Gay continues to steadily improve and will join us again in blog-world next week. In a conversation today, she referred to her time away from writing as a vacation. If a vacation is what she had, sign me up for something else! She, of course, was joking. She has worked harder than ever, in a different way, to ensure her return home. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share a bit of my life, learned primarily through Gay's investment in me, with each of you.
Last week, I was fully aware of the raw emotion and the vulnerability on my part in posting such bare portions of my inner world. I wanted to illustrate something learned from years of knowing Gay. She has given me a great gift in this phrase, "Lori, you are not alone." It has generally been followed by, something like, "I cannot tell you how many women I've heard speak those same words...."
When a negative emotion is involved, particularly shame, silence and isolation feed the flames of destruction. Words articulated, whether verbally or in writing, help lessen the power of shame. If empathy is introduced, seedlings of change are watered.
One precious friend who read the post and took the time to comment on Facebook and in person noted how she cried as she read it. I was so grateful that she told me why she cried. I've learned that one can never assume why a person is crying. Tears are complicated-- sad, angry, confused, often unearthing buried events of old. She said, "Lori, I was crying because of the negative chatter in your head."
I intentionally shared that internal chatter. Unspoken conversations with ourselves can be highly destructive and confusing. When I met Gay 23 years ago, I was largely unaware of the ongoing negative chatter in my head. I was even more ignorant of what power those words had in my daily life. She helped me discover the sources of some of the consistent, destructive forces--my furies.
Do I still struggle with internal chatter? CLEARLY, yes! That said, over time, I have learned to sift and sort through lies and truth, sources and fuel. Even better, I know how to find sources of life giving, affirming replacements.
Looking back at my chatter just before the ugly cry breakdown in my kitchen last week, did I sob because I broke the head off of the cutest yoga man cookie I'd ever made? No.
I wouldn't have known that 23 years ago, though. By following the progression of thoughts, I was able to figure out what I was really feeling at that moment.
I was frustrated by my efforts. My plan DID NOT include adding stress to the list of possible negative feelings. Did I think I was a failure, though? No. I know I am competent and highly creative.
Did I make a colossal mess in the kitchen? Yes.
Can I clean well? Yes. Do I want to clean well? NO!
Did my 8th grade teacher give great advice about not eating frosting as you work? Yes! Why? She knew, from experience that the result is awful.
Remembering my intention helped me hone in on the core issue: do something I enjoy that connects me with others during a lonely time. My project compounded an issue. Now I was a frustrated lonely person having to fight off furies of the past. Is anyone else exhausted?
I had a choice for my next decision that night. Leave the kitchen a mess and wallow in self pity. Which, historically involve lots of butter cream frosting and a combination of romantic comedies and tragic films. Or listen to a loving, kind voice within my Spirit that said, "Lori, it's time for church. Change your focus."
I recognize that voice as the spirit of God in my life.
In the past I often ran from God or rebelled against Him in response to situations I didn't understand. More importantly, I confused that negative chatter in my mind and heart with His messages to me.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
God's voice never belittles or condemns. He loves me and his communication with me and to me is always based in love. Love is who He is, not simply what He does.
By responding to His message to change my focus, I opened up my heart and mind to the supernatural. At that moment I had no real power to change my feelings of isolation and loneliness. Knowing answers didn't change my circumstances; but, because God loves perfectly and with such tenderness, I was able to enter into a place of security and comfort that only He could provide.
The story got better as the week progressed. I am sincere when I say that I truly wasn't looking for pity or attention by writing of my frustrations and loneliness. My goal was to draw attention to the powerful combination of doing internal, emotional work and then offering your pain and concerns to God, whom I believe is more than able to meet us in that place of suffering. I knew I was only one of what surely amounts to millions of people who were alone and feeling sad during Christmas.
I'm blessed beyond measure with lots of dear friends. I know that I can invite myself into their homes and I am welcome. My plan was to be content with pretending that Christmas day was simply another Tuesday doing quiet things alone. Instead, I had two lovely, barely optional invitations for Christmas. One for lunch. One for dinner. My lunch was with a new friend and her extended family. My dinner was with friends and their extended family whom I've known for a decade. Both were filled with great stories and laughter that bonded us together in new ways.
With fluffy white snowflakes falling outside my window that Christmas night, a rare event in Dallas, I kept thinking about this verse in scripture,
Psalm 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families."
Annie Beth arrived at noon on Friday and we drove to my parent's ranch just southwest of Fort Worth. The dogs and cousins all ran to greet us. We exchanged gifts, laughter, and enjoyed our feast of food.
I will always remember my Christmas of 2012--all of it. I will, in the future keep my eyes and ears open to offer invitations to those who might, even with reluctance, need a dose of family togetherness.
As Gay would say, "Thinking with you about recognizing the difference between negative internal chatter and God's spirit of loving direction in your life. See you next week."
Blessings to each of you. ~lori