December 31, 2020
I couldn’t keep it together any longer. It just seemed like every area of my life was being tugged on and stretched to its breaking point. Like when you pull taffy as far as it can possibly go and the strings become thinner and thinner until they finally give in and break apart. The weight of a post-COVID world was starting to crush the last bit of normalcy I was so badly clinging to. After months of having my three kids home and distance learning for the older two, plus homeschooling my preschooler along with running my own business, I felt like I was coasting on fumes. Then there’s my husband’s fitness business precariously being blown in the wind which has resulted in him taking on as much work as he possibly can due to the X factor of a mountain of unknowns (including but certainly not limited to government orders to shutter and rainy weather now that the gym is outside). The last few months have left him working very long 14-15 hour days.
Being a full-time, 24/7 parent plus teacher lends itself to its own unique challenges but doing it by myself has left a loneliness that feels bottomless. I was exhausted. Like that bone-tired, mind-numbing exhaustion that sets in a few weeks after having a newborn in the house. Where your brain is so sleep-deprived that it feels impossible to have a coherent thought. When tears become the only language left and can be triggered simply by a sharp-edged, sassy pre-teen rebuttal or a Zoom password suddenly not working. That’s where I found myself, with fists clenched in a death grip around the tiny bit of sanity I had left.
And then I broke.
I could no longer hold the tension in my hands (or my head). Something had to give.
I actually think God wants us to fall apart because when we do we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, or in my case, many at all. When I become smaller, God can be bigger. When I’m a mess, He can pick up the pieces. In contrast, when I’m holding all the pieces in my hands (albeit they resemble shards of glass rather than actual pieces of anyting) then there’s no way He can patch them into something new. When I’m trying to control the situation, my kids behavior, my husband’s work, my work, virtual school, how clean the house is, what’s for dinner, and all the other thousand things in front of me, then there’s no room in my head or heart for God to do His work. Even if He tried, the carousel of thoughts in my mind is whirling by so fast that my eyes can’t even focus on the things I’m trying to see let alone the hidden treasures (or people) along the way.
Coming from someone who loves a To-Do List and even more so neatly checking off each completed item as I go, it is VERY hard for me to let go. I’ve watched Frozen more times than I can count (OK, let’s be real, as moms we usually listen to movies because we’re making dinner/doing laundry/washing dishes/sweeping/mopping/brushing hair/and all the other countless daily duties) and yet each time Elsa saunters up the icy mountain declaring her newfound proclamation, I’m reminded that in the end even she had a hard time just letting things go. But that is what God calls us to do. To let go of our old ways and habits and hang-ups. To stop living with the burden of fear weighing so heavily on our shoulders, and instead embrace the new life He has in store for us. It sounds incredibly beautiful, and yet right now it feels impossibly hard.
So that’s where I’m finding myself. All the messy, broken parts thrown astray over my unmopped living room floor blanketed in a thin layer of dust bunnies. This season has taught and continues daily to teach me that I am not in control. All the comforts of life have been turned upside down and even the simplest tasks feel strange. I miss meeting a friend at Starbucks and laughing between sips of coffee that someone else made for me. It feels like such a luxury. Or date nights with my sweet hubby after a hectic week of kids, sports, playdates, and lessons. It almost feels surreal to think about. I miss long walks through Target or down at the beach while the kids are at school or taking my girls to the park for an afternoon playdate with friends. I miss seeing my family and hate that I still haven’t seen my brother’s new house or met his new girlfriend. I miss planning family trips, weekends away with the hubs, and daydreaming about a girl’s desert trip with friends.
The isolation is by far the most difficult part. For me, for my kids. Maybe you’re feeling the weight of it too. The sheer volume of loneliness and the endless uncertainty of when it will all turn around might just be the hardest part. Not knowing when my sweet hubby won’t have to work as much and my kids can go back to school are questions that feel open-ended. I wish I knew the answers. And then there are days when maybe it’s better that I don’t.
As I ask these questions, I’m reminded that these challenges are also incredible blessings. In the same breath, I’m grateful that my husband can work and my kids are healthy and able to continue their education from our living room. I’m grateful for the roof over our heads, the food on our table, and the clothes on our backs. My initial instinct is to feel guilt. Guilt for not being grateful for all the blessings, guilt for letting the waves of emotions crash over me, and for swallowing the cold seawater as I dip below the surface, and maybe even a bit of shame in admitting these feelings.
But the truth is my feelings are real and so are yours.
I think about my girls and how if they were hurt or sad, would I tell them to just get over it? To hide their pain? That their sadness doesn’t matter or their hurts aren’t that bad? I don’t think God sees it that way either. Instead, there is power in our grief, sadness, discomfort, pain, loneliness, fear, anger, and hurt. All of these feelings are arrows on a compass. Instead of trying to control the emotions and bottle them up, they are signals lighting up our dashboards, telling us that we need help. So instead of feeling guilt and shame, we need to dive below the surface and seek out the pain. Instead of pushing it away, we should carry it gently knowing it is not ours to keep. Instead of letting it weigh us down, we can release it knowing that God can and will somehow use it for good. In my mind, I see God joyously shouting to each one of us “Come to Me!” with His arms outstretched in anticipation of a big bear hug. That’s what good parents do, and He is good.
I believe people show up when we need them and it’s so obvious that God’s fingerprints are all over them. Like a bag of homemade caramel corn and a candle from a dear friend left on my porch last week. To be seen is such a blessing, isn’t it? Suddenly lines in a song seem to have been written just for this moment in time, books of wisdom appear in front of us (right now I’m absolutely obsessed with Everybody, Always by Bob Goff) and pertinent news stories catch our attention. A text from a friend, a gentle note of encouragement from a family member wrapped in love in a homemade Christmas card, or maybe a kind comment on Facebook. Sometimes it’s in the simple beauty right in front of us. The mundane suddenly becomes extraordinary. A gorgeous, unexpected explosion of watercolors streaking through the evening sky, chasing the sun as it sinks into the depths of the ocean. The delicious, gooey first bite of a warm chocolate chip cookie straight off the pan. The sweetest hug from our tiny resident four-year-old as she wraps little arms around my neck and tells me I’m the best mommy ever. God sure has beautiful ways of touching our souls.
Can I be completely transparent? I don’t think I’m done falling apart. I think it might just be a result of living in a broken world. COVID is so unfair and disproportionately unfair across our nation and the globe. Simply turn on the news and see all the destruction this virus has caused. The list is so long. My heart aches thinking about it all.
Maybe by sharing my heart, another one won’t feel so alone. Maybe our willingness to reveal an open wound can invite others to stand with us and let their hurts be seen as well. I think God did that on purpose. For me, I’ve learned that the only place worse to be with my sadness–is alone with my sadness. The darkness doesn’t feel so dark when my hand is squeezing someone else’s. I think that’s what God meant when He said to love Him and to love each other. When we allow ourselves and each other to fall apart then we can let His love in. When we let the hurts show, then it allows God to put people in our lives to walk alongside with, cry rivers of tears with, and sometimes simply wrap our arms around each other in a blanket of silence. And maybe the greatest gift of all is letting someone into the messy, downright painful places rather than hiding behind stunning Instagram pictures and stories. Brokenness is a beautiful invitation in disguise. A love letter to each one of us with God as the return address.
My life is filled with blessings and beauty and pain and hurt, fear and uncertainty and love and hope. As we close the chapter on 2020, my New Years resolution is to let God be bigger so I can be smaller. To loosen the white-knuckle grip on my fear and let Him effortlessly toss it into an old shoebox. To open my eyes a bit wider and love others exactly where they are. To be a shoulder (or an ear, or hand or elbow–whatever is needed!) to let the floodgates open wide and cry with a friend who needs to cry. To not let the silence become deafening or the isolation to water down my hope or dim my dreams. Or yours. To show up even if I’m wearing worn-in, well-loved leggings, an old college t-shirt, and the messiest bun you have ever seen. I don’t think God cares about that kind of stuff, so I’m not going to either. And maybe just maybe in the midst of coming apart, we can close our eyes, lean back, and freefall straight into the arms of grace and be reminded that we are so deeply loved, just as we are.