A Joy Restored

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Photo Credit: “Jump” by Jana_Koll

I’ve said my dream was to be a writer. I developed this dream in childhood—I don’t know exactly when, but it was early. I read profusely from age eight on, and I’m guessing my writing dreams developed as my reading list grew.

At that age it was enough to have a foggy notion, a sort of affinity, a general inclination or tendency to writing. Writing was fun! I did it without overly thinking about it. I jotted silly stories and poems, and when I started playing the piano at age eight, also penning song lyrics. Back then I never thought about the practicalities of getting published, the imminent necessity of earning a living, the eventuality of needing a schedule to keep oneself on track to produce enough, often enough, to survive. No, back then my dream was a hobby, a thing I did at whimsy with no outside provocation. I did it because I enjoyed it. It brought me joy. It was fun.

How wonderful to be a child, to be innocent of worldly and societal expectations, or implications of adulthood. How I wish, as I write this, that I could go back.

Is that impossible?

It seemed impossible when life threw me its first really traumatic curveball at fourteen, when tragedy struck so quickly it seemed childhood was snatched away overnight. Then it was, I have to think, that Satan really went in for the kill on my identity. And with it, my dreams.

Suddenly I was no longer a capable, positive, promising child. I was an incapacitated, negative, doomed child. My world as far as I could see had collapsed around me. I couldn’t see beyond the walls of my home, now torn apart by dissension and hatred and despair.

Though a family breakup may not be our fault, it has everything to do with us. It has everything to do with how we see and understand our place in the world, everything to do with how we define ourselves. I’m not saying this is how it should be, or even that it’s logical, just that this is how it is.

This family event affected everything about me. It redefined me in negative, defeated ways. I became, in my eyes, a pitiable child, one who couldn’t speak up or have needs, either at home or at school.

Instead of being an empowered writer, I became a closet writer. That dream of writing got shoved in a closet, shoved under cover—literally, under the covers of journals—as I took to writing about my family plight and my own plight for no one’s eyes but my own. I guarded my writing, and with it, my pain, like I guarded the family secret. This was not healthy. And yet, by God’s grace, he even used that period of writing to myself for good. Even though the subject matter was bad, it kept me growing at least as far as a writer.  The writing kept my joints oiled, kept me in practice. The practice was being perverted, but it was leading to something only God could see.

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Photo Credit: “Happy Life” by Lusi

Today I feel I have regained the joy of writing–maybe I’m even embarking on my second childhood! Gone are the dark days and the need to hide who I am, because God has restored to me my value and my worth. I rejoice because my identity is not defined by what was done TO me, but by what God has done FOR me. He saved me. He restored me. And He has returned me to the joy of my youth. Thanks for sharing my journey!

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Celebrating 8 Years: Roots of a Love Story

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“Do you want to talk again, maybe tomorrow?” he asked from his bachelor pad in balmy Texas.

“Sure, if neither one of us dies before then,” I responded through huffs and puffs of cold Minnesota air.

I was walking briskly up College Street, autumn leaves crunching underfoot.

He thought it strange the way I ended that third phone call. But you have to understand it had been no more than six months since the previous winter when I’d found myself sitting in that mental ward.

I was making a slow recovery from depression, trying my luck at a few random classes in community college after having dropped out of a pricey private institution.

With a BBA, he was in his second year of a new job in the finance industry.

We were both living single and lonely in small apartments. Both dejected from recent life failures, we had recently both shut ourselves away from family and friends.

Apparently he found something intriguing in my dark humor and brooding ways. As well, he’d liked the pictures my bff, and our matchmaker, Samantha, had shown him. It was before the days of Facebook, so I would wait until our first live meeting about a month later to see him. No matter. His voice, smooth and soothing, already gave me goosebumps.

“What are you doing tonight?” he would start our phone conversations, which quickly became daily affairs, usually no less than four hours at a pop.

I couldn’t believe how attentive he was. He actually wanted me to read my journals out loud to him, which I did.

“I’m taking a walk/organizing my closet/doing dishes [pick one—these were all true over the months of phone dating…and all due to that nervous, post-depression energy I suffered in those days]. What are you up to?”

“I’m just lying here, thinking about you.”

Each night on his primitive, 2004-model cell phone, he gave me his full attention, something I was not used to with males. The previous two men in my life I had met at my workplace, a restaurant, and the relationships had always been about what I could do for them. The boy I had loved in high school (a much nicer guy than these two) ended up having precious little time for me after going gay.

I wish I could say that I unreservedly returned Buc’s affection in the beginning. But every true love story must have a complication, mustn’t it?

Sigh. After dropping out of college, I’d struck up a conversation with my most recent ex (he’d since been fired from his dishwashing job at the restaurant). This happened a couple months before I met Buc.

The first contact I’d had in about six months with this dude (who shall remain nameless) started with him telling me he’d love to get together—but I’d have to go to him, because he was under house arrest at the moment.

Instead of running the other way like I should have, guess what I did?

Yep.

I got physically and emotionally involved. Again. Apparently I was attracted to his brooding ways. I identified with his suicidal tendencies, and as lonely as I was, well, any guy was better than none.

Lord forgive me. And Buc forgive me too. How stupid I was.

It should have been an easy choice. Let me put it this way:

  • One had three kids, the other had none.
  • One was unemployed, the other a successful broker.
  • One had a criminal record, and the other? Nary a traffic ticket.
  • One had a history of drug and alcohol use, the other, a history of jalapeno abuse.
  • One was a broken deadbeat who needed me to rescue him, while the other was a broken believer who wanted to rescue me.

Gee. I wonder who I should choose?

You might say I could have chosen neither. I could have accepted the newspaper editor job I’d been offered–but that didn’t pay anything (college newspaper, you see), and I was already out of money—plus, that restaurant where I’d picked up the last two losers had just gone bankrupt.

No, as the months went on that fall of 2004, it became clear that God was propelling me to make a choice. A drastic choice. Doors were closing all around me, and I literally didn’t feel strong enough to go it alone. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that God was with me—but sometimes we are so low (or so delusional) that we need God’s hands to reach out, take hold of us, and give us a good shake through the hands of another.

“Think about what you’re doing!” Buc would cry in frustration as I lamented to him that I loved both of them. “Why is it even a choice?”

One night he almost gave up on me. I had waffled again, saying I needed to take a break from both to sort myself out. Meanwhile, he prayed for a sign.

“God,” he prayed several days into this separation, “if she calls tonight, then I know you want us together. If she doesn’t, then we’re not meant to be.”

That night when I called, I don’t remember what I said. I know I was not totally convinced one way or the other, but God didn’t need me to be ready just yet.

Buc took this as his sign, and I’m so glad he did. After this, I waffled another time or two, but he didn’t give up on me. He trusted God, even though my utterly stupid behavior baffled and hurt him.

I think I owe our eight years of marriage to my husband’s faith, a faith I have seen again and again over the years when his job was uncertain, or I was uncertain, and he prayed for a sign, received his answer, and made up his mind not to worry because, as he simply and calmly explained, “It’s God’s plan.”

It’s a faith I’m still hoping to develop.

I saw it again just this week, as he faced a job-threatening audit at his branch. Yep, my hubby has become the manager at a top-notch financial branch, and earned plenty of top-performer awards and trips along the way. (Just for kicks, I googled my ex last year and saw his gnarled face and tattoos pop up in a mug shot for a domestic dispute. Gulp! To think I could have married that!)

“I could get fired,” Buc announced coming home a few days ago. “But if I do, I know it’s God’s plan.”

Since I’ve been staying home, I’ve told him many times I wish he could stay home with me. I get so lonely.

“Well, maybe getting fired would be a blessing—we could spend all day together,” I quipped.

Seems all this alone time is not good for the logic—it’s his awesome job that’s currently allowing me to “write to my roots.” But no matter how I’ve spent my time in the past few years, home or not, my desire to be by my hubby’s side continues to grow.

As I awaken to the beauty and possibility around me little by little (because rediscovering family, God, and dreams after deep depression happens gradually), I realize more and more what a jewel I have right beside me. What do I need a wedding ring for? He is my rock, always returning to me at the end of the day.

Today, our phone calls are shorter, because they only last as long as it takes for him to drive the thirty to forty minutes home. (By the way, he’s still employed at that job that is too far away for my liking. “God’s will,” Buc said.) Still, he calls me every day. Kisses me every morning. The calls are a little less exciting than they used to be, more often filled with dinner plans or daily headlines than deep confessions of past sins or heated professions of love. After eight years, there’s not much we don’t know about each other. But though the conversation may have leveled off, the love never has. To the contrary, it has only grown.

Over eight years, as he’s helped “nurse me back” to mental health; talked me down from countless emotional cliffs; and worked day after day to clothe me, feed me, and shelter me, I am starting to “get it.”

His love for me is like God’s love–hoping all things, bearing all things, believing all things. I only hope that I will learn to love other human beings as much someday. Ever since moving to Texas, I’ve had a slow thaw in my heart. But I hope he knows that right now he’s got all the love I’ve got—with these melting icicles creating more room for him every day.

Honey, I thank God that you chose me, and even more, that I chose you! (Oh, how thankful I am that I made the right choice!)

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(Blast from the past)

February 7, 2005, 8:14 a.m. (about a month before we got married)

When I imagine our life together I feel unspeakable joy. Especially today after setting our wedding date.

Last night—remember my tears of joy?—I felt, finally that I have something to hope for (on this earth), for you are my representation of Christ as the husband of humanity.

A place to belong, somewhere to fit—the knowledge that someone thinks I am special enough to invest in for a lifetime…darling, you don’t know what you have given me by asking me to share your life with you.

I am so blessed to have someone who loves and cares for me as a prized possession, yet at the same time respects me as a person. I can’t wait to be your family (even if it means making lunches and suppers and breakfasts sixty more years). To be with you every day will be a privilege and a joy. I hope you feel the same way.

buc and Lindsey

I Can Think Clearly Now, the Depression is Gone

Last week I let a mess of dishes, food globs, and flour dust sit on my countertops; ditto dirty laundry on my floors. Perhaps the only productive thing I did over the last seven days was to start this blog—which I did from the confines of my bedroom while coughing, hacking, and otherwise fighting the fuzzy-headedess that comes with the flu.

You see, after cooking a lovely dinner for my husband Monday night, I came down with the bug—and until Thursday, I couldn’t even fathom standing up long enough to clean my dishes. Ditto the laundry in the living room. Some of it was even folded and ready to be put away, and yet, the effort would have cost too much.

Now that I’m feeling better, here’s what I’ve decided I think about the flu: it’s a lot like depression.

You see, with both, it’s a burden to wake up. With both, sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe. With both, your thoughts are cloudy and you can’t plan, because the future seems to hold nothing but pain. With both, your life seems downright inhospitable to you; and sometimes, like this week, even the weather will not smile on you.

Imagine feeling that way every day for months, even years. Given how hard it is to get out of bed when afflicted with the flu—a physical malady—now try to fathom making plans for your life, much less for one day, with depression—a mental illness. It’s virtually impossible.

Now why am I digging into all this junk that doesn’t describe my life anymore, not since I gave my life to God several years ago?

Only this: When I woke up this morning to discover I could breathe easy, wasn’t dizzy, and felt like doing something for the first time in a week, it reminded me of how blessed I am, in general, to no longer suffer mental illness. It also reminded me of how important it is to have something to live for. Because when I was sick, I didn’t feel like I did. It’s a bad memory, but that is the essence of depression: not having a reason to live.

However, for today, the flu has reminded me to give thanks. And so: Thanks, God, for not only saving my life, but also for making it meaningful.

In my next post I will talk more about how the meaning I’m currently deriving from life goes back to my roots—those good ones that my book project, and blogging, is helping me to rediscover.