Life begins on the other side of fear…


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When I moved to Texas, every mile I put between Indiana and myself brought me closer to a new reality. At the time I thought it was just a move across country. 

I spose if I am to be crazy honest, I knew more was happening. I just thought I had time, and I could try to heal and give my marriage one more shot. That decision wasn’t fully in my hands… There are always two sides and two people with choices to make.

It’s weird. While I asked for a separation, for a year to heal and to see if I could be part of a relationship within a marriage constraint, I was shocked when the decision was taken out of my hands. I’ve been broken for so long I almost don’t have any idea when I felt whole last. I just knew I needed a hell of a lot of time to begin to feel like a person.

People have asked me, “when you say broken, what does that mean exactly?” My immediate response is silence. How do you answer a question like that when you’re so broken that thoughts in your own head are fragmented?

I’m a writer.

Writing is not what I “do” so much as who I am. To go a single day without writing is like forgetting to eat food, to breathe air, to think a concrete thought. I have a plethora of journals, notebooks, a blog. I’ve gone two years without writing more than a handfuls of pitiful thoughts and all pertained to my chronic pain or to my brokenness. I’ve just stopped being a person inside. I stopped being me.

I’ve become an expert, thanks to chronic pain, at faking it. I can make just about anyone believe I’m fine, that I’m having a great time, and that life is going along okay. It wasn’t much of a stretch to cover up all that life was throwing at me either. To a few I would be honest, but not TOO honest. I never wanted to be the kind of person you see across the room and take a deep sigh and resign yourself to getting through the conversation.

I’ve always wanted to be organically and authentically real. The kind of person that regardless of where you meet me, what’s going on in life, regardless of commitments, kids, or circumstances, you will always know that I’m the exact same person, that my smile is quick and genuine, and if there are tears, it’s because life is too painful to be covered, not because there’s a ploy for attention or sympathy. I have an aversion to pity. My life has had some significant challenges and I never want anyone to see that before they see me; somehow thinking I want attention for it.

So I’ve retreated. I’ve not reached out and attempted much in the way of friendships since arriving in Texas. For anyone who knows me, my larger-than-life laugh, my excitement at meeting up with friends, the idea that I’ve kept home, mostly to myself aside from family, it’s probably hard to imagine.

I’m grieving. I’m grieving and learning to voice it. I learning to name it. I’m learning to call it for what it is and not what I have labeled it as. Trust me, these are two very different things. For example: I’m learning to say, “I’m grieving the loss of the idea of being married to one person for my entire life.” NOT “I failed at my 21 year marriage.”  I’m grieving not having the dream life (I never had) but tried to convince myself could still happen if I just put in all the effort in for both of us. I’m grieving not being fought for and desired as I needed. Grieving that I wasn’t enough because I was broken.

IMG_0886.JPGThen I’m grieving the loss of my second home, the one I ran to when I needed to escape the hard stuff life was throwing at me. I would “run away” from home and to the local community theater stage. I’d leave my reality behind and assume a character, and let the kick ass girl who never got a chance to knock around in the real world, loose for a while. I learned to stuff myself down into a tiny pocket so that all the roles of motherhood, illness, troubled marriage stuff and the leash of jealousy my husband noosed me with, and be a version of myself I could only be there.

Once, when I was so broken and felt nothing like the girl who once dreamed of taking on the world, I named that girl so she could still exist. My fear was I’d forget she ever existed if she didn’t at least have a name. I named her Kate. Trust me when I say it was literally a life saving tactic. There were days I would talk out loud to myself, in the car alone, and say, “Kate, you’ve got to take over here. I’ve got nuthin left.” I’d let the tears slip and maybe I’d ugly cry there alone in some parking lot. Before I got out of the car, Kate would firmly be in control and somehow I got through the day.

I tried to explain Kate to some people. No one really ever got it. Some thought maybe I was schizophrenic, probably many thought I was troubled. One person, however, did. Always has, does, and will. I’m blessed beyond belief for that friendship. It’s then I discovered that I wasn’t crazy, I was just compensating for the harshness of reality and protecting, coping, preserving who I was so I wasn’t compromised. I needed to separate myself into two halves, lock off Kate, to make sure she was untouchable, all in an effort to ensure that when the day came and I could actually begin to heal, I’d still have my core left. I spose it’s sort of like a seed bank, where you store away the core heart of your plants so that if they die, they have the means to begin again.

I still have time on my side. 21 years was a long time, and three kids extra to love, but at 43 I’m not even halfway through my life if my genes get a say in it. I am now free to begin to heal… and to unlock Kate. We can begin to be one and we will strengthen and grow my soul back again. My prayer is that as I learn, grow, and flourish once more, I will bloom and create a life so amazing, I never again will need to preserve a core, locking the precious parts of my heart away.

IMG_8006.JPGAs I stood on a windy, sunny, cloudless ocean beach in October last year, I heard the still small voice calling me to a new life.  I knelt on that beach and let the waves wash me clean. I let the waves dull all senses and fill me with strength.

As soon as I left my revelation beach, I was filled with determination, but the fear set in anyway. Terrified I flew home and made it my reality. I tell my kids that the very best things in life begin on the other side of fear. Without risk there is no reward. I waited a long time before I took this really big risk, but the rewards are already beginning. I have health in ways I never imagined I could ever gain. My chronic pain is changing monthly. I am more whole than I’ve been in 10 years just health wise alone.

There have been now 9 months of hard. Some days are so hard I can barely lift my head off the pillow and face the world. I do though. Every single day I face that day. I’ve had a few days where the physical health was so hard that I gave in. I let the pain talk and dictate. Nine days out of ten, however, I always rise and face the day, no matter what it brings.

If I’ve been silent, and you wondered why, I really can’t tell you… but I can tell you that I won’t be forever. Today I sat down and really wrote for the first time in years, letting my heart outside my chest and onto a page. For the first time in forever, I feel whole.

Divorce, regardless of how hard you try to be kind and humane about it, the process sucks. It’s hard and there is no way to not make it feel like your entire life is being judged and ripped to shreds. It’s bloody. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

I do not wish my Ex any ill will. I do not wish him harm or strife. I do, however, want to jump ahead 9 more months when this thing will be finalized and the ability to heal completely underway and more possible.

I baptized each of my three kids with the verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans to prosper not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.” I am clinging to these and claiming them over my children as they ache in pain and struggle to work through this. I claim it for myself, knowing that on that beach on the shores of Galveston Island, TX, I heard the answer being echoed back to me as I prayed for Him to hear me and deliver the gift of His promises to us.

I pray over my Ex. I want him to learn from the mistakes within our marriage that drove us apart. I pray he can learn, grow, and push forward and have a beautiful and happy life. I know that it gives me absolutely no peace to wish him anything less. He’s not a bad human. We were a bad match. No amount of me doing 110% of the work to make it work out would ever end in success. It sucks. I wanted it to work. I wanted my kids to not go through the pain that is our reality. I can not do that and It’s okay.

Standing on the beach that day, I’ve never more clearly heard from God. He did not lay a hand on my shoulder and speak into my ear. Instead I have learned to hear Him in ways that fill my emptiness to overflowing. I heard Him in the crashing waves, the foam popping as they receded. I heard Him in the wind, strong and sure. I heard Him as I saw how the wind beneath the gulls kept them high above the waters. He lifted them, as He will and has lifted me. I watched them dive head first into a darkness and come up with fish. He provided for their needs if they just trusted their guts, instincts, and the fact that God had fish when they needed it. I saw God in the dolphins, who arched above the water and blew out hard, sending spray high up, and knowing they took in the life filling oxygen waiting for them at the surface.

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I saw God in the sea shells with little hermit crabs crawling upon the sand, hauling their protection with them. God was in the warmth of the sun against the wind. He was in the rustling of the grasses upon the bluffs behind me. He was in the hidden treasures found as I dug my toes in the sand.

I took my kids back to the exact spot God spoke to me. I asked Him to do the same for them. For them to feel Him there. I asked Him to meet them where ever they were in life and to wash over them peace and comfort. He did, and so much more. He knit the four of us together in ways I can not express in words. He blessed us. We searched for shells to bring home and filled a terrarium with dry sand to be a home for those treasures. We created a whole theme in our living room that reflects the promises God gave to us and the sand, shells, and pictures remind us that he is with us every day as He was on the beach that afternoon, as the sun set brilliantly.

We now regularly go back, and always to our spot. It’s healing. It’s free of the world and it’s our mountain top. It’s where we hear from God and gain perspective. They ask to go often. Being only 45 minutes from our new home, it’s going to be a constant for us. They now all have a “happy place’ to think of when called upon to need one. There is no way to express it. God came through for us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.

So here I am. I am standing fully inside a ring of fear. NOT fear that God doesn’t have it covered, just fear of the unknown. I try hard to not be fearful. I’m a work in progress. I will get there. I’m just not there quite yet. I spend a lot of time praying. I spend a lot of time sitting on a porch and not doing anything. I spend a lot of time doing what observers would assume is just spacing out. I think maybe it’s mindfulness. Maybe meditation. I’m just acknowledging the thoughts I’m thinking and allowing them to be heard and not stuffed down inside me. For the first time, they have a right to simply exist. 

I think I get the verses that say, “In everything give thanks.” It’s not that I am saying thank you to the hard stuff, per se, but thanks that God is walking it with me, holding me up, and letting me know I am far from alone doing this life thing. I also sense that it’s okay to be afraid. What’s not okay is for the worry and fear to control my heart, my choices, or how I treat others.

Being kind is not a choice. It’s part of who I am and WHOSE I am. So every action, reaction, and choice I make needs to be weighed against that. It’s okay to walk out the door in the morning and have absolutely no idea how I am going to get through the day. Sometimes I only have enough strength for the minute I am in. I’d love a whole day’s worth of strength, heck a week’s worth in one shot; but the fact I can do one minute, then the next, then the next? Well those add up to hours, then days, then weeks.. And before you know it, I’m actually doing it. I’m making progress.

Last week? I wasn’t sure I could do it even minute by minute. I’ll be honest with you. I was on a breath by breath status. 

My oldest daughter tried to die. She still has scars. There are broken capilaries in her face and bruising around her neck. I wasn’t home. She called me in the midst of her attempt and I was not capable of doing anything but sitting in a chapel near where I happen to be taking a class, and just exist. I did that for hours. I just sat there and survived. 

I had to swallow my pride and ask for help getting home. I couldn’t drive. I was stuck, simply putting all my focus on one breath after another. Her decision to try to make an exit is not something unusual or that I’m not used to. Frankly, it’s a part of our lives. Her brother, sister, and I probably have PTSD from living a life where this is a normal thing for us. Suicide watches are just part of what we do. Mental illness sucks. It does not, however, mean I love her less.

Ive been praying for a release from God to leave the person I was behind. She is a shell of a woman. I’ve decided to change my name back to what it was the last time I felt confident in who I really was. I’m going to allow myself to voice the fact I need that. I’m going to claim it. Soon I will change things back to my maiden name and the name I was before I met my husband. I’ll return to “Chrissy Pettys.” As silly as it may sound to someone people I need to do this for me to move forward. It’s actually biblical. When people went through transformations by God, they were given different names. I’m reclaiming myself. I hope you can remember I’m still the same person and not let the name throw you off. Maybe you will understand why.

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If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, why I’m silent, or how life is going in Texas, I share this with you. We are doing good, overall. Texas is good for us. Family is everything. I love finally being near my brother again after 25 years. I have his kiddos to love on and to really become an Auntie to. I absolutely am falling in love with my sister-in-love (“law” seems harsh) But it’s not sunshine and roses. I’m living in a thorny thicket bush and it hurts. I’m not going to stay in the bush though. One day at a time, minute by minute, I will rise.

Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for those who’ve reached out. Thanks for those who’ve given me space. Thanks for just being you and letting me know that I can pop back into life at any point and you’ll pick up right where we left off.  

-Chrissy

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I love you. Period.


It’s easy to say, and tough to walk out.  There’s no other way to truly love except unconditionally.  Love is NOT love if there are clauses and a long string of “I’ll love you IF’s…”  My kids reminded me of this today.  Leave it to kids to flip the tables and teach you the lessons you’ve been working so hard to instill in them.

We adopted a new little girl to our family this summer.  Her name is Kori, short for Korina.  She has silky black hair and big brown eyes.  She’s adorable.

Kori, by the way, is a little dog.  She is as much a full blooded member of this family as anyone.  The kids were already in love with our first dog, Doogie.  Drake and Doogie grew up together, napping on the couch and watching the girls go off to school each day.  Drake was just 3 when Doogie came home from the shelter to live with us.  They’ve had 6 long bonding years and a lifetime of memories.

Kori, however, didn’t get that same joy.  She was 6 years old when we met her.  She had not been loved since she was a 3 month old pup like Doogie.  She had been abused and battered, was found starving, and had over 25 ticks covering her tiny body.  She was terrified of us, but warmed to me quickly.  We took her home and slowly she began to trust.  She has never once nipped or snarled.  Instead she learned not to cower when approached, knowing that no on here would hurt her.  She began to wag her tail, jump excitedly when we came home, and to play with Doogie endlessly.  She now is so fully in love with us, she follows us around all day, wanting to be in the same room with us.

Kori has brought to our home a kind of love that the kids had not experienced.  It was one where she had to learn what unconditional love meant, and we had to understand that for her, love was trust earned.  It was daily proof that we meant what we said, meant what we did, and daily went about acting it out.  She had to learn we were genuinely going to always be here, and love her the same each day.

Kori has had continual issue adjusting to learning how to ask to go outside, however.  Her fear and timidness still keeps her from asking.  So we have to anticipate her needs ahead of her needing them.  We also have to show her grace and forgiveness if it doesn’t always work out the way WE would plan or like it to.  But we don’t love Kori only IF she goes outside in time.  We love her.  Period.

This has actually been a huge step for me.  While I seem to be able to work this out with my kids, when it comes to the dog, I tend to get frustrated and say things in the moment that the kids interpret as “I love you IF” instead.  They repeated back to me a conversation where they believed we were getting rid of Kori because she has gone potty in the house.  I was confused.  But when I had said, “Kori, I’m gonna take you back to where we found you if you don’t start figuring this thing out,”  well, can you blame them?  Yeah.  I put a huge IF in the place of my FOR ALWAYS love spot.

So we had a conversation tonight.  I promised that we’d never return our little girl because she has some learning to do.  We can deal with a long learning curve.  After all… God has never given up on me.  And let me tell you, I have a HUGE learning curve.  I am forever humbled that God has fully promised that no matter how many times I mess up, He will be right there waiting, ready to help me clean up my messes.  And wow if LIFE isn’t often just a mucky mess!

Thanks, God, for showing us how to love by first loving US so completely and unconditionally, that you sent your own Son to die for our mistakes and our huge stinky messes.  If you can do that for me, I can continue to help my kids better understand your love by showing it to our precious little Kori.  I knew you sent her to us for a reason this summer.  Her lessons to us have been overwhelming and precious.

The next time you wonder if the mess you’re in can be cleaned up, remember Kori, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt, God’s there waiting to help you clean it up and try again.

So yah… that again.


Inevitably, I loose my “voice” and go silent for weeks at a time.  Blog wise – NOT in real life.  Heaven knows not much keeps me from talking.  (This is a joke… you should smile politely and nod knowingly…)  Nothing personal against the lovely 1000 degree days we’ve had as if Indiana has been channeling Arizona… it’s led to a bad summer for me.  The kids have loved it – and being out of school however, and they’ve never had need to ask to turn on the hose or sprinkler.  In a one room cooled – via window unit house – cool kids are happy kids (which leads to a nice and sane mom).

I have missed almost a whole month on here…  and since then both my son and daughter have had birthdays – and even yours truly!  Yep – I’m blessed with more gray hair and another year of life with my wonderful family.  They were soooo good to me on my birthday!  (See – they made me cupcakes WAY better than anything CakeBoss could make).  It was to be a surprise and they baked it late at night, but then were so excited, they had to have me come have one right away (because it WAS actually my birthday, after all.  Upon seeing chocolate, and smelling those baking delights, I didn’t argue a bit!)  So I snapped this picture because I knew it would be worth it’s weight in birthday gold.  My kids aren’t little any more.  They are baking ME the cakes, instead of the other way around.  Some pride in that of course, because yours truly taught them their amazing cooking skills 🙂 but also just still surprised at how fast time goes.  Really.

June and then again in July too, were mostly icky.  Some good days thrown in, but it’s been so many down days that the kids just assume they are on their own vs me running their day for them.  I seriously HATE that.  Icky sounds sorta tame.  It’s really been more like hellish.  That sounds whinny I know… sorry.

I am learning that so much of my life can be planned around the pressure fronts that move through that I really should consider taking up weather forecasting for the local news station.  I have not been wrong yet – though they are not always on target.  My body seems to have a built in weather vane.

But what am I complaining about? Today was a good day…  so much so I had no idea what to do with myself.  🙂

What did I, OF COURSE, DO?  Too darn much.  It’s in my nature.  It’s what I DO the best.  If I have a good day – I really make it count!

But the good thing about having so many not-so-go days is that it is making me start looking for solutions again.  I sorta stopped.  Ever just get so tired, so worn out you just existed day to day vs living with an ToDo list, and a year long idea of plans to happen?  I never did…  Not till this past year.

I’ll admit it out loud – I’ve done with “shocked” at there’s something wrong with me, gone past “frustrated”, through the “mad” phase of this thing, and I’ve moved into the bit “scared” stage.  Eventually I will get to “head strong and stubborn” and “refuse to be ruled by circumstances” stages.  I know the way I work.  But I’m honestly not there yet.  Some new changes are muscling their way into my daily life in ways I don’t like, and they are taking me to places that I’ve never had to be.  And they are lonely places.  I really don’t like lonely.  I like well lit happy places that are full of friends, laughter, and a bit of chocolate for good measure.  But I don’t know what to do with this new place.  And I’m dry enough spiritually from missing my devotional time, and church so much that I’m closing in on a personal place I haven’t been in a long while.  And for whatever reason, I’m having a heck of a time finding a way to just seek out God.  It’s almost as if my subconscious is mad at Him in a way that’s turned her back His direction and refusing to talk.

I know all this – yet I’m not getting much farther along in it for all the self analyzing.

So, I called my family doctor and had a sit down.  I wrote him a book full of my questions because I just cant remember things.  (which was one thing on the list!)  In the past he had referred me to a specialist, who then rocked my world just over a year ago diagnosing this Chiari thing and helping me connect missing dots.  It’s taken that long to decide that it’s not about getting better any more.  It’s about not getting worse.

Yep.  I’m still praying and hoping for better… but the big idea here is not getting worse. Honestly?  I really don’t even want to know the answers a new specialist may bring – but somehow I am oddly ready for whatever they throw at me.  I’m ready for my family to have me back far more than I’m ready for ME to think beyond living day to day.  I guess I think more highly of them than I do myself.

My husband said to me that it was time to honestly look at this as more than existing and begin looking at how I am live the next year, the next 40 more years of life (or more) – not just one day at a time.  I don’t know when I stopped – but when he said those words, the tears poured down and I realized I had.

I’ll go to a Neuro Research Center in September to look into why I am having some possibly serious underlying issues that could be due to compression in the brain stem from the Chiari Malformation.  Even saying this in print sounds icky.

I’ve moved from having twitchy like movements, to involuntary abdominal and back contractions at night, to having them whenever at rest sitting or laying – and now even when standing up doing something.  That was always my way out – to just get up and go do something.  It would stop the contractions and let me catch my mental breath and give my body a break before attempting sleep again.  My husband was standing beside me two days ago when my mental wall was broken and I nearly spilled a pop I was pouring when a ripple hit me standing in the kitchen.

Never thought I’d say September couldn’t come fast enough.  I just want to move forward… whatever it is.  Does that mean I’m past scared?  Heck no.  Just means I’m past “hole in the ground” and “this isn’t happening”, I guess.

I long ago decided the risk of surgery did not outweigh the benefits when the issue was headaches. I’d just deal with it… no matter how bad it got.  It’s funny how you go from one frame of mind to another when faced with how it affects the lives of your family than just your own.

Okay, God…  I don’t know what you  have planned here in all of this… and I know you are big enough to handle the fact I don’t want any of this on my plate and am not just mad, but am now scared too.  So do what you do best.  Take it all and make it all for YOUR glory… and make it count.  Make it worth all the effort, tears, and the struggles my family face.  And even though I still don’t want to, I’ll carry this onward, for You.