As an introvert, deep thinker, and Enneagram Type 5, I’ve spent much of my time this week reflecting.
It wasn’t a BIG birthday, you know, multiples of fives or even tens, but it was the first birthday after the closing of a difficult chapter in my life.
For the past two years or so, things have been super difficult on many fronts – I started pursuing writing, I got a part-time job, I led my local MOPS group for two years after a disastrous start, I suffered through some embarrassing online attacks by (surprise) someone who had no idea who I was that really shook me down to my core, I identified my life-long struggle with anxiety, I wrestled through some faith things that ended in me watching said faith crumble to ash (not unlike the end of Avengers Infinity War…), and have spent a year building it back up (though I still have many wrestling points to work through), and I lost my dearest, most beloved dog.
The last meeting of MOPS that I led was at the beginning of May. That evening, as I left, I felt very viscerally that it was the last page of the previous chapter of my life. It was as though there were no more threads to tie up. All the pieces I had struggled through over the past two years were tidied up and none remained.
The only things that remained were the positives: I quit my job, I’m a two-time published author, I have five of the dearest friends I could ask for (thanks MOPS), I have a more distilled and focused faith than I’ve ever had (at least in the core of it – I have some questions about peripheral issues), and I’ve narrowed and refined my writing focus.
These positive threads are continuing as life tick ticks forward, but all the negatives are behind. I’ve come out emotionally stronger from character attacks. I’ve acknowledged and begun to figure out how to live with said anxiety. My relationship with my friends is growing. My tolerance for seekers of faith has grown, but my impatience with fair-weather Christians has also grown (either be a Christian or don’t – but stop picking the verses you like and dismissing the rest – that applies to every one on every side of every issue). My understanding of God has grown, and I’ve had three very intimate and holy experiences with God, two at my nighttime cleaning jobs while mopping and vacuuming floors of clinics (not the most holy place ever, but God meets us wherever we are open and willing to meet) and the other at a church (where we might think holy experiences ought to happen).
I KNOW that God exists because I’ve experienced it in a way that I cannot describe. I’ve been brought to a better and higher plane, if only for a moment, before descending back into my humanness. I’ve felt compassion and understanding for a person in my life who made some very bad decisions that hurt others very deeply (and will go to prison for it) – compassion and understanding that went SO FAR BEYOND what my human mind could ever get to. I’ve never even been able to pretend my way back to that compassion.
But, I also question whether the flood was a literal flood. Or whether Jonah REALLY was inside an oxygen-deprived acid chamber (belly of a fish) for three days. Or whether Job actually lived or if it’s a poem of fiction (think Iliad) meant to explain the world and God to people who lived and thought very differently than we do today.
I’ve examined my friendships and online associations. I’ve become far more selective of the people I let into my life and who I invest time in. I’ve stopped chasing friendships that are not reciprocal. I’ve watched as friendships drift painfully (and sometimes not so painfully) away. I’ve realized that who I am is exactly who I should be and that anyone who is unable or unwilling to accept me as such doesn’t need to be in my life. And that’s not a bad thing.
I’ve learned to be honest with me and with others about my anxiety. I’ve learned to understand how it affects me. I’ve learned to accept when the anxiety train leaves the station, to ride through, and come out the other side. I am, with the help of others, learning to keep the train from leaving the station at all.
These last two years have been probably the hardest two years of my life as far as crumblings happening in so many areas. I’ve had years where ONE thing has affected MANY OTHERS, but never a time when so many things seemed to be going downhill at the same time.
And, as my husband predicted more than a year ago, I’ve come out stronger. My faith is stronger. My character is stronger. My commitment is stronger. I am stronger.
I expect 33 to be a good year for me, for my family, hopefully for my writing. If nothing else, it’s a brand new chapter that I am able to help write.