“Praying” and other phrases that make me cringe.
Do you ever have one of those years? You know what I mean, one of those years that left an impression on you that cannot be erased and will someday have a nickname like, “the year I was pregnant”, “the year I got married”, “the year my cousin died”, “the year I lost my job”, or even “the year I got sick.” There are just years that fundamentally change your life. I remember the year I became a mom like it was yesterday. I was a young mom, and yet as soon as the doctor handed me this precious baby girl, everything changed. The way I saw the past changed, the way I viewed the present changed, and the future was nowhere close to what I had envisioned. I was a mom at 20 years old. Determined to be fiercely independent, determine to prove to the world that I could do it, and determined to love this baby with the kind of love that she would never forget, I put my dreams of college and success on hold. I began to invest in my ex husband’s education, helping him write papers and occasionally attending class for him. I put a pause button on “Michelle” and a “Play” button on being a mom. I was 20 years old and financially managing a household, a baby, a 3 month old Doberman (which at the time felt like a risky decision, but turned out to be one of the best things I could have ever done), a husband who worked 40 hours a week and went to school full time, college papers to write for him, middle of the night feedings, a baby who didn’t sleep and cried 16-18 hours a day, and me lost in the inertia of life. I remember that year like it happened yesterday. I can still smell the staleness of being in an unairconditioned house all day with a newborn. I can still hear the calls to the pediatrician telling me to put the screaming baby down. I can still see the walls closing in around me as I spent everyday at home, without a car. Inside I was dying but told the world I was okay.
It was a strange year. With a baby that didn’t sleep, neither did I. I was young, but new to not sleeping. Not only did she not sleep but she screamed for 8-10 hours at a time. Seriously…8-10 hours at a time. Even in the hospital she was kicked out of the nursery because she screamed too much. Screamed until she would vomit, choke on the vomit and then scream some more. Laying her down wasn’t an option. She was 2 weeks old and would aspirate vomit and die. I remember tremendous guilt about not being able to breast feed well, looks of judgement and condemnation from doctors and other professionals about her constant crying, and I also remember being a rock. That year changed me. I knew that I would have to be strong enough for my daughter and that weakness was not an option. I was impenetrable and strong, because I was her mom. I knew my calling. I knew that God never calls you to anything that He doesn’t provide provision for, and I knew, I had work to do.
This year has been a life changing year for me. This has been “the year I had migraines.” It’s been a humbling year of slowing me down…well who am I kidding literally stopping me. It’s been a year of being a medical pin cushion of trying more medications than I could even name, of seeing neurologists, of not showing up in the world as I want to, and learning to adjust to the effects the medication has on my ability to be a rock, strong and impenetrable. It’s been a year where I have been a shitty wife, a shitty mom, and truthfully just hard.
I do understand that I’ve been hard. What I will say is that this year has absolutely revolutionized my idea of what it means to walk with one another. I’ve had several people who will “text in” support and encouragement, but honestly, I feel like I’m connected to so many people, but surrounded by no one. If I send out a text saying that I’m having a hard day, people are sending messages to tell me they are praying. And I appreciate that. But what I need is to not be alone. What I need is to figure out a way to reacclimate into the world. What I need are people willing to sit in it with me and walk beside me. It’s a Big Ask. It’s probably unfeasible for most, but it is true discipleship.
This year I have learned that sometimes the facades that we surround ourselves with about taking care of people, is only as strong as our willingness to be uncomfortable. How uncomfortable are you willing to be? While I am not destitute, not dying, certainly not the worst of the worst, I am hurting. I am struggling, and I am looking around for people who will surround me, support me, and lift me up. Aside from my husband and my mom, what I see is my phone full of “Praying for you” text messages, people asking “how are you doing?” at church, but my house, and my life completely empty of authentic Christian Community. What I see is the isolation, the loneliness, and the void growing, not shrinking. Is this all we have to offer those who are in pain?