We Can Run, Or We Can Learn

“You are more than you have become.”

“I know what I have to do…but going back means facing my past, and I’ve been running from it for so long…” 

– The Lion King

. . . . .

Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt you owe yourself more? Have you run from your past only to realize it will catch up to you eventually? As Rafiki tells Simba (after hitting him on the head to prove a lesson): “The past hurts…but we can learn from it.”

We have to face our past, our demons, if we want to be mentally healthy moving forward. Often when we run, we become worse because we are so focused on avoiding our problems. We think avoiding the problems will make them go away. We resort to other things to numb the pain we–inevitably–feel. Because we know, deep down, that avoidance doesn’t make the problem disappear. It enhances it, makes it worse, prolongs it. The sooner we deal with it–whatever “dealing with it” looks like–the sooner we will be on the path to recovery. Recovery, in turn, takes its own shape based on the issues that need to be faced and the wounds that need to be healed.

I know what it’s like to run. When I graduated from my master’s program, I felt like my life had come to a screeching halt. I had been in school my entire life, and every time one school season ended, I knew another was approaching three months later. But with my tassel moving to the other side of my cap, I realized my life was also transitioning. And I had no idea what to do. I felt I had lost my purpose. And it affected everything else in my life–my passions, my relationships, my marriage.

It took me a long time to realize God is the only one who can fill that void, heal that pain, start that recovery, and deliver my purpose. Because He does not judge us like humans do–He looks at our heart. He sees and feels our pain, He hears our cries, and He wants to help us. We only need to cry out.

If you’re running, stop. It doesn’t matter where you are, just stop. And begin moving forward. Try prayer. Try reading the Bible. What’s the worst that could happen?

The Thing About Goals

What does reconciliation look like? How long will it take?

I was asked these questions a few weeks ago, but they are questions I don’t have solid answers to. By definition, reconciliation means: (a) agreeing to an amicable truce; (b) resigning to something not desired; and (c) the process of making consistent or compatible. Of course, in the case of which I am speaking, Option C is the definition I am going with.

For the first time in a few months, I had the opportunity to express just that. I had the opportunity to say I have changed and that, basically, it means knowing our individual needs and being able to work through this difficult path together.

I was told it doesn’t seem our goals are compatible “still,” and there was clear frustration. And it was that moment I realized I had said my goals without really expressing them. I’ve spent a year in my own head, evaluating and re-evaluting my goals–for life, my marriage–but I had never had to express that process to someone who had been absent from it for so long.

Really, my goal is to make this work. However I need to. I know what “sacrifices” I am willing to make. I know what I need. I know myself a little better. But I’ve also realized other things.

My goals are flexible. This doesn’t mean I am a doormat. Instead, it means that my goals, and the processes, change as my needs and desires change. And that’s completely okay. As long as I do not feel I am being untrue to who I am, then having flexible goals is fine. For instance, I want to travel. At first, the thought process was something like: “I am determined to find a job abroad and experience that location.” Now, it’s something like: “Oh, I can go on vacation there and eventually return to the territory I am comfortable.” Same goal–traveling–different process to get there.

Ability to do what I need to do. This actually boils down to my anxiety and depressive symptoms. If I feel an episode is coming on, I need to be able to “get out”–of the specific situation, of the location temporarily, of my head–somehow. I need to have the flexibility to do this. I’ve also realized that it’s completely okay to travel, visit family, or go do something without my husband. I relied on him for companionship and to fulfill emotional needs, and I’ve realized it’s unrealistic to expect a human to fill a spot only God can. I need to be able to get outside with Belle or write when I need to or when I am called to.

My marriage. This is plain and simple: I want my marriage. This relationship overrides everything except my relationship with God. I let other people come in with their concerns and their help, and I stopped listening to my husband’s valuable input. Pick your battles. Not everything is worth having an argument over. Compromise will be important. But, all in all, this relationship will win over everything else in life.

Employment. I need a job. Not only is that a financial fact, but it’s a personal need. I can’t not work. Of course, I would prefer to be a writer full time. If he is willing to allow it, then I will, of course, take it. If not, though, I know what sort of jobs I want (and don’t want). I know what sort of sacrifices I can make in this arena. I know what I hope to be.

Really, these things–these realizations, these conversations–take time. And I’m not sure how much. In the end, I said I realized what I am willing to do, and that I will do whatever it takes.

. . . . . .

The next few days are big. I hope to be able to properly express my goals. I pray for the wisdom to be silent when needed, but to also speak the right words. I pray for the Lord’s guidance and grace. I pray for His favor. I feel ready, and I pray He finds me ready too.

Through all of this, my goal has been to get to know the Lord better. I have prayed more. I have found an amazing church and community of believers. I have written more, thereby working toward fulfilling the calling He has placed on my life. My goal has been to get to know who I am in Him.

My prayer is that this is part of that.

Judgement (Isn’t) For The Dogs

I’ve expressed many times that Belle is my support. I honestly do not know what I would be like through all this if I did not have her by my side. Her affection, training her, hiking with her…it has all provided me with ways to either get out of my own head of transfer my anxiety or depression into a worthwhile and meaningful experience.

But I have seen a lot of comments on some social media sites–mainly the ones that happen to pop up on my news feed and are organizations that “help” people get ESAs (you know, the “registry” type sites)–that have upset me. Some people say that an excitable dog would not make for a good ESA, and they imply that those with that type of dog as an ESA is faking it. Other comments show judgment toward the dog, saying that an aggressive dog is not an ESA.

Who are you to say that my excitable dog does not provide me the emotional support I need from her? You don’t know me or what I struggle with. You have not worked with her. You do not know us.

Who are you to judge that someone’s dog is aggressive? Barking does not signify aggression. Jumping does not signify aggression. You don’t know her like I do.

I know judgement on dogs will (probably) always exist, but it is frustrating. So, like any writer, I took action by writing about it.

Have you ever judged a dog by its appearance? Or even by its breed?

He Was Mine First

“Get out of my way,” I joked to my friend in front of me. “I see my husband.”

I didn’t rush or run. I walked quickly. Although I was excited to see him after three long months, I was scared. I didn’t know who he would be. I didn’t know if he would remember the fights or the letters more. All I knew was I needed his arms around me again.

. . . . . .

Coming home, he was different. He sure looked different–more muscular, no longer the lean athlete I had met in college, built. They had taken away the hair I had loved to run my fingers through, the thing that, apart from his slim features, always likened him to Ryan Gosling.

In the weeks that followed his glorious homecoming, I spotted his differences. As much time as we spent together, he was distant. His words were different. His language was wrong, harsh, to my ears, not yet used to hearing it.

He had been hardened. I wondered about the change they had brought upon him. I wanted to know because I wanted to know this version of him. But stories, experiences, could not be recounted to someone who didn’t share them, to someone who couldn’t possibly understand.

I needed to know, more than anything, that his core had not changed–that he still loved me.

. . . . . .

The uniform didn’t lie. It wasn’t an image I enjoyed at first. Admittedly, I fought hard to not enjoy it. As months progressed, though, I pictured it frequently. It became the reason for my smile in the middle of class. It became the reason I defended him to anyone who might have dared tell me I had a reason to be upset. Because I’d decided the decision itself didn’t matter, not in the long run of our marriage. What mattered was that I loved him, that I respected his calling, and I, therefore, joined that decision.

. . . . . .

But that uniform changed him, and I’m still not sure how. And I desperately want to know. Because I still desperately want to support the one whom my heart loves. But I also may have to realize that I may never understand.

. . . . . .

They said our “soldier” would be different, that they would look different. But they never prepared us for the psychological change, the impact on them, on the family. They should. A change in appearance is one thing, but a change in personality is far harder to contend with.

He may be their soldier, but he was my husband first.