Hello dear heart..
A few days ago, I spent hours writing about my history with pain – physical, emotional, spiritual. It wrecked me and, in hindsight, wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. It turned my shoulders into knots, my brain into mush and my heart into a jumbled beehive with the warning, “Shit! Danger! Escape! Get out! Save yourself while you can!”
Without going into it here and causing further trauma, I’ll just say it reminded me how woven our experiences are into the fibers of our bodies. We all have these soul-carrying vessels, but forget so fast the effect pain and wounding of the soul has on them. We brush our teeth and go to the gym or fill in our eyebrows, but we’re downright amnesiac when we consider our inner contents and the way they ache.
My soul and spirit have suffered thus far on this trip and I’m not alone. We’re all like clay pots being filled with dirt and seeds and compost. We absorb the contents by osmosis, by nature, nurture. We take them all in, then polish and paint the outside in hopes it will hide the shit we’re carrying.
I feel so drawn into this act of polishing a turd. It’s why I’ve started to tweeze the little dark hairs trying to grow on my upper lip, and won’t be caught dead in public without an excess of blush. It’s also why I spend more time looking in the mirror most days than I do praying, meditating, or reading books. Oy.
I’m afraid all the shit I’m carrying has decided to revolt. It’s staged a coup and now I’m at its mercy, a Prisoner of War until it decides to release me or grace intervenes. I worked for years to polish the outside of this clay pot. I went from teen with eating disorder to head cheerleader to prom queen to 102-pound bride to fitness mommy in the span of a couple of decades. I’ve sweated and tweezed and selfied my way to acceptance. Without even realizing it, I’ve constructed personas with the same common manifesto, “don’t let anyone see how deep the hurting is.”
Sometimes the hurting takes matters into its own hands. Sometimes spirit and body no longer want an amicable divorce, they choose to be together again no matter how messy. The first week of the new year, spirit and body teamed up to send me a visitor named “chronic pain”. Chronic pain moved into my house in the form of debilitating migraines, with the worst pain I’ve experienced, strange brain fog, depression, hopelessness. I’ve tried more than I can say to manage it, seen the doctors, taken the tests, changed my diet and lifestyle to get better, but nothing seems to be helping. There are good days. There are bad days. But between you and I, this new pain is a motherfucker, and I don’t like it one bit.
I was talking on the phone yesterday with a dear friend who has seen me through so much. She was the one to make me go out to coffee with her when my dad died and I couldn’t bring myself to put on real pants. She was the one who took bundles of laundry and gave me clean clothes again. She was the one who visited me and three pound baby Zion in the NICU in those long months when I thought everyone else had forgotten about our story.
I told her about the pain yesterday, that it’s not getting better, just less predictable. I told her I was so afraid this was going to be the story of my life, that I’d be known as the woman of cancelled coffee dates and the inability to fold my own damn laundry or love on my kids. She told me she was so sorry I was going through this(this goes farther than anything, by the way), that she loved me, and she believed this was not going to be the story of my life. Her words in a follow up text to me, “I do believe you’ll find restoration. You’re Ashley Fucking Parsons. Don’t forget it.”
I don’t know if this pain will be ongoing, if the doctors I’ve seen will ever figure out what the hell happened to me and fix it. I don’t know much apart from this: this moment, the one where I’m writing this letter to you.. the moment when it’s raining outside and the sky is grey and everything outside my window looks greener because of the darkness, this is a moment of grace to me. I don’t have a migraine right now and I’m sitting in a real chair writing real words that tell the truth about me. I’ve been a present mom today and I’ve kissed my husband. I’ve looked my children in the eyes and I’ve lost count with how many hugs and “I love you”s I’ve given out. These “normal” seconds have become magic to me.
I have no control over this pain. It could come back in five minutes and I’d lose my vision, be gripped by fear of dying, have paralyzation (yeah, it’s brutal), end up in bed and stay there for the next three days. But I am choosing to believe my beloved friend is right.. this is not going to be the story of my life.
I’m choosing to believe it because, even if I never get fully well again, grace is real. Despite all of this pain, grace can take the hugs and the “I love you”s on the good days and stretch them out like long, stringy, pink taffy .. carrying the sweet memories and seconds to season the hard days. Restoration comes in the in-between moments, in the sacred mundane moments. We can have it wherever we find ourselves stuck today, we just have to open our hands and take what comes to us as a gift of grace.
I don’t know what pain you carry or try to hide. I just want you to know, whatever it is dear heart, you’re not alone on this bus.. and grace and restoration can be the story they remember about you, about us.