Let Go…

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Is there anything more infuriating than hearing those words when you’re in a season of feeling like you are being buried alive; in a hole that you are certain your will never emerge from; screaming “Really, we’re supposed to believe You have some grand plan in all of this?”; crawling through life with a soul so tired that you find yourself praying, “Jesus, I would be okay if You just decided my time here was done.”

2020 has been that season for me. It didn’t start that way but as 2 weeks to “flatten the curve” turned into 9 months of “Do nothing. Go nowhere. See no one.” I, and the millions of others with mental health and addiction issues, found myself in a battle for my life I hadn’t been in for almost 20 years. Staying alive became a daily task. As isolation turned from days to weeks to months and the life I’d built, for the “not just a wife and Mama” part of me, came to a halt, I found it harder and harder to make it through the next 5 seconds.

How egotistical is it to claim I love Jesus, consider His word to be Holy and of God, and yet want to be so in control.

January 1, 2020: Find Rest

I came into 2020 with a goal of slowing down; with full intention of learning to be comfortable doing nothing; with saying “No.” not feeling like I let people down, because sometimes “No.” is a Holy word; with a hope of finding time for me that didn’t feel like I was alone. “Find Rest” felt like the perfect “Two Word Resolution” to follow 2018 and 2019: “Be Intentional” and “Get To” (as opposed to “Have To”).

What I thought 2020 would be…

  • Taking a step out of my comfort zone and find a place where an empty date on my calendar didn’t leave me feeling like I wasted a day but instead an opportunity to take time to pray about, dream and start to map out what life after The Launch would look like. 
  • Preparing for The Launch because it was going to happen, and soon, regardless of my wanting it to or being ready.
  • Sitting down to read actual books, rather than just listen to them in between appointments on my calendar, while grocery shopping or during the hours I spent in my car running from one place to the next.
  • Write more and journal daily.
  • Learn to sit in the quiet and enjoy the company of me, myself and I.
  • Above all else, be diligent in carving out a space to ask Jesus how in the heck I was supposed to do any of that.

What 2020 actually was…

  • White knuckle grip on the steering wheel due to months and months of someone else telling us where we could and could not go, who we could or could not see, and what to wear while doing anything we were allowed to do, while trying to approach The Launch as a celebration, not a loss.
  • Organizing and reorganizing because my kitchen cabinets needed five “empty then put it all back somewhere else” sessions before they started to make sense. Because I needed folders, notebooks and bins and move my office furniture more than once so the space (in which nothing was happening) would allow me to be more productive. Because “I never really liked the couch there”, “I wonder if we mount the TV on this wall would it cut down on the glare”, “I wasn’t totally sold on this paint color when we picked it out” might somehow make me feel like I could control something.
  • Mourning The Launch, fearing it would reduce me to nothingness, certain it would destroy me and leave me a shell of a human being.
  • Wanting something to do, then when I had something to do finding myself completely unable to do it because I forgot to, lacked the energy or put it off so I would have something to do the next day.
  • Months and months of my mental health taking blow after blow, of answering the phone or returning a text message becoming increasingly difficult, of brushing my teeth being the success of the day and washing my hair being cause for a victory parade, of loneliness I’d hoped would never find me again, of staying alive simply because it seems very selfish to throw my dark sadness onto the people I love the most just so I don’t have to endure it any longer.
  • Forgetting Jesus is in charge because it’s always an epic disaster when I try to be.

2020 hasn’t been a year of “Find Rest” for me. It could have been – the calendar emptied quickly and the time to wonder what comes next, think about who I wanted to be after The Launch, for reading, for writing, for journaling, for sitting in the company of me, myself and I, became abundant. And if there was ever a season to seek out Jesus, and do so often, this year has been it. There have been countless opportunities for rest, reflection and rejuvenation. I came into the year hoping to tiptoe into all of that. Jesus wasn’t so much about dipping my toes to test the water; He was more about jumping in with both feet. I didn’t feel capable of swimming, grew weary of treading water and started to drown under the weight of all the things I couldn’t control, forgetting there was someone standing on the water and willing to pull me up if I would just put out my hand.

January 1, 2021: Let Go

I pick my resolution around November every year and these two words for 2021 couldn’t be more appropriate. First, as a way to cope with our “new normal” (two words I wish could be wiped from our vocabulary) and remember all of the amazing things that can happen when I don’t let change control me. Second, to remind myself to celebrate The Launch; smile at C finding some freedom that comes with getting your driver’s license, enjoy watching him become who he was made to be and see him just be C, not J’s little brother C; cheer like crazy when J signs his letter of intent for college golf, beam with pride when I see him in his cap and gown, and cry more tears of joy than sadness when we move him into a dorm 8 ½ hours from home so he can chase his dreams. Third, and most important, to have a daily reminder about who is in charge and to let Him be.

During one of my numerous stays in a mental health facility, or psych ward as we lovingly referred to them before the days of mental health facilities that didn’t feel like a dungeon existed, my Dad visited and brought me two things: a daily devotional for women and a copy of AA’s Big Book. (I’m not an addict, though I certainly have the traits to become one.) He didn’t bring me a copy of a book centered in giving your “ick” to a Higher Power and another filled with words inspired by the only Higher Power I knew to exist so I could overcome addiction or cure my brain. He brought them because he knows there is a power and usefulness in those 12 Steps that extends far beyond addiction and to give me 365 reminders about who can make those steps possible, because you can’t get through all 12 without going through the first three: 1) I’m powerless over the “ick”, 2) There’s someone who does have power over the “ick” and 3) Turning the “ick” over to Him makes it so much easier to not be owned by the “ick” so I can ultimately find ways to use it to be the person He made me to be.

So many of us are bolting into 2021 and finding it nearly impossible to glean anything from 2020 that could serve us in the new year. When I sat down in November to find 2021’s two words, “Everything happens for a reason.” came to mind and I started to consider that maybe the “reason” was to make it clear that I’m not in charge; not of my life or my kids or our finances or the people I do life with or the community I live in or with what comes next. I can’t fix everyone or everything. It’s time to accept leaving behind the people, ideas, expectations and things no longer meant for me. I need to let Jesus run the show before I make a mess that can’t be undone.

The coming year is going to be really unpleasant if I keep that white-knuckle-grip on the steering wheel and will make finding joy in the celebrations and peace in the changes that come with those same celebrations more than difficult. I grabbed a new devotional the other day and wrote the 12 Steps inside the front cover. Who knows, maybe after a year of “Let Go”, I might give “Find Rest” another try.

Happy New Year. Be good to yourselves and each other. ♥

More than we can imagine…

‪On this day…‬

‪2012: I was 24 hours into kicking a 22 year cigarette habit.‬

‪2013: I had my left knee cap removed (not replaced).‬

‪Around this day, 2014: I was out of fight. I was exhausted from the toll pain had taken on me. I walked through each day with a heavy sadness words can’t describe over the impact my unsuccessful recovery had on my family. With hopelessness consuming me and full certainty that a year out, we should all be enjoying a much better quality of life than we were, My Fave and I explored amputating my left leg. My surgeon asked me to give it six more months.‬ I immediately wanted a cigarette, as if smoking was going to make it easier to decide whether or not I trusted my surgeon of 20+ years. ‪I’m still smoke free, eight years later. I’m still blessed with the use of both my legs. And it has very little to do with me.

Continue reading

A Mama Never Forgets…

My memory is terrible. Not just the “Now what did I come in this room for?” kind of stuff. My memory for life in general is just lacking. There are the insignificant moments that are clear as day. There are happy and sad and horrifying and joyous things I remember and some I should, but don’t. I’m certain there is an explanation; whatever the reason behind what I do and don’t remember bothers my psychiatrist much more than it does me.

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1 Down, 30 To Go…

Day 1 of #MentalHealthMonth…

Those would have been my words to the social media world today with great hope they might catch someone’s attention. With hope another Warr;or might read them and know there’s someone else who does understand. With hope someone, who thinks we are soft, weak and just “need to get over it”, would see those of us who claw our way through 5 seconds at a time, just a bit differently or at least with less contempt. With hope family or friends, who couldn’t save someone they love from a war their own brain waged against them, might find peace or understanding or self-forgiveness in the words of someone who is somehow still managing to enter the battlefield each day.

Not this year. Self preservation won about a week ago. Not sure how I feel about that but here we are all the same. Continue reading

The F-word…

Remote learning. Stay at home orders. Unemployment. Childcare challenges. Sports postponed indefinitely. Milestone events canceled. Kids missing friends. Nursing home residents separated from their families. Work from home chaos. Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and mask shortages. Concerts, vacations and celebrations that won’t happen. The list could go on and on.

How could the “F” word not come flying out of our mouths multiple times a day? I mean, it’s beyond appropriate. Even if they’re not saying it, everyone is thinking it. It seems an absolutely perfect response to fully express our frustration! And it seems if we just say it, rather than just think it, we should feel better. Right?

So why isn’t our repeated use of “fair” not doing the trick? Continue reading

2 words for 2020…

Welcome to March. Wait. What? How in the heck have we burned through 61 days of 2020 already? Where did they go? And how in he world have I no posted for 67 days? Wonder if needing just 9 days to decide my New Year resolution was dumb has anything to do with me not writing? Could not writing make it feel crowded in my head? Are there way too many words fighting for space in my brain and is that why I feel so exhausted? But what to write about? I’ve amassed 49 ideas “drafts” (and I use that term liberally) and they are all garbage. Since I have to start somewhere, my failed 2020 resolution seems to make sense.

For the last couple of years, I’ve ditched the concept of traditional New Year resolutions. They’re basically regurgitated year after year anyway: Eat better. Go to the gym consistently. Date my husband more. Read more. Journal more. I routinely end up in the corner with the 80% of Americans whose resolutions fail by the 2nd week of February. My gift of perfectionism is on hand to help me beat myself up every time I crash, burn and quit. Rather than an unoriginal list, I’ve switched to a 2-word resolution, inspired by a colleague who has become a trusted friend.

A little recap on the journey to the why behind the words I’ve chosen. I’ve spent most of my life in some sort of physical pain. A slip on some ice in 2011 would lead to a hip-to-ankle immobilizer, crutches, hours upon hours of PT, etc.  The more time I spent in the brace followed by recovering from 2 surgical attempts to fix my knee, the more the pain spread. A 3rd surgery would be to remove my kneecap and was a true last ditch effort. After 6 months of recovery, I tried to pretend like the pain that should have gone away did. Even went so far as to run a 15K, which was ridiculously stupid. Your kneecap is vital in the function of your quad and hip; all three are vital to running. It doesn’t help that Cincinnati isn’t exactly flat; the course I ran was more than happy to flaunt the hills of our beautiful city. Have I mentioned how dumb an idea this was?

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The year following that run would be filled with some of the most painful days ever. Days that made me angry and were so dark that suicide crossed my mind regularly. Steroids (a blatant no-no for bipolar Warr;ors) and a lifetime of pain killers (too much addiction in my family to have those around and insurance companies aren’t super excited to give mentally ill patients pain killers, especially in the age of an opioid crisis) weren’t viable options to manage my pain or to help me set limits on what could take up space on my calendar and still allow me to be the wife and Mama I wanted to be. My therapist at the time had done her Masters work in values based pain management. It sounded awesome and then not so much when she fully explained it. She gave me a list of 86 values, told me to pick 10 and then instructed me to only say “yes” to the things that fell within at least 2, preferably 3, values. Communication. Integrity. Belonging. Leadership. Faith. Compassion. Connectedness. Kindness. Perseverance. Respect. These 10 words were to become the measuring stick I would use to make any commitment that could impact my physical and/or mental health. They hang on the mirror in our bedroom and are the wallpaper on my phone. No escape.

I found myself needing more ways to put these 10 values into daily practice and serve as reminders to pause and consider them before saying “Yes!” Which brings me to my 2 words. Each year, I have very small, custom rings made with my 2 words hammered into them. I wear the current year stacked with my wedding band. When the year comes to a close, it moves to a bracelet that was my first Mother’s Day gift and I wear almost daily.

2018: Be intentional – an attempt to really stick to those 10 values and be intentional about committing only to what fell within them. Also to start shedding the stuff that didn’t. The “Yes” person in me found both equally as difficult.

2019: Get to – a plan to shift my mindset from focusing on all I was unable to do and find gratitude in what I was able to. I’d gotten bitter about the limits my EDS diagnosis carried and the things I still had to do that were painful and would typically continue to be. “Have to” became “Get to” for everything from grocery shopping and laundry to enduring a PTO meeting or a business dinner with My Fave.

As the end of the 2018-19 school year came to a close, bringing with it an end to a very involved four years at our middle school, my psychiatrist and I started to work through my “What’s next and who am I if I am not known for spending every waking moment at my kid’s school?” I’d always been busy. I like busy. Busy leaves very little time to think. Like it or not, come August I was facing a reality of 4-6 hours a day no longer filled with being at school, busy with all the outside of school tasks and driving J & C all over. “What am I supposed to do to fill all that time?” to which my psych replied, “Why do you have to fill it with something else? What if you didn’t fill all that time? What if you used a little of that time to just rest?” In November, my 2020 ring arrived.

Find Rest.

Ummm, yeah not wired or comfortable resting. And I suck at it. I mean I did fall off the wagon on January 9, 2020.  But I’m trying and the more I try, the messier it gets. I thought spending some quiet time with Jesus first thing each would be an excellent idea. Except it wasn’t; the more I tried to use that time to spend in rest, the “ickier” I felt. The more exhausted I was. The darker my days got. The more my anxiety reared it’s ugly head. I’ve had more crumbled mess on the floor sob sessions than I can count. I swear I’ve bought more Kleenex this year than I did all of 2019. We’re sort of in the bottom of the pit at the moment. The pit contains awesome moments like the one this weekend when My Fave had to ask the most dreaded question you can ask a Warr;or: “Do we need to go to the hospital?” They say that if you want to get under the skin of the enemy, just start giving Jesus a whole bunch of your attention. Whoever “they” are wasn’t lying when coining that bit of wisdom.

I think He knew how hard this was going to be for me and sent me some assurance I was exactly where He wanted me, courtesy of an email in early December from the leader of high school ministry at our church. He asked if I’d be willing to give a message on February 9th about how kids can find rest by simplifying their lives and being mindful about how they spend their time. To be clear, this leader had no idea I’d made “Find Rest” my 2020 resolution. He didn’t know the date I would give my message would mark the start of the 2nd week of February and it’s the week 80% of New Year resolutions fail. Jesus does not and never has done coincidence, y’all. His final, “I am the ultimate show-off” moment came the morning of my message.  I was listening to Judah Smith’s Churchome podcast on my way to church. In all honesty, I was rehearsing my own message more than I was listening to his. He got my full attention when he said, “Pastors talk most about the very thing they struggle with.” (Yeah, I know I’m not a pastor; logic still applies. Don’t ruin my moment.)  You win, Jesus. But to be clear, there is nothing remotely “restful” in any of this. 

Rest, it looks like we still have 10 months to find each other. I’m ready to try again if you are.

It’s a tradition…

A sure fire way to make Christmas the most un-wonderful, exhausting and dreaded time of the year? Work in retail. I’m certain restaurant veterans could say the same, but retail is where I spent entirely too much time during Christmas. So much time, that when the boys were younger, December 23rd rolled around and the Millers didn’t have a Christmas tree.

Yep, December 23rd. No tree. And Santa was coming soon. Yikes!

Kroger to the rescue – that year and every year since. Continue reading

Just don’t die…

image_80775643-afa7-4b93-9448-c0963076a08f.img_3285My baby is 15 today. I am not old enough to have a 15 year old. I am not sure how I blinked that much. I am not ready to let go of him needing his Mama. I am not sure how to loosen the white knuckle grip I have on the stage of parenting that I can see coming to an end. I am certainly not looking forward to the speed at which the next few years will fly. I am not at all prepared for his Launch and yet its target is in sight. I’ve been really emotional about Coleman’s birthday this year. He’s 15; it’s not really a milestone of any sort. Doesn’t come with any real “rights of passage”. Doesn’t evoke some new freedom. So it seems a bit odd that 15 would hit my in the face, and heart, the way it has. Continue reading