This, my friends, has Not Been A Good Week.
I came back from pack holiday with a stinking cold, a mountain of laundy, and a tonne of paperwork. Family stress upon stress (extended family, I hasten to add – my boys, as ever are incredible!) and to top it off a corneal abrasion (which, if you look it up, basically means a scratched eye. This doesn’t even begin to come near the level of pain it causes – I’ve been popping codeine like smarties all weeked) have all contrived to mean that the depression dogs have been barking a little more loudly than I like them to.
I’m a classic extrovert, but at times like this, what tends to happen is that adamantine walls about 25 feet wide get erected. This week, I happened to pick up an old book a friend sent me may years ago at an especially low point. It talks about ways to deal with stress, and how it’s important to yell “fire!” rather than chocolate – aside from the fact I’d far rather be yelling chocolate, what it was talking about was not minimising things – getting rid of the gritted teeth rictus grin and allowing people to see what’s actually going on.
With the exception of very few people, I suck at this. Suck suck suckity suck. I’ve been giving it a bit of a go this week – choosing wisely, but choosing to let some people see beyond the grin. I think, at the risk of sounding horribly presumptious, I might even have learnt a few things.
It’s bloody hard. The fixed grin, I reckon, is a self protective mode. Let me just pretend I’m ok for long enough and I will be. Let just pretend I’m ok for long enough and no-one will see the chaos inside. No-one has to see the real me.
It’s bloody necessary – the scriptures that’ve been coming to my mind recently have been the ones about us all being part of the body of Christ. We just can’t do it alone. I might like to try walking one legged but it’s, at very best, going to be hampered. And so being part of that body means we need to share the pain and the joy, because that’s how we grow together. It’s bloody stupid of me to ignore a sprained ankle, because “I should be stronger than that”. I need all the support going – crutches, bandaging, a shoulder to lean on, as well as all the other parts of my body to work together to get it sorted.
I’m writing this mostly for myself I think. It doesn’t come easy. But I’ve found a real – hope, I think, in opening up just a little this week. It doesn’t make it all better – it really doesn’t – but it does make the load lighter. The voices that shout “you should have this more together” – if you’re anything like me, you’ll recognise the ones I mean – are talking pure crap. It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to need to lean on people once in a while. It’ll be my turn to be leant on next. That’s how it works.
I’m actually feeling really tired – but really thankful tonight. Thankful to have some fantastic friends who’ve listened and chatted and made me smile. Thankful to have some extremely dear Christian family who’ve prayed and wept with me and encouraged me to look upward when my gaze is stuck downward.
We really are better together. Next question, of course – why the hell has it taken me 30 years to figure out?!