“I don’t want to live here. I feel like the desperate home owner at the mercy of messy craftsmen – like I’m grasping at the belief that a better life complete with better feelings and better circumstances will somehow emerge from the current chaos that surrounds me.
I feel like nothing is where it should be, and nothing will remain where it is. The ‘under construction’ phase is wearing me down. I don’t believe it will last forever, but even in the midst of a renovation, shouldn’t some part of a house feel like home?
I don’t feel at home – my life, my mind, my world doesn’t feel like home. I’m not at peace here. I don’t want to return here. I don’t want to invite others here. Because if I’m not at home with me – in me – how can someone else be?” – April 25th, 2019
In April I went back to therapy, this time specifically for depression and anxiety. One of the things my therapist told me to do was journal daily. And I do. Every day, at least once a day, I sit with a notebook and a pen and begin to unravel my emotions, and it has been remarkably helpful.
I have one rule for myself while I’m journaling: no filter. I do my best not to staunch the flow of my feeling while I attempt to give it a voice. I let whatever is happening inside me speak, I let it out. I don’t correct it, sometimes I’m ashamed of it, sometimes I’m afraid of it, and sometimes I wish it wasn’t true. But I’ve found that one of the best ways for me to identify poisonous thought patterns is to say the thoughts out loud – interrupt the quiet, cyclic thinking with sound. Out in the open, lies tend to lose their power, and shame loses its cover of secrecy. So for about four months I’ve been funneling my feelings onto pages, and they’ve been helping me understand what’s going on in my mind.
On April 25th I said what I was feeling – like my life was under construction and I didn’t know the process would be this intense, take this long, or be this messy. If any of you have ever lived in an unfinished home, you know that living in a space while significant repairs or changes are being made is the literal worst.
You’re never settled, nothing is ever clean, it’s uncomfortable and exhausting. And even though you know it’s for the best, living with the necessary annoyances can still be overwhelming and frustrating.
Living with yourself while you go through painful processes meant to yield permanent, progressive change is incredibly hard. And continuing to believe that beauty will come from all the pain is even harder.
I’ve wanted to throw my entire mind away more often than not this year, because it’s not adopting new thought patterns that’s the most difficult, it’s destroying the old ones. The demolition process is ruthless and ugly. Root systems or thoughts and opinions that extend back for generations have to be dug up and discarded. It is exhausting and painful. You don’t have a clear answer about why you’ve chosen certain methods or are even going through it to begin with – all you know is what’s currently there doesn’t work. At all. And that has to be enough sometimes.
One of the first things my therapist pointed out was how hard I am on myself. In the first session I responded to the question, ‘So what brings you here?’ in the most self-deprecating, disappointed, perfectionistic, self-hating way possible. I didn’t have the energy to finesse my way around my honest insight – she got hit with the full ferocity of my depression-ravaged esteem: I was certain I sucked. And when I was done, she said, ‘Wow. Do you ever give yourself a break? Why are you so hard on yourself?’
I leaned back in that ugly, uncomfortable arm chair and fiddled with the top on my water bottle while I tried to calm my frustration and think of a nice way to say, ‘I know I am and it’s literally killing me. That’s why I’m paying you – to tell me how to stop it.’
I settled for a shrug and deep sigh instead. But the truth is, I’ve been overwhelmed with the weight of self-disappointment for years. Insight and self-esteem have always been areas where the enemy has wreaked havoc on me. And when I’ve been in the ring with depression for an extended period of time, my defenses weaken and I believe things that aren’t true about myself. The Holy Spirit has been front and center during the worst of times this year, and one of the things He has consistently helped me to do is let myself off the hook.
We don’t live in the full understanding and complete awareness of our own transformation one hundred percent of the time – we may revel in moments of accomplishment, but we don’t live in the awareness of how far we’ve truly come every single second of the day. If you’re human, at some point you will begin to think to yourself, I can do more, I can be better, and when you do, your motivation subtly shifts from moving forward with confident competence to trying to escape complacency and regression. And each and every time we’re motivated by escape and fear, we will lose steam and find ourselves stuck in the merciless grip of condemnation.
In the fight for my mind this year, I’ve realized that grace and forgiveness are not things I can afford to withhold from myself in fits of anger or bouts of disappointment. I need them for myself, for my journey, for my own evolution just as much as any worthwhile relationship I value needs them in order to survive and thrive. I cannot allow condemnation to make me rob myself of right perspective.
I only get this one life, this one shot. I don’t get any do-overs, no take backs, no clocks are going to rewind and take me back to kindergarten so I can take a crack at round two – this is all the life I get. And despite the many flaws, minor and major renovations taking place, it’s still a beautiful one worth living.
So every day I walk the halls of my mind and remind myself of what’s true: that the best is yet to come. I’m not being demolished, I’m being transformed. Yahweh isn’t some shoddy Contractor who knocks things down without a plan. If He allows the sledgehammer of life to make contact with a wall I thought I needed, it’s because the wall doesn’t fit His vision. Somehow, some way, that mess must work in His masterpiece.
Yahweh has a plan for this life, my life, my one life. He has a meticulously crafted, one of a kind, perfectly scaled, extravagant plan. And in the middle of the worst of the construction, on days when I want to evict myself from my life, when I want to kick everyone out and be by myself, when I want to face my own wreckage alone and wallow in the waste that’s being pulled out of the floors and walls and ceiling, I remember that He’s working toward a vision.
He doesn’t do half way work – He finishes things. Yahweh takes great pride in completion – in ending what He began. He won’t just gut me and leave me for dead, He rebuilds, restores, re configures, regenerates, and creates. He can renovate the old and create the new. He is able to see the best in all the mess. And I can’t abandon the job site if He won’t.
We’re all under some form of construction, and we all wish we could process pain outside of ourselves. We wish we could go on vacation for six months and come back when the worst of it is done, when the feelings aren’t so strong, when the wound is mostly healed, when some of the details have faded from memory. We’re all wanted to give up on our stories and wished we had another go at it, but that’s not possible.
You can’t have a new life devoid of your painful past – but you can have a new one inclusive of your redeemed present. The kind of construction you’re undergoing will make sense of the worst mistakes you’ve made, draw wisdom from the most ignorant decisions, and pull strength from the most heartbreaking, soul crushing defeats. Yahweh loves fixer-uppers, and it’s a good thing because none of us come just perfect. But He is dedicated to fully moving in anyway – at whatever point of destruction we find ourselves in. He doesn’t need perfect conditions to call your life home, but He does promise not to leave you as you are. He is committed to changing you, and loving you with the same fierceness and commitment throughout every single phase of your transformation.
So take a moment and walk the halls of your own mind. What have you been thinking about yourself that’s holding up the project schedule? What are you withholding from yourself that you need in order to move forward more freely? Remember, you only get this one life. I know it’s messy, but it’s yours.