There is a trend circulating social media like the plague. Everyone has found the secret to happiness, self-love, inner beauty, peace, and grace…
(And I’m willing to bet that there are at least a few people in your daily feed who have a product selling you the key opening the doorway to all of these highly coveted things.)
If, by chance, you aren’t in a place within your own life fearlessly breaking down the barriers of confusion and displacement into open pastures of gorgeous wildflowers and intoxicating sunshine, it is quite possible that you feel like something is terribly wrong with you,
…as if you are the only person on the face of the earth who is irreparably broken.
In all of my thirty-eight years on the face of this earth, I can safely say that sometimes life is going to make sense. In these times, everything will flow freely and beautifully, we will seem to have all the right answers and to have made all the right decisions, leading us to believe, if for a short while, that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we have reached a level of ultimate, everlasting contentment.
Inevitably, life will take its toll. Things will get jumbled up. Boredom will set in (that bastard of a seven year itch) and, again, we will find ourselves searching, wandering, looking for footing down another path that will lead us away from the heartache we eventually fell into…
…because we allowed ourselves to be merely human.
I get it.
We all do.
So why don’t we stop trying to be so happy all the time, going so far as to expect everyone else to always be able to do the same?
Focus on the reality that life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect, and when the going gets tough, we don’t need to sell brands of happiness bottled up in inspiration, but instead, offer a healing hand held out in ridiculous love and support.
“Hey, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I love you. I support you. I’m here for you…simply to listen because, although it hurts to conjure up the demons, I know what it feels like to get lost along the way.”
In our moments of being on our own upward scale, seemingly moving along a trajectory that is bringing all of life’s promises and our wildest dreams our way, someone else is being diagnosed with cancer, a friend is experiencing the sinking emptiness of a womb that didn’t make it through the first trimester, a neighbor has lost his job, a couple is suffering in secrecy within a marriage that looks perfect from the outside, and our very own family members will always, helplessly, be at odds.
Sure, in life we have to focus on the positive, embrace every day with a sense of hope, and engulf those around us with the love Christ has commanded us to share. At the same time, we must know that it is also O.K. to have days, weeks, months, or maybe even an entire year that is completely off center.
Yes, we must still manage to love!
We must manage to press on!
We must never give up on hope!
At the same time, we simply can’t buy into the notion that experiencing a downward spiral—a moment of stillness and uncertainty—is not O.K.
It most CERTAINLY IS O.K!
And, in fact, it’s a necessary part of life for each and every one of us.
Today as I hiked at a popular nature reserve in Nashville with my rosary in hand, I made my way, paced and peacefully, through each decade. The wind blew heavy above my head, giving off a sound as though raindrops were cascading down and strumming away on the leaves to a steady, soft drumbeat. It’s hot in Tennessee this time of the year, but I swear it’s about fifteen degrees cooler under the canopy of those trees. It was a welcomed moment of solitude during a period of my own life that seems to have come to a complete standstill.
We moved recently to an area I’m still trying to learn to love. I’m far removed from friends and the nature pockets I enjoyed visiting each day in my old town we lived in for almost nine years. Where we live now, just to make my way to walk down a decent, tree-lined greenway, it takes a good fifteen minute drive. Yoga is much the same. I left a studio I loved full of beautiful, graceful women I admired and learned from. Now, the closest studio is a twenty minute drive to the next town, and from doorstep to class to home, it eats up a three hour chunk of my day that I can’t afford.
These are simple things compared to the trials others are experiencing, but, for me, it’s a time of slight dismay. I need nature, writing, and yoga like I need air and water. Without those things, my life feels off balance and I begin to deplete. I start making huge withdrawals from my reserves of joy without yet figuring out how to replace what I have borrowed.
Still, there are plenty of things on the bright side. We learned that after three girls, we are expecting our first boy, which was no surprise to me. Our six-year-old at about two years of age claimed that she spoke to angels who would visit her in her room. I didn’t tell anyone about it at the time except for a few close friends. As a woman of God, my greatest fear was that the angels were coming to prepare her, to take her away.
In one encounter, an angel had told our daughter that we were going to have a baby and that his name would be Joseph. Four years later, after years of diligent prayer for her baby brother, we learned last week that Joseph (our surprise, bonus baby) will be making his appearance next spring.
There is a lot that can be learned from young children, from their ability to look at faith and God in such real, dynamic color so as to never doubt His existence.
To a child, God is as real as the furniture in her room and love of her parents. There is no questioning His power and what He is capable of doing if we only sit for a while, patient enough for Him to deliver in His own timing.
For some reason, as we grow into adulthood, life builds and grows confusing in waves of peace followed by the turbulent waters of the unknown.
But, so often, we forget to believe in the power of innocent, unrelenting prayer. We forget to be patient. We forget to wait for Him to lead the way, to look for the signs on our path He has carefully placed at pivotal points to let us know that everything will be O.K.
Instead, we get too busy looking straight ahead, comparing ourselves to those walking miles ahead, and we push ourselves to move full-speed through the tough times when we need to be gentle with ourselves lest we miss the opportunity of self-discovery we so desperately need in order to move wholly into our future.
Out of all of God’s children, I’m convinced that I may be the most stubborn. So often I want to take the reins, controlling exactly how things will unfold and to do so in a manner that I find appropriate.
I’m terribly impatient.
I’m terribly emotional.
I’m terribly forgetful that I can’t simply color in the lines any way I please.
Nature is present. Other people. The slow movement of time mixed with the quickness with which my children and my mother seem to age.
I wish that, overnight, a marriage could be mended to perfection again, as if by magic. I wish that difficult family could be dealt with in a manner of understanding without stipulations and judgement. I wish that I could cure the cancer of a friend who has been told that there are no more answers for her. I wish I could comfort and shield her children from that pain. I wish that, when we had the opportunity, the Executive and I had trusted dreams we had always talked about together instead of compromising, yet again.
Life doesn’t always work out perfectly. The unexpected is a part of it and, sometimes, reality is going creep in and suck the life out of us.
As hard as they are to move through, like pulling our feet through the wet sand of fatigue, we need these moments of stillness—the in-betweens—to propel us forward into new horizons.
In the meantime, know that in the hardship and heartache of unhappiness, we have the opportunity to make giant leaps in understanding where we have been and were we are going. These are moments of great self-discovery, a gift that often doesn’t come when life is offering us spoonfuls of every dream coming true that we have ever imagined.
The truth of the matter is:
You’re just not going to be happy.
And, guess what?
It’s O.K. not to be happy all the time!
Instead of feeling like there is something inherently wrong with you when you’re in a downturn and everyone else is moving about life on cloud 9, know that what you are going through simply makes you human. Don’t compare yourself to others. Appreciate where you are, even if you don’t completely love it.
Cuddle up with your kids and watch a movie. Veg out. Go for a hike. Take your bible, or your rosary. Never forget the power of prayer. Look for love on your path in the middle of the stillness and the quiet. Allow yourself to breath and rest there for a while. Let life take its time. Because, really, that’s all life needs to do sometimes: take a break to reconfigure, find a few answers, and move forward gracefully. Eventually, your own waves will rise high, peacefully and blissfully, into the horizon once again. Eventually, you WILL find your footing.
Just be brave enough on your path to get a little dirty.
Be patient enough to allow God to lead the way.