I am wrong about healing.
I am wrong about wholeness meaning a return.
We do not
oh I hope not
return to former glory.
So what is this homesickness? What is this demanding flip through scrapbooks, driving through old neighborhoods, pointing out our old windows? They changed it. It used to be bigger. Where is the corner store? The yellow house?
Everything was so much bigger.
I am wrong about healing meaning being put back.
I am waiting, an arrogant fool,
This is not right, this is not the way it was, I cannot live here.
Now I will tell you a secret.
This flat and quiet, this straight line silence. This is the worst. This is the fear.
This is the empty thing I take to the psychiatrist on Monday, the thing I hold up to her, shrieking, LOOK AT IT!
She will stare back, as blank as the page.
This is what I am always watching for, this and a waist that stretches past its welcome. And maybe the hair coming out in clumps. These are the deal breakers: I have to have my words, I cannot get fat, and I would prefer not to be bald. All three lost together would seem to outweigh the benefit of psychiatric medication.
My hair seems firmly attached, my waist is not expanding, but it is as if my brain has chosen to fully occupy itself with the task of evaluating white paint samples.
Or maybe going crazy.
But I have been those things and survived. I have never been without words. I am scrambling, shaking them by the shoulders, pinching, slapping, throwing water in their face. But they just keep A/Bing Confident White and Spun Cotton, holding them pensively up to the light.
I do not do well in waiting rooms. I make lists and worry about things. Attempts to read are interrupted by a need to repeatedly check the time, the door, the calendar. Waiting is wasting.
I absolutely ruin the point of Advent and Lent by doing all of the things, all of the calendars and trees and readings and liturgies and traditions. I am convinced that if I sit in that dark silence I will surely die. I am so grateful for candles to move every morning, candies to pass out, strings to tie, doors to open, pages to turn.
Eastertide comes, bright and strange. There is not much to do but wait for Pentecost, maintain our enthusiasm, and ration the jellybeans that are getting sticky from the growing humidity.
My body is waiting. The work begun in Holy Week, with its initial feedback of necessary pain, grew into tolerance, and now there is a kind of new strength. The novelty of #powerrehab has faded into normalcy and there is risk of losing expectancy.
It is very easy for me to be convinced that I will never make it beyond the waiting room, that my condition in this moment is permanent, that this is the full extent of my healing. I begin to resent all work it took to get to the doctor’s office, and grow bitter that I will not even be seen. I cannot count the number of times I have packed my bag and stood up to leave, only to be assured by someone that he will see me.
This is why I come here everyday, carrying on like a fool, documenting #powerrehab, sifting through the details of the days for evidence of healing, of the divine.
It is not unlike trying to get pregnant, peeing on a stick every single day, begging it to change color, then posting pictures of it on the internet so that hundreds of strangers can analyze your results and rejoice or mourn with you (yes, that is a thing).
I have not yet accepted that my body will not know this kind of magic again.
So I have not left the metaphorical waiting room. I am anxious and angry in my seat, aggressively rearranging all of the magazines, but still anticipating that my name will be called, that the doctor will come and something will change.
Something will change.
There is a hole in my closet wall, in the very back behind the clothes I do not wear, my wedding dress, and the stacks of baby girl hand-me-downs. It is perfectly centered, perfectly round, the diameter of a certain very persistent woman’s finger. Behind the wall is a room tacked on by the original owners back in the 70s to make room for their blended family. You can get to it by spiral stair case next to the laundry room downstairs, or the stairs that climb up from the deck on the back of the house.
It is like a grand treehouse with plumbing and death traps for babies. Before I had so many children and my back exploded, this weird treehouse/attic wonderland was our school room. When Leona was little, I partitioned off a space for her until she was big enough to avoid plummeting to her death down the open stairwell without constant redirection, but three girls in this space proved too many, too loud, and almost impossible to access. In time, it has become something of a very high shelf from which we retrieve/hide things that cannot survive intact in the other spaces of our house.
Of course, school has marched along just fine without its precious room. If anything, it’s better, blended into our real world, mixed up on the table with the Lincoln Log village and covered wagon made of paper towels, twist ties, and an easter basket. Harriet toddles free, Leona runs in and out the back door, Beatrice breaks between math and history to check the flowers she planted in tiny pots along the edge of the deck. As long as I keep good books and good food stocked, and keep pencils out of the baby’s eyes, our homeschool seems to run itself. It is, shockingly, the easiest part of our day.
But we were talking about my closet. That hole in my closet will eventually be a door. A door through which only I will ever go, and that weird, oddly inaccessible treehouse room will be my studio. This is still in dream stage, if you don’t count the fact that a Phillips head screwdriver somehow managed to hammer its way through the drywall that one time. But I have faith. I am that kid digging a hole to China in the back yard. There is at least a tiny piece of him that knows this is not the way to get there, but he persists. He feels great satisfaction in persisting, day after day, digging the hole.
Yesterday, I was a overcome by this spirit of persistence. I found a bunch of empty storage tubs and threw them up the spiral staircase, took a deep breath and started digging. I sorted all our math materials, the sensory shelves, the language and phonics and handwriting…all of it. Down to the tiniest block of the pink tower. Sorted, labeled and ready for Leona’s kindergarten year in the fall and Harriet’s preschool years too far in the future for me to think about. I took down all the maps and nature posters, rolled them up not too tight since they’ll be re-homed downstairs as we need them. I rolled up the garish rug and leaned it in the corner. I cleared my desk of the thousands of drawings and pipe cleaners and crumpled leaves and pressed flowers and stickers and stamps and assorted glitter related items it had collected over the last year. Then I took another deep breath and tested my back. I pushed the stacks of tubs into their closet. I pushed an empty bookcase across the carpet. I nudged a chair from one corner to the other. And I was okay.
The room was empty, my back was fine, my heart was EXPLODING.
This is the second day in a row that I have noticed my body easing up, participating.
Part of this is a natural turning point in the healing process.
Part of this is me being less of a wuss.
Part of this is #powerrehab –pushing through my resistance and giving my body the things it needs to do its work.
I won’t drop the balloons and confetti just yet, but I woke up this morning thinking, “This is working. Tell them this is working.”
Here is the sum of it:
I see you.
Yes, I see you.
And no more conversation than that. Head back into the book, pen back to scribbling whatever sentence it left mid scrawl. There is no need to get into all that. I don’t need to know the details. We don’t have to gossip.
Yesterday I walked two miles because I let my pain come with me without talking. I was busy trying to arrange an immensely rare night out among two immensely rare old friends, so I did not even notice how far I’d gone until it was too late. Yes, this meant I was one of THOSE people on the trail, face down in their phone, missing all the wildflowers and frequently running the stroller right into them, but please don’t judge me too harshly. Rule one!
By the time I realized I had made it all the way to the Rowing Center, I turned to my pain and shouted, “Why didn’t you stop me! Now we will be late!”
“I tried,” he snapped back, throbbing and red, “you were so excited and distracted by your friends and your plans you weren’t listening.”
“That’s weird. That doesn’t sound like me at all. Am I manic!?”
“No. We’re not at the mall and you’re not going very fast. It’s kind of embarrassing.”
“Well, then gold star for us! Let’s turn around!”
As I limped, proud and slow back toward the Y, Eye of the Tiger and visions of #powerrehab star charts dancing in my head, I was reminded of the classic motherhood and powerlifting truism: it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. I stared at the flowers and I glanced at my pain and I decided that if it has to always be there, then so be it. It is welcome to murmur through the bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes. It is welcome to grumble to itself through ladies’ night. And I am welcome to be all of those places, too, ignoring him.
Without scraping the scar tissue and screwing bones together, my pain is not going to go away (and even then, no promises). Without a lobotomy, my bipolar disorder and anxiety are not going to go away. My body is my body. This is my spacious place. I have to trust that my boundary lines make room for the mother and the writer and the wife and the friend and the pain. We can all live here.
I am struggling.
My hands are shaking, my head is weird. The sun is running late and I think I over caffeinated my coffee, which is hard to do with decaf. My screen is too bright and it is too cold by my clothes are just too close to my skin. I cannot get my glasses clean. My desk feels very loud.
But I am still here. I promised us both I would be. Because #powerrehab.
Yesterday was a mild, steady day. I soaked in some much needed sunlight before hobbling through Ikea with Bryan to pick up things for his new office. It’s a very odd thing to have him around on a weekday, to have him unattached to email, with no terribly urgent phone calls in the car, no hushing the children while he expertly directs a conference call. He looked at his phone occasionally, always a little confused by its silence.
After seven years of balancing life as a senior vice president of a digital marketing agency while also the worship pastor of our church, the scales finally tipped, and my husband left the high powered executive life on Friday. It has been a purposeful though immensely heavy seven years for our family. And now instead of rushing out the door every morning already on a call, to catch a plane, to step into a meeting, to put out a fire, to close a deal, to take the fall, he is going to church.
I grew up a preacher’s kid and am a former church staff member myself, so I am aware that this role is not without it’s share of many of those difficult things…but still, it is a very different world from the cold, often soul sucking one he has stepped into each morning for these many years. I think he could sleep for seven more just to recover. Maybe instead of a desk we should’ve just picked up a nice bed for him. I guarantee if the church just provided him a bed and a guitar, Sunday mornings would go off without a hitch.
So yes. My day 15 revolved around my sweet husband, trying to orient himself in this strange, still new world, and keep my children from killing themselves with Swedish home goods.
You can guess that this change was a long time coming. You can also guess that though very much welcome, it was one of the several odd contraptions in the Rube Goldberg machine of my mental health moment. We are still working through how unfair and untimely that seems, but also sorting through the weird and wonderful grace that has shown up with it.