I don't know if it's my endometriosis, Seasonal Affective Disorder (hey, Oregon!), not sleeping more than 90 minute intervals for over two years, or the pressure of supporting our family with my (non-studio, natural light) photography business in the middle of winter....
but I am stuck in a disappointingly-dreadful doldrum.
I was once writing fifty hours a month for other websites, creativity coming out of my keyboard left and right, stories flying from my fibers through my fingertips. I was getting paid to pour my pains and grace onto internet-paper, bleeding my feelings and experiences onto the screen for anyone to see and read.
Like most writers experience from time to time, I feel all typed out. I feel like everything is raw all at once, nothing is processed enough to pour through the doors of my fingers.
I exist in the conundrum of everything feeling thoroughly numb or in considerable pain.
It's weird to feel all shut up when your way of breathing is to let it all out.
I took a few days off of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to release some of the anxiety social media incites in me. After those few days, within the first hour of checking on a group I admin, my anxiety was assimilating my attention, powerfully pulling me into my head and away from the present.
It's astonishing and terrifying the power of social media.
I would dare to share it helped bring home our son via adoption, support pouring from the corners of the internet and into our family, from people I have never met in the flesh. It helped a small town girl with no fancy titles or platform release a self-published book into the world and sell thousands of copies in five months. It has connected me with an adoption community and gospel community I would never have met otherwise, unleashing in me a passion to turn tides in our tiny corner of the universe. Astonishing in staggering ways, I am impressed by the tool social media can be for us to use to change corners of the world, build up people, create families.
Also, through social media and the internet, I have been called names, I have had accusations thrown at me, I have received emails and messages exclaiming I am ungodly, I am unloving, I am everything I do not want to be. I have been told I am too strict, I am easily offended and too sensitive, I am a liar and a scammer and untrustworthy. I have had the F* word thrown at me on multiple occasions. I have been greatly misunderstood. Terrifying in staggering ways, I am impressed by the tool social media can be for us to attempt to tear down and rip apart other human beings.
After our son escaped the grip of death this winter, I have been off balance. Instead of diving deeply into the Dwelling Place that has healed me many times over, I have opted for the numbing withdrawal my phone and Netflix offers.
Never in my life have I watched so many episodes of anything — we didn't even have a TV or Netflix until our friends gave us these things last fall, so duh, I'll blame them. In the last month, nearly every night after putting my boys to bed, I sit on the couch and distract myself with Gilmore Girls, hoping to edit a few photos here and there.
I once used these needed hours to write, write, write. To read, read, read. To listen to podcasts. To process. To find healing and wholeness. To bake. To clean. To continue myself as me, to live as fully as I could and use my time wisely.
But anxiety got ahold of me profoundly and I succumbed.
It has knocked me right down, and I have let it put me in a place it thinks I need to be.
When I decided to pull myself away from the addiction of social media for just a few short days, the daily suffocation of joy slowly left. Joy became more frequent, easier, more natural. I found myself in the book of Amos, reading about things I care about: social sins such as injustice, corrupt officials, greed, worship of false gods. I scribbled notes in my margins and felt filled up, clear headed.
At last, this is what my soul needed. To dwell and be defined by Grace and Grace alone, to be fully present with the little people I have the privilege of belonging to. To not discover consistent evidence online that I am not enough.
Why is it so easy to find evidence we are not enough, we do not belong, we are less than? For so many years, breathing in my identity and value and assurance of who I am came as naturally as breathing in oxygen.
With the rise of social media and the rise of this blog and the release of my book and the decrease in people-seeing-people behind the screen, it has been tempting to fall into the trap of allowing the (whether silence or spoken or societal) opinions of others define me.
When I do this—when I allow my dignity and value to be dabbled with—I am negotiating who I am with others and particularly the others who do not approve of me. Whether this is actual people or societal norms, the reality of negotiating myself still stands.
But we cannot do this, we cannot negotiate who we are with others, in our mind or in conversation. When we do that, we may fit in to please others, but we no longer belong to ourselves. And in my case, when I negotiate who I am, I not only lose myself... I am no longer claiming myself as His.
Internally, it spirals me down and shakes me up and I do not want it. It is not productive in any way. The analyzing and over-analyzing and replaying of conversations (whether real or not) and outcomes in my head only incites insecurities, forgetting who I am in Him. The lies being whispered to my soul turn into shouts about my identity and worth.
So, slowly, but surely, I will climb out.
I will climb out by deleting the Facebook app off of my phone, by limiting my time on Instagram or Pages or Twitter. It's healthy to remember how incredibly small I am, but also how I live my life every single day matters incredibly much.
I am afraid to say I will limit my time watching Gilmore Girls, because LET'S BE REAL. That show is addicting. I've watched four seasons in a matter of weeks. (Embarrassing and proof I am clearly not myself...right?). But I need to use my hours post-bed time for working and cleaning and doing things I love. Cooking. Reading. Eating well. Journaling.
This usually takes time, this whole climbing out and into fresh air and fresh mind. I am sure I will have to do it again one day, because #seasons.
You know what's crazy? Loren and I, in our nearly-six-years of marriage, have never really been "settled." We have always felt uneasy, in transition, waiting. We are all waiting on something, but what I mean is.... when we were in vocational ministry in Corvallis, we knew we weren't going to be there for long. We expected to be there five years or less and didn't want to buy a house (not that we could have financially). Our transition from there to here unfolded in an entirely unexpected and world shattering way. Since then, Loren has been in graduate school, we have been pretty much living off of a photography hobby-turned-business, and we have two of the most beautiful babies we belong to.
Have I mentioned I am the luckiest mama?!?!?!
When he graduates and begins working next fall as a teacher, I don't even know if we will know how to operate not-in-survival-mode. You know? Like, our whole marriage and life together has been one of chaos and survival and go-go-go.
I greatly anticipate that new "season" and have no idea what to expect. Maybe I'll slow down my photography, or maybe I won't and I'll just use the money solely to fund another adoption.
I'll tell ya one thing though, I will not still be stuck in this anxiety doldrum.
I will not be knocked down so hard that I cannot get back up.
I will not be stuck and I will continue fighting for who I know I am, in Him. Because when I am operating in the free grace of who I am in Him, I see the world clearly. I work towards justice and grace and selflessness. I am gentle and fierce and living by His powerful spirit.. I am not absorbed in all the ways I am broken and stuck, but instead focused on using my time and energy to be a part of the Ripple.
That is who I am and who I want to be: working towards justice, chasing grace, focused on the freedom of others. Operating out of who I know I am in Him.