Sometimes when I learn things it’s a slow drip over time. Bit by bit I discover something about life or myself or God and at some distant point it becomes clear. Then sometimes I learn something and it comes at me all at once from all angles. This is now. Hard things force us to see our true nature, isn’t life so gentle?
It all started with the infertility saga, as all things seem to right now. I could not figure out for the life of me why it was so hard to open up to people, especially people who had super charmed lives. People who did all the right steps with no hiccups, with their 2.5 kids and white picket fence, they made me want to shut down real quick with no honest exposure to my true self. I thought, well maybe I’m just a private person, and just left it at that.
Then we got that horrible news from the ultrasound about our baby and I sank into a deep despair unlike anything I had experienced before. For a while we just cocooned ourselves, which is probably a normal response, but as we moved out of that phase Trever developed the normal capacity to talk to people about it, and I couldn’t seem to do that.
So then I have coffee with my counselor friend Kathleen that I mentioned before. She asked me if there was anything coming up about myself and about God that seems to be connected to old wounds. I had never pondered that question but I instantly knew the answer.
I feel like a fool. I feel like a got duped again. I had this minute of bliss and this minute of faith, and maybe these things are far too connected to one another but either way they both broke down. I’m a fool for praying for a miracle. I’m a fool for believing God interacts and that I ever had a sense of his presence. I’m a sucker for what I wanted to be true about God, and this makes the pain that much worse.
I’ve been a fool plenty of times before. It comes from having a very emotional spirituality at a young age, among other things. After having enough emotional experiences related to faith that made me feel like I was manipulated into feeling, I decided to shut that down. I did some major emotional cross-fit to get those things under control. Although emotions shouldn’t drive our lives and decisions, I didn’t put them in their proper place as I should have, I squashed them. I was proud of it too, I liked being low-maintenance and drama free. And it worked, until life got so hard I was shoved into to feeling in an uncontrollable way and I had to figure out how to function. Which leaves me in a coffee shop with Kathleen.
Then yesterday Trever was getting a tattoo and the music they play is some kind of horrible metal, I don’t even know, it turns me into an old lady and I shrivel in the florescent lights while trying to save my ears from the noise. So I left and found a used bookshop where a picked up Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly for $3. Well we’ve all seen her Ted Talk right? If not - Quality life is made up of meaningful relationships, which can only be created through vulnerability, which is often stifled by shame. Interesting concept, never really personalized the idea, until NOW.
First! Under a list of the most common reasons documented for things that made people feel vulnerable, faith is right there in the middle of it. Because isn’t faith the ultimate vulnerability? We’re putting all our hopes and our life’s purpose in an improvable reality, in the darkness of faith that leads to light, and in the midst of all that defies everything we believe in and even in the silence we carry on. We irrationally carry on believing. We continually hope for some kind of connection with the divine. We risk because of the hope of something greater, because there is someone that might eventually wipe clean all that pain we withstand. But when we are vulnerable and “experience” God and find that many times it was emotional manipulation, there are some deep internal connections made between God, feelings, manipulation and belief and when one breaks down they all break down.
Secondly, I have found that being emotionally raw, especially with certain people, has become the ultimate vulnerability I cannot attain and I had to ask myself why. I’ve done nothing wrong to cause shame over my current circumstances. But there it was listed in the highest responses for shame – infertility.
Why? Because we’re supposed to be perfect. It’s weakness to be broken and wanting, and it’s strength to be fabulous, which is in stark contrast to the sermon on the mount by the way. But even in religious circles that is the expectation of our western mind. We have deep assumptions about the way life will go and Christianity is sometimes seen as an additive to those assumptions. We end up spending a lot of time walling ourselves off from any possibility of grief and believing as if that wall will stand, but of course to quote Gabriel Garcia Marques - nobody teaches life anything - and so I have found myself broken and wanting.
But I was fabulous. I was arrogant and fabulous.
We’re Brooke and Trever. He’s super talented, we have a home with a fiddle leaf and some well placed art. We travel with ease and have cultured conversations. I put natural makeup on everyday and dress minimalist like I don’t care that much. I only post the best-curated images on Instagram like as if that’s the whole of my life, which causes me to post very rarely, which has the added benefit of making it look like I’m too busy for social media when I actually check it multiple times a day. Gross.
I was playing the game and winning. For the most part, life was perfection with ease and when life shattered that it somehow made me ashamed. And I suppose the perfect people exacerbate that even further, they are living what we are supposed to be. And here I am in a place I don’t want to be, and I’m slowly finding the safe people I can be vulnerable with; of course they are those who know deep and profound pain, much deeper than my pain, and I'm learning from them.
I’m now part of a circle of the broken hearted linking arms, like a giant support group for the not perfect. We all nod our heads in solidarity at one another’s pain. We help pick each other up, or maybe just sit on the floor with them because we know what it’s like to be on the ground. We no longer pity people in pain as the perfect ones do, we actually slump down into the grief with them because we know.
So I’m part of that now, and Lord willing I’ll become a real and honest safe place for the broken. I’ll empathize in a deep way with the grieving. My capacity to be vulnerable will give space for others to do the same. I’ll be a place for others to doubt and maybe find their way back to faith.
I don’t think everything happens for a reason, and I don't know if God gives us pain for a greater purpose. But whatever the cause of tragedy, Lord help me, I can already see a seed of good planting itself in the depths of my soul that will sprout into something usable, maybe even something good.