“The afternoon knows what the morning never thought of.”Robert Frost
The Afternoon Knows
“Fall apart” is something I don’t like to do. Saying “I need help,” or the word, “limitation,” just doesn’t flow out of my mouth easily.
Some might call this pride. Others might call it perfectionism. And even others might call it, albeit strange, “amazing.” We live in a culture that prides itself on being superhuman. Anyone who spins ten plates at the same time is seen as a superior multitasker. Highly ambitious. Incredibly empowered. In Christian circles, we view this person as a saint.
“Isn’t she incredible? How does she handle it all?”
I thrive on hearing those words.
Until June 1, 2013.
Journaling is my safe place. I can write my heart down without shame and I usually feel better.
Sometimes it takes falling apart to see exactly how or what loosened the mortar. Sometimes we find we are responsible for the how & the what. As unpleasant as it is when it happens, one cannot help but appreciate these times for what you learn serves as a beacon.-Colleen Truscott Fry
Just 28 days before my lovely twin daughter’s wedding, I fell apart. Only my husband, my other daughter, Candace, and the creatures living in a vast field in Suffolk knew about it.
On the way home from dinner with friends, I felt myself spiraling down a very dark hole. There had been quite a bit of tension between Rob and me before dinner and it just didn’t go away. Due to the intense pressures on me at the time, Rob and I had very little time together. Our connection was hanging on by a thread and the thread was about to snap.
I married one of the most patient men in the world, but even the best have a limit.
I was finding it very difficult to even try to have a normal conversation, as I was spent. All I really wanted to do was be alone. Sleep. Forget about everything that had to be done. I had a very strong suspicion the evening wasn’t going to end well.
Know the Signals
I know the signals. Exhausted from nine months of a new role as caregiver to my Mom, which involved: three major surgeries (and the many, many tests, doctor visits, research, hospital visits, rehabilitation stays/coordination, pharmacy trips, medical store/equipment ordering, etc., etc., etc.), and a major move from her apartment (which involved researching options of Assisted Living facilities, filing for an Aid & Assistance Program from the government, packing/dispersing/cleaning the old apartment, buying new furniture, etc. for the new, very small, room) and oh so much more…
When It All Unravels
It takes a lot for this to happen to me. But, a lot is exactly what pushed me over the edge.
“Pull over,” I cried. “Right here. I need to get out of the car.”
“No way,” Rob insisted. “We’re going somewhere to talk.”
“Please pull over,” I pretty much commanded, for lack of another word. “Right here. Right now.”
Before he could fully stop the car, I opened the door, fell out, and started walking.
I walked for almost 2.5 hours. Round and round and round the vacant field, I walked. I cried. I prayed.
Dusk came. The night fell. I walked. I felt a strong Forrest Gump run across the country brewing.
I walked some more. Prayed. Cried out to the God I know and love. But, for some odd reason, at this exact time in my life, felt very far away and very silent, at the time.
The keyword: felt.
Sometimes, God Feels So Far Away
In “wilderness times,” as the Bible refers to a difficult period in our lives, God will feel far away. Distant. Eerily quiet.
In these times, the danger is to rely on our feelings. Our emotions. Oh, what a dangerous mistake.
In these times, the danger is to rely on ourselves. Our seeming superhuman capacity to do it all. Handle it all. Be everything for everybody. Oh, what a dangerous mistake.
We will all have these times in our lives when the world seems very very harsh. I haven’t met one person who can’t relate. I’ve listened to their stories, many of which are far worse than my own.
Yet, this is my story.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t walk across the nation, no, I returned home. I came to my senses. God helped me walk through the despair (or whatever it was) until I reached a renewed state of mind.
Wise author, Jamie Buckingham, in his brilliant work, “A Way Through the Wilderness,” coins this experience best:
The first reaction to any wilderness is withdrawal. The pain of losing a loved one, the shock of losing a job, the deep disappointment of being betrayed by someone you love, all then to drive us into deep withdrawal. Invariably our first reaction is, ‘Leave me alone.’ God understands this. He also understands our even greater need to be part of a family–to be touched by loving hands, held by loving arms. Thus, into every wilderness experience of ours, God sends special messengers to minister to us.Jamie Buckingham
Yes, God does send special messengers to assist.
As I turned the corner on the final stretch of my wilderness walk, I felt a car slowly approaching behind me.
“Get in,” Rob smiled.
“No, I’ll walk home,” I said. I needed to finish what I had started. Needed just a few more minutes.
Upon returning, I saw my daughter’s face and wished I could change things. But, I had to remember: It’s okay to fall apart.
The rest of the night went by slowly and Rob gave me space.
The next morning, I stayed home from church to reconnect with not only God but myself. Breathe in some solitude.
When Rob came home, we finally had that long-awaited talk. He held me and let me cry. He was the strong shoulder I have always been able to rest upon.
He let me fall apart, but then made sure I didn’t stay in that place.
My prayer for you, today, is that your eyes be watching and waiting for that special messenger, your very own strong shoulder, to walk into your wilderness. I know they will come.
Thank you for sharing this transparent story, Janell. So good to remember how good God is!
You sounds like me. Caregiver for everyone, attending to everyone elses’ needs for years – people always say how patient and calm I am and how do I do it. Well now I have to have MOHS surgery and reconstructive surgery on my face (my face, which has always been my best feature) and I am frightened. I am fortunate to have good doctors, or so it seems, but nothing will be known until the MOHS. I have been told they may have to replace my lips and sew my mouth closed. I handled my freak out by writing. Thank goodness my cousin will come take care of me for two weeks. And I am a social worker too, I will have to take unpaid leave (I don’t have benefits due to taking care of my dad and leaving my permanent job). So trying not to stress out. I really appreciate your sharing your story and also seeing your very honest photos – thank you so much. And you look lovely in the last photo hopefully that is post MOHS – it is very uplifting. Sending best wishes and appreciation to you and your family, yes I am falling apart, but like you, I will make it.
Yes, Margaret, my MOHS went great. It was a process…I will be praying for you and hoping for a great report.
Lean hard on GOD…HE IS THERE FOR YOU.