Purging

And again…you who remind me of my failures…please show me your consistent accomplishments that are my example to walk in.

Oh…what’s that? You just wanna show me my failures to pull me back into the bucket of do-nothing that you live in? Oh…sorry…I actually mistook your intention as something to bless…silly me. – Charissa Grace

I am consumed with this sentiment right now. My sister and litter mate knows this violent hemorrhaging intimately – death spilling out in waves as the darkest hidden places are finally exposed to light.

“Just keep letting the shit flow out…too long you ate it and harbored it in the name of serving Them and them…and now it needs to just get out.”

To which I replied, “Yes, I ate soooooooooo much…and it was never enough for them…never asked of me by Them. Purging, purging, purging…the shit I consumed for decades back into their do-nothing bucket. Here ya go people. Have it all.”

This is going to take a while, this phase. The worst and hardest part of a detox.

It’s a hell of a thing to break an addiction when pretty much everyone you’ve ever known is either a junky or a pusher/pimp with a vested interest in keeping you hooked and numb.

Reality (freedom) costs everything.

Friends

Livelihood

Reputation

Family

Comfort

Community

It’s the straight and narrow road so few are willing to acknowledge, much less travel – this death to everything, death to self and all its rights and judgments of wrongs.

It is the Way, the Truth and the Life. You want to know and commune with the ineffable? You must be ripped open and purged of everything that claims certainty and knowledge about anything concerning God. Absolutely everything. Consider the cost.

It’s really no mystery as to why we were so unpopular. That tends to happen when you focus exclusively on a Gospel that genuinely welcomes and pursues all the “wrong” people coupled with an invitation to follow Jesus into death in the most practical and applicable terms. Hardly anyone is up for that kind of disruption. It’s an absurd Good News to preach, and you will pay with your life if you do it with any kind of integrity.

I’m so envious of my friends who instinctively by nature know and engage the Goodness, if not necessarily the Name. It truly is a terrible thing to be chosen and elected, to see so clearly with no way to un-see, like Paul, who had no choice in the matter but to be a disciple of Jesus and pay the inherent cost.

But I do not envy those who know the Name, loudly praise the Name, aggressively defend the Name, arrogantly claim exclusive ownership of the Name yet callously trample Goodness underfoot.

You white washed tombs full of decaying corpses, you disgust and repulse me! I will not keep down the poison you force fed me for so long before beating and abandoning me. No, not for one second longer. I spew it all out now. Every drop. Wave after wave, it keeps coming up and out.

I spent my first official day of detox curled up on the floor behind my kitchen counter (not wanting my children to walk in on me) silently screaming and wailing and beating my forehead with my fist, “FUCK THEM ALL!”

Every one who plied us with vapid dishonest platitudes to our face but plotted our destruction behind the closed doors of the board room. FUCK YOU!

Every poison tongue who disparaged us and discouraged others from associating with us. FUCK YOU!

Every person who caused the weak and the vulnerable to suffer for their commitment to us, you who willfully and maliciously misled and planted seeds of confusion and doubt and guilt. FUCK YOU A THOUSAND TIMES OVER! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than have to answer to God for what you’ve done to torment these little ones.

You with full knowledge of the burden put upon us; you who had the ultimate responsibility to care for us; you who had the power to stop it with one word; you who didn’t have the balls to do anything as the wolves encircled us and began tearing our flesh but somehow found some massive ones when I came crawling to you bleeding and begging for help – “Well, you brought this on yourselves. You must not have been praying enough.”

FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK YOU!

It’s a fine line between “fuck you” and “thank you.” The line was indistinguishable last night. Go ahead now and insert “thank you” for every “fuck you” above. (With the exception of tormenting and manipulating the vulnerable…gunna just leave that as a solid FU as Jesus seemed to think so too).

Tyrannical Church Biddies and Spineless Self-Preserving Duplicitous Figureheads, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed. The very thing you tried to silence and stamp out, whether directly or through neglect and starvation, is unstoppable now. Thank you, truly. I am free from decades of repression and destruction and lies. I am free to speak and to live and to love and there is absolutely nothing more you can do to me. It’s not like you can take anything else away from someone who’s been reduced to nothing. You can’t kill a dead person. And I’m ready, so ready to be dead to it all.

But first I must purge, forcing myself to feel every single thing as deep as it goes. Then up and out.

Thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul. Up and out. I will continue to purge until I am good and dead.  I can’t wait.

My Sister and all the right “wrong” people are waiting for me there.

The Future of JD

Dreams of Rejection

My dearest silly little Love, why are you crying now that you are solidly on the path with Me with both feet? I was totally up front with you that this is the straight and narrow road so many ignore in favor of the wide and glitzy one. Why do you grieve and mourn that you were rejected and maligned and abandoned for pointing to and following Me? This has always been exactly the gig I call anyone who can and will to accept…and you did! I’m overjoyed and ridiculously proud of you.

Rejoice, you darling girl! Dance, sing, celebrate on this road together with Me! You are swimming in more gorgeous fruit and abundant life than you’ll ever know what to do with.

Dreams of Rejection

All The Way

Go all the way…

That’s all They’ve given me – this Invitation to Die.

Be careful what you ask for in earnest, Child.

They will give you the desires of your heart. They’ve always made Good on Their Word.

Will I even recognize it?

Maybe the falling is all there is on this side of life.

What I mistook for arrival was a series of ledges.

Just enough time to catch my breath after having the wind knocked out of me.

Then…another free fall into intangible.

I’ve flinched and flailed in the darkness, losing my grip on ALL THE THINGS.

Now?

I anticipate nothing.

Done grasping.

Done fighting.

Done blaming.

Done explaining.

Done asking.

Done.

There is only nothing.

Falling.

Release.

There’s no way back, Child.

You crossed that threshold long ago when you asked for this.

Don’t try to resurrect yourself. You’ve come this far.

Now go all the way.

Any Which Way But Jesus – Live From Israel

So first things first – TECHNOLOGY!! I don’t know ’bout the rest of ya’ll, but I’m old enough to remember life without the internet. As a kid I remember thinking how cool it would be if we could talk to people remotely with video screens like they did on the Jetsons (and pretty much anything set in the future). I’m ready for teleportation now, please…that and I want to go back and experience college with internet, cellphones, apps and laptops.
As my oldest two children have been off rockin’ their first years of college out in Nashville, I’ve talked to them more regularly (and intimately) and have literally seen more of what goes on in their lives than when we were all under the same roof thanks to texting, Snapchat, Instagram and video chat. We even have our own private family Facebook group on which they occasionally post to humor their old mom and dad.So you can imagine my delight yesterday morning being able to video chat with my daughter who is half way around the world studying abroad in Israel, Turkey and Greece.I knew she was headed for a monumental broadening of her perception, and I was even pretty sure at what point it would happen. What I didn’t expect was the gift of being right there with her in it as it happened. Thank you, technology, for allowing me to be with my girl as she processed an intense spiritual/life epiphany…and thank you, God, for a daughter who wanted/needed her mother to be with her in that moment.

Us Dickensons are weird like that. We dig the profound and personal and often turn to each other when the rest of life seems determined to stay solidly entrenched in the cheap and artificial. That’s how we’ve always functioned and survived as a family of faith in ministry.

WALKING IN JESUS’ FOOTSTEPS…MAYBE

When my daugher’s lovely face magically appeared on the device I held in my hand (seriously people, where is my flying car?), it was instantly obvious to me as her mother; she was diving deep into something that was going to take some work to be able to articulate.

“So…*sigh*” our conversation began, “we’re on what…day 5 of this trip? It feels like it’s been 5 weeks.”

Kathryn went on to say how much she loved her new friends and traveling companions, the leaders and the tour guides and what a great time she was having…but…she was realizing an accelerated shift in her understanding was happening and she would never again be the same from this point going forward.

“Aaaaaand…I have to somehow write my experience down in this.” she said as she held up the daily journal the students are required to write in for the course. I smiled and nodded and gave her the space to try and verbalize it.

The first few days had been spent hitting all the main touristy “holy” sites. Though it’s absolutely impossible to say with any certainty, here’s where Jesus may have actually walked. Here’s the spot where St. Peter may have lived. Here’s the spot where Jesus may have performed such and such a miracle. Here is the traditional spot where it’s said the angel Gabriel visited the virgin Mary. What is certain is that there are ornate churches and gift shops built on each and every one of those traditional sites that are a source of major tourism revenue for the country. You can eat what Jesus probably ate, buy souvenirs made from the wood from the types of trees Jesus talked about and vials of Jordan river water and anointing oils to bring back home and pour over the heads of the devout as a special blessing (i.e. God will surely answer our prayers because we’re using authentic Holy Land bling). Jesus, the tourist attraction, is very, very popular and lucrative.

It was while visiting the Jordan River that Kathryn really wrestled. There’s a traditional baptismal site complete with steps and guardrails where annually thousands of Christian pilgrims go to be immersed in the same waters in which Jesus was baptized. Though many of her companions took the plunge, Kathryn ultimately opted not to.  She did post this pic though which clued me in to what she was thinking and feeling even before she called to talk to me.

Look Mom, I’m standing in the Jordan River

“Everywhere we’ve gone has been historically fascinating, but not particularly spiritually significant for me. At all these traditional holy sites, the group seems to be having these emotionally-charged, spiritually cathartic moments…or maybe everybody’s pretending…I don’t know…I just know I’m not.”

*fist pump*      THAT’S OUR GIRL!
Where she did find spiritual and even a physical connection to Jesus via her 5 senses was away from the crowds and the tradition in a quiet and pristine spot on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in Capernaum.

In all likelihood, Kathryn was indeed seeing what Jesus saw as she participated in his regular practice of retreating in silence and solitude in an area where he was known to have spent a lot of time building significant relationships.

WWJS?

I think the most significant question we could possibly ask ourselves in terms of what it means to be like Christ is –

What would Jesus see?…or more accurately, but doing away with the WWJ (and can we agree that just needs to die anyway?) – HOW would Jesus see the world, my world, my experiences, my life right now?

What would his take be on the relationships in my family? What would his attitude be towards the myriad of interconnected and clashing cultures and their politics today? What would his attitude be toward my neighbor? What would his attitude be toward my enemy? Who would he see as “the least of these” today? What would Jesus think about the booming tourism business bearing his name? What would Jesus think about the church and modern religious traditions also bearing his name? How would Jesus see the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

BURSTING THE BUBBLE

Kathryn was fully aware she’d been born and raised within an American Christianity bubble, and she knew it was going to burst in cataclysmic fashion on this trip. I not only knew it would happen, but upon looking at the trip itinerary, I knew exactly when – day 5, when they would cross the security border into the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. Oh sure, there was yet another “traditional” site to visit in Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, that was absolutely not maybe the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Ornate church – check. Gift shop with an assortment of Virgin Mary and sweet baby Jesus tchotchkes –check. 

But that certainly wasn’t the part of day 5 that rocked my girl’s world into another dimension. No. All it took was to simply cross the checkpoint. Once you cross over to the other side of the wall, all the preconceived notions and indoctrination from your American Evangelical Christian culture about “those people” and what they believe and represent evaporates as does whatever narrative you’ve been led to believe from the American media.

Well, I suppose it doesn’t for everybody…but for those with eyes to see…and my girl has always had gorgeous eyes, sharply focused on lovely and mysterious things.  She saw very clearly for the first time in her 20 years what life looked like outside the tarnished bubble, and it was –

Gut wrenchingly beautiful, heartbreaking, joyful, impossible, inspiring, frustrating beyond all description, hopeful beyond all description.

What was being birthed in her that day was unadulterated and unencumbered compassion…she was seeing exactly as Jesus does. This was a baptism of Spirit that a dunk in the Jordan couldn’t have begun to touch.

“Mom, I knew I was going to be changed on this trip. I knew being exposed to other cultures and seeing things for myself outside of books and what others have told me was going to expand my perceptions…but…but…”  She trailed off not being able to find adequate words.

And what exactly was responsible for such radical transformation and epiphany? Seeing and hearing people and their reality and touching it for herself. That’s entirely it. Their stories, their experiences, their families, their hopes, their dreams, their despair, their fears, their anger, their joy, their culture and individual expression.

Holy crap! (surely that too must be for sale, if you find it, Kafafrin, you know I want need). Contrary to everything she’d been led to believe, Kathryn found Jesus hanging out on the Palestinian side of the graffiti-plastered barrier.  Who woulda thunk it? (well, besides me…I totally called it).

“I mean, I know that discrimination, distrust and dehumanizing exists everywhere, but it’s so concentrated in this place.”

Oh it most certainly is…every bit as much as when Jesus walked in all those places where you are now.  You, my girl, are truly seeing. Now to start walking into those undesirable places where you see love leads…into messy lives, holding nothing of yourself back, with no personal agenda or expectation…only open invitation.  Love leads you to simply BE Jesus in the moment in connection with other broken humans, shedding the indoctrination and tradition in order to see them (and very much yourself) as Jesus sees.

I thought I couldn’t be any more proud of this woman or marvel any deeper that I had anything to do with her being in this world. Now I know better. I will never cease to be amazed, inspired, and encouraged by her. The only thing I will ever want for any of my children is for them to have eyes to see and ears to hear and the courage to follow where love leads. Falling on my face tonight in tears and awe that I got to “see” her baptism live from Israel.

Mixed Messages

I’m sure everyone can relate to parts of this regardless of gender. It’s not about any specific people or situations, just a composite of mixed messages I’ve received over my lifetime as a female. It’s been quite the task to undo a lifetime of conditioning and learn to listen to the only voice that gets to tell me who I AM. God declares that I am inherently very good.  But in the eyes of most humans (many times myself included), I have to attain and maintain these things in order to be acceptable:

BE PRETTY. No, be prettier. Whatever you have to do at all times to be prettier…unless we feel intimidated and want to justify indulging our own insecurities or we’re just not in the mood to exercise self-control or basic kindness. Then it’s on you for showing off too much pretty. Be just attractive enough to where you are effortlessly pleasing to look at and a fine prop to make US look and feel good.

BE SMART, but don’t you dare think. Always work to be smarter, but DO NOT show us just how smart you are, cuz ya know…that intimidation thing again. You want to be liked, don’t you?  Use your smarts to figure out how to show just enough smarts without being too smart and you’ll be fine. Don’t ever expect us to work to understand you. Dumb it down for us without making it look like you’re dumbing it down for us. Here, we’ll help you by putting you down. Then, as you’re scraping yourself off the floor, everyone can see you having to come up to our level. There’s a smart girl now.

BE STRONG. Come on honey, don’t play the victim. Show us whatcha got…except when it challenges us in any way, then you’re a mean bitch.

BE HONEST. We applaud this wonderful virtue, but not when you expose parts of yourself that aren’t pretty or are (again) too smart or too vulnerable. Some of that spotlight might accidentally get on the rest of us, threatening to expose our dark and messy places. We can’t have that now, darlin’. Yes, be honest, but learn to recognize when that shit becomes an inconvenience and threat to our agenda, and then be a good girl and shut the fuck up.

WORK HARD. We’re perfectly happy to take every last drop of your soul. Just start pouring and don’t ever stop. We’ll dictate to you exactly what and exactly how, and when we dump a shovelful of shit on your head we expect you to smile and accept our criticism like a shower of rose petals. We’ll think you’re wonderful (if we think of you at all) as long as you remain that steady, quiet, compliant worker bee and keep producing for us. But the minute you trip or fall or die and can’t anymore? Well, that’s on you, stupid girl. Shame on you for not being enough to meet our expectations or having what it takes to stand up under the weight of all we projected on you.

Make us uncomfortable in any way and we can instantly paint you into the insane, ugly, stupid, arrogant, ungrateful bitch we need you to be. One word. One second. That’s all we need. Remember that.

Now, go be the pretty, smart, courageous, industrious woman of integrity God intended you to be!

Or else.

Killing Liberty Grace

Everything I wrote about coming out of church world was/is a prophetic direct parallel to coming out of my abusive marriage, none more so than this one from 2015. I now know at the time of this writing he’d already dove hard and I was walking dead. Today I sing “Fuck This Shit I’m Out” as a beautiful, rowdy benediction. Won’t you stand and join me?

Meet my big-thinker Mini Me, Liberty Grace. I’ve never been so in love with a name…almost as much as the girl. As much as I laud reason and practicality in my expressions of faith, there’s always been a significant vein of mysticism and natural contemplative spirituality winding through me too. I truly consider my daughter’s name to be prophetic. It was while I was pregnant with her that the first rumblings began…a stirring within me that God was up to something new for us, something powerful and free. God was indeed going to fulfill my lifelong yearning to experience Them in fullness and abundance, but there was going to be an extreme price to pay. Was I willing?


THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY GRACE

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

I’d ached and prayed for this since I was 16, but now that my sleepy eyes were adjusting to the brilliant light and my ears finally attuned to reality, in order to maintain any kind of integrity with what I was experiencing, I had to let go of some “absolutes” I’d been taught were nonnegotiable. It was an incredibly difficult and uncomfortable process, long before I let anyone else see me, but on the other side of that wall – Liberty.  

Taste and see that the Lord is good…

Freedom to investigate, smell, touch, taste, take or leave ALL THE THINGS. Freedom through experience to discover what is good, when and how much. Freedom from the fear of eternal damnation should I cross arbitrary lines or peer down a path someone before me had labeled “forbidden.” Freedom to move and view things from different angles. Freedom to change my mind with perspective. Freedom to use all the words (heads up for those who get the vapors over salty language, the end of this post is NSFW). And most definitely the freedom to screw up.

A necessary byproduct of freedom is alarmingly frequent failure, which is why Liberty is lost without her sister, Grace.  

Grace not only incorporates failure as a given, it transforms it into valuable treasure, not wasting a single experience. Grace redeems the wildness of Liberty…but without Liberty, there is absolutely no need for Grace.


THE ABOMINATION OF CERTAINTY

The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.  Anne Lamott

Certainty is the despicable antithesis of freedom and grace.

Certainty is a false construct that chokes out Liberty in favor of conformity and absolute “rightness.” It enslaves. It inhibits. It discourages. It threatens. It controls. It lies.  

Certainty viciously resists and maligns Grace, because to receive Her is to admit inadequacy, which is never an option for Certainty.

Certainty shrieks and shames into submission, “DON’T touch! DON’T taste! DON’T move! NEVER screw up…or you’ll surely DIE!

It’s the flip side of The Great Lie the serpent sold Eve and a sacred metaphorical takeaway from the Genesis creation myth and the Tale of Two Trees <—-(future blog). If you find yourself with doctrinal hackles raised at my honest take of Genesis as an ancient prophetic Hebrew origins myth (it’s a talking snake, for cryin’ out loud!), may I calmly suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on your defensiveness, anger, and I’d wager if you looked honestly enough – fear – and question from where that might originate…and do you really think it’s from God?

*Hint* Aggressive defensiveness that seeks to inhibit and shut down is the fruit of Certainty, NOT of Liberty and Grace and the clearest indication we’ve been gorging ourselves on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life.


WITCH HUNTERS – THE DISCIPLES OF CERTAINTY

A life of Liberty and Grace is proactive, always looking for what it can do

Certainty is entirely restrictive, focused only on what it can stop.

Certainty’s absolute “rightness” depends on someone else’s absolute “wrongness,” the perfect breeding ground for sanctimonious witch hunters and gate keepers obsessed with silencing the heretics. The wronger you are, the righter I am.

There is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The same Pharisaical spirit of Certainty and repression is alive and well, running rampant and largely encouraged in its destruction and division in the Church today.

Let’s play a little word association, shall we?

What’s your initial reaction to the name “Rob Bell?” How ’bout “Emergent Church?” I’m betting it’s one of these three:

  1. I have no idea what you’re talking about (bless you and I insanely envy you).
  2. *Looks nervously over shoulder and whispers * I kinda resonate with what he’s saying.
  3. HERETIC!! Burn the witch! Drive out the infidel from among us! Set phasers to KILL. 

SLAUGHTERING PROPHETS

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.

I first became aware of Rob Bell through the rabid counter-movement to stop all things “Emergent” from infecting the institution from which we (Jimmy and I and Four Creeks) came. Had the witch hunters (which tragically made up half the church board) not whipped themselves up into such an aggressive frenzy, I would have been blissfully unaware there was any such “danger” to be on guard against. Jimmy simply didn’t care (sometimes I really hate how good he is at that). I, as usual, cared way too much. I made a calculated decision not to read or consume anything from Rob Bell, not because I was afraid of what anybody might think, but because I wanted to look people square in the eye when they asked us for the umpteenth time whether anything about our vision for Four Creeks was influenced by the Emergent Church movement and be able to honestly say, “No, Ms. Church Biddy who has the power to make decisions about my family’s livelihood and future, it’s all me and Jimmy and our own conscience and integrity.”

So assume what you will if you recognize any similarities between the Emergent Church movement or Rob Bell’s theology and what you can glean about mine. I really don’t care ’cause I honestly don’t know myself what they are other than what the anti-Rob Bell bandwagon continues to rail against ad nauseam.

What I do know is how much I hate the justification for such murderous division in the name of God. I’ve witnessed (and been on the receiving end of) so much destruction…the killing of reputations, relationships, and livelihoods, all in the name of Certainty and doctrinal purity by people who honestly think they are doing God’s work in being utterly shitty and discouraging, while most others are complicit in their silence and passivity in allowing such evil to go unchallenged.


FTSIO

The bulk of the drama is behind us…or at least I hope to God that’s true. I’m so very, very tired. But honestly, no matter how tough and strong I come off through my writing and Facebook posting, the reality is I’m reeling, still trying to recover from a significant ministry relationship breakup that went down a couple months ago. I felt so traumatized and violated. Add a sprinkling of Facebook encounters with people popping up like ghosts from that past life, never having a word to say to us for years when we most needed it but feeling justified to come out of the shadows to criticize over doctrinal issues and…yeah…I’m at a complete loss. I just don’t know what to say or do with people who actually know me who think my honest expressions of what I see, what I experience, what I believe are a threat to be eliminated.

I think this utter done-ness is very good. It didn’t happen in a way I ever would have chosen and if I’d seen coming would have ran screaming the other direction…but I have lived through it. I have tasted, I have touched, I have seen and I have heard and I will never be the same and I can never go back. The thought of doing so is less appealing to me than a dog licking up its own vomit.

I’d been hanging on to that old life by the barest of threads for a long time, thinking surely something could be salvageable. But I’m coming to the realization that the path forward into abundant life requires a complete letting go of everything that fears and seeks to kill something so precious as Liberty Grace. 

Sometimes the most graceful thing you can do is use your freedom to walk away and say…

Scary Girl

Hush Scary Girl, we don’t want any trouble

Hush Scary Girl, we surely do not want to see

Hush Scary Girl, unless you’re singin’ pretty nothings

Your voice is a terrifying thing


Hush Scary Girl, your talk of reconciliation

Hush Scary Girl, back to as you were before

Hush Scary Girl, you no longer serve our purpose

So burn the bridge and triple lock that door


We’d rather have you broken if it meant you’d shut your mouth

We’d rather see you crushed than stretched ourselves

We appeased you to your face in exchange for hasty exit

But you didn’t go away…You just wouldn’t go away

You refused to play our game and die in silence


Hush Scary Girl, now we just can’t have you thinkin’

Hush Scary Girl, this is not the way to be

Hush Scary Girl, now we can’t have people seeing

The Truth that Was and Is and Yet To Be

So This is Forty-Something

To my beloved fellow quadragenarians, pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage (for which you will most likely never be carded again), put your swollen, achy feet up and sit with me a spell.

This is an invite to take a break from our usual Facebook political ranting, swapping tales of the hardships of life before the internet, or bemoaning the depravity of Miley Cyrus and how far the VMA’s have strayed from the wholesome days of Madonna. Let’s stop for just a moment to reflect and check in with each other.

How the heck are you? For reals…how are you?

IMG_20150905_211706Can you believe we’re here already solidly in the middle-aged demographic? Does life look anything at all like you imagined it would be? Or rather, do you think the teenage you (who had much more exciting things to do than contemplate the future harsh realities of adulthood) would be overall happy or horrified if they could see you now?  I don’t know about you, but I am not as old as my parents were at this age, though I hope to be as young as them at 70.

7T-midlife-crisis-1

Have you navigated your midlife crisis yet? Maybe you are smack dab in the thick of it. If you haven’t had at least one yet, you are either overdue or in denial, my friend. Come on now, take another swig of your beverage and get honest with me. Maybe you were lucky enough to have a very mild version that was easy to pass off and move on from, but I don’t see how any of us get through these middle years without some kind of forced reflection and spiritual restructuring. I actually feel quite sorry for anyone who denies their humanity enough to resist such a natural life progression.

I was an early bloomer and got my first adulting-is-impossibly-hard breakdown out of the way in my early thirties in the midst of a health crisis when some trauma I’d experienced in my twenties took advantage of the situation to catch up with me.

I’m just now fresh on the other side of another particularly debilitating emotional/spiritual derailing that defined my early 40s. Now at 44, I sincerely hope (and do believe I am) done with crisis mode. Ain’t no peri-menopausal woman got time for that.

We’ve all got a significant chunk of life, love and loss under our belts resulting in a mixed bag of dreams. Some materialized beyond our wildest imagination, others fell short of our expectations. By far the hardest thing to come to terms with are the dreams that will either never be reality or have been permanently ripped from us. That is reality for us all.

cut-off-timeTime, that heartless beast, just doesn’t seem to care one bit about you or me or our desires and dreams. It relentlessly marches forward and takes us with it whether we go somewhat gracefully or dragged kicking and screaming.

Our forties are prime wrestling years, juggling all the responsibilities of maintaining the good stuff we’ve built up over 4 decades while simultaneously being forced to deal with all-to-real, in-our-face losses and limits. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m a big believer in sharing lessons learned. Somebody somewhere can relate and find value. So, here are a few survival tips I’ve learned through my own ungraceful navigation of my midlife crises.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Being kind to yourself while in crisis is hard to do as it is overwhelmingly tempting to despise ourselves in our weakness. The most unsettling thing about a MLC is when everything we’ve depended on that had worked well for us to that point grinds to a halt. Working harder, pushing back, stuffing things deeper just – doesn’t – work – anymore. In our panic, rather than look at and deal with the painful realities being forced to the surface, we get mad at ourselves for being weak and allowing the security breach at all; mad at the loss of control as our failures and weakness break loose for all to see and judge. “Stupid self! How could you let this happen?”

Be kind to yourself because there is nothing new under the sun. You are not alone in your failures, losses, disappointments, and you are certainly not alone in your desperate desire to present a got-it-together, smiley-faced imposter version of yourself to the world. When the mask gets ripped off, no matter how disoriented and terrified you feel, remember above all else to be kind to yourself. The real you being exposed is neither failure nor freak. You are sharing in one of the most common human experiences. Though this process initially feels like death, it is actually a great gift of enrichment of your humanity. The ultimate act of self-kindness is in allowing yourself to receive this painfully precious gift rather than resisting it.

BE PATIENT

It is a process. Remember the relentless Beast of Time. Not only can you not turn it back, but it also cannot be rushed. You’ve got 40+ years of patterns of thinking and behaving that are being unraveled and rewired. It’s going to feel horrible for a while before it feels better. That’s just reality. Again, remember to be kind to yourself as you move through a tortuously slow-moving and unwanted season of life. You aren’t going to be able to MacGyver yourself out of this one. Remind yourself that important restructuring is happening to enable to you move forward into something new even though you feel intractably stuck.

CLING TO HOPE

My mantra upon waking up every Sunday morning starting Easter 2012 was, “It’s not always going to be like this.” I had no idea for how long I’d be mucking through severe anxiety and depression related to our church saga, but I did know whether through “failure” or “success” (hard to tell which is which anymore) there was a day in the future waiting for me when I could look back and say, “Well done, Chicka. So worth it.” That day, 3-1/2 years later, is now.

As long as you are given one more day, cling to a future hope that it won’t always be like it is now. Whether your circumstances fluctuate between good, bad, tragic or meh, you will be different 6 months from now – 3 years from now – 10 years from now. The you of the future will have a unique and invaluable perspective because of exactly what you are experiencing right now. Today’s grief and confusion is the crucible in which fine gold is being refined. Endure the process. Hold out for the day you’ll be able to look back at this time and comprehend its value. You’ll get there, and you’ll know it when you do.

HAVE COURAGE

There is a lot of strength and power in your forties. You’re not done yet. No matter how colossal your failures to this point have been, you’ve got a relative amount of health and energy to accomplish big things along with some hard-earned wisdom that a 20-something couldn’t touch. Do you need to make some changes in your life to optimize your health? Do you need to finally say “no” to career/things/people who suck soul and “yes” to what builds you up and makes you fully alive? Well, I’m with Shia on this one…

There’s never been a better time for you to take direction of your life as well as so much opportunity in each day to experience peace NOW while building a future worth looking forward to. Take advantage of the sweet spot you are in even if it feels anything but sweet right now. Balls to the wall while you’ve still got ’em, you fierce Forty-Somethings. If you are being kind to yourself and clinging to hope, you will have the necessary courage to just DO IT!!

CONNECT, CONNECT, CONNECT

This is by far the most important. As humans, we are all hard wired for connection. A midlife crisis is a significant dis-connect as we wrestle with our losses and limitations to come up with a new way forward. The gift of the MLC is that the disconnect is not permanent or without purpose. The old system is in process of being re-wired for optimal emotional/spiritual functioning as we transition into the second half of life.

It is critical that we stay connected with others as this disruptive process does its work in us. Part of remaining connected is allowing ourselves to be completely honest, first and foremost with ourselves. We need to be honest about just how much we hate where we are, how scary it is, and how isolated and overwhelmed we feel. For the very real love of God for you – Let those closest to you, those you love and trust, see and hear it all. No matter how strong the instinct may be, do not push people away and go it alone, whether it be a matter of pride or reluctance to disrupt the status quo or inconvenience anyone. Your life IS disrupted. Be honest about it or you will lose the most critical connections in your life at a time when you most desperately need them.

just-do-itIf at all possible, seek professional help. If you can afford a therapist, DO IT NOW! If you can afford one but won’t, then give to Four Creeks Church and earmark your donation to go to me so I can afford professional therapy. I’m only half kidding. As it is, I do a fair amount of leaching off my friends’ therapy sessions and their breakthroughs and insights and healing. You don’t have to be in full-blown breakdown to benefit from therapy. Every single one of us, just by virtue of being human, needs help and connection and tools and encouragement. A professional therapist is skilled specifically to give you the necessary tools and support to navigate and work through emotional crisis and dysfunction as well as help you communicate effectively with the safe, vital connections in your life. They can also identify if you might require medical intervention to aid in achieving health and balance. Do it. Do it now.

EMBRACE REALITY

All relational dysfunction is rooted in rejecting reality in favor of an easier, more comforting lie. Breakdowns happen when the facade inevitably crumbles and we’re forced to deal with reality but are ill-equipped to do so. Breakthroughs happen when we learn how to embrace and live in absolute reality.

Reality is, no Forty-Something actually knows if they are truly middle aged. For all I know, I could have just eaten my last meal and kissed my children goodnight forever. That’s not a reality we ever look ahead to for ourselves when we’re 17. It’s hard enough to accept even when tragically experiencing it numerous times as we get older.

Reality is, we had a mini high school reunion over the summer and it was a spiritual renewal of sorts for me. We’d all long since grown out of cliques. We’d all been beaten up by life enough to have nothing left to prove to anyone. We were simply glad to have made it, thankful to have each other to share the journey, making the most of what became a sacred opportunity to hug the necks of dear old friends and even dear new ones (social media rocks, don’t it?) and to be able to express face-to-face what we mean to each other.

Reality is, I saw one of my most cherished friends struggling, obviously entrenched in a whopper of a midlife crisis. You know who you are and you know this is for you. Don’t make me go Shia LaBeouf on you again. You know I love you enough to be that pain in your ass until my last breath.

Reality is, I was moved to write this after searching through my high school yearbook for a picture for a friend’s memorial earlier today. He’s frozen in my mind as that skinny kid with the brilliant smile and gentle soul. Reality is, he died not being able to perceive the reality of just how much he was loved and needed and mattered.

Reality is, Forty-Something Friends – You do infinitely matter. You are infinitely loved. You are accepted and wanted, completely and unconditionally simply because YOU ARE. Each day with you on this planet is a precious gift.

Reality is, most days are a struggle for any of us to perceive and accept that reality.

Reality is, reality doesn’t stop being reality even though we may lose our ability to perceive it.

Reality is, we’re all in the same boat and no one needs to go it alone. Link arms, pull in tight, and let’s rock tomorrow and the next day together, connected and strong, fierce Forty-Somethings.