Monday, October 11, 2010

Birthday Reflections

Another birthday means another year in the books.  What will I remember as I flip through the pages of my life’s 33rd chapter?   As I reflect on the last year, sometimes it is hard to sift out the stand-out moments from the everyday ordinariness of life and work. 
I have been crying, or on the verge of tears, most of this last week.  I’ve been complaining to my husband about the difficulties of having recently moved to a new place, whining about the things I don’t like about it here in Poplar Bluff and wallowing in self-pity.  Last night though, was the worst.  I fell apart. 
Joe and I were standing in the kitchen.  The dinner dishes had all been cleaned and put away.  Our two boys were quietly in their beds for the night.  The kitchen was dark but for the light over the stove.  Everything in the house was peaceful, yet inside my heart was a category-5 hurricane rapidly approaching land. 

I began criticizing Joe for the things he hadn’t done right that night putting the boys to bed. (My new work schedule includes two nights where I am at the office until 8 p.m.)  He shot back by asking when I was ever going to get on a normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule anyway.  I responded by saying I hoped never, that I was glad I worked nights because it forced him to spend time at home with our two young boys.
I went on about his new job and the long hours he works during the week and on weekends.  And while I was at it, I complained about my job, too.  And I also told him how I’m never going to make friends, how I hate that I have to celebrate another birthday in a new place where nobody knows or cares, how we’ll probably never find a church, and how I hate leaving the kids at daycare.
“Heather,” Joe finally said.  “You will never be happy.  Nothing is ever good enough for you.  The problem is not your circumstances, it’s you.”
Fights are nothing new for Joe and me.  After seven years of marriage, two degrees, two kids, several moves and job changes, we have had a lot to fight about.  But this was different.  I had not heard this from Joe before.  I was quiet.
“I am not going to be blamed anymore for your unhappiness.  I have no guilt, Heather.  This is on you.”
I didn’t really know what to say or how to respond.  The guilt was rising up in me now.  “Fine,” I said through tears. “You’re right. I just can’t do it anymore.  I want to quit.  Everything.  All of it.”
I meant it. 
“This,” I continued, pointing to him and me, “is too hard.”  “This,” waving my arms in a big circle, “is too hard.”  “I just wish it would all be over.” 
My words echoed off the walls of our empty house.  I haven’t been this low in a long time.  Here I was, on the eve of my birthday, wishing my life would end.
And what’s not to like about my life anyway? I have a job, a college degree and we’ve just bought our first house, a beautiful brick, three-bedroom home in an established neighborhood with a long driveway and a red maple tree in the front yard. 
I am blessed by the love of my husband and our two boys.  My four year-old tells me I’m pretty just about every day.  The other night at bedtime he said, “Mom, I’ll never take my eyes off of you.  You’re so pretty.  I love you.” 
My two year-old likes to point at my cheek and say, “Kiss deek,” before he plants a big sticky one right on my face.   My husband and I both come from large, supportive families and we have a strong, shared Christian faith and relationship with our Creator that guides us through each day.
Yes, it is hard moving to a strange place, far from family and everything else familiar.  It is difficult living out of boxes, eating off of plastic storage tubs and looking at an empty rental house every day while most of our things remain in storage as we wait to close on our house.  No one would argue with me that going back to work full-time after seven years with two small children is tough.  Of course, it can be lonely while my husband works long hours.  These things are each admittedly challenging, but good grief, you’d think I could keep things in perspective!
But as I turn 33 and begin this next year of my life, I am learning that I cannot.  I am unable to “Keep my chin up,” or “See the glass half-full.”  Reminding myself to “Look at the bright side,” or “Focus on the positives,” isn’t working. 
Blaming doesn’t work either, I am discovering.  I can blame the move, Joe, or the color of the paint on the walls, as I did the other day, but it doesn’t change a thing.  The truth is, no matter what my situation is, I seem to always find something to complain about, or someone to blame.
Looking back, I’ve done it my whole life, across a half a dozen states, in big cities and in small towns, in large homes and in little apartments, with ocean views, mountain views and no view at all.  With lots of friends and with few friends. While I was single and now that I’m married. Pre- and post-kids.  With a job and jobless.  In prayer and out of prayer.  When my husband forgets my birthday and when he doesn’t, but buys the wrong gift -- an expensive bottle of wine instead of a piece of jewelry.  Nothing seems to make me happy.  Nothing is ever good enough.  Joe is right.
So what is the problem?  Is it me?  Do I possess some sort of fatal character flaw?  Is it a chemical imbalance?  Am I just human? 
I don’t know the answer yet, but I am going to consider every option -- including drugs. 
I was sixteen when I first went on anti-depressants.  A sudden move in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, from suburban Washington, D.C. to the other Washington, sent me into my first depression.  We moved to Seattle during the winter, the rainiest time of the year.  I think I saw the sun four times in the four months we lived there.  Mirroring the weather, I lived life in a fog.  I didn’t feel like myself.  I cried and slept a lot.  My pile of absentee and tardy slips stood two inches high off of the kitchen counter. I couldn’t snap myself out of it, even after we finally moved back to Virginia.  One night I tried to run away, said I wanted to die, and my parents decided there might be something more serious going on.
I went off the medication a year or two later, and at another point went back on it, only to wean myself off again.  The second time on the medication I gained weight.  I hated that.  I’ve been off medication for eight years now. But over this last year, as the people closest to me have become increasingly concerned about my moodiness, I have begun recieving suggestions that I seek help.
Up until this point, I’ve fought back by saying things like, “So it’s okay to be fat, as long as I’m happy?” Or, “I am finally getting back into shape after having two children, the last thing I want to do is gain weight again!” And the first time Joe suggested it, during the same period of time that we were considering this move to Poplar Bluff, I snapped back, “Fine, just drug me and drag me wherever you want to go.” 
But I don’t feel like fighting back anymore.  I am beginning to get over my vanity. Whatever it takes, I think I am willing to do.  I want to be around for my kids.  I don’t want to do something stupid, selfish or irreversible.  I want to build a happy, full, home life for my family. I do not want to ruin the few good things I do have.   
Like Joe, and my marriage.  Instead of getting angrier with me as I spiraled more and more out of control last night, he had compassion on me.  He has forgiven me of so much already throughout our marriage.  And as he pulled me close to him, he was forgiving me all over again.  He hugged me tight.  I cried harder.  Then, he started to cry, too.  It felt so good to put my face in his neck and breathe him in. We stood together in the kitchen like that for a long time.  It’s the closest I have felt to him in many months. 
Then he whispered, “I know it’s hard.  I feel it, too.”
“I am sorry, so sorry,” I sobbed.
“I love you, Heather. I always will, you’re the only girl for me,” he said. 
And so, after all, I suppose I do not have to look too far back on the last year to find a standout moment.  Last night was one.  And I will not soon forget it.  I am changing.  Joe and I are healing.  I have hope for the 34th chapter.

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  Lam. 3:22-23


  1. i found you...

    i didn't know you were starting a blog! i am so excited, because i know you are a super writer, and i always love to hear from you!

    love and miss you so much!!

  2. so, i posted that comment before i actually read your post. now i'm crying.

    thank you, thank you, thank you for your transparency. i don't know if you were hoping that someone would read it, but i guess since it's public and linked to your twitter page that's what you were going for.

    i love you and consider you to be one of my closest friends. please tell me how i can pray for you specifically. (i have gleaned a lot from this post, obviously.) please forgive me for not being a better listener (i guess talking really is more my gift!) in all seriousness, i want to talk less and listen more.

    praying for you now. and i DO miss you and love you so much!

  3. Heather, you made me cry. I know that feeling of being depressed and unable to see the brightness around you. :-/ You'll be in my prayers!

  4. Heather, I just stumbled upon this. I love reading your writing. You are not alone in your feelings. Life is freaking hard and I find even harder in the winter months. I imagine you felt a rush of positive feelings in the days after writing your post. Sometimes all it takes is getting it out.

    Thank you for sharing. You're a comfort to all of us going through similar ups and downs.

    Much love to you and your fam.