Recently at a Parent-Teacher conference, my youngest son’s Kindergarten teacher requested we help him realize that not everything that happens is a life or death situation. I laughed (and fought the urge to hide under the table) as he most definitely inherited this trait from his mama. Exhibit A…
“How could you take my picture?!”
As a teenager my parents called me “drama queen” and a “Miss Sarah Burnhardt” (um, I still have no idea who that chick is). I lived my life as my own personal Lifetime Movie or After School Special. Like my sweet pea of a son, everything was of life or death importance. I felt and I felt hard. I sobbed and laughed with equal hysterics. There was a poetic cadence to my life full of crashing crescendos.
An illustration for you… let’s stroll down memory lane and revisit my teenage self. One day in drama class (not surprisingly my favorite class), my friend Melinda and I participated in a dramatic exercise. We were to each conjure up emotions of desperation and sadness via our imaginations and act them out realistically in a scene. Let’s just say we were a little too skilled at this exercise. By the end of the scene we were completely swallowed up by the fury of emotions we whipped up, and our drama teacher had two hysterical teenage girls on her hands. We were sobbing so hard she couldn’t even send us to our next class. Oh the good old days… At that point in my life, my emotions were right at the surface and easy to access.
I didn’t stay that way. Over time I internalized the message that such volatile emotions were unacceptable, weak, and even childishly foolish. Somewhere along the rubbing up against life’s unforgiving jagged edges and my adult cares and responsibilities, my tender heart calloused. Occasionally there are rips in these callouses and tears or laughter flow; but, more and more as the years pass by, the dramatic ups and downs lead to slow rolling hills and sometimes … a flat line __________ .
What happened to me? Some would say I just grew up — it’s all part of the maturing process. Oh how I wish it was that benignly simplistic. Fatigue, chronic pain, years of undiagnosed chronic illness, a messy marriage, family drama, disappointments, and dreams unrealized – all converged to flatness. I’ve learned to protect my tender heart and cushion it from the hard peaks and valleys. This even-keeled nature has been a blessing in crisis and hardship. I’ve needed it to persevere and endure without falling apart. But in all this guarding, I’ve lost a part of myself. I miss the part of me that can laugh and cry at the same time.
Thankfully, God is at work. A thawing is taking place. Cracks in my armor. It’s started slowly. A surprise tear here and there. After years of soldiering through I am feeling the arrows shot at me pierce through the steal. It hurts. But it’s a good hurt. I’m tired of disconnecting from the pain. Dissociating from the messy and the carnal. I need to feel the hurt. I got so good at tuning out my physical pain, I tuned right out of the emotional pain too. That pain, the heart hurt, is part of what makes us human. It’s part of what makes us real. Authentic. I crave authenticity. I crave raw and real and uncensored. I can’t live like this anymore.
The tears and emotion are coming out at odd times, surprising me and those around me (which at least I find somewhat amusing although I’m not sure my husband would agree). During Family Movie Night while watching Frozen’s opening song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” with my family, I LOST IT. And I’m not talking a little tear trickling down my cheek. I’m talking the hysterical ugly cry. I was uncontrollably sobbing, “Elsa, JUST BUILD THE STUPID SNOWMAN WITH HER! Why won’t she build the snowman?! They’re so lonely! Wwwaaaaaaaa!!!!” Then there was the Dick’s Store dressing room incident when two of my best friends had to play bouncer for impatient women waiting to use one of the only two dressing rooms available. “Oh, I’m sorry, you may not try on your cute little tennis skirt. My friend is in the middle of an existential crisis. Buh-bye.”
But, with each crying fit, I feel more and more like myself. Each pool of tears I cry out, it seems to make room for joy. I find myself surprised by pure happiness where before there was just the ho-hums. Hmmmm… tears make room for joy. The Bible was onto something. “Though crying may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.”
I’ve decided I like it here. Broken is a holy place. While I can’t spend all my time blubbering away, I need to consistently revisit this raw, real, and tender place. I need to make room to feel the hard so I can soar in the happy. Sobbing and soaring are awfully closely linked. Nothing like a good sob to bring me out and make me feel light as a feather so that I may fly to my next destination.
It’s Spring in Northern Virginia. FINALLY. There is thawing and soaring taking place everywhere I look. It was a long, dark, snowy, freezing cold winter. (I mean, seriously, this winter was ridiculous.) That makes this thaw so much sweeter. The birds’ songs so much more joyful. They are practically giddy with Spring. The tree flower buds I see out my window fought hard to pop out. Those bulbs sprouting up around my front tree were crushed by the weight of the frozen ground for months. I bet they wondered if they’d ever break free. But there they are. In all their colorful, delicate, wispy glory. They broke through the hard, grey, cold blah. And so am I. So am I. I embrace the thaw. It’s time.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.