Chiseling at the Wall Trauma Built... for Your Husband

I missed "Tell it Thursday" last week due to a lack of inspiration, you might say. My mind was pretty overloaded with all the goings on of life, and I just couldn't seem to filter anything out well enough to publish. 

Aaron and I talked the following afternoon, and he asked me if I'd written anything. (I'm an Enneagram 9, remember? Sometimes I give up too easily on "me" things. He knows this and keeps me in check.) When I told him I hadn't, and gave him the explanation above, his response caught me off guard.

"You have a ton going on in your life right now. How did you find nothing to write about?"

I shrugged. 

He continued, "What would you most like to talk to someone about right now?"

For a split second all the current bombs currently blowing up within my "should be life," raced to the forefront of my mind. 

Do I want to talk about my brother being in jail, awaiting a trial that was scheduled on his birthday, and all the crazy emotions that come with that?

How about the frustrations that have paralyzed me in this adoption process?

A hard conversation with a parent that left me in awe at their inability to accept responsibility for something that has and will affect so many aspects of my life?

Y'all. Let me say this before I go on any further. If you know me or hang around me at all, you'll experience a light, peaceful, good, encouraging time. Maybe some deep conversations if we're at that place, but I've worked hard to be a person that feels like sunshine. The world is dark and dreary enough and I determined long ago to be a little bit of light in the midst of it. Like any human, I can be a little rain cloud momentarily, but the moment it's made known, I push that gray away.

Nonetheless, I want to be relevant and real. In order to do so, I have to be honest and vulnerable. Willing to share the truth that life isn't always grand. Or fair. Or fun. But we can manage it... and we can enjoy it. 

So... after several more emotionally exhausting events did little dances in my brain, I stopped on the issue most pressing.

I looked at him and said, "How to make your husband happier when he's drowning in disappointment. That's what I'd like to chat about."

He said, "Then there you go. Write about that."

So here we are, with his permission. 

Aaron has struggled a decent amount over the past several months. As I've mentioned in previous posts, faith has been something we've had to work at really hard to keep intact. When you've prayed prayers for years that are left unanswered, and you encounter more hard things beyond your control, doubt has a way of creeping in through one of the crumbling walls of your faith. He's also had a very close friend hurt him in a way that honestly shocked anyone even remotely aware of the situation. This added several layers to the already high wall he'd built around himself. Trust doesn't come easy to either of us because of the people in our past, but it's especially hard for him. 

From the moment I met 18-year-old Aaron, I was smitten. For one, he had the buffest bod I'd ever seen in the religious world I was in... so that definitely caught my (almost) 17-year-old attention. Yup. I said it. He was also refreshing for me in so many other ways.

He was funny. Genuinely, on-a-whim, funny. 

He could sing, play all the instruments... but that guitar! Man. So much talent. He cared about those that were left out. Fitting in was not his main goal. People pleasing annoyed him. He didn't pretend to be anything he wasn't. He didn't stoop to anyone's level of expectations. I mean, he wanted to make people proud. Don't we all? He desired to do what was right. He wanted to learn, grow, and follow a certain path for his life... but he wasn't about changing his personality just because he didn't fit the largely censorious crowd we found ourselves in.

I wasn't used to that. I grew up in a home and in a religious community where you had to cave if you wanted a place in the circle. And you didn't realize it was caving, because you'd been convinced that was the requirement. Anyways- most of the guys I had been around were all the same. Judgmental. Entitled. Flirty, but flighty. And looking more for specific talents and last names than any other quality in a gal. Aaron just appreciated my heart. My passions. He even showed an appreciation for my little quirks. He was the sincerest young man I'd ever met. His only desire was to be a good person, bring people hope, and be loved. Truly loved. 

He was met head-on, with egotistical leadership in many facets of our early ministry. Not all- but several. It's almost like they forgot he was a kid. How would anyone expect a barely-20-year-old young husband to have everything in life together? I don't know. But they sure did. 

There was so much talk that went around about him not having the best jobs our first few years of marriage. (Yet, they left out that he was told to decline several because of "internet" and "cable." The possibility of missing the occasional Wednesday night service...) We were supposed to heed all this advice, so we did... and at the same time were crucified for it. 

What's crazy, is even now, with a very successful career, he still sometimes struggles with feelings of inadequacy all because of the bullying he received by those twice his age years ago. Abuse comes in many shapes and forms, intentional or not, and can take years to fully lose its affect.

Then we move out of state to take a $300/month position to be treated worse than I even want to recount. We were 20 and 22 years old. Babies. Longing for someone to see what good we had to offer and show us how to capitalize on that. Praying for one of these leaders to take us under their wing and make us feel safe and excited about our future. We wanted family. We wanted counsel. All we got was belittled, backstabbed, and bullied until we finally said, "We're done."

There are so many rabbit trails to go down in that little paragraph, but maybe we'll space them out for another day... or 10. Today, it's just to set the stage for understanding how all these current emotions factor in. 

I'm sure some people would think you should just "get over" certain things. While that is the goal, it takes work when you were traumatized and abused at a young age. Even more so, when it was all ignored and avoided by everyone else around. Grown, religious people, that succumb to self-righteousness can be the ugliest of all. You'll never convince me otherwise.

Aaron and I have both been in counseling, separately, trying to work through things from our childhood and our young adulthood. I won't share much of his personal details here, but I know he struggles with being misunderstood more than anything. And because of that misunderstanding certain people put him in a box and refuse to let him out. That's suffocating. And it's infuriating to the woman who knows and loves him more than anyone else in the world. 

Have you been there, ladies? 

It's tough, isn't it? Seeing this strong, capable man shrinking back a little because of hurts brought on for no reason by people that should have coached and cheered him on. I've poured my heart out, tried my best to convince him of how they don't matter... but he has to find that place within himself. What's frustrating is when you see that smile coming back only to witness another idiot pile more bricks back on the wall. 

I remember a short time when I was blinded by disappointment and anger myself. I had these high expectations of certain people we'd allowed into our lives... only to be dropped or forgotten. I had convinced myself for too long that it was my fault... something I did or couldn't do. But once I realized it was their own issue with maybe selfishness, maybe their own hard times, I just got angry. Like, how dare you ask me these personal questions, persuade me to be vulnerable, just to move on to the next person and drop any effort to invest? I was done with that. For too many years of my life I was a gullible and naive little girl. I had to finally grow up and face the fact that not all people have time to care about you. 

Aaron's doing that now. But when it feels like no one has the time... and maybe God doesn't really either... that's a thick wall to break down. You can't do it overnight on your own, or even with another person (me) giving it everything they've got. Walls that thick either take a crowd with the same intent to knock it down, or a span of time consistently chiseling away. 

And that's where we are. Chisels in hand, working day-in and day-out to destroy this wall that a traumatic past built up. 

The one thing we're learning, though, is how easily you can be pulled into a lie that a bad 5 minutes equates to a bad whole day. If we learn to let things go the moment they're over, or the moment we realize we have no more control over them, we'd live a much more blissful life. 

That's not always easy, though, is it? The aggravation, the fear, the sadness, the feelings of loss that come from some of those "bad 5 minute things" tend to linger. It takes intentional effort to put them in their place. But it can be done. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." It's possible to do... but it does take that intentionality.

That's the piece we're working on. That's the whole reason for the chisels in our hands. Breaking down those walls... those thoughts... those memories. We always think the protection we build around our hearts is to keep bad things from making their way in. Maybe so... but it keeps the good things out, too. But what's most heartbreaking to me, is it limits the amount of good already within us that gets out. 

Aaron is my hero. Truly. Is he a perfect human? Pretty close, but no. He's not. Still, his heart is unlike any I've ever been so blessed to truly know. And I notice when he's hiding behind his internal fortress, that incredible light he carries within himself has a harder time breaking through. The whit isn't as quick. The smile doesn't come as easily. That natural ability to extend some sense of security and a zeal for life stays hidden. I want those lucky enough to be a part of his day to encounter all the amazing nestled inside his soul. Before that pile of bricks began growing, nothing but joy radiated from his eyes. Fun practically oozed out of him. He established a net of safety naturally and quickly for anyone around. The best kind of energy. 

It's still there. I see it all the time. But I know the level of goodness is stifled a little due to the time it takes to climb over that blasted wall. 

So, we keep chiseling. And we'll continue to do so. Friends of ours have picked up their own tools to help with the process. Given time, I'm sure the crowd will grow, and we'll all celebrate when it crumbles. 

Friend, if you can at all relate to this, don't stop trying to remove the stones thrown at you. I know you think you've built your own castle with them, and kudos to you for standing in the midst of a war zone, but come outside. Experience the freedom of no walls. No limits. Find you a person or two that is willing to do the work with you to destroy anything blocking you from that. If you can't think of anyone, reach out to me. I'll help. I'll cheer you on. 

Trauma sucks. Plain and simple. It temporarily destroys at any stage of life. But it can be overcome. Don't let it take any more from you than it already has. Take control of your life again. Be who you want to be. Don't let people or situations hold you back. Pick up that chisel and go to town. You'll be so impressed when you see what's on the other side. 

Fluffy Faith

 Faith can be a little weird, huh?

If you say no, you're either lying to yourself or have achieved some secret to non-humanity that I'd encourage you to sell on the black market. Heck, sell it anywhere. 

It can be strong and steadfast, but it can still do odd things to a human heart. 

Faith in people, yourself, life in general... all rollercoasters of ups and downs and swirly-twirlys that can make you half sick after a while.

Faith in God... now that's your special pillow. The very thing in which you find your best rest and comfort. The fluff that cradles your head as you snuggle in to end a long day. But, even still, when your back is aching or your head is pounding, that pillow doesn't provide immediate, instant, complete relief. You lay down, fully surrender, in hopes that all pain and discomfort go away, but they don't. That can be challenging to understand. 

Even harder still- is when your introduction to faith in God was more like a blind date with a thousand people all talking at the same time about different things with a multitude of agendas. Trying to decipher who it is you're really there to meet is nearly impossible... until you're in a place alone with faith itself.

I still burst into tears at times, because I know I'm still trying to clear my head of all the false fears that were fed to me as a child. If I get too angry, I must not be good. If I think an unpleasant thought, I must really be evil. If I'm tired or emotional, that's it. I'm a weakling that just can't do life. 

It took me years to confront my feelings. I didn't think I was allowed to. Admitting them or talking about them would surely mean I wasn't a Christian and I didn't love God. I can't be sad and have faith. I can't question God and still believe in Him. I can't be upset at how my life is going and truly believe He's in control. There's no way for me to be confused unless I also admit I'm faithless. 

Breaking through all the tangled, thorny branches of withered up nonsense takes time. I'm still not completely out of the gnarly mess. 

About a year or so ago, I was talking to my therapist; trying to figure out some inner turmoil. I was at that point where you just feel all the things behind your eyes. We'd faced a plethora of unfortunate and disappointing circumstances that were completely beyond our control. Siblings going to jail for unimaginable things; struggling to figure out who they are or who they've been; parents refusing to comfort us when that's all we asked for; health scares back-to-back; being used and then quickly abandoned by people we invested in for years; and that unexplained infertility monster still clawing at our lives. 

It's my norm to try to figure out "the why" in every scenario. We don't have kids yet, because XYZ.  Maybe those people did us wrong so that we could 123 and not have to worry about ABC.

That was all fine and dandy until it wasn't. 

I remember breaking down as I was living in my false future and avoiding my very present reality. I finally said what had been hiding out in my heart for a long time. 

"I'm so tired of always looking for the best in bad situations."

That was my mini breakthrough. Being able to admit I was human. That I didn't have all the answers. That I wasn't always thrilled with life. That I didn't fully understand why God hadn't intervened or spared me from some awful, unfair situations. That I longed for a family that was healthy, close, and comforting. That I was tired. 

A dear friend gave me a book by Glennon Doyle filled with several great quotes, but one of my favorites registered deeply with me:

"It's okay to feel all of the stuff you're feeling. You're just becoming human again. You're not doing life wrong; you're doing it right. If there's any secret you're missing, it's that doing it right is just really hard. Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that's what they're for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones. The secret is that you're doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes."


She then goes on to say, "What I thought would kill me, didn't. Every time I said to myself: I can't take this anymore-- I was wrong. The truth was that I could take it all-- and I kept surviving. Surviving again and again made me less afraid of myself, of other people, of life. I learned that I'd never be free from pain, but I could be free from the fear of pain, and that was enough."

That last sentence for me was more than a lightbulb going off in my brain. It was like the sun finally rose in my heart and I could clearly see my life meet up with faith for the first time- alone, genuine, and intimate. 

Feeling disappointment is never going to go away... even with the strongest faith. Being angry, when life deals you an unfair hand, is natural and certain. Experiencing hurt and frustration when others bring negativity into your long fought-for peaceful world is inevitable. Know that these situations will arise at some point or another. Feel them. Deal with them. But don't fear them. You will survive them. 

I'm trying to rebuild my faith into a more sound, steady, sturdy thing. While I do believe God cares about us and wants the best for us, I'm not sure He will answer every single prayer... especially if those prayers involve other people... because let's face it-- people can suck. 

You can live your whole life right, expecting things to go a certain way because of the effort and integrity you've invested into whatever plan you saw for your life. But, when others get in the way, that are selfish and - I don't know - just not great people... that plan can be postponed, delayed, or completely demolished. 

It's easy to question God and your faith at that point. But (and here I go looking for that "why" again) it could be the very thing that wakes you up and causes you to begin dreaming about what was really meant for you in the first place.

People that don't believe in God, or perhaps a different kind of god, deal with these same things, too. They have to tear down and rebuild. It's part of life. It comes with being human and sharing a world with other humans. It can't be escaped. 

Finally grasping that truth let the healing begin for me. 

I had felt abandoned by God for a long time. I wondered why I had to deal with abuse as a child, and why no one had discernment to figure it out. I prayed that someone- anyone- would get the message and save me from all the things that came with what I had faced. I saw it happen with other things for other people. I saw individuals approach others and speak things that had to have come from a Higher Source. I witnessed the wonder and relief on faces that I longed to also experience. I tried to create relationships with certain people in an attempt to be seen... be asked... be rescued. 

So many of those attempts caused more pain. Rejection because my family wasn't "spiritual enough." Break-ups because I wasn't "talented enough." Being unincluded because I didn't live close enough. I was longing for love and acceptance and protection anywhere... but it was hard to find everywhere. It hurt to see other peers surrounded by large, loving families treat me with anything but approval. I yearned so badly to have anyone in my life truly be there for me. Love me. Support me. Challenge me in a healthy way. I was a hopeless romantic, a suppressed best friend, a desperate kid. 

Thank God I found Aaron. Literally, the best person in my life. Without him, I just... I don't know. I'm not sure how I'd be today without the intense love and friendship we have. Don't get me wrong, we're not perfect. We have our issues. It's still wonderful, but there are days we have to decide to like each other. 

Even with a strong marriage, I continued to deal with those same strong longings until a few years ago, too. I expected every church leader to hear from God and know what my heart was so desperately needing. I wanted a friendship so tight it filled the voids I'd had since I was 5 years old. I felt so hurt any time I was disappointed or let down by someone I admired and respected. 

I had to come to the realization that it really wasn't their responsibility to fill that gap for me. They had their own lives, families, responsibilities... their own inner struggles. I had to know when it became necessary to just understand this wasn't going to be a relationship I could invest in. 

While that helped me, it still didn't heal me. 

It still left holes in my faith. Because I still felt like God wasn't listening. 

But- what if He was... and they weren't?

When I asked myself that question, I had to search my own heart. Do I pay attention enough to other people who may be hurting? How often do I give of myself? Am I praying for others to feel loved and accepted? What am I doing to ensure others feel seen and heard?

I wish there was a way for everyone to reach perfection, but it won't happen here. So, let's all just do our darndest to be really good. 

That's what my "new" faith has shown me. It's not about being happy all the time. It's not that kind of "fluffy faith." Things aren't always sunshine and roses. Having faith doesn't make your life perfect. You can struggle. Be angry. Mess up. Ugly cry. Just understand that when the day is over, you still have that pillow on which to rest your head. Be comforted and know that your life still has meaning, new relationships are still coming, amazing opportunities are still out there. Faith is there to remind you to keep going. To indulge the non-fluff sometimes. Lay down. Snuggle up. Take a break. Wake up refreshed and empowered to do just a little more good because we realize it counts.