This year was one of the most painful, hard, stressful, and ugly years that I have seen to date. Maybe it was because I actually experienced life and how difficult it sometimes is; maybe it’s because in all honesty, I didn’t like who I was; or maybe it’s because I lost control of myself, and my life, and never took it back to the One who was pleading for me to come back to him.
We all have those years we remember for some reason or the other. The year that the baby came, or the year that a loved one died or the year that never really seemed to turn around. Well, until this year, I didn’t feel like I was part of that club, the “year I remember most” club. And until this year, it never mattered to me that I didn’t take particular stock in remembering.
I’m not sure what exactly made this year so bad. There were plenty of beautiful, sweet moments that happened: my husband graduated the police academy this year, after six long, hard, months of training, sleeplessness, and stressful, days; we bought our first home, we got a massive, loving, dog, and we were able to do another year of life together; we went to weddings, and birthday parties for our niece and nephew, and met new babies of dear friends; we laughed with friends, we went to parties and we started a new young married group with my sister in law and friends. Those things, the laughter, the parties, the dinners and the late night talks, those I would not change about this year. Those are the things I craved, wanted more of, the things that kept me going, even. The things I would have changed were the late nights crying, the stress, the funeral, the sickness, the anxiety, the desperation, the lying, and the fear. Those things, I could have done without.
For starters, 2013 began with my husband contracting the TWO days before he was due to start the police academy. I had just begun a new job, he got sick, and then passed it along to me, rendering me incapable of attending the banquet for all the police spouses. Great. That same week, our apartment became infested with bugs, which “were being taken care of” and I had to remove everything from the cabinet’s every.single.month, so they could come “spray” our apartment. I don’t know if you own Fiestaware, but if you do, you will agree when I say those dishes weigh a thousand pounds. That same month, my husband Grandma Ballinger passed away after a massive stroke. It was very sudden, and knocked the wind out of the family. Both of us were unable to attend the funeral, due to work schedules that were unbending, and with the academy just having started, were unable to grieve about it together as a couple.
Moving on a few months, I decided that I would try my hand at a pre nursing career, so I quit working. We moved some things around, I got sick about twelve times, and I began attending classes. Tucker continued on in the academy, which was beginning to cost us more than our lives combined, which stressed us both out. We also had to start the search for a new apartment, because we our lease was coming up (thank God), but we couldn’t find one in the metro for what our price range was, and we had two months. Teeny bit stressful. My wonderful sister in law, found us a house, so after putting an insane deposit down on an apartment, moving/resigning for it three times, we moved in with my parents. We began the process of packing (of which I can honestly say I would rather not ever do again in my life), all the while wondering if we were approved for our house. I get sick about three more times, and I still go to class.
In the midst of the moving, class, academy, and stress, our city was devastated by a tornado that ripped through the elementary school, and housing addition that I lived in as a child, along with hundreds of other homes and businesses. A boy that I knew from my previous job at a before and after school care program was one of the too many that died that day. I was crushed. Because of some events that happened after the tornado hit, I was one of the first few on the scene along with parents, police officers, soldiers, and firemen. To this day, I remember the face of every child I saw removed from the rubble, and every face of a scared parent, every grief stricken teacher. Covered in mud, and in flip flops, I tried my best to keep calm, and help out as much as I could, pray that I wouldn’t see anyone dead. Having lived in Oklahoma for 15+ years, I’m used to tornadoes, but since that day, tornado sirens still remind me of May 20.
While we suffered no physical damage at our place, we stayed with me in laws for a day or two until we got power and water back. I continued packing because we were due to move with my parents in a week, and with them being on the other side of Moore, and still having no news on the new house, we had to put some stuff in storage to make room for all of our stuff. We moved in with them around the beginning of June, only planning on staying for a couple of weeks. A couple weeks turned into a month, as we still had no word on the new house. We were both stressed, tired, angry, and struggling to stay positive by this point. Tucker was in the most demanding stage of the academy, and with the traffic the tornado damage caused, getting up even earlier to be there on time, and struggling to eat and sleep well, June was not our favorite month. We finally got word on being approved for the house in the middle of July, and we were ecstatic. We moved in, I got hired at a hospital, and things finally began to seem like they were looking up. Tucker graduated the academy, I began working night shifts at the hospital, and life was good. We made new friends in the other police officers and their wives, and began going to church regularly again. We saw our families more, hung out with friends and were able to enjoy each other for a while. But I still felt like something was off somehow, that something wasn’t right.
Through all of this, I never realized how slowly my health, passion, motivation, and heart were fading from my life. My life became monotonous to me; I no longer enjoyed the things that used to bring me pleasure. I stopped reading for the love of books, I read to distract myself from the stress and worry. I ate for pleasure and instead of eating healthy, whole foods, opted for pop tarts, diet coke and pizza instead. I stopped praying, I stopped hoping, and I stopped believing that things were going to get better because in that moment, in that season, I honestly believed they weren’t. I didn’t pray because I didn’t think it mattered anymore, God obviously had his own plan for us but had no intention of telling me what it was. I lost my faith in Him, and I stopped hoping. I was tired of talking about myself, so I stopped meeting with friends and even tried to avoid meeting with family. I was sick over and over again, and used that as an excuse to stay home from work and to watch way too much TV. I cancelled plans and became obsessed with staying at home, because at my home I could be myself. I could cry, laugh, yell and no one else had to know. I could be honest with myself and admit that I hated my new job, which I wasn’t good at it, that this year honestly made me want to stop hoping for good. Because what was the point? What is the point in trying new things, and making new plans if all they are going to do is fail?
So I gave up. I stayed home, watched TV, devoured novels, pizza and way too much Diet Coke. I half-way looked for jobs, but because of how my last one ended, I was scared to death of trying something new. My heart was broken, my emotions high, and nothing but food, distraction, and way too much sleep made me feel any better. Praying? Forget it. It only made me angry. Talking about it? I’d rather sleep with spiders. Going to church? I’ll go, if I can go alone, and the only person attending that service is me.
Some of you may be thinking, what on earth is wrong with this girl? So her job didn’t work out, so the year was a little tough, big deal. Drink some wine, make a plan, and stop crying about it. I tried that. I made list after list after list, drank more wine, and cried because my heart couldn’t take another failed plan. I have never not had a plan, not had a goal, not had a wish that I was working towards. I haven’t ever questioned who I was, where I was going, and what I was doing with my life so honestly, until this year. I felt like I had failed, like I had lost the sense of who I was and what I loved to do. And I didn’t know how to get back to her. That girl that loved books because she loved words, and stories, and the beauty that came from them. The girl who ate for pleasure but also for health, the girl who laughed more, and gave more. The girl who was outgoing with people, not hiding from them in stores for fear that they would ask how she was doing. The girl who was honest, responsible, and truthful. The girl people could depend on, lean on, and ask for advice. I felt like I became the worst version of myself this year. I became afraid of who I was and who I was becoming.
I was afraid.
Fear is such a curious thing. It makes people do such brave things, like putting yourself in harm’s way for another, and bonding together with others, showing fear that it won’t ever win. It also make’ people cowards, it takes lives, and it is what defines my life. I am all afraid of something happening. Not like a break in, or shooting, nothing like that. I fear things like failing, upsetting people, not having a plan, God, and my future. More than anything on that list, I fear what lies ahead. Because after how awful this year turned out, I fear there will be many more like it. I know I am making myself sound so helpless, and to be quite honest, I am not over this. I know this blog is mostly past tense, but I am still right in the trenches of this. One thing has changed though, and for my heart’s sake, I’m thankful.
I finally realized that God doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what I do. Whether I’m a writer, a teacher, and artist, or a minimum wage working, faithful wife. He cares about my heart, and my passions, and my love for Him and others. He wants me to be happy of course, He wants me to create and love and live without fear but that’s how He created me to be. He created me to enjoy this life, to be a little free, and to always hope for the best. He created me. Exactly how I am, for a reason. And that reason does not matter right now. I don’t have to know this instant what I want to spend my life doing. I don’t have to have a plan. Maybe I’ll minor in art, or major in French. Maybe I’ll open a bakery, or teach, or write a novel. The important thing is, God created me to create and live and be and do. And I spent so much time this year not doing any of those things because I was so scared of the outcome.
I spent so much of this year comparing my life, skills, work, passions, and dreams with other people’s my age and older, wondering why everyone around me seemed to have it all so put together. And I became angry and frustrated and worried when I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and what they were doing right. Like I said, I cannot pretend that I am all “okay” and that I am all “better”. The damage done from how I treated myself and my faith this year is going to take some time to repair. It will take less TV, less pizza, and fewer distractions, more love, more courage, and a lot more prayer. It will take honest connection, and continual effort, and endless cups of tea. It will take time, and though that word just spirals me back to how much time I used this year, worrying and waiting, I am hopeful.
Finally, I am hopeful.
So here I sit, at my kitchen table, sick, but hopeful and honestly taking each day as it comes. If you see me, and plan on asking me how I am doing, plan on getting an honest answer. I’m not feeling my best right now. I’m not okay all the time, but I think that’s alright. I have a plan for school next year, but I’m not going crazy about it. I’m okay right now. And tomorrow I might not be. But God isn’t just a God of “okay” people. He’s a God of the broken, the lost, and the incredibly well put together. He is God of creators, people pleasers, and artists. He is a God of me, and I am so thankful that I don’t have to be “okay” to be called His.
If you would be so kind as to comment, or send me a Facebook message, let me know what it is that you do when it seems like nothing is working. When nothing seems to go according to plan, what is it that you do? It can be anything, faith-related or not. : )