The art of being OK…

The hubby is out of town again.  Patrick and I are here at home, keeping busy with crafting and taking walks and annoying the dog…

And I’m OK.

Anyone who has been following me for more than about 20 minutes knows that when Dan leaves town, he usually takes my sanity with him.  I spend the entire time he’s gone negotiating panic attacks, afraid to be at home and afraid to not be at home.  Lying awake at night listening to every tiny sound (and I live in the city–lots of tiny sounds to listen to), convinced that every creak, groan, slam of a car door and dog barking holds the possibility of terror just around the corner.

Not this time.

In the words of an old friend…it’s good.  It’s all good.

I’ve spent the last several days (even before Dan left) wondering why I wasn’t panicking.  Usually the days leading up to his departure are torture for both of us, and at some point I usually end up in tears, begging him not to go.  This time?  I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, other than to make sure his laundry was done so that he wasn’t going on a business trip with only ratty t-shirts and holy jeans to wear.  I didn’t lose sleep (OK, not any more than usual–sleep and I are not good friends) and there were no tears.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I still don’t really LIKE it when he’s gone.  It’s just that I was…OK.  And I have finally figured it out.

I’m not scared.

I’m.  Not.  Scared.

The house that we lived in for the first 10 years that we were here was not secure.  We were robbed in 2007, and I never again felt safe.  Not a single day.  We would leave the house for whatever reason, and I would spend the entire time worrying about who was in my house.  Coming home, as we came around the corner, my heart would start to pound.  We had dogs.  We had dogs when we got robbed–it was not a deterrent.  We had chains and locks.  Bolt cutters and five minutes would have you inside the house.  Every Sunday for 7 years, I spent my time in church praying that no one got into our house.  I’m sure God was thrilled that we were having that conversation again.

When Dan would leave, and I was there alone, responsible for my children and feeling like I was completely out of control, it was nothing short of abject terror.  Panic would wash over me in waves, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t breathe.  It was worse when my big kids were still home, because then it was coupled with the guilt over not being able to reassure them that Mom was in charge and things would be OK.  Because I didn’t know if they would.  I would lie awake at night, convinced that if I went to sleep even for an instant, all hell would break loose.  I was working full time, which helped only because it forced me to get up and get the kids to school and interact, even on a limited basis.  Fortunately the girls that I worked with in the library knew what was happening and would turn themselves inside out to make sure I was “OK” while he was gone.  Unfortunately it also placed a burden on my big kids that I wish I could take back–they felt the need to “protect” me, when I should have been protecting them.  Children should not have to parent their parents.

There is nothing quite as terrifying as not being OK in your own home.  The guys who broke in took two laptop computers, my wedding ring…and any sense of security I might have had.

In August of 2014, we moved out of that house and into an apartment.  A safe, secure apartment.  And everything changed.  We are in a new place now, and it is safe.  It’s secure.  We have a guard.  We live on a street where a lot of diplomatic and embassy people live, so there are guards everywhere.

I am not afraid.

As I have pondered this these past few days, I have come to some realizations.

It wasn’t Dan’s fault.  He was not deliberately scheduling trips just to get away from me.  Which, when you think about it, is sort of a miracle, considering that I wanted nothing more than to get away from me.  He was doing his job, and I was making it about 1000x harder with my insane tears and panicking.  A couple of times, he actually considered canceling his trip (he was already wherever he was going) and coming home, because I scared him so badly.  When I think about the mental anguish that I caused him, I want to cry.

We should have moved.  I don’t know why we didn’t, except that we thought we had a “deal”.  Our rent was very low, our house was large enough for a family of six, we were three blocks from the school…and all of that was not worth the insecurity.  Our children would have been much happier in an apartment where their mother felt safe and secure and their dad could do his job.  So why did we stay there?  I don’t know.  But I do know that we shouldn’t have.  When we were robbed, we should have packed up and gotten out of there, into someplace where peace of mind was included in the lease.

It wasn’t the thought of losing things that frightened me, lest you all think I am a materialistic dingbat who is overly concerned about her stuff.  It was the knowledge that if I wasn’t safe in my house, and able to protect my children, then I wasn’t safe anywhere, and neither were they.  Living overseas, in a world that only makes sense about 10% of the time, I need security wherever I can get it.  When I was working I walked to school every day.  I knew who I “should” see along my route.  My mind got to where it registered anyone different.  Not necessarily in a panicky way, just a sort of “Oh.  Haven’t seen him before” way, and I would be a little more alert after that.

The stress that I placed on my body and my mind has probably damaged both of them irreparably, at least to some degree.  The Fibro that I live with is probably a direct result of stress.  My anxiety level usually hovers somewhere between mildly alarmed and Defcon 5, and I can snap in an instant.  My anxiety medication keeps me on a relatively even keel most of the time, but I still have moments.

I can’t change the past.  I can’t take back the years that we spent in the house.  I wish I could.  I wish I had insisted that we move.  I wish I had been able to pull it together for my children.  I wish my husband had not had the extra stress of dealing with me when he was trying to do his job well.  The fact that he did do it well, in spite of me, is a miracle on par with walking on water, I do believe.

It feels good to be OK here.  Yesterday Patrick and I walked to Subway, got a sandwich and walked home.  We didn’t hurry.  I wasn’t panicking about what we would find when we got home.  We just…went.  And came home.  It was good.  Dan is on his trip, and although I miss him, for the first time in…ever…when he comes home I won’t have to say the words “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

That feels pretty good.


Rainy days and Mondays…

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down. 

(“Rainy Days and Mondays” ~The Carpenters)


Sometimes, even in the middle of the best of everything, my soul gets soggy.  I need for Someone to wring me out and hang me over a clothesline somewhere to dry.

These last several weeks have made me weary.  We lost our “fifth child” as our Nick left Ecuador to move to South Africa and begin the task of opening up the Extreme Response presence there.  It’s wonderful.  It’s exciting.  And it hurt my heart, just like it did when my three children left and went to college.

Two weeks ago, I had surgery on my hand.  In my mind, I would be up and around within a day or so, back to my normal routine and everything fixed.  Reality has been much different.  Two weeks later, my hand is still bandaged.  I have very little use of it.  I still have the majority of my stitches.  Two of my five fingers are numb.  I have no energy, and since I have very little energy on a good day, anything that drains me even further is most unwelcome.  My appetite is still not good (OK, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing) and I am frustrated by my inability to just be me.  Guilt washes over me in waves because my poor hubby has had to do pretty much everything around here.  And he DOES.  No complaining, no making me feel guilty…he just keeps doing things and being that sweet, amazing man that he is.  I feel guilty anyway, because feeling guilty for things that I can’t control is one of my spiritual gifts.

This Wednesday, which is in LESS THAN 72 HOURS, Patrick and I head to the US again, while Dan flies off to Peru for a couple of weeks.  We were already planning to be in the US for April and May because our Daniel is graduating (hold me) and when Dan found out that he had to go to Peru, Patrick and I thought that it would be more fun (read “Mommy won’t lose her schnitzel while Daddy is out of the country”) to go spend the time with our family and friends.  And it will be.  And once we are there, it will be good.  But we have to GET there.  I once again have to prepare my house for someone else to live in it for three months.  I have to try to explain to Oliver that I’m leaving (don’t laugh–we have a connection) and I have to think through all of the details that go with us leaving.  Furlough is one of the great stress-inducing gifts of this life that we live.  We get to spend time in the US with our family and friends, telling them all about the life that we live.  We get to eat too much and shop too much and drive too much…and laugh too much and hug too much and love too much…sometimes “too much” is good.  It’s hard though.  Most people, when they go on a vacation, are gone for a week or two.  Nothing really changes during their absence.  They come home and the grass might be a little too long and the mail might have piled up, but nothing really CHANGES.  People don’t change.  When we are gone, either from our home here or from our home there, people change.  And it’s hard, because in our “perfect world”, they wouldn’t.  Everything would be just as we left it.  It’s a brutal reality check when we get off that plane.

When we return from our time in the US, we will have to move.  We have lived here for 10 years.  This is “home” to our children.  We know every leaky faucet and shorted-out wire in the place.  We’ve made memories here.  Last week, in the midst of my already soggy-soul sob-fest, our landlord came by the let us know that he is selling this house.  We understand.  He is elderly, and he only has one child who is tearing her hair out trying to care for her elderly parents and all of their rental properties.  It’s too much and we get that.  But it’s still hard.  And because I am me, and I have this annoying inability to deal with life, I shut down.  I literally laid awake all night on Wednesday trying to mentally sort through closets and get rid of stuff…I should have just gotten out of bed and done it!  But I didn’t really talk to Dan about it, which would have helped, because as usual he isn’t worried, and he knows that the details will be taken care of…This, by the way, is one of the things that made my heart fall hard for him all of those years ago.  His ability to handle things.  And his ability to make me feel safe.

I know that the Lord has all of this taken care of.  He knows where we are going to live next.  He knows the timeline for getting my hand back.  He knows that I feel guilty.  He knows my fears and my worries…I know this.  But sometimes, in the midst of it all, it is really hard for me to be still.  To turn my brain off.  To stop panicking.  To let go.  But He is conspicuously silent right now.  I could use an email, or some smoke signals…just something tangible to let me know He’s got this, and it’s going to be alright.

This life we live–this missionary life–is something different for everyone.  We all have things that we have to let go of in order to do this.  For some it is a surrender of physical things.  Nice house, nice things, good schools, the right friends.  For others it’s letting go of their ego.  The “I’ve got all the answers” mindset.  For some–and this is where I fall–it is letting go of fear, and the illusion of control that we have over our lives.

He keeps jerking the rug out from under me.  And then He catches me when I fall.  As long as He keeps catching me, I will keep going, soggy soul and all.

“I must have been born on a rainy day for sure.
My soul is made of rain.”

There will be peace in the valley…

One of my very favorite songs of all time is “Peace in the Valley.”  I am partial to Dolly Parton, but I’ll listen to anyone sing it.  I especially love the line that says “And I’ll be changed…changed from this creature I am…”

I am, on any given day, a hot mess.  I’m a walking bundle of nerves, with an anxiety level that makes my doctor wonder why I’m still walking around.  I take medication for my anxiety (Please don’t judge.  Just. Please.) and although it helps, it doesn’t completely shake the feeling of dread that lives in me almost all of the time.  I read my Bible.  I pray.  I read books by women who have conquered anxiety.  And yet…I fret. 

My poor husband.  Second only to “I Love You” in our house are the words “What’s wrong?”  “How can I help?”  “What can I do?”  And I have no answers.  I don’t talk when it gets really intense–I just shut down and walk around inside my own head.

We were apart from June 26th-July 26th.  My heart missed him so much that it physically hurt.  We talked every night, via Facetime, and every night I cried when I hung up, just wanting him here.  He arrived last Friday night, and I’ve spent the last four days worrying because he’s disappointed in me.  Our room at my sisters was a mess.  A MESS.  There were four of us, including my two teenage girls, living in that room, and it was a disaster.  Dan and I, we don’t like messes.  I had finally just given up on trying to keep it together, since I was running all over the place for the girls and trying to get things under control with them, but when he arrived all I could think was “He’s disappointed.”  Neither of the girls has their license yet.  They had an appointment a few weeks ago, but I forgot about it, and so we had to reschedule.  I’ve apologized 100 times for this.  I don’t think he really cares–he doesn’t seem concerned–but I still apologize.  My sister says I apologize too much.  I told her I was sorry. 

I cannot wait to be changed from this worrying creature that I am.  I want it to happen now–this freeing me from my anxieties–but at this point I’ll take the promise that it will happen in heaven.  Just as long as I don’t have to spend eternity this way.  Because really?

It’s getting old.

There will be peace in the valley
For me some day
There will be peace in the valley
For me, Oh Lord. I pray
There’ll be no sadness
No sorrow, no trouble I see
There will be peace
In the valley for me.