Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Real Me...I Don't Want You to See....

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
It was the worst of times but not even close to the very worst of times with no best of times in sight ahead or behind of me. There were only 3 of us then. #4 was about to make his appearance. The monster was still lurking in the shadows leaving me to do battle with an unknown opponent. 
During the course of that day, I had reflected over my past and remembered another mean season. I firmly believe that God wastes nothing in his economy: time, money, effort, experience. Nothing. Knowing that truth, I also know that awful,earlier time prepared me to withstand a future relentless season of pain and despair. In that hazy time of long ago, I had coped with chaos by taking time each day to make lists. 
My survival lists included things I had done well that day as well as things for which I was thankful. I have to tell you: the first lists required painful effort. The ideas came slowly because I was convinced that I was a wasted, useless excuse for a human being. Over time I amazed myself. The obligatory list of 2 items per heading per day became 5 and then 10 and 20. 
Pecos, NM October 2011
Pollyanna that I was, I gathered us together at the end of yet another long, draining day and chirped, “Let's take some time to talk to each other about the things that have gone right today and what we are thankful for.” 
My eager to please 6-year-old sat expectantly, ready and willing to join in the game afoot. The grizzly bear sitting across from me glowered. Lightening, born of agony inspired rage, flashed across the room with a force that nearly knocked me off my feet. He growled his intense refusal. I sat, as I had so often, crestfallen and defeated. I choked my way through the remaining duties of the night until I could seek my refuge in isolated solitude. It was years before I offered the idea again.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
If you have read much of this blog, you know that the grizzly bear eventually faced a sad, hard truth which, in turn, freed the child that had cowered in fear for decades. Once free from the prison of fear, he was free to express thankfulness and joy. He still struggles to acknowledge those things at which he excels, but he can accept appreciation when his excellence impacts others. Gathering to share our list of 'thankful things' has become a treasured time of family laughter and bonding. It was worth the decade long battle it took to get us there. 
Knowing that thankfulness is my daily ritual, I wonder why I have a visceral reaction as we navigate the American season of collective Thanksgiving. The reaction puzzles me, perplexes me. Facebook reminds me over and over again. The status update pops up, and yet another friend denotes those things that evoke thankfulness. I have been invited over and over to join in the ritual. I want to. My fingers flicker over the computer keys. I can't. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Yes. I could force myself and do it by rote. I could make a list that would make you happy and send chills down your spine if I chose to apply artful creativity to my effort. I tell myself it is my duty and that I should be ashamed. My heart does not respond to the chastisement. My fingers cannot follow through. 

My status blank remains empty save for the humorous pictures I share that evoke much needed comic relief. “What is wrong with you,” I ask myself. Only silence echoes back. It is the same silence that deafened me last year when I struggled with the same, sad old dilemma. Last year this time, I thought I surely would have conquered myself by this year this time.  
I ask myself if I am uncomfortable sharing deeply personal things in such a public way. Then, I burst out laughing because you and I both know. Given what I have written since May, I've burned that bridge already. I ask myself if I am a rebel who fights against convention. Yea, that's me. The hard core biker babe who is a rebel without a cause. Sigh. I know. You know that's not me either. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
This season is deeply meaningful for me. Like you, I am wounded with the battle scars of life. Yet, I am still keenly aware of the multitude of things that deserve my thanksgiving. This hesitance of my soul is a reminder that my arm wrestling match with God continues. The process of figuring out who I am and where I'm headed has not concluded. Every time my fingers flicker at the behest of my willing heart only to freeze as my soul flinches, I know we are still wrestling, my good God and I. I feel alone and shamed every time Facebook announces yet another list of thankful things.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Consolation often comes in an unexpected package. As October became November, a friend who survived a scary bout with cancer updated her status: 

Let me just say for the record: I am so glad that October is over! Not crazy about breast cancer awareness during the *whole* month, reminding me at every turn of last year. Maybe, the further away from my diagnosis and recovery, I'll feel more like "celebrating" being a survivor. But this year, it honestly made me angry that I'd lost a year of my life and had to relive it at every turn :-/” (Reprinted with permission of G. Gagne)

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Her battle was different, but there I was smack dab in the middle of her post. I could see her struggle between thankfulness and horror. How thankful she was to have survived but how horrified she was at what her survival had required. I understood the cry of her heart because I feel it every time my fingers twitch above the keyboard. My heart tells my fingers how thankful we are to have survived. My soul asks why survival has required, and continues to require, so much so often. 
And then it happens. I am thankful. I am thankful for friends who fight to survive. I am thankful for friends that remained while I fought to survive. I am thankful for you because you have come along to cheer me on as I continue the fight toward wholeness of heart and soul. I am thankful for friends brave enough to speak the truth about their battles. I am thankful. Simply thankful. 

Courtesy B. Creasy
Isaiah 25:1 (Bible in Basic English)
O Lord, you are my God; I will give praise to you, I will give honour to your name; for you have done great acts of power; your purposes in the past have been made true and certain in effect.


  1. I am so thankful for you and the writing friends I discovered at Glorieta, this year.

  2. Sometimes, even though I know that others are facing even much, much greater challenges than I am, I still feel inadequate and overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of my life. Thanks for making that it be o.k. to say that I feel that way. I guess it's not just me after all!

    I really look forward to your every post.

  3. Don, I feel the same way. I feel as if the experience gave me a treasure trove of new relationships!

  4. Elizabeth, I'd say you are in crowded company. We are all just a bunch of fraidy cats trying to get by the best way we can. Life is just overwhelming and most everyone has something that feels as if it could snap them in half at any moment. I am thankful that you have remained despite the battles I have waged! I am still here because of friends like you! Love you.

  5. CA, I love that phrase "most everyone has something that feels as if it could snap them in half at any moment." You are one of the bravest people I know. Thanks for this post.

  6. That, my friend is high praise because, in reality, I am one of the most fearful people you know! Happy New Year!