I’m Not Who I Used To Be
Thirty-five years ago, I was not in a good place. I was a single mom, and I was living “Murphy’s Law.” If anything could go wrong, it would. I had no money, four small children, lost my job, had no friends. That’s how I saw my life back then—one BIG FAILURE. It was a real struggle, and I felt like it was me against the world. I recently came upon a journal I had written back then. It is good to read and realize that I am no where near that place. I don’t even know that girl who wrote those words. But, they were my words back then.
May 15, 1983: “I’m just so scared of tomorrow—& then tomorrow & tomorrow. Where will I be? Will my lot in life improve? Well, so much for all this—if I don’t get to sleep tomorrow is [sic] also be a disaster.”
Apparently I wrote this late at night since I reference needing to get to sleep. When hardship occurs, most of us have trouble sleeping. My mind is good at going 100 mph trying to resolve issues. I still do that when I am stressed. I will wake up in the middle of the night working though in my head a solution to whatever the problem is at the time. Sleep usually helps in these instances, but sleep is hard to come by when one feels hopeless.
May 18, 1983: “I do not think I am looking for a utopia. Just because I believe there is more to life than a struggle to survive does not mean a perfectly happy and content life is down the line. There is more to life than struggling to keep my head above water.”
I just want to hug that girl. I knew there was more than this struggle I was in. I felt myself drowning, and treading water to keep my head up. I was hurt. I was angry. I was lonely. I was sad. Have you ever felt that way? It’s scary when one is in that place. I have mentioned in previous blogs, that I am a connections person. I love connecting with people, and I love connecting other people together, so it is really tough to read the following:
June 26, 1983: “I guess I am feeling lonely today. Other than my mother, I have no one I can call and just chat with and no one I can call to get together with.”
I am grateful for my mom. She was my lifesaver. She talked to me on the phone whenever I needed to talk to someone. She helped me with my children. She gave me groceries. Her love was unconditional, and I think that is what held me on.
Loneliness is not a place I wish anyone to be. When I was in my 12-step group for codepedency, my sponsor, Susan, told me about the word “HALT.” She said that people recovering from addictions learned this acronym to remind them that this is a danger area that can cause them to slide back. What does “HALT” mean? I found this great definition online: “This handy acronym reminds us to take a moment (HALT) and ask ourselves if we are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. It seems simple enough, but when these basic needs are not met, we are susceptible to self-destructive behaviors including relapse. Fortunately, hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness are easy to address and serve as a warning system before things reach a breaking point.”
August 27, 1983: “Tonight I realized that I have absolutely nothing to do on my 24 hours without the boys. That is really sad. It makes me very sad. This is when I feel totally friendless. Absolutely zero to do.”
I cannot today even imagine being that lonely. There was some depression going on, and the loneliness fed into that, or vice versa. There are millions of people in this world, and I felt alone. I knew there was an answer, so I just kept holding on, even if by a thread.
As I flipped through the pages of this journal, I found a page that I wrote about exactly what I was looking for. It was dated March 14, 1983:
It is dark and chilly. The night is calm. In the distance are the sounds of life, crickets calling out to each other, cars with passengers going to or from places where they communed with others. I look at the stars scattered randomly, against the black velvet curtain that seems to divide me from God.
Why do I feel he is out there somewhere? Doesn’t he say, “I am with you always”? Are you here, God? Are you really pouring your love out on me and my family? Why don’t I see it? Why don’t I feel it? Where did you go?
The stars flicker. Is there a star there for me? Just one little flicker of hope that I can hold onto?
I want to cry out, but there is no one to hear. So I just cry silently to myself. The pain tears at my heart. Oh how I wish I could make it stop. I want to be loved but I feel no love. I feel alone. I must survive alone. Death is no answer. It is the statement of failure. I refuse to accept that kind of failure.
Maybe I do believe God is out there or even here. And maybe I do believe there is that star for me. And maybe I do believe there must be someone out there who loves me. Why else would I refuse to accept ultimate failure when everything in my life has failed. I must survive. I must fight. I must truly believe there is hope even if I cannot see it. I must endure. Surely there must be a star shining in the dark—not strong enough light to see clearly, but enough to guide my way. Maybe that’s my only hope, but it is hope. Well, just maybe . . . .
I wanted to feel God’s presence my life. I felt like there was this fog over me, and I couldn’t find him. I think I knew if I hung on tight enough, I would find him—or was it, he would find me. I have thought of myself as the “Prodigal” daughter. Remember the parable that Jesus taught about the prodigal son?
“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die. So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” but his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” ~Luke 15:11-22
Here was this young man who left with his inheritance. He wasted the money, became destitute, so he got a job feeding pigs. Remember, Jesus is telling this story to the Jewish people, so feeding pigs would not be in their vocabulary, it would be on that list of most vile things to do. The son finally comes to his senses, and he decides to go back to his father and ask for his forgiveness. He decides to also ask his dad to make him a lowly servant, because this is all he feels he deserves after making a mess of his life. But notice this, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” It goes on to say the father clothed him in the best clothes and thew a party for him to celebrate his son coming home. First I want you to notice, that the father ran to greet him. He didn’t wait for the son to make in to the door. The father was thrilled to see his son again. He didn’t make his son a lowly servant, he restored his son back to his family.
In the same way, I believe that God was thrilled to see I was seeking him, and he came to me as much as I came to him. God didn’t care about all the messes I made. He loves me completely, and unconditionally. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me that “peace that passes understanding.”
My life didn’t get fixed overnight. But I was now doing the things that would move me forward. One time I heard a pastor say that we should feel the arms of God wrapped around us. I have found that I can be open and honest with God. I can cry to him and tell him what has hurt me, and what makes me so sad. He hears my cries, I know he does love me, and feel his love envelop me. I can envision his loving arms wrapped around me.
What did I do over the years to get from there to here? I turned my life and will over to God (Step 3 of any 12-step program). I started doing healthy things, and making sure I took care of myself if I ever got Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I trusted God would get me to where I needed to be.
Over the years, I worked hard at my chosen career, which came after this time. I was blessed by the work opportunities I had, and I moved quickly in my career. I worked on my relationships with family and friends. Today I am overwhelmed by the many, many friends I have. It takes work to be a friend, and I hope I am doing it well. I will never be perfect at any of this, but I give it my best. My life turned 180 degrees. I have much compassion for those who are going through difficulties and struggles like I had. I know it’s not easy. But, I also know, at some point, like the prodigal son, a realization must come about to go back and make things right.
I write my blogs because it is part of my personal mission, which is: “To let others know they are not alone in their challenges, they have value and worth and a voice. I want to be surrounded by those I love and enjoy the grace of their love to reach out and share it with others.”
You are not alone. There are folks around you who love you, and will be there for you. Most important, God has unconditional love for you. It doesn’t matter what you have done, he will forgive, and he will love and strengthen you. Reach out. If you need to find a 12-step group, go find one. If you need to find a place to worship, go find the place. If you need friends, become a friend—it is a two-way street. Ask God to help you. He will.