Actually, a lot of people have said it. I guess I make a killer first impression that says:
“I’ve figured out how to do life. I’ve got my act together. I’m beautiful and powerful and intelligent.”
Heh. On my good days, maybe.
Let’s not forget that I also studied acting in college (full confession for those who don’t know: I’m the first-born child of an actress. You think I *don’t* know how to project an impression?)
I don’t mean to say all you see is a carefully-crafted facade. The reality is that no matter how lovely or competent I look, I’m dragging a train behind me of fears, weaknesses, and a broken heart.
This year especially was the year of broken hearts.
Two babies lost. Two enormous waves of hope that crashed down on the rocks. More pain and despair and awful dark thoughts than I ever thought I’d walk through. And now, perhaps a a result, I see the pain pf others more clearly.
The woman who burns with loneliness and yearns only to see more of her family while her body’s physical ailments confine her to limited movement. The man who had his life prepared to marry the woman he loved, only to receive the shocking and startling “no” that changed everything. The woman who has all the patience, love, and affection to be a fantastic mother who has discovered her body needs massive medical intervention just to have the chance of getting pregnant.
Pain has passed before my eyes before, but in so many ways I saw each instance as an outsider. Compassion welled up in my heart, but now, with my own deep grief, I’m finding that a new empathy flows.
I didn’t want this empathy. I’m not going to say “Oh yay! Now I’ll be glad for everything I went through, because I see how it all adds up!”
On my thankful days, I’m grateful that I can cradle the bitterness of my struggling friends and family, rocking them and pondering with understanding. On the bad days, I’m an impatient, raging mess filled with exclamations of “This isn’t fair!” and “What is the point?” and sometimes, in the darkest moments, “Why can’t I just die now?”
Do you know what takes courage? Finding reasons to laugh when all you want to do is curl up in a dark room. Dancing with your husband (alternate version: dancing with your baby/toddler on your hip) instead of staring at a blank wall. Forcing yourself to not hide from the people whose happiness makes you feel miserable, but also being gentle enough to know when you need your space to recover.
My dad’s side of the family speaks Arabic. The word “habibi” is a term of endearment that translates as “beloved.” When we say it to my son, he thinks we’re saying “Hi, Baby!” It’s these things that remind me to smile. They lead me back, slowly but surely, in steps toward a road that’s lit by hope and joy.
So many things worthy of gratitude pass us every day in life, yet one large vacuum of pain can tear it all away.
For me, choosing to be thankful and to trust God to help me with the challenges I’ll face is a daily meditation. I can only hope that it will help me launch the day with the strength I need to finish it without sliding back into the darkness.
“Wow, Elise, maybe you don’t have it all together.” Yep. That’s the point. I don’t.
So give hugs liberally. Say kind things as often as you can. Offer hope and brightness in your conversations and your emails and your texts. You never know what impact your words and love will make, or what hurting heart will receive them.