Summer in Northern New York

What a whirlwind several weeks we've had since being reunited with Allan here in NNY.  Primarily we've been seeking out the waterfront wherever we can, which isn't difficult, since Lake Ontario is in our back yard.  Literally.  We've explored waterfalls, creeks, rivers and even ventured to Niagara Falls while Rhiya was here.  We have swimsuits, a kayak and fishing poles, so we manage to keep ourselves sunny and warm.  It has been a busy, yet restful summer so far, but to say it's been all fun and games would make me a liar. 

I forgot how much I love living by the water until I got here.  It's like something energized in me that I didn't realize had been missing.  But as soon as the buzzing of energy started, so did something darker.  I have been crying.  A lot.  It's as if the waterfalls are crashing on and exposing me and I must either show my family or hide away.  Too often I hide away, seeking solitude so that they won't have to "deal with my mess."  But my husband, awesome man of God that he is, isn't satisfied with watching his wife crawl back into her shell. 

He confronted me a few weeks ago and we have made a promise to be more open and more graceful with each other.  Of course, that sounds fabulous over a tearful bed of intimacy shared by the person who loves and knows you best, but it is difficult in the treading out of the real world.  Nevertheless, I am tired of anxiety and helplessness and unrelenting frustration bordering on rage, so I have been reflecting.  Every time my weary heart cries out, "I WANT TO GO HOOOOOOME" I ask it "where is home?  why do you want to go there?"  And I LISTEN without judgement.  (this may be the most difficult part)  Every time my anxiety mounts and I need to run away from touch or talk 'RIGHT NOW' I stick it out, make an effort to press in and be gentler.  It takes focus and lots of energy.  I tend to fall into bed at night, worn out as if I've put in a very long day in the garden. 

While Rhiya was here, she wanted to rent The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  We sat down to watch it after we put the littles to bed and the movie resonated with me all around.  In high school, those were my peeps.  It was set in the 90's, so there were laughs to be had over silly memories.  It was plain to see the main character suffers from PTSD, so I connected with him on many levels.  Around the last 3rd of the movie, it got very intense for me.  I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone else who will be interested in watching, so suffice it to say I wanted to flee.  I needed to get up and run out of the room, but I didn't want to rouse the attention of my husband and step-daughter, so I laid on the love seat watching with silent tears streaming down my face for the remainder of the movie.  I hid in the bathroom after it was over and ran upstairs before anyone could see my break down.  The tears didn't stop for a couple more hours.  I struggled to put into words what I was feeling, so I just managed to squeak out "everything about that movie is TRUE.  It's just so true" to Allan's inquiries.

The next day was difficult to get through.  I wonder why, if I am a new creation in Christ, do I still have to struggle with these dark places in my soul?  Why do I still feel unworthy and unloved?  Why do I still run from a man who stopped touching me so many years ago?  Why does my family have to hurt over someone else's sin?  Why can't I just get over it? 

I want to digress here for a moment to say that the depression, while still VERY real since accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, is much different, in that there is now hope.  I know that I feel depressed now, but I also know that I won't always.  I know that there is good waiting for me and I know that somehow, this pain will be used for the good of me and others (already is) I know that one day, I will enter into rest eternally and it will never hurt again.  I know that there is good all around me and that I am well blessed. 

I don't remember everything that happened to me because for a very long time I have shut my mind down to the possibility of seeing those images in my head.  So instead of knowing, the darkness of scary, forgotten memories consume me.  I have been admonished to start exploring those dark places.  It was suggested that perhaps those dark places weren't as bad as I think they are, but they are worse than I let myself imagine.  But a funny thing happens....I remember, I cry, I wish someone had rescued me, I forgive myself and those who didn't rescue me (AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN) and then the dark places no longer have so much power over me.  Yes, the memories bring great sorrow, but they don't threaten to overtake me.  I know that in time, forgiveness for the perpetrator will wash over me (AGAIN) but for now it is enough to do the work I am doing. 

I have to keep telling myself, "I am brave.  I am strong."  I have to learn to be gentle with myself.  I cannot possibly prepare every meal and have every answer while doing this life-changing work.  God has called us to this restful place because we deserve and need a rest after these painful months and years, but also so that we can tread out some more healing work.  The answers that come are always laced with a healthy dose of grace.  Grace I have lavished on others but never been willing to give to myself (which, incidentally, leads to bitterness, in case you haven't experienced that yourself)

I don't know how to sew this all up with a neat stitch to make it fun to read or palatable, but I'd like to close with something that happened this morning.  This morning we woke up late to get the girls to the Summer Rec program they are participating in.  I have made it my new task to be chill..."we will get there, it doesn't matter if they are late.  Just feed them and make their lunches.  We'll get there when we get there."  Allan and I worked as a team, him pulling more than his share of the load because I knew today would be hard.  Ever wake up and have that feeling?  My throat was sore, I was tired and sluggish and I just knew that today would be difficult.  After they were fed, dressed and had lunches in hand, I drove them to the school, where we were actually not late at all because the counselors hadn't opened the doors yet.  I walked them inside, signed them in and gave hugs and kisses goodbye. 

On the way back to the car, I had that nagging feeling in my soul of "I want to go hoooooome."  I looked around and wondered what on earth this tricky soul could mean.  I love it here and I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now.  It then occurred to me that I had been in a very tight space with strange people in the school, some of them talking to me (we were all waiting around and were clogged at the bottle neck when the doors were finally opened) and I had been uncomfortable.  As I explored that more fully, I began to realize that the sentiment comes when I feel exposed and alone.  I began to recount other times (countless, truly...on a bad day I can hear that nagging call upwards of 10 times)  I had felt that "I want to go hooooooome" from deep inside myself. 

My mind flashed to a time when I was young and I had gone with my biological grandparents and cousin to Jellystone Park where they had a travel trailer camper.  I loved it there as a kid and have many fond memories of that place.  My cousin was to stay the weekend and I would stay the whole week after he left.  Except when Sunday came and his family came to get him, I suddenly *needed* to leave as well.  My grandparents, particularly my Grandma Grace, were crushed.  She tried so hard to talk me out of it, but I threw a full-on fit.  I'd like to think it was uncharacteristic of me, but I remember some people calling me a spoiled brat back then, so maybe it wasn't.  At any rate, I can remember her taking me to the lodge to buy me treats and trinkets so that maybe I would stay.  I insisted and they drove me the 45 minutes home.  As I sat in the backseat, I knew I had disappointed them.  I looked at all the treasures around me and felt a small amount of happiness because I was going home, but mostly I felt like a giant loser.  I wished I could tell them to take me back to the camper, but I just couldn't.  I have remembered and regretted and wondered over that week many times over the years.  I loved my grandparents, why on earth could I not stay with them?  Why did I treat the people who I have some of my favorite memories with so horribly? 

The memory fell fresh on me this morning, though, and tears fell fresh, too.  I wish they were still alive so that I could call them and beg forgiveness for the day I caused them so much heartache out of my seeming rejection of them.  I wish I could just tell them, "I wasn't rejecting you, but every time I spent the night somewhere that wasn't home, bad things happened."  I wish I could thank them for listening to my voice, which was not often heard, and taking me home despite their own broken hearts. 

And then there are those who still live.  People who I have hurt deeply because of my behaviors as a child, adolescent and even as an adult.  People who I *could* call up and beg forgiveness of.  But somehow I can't bring myself to do it.  I think I am afraid they will tell me "tough.  I don't care that he touched you.  I don't care that he left you cold and alone on that tile floor with broken innocence and new-found shame.  I don't care about the mind games or the cigarette burns.  You hurt me and how dare you."  Maybe it'll make me braver if I say it here first...

Kelly, Shawna, Mom...I am sorry for the ways that I seemed selfish and uncaring and for the ways I lashed out at you over the years.  I used to wonder why on earth I was such a wretched person.  I used to wonder why I couldn't connect with you the same way you all connected with each other.  I hope you know I hated myself for it, even while I was doing it.  I hope you know that I loved you each fiercely and protectively, but I was stuck in a cycle of being a victim.  I have to find grace for myself now, and I pray you can find it for me in your hearts, too. 

Jenny, Lisa, Shana and other high school friends, you are my oldest friends.  I am sorry for the instability you saw in me.  I'm sorry for the glimpses of the scared little girl inside, who often came out as a psycho.  I'm sorry for all the ways I distanced myself emotionally when I realized I was "too much."  I'm sorry for the resentment I harbored, as I doled out friendship and wouldn't receive it.  The next part is for my newer friends, too.  I promise I try to reach out and to accept the love you give me.  I am slowly coming to the conclusion that there may actually be someone worth receiving the love of a friend in here somewhere.

To the exes who will remain nameless...I am sorry for the constant believing you would leave.  I am sorry for the damage I did in my paranoia of believing you could never really love the spoiled brat me I tried to hide.  I am sorry for the scars I left in my abruptness, because I didn't know any other way to end my self-destructive behavior patterns but to tear away. (uhh, and subsequently incite different, more powerful self-destructive behavior patterns)  You were both good young men who tried your best to love a young girl who had never seen healthy love from a man.

To my husband and children, I am sorry for every hug I've bristled at.  I'm sorry for all the times I yell and it seems like there is no reason...in my heart I am frantic in those moments, unsure of myself and, ultimately, scared.  I am sorry for the frustration I unleash on you and for the times I hide away in my shell.  I promise I am trying to let God lead me to healing and forgiveness.  I know that it has gotten and will continue to get easier, but I also know it is no small task to love a wife/step-mom/mommy who suffers from past trauma.  Never ever let anything I say or do in my confusion lead you to believe anything less than the fact that I adore and appreciate you.  I never want to hurt you.  I never want you to cry out "I want to go hooooome" in your soul because I distanced myself from you.  Please keep loving me and seeking the Lord to help you love me when I'm difficult.  Please keep on calling me out in love (Miss GraceAnne!!) when I'm behaving in a way that is unacceptable.  Please keep on forgiving me and giving me grace.  You are the most amazing bunch of people and you are worth every bit of hard work and fighting I do every day plus more.

I could go on and on here, but I will end it for now.  That's the funny thing about healing and forgiveness and salvation...they are things that need to be worked out bit by bit and day by day.   I don't know that I want to open myself up this much, it scares the poop out of me...so I will hit publish and share before I can re-think it.