I felt so strange the year after I graduated, like the person inside of me was so buried as to be dead. I kept calling, waiting, listening, watching. Long after the “threats” were gone, I couldn’t shut off the adrenaline of survival that had become my complete existence: getting through. Nothing but pure endurance. Head down, focusing on one foot in front of the other. And now, on the other side, I couldn’t stop.
Immune system badly weakened from what had happened over the last two years, I fell badly sick again, shoving me back into head down, one foot, one breath, suffocating, paralyzing, desperation to not cease to exist, feeling the inexorable slide toward just that. I finally wound up sobbing uncontrollably in the office of a doctor I’d just met, saying over and over “I just don’t know what to do, I just don’t know what to do.”
The next 9 months or so was a muddy swirl of attempting, once again, to recover; followed by the brutal yet predictable slam of winter darkness that leaves me crippled with annual faithfulness.
Now, in the last few weeks perhaps, I am finally (I think perhaps maybe) making a few tentative steps away from adrenaline. I find myself observing in myself peculiar thoughts and outlooks that don’t seem like me at all, that I hadn’t realized I’d picked up in the last few years. I feel a queer sense of deja vu when driving flashes of my cross-country travels blinking across my subconscious, the strange sense that it is about time to skip town again. There is a unsettling sense of duality, the “me” that existed in the prior years, and the “me” of the intervening years, and the “me” now that seems to slide awkwardly between the two, no longer able to settle into either shape, and the almost-more-unsettling that it is time to create a new, third thing which actually is the shape of the me now.
The people I saw almost daily now seem to have no idea that I even exist. The people I tried to keep friendships alive with from before saw so little of the me-in-between that I feel almost as though I am faking when I am with them – they have no idea how I have been smashed and twisted in the intervening years, and without words to explain it, I resort to trying to be the same person I was before. But in the meantime, I keep trying to find a mirror capable of helping me actually examine my scars, assess my damage, and understand what I have become while I was too busy trying to stay alive to see any of the things on the inside.
Some things maybe are good. I don’t want you to think I am merely broken. Not that merely broken should be a phrase at all, as it is in our breaking we are made whole – although that does not make the breaking any more pleasant. I think there probably has been growth of good things, questioning of things that should have been questioned, and certainly there is no end to the need for humility.
Some things maybe are bad. I feel the scars, but even writing “maybe some things are bad” and I cringe away. I don’t want to look. It hurts, and I only go that way very gingerly, very cautiously, and unable to share in any kind of meaningful way when I can only look at tiny pieces at a time without feeling powerfully overwhelmed.
I don’t know what else to say except that I am yearning for healing. When I think what would I do, if I could do anything I wanted, without fear of judgement or condemnation or “reality” or “responsibility” (so often self-made concepts without real truth). . .I think of buying some land to have a sabbath year on. No schedules. No expectations. A time to be alone with God. A time to face up to damage and scars. A time to listen to the still quiet voice without the clamoring. A time to rest, o God, a time to rest. I would come back out of it, I know; I have no ideas of being led to a purely hermitage lifestyle fleeing from the challenges and trials of this world. But some raw, earnest, honest, wilderness time, to learn (again?) how to breathe, to rejoice, to hope, to be alive. . .
People say we have to learn how to do that while in the midst. People say we’ll never have a life quiet enough to spend the whole day, or day after day, seeking, praying, meditating, reading, listening, singing, dancing even. They say you have to find it in the middle. But with sadness and longing, I see in the Old Testament God setting aside day after day, whole years even, to do just that. To rest and rejoice, and remember that He is God and we are not, and to be filled with courage for what comes next.
I am not at all sure I have the courage to withdraw. I am not at all sure I have the courage. Leave a job I should be lucky to have. Step away from the people I was waiting so long to be close to. Emptying hard earned money into rocky ground that will likely “never be good for anything,” if doing nothing truly is worthless. Shutting my ears to things that burden me with implied, implicit or explicit responsibility.
Yet I am also not sure what kind of existence I can have without a rest. A real rest. A prolonged rest. Surely, there would not be condemnation for rest, after all of that? But I say it with such tentativeness, because I feel such condemnation. Life is hard; you’re supposed to be harder. But I am not hard. I am not tough. I’m sensitive. I cry. I carry the burdens of people I’ve barely met. And I am looking for the courage to hope. I’ve found a lot of different ways life can be harder. I want permission to learn a lot of different ways life can be more full and less parched.
I can talk myself into the truth and necessity of a real, long rest in my mind, in theory, in concept. The fear and anxiety and, honestly, terror, overwhelm me when I try to talk about it aloud. If I can’t explain to you my hurt and brokenness, how will I ever be able to convince you of my need for radical rest? But if I don’t have the faith for rest, how will I have have faith for action, for sacrifice, for growth, for living?
I don’t know. I didn’t expect today’s writing to go there. I thought this would be more introspective. But it seems compelling, I suppose, that no matter what path of thought I take, I seem to wind up here. And by “here” I mean, looking at land listings and wondering how realistic it is to buy some land as soon as possible, because why wait? But I also feel like I need someone to talk to about all this, to stop just hiding in my own mind, to find the courage to say the words out loud. To move beyond a place of ha-ha-just-kidding-we-can-dream-right? to the place of no-I’m-serious-help-me-figure-this-out.
My own level of avoidance can be rather self-shocking.