I’ve Been in Pain

946770_10153542624579818_1936731990056128860_nIt’s been a long time since sharing my words in this setting. Too long. Its been an awkward enough pause to address it, but doing so is easier said than done. Some bloggers would suggest I call it a “sabbatical.” That’s really just a cop out at this point. Still others would counsel to have me point to my behind the scenes projects to show that I’ve been “in demand” and the brand is still thriving. And yes, I’ve been working furiously on the book and lining up my 2016 speaking engagements, but it’s certainly not what’s kept me away.

Here’s the unglamorous and totally truthful reality:

I’ve been in pain.

Some of it is physical pain. Many of you know I suffer from a debilitating pair of chronic health conditions called Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Fibromyalgia. Winter is the hardest time of year for both these conditions, as cold and flu season hit with a vengeance and cold weather is a known trigger for additional fibromyalgia pain – especially now that we’ve left mild CA for a state with an actual winter. We even had our first ever snow this year. The pain has been harder to tolerate than I’ve been used to, and our medical insurance situation last year left me unable to pursue any real forms of help. I’ve been fairly open about these issues on my social media accounts, and have appreciated the wonderful support Ive received from both my readers and and from fellow members of the spoonie community. And it would have been easy to enough to leave it there and accept all the good wishes and understanding emails of encouragement. But that’s not the whole truth…

I’ve been in pain.

I’ve been neck deep in pain that was difficult to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else. It’s a pain I’ve tried to rationalize myself out of, explain away, and stifle down it hopes it would disappear on its own. But as with most pain, it really doesn’t work that way. It’s continued on as this persistent ache, popping up at the most inopportune moments and gnawing away at my ability to ignore it. It’s not going anywhere, and the more I attempt to ignore it the more aggravated it becomes.

12079310_10153395021604818_4867164213940879901_n
I’ve been in pain.

At the beginning of 2015, in the midst of our multiple months of unemployment, my husband and I discovered we were very unexpectedly pregnant. It was quite the shock, and I would lying if I said it didn’t take some time to used to the idea. It was literally the worst possible timing, but it was far from unwelcome. We felt blessed to be experiencing the possibility of another miracle baby, one we had been discussing for some time but weren’t quite ready to take the leap to try for yet. That baby was a shining light in the middle of a dark season, a much needed anchor of hope to ballast us in the midst of so much uncertainty.

And then, after a longer than usual ultrasound with the nurse, the doctor said those horrible two words.

Not. Viable.

This marked the 7th child that we wont meet until eternity. A 7th precious little one with no birthday to celebrate, no future to plan.

I’ve been in pain.

12342486_10153485769759818_246129569753746655_nSoon after the loss,  my closest friend was blessed with her own unexpected surprise: a 4th little one to join her beautiful brood. It was a joy I admittedly have struggled to untangle from my own sorrow. The happiness I feel for her is authentic, but it’s difficult not to feel the pain of the could have beens. Up until now all our boys have been perfectly staggered in age. If I had carried my most recent pregnancy to term, this trend would have continued, but with the final pair being the closest in age of the bunch. We would have experienced our first pregnancy we’d actually get to do together. Watched the boys grow together. Done it all together.

I’ve been in pain.

Perhaps the hardest part of miscarriage is that the world around you goes on, and you carry no visible scar to help legitimize your pain. There isn’t a label such as “widow.” There is no grave marker to show. There’s no words to properly explain the gaping hole you know you’re walking around with but simply can’t find a way to show. You’re seemingly alone in it. – and no one knows, or they’ve all but forgotten.

I’ve been in pain.

They say, “time heals all wounds.” Has this ever really been true? If you leave a gaping hole in your leg untreated and wait for time to remedy it, does it really heal? Don’t you usually end up with gangrene? Why have we been taught to believe any different with invisible wounds? Why do we beat ourselves up when our pain doesn’t heal according to some fabricated timeline we’ve assigned ourselves? Why do we feel the need to limit the reaches of our grief? And how can we ever find healing for wounds we are so unwilling to admit, let alone treat.

I’ve been in pain.

1237591_10153541449494818_9191476745620302457_nMy best friend welcomed her 4th little guy into the family a couple weeks ago. He’s beautiful: perfect in every way. And with his birth, I was finally able to admit out loud to my husband for the first time whats really been paining me. Maybe it was the first time I was truly able to admit it to myself. I miss my baby. I miss what might have been. I ache to have a photo, or a birthday, or even a name for this perfect little person I haven’t been able to meet.

I’ve been in pain.

Perhaps finally admitting it is the first step to real healing. It stings like mad, but most wounds don’t heal themselves. And I refuse to ignore this one any longer.

Apologizers Anonymous

support group stock pic

Hello my name is Stephanie.  And I’m sorry.

Bob Goff loves to tell his readers that they should quit something every Thursday. It’s a powerful concept really: intentionally looking at yourself each week and trying to identify something that’s holding you back, bringing you undue stress or guilt, or otherwise just doesn’t need to be part of your life anymore. So when a post from Bob showed up in my Facebook feed last night asking what I was going to quit? I took a pause and gave it a thought.

And then I had the essential come to Jesus moment of any addict. The scene where I said, “Whoah. I have a problem. An apology problem.”

It’s often the butt of jokes  – my husband jokes about it, my mom jokes about it, a number of my close friends joke about it. I say “sorry” so many times in a day it’s enough to make your head spin. Preemptive apologies. Apologies for things totally out of my control. Apologies for things no one noticed or cared about. There have even been multiple occasions where someone has called me out for apologizing so much – and I have responded by apologizing for apologizing. Thats right ladies and gentlemen, I even say sorry for saying sorry too much.

They say the first to recovery is to admit you have a problem.  Im pretty sure your step two involves a meeting somewhere with free coffee and maybe even a donut. Im kind of hoping I get a donut. Once you get past the donut step though? I’m admittedly pretty clueless as to what comes next. I feel like this is the part where someone should be assigning me a sponsor. Someone I can awkwardly call in the middle of the night and say “I’m so sorry for waking you but…” Of course then they’d have to call me out on my whole opening the call with the apology thing, and the whole call would likely just devolve from there. I’m pretty sure any sponsor of mine would go nuts pretty quickly. Folks there is NO amount of free donuts that is fair compensation for my unique level of crazy.

And yet I’m still feeling like it’s time to take up Bob’s challenge. It’s time to quit with all the sorries. The apologies I do make would likely be far more meaningful if they were rarer, if they were reserved for things that were truly deserving of my remorse. Yes, I’m fully aware how hard this habit will be to break.  I expect at some point to have friends and readers call me out for not successfully keeping to this goal, and my response will most likely be to apologize for it. I’m in deep y’all. So deep. But it’s still worth a try. It’s a habit I recognize impedes my ability to be my best me, and to confidently embrace my worth. So I’m standing up behind the podium of my blog, in this wonderful support group meeting we all call the internet, and I’m saying to you all:

Hello, my name is Stephanie. And I am so sorry for always saying sorry. Wait, sorry for that, cause that was me saying sorry again. But so was THAT. Sorry. I mean… ugh. Ok. Not saying sorry anymore. Sorry this is coming out all jumbled. I mean I’m not sorry. Sorry. Crap. ………. Did anyone bring donuts?

More Than A Buzzword

If you’re fairly present on social media like I am, you may have noticed some really positive words are trending lately. Words like authentic, and intentional, and vulnerable – they’ve all been reaching their veritable status buzzwords and are now being hashtagged at a fever pitch. It seems fairly evident that people are growing increasingly weary of the constant facade and are tired of being bombarded with picture perfect highlight reels of seemingly perfect lives on social media. So we carve these words into the covers of our journals or buy beautiful hand lettered prints on Etsy, determined to apply their virtues as we embrace the new year.

And for many, thats where it stops.

Because reality is that these are incredibly demanding words. They fly in the face of all that we value as a modern society and demand that we live in a radically countercultural way to everyone and everything around us. And for most of us, thats just simply not what we signed up for.

authenticity

I mean sure, we like the IDEA of “intentional,” and we want people to SEE us “authentic,” but are we really ready to sign up for turning our entire existence upside down to dedicate ourselves to words that so wholly refute most everything we have built our lives on?

And so countless women across Instagram throw their hair into a strategically messy ponytail, put on their makeup but skip those last steps of eyeliner and gloss, and take 3-4 outtakes before finding the perfect selfie to hashtag #therealme

Moms all over Facebook straighten up their living rooms, leaving a few toys scattered just so, and post a half-truth update about needing to be #authentic about the way their house isn’t actually perfect.

Ugly, gross, embarrassing truth time? I’ve DONE this. For my own personal confession, I present to you Exhibit A in the case against me for my own pseudo-authenticity. Last year I posted this photo to Instagram:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.36.42 AM

I captioned it, “Authenticity Moment” and went on to talk about how important it was to show our real lives on social media and not be afraid to show our messes. And sure, there are a few dishes in the sink here, and the paper towel roll needs refilling, but seriously? You want to see a REAL authenticity moment? THIS is what my sink actually looks like sometimes:

IMG_9534

Y’all. I CANT EVEN. Feel free to call me out for that one, because I *know* I deserve it.

We are selling ourselves short if we really think this is the best we can do. Authenticity is so much more than a buzzword. Being Intentional? Its hard work: taking every thought captive, and making every choice with a real thought to our values and goals. And being vulnerable? Its probably the most intense of them all – baring our flaws in all their glory so that HIS glory can shine through. Its easier said than done, but it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do them either.

Pseudo-authenticity isn’t helping anyone. Can we all just agree to stop cleaning up our houses for company and then saying “oh sorry for the mess” when they walk in? Can we actively try to look at our social media and consciously reflect our lives in their most authentic state? Can we stop simply lettering these words across our coffee mugs and surrender ourselves to them in a real and radical way? Or maybe for some of us its a simple as promising not to keep offhandedly hash tagging these life altering words until we’re wholly ready to see our lives transformed into something unrecognizable.

I can promise you this, if you dedicate yourself to discovering the height and the depth of words like these: it may not mean suddenly uprooting and moving to another state, or jumping into a new career, or putting your life online for the world to see – that happens to be my story, and yours may look nothing like it – but it WILL be utterly transformative. Life as you know it will change in every facet of your existence, and nothing will ever be the same.