Friday, November 7, 2014

The Hallway

You know that expression, the one that says "God doesn't close one door without opening another one"?

I've never particularly liked it - it felt too much like a Band-Aid over a bullet hole, like plastering a bumper sticker over an openly bleeding wound.

Of course it's true, like most over-used sayings.

The part that isn't mentioned, though, is the hallway.  The one I find myself standing in right now,
one door firmly shut behind me, but the new door remains out of sight, at the other end of a shadowy journey I can't define.

I spend a lot of time by myself. I can't drive, and so I leave the house only with help, and only when necessary.  It's amazing how much of my identity was wrapped around the woman-who-did-stuff.  I used to go non-stop, all day - rushing to and from appointments and errands and business engagements and housework, and making dinner, and activities ...and, and, and.

What I have learned is the vast majority of all that rushing around was unnecessary.  Life just felt more comfortable when I didn't stop moving.  I would never simply sit and think, or pray, or breathe.  When I did these things the feelings would start to come -the fear, anxiety and uncertainty I felt at the core of my being - and so I'd go someplace.  Like Target. Or Michael's. Or Stop & Shop.  I would lose myself in the mundane hum of normalcy, mindlessly pushing my cart up and down aisles, making hundreds of tiny decisions so I could avoid thinking about the bigger ones.

What happened, when I stopped - well, let's get real .... when I was forced to stop - was all the feelings came to the surface.  I could no longer dodge the reality of my fear.  I don't numb it from the inside-out with alcohol, and I don't numb it from the outside-in with labels I affix to myself to validate who I am.

I am slowly peeling away all those labels, and its scary.  I pick away at their sticky edges - Wife, Mother, Writer, Daughter, Blogger, Alcoholic, Cancer Survivor, Sister, Friend.

Every major way I defined myself has changed.  I no longer lose myself by slipping into the characters I assembled to feel better about myself through your eyes. 

Now, when I push the cart up and down the aisles, I don't feel like I fit anywhere, and it's uncomfortable.  The Moms I talk to jostle about, clutching their car keys and dashing off to the activities I can no longer take my kids to.  They talk about the husband I no longer have.  The family dinner I am no longer preparing.  Planning the family vacation I no longer go on. 

All of the major relationships I have in my life are changing, evolving. I have taken a giant step back from everything that used to define me, before.  My work. My family. My marriage. My social life. My writing.

I long, sometimes, for the way my life used to be, before the weight of all those self-affixed labels crushed me.  When my biggest problem of the day was how to fit it all in - get one kid to soccer and the other to CCD and get to the grocery shop and start dinner.  When my brain was so crammed with my To-Do list - my businesses, my family, my husband and friends - that I didn't have to think about myself.

I know I can't go back there.  I know this hard stop is in my life for a purpose.  I squirm in the silence, in the calm.  I'm great in a foxhole.  It's the lulls that scare me.

I suffer when I resist the reality of what is, as opposed to what was or what might be.  I am in the most pain when I scream and kick against all those closed doors, those maladaptive coping mechanisms - my people pleasing, my co-dependency, my self-medicating with alcohol or work.

I can't even hide from myself in my marriage anymore.  I am not Mrs. Anybody.  I am just me.  

When I can let go, when I can just stand still in this dark hallway and just be, I feel fleeting moments of peace. 

I am mourning the loss of the blueprint, though.  The one I so carefully drafted for how my life was supposed to look, like a perfect holiday card.  The one that made me feel as though I was in control of my destiny, although of course I never was.

I don't have any blueprint anymore.  Every pre-conceived notion I had - every label - is torn and tattered.

Now I stand alone, peeling back the labels, feeling naked and vulnerable without their papery armor.  I stand shivering in the Damn Hallway, waiting for God to crack open the next door.   So far, He hasn't.  He is making me wait. 

He is making me put up boundaries, ask for help, sit with myself awhile.

And so, I do.