I've known for several weeks that my Birthday Reflections entry called for a follow-up post. The problem has been that I haven't known exactly what I wanted to communicate in a Part Two.
I still don't.
Except to write that, I am OK. I am still breathing. Functioning. Working. Caring for my kids, husband and new house. Oh and, don't forget, the puppy. I've been busy unpacking boxes, folding laundry and singing with the boys: "They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight..." (Actually, I am really just trying to see if I can get Thomas the Tank Engine into every single one of my blog posts. You know, like the little mouse that pops up on every page of the book, Goodnight Moon? But I digress.)
After my October 11 post, I received concerned phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages and even an invitation to visit a church here in Poplar Bluff. It had resonated with some of you because, as you shared with me, you struggle with the same issues. It made others of you worried. And sadly, some of my dearest and most intimate friends? You actually felt guilty that you hadn't done more, listened more, or encouraged more.
My intention was not to scare anyone, and of course it was not to make anyone feel guilty. I was not seeking sympathy either, although your messages were lovely, just like a hug reaching across time, distance and my cell phone or computer screen.
I wrote what I wrote because I couldn't not write what I wrote. For myself. The night before my birthday was an important moment, a sort of turning point, and when I sat down to process it, everything spilled out onto the page. And I was glad, too, because it was a night I wanted to remember.
Then I made my private thoughts public. (Which I don't regret, in case you wondered.)
I didn't realize exactly how painfully honest I had been until I started hearing from you. I suppose over the years I have become so accustomed to my own darker feelings that I was surprised and unprepared for the response they inspired after I revealed them. I forgot how scary some of the emotions I have actually are. It would be like if I dyed my hair black tomorrow but told no one in my extended family. Then at Christmas dinner everyone was shocked. I've had two months to adjust to my new hair color but they were all seeing it for the first time.
Not that I have been intentionally trying to hide certain things about myself. I just don't enjoy talking about these things. Often, I don't even know how to talk about them. Even with my closest friends it's not as if I am just going to simply say, "Joe and I fight sometimes." Or, "Sometimes I feel like I want to die."
But that's the whole issue, isn't it? We don't talk about our problems because we don't know how or where to begin. We fear judgment so we pretend everything is okay. We don't ask about our friend's marriage because it seems intrusive, and we worry that the question will be turned on us. (You know, the psychological rule of mutual disclosure?)
So instead we live life with a "don't ask, don't tell policy." Then, we are surprised when a close friend from church announces he is leaving his wife and family. Or we are shocked to learn that a neighbor -- friendly, popular in the community and mother of four happy, bright children -- has taken her own life.
We respond by blaming ourselves because we didn't know, didn't care, didn't ask -- or worse, by judging -- when really the message needs to be, that could be me.
None of us is exempt from pain, temptation, difficulties, anger, sin. It is not because of our superior character, spirituality or intellect that we avoid some of the traps others fall into. No. We have our own.
Yes, we can ask. It is good to ask. I have been grateful to all of you who have asked after me. But we must also take responsibility to tell, to be honest about who we really are, with ourselves and others. To admit that we are inherently ugly, messed-up, miserable people, incapable of doing or creating anything beautiful by ourselves.
Asking is easier.
In just a few weeks, the night I said I wanted to remember -- the feelings, emotions and decisions -- I have already forgotten. I have not talked. I have not sought help. I have not begun the process of getting healthier, whatever that means. Counseling? Medicine?
Rather than be honest I've tried to cover-up. When a friend asks if I am okay, I reassure. When my mom asks if I have taken any steps toward changing, I give reasons (or excuses, depending on your perspective) as to why I have not. In fact, my first draft of this post was full of so-called reasons.
Writing helps. Exercise helps. Praying helps. Will I ever venture beyond that? A few weeks ago I knew I would. Now? I don't know. Was my turning point simply realizing that I have a problem that goes beyond my circumstances? When, if ever, will I be ready to take the next step?
Here's what I can predict about my immediate future: I will make grocery lists, rearrange furniture, bake casseroles, wipe bottoms, administer antibiotics, overseee time outs and give back scratches. I will depend on God's grace in all of it.
Life as usual.