I Fear No Evil

Just fyi, I do not necessarily publish on the day of the included events. Last post was published the day after, this post is a combination of the last three days, because of delays in editing (just for coherence).The reason I point this out is because sometimes I publish good days on very not good days.

Day before yesterday was not an overly good day. Yesterday seemed to end better. Now today we are presented with plummet #2. I keep likening my life right now to a roller coaster of event and emotion; this was one of those swift and unexpected plummeting sections of track. Over the past several months, I’ve been lucky if I get one good day; supremely lucky if I get two or more in a row. I have just enough time to begin to relax and catch my breath…and then something happens. Again. And again. And again.

Another battle. Another challenge. Another terror. Sometimes repeats of previous ones, often amped up from last time, occasionally entirely new issues.

In retrospect, I can see the foreshadowing clearly. I am not at all good at noting it, trusting myself, and acting upon it at the time. I’m not entirely sure how, but I need to work on this. I tend to think that if the person wants to talk about what’s wrong, they will tell me, and they don’t want to be pushed. I try to respect them and not dig. I do not need to know, and I certainly don’t want to pry. I want them to feel safe and comfortable around me. I trust them to come to me on their own.

I think this might be the wrong approach with certain people. Not all, but a few to whom I’m quite close. But that’s an ongoing project that I can hopefully explore soon.

I was so hopeful. I thought I was going to get to go home after a day of me being tired and forced into extrovert-mode (I was kind of grumpy, and my wonderful Dom was encouraging me the whole time, for which I am deeply grateful), and spend time with my Dom. I have been busy these last few weeks, and I miss him, feeling guilty for how my work schedule has restricted our time together, and I want to protect the time we can have together in the coming weeks.

I got home. We began chatting. It was nice for a little while, but not quite what I was expecting and hoping for – which is fine, I’m learning to not hold my expectations too tightly. But then things took this sharp turn into ‘what the heck’ territory.

This is not my story to tell in its entirety, so I am going to deliberately skim. My Dom has things to attend to, and has decided it is best he do so in seclusion, which I entirely support because I recognise sometimes that is the very best thing. And I want my Dom to be well, and certainly free to attend to whatever he needs to.

But I think some of my reaction to our conversation was less than stellar. At the very least, it wasn’t delivered with a lot of clarity, and I really wish I could apologise to my Dom for that – it’s top of the list when we can chat again. The bits of conversation we have had since then have been rather confusing and disjointed, and all I really know is my Dom is not having a fantastic time and I don’t really know what is going on or what will happen.

Edit: Last night we had a short but good conversation, and things were much better. I cried I was so relieved. Today, we’ve swung back. See what I mean about a roller coaster?

 

I keep ending up in this place. Same issues, same uncertainty, same heartache, same worry, same frustration. Same exhaustion and pain. I am tired of crying. I am tired of feeling beat down. I am tired of feeling a shred of hope and seeing a bit of progress with something and then having it all crash and burn. Again.

Let me clarify, this is not just about situations relating to my Dom. This is a host of things in my life. I get this teeny, tiny reprieve. I relax a little. Then whammo.

I never thought I would be one to consider hope a horribly cruel thing. But here I am, almost wanting to avoid any hope because the aftermath is crushing.

 

But this time is a bit different.

My first reaction was an achingly broken heart. It hurt. I cried, of course. Usually, I am so surrounded by agony and misery that not a lot of thinking happens until I cry myself out, pull myself together a little, and start to pray. But a few minutes in, I had this moment of clarity.

I realised I could choose to give in to that emotion, that I could pursue that reaction and keep crying my heart out. That I could enter into a state of being sad, alone, miserable, desolate. But it would be my choice. Not me being swept up helplessly this time. Not being overwhelmed.

Choice. Between desolation and prayer.

Which is rather wonderful, in a sense, because I feel like this is the first time in about eight months that I’ve had some emotional stability that wasn’t just a mask I desperately plastered to get through the day without bursting into tears in front of people. One of the best things my Dom has given me is this revival of my prayer life. In short, because this is already a really long post, he is a beautiful catalyst in my life that has drawn me back to prayer, real prayer. His Brother has been instrumental here too, because he is the one who first specifically encouraged me to pray; I have never forgotten that moment, I think of it every single time I feel helpless and scared, and it has brought about such miracles in the last several months.

The only issue is I have this bad habit of ceasing to pray once it seems like that particular trial is over. I get up over the hill, and I stop to catch my breath. And I could pray whilst doing so, but I tend not to. It no longer seems urgent. I go into chill-mode. Which unfortunately doubles as apathy-mode.

Then that roller coaster thing happens. The same thing crops up. Or a new issue, a new hurt, a new emergency, a new tragedy.

I think the reason, or at least one of the reasons, this roller coaster keeps beating the ever-living daylights out of me is that I keep letting my guard down.

I’ve recently started this utterly fantastic Bible study on spiritual warfare, The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. In the first lesson, she points out that the problems we struggle with, the people, the circumstances, those are not the problem. They are not the enemy. Rather, Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

And I keep forgetting that during the good times. I am gradually getting better at recognising those issues at the time; still not excellent by any means, as I am still missing all the clues leading up to the massive freaking roller coaster drop from hell, and I still keep acting on these semi knee-jerk reactions to what the apparent problem is rather than taking a breath, praying, and considering what the actual problem is (and that is not limited to a belief in a spiritual realm; that’s just interacting with people). But when I get slapped in the face, it doesn’t knock me off my feet. When I feel entirely out of my depth, I am panicking a lot less and praying a lot more (and oh my gosh, does that work incredibly well).

It’s the in-between times where I ought to be building up defenses and securing my family against this stuff that I keep dropping the ball.

But now I know better. Now I know that these repeated attacks are a deliberate attempt to fracture us. That they are designed to discourage me, wear me down, break me.

Here’s something I haven’t been honest about in a really long time: I have horribly neglected prayer and reading my Bible for years. I’m ashamed of it, but that’s enough. I have been under spiritual attack. I have been driven into this apathetic state and thank God for my Dom and his Brother because I’d still be in it if it weren’t for them.

The fact is, I feel stronger this time. It is not that I don’t care or that I am being callous or that I feel no compassion or concern. Heck no. I just…feel stronger. I know who I am in Christ. I know God already possesses the victory. I know that God has this handled, and regardless of how anything turns out, God is still God. And for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long, maybe for the first time ever, I feel real peace in these circumstances. Not the kind of ‘chosen peace’ where I am still grieving and terrified inside and just managing to go about my day looking normal, choosing to trust God ‘because I can’t do anything else besides pray anyways’. No, this is real peace. I really am not worried. I know God is good. I know He is sovereign. I know I am His. And I will fear no evil.

I really did not expect to have this kind of good result this early in my attempts here.

There is so much that is unresolved. My responses over the last few days have not been stellar (a few good ones, I think, but some definite mistakes which I want so much to be able to apologise for, but that will have to wait until my Dom returns to chat). So much that I just don’t know. My heart still hurts a lot. I am trying not to dwell, to not go down that path and end up paralysed with hurt and rendered ineffective. My family deserves better. I deserve better. But it still hurts. The waiting is hard. The not knowing what is going on is hard. I suffer.

But I have this real peace. I am learning. I know I am not helpless because I can pray. I can fight back. I know who the real enemy is, I know where these attacks are coming from. I can defend my family. I don’t have to succumb. I suffer, but I live.

I am not afraid. God is still God.

I fear no evil. God is still God.

I love my Dom. God is still God.

 

“Perfect love casts out all fear”. God is still God.

I feel God’s peace. God is still God.

God is good.

 

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I Feel Christmassy

photo-1428592953211-077101b2021bThe last two weeks, I’ve been getting back into teaching; week one is always crazy, week two has been almost equally so. I feel like I’ve had two relatively packed weeks, but in a good way. That being said, I have decided to quit while I’m ahead and protect my non-work time in the next weeks. Not protect it ‘more’, because that makes it relative and I seem to…abuse that sort of approach; I am going to protect my non-work time, full stop. As long as I follow through with that, I can be a little proud of myself for figuring that out before being overwhelmed.

The downside of the last two weeks is I have been thinking about this blog to which I’ve committed myself, wanting to explore the 87,000 things I could only allude to or very briefly touch on given the self-imposed space restrictions I was attempting to follow (I can make my words concise, but my thoughts not so much). I want to explore each of those things one by one, in detail, so I can have the depth I need without allowing myself to half-deal with something because I tried to cram things together. But alter.

Today I felt Christmassy.

Fall has been a hard time for me in the past; I would usually be away from home after the summer, because of school, and missing my family. So several years ago, I began the Christmas season really early, usually just after Thanksgiving (although often I would semi-start a bit earlier). I needed something to look forward to. Something to keep me sane. Something beautiful in my day. Something to get that Christmas spirit built up inside me. Something to give me a little hope when my heart became homesick.

I also felt the need to bring some balance, at least in my own life, given all the icky Halloween stuff that gets put up around this time of year and through October – it honestly makes me feel nauseated. Not because I’m looking at people and thinking they’re sinners and they’re worshiping the devil and lamenting the state of humanity; this stuff just really bothers me, and no amount of telling myself it’s just for fun or it’s not real or whatever makes me feel any better. I love dressing up. Love candy. Love carving pumpkins. Not comfortable at all with the icky stuff.

But I digress.

For various reasons, it’s taken a long time for the ‘Christmassy’ feeling to arrive. Back home, Autumn means wind and cold and snow before Halloween. Not here. Here, Autumn comes with a lot of rain, as does Winter (with some ice sprinkled in – we get snow if we’re lucky). The last couple of days, we have been treated to a steady rain, cool weather, overcast skies, and that lovely, calming rain.

And this year, the rain apparently delivered my first full dose of Christmas spirit.

I’ve little tastes of it a few times before now, but today…I must finally have been out here long enough to begin associating rain with the advent of Christmas. I felt utterly imbued with excitement and anticipation and just…joy. For almost the entire day. I feel it less now just because I’m exhausted and have hit my forced extroversion limit of the week, but it’s still there, still tangible, still warm and glowing.

I don’t know if it’s because I am relieved I feel happy, or because it’s been so long since I felt this so early and at this intensity that it’s overwhelming, or if I am still that emotionally unstable that my mind and body doesn’t know what else to do with it, but it makes me want to cry.

I Have This Theory.

I have this theory.

It began with this post.*

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I have never thought of myself as self-destructive, never considered harming myself. I thought I took decent care of myself. In fact, I often have thought I spoil myself, that I compromise the discipline I ought to have too often.

To make a long, and (for this post) vague, story short, since losing a particular outlet and experiencing hope deferred on several occasions, I find myself hanging by a thread some days.

Too many days.

I’ve been telling myself I need to try harder, do better, just get through it. Suck it up. Keep calm and carry on. Be strong. Be stronger. Adapt. Push. Pray harder. Have more faith. Be patient. Do everything I possibly can as right as I possibly can, maximize my chances for finally getting the thing I am desperately hoping for. Or at least a good day.

Some days I really felt like it was okay. Or okay enough.

But most days I just hurt.

So then I started telling myself it was a season. I’d learn, I’d get through it. It’s just because of specific circumstances that I feel this way.

Then I read that post. The bit about ‘not wearing enough when it’s freezing out’ made me pause.

See, the cold doesn’t bother me much, I grew up where it was colder. It just rains a lot here, but I tend to say ‘It’s just water; I’ll dry eventually.”

I’ve lived here 6 years and never bought a raincoat. I only wear my winter coat if there’s snow on the ground, and even then it’s primarily because I dislike being under scrutiny from people who think I should wear a coat.

I probably should wear a coat.

The ‘masked little things’ …that stopped me cold.

I have this theory that maybe I do some of those masked little things. Maybe so well that I didn’t realise what I was doing to myself.

I have this theory that I have somehow created a lifestyle where I deprive myself of what I need and what I want under the guise of discipline and sacrifice.

I don’t mean to imply discipline and sacrifice are ‘bad’. I firmly believe the exact opposite.

I just suspect rather strongly now that I have abused the concepts in relation to myself.

And I don’t mean ‘want’ in a trivial manner; the wants of which I deprive myself are of the soul-craving variety. The starved-to-the-brink-of-desperation kind of wants. The things my heart yearns for, misses terribly, that are always, always in the back of my mind.

I must be disciplined for my school, my work, my life in general. To be a responsible adult. This all involves some sacrifices, and I’ve accepted that, chosen it. Whether it’s being far from family, investing a great deal of time, energy, and money in grad school, putting other things on hold for several years while I try to complete this phase in my vocational pursuit, my spare time being given to volunteer work, time with friends and family so I don’t entirely alienate them, and then managing to get my introverted self by on fumes for a few weeks or months at a time.

And I don’t mean all this begrudgingly or in a martyr-like monologue.

That post though. I cannot dislodge it, like a song that keeps running through my mind, but more ominous than Ra Ra Rasputin.

I have this theory that I’ve trained myself quite well to put other people first. That’s what a good Christian, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend, a good teacher ought to do. I love all these people, of course I’m more than willing to sacrifice a little for them, especially if I see them suffering and I think I can help somehow.

And this is what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it? Aren’t I supposed to love my neighbour, give to the poor, love the outcasts, honour my parents, be a friend, give everything?

But that post.

I started arguing with myself, saying I spoiled myself with TV and movies when I should be working, sleeping in on the weekends and spending hours on Tumblr and Pinterest when I should be doing chores. I give myself ‘treats’ far too much.

But that post.

I finally ran out of arguments, and began considering those maybes. Maybe I am just a tiny bit…couldn’t bring myself to say ‘self-destructive’. Surely not me. I mean, I don’t hate myself.

Do I?

I stay up late to finish something when I probably ought to go to bed. Or I penalise myself for watching TV earlier by only allowing myself a four-hour sleep that night so I can catch up on paperwork. I meet my cravings with food that’s not so fantastic for me, on a regular basis. I know I should eat better; somehow the fruits and veggies go bad in my fridge more often than not. I put off hiking, yoga, playing piano, reading, all my ‘fun’ projects because I have this list of things I should do first. When I finish all those things, then I can do what I want. That’s responsible, isn’t it? I can do those ‘want’ things tomorrow. Or on the weekend. Or over the summer. Or over Christmas break. Or over Easter break.

Suddenly it wasn’t an argument anymore.

Suddenly I have this theory.

I keep giving up things that I want from the very core of my being. Things I need to be, I think, a decently healthy, functional person who isn’t miserable and on the verge of tears 2-4 days a week.

And I give them up because I have somehow convinced myself this is what a grown up does. This is what a good Christian girl does.

Until that post triggered the specifics, and I started thinking, “A good Christian girl doesn’t eat well? Doesn’t sleep enough? Doesn’t spend time reading her Bible because she has this massive to do list she ‘ought’ to work on and reading time is a luxury she doesn’t deserve until it’s finished? Doesn’t wear a freaking coat?”

I don’t think I hate myself. I don’t want to think I hate myself.

But it’s pretty clear that I haven’t done a very good job of loving myself.

I have attempted to stave off those wants and needs by feeding my body and soul junk food, in varying forms. Binge-watching TV and movies (often as a distraction while I attempt to be productive, so I don’t think about how behind I feel, how miserable I am for whatever reasons, so I don’t end up spiralling in highly unpleasant ways), treating myself to McDonald’s (because obviously what my soul needs is a McWrap), buying little teddy bear figurines at the thrift store (but not a freaking raincoat), spending hours on Tumblr and Pinterest and YouTube and Facebook while trying to psych myself up to leave my bedroom and get going, then punishing myself with no sleep or no walk or no piano or whatever for yet another day.

Pseudo-rewards. The illusion that I treat myself decently and then go above and beyond and need to balance everything out with some deprivation.

I have this theory that I don’t entirely believe, deep down, that I deserve my time and energy and attention. Other people, certainly. Almost always. Unless someone is actively abusive, to an extreme, I believe they deserve me.

But I only deserve me after everyone and everything else is looked after.

I don’t really know how I got here. I don’t know how I became so mixed-up. I don’t know why exactly I am so bad at loving myself, caring for myself, why I am maybe a little bit…’self-destructive’. Maybe.

Maybe the immediate circumstances of my life aren’t a sufficient explanation for my recurrent misery. Maybe there really are too many days where I am fighting to act normal and not burst into tears while I go about my day. Maybe people aren’t supposed to feel like this.

Maybe I’m not okay.

I have concluded that at this point, I don’t really know how to love myself. I have theories. I know it’s important. I see it referenced all over the place. Even in the Bible: Mark 12:28-31 says that a teacher of the law asked Jesus which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus replied: ‘The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’

I am fairly certain I have messed up royally on that second commandment. Got some decent practice on the ‘love your neighbour’ part. Virtually ignored the next two words. Which is not stellar obedience on my part. Which in turn means my theology is in error.

If there is one thing I cannot abide, it’s sub-par theology.

This has therefore become my tipping point.

I don’t want to stop loving others. I don’t want to stop loving others. I don’t want to stop giving of myself, or being disciplined, or sacrificing what I know I need to for the things that are so very, very important to myself. But my wants cannot be satisfied with mere junk food. My needs cannot be met with just a bandaid. I have spent a long time trying to just tide myself over…and now I am not okay.

Hence, this blog.

This blog is going to be my online journal, my personal journal, where I am going to write about this whole mess as I attempt to fumble through figuring out how to actively love myself.

It’s terrifying. I want very much to shove it all down and ignore it, but frankly I’m afraid of what might happen if I continue with that particular coping method.

So instead, I’m going to write to process, to be honest with myself, to try to unearth why I am this way, to try to learn to do better. To make myself feel at least somewhat accountable if someone out there knows. It might be an unmitigated disaster. It might be brilliant. It might be utterly mediocre.

I don’t really care.

This is for me. Not meant as a template, guide, suggestion for anyone else, ever. If people find something meaningful, bravo. Because I am a mess and it’s likely this blog will be too. Maybe my theory is entirely wrong.

I just have to try something.

I am not after sympathy or advice or attention. I don’t want to discourage people from commenting or messaging, they will always be open, people are always free to share. I cannot guarantee I will respond in a timely manner, or even at all, as this is another aspect of self-care I am attempting to explore.

I am writing this for me. I am trying to make myself love myself.

Hopefully.

God willing.

Welcome to my mess.

 

*original post viewable here.