She told me she saw me as brave. After a month of listening to pieces of my story, of themes repeating and changes in process, of barbed language about myself - all those shoulds and oughts and I feel so bads and not enoughs - of the exhaustion, the grief, the loneliness, the wrestling. I see courage written all across your story, she said. It's beautiful.
And at this point, the tears shimmered like waves about to crest in my eyes.
I don't feel brave, I said. And then the waves broke.
* * * * *
It just so happens I feel the most intensity of emotion right as we're wrapping things up, or when I step out into the street and begin my trek home. Back when I had a car, I knew I had a safe place to break after sessions like these. Now, I have the streets, the bus, the moments where I tuck away into music in the midst of a crowd.
The bathroom stall.
I hole up in the dark metal stall, because I don't know what else to do. The tears are streaming as I leave her office. So here I sit and let them roll and crest and break, for ten minutes, until they slow to a trickle.
And here I let myself feel not alone.
I see my reflection in the pane of glass on the train. A girl - I know she's a woman, but somehow she'll always be a girl to me, I think - stares back with bloodshot eyes. Sad eyes. I am not all of me sad, this I know. But tonight, my eyes say that I am. So I don't fight it. I don't worry about the people on their ways home, what they think of this girl with the bloodshot eyes, because I know they have their own griefs hidden in their eyes, too. I know this is not who I am, the full story, but there is no need to hide it tonight. We, all of us, can just be human tonight.
* * * * *
I wasn't prepared, exactly, for how much space my faith would take up in the counseling office. I thought I went primarily for other reasons. And I did. But this issue of faith - of evolving faith, questioning faith, discarding elements of what I had once considered faith - is here, front and center, equal parts liberating and terrifying. And it is a blessed relief, once a week, to have a place, a person, I can let it all hang out with as I sort through pieces. And it is also exhausting. For I live with this every waking moment.
I can no longer take so many mainstream Christian beliefs at face value. This big, wide, complex world is literally breaking open in me and much of it, I keep to myself. Because, tell me, where can I go in the church to question these things without being told what I should think or believe or how I should live, who I should listen to and who is not safe?
Some of it creeps out into my writing, this is true. I write in process. And as I've shared before, I don't write with the outward goal of being inspirational, of overtly sharing the gospel or prescribing a way for others to live and believe. I write the messy, unfinished pieces and I trust that this is not the end of the story. But these are pieces that fill out the story, that make it a beautiful story, and though there is darkness here and though I don't always point to the light and say, "Here it is, in case you're wondering" there are shards of it filtering through. Redemption's crumbs and evidence of a bigger story unfolding before and during and long after mine has been told. And because of that, there is hope.
There is a real fear, an uneasiness, I think, among writers who identify as Christians, that sharing too much of the hard stuff will be read as self-pity. As wallowing. Over-identifying with brokenness. Self-indulgent. Not pointing enough to hope and truth and light.
What are we so afraid of - our humanness? No, I am not writing for pity, self or otherwise.
I'm learning not to listen to this fear, at least in my writing, though it just seeps in other places.
For most of the hours of the day, you will find a battle waging in my head. Me, with my club, taking swing after swing at the tired girl in the mirror. Telling her she doesn't love well. That she needs to move on, to figure things out, to fill up so she has more to give. Because, damnit, people need her and she is failing them.
As if it were that simple. As if this is what will help her "get her stuff together," a well that won't run dry.
And my counselor today, sitting across from me with brows knit compassionately, asked if I could start by loving myself well, the way I want to love others. The rest, she said, will follow.
My tears came then, answering her question for me.
Linking with Unforced Rhythms
*I borrowed this from a beautiful writer, Sarah Bessey, who begins many of her blog titles with "In which..." Because some days, I find there is no better way to say it. So, cheers to Sarah.