Tag Archives: anxiety

Never Again and Forever After

Twelve days ago, on Good Friday, my life fell spectacularly, publicly, heartbreakingly apart. After all of these past months of struggle, fighting and turmoil, everything in me gave up. I caused a terrible car accident in which, by the grace of God no one was hurt. But the aftermath, the wreckage has been incalculable.

brokenI ended up in the ER tonight because I have not been able to eat or drink anything for twelve days, despite the significant steps I’ve taken to start to rebuild whatever my new life will look like. My body just told me that it was simply not going to continue this way and it didn’t.

At the hospital, they were perfunctorily kind, suggesting that I perhaps try relaxation exercises, and brought in a very nice young man who asked me if I was considering harming myself. Since I believe that my life, and more importantly, my reactions to my life, to years of  deep misery had already done enough harm, I said “No.”

So they gave me some fluids, checked my blood work, watched as I shook, vomited up the water I couldn’t keep down, and then eventually sent me home. Lying there waiting to leave, I alternated between being terrified that this was actually what it looked and felt like when someone was truly cracking up, and then offering exactly what I was in those moments to God.

I thought that I had surrendered to God, but then I remembered that last night, my prayer was not to surrender but to want to want to surrender. I believed I had done this, but I hadn’t, until tonight. I surrendered because I had no choice, and a deep sense of giving in and giving up came over me.

Not of giving up my life, but giving up, entirely and completely, the struggle.  In that moment, in repeating to myself, over and over, “I’m done. I’m done,” I knew that I wasn’t done with my life. I was done with the misery of a life I’ve been living for such a long, long time. A river began to flow through me.

On the way home, I made a fierce commitment and that is this: “I will fight as hard as it takes for as long as it takes to recover.” Recovery of body, mind and spirit. That I never again want to live a life of relentless, undignified, useless suffering. And that no one and nothing was going to take anything else away from me. Or rather, that I was not going to let myself give any part of myself away. That I would fight for the life that God means for me to live, no matter what.

If you are struggling, remember this: Blessed be the warriors who are given the privilege of following this path, blessed be the suffering that leads us somewhere, especially somewhere bigger, greater and more meaningful. Blessed be.

See below, from Anne Frank, “As long as this exists…”


As long as this exists…

Anne Frank

“‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy.’ The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.”

Love always,

Leslie

stripped

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Best Not to Start With the Gestapo

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, not for a noble reason such as the New Year and trying to better myself, but because, like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, I’m stuck in this compulsive habit of keeping a little psychic notebook of “offenses against Leslie Srajek,” and it gets longer and longer each day.  And I’m not talking about the girl at Panda Express who charges you for “free refills,” or even the bank clerk who–oops!–deposits your paycheck into the wrong account.  Also, this is not to say that I have not made my share of mistakes, because I SO have.

But some people have treated me not so well lately.  If we were in daycare together, they would need to be in time out for the whole day.  Maybe the whole week, with no chocolate Cherrios for snack.  However, like the old blues song says (and what the laws of discretion and good taste dictate), the details of all that “‘t’aint nobody’s business but my own.”  What does matter to all of us, however, is forgiveness.  

Forgiveness mostly sucks, because being angry is SO much easier and less vulnerable.  And if you are a drama queen like me, you enjoy clinging on to your own morsel of pain until the whole world sees how wounded and derserving of love and sympathy and healing and worship you are and …Okay, stop that.  In the end, it’s like Anne Lamott says: not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.  Also, Annie Lamott has a chapter in Traveling Mercies about forgiveness in which she quotes C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity as saying, “If we really want to learn to how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.”  

Repulsive, right? You don't want this to be you.

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Keep Calm (or Not) and Carry On

Here is a picture of a print that I have in my office:

You may know it–it became very popular this year, and is supposedly a reproduction of the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster produced by the British Ministry of Information in 1939.  There’s even a Keep Calm and Carry On website where you can order lots of cool stuff.

As one might have predicted, however, the popularity of this poster spawned a multitude of spoofs.  Which is why I also have this postcard in my office as well…

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As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove

One of the chapters of Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies is an account of a health scare she had with her son Sam.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective (and mental health), we had a similar experience this week with Gabe.  But before I tell you about that, I want to show you this picture by Toni Frissell, a female photographer in the 1940’s and 50’s. 

It’s from an underwater shoot of models all wearing white, fluidy gowns.  To me, it evokes many things: surrender, descent, freedom, and something of the seductive power of depression.  It also reminds me of the scene in “The Piano” where Holly Hunter almost drowns because she lets her leg get tangled up with her piano when it falls overboard.  (Hunter plays a mute woman in the 1850’s who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage.  Her piano is, quite literally, her voice).  She is very calm at first, quietly observing the water around her, gracefully allowing herself to be pulled down, down, down.  Then suddenly it’s like she wakes up and realizes what is happening, and she struggles to free herself and swim to the surface.  The camera shows her discarded boot sinking slowly deeper, while she swims up, towards a life that she is not sure she wants, certainly one she knows nothing about, but one she is not ready to give up. 

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Transitions & Resilience: “Just do your best, then say ‘Amen'”

Today in Target I had one of those thoughts that I suspect you should probably not say out loud.  For the first time in my life, I thought, “I’m not sure if I should have had kids.”  Since I am not Jennifer Aniston, i.e. since people are not constantly querying me about my desire and motivation to have children, and since my children are already here, I’ve never spent much, if any, time thinking about whether I should have had them.  And I certainly think someone should have had them; I truly believe they add something to the sum of human goodness.  I just don’t know that that someone should have been me.

Me before I had kids

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God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds

In 2002, Maya Angelou was the speaker at the University of Illinois’ commencement.  It was a cloudy day, and all the dusty old Important University Administrators droned on and on with their dusty old words.  And then Maya Angelou was introduced.  She stepped to the podium, opened her mouth, and her honey-rich voice rolled out singing, “When it looked like the sun wasn’t gonna shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds!”  Then she called out into the mass of people, “Good afternoon, rainbows!”  It was 8 years ago, but it could have been 5 minutes for how full and powerful her voice still is in my head.

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Why Balance is an Unhelpful Ideal (Unless You Are a Gymnast or a Tightrope Walker)

Whenever I see a flyer for a workshop or talk on “Work/Life Balance,” I get a very bad feeling in my chest and my head starts to hurt.  Unless there will be someone at the workshop with a clipboard and a sign-up sheet for volunteers to come over and dust my floorboards, cook dinner for my family, buy the batteries at Walgreens that I keep forgetting, or clean out the box of stuff from when I moved my office last December, I can’t think of a single good reason to attend.  
My bottom line belief on work/life balance is this–it’s a hoax, and a dangerous one at that.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s David Whyte in his most recent book, The Three Marriages: Reexamining Work, Self and Relationship: “People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance.  Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another.  We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.” 

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