I have a chronic ear issue that I live with day in and out. I hear constant whooshing in my ear. For over a year. It never goes away. It disturbs my daily life and affects my hearing and balance. There’s no name for it and we don’t know a solution or cure. We are still TBD as we investigate with the sixth doctor who is the first who seems to be able to help me.
My mom has a genetic, chronic liver disorder and this year alone it has landed her in the hospital three times.
And now, my dad has cancer.
Last year, the Lord’s grace allowed me to see something very nasty in myself…
I’m gripped by shame for feeling emotions. Sad, depressed, anxious…Emotions that lead me to ease them in a hot bath while my children nap.
I’ve been taking more mid-day baths than may be admissible. I write this on my phone as I sit in a lavender bath at 2 in the afternoon. Feeling the piercing tingle on my skin in the hot water while the sunlight is still able to pour through the small window above our shower is a welcomed miniature respite in the middle of chaotic, emotional days of this season.
I’m happy to share curated feelings here with you. But in the deep caverns of my heart throughout my history, there has been shame associated with feeling emotion. Feeling and showing emotion so grievous and painful was conditioned as a sign of weakness. And I am strong. I’ve always wanted to make sure people know I’m strong. To sit and wallow in emotion without controlling the pain it makes me feel is to be meek and desperate for attention.
Then, last year in New York City with my husband and our church community, God dug that shame up by the root and cast it aside. And now, it has allowed me to feel. The root is gone but the scar is there and needs tending. So when the pounding in my ear is too loud and I begin thinking of missing my dad’s hamburgers someday, I take baths in the middle of the day and play worship music and I let myself feel. It’s a gift I give myself when I’m sad and just need to feel and process in order to let it out so we can keep living – instead of stuffing it down to show how “strong” I am, then purging in unhealthy explosions when my emotional stomach is too full.
But even more monumental than feeling those emotions in solitude, he’s given me freedom to share these hurts with others. I’ve learned it’s okay to be vulnerable with those I care to trust. And not just the “it’s a bad day” vulnerable. No, the ugly cry vulnerable. Because the ones that value you and love you will be there. They call and text you back at your need, not their leisure. They ask you questions. They empathize. They accept your vulnerability with open arms. He’s taught me to be vulnerable and gifted me with a cultivated community of friends to do life with.
There’s baths. There’s splurging on the occasional Dr. Pepper float when my body has decided to have an appetite. There’s gourmet coffee. And there’s writing. All of these are a form of self-care, a tangible escape from the heartache I’ve been going through with these three life blows.
I’ve been keeping a journal of thoughts and feelings I’m facing. I like to process alone, and then share. This post is the beginning of sharing parts of this chapter of my story. Because I’m an absolute believer that our stories, the good and the hard, have the potential to change lives. And if one person is changed by my vulnerable action of sharing feelings in the middle of the storm, then that’s what’s supposed to happen. Everything is for that one person because Christ values them as much as he values me. But because he’s so loving, I know he has something valuable for me too even in the midst of my own hard times.
If there’s one picture that plays in my head over and over as I deal with the uncertainty and fragility of life, it’s this…
I’m so thankful I know Jesus and that we do this life together. He’s my ears to hear when I can’t hear. My giver of grace. My better than baths. He’s my hope, my rock, and the lifter of my head when it’s too heavy from crying tears. If I didn’t have him, I would feel lost and hopeless.
So even though it’s rough right now, I have hope. Baths and ice cream and coffee are temporary. I have hope because I have him.