Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need to Curl Up and Cry

A few weeks ago I wrote about how taking the risk of moving to Costa Rica was totally worth it and that we will never regret it, even though it turned out differently than anticipated.

That reality is still completely true. But… but. It doesn’t mean this transition of moving back has been easy. Of course moving is never easy though.

As it turns out, which is no surprise really, getting re-settled has been rather brutal. In moments at least. Brutal may be too strong of a word, but it pretty much sums up how I was feeling yesterday morning:

Boxes are everywhere still.
Toiletries are strewn across the bathroom counter.
Some clothes are hung, but I ran out of hangers so a mountain of shirts still awaits me on the floor.
Toys litter the bonus room floor.
I haven’t slept well for several nights.
At seven months pregnant, I feel as big as this suburban house I’m living in.
And then Kate comes in the closet, where I’m attempting to organize, and wants to do a dress up dance party. Right now.
Did I mention it is 7:30 a.m.?

I love dress up dance parties. I love my daughter. But at that very moment, everything was just too much and suddenly I felt overwhelmingly exhausted. (Been feeling that way a lot lately!)

I wanted to crawl back in bed, curl up, and pretend that none of this ever happened. That Costa Rica never happened, that moving from my cozy Seattle house and settling in the suburbs in Washougal, WA never happened, that being completely unsettled just two months before having another baby never happened…

And besides wanting to pretend all that, I wished that my daughter would just go away and entertain herself and stop talking.

So, what did I do? Curled up in bed. And cried. And I let myself feel all of it. Even if it was just for five minutes, I needed to allow myself to feel it.

And this has been the struggle lately for me. For us. How do we allow ourselves to face the reality of our lives, the struggle, the disappointment, the longings, the pain –  how do we acknowledge its existence – but not wallow in? Not get so sucked in that we slowly become critical, irritable, frustrated, and depressed people? How do we enter into these more difficult emotions so that we’re not unhealthily repressing them, but not get stuck there?

I think a lot could be said and written about this topic. In fact, a lot has been said, and since I am no psychologist or expert in this area, I even hesitated to write about it. So many other people have eloquently expressed thoughts and ideas about what I’ll call “life’s struggles”, and so many others have far more compelling circumstances from which to write, that it almost seems silly to add anything to the conversation. (In fact, most of what has been on my mind lately has been wonderfully articulated in our former pastor’s blog here, and my friend Lynnea’s blog here. I should just stop typing now and let you read those blogs. Please do - you won't regret it.)

But for now, I will add my own two cents, because even though I am not a gifted pastor of a big church, or am not a breast cancer survivor, most of you aren’t either. However, we all experience difficult struggles and emotions, whether they last for just moments or days, or last for a much longer season of life. Our struggles can be simple, everyday frustrations, or something much more difficult to endure, like a serious illness or death in the family. Either way, suffering is part of the human experience.

So for now, I will simply say this: the one thing I’ve learned about being sad, stressed, confused, exhausted, doubtful, angry, depressed or _______________, (write in your chosen emotion/situation) is: don’t repress it.  As Americans, we have this culture of “pulling yourself up by your boot straps” and an attitude of “onward and upward”. These are admirable traits. But many times, we can’t get there right away. And it’s unhealthy to do so. It’s unhealthy to pretend that “everything is just fine” when really, it’s not. Because as you acknowledge the true place you are in, and even allow yourself to curl up and cry, you then gain strength to get up again and move forward in your day.  In your life. I don’t understand exactly why this works. But I just know it does. And I know it feels a heck of a lot better than pushing those emotions to the bottom of my heart.

I am still working on this balance of not repressing the ‘hard stuff’ while not becoming Miss Negative Nancy. I don’t have it all figured out. But I find solace, as well as guidance, in reading the Psalms, where the juxtaposition of lamenting hard times and then praising the Lord is perfectly expressed.

From Psalm 142, a psalm of David
I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him;
Before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
It is you who know my way…

And from Psalm 146, also of David
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

I believe that one big clue to this balance of authentically acknowledging our struggles but not getting stuck in a downward spiral of self-pity can be found in the Psalms (as well as in many parts of the Bible): When we bring all of who we are and what we feel before God, then he will see us through it. God can handle all of our emotions. He is not scared of our anger or doubt or frustration or grief.

If shepherds and kings can ‘cry aloud to the Lord’ then so can we.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rocking Chair Moment #2: Less is More

As we prepare to leave North Carolina and head back to the Northwest on Tuesday, we are doing one final round of Extreme Packing.

Extreme = 6 huge duffels, each weighing 50 pounds, + maximum number of carry-ons per person stuffed to the brim + one ‘I’m-so-sick-of-this-flying-business’ cat.

Needless to say, we are tired of this extreme packing.

So as we sort through our stuff once more, leaving at least one suitcase-full’s worth of junk here for my parents to bring us later, I am reminded of something else I’ve learned from this whole experience, or what I’ll call another “Rocking Chair Moment”: Less is More. (If you don’t know what I mean by Rocking Chair Moment, you can glance back at my previous post.)

I know that this current state of packing and unpacking and sorting and organizing is unique and will not always be our reality. (Thank goodness it ends very soon.) But it’s been enough of a reality for the past year and a half that it has really gotten me thinking about a more minimalist lifestyle.  I have been reading a blog called Becoming Minimalist off and on for a while now and in general have been intrigued by this lifestyle for a few years.  But being intrigued is different than putting it into practice and frankly, I can be a bit of a pack rack at times. And like anyone else, I often think I “need” more, when really I am confusing need with want, and even when I admit it is a want, it’s easy to get carried away and caught up in wanting this and then wanting that and then ultimately never being satisfied with what you do have.

But after an international move, where we had to fit the essentials into a limited number of bags (not to mention all the boxes and furniture you have stored back at home), you can’t help but see the abundance and even the excess of what you own already. The packing, repacking, and weighing process just smacks you in the face and you really start to SEE your belongings in a different way because each item is taking up space, weight, and most importantly, your time.

So as we set up our new home in a little over a week, we are really going to make a conscious effort to buy less and live more simply. Because by owning less I will spend less time organizing and caring for my stuff, which in turn will give me more time to enjoy the things in life that are truly important.

And so when I’m 90 in my rocking chair, looking back on my life, less will be more in that I will have hopefully spent more time:
·      Hanging out with my friends and family
At Tybee Island, GA right after Christmas.
·      Practicing hobbies I love like painting, gardening, reading, writing, and even more recently cooking.
·      Staying active and healthy

Owning and buying less will also mean that I will
·      Worry and stress less
·      Have the opportunity to practice contentment
·      More often repurpose or create things I *need* (or want) for our home instead of buying the cheap, made in China junk from the store
·      Have more time, energy, and money to give away to people who really need it

Of course, these are all my ideals and it will be a work in process.

I will continue to be tempted by the newest Pottery Barn catalog or the latest styles in In Style magazine. (Wanting or even buying these things, of course, are by no means bad – everything in moderation, right? I’m just talking about my own propensity to get too caught up in consumerism – I buy a skirt and then I need a new shirt to go with it and then I realize my boots don’t quite ‘go’ with it and so I want new boots and then I want…)

But what matters are the small steps. So I will start slow and go step by step. Because I know at the end of my life when I’m looking back on my years, I will not care about how much stuff I owned.