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Feeling All the Feelings

I’m used to my life being crazy (relatively-speaking), and the world being scary (relatively-speaking), but we’ve all really outdone ourselves this year.

On my end, over the last eight months, I moved across the country, took a new job, got engaged, planned a wedding, tried (in vain) to figure out a handful of medical issues, got a puppy, and am now canceling the afore mentioned wedding (not the marriage, just the wedding). I’ve also been using the word afore a lot.

And the world…well you’ve all seen the news.

It will not surprise most of you that I have written approximately 17 versions of this blog over the past six months (although the more recent ones get darker). They all say something like, “life is hard/crazy/wild, and I don’t know what to say about that.” One even went on a long tangent about waffles.

I know. Inspiring.

Look. I’m a writer. It’s how I process most things—not primarily to entertain or motivate—but just so I can manage to get up every day even when I feel all my feelings. The more I share my work publicly, the more pressure I feel to write something worth reading. (Although, I never feel that same pressure in writing my social media posts, which are most definitely wastes of your time.)

What I mean is that there are so many people in the world, saying so many different things, so very, very loudly. For a while now, I’ve struggled with the amount of opinions and voices coming through my social channels, the news, and other people’s speaker phones in the grocery store (why though?). It seems we’re all so busy trying to make sure we’re heard, that I’m not sure there’s anyone out there left to listen.

And that overwhelms me, often to the point of silence. But my world is crazy; THE world is crazy, and all that’s left for me to do about it, is face this screen.

I don’t have anything profound to say, and so, you’re probably just wasting your time reading this right now, but I do have something simple I want to say: There is a lot more that unites us all, than divides us, and I really wish—if only for the pandemic—we’d try to remember and see that in one another. Because if not now, when?

Everyone is in need of grace. Everyone needs encouragement and understanding. After all, no one on earth has ever been through something like this (except for that one really old man who was also alive for the Spanish flu), and we’re all just doing our best.

To those who still, somehow, think this isn’t a big deal: please do your best…inside, and away from people. (And listen, you can feel all your feelings, without posting all your feelings on social media.) And everyone, let’s just follow the rules, yeah?

(In fact, as a stage-four, rule-clinger, I’d like to encourage everyone one of us to follow rules even when this is all over. I’m talking using blinkers, not riding your bike on the sidewalk, picking up your dogs’ poops, not driving on the shoulder in a traffic jam…all kind of things we could do!)

But really, just keep doing your best. Do your small part. Extend as much grace to your fellow human beings as is humanly possible while we live out this bad, made-for-tv, mini-series that literally no one wants to tune back into next week.

___

On a personal note (since this is my blog and all), we postponed our wedding this week. It was a hard, but now-obvious decision we knew was coming, even if we did avoid it as long as possible.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing lately (they should make a term for that), and so I made a video instead. It was cathartic to reflect on both our wedding planning and new life together. For most, it’ll always just be a sentimental video made by a woman who has been working from home for three weeks. But for me—and I dare say my husband-to-be—it created space for us grieve unfulfilled expectations, while reminding us (as so many have) that we’re really looking forward to a lifetime, not just a day.

When we were looking forward to this day, I think we were looking forward to what the event itself “promised.” On hard days when long-distance was lonely, we held on to May 2. On exhausting days when I left work only to put another 6 hours into wedding planning and those way-over-the-top invitations—I pictured May 2 along with the rest and joy I would feel when my task list was completed. When I didn’t want to go to the gym or diet (or face the fact that losing fat and gaining muscle in your thirties is way harder than in your twenties), I thought about the moment I would slip on my wedding dress and feeling like a princess.

This exhausting season was going to be worth it if I could just hold on–if I could just wait until May 2, it would be our turn. At least for me, our wedding day became not only something I was looking forward to, but the reward for overworking and being somewhat-miserable for eight months.

In the Christian world, you might call that an idol.

(Now, to be clear, although I’m recognizing my human limitations in this process, I’m not saying I’m the reason or cause for this global pandemic. LOTS of brides had to cancel their weddings who I’m sure were super stressed and misplacing their hope the entire time, so it could just as easily have been one of their faults…)

I’m just saying that canceling our wedding has given me an opportunity to reflect and dig a little deeper into my disappointment (and you have nowhere to be, so I’m bringing you along for the ride).

Everything is scary right now. And everything is uncertain. And from the sounds of it, it’s all going to get worse before it gets better. But I still have a hope to hold onto—and it’s not our wedding day.

I am not a great Christian (read: I’m a bad Christian), and honestly, I shy away from writing about it, because I think it either comes off preachy or inauthentic or kind of cultish. I also have not been a regular Bible-reader here lately, but there’s a psalm–a famous psalm–that has been on my heart the last week. One line in particular, actually.

If I’m being honest, the psalm itself is one of my least favorite passages, mostly because it’s so famous, and apparently I’m a four or whatever on the enneagram. I think that’s supposed to mean I don’t like being a carbon copy of other people (which is also why I don’t the enneagram (which just makes those people say, “oh you’re such a four! and giggle a knowing giggle that I don’t know about.))

But! Back to the famous psalm I don’t really like: you guessed it, Pslam 23. Stick with me for a second. Go right beyond the part that everyone remembers: …even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me…

It’s the next part that I have been thinking about:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Now listen, I don’t actually have any enemies that I know of (except for student loan debt), but I listened to a sermon years ago that set this scene like stopping for a restorative rest, mid-battle. That’s right. Enemies are surrounding you, battle is real, and you stop for a picnic.

Honestly, this is ridiculous to me. How does one rest, or make space for anything other than “battle,” on a battlefield. But this line suggests to me that God makes it so. That no matter what “the battle” happens to be–a big project at work, wedding plans, or a global pandemic that confronts us with our own mortality every morning–we will be provided with a table among our enemies.

Maybe this means nothing to you, but it makes the differences for me. It’s the pausing amid struggle that gets my attention. Why isn’t it, he prepares a table for me to enjoy right after he crushes my enemies so they’ll never bother me again?

It makes me confront the way I handle stress. When I think about wedding planning for example, I struggled to experience the joy of getting married amid the stress of the actual planning. For eight months, I waited to get excited and to share with others, because I wanted to get the hard stuff “out the way.” At work, if I have a big project looming, I’m going to give up on everything else–nurturing friendships, exercising and eating healthy, writing, praying–until that project is done, and I’m an emotionally-bankrupt human being.

I tend to pause my life, and focus only on conquering “the thing” whatever “the thing” is at that time. (And y’all, there’s always another thing.) Simply, I am not good at the both/and of emotions and the human experience…which is counterintuitive since I’m such a feeler.

So anyway, in this season of pandemic and fear, I’m thinking about the resting amid the stress and what that might mean or look like. That doesn’t fix this pandemic, and it doesn’t make it less scary for me. But it reminds me that I don’t have to wait on hope or joy or happiness until all this stress is gone and tidied up. I have hope now. I have joy now. I have gratitude amid the chaos, and those things aren’t actually dependent on the outcome of this virus.

Our marriage, doesn’t depend on our wedding day. Our lives do not depend on all the comforts and securities we’re used to. I’m not waiting for life to start again when this is over. Life is now. Hope is now. Impending marriage and partnership is now. And truly, if I can’t be content and grateful for a job, a home, food on the table, and all the basic necessities that I know so many others are struggling with, now…would anything ever be enough?

I’m scared, disappointed, angry, and uncertain. But this morning, I’m also committed to remembering joy, love, life, hope, and gratitude. I’m going to try to be present at that table amid this stress, because who knows if and when we get to the other side of it–and if or when we do, what life will even look like for our world.

And if none of that speaks to you, but you’re still reading–get a puppy. You’re home anyway, you have time to train it. (It’ll keep your steps going, I’ll tell you that.) And taking care of something helpless and thankless, humbles us in an important way, I think. And anyway, ours is really cute and cuddly and just wants the cat to love her.

Stay safe and well. Wash your hands. And try your best to give grace to all those who don’t seem like they deserve it…because grace.

Michelle

P.S. I’m working out a way to set up a “pay what you want” for either of my books with all profits donated to local and national food banks. As soon as I get the logistics up and running through the online store, I’ll post about it.


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