, likely would not be on board.  I had taken on too much responsibility in the past, and it always put a strain on our relationship.  But for every yield sign that cropped up, a creative idea also sparked in my mind.  In fact, it was as if the creative portion of my brain was lit up with flood lights.  Without any effort at all, a theme came to me, Mission Possible.  I could already see the James Bond imagery reflected in artwork and other visuals.  Your mission, if you should choose to accept...from there the ideas just kept flowing. Almost too quickly for me to keep up.  If ideas were coming THIS freely, it had to mean I was meant to take this on...right?!?

I initially pitched the idea to Justin as a team effort.  He can rock a spreadsheet like nobody I know. Without a doubt, he would be an excellent co-pilot.  The problem was, he didn't bite.  Justin had recently started a new job that involved international travel.  Lots of it - being gone for three weeks at a time, several times a year.  The girls and I had survived his first two trips the previous spring and summer.  While we missed him terribly, we had held our own and made the best of it with special treats like the girls sleeping in my bed and dinners of popcorn and ice cream.  Justin knew his limits and co-chairing an auction with me definitely did not fit within them.  He knows me well enough to realize that it didn't fit for me, either.  But frankly, I just didn't care.  The challenge of being responsible for something as big as the school auction had taken hold of my ego and wasn't about to let go.  The voice of reason didn't stand a chance.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the next marketing team meeting telling them about my idea for a theme, exciting new possibilities, and volunteering to chair the auction for one year.  I don't know what made me so emphatic about telling them it was for one year only, but the team was just so relieved that someone was crazy enough to volunteer, they didn't care.  Crisis averted, or so I husband wasn't happy about my decision, but he also knew that when I make up my mind about something, I'm like a steamroller with no brakes.

The commitment was made.  The die was cast. The fun was about to begin.

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
Verse 1
I took my love and took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Next in the Series...Overdrive: Part II - the story leading to my emotional and physical breakdown.  Little did I know that my world was about to be turned on its axis, and I would find myself bruised and broken in a way I never dreamed possible.

Make Me Broken

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I remember it well.  Just over a year ago I was driving the girls to school.  The sun was shining and my heart was full.  I had never felt better or happier.  A song came on the radio, and these words swirled in my head and my heart...

Make me broken, so I can be healed...
         Make me empty, so I can be filled...

I remember having a secret thought,
My life has been so easy.  I am so blessed.  Will I ever be broken? 

I remember it vividly because it was such a shocking thought.  Almost like I was daring the fates.  As though I had been cheated from some strange, beautiful pain.  I was feeling so good, so capable, and so in control of my life that my psyche was foolishly saying bring it on. The haunting song painted brokenness as poetic.  And my romantic soul didn't want to miss out. How arrogant. And how very naive.

Because, of course, I WAS broken.  Very broken, indeed.  I was so skilled at hiding my brokenness that I didn't even know I had it.  37 years of pretending and shoving my pain and brokenness into the deep recesses of my soul was about to be Just. Too. Much.  I did not know I was on an inevitable, steep, downhill journey to more suffering than I dared dream possible.  My rose-colored glasses would soon shatter.  My carefully crafted persona would falter.  I would fail, breakdown, face my hurts, habits, hang-ups, and remove my mask for the very first time.  Little did I know that the words of this lovely song were an eerie foreshadow of what was to come.

And yet.  In that moment, I was oblivious to the monster that lay in wait.  My monster.  My fear.  My sin.  Me.  I sang with a happy heart and dreamed of what it would be like to be so broken...

I'm praying for the words to share what happens next in the story!  Check back with me, soon.

Keep Making Me by Sidewalk Prophets

Make me broken
So I can be healed
'Cause I'm so calloused
And now I can't feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
'Cause I'm still holding
Onto my will
And I'm completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

'Til You are my one desire
'Til You are my one true love
'Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
'Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
'Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely

When Darkness Descends

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's back.  The debilitating anxiety has returned.  An unsuccessful attempt to lower one of my medications (as recommended by my naturopth) has landed me back in the throws of darkness.  Honestly, I had forgotten just how bad it could get.  These past few months have been relatively anxiety free.  I've still been dealing with insomnia, but the anxiety seemed to be contained.

Nausea.  Foggy brain.  Tightened chest.  Exhaustion.  An inner tension screaming from my insides.  It's relentless.  It's frightening.  It's here.  I try my best to force myself into the day, going through the motions of being a mother and a wife.  I make breakfast, but I'm far away from the messy kitchen and my beloved children.  I'm inside my head, saying safe phrases over and over in my mind.  Accept.  Float.  Breathe.  In for 4.  Hold for 7.  Out for 8.  I am calm.  I am safe.  I am loved.  The amount of effort it takes just to make it through the next hour is almost too much to bare.

Panic and doubt gives the evil one easy entrance into my consciousness.  You're back to square one, Laura.  Might as well give up this time.  You're never going to get better.

I fight back with everything I've got...namely the name of Jesus.  I say it out loud.  I  rebuke you, Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ.  And for precious moments, the voice stays quiet. I meditate.  Try to expand the gap between my thoughts.  Positive thinking.  Bible verses.  The Serenity Prayer.  Anything to get through. 

Then the what-ifs begin.  What if I can't get the girls to school this week?  What if I can't work and we have to sell our home?  What if I feel this way forever?  What if I can't sleep?  What if I never get off this damn medicine that's not even working.  Why did I even try to get off it in the first place?  Oh, please help my Lord, Jesus.

I lay on my bedroom floor and sob for 30 minutes.  Then I get up, put in my headphones, and finish dinner.  A shell - that's what I feel like.  I'm here, but I'm not.  I force myself to breathe and try not to let the negative thoughts take over by going over what I know to be true.   I know that Jesus is with me.  I know that I am unable to restore myself, but He is fully capable.  Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday.  Let Him love you, Laura.  Listen to His voice.  Please be bigger than my fears, Lord.  Use this for Your glory.   Help me not give up.  Make a way, Lord.  Please.

I pick up a book that I'm giving as a gift.  I happen to flip to a page where the author is laying in bed preparing for the next day when her baby girl will be born.  They know she will not live.  The author spells out her life-long struggle with fear.  It sounds so familiar.  And the Lord tells her to Praise Him.  Praise him?  When she knows the baby in her womb will die tomorrow - may not even take a breath as she enters this world.  Praise You, Lord? 

I take a deep breath and raise my arms into the air.  I will praise you in this storm, Lord.  Give me strength to praise you...I surrender.  I trust You.  I know that I am loved.

It happens again.  My Bible lays next to me, open to a random page.  But no, it's never random.  It is meant for me.  The answer I seek:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  - Psalm 63 1-8
Dear ones.  If you should happen to read this, I welcome your prayers.  I know nothing is impossible with God.  He.  Can.  Heal.  Please let it come quickly!

2015: The Year of ????

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beloved Brews LinkupToday's writing prompt from Bonnie Gray is the infamous "Word of the Year" post.  Perhaps you've seen this phenomenon filling the blogosphere.  Instead of an itemized list of new year resolutions, you choose one word on which to focus as the days, weeks, and months of the year unfold.

In true first-born fashion, I had my word all figured out.  Trust.  After all, wasn't that the root of all my anxiety and insomnia issues this past year? The landslide effect of working too hard, worrying too much, and trying to maintain the facade of a life lived perfect had spun me right into an unfamiliar vortex of panic and exhaustion.  I could no longer trust my body or my mind, and trusting that God could fix such a big mess was a leap I seemed unable to take.

So trust.  "Yes, that is it," I thought.  "If I focus on trust in 2015, surely things will turn around."  I envisioned a young child standing at the edge of a pool. A dad is gently coaxing the child to leave the solid ground under her feet and leap into the water to land in his arms.  I can see the thoughts tumbling in her young mind, weighing the risks and rewards,  And then...she does it.  She closes her eyes, bends her legs, and launches into the pool.  As her daddy twirls her around, she raises her arms in glee and can't wait to do it once more.  I want to be that little girl, trusting my Heavenly Father enough to jump back in the pool.  But, as I considered what a year of trust would look like, I realized there is a precursor to the trust.  Before that little girl could leap off the edge, she needed to know that her daddy loved her.  Love is the beginning of trust, in fact I'd go so far as to say that you can't have trust without it.

I KNOW I am loved.  I know my family loves me.  I know my Heavenly Father loves me.  I know my Savior loves me.  I.  AM.  LOVED.  But I realized with a jolt that I don't let myself FEEL loved. With the amount of love in my life, my love-quotient should be overflowing.  The Bible is full of passages that tell us how much God loves us.  How he wants to lavish us with love and give us our truest desires.  Love is the reason He couldn't leave us in our brokenness.  The reason He sent His beloved Son.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

The entire Bible paints a picture of God's love.  I know this.  I believe this.  So, why don't I feel this? The God of the universe wants to overwhelm ME with love.  He wants me live life to the full.  To be so filled with His love that it is spilling over me and into the lives of others.  With love like that there is simply no room for fear or anxiety.  THAT's the life I want to live!  I'm tired of living fear.  I'm tired of feeling that I don't measure up.  I'm tired of isolating myself from the people that love me and want to know me.  I'm ready to break myself open, make myself vulnerable, give up every desire except be loved.

So that's it.  In 2015, I am going to ask God to break down the walls that are preventing me from experiencing His love.  To open my heart, my mind, and all my senses to receive His love.  And in turn, to extend that love to others.  I'm ready to surrender.  To get myself out of the way.  I will stop asking for healing and begin asking only to truly FEEL and EXPERIENCE God's love.  Fully. Completely. Undeservedly. And I will choose to believe that Love was the answer all along.

2015:  The year of LOVE.

It's Time - New Year's Eve Musings

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's the final day of a year that I've been waiting to release to faded dreams of memory.  For all the heartache of 2014, one would think I should be giddy to begin anew.  But, that's the thing about "shoulds,"  they never do any favors.

Instead, I find myself quietly reflective on this December 31, 2014.  After all, why would I want to forget when I have learned so much?  How can it be that just a short year has passed when at times it felt so very long?  If I had known it was to be my year of Aeschylus, would I have trod the same road?
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.  
- Aeschylus 
At first glance this quote seems so very depressing doesn't it?  But how apt a description of my 2014!  Did you notice it there in the center?  In our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom.  I fought against that wisdom for far too long in my selfish attempt to escape the chains with which I bound myself.  But the harder I fought, the stronger the chains became.  In the end, the only way out is  through.  My suffering has made me stronger, but still it stands like a hovering cloud blocking the light from above.  So...I have been begging God to show me a purpose for it all, to provide a new lens through which to see the intense pain of the past year.  And by His grace, it is slowly happening... 

For don't you know...there was so much beauty in the midst of the pain.  There was so much loving and learning and growing.  So. Much. Grace.  Miracles.  Relationships.  Trust.  So much hope that's not meant to be tucked away inside.  Truthfully, I am scared to take the first step that's asked of me.  To. Write. It. Down.  I sense that it will  take time, lots of time, and  I don't know if I will ever be ready to publicly share all the details.  I do know that this story of mine cannot be kept inside where it continues to whirl inside my head.  Only by reaching back into the darkness and pulling it into the light will I finally be free to let it go. 

So, I hereby dub 2015 the year of writing.  I shall write and write and write.  Taking my time to write privately as well as publicly at Seeking The Still.  I will share with my confidantes and continue the sifting.  Most importantly, I will pray to God that He would show me how much to share and when.  As the veil continues to lift, and my eyes are opened to see more clearly, I know deep within my soul that there will be healing here.  For my journey has been marked by the bravery of others bold enough to share their dark night stories.  I saw myself there and know others will see their story in mine.  We are all souls simply plodding our way back home...
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