What a difference a year can make! While the physical changes are noticeable, my real focus has been more on the internal side of things. This year has been a time of change and challenge that I was not expecting. I thought I figured things out during a dark time last July/August, but that was just one layer of things. I still have some of the same struggles when the going gets tough; I end up in the binge cycle of an emotional eater and there seemed to be no way out of this latest cycle. The scariest thing for me of late was that it got so bad at one point, that I was quitting life.
I was giving up on the inside and faking that I was making it on the outside. I am well-practiced at this facade, but it's not one that I recommend. Being strong can be my greatest downfall because I don't ask for help and people who see me as this strong person never think to ask if I need help. When I was introducing Russ to my mom this weekend, I showed her this burn on my arm that I got making dinner the night before. I was telling her how Russ didn't even feel bad for me. He told my mom that she knows how I am and that I don't like to have anyone make a big deal over me. My mom said that when I was growing up they would always tell us we were fine, brush off and keep on going. And we did. That's even how we did with our own kids growing up. While that is fine for when you take a tumble and need to shake it off and move on, there is a lot to be said for compassion.
The problem with thinking that because I am a tough chick, I don't hurt like everyone else is way off base! While I am proud of my strength, independence and ability to keep moving forward, I am also a girl who wants to be treated like one. When I was married, my ex got to the point where he would put me down when I would not want to carry a several hundred pound entertainment center into the house with him. We used to joke about how I would be the one out asphalting the driveway and he'd be the one emptying the ashtray patting himself on the back and asking to be praised for taking care of that (it's a piece of Jeff Foxworthy's comedy routine), but it was very true. In some cases, I would get so tired of waiting for him to do something that I would just do it. My impatience and independence set up an environment where the expectations of what I can and would do grew significantly and his lack of getting things done meant less for him to be asked to do. If I would cry, I used to hate to be held. Once I finally understood that I had been doing this as a defense mechanism since I was a child, I actually explained that to him. I explained that sometimes I will say I don't want to be held or cared for, but what I want more than anything is for someone to do it anyway. To hold me and allow me to crumble for just a little bit and know I want fall apart.
Transitioning from the girl who can do anything to the one who doesn't have to go it alone is tough. It's more difficult to do with those who know you as that person who needs no one and nothing. For those that knew the old me, I have to share with them the real me. The one that breaks down and sobs. The one who hides her struggles because people believe she's stronger than those things that bind her. The one who wears a smile that says everything is okay even though she's dying on the inside or the one who wears a scowl so that no one will ask. A scowl or being quiet (usually while biting on the inside of my lip) for me is time to process the thoughts in my head. It means that I have to probe what I feel and think and what I need to do. I used to just speak all the things that came into my head, but I have learned to think them through and understand them. Sometimes, I feel the need to say those things anyway, but I have much for tact and a bit of a filter especially in my professional life.
I am coming to accept that I can be strong and independent and still need to lean into someone; to know that when things are tough, I do not have to go it alone. In those times, I may call my mom with a tremulous voice and need her to come hold me. Me. The girl who would never let my mom hold me and comfort me when I was growing up is now the woman who needs her mommy to hold her and tell her it will all be ok. When I was young, I was always on the go and would rarely stop long enough to ever be held...unless I was sleeping in your arms. Now, I cherish the times when I get to hold my own children or be held by someone who loves me and cares for me. There is nothing that can make up for physical, human contact and connection. The fact that God made us for relationship, connection and to NEED that speaks volumes to me. I embrace the fact that I need people and that I can give in to needing to be held, comforted, cared for and taken care of to whatever degree people are willing to give to me. It's a delight to have a door held for me, dishes washed, sweet words said, a tender kiss given, or to be wrapped in arms of love.
My advice...let people in because we are made for relationship. Yes, there will be times of pain and hurt and you will trust the wrong person with your heart, but there is so much to be said for all the people who will care for your heart like their own lives depended on it. As Jesus said, "as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt 25:40, ESV)