Since this is a new blog site with possible new readers, I thought I’d take the opportunity with this first post to introduce myself …but as I went to do so, I came upon a conundrum: Where do I start? I mean, who am I, really? When it comes to describing who you are to someone new, how do you begin?
Okay, so the obvious stuff: I am mom and a wife. I am a friend. I am Will and Linda’s only daughter and Jason’s sister. But what about the other stuff? Am I my present job, past jobs, or my hobbies? Am I a blogger? An ex-bartender? An actor and a social media manager? What about my beliefs? Many would title me a Christian. I like to call myself a Jesus Follower, or, if I’m feeling sassy, a Jesus Freak. Is that who I am? Or am I my age? My size? My hair color? At the very simplest, am I a soul?
Are there some titles more important than others, and if so, how do I begin decide which one comes first?
About a year ago, I made a gut-wrenching and irreversible decision to leave a job I had dedicated eight years of my life to. Okay, to be clear, this didn’t feel at all like a typical “job,” it felt like an intrinsic calling, and in just a short year after diving into my new calling, I had completely and totally become identified with it. When I introduced myself to new people, I was always the title: Theatre Director and Drama Teacher. That was how I explained who I was to new faces. That was how I explained who I was to myself. So deciding, even privately and silently, to walk away from that title felt as scary as severing a limb from my body.
I started that job right after I got married. I literally received the email offering me the position when my new husband and I walked off the plane from our honeymoon in Mexico. So here I was: I had just turned thirty, gotten married, and was finally able to quit my bartending job on the beach. Within a year from that day, my husband and I would buy our first home.
Married? Check. “Real” job? Check. House? Check. My early thirties were well on their way, and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what I thought was up next.
I always imagined babies coming easily, and back-to-back quite frankly, but for the next three years my husband and I experienced a tailspin of confusion, disappointment, and loss. And in the midst of eight separate fertility treatments, none that produced a pregnancy, I built two thriving theatre programs – one for middle school kids, and one for high school kids. I built them, and I built them big because I was good at it. What I wasn’t good at was making a family; I wasn’t good at getting pregnant, so I immersed myself in this other thing, this other thing that I grew to really love. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I was doing was satisfying the need to be “Mama” to one baby, by substituting my role as “Drama Mama” to a hundred kids.
When I was at work, and I worked a lot, like 60+ hours a week, I was focused on those kids: their art, my art, and the art we created together. It was a fast-paced, highly emotional job, and now that I can look back, I can honestly say it became an addiction. I never pictured myself a workaholic, but with this job I was so dedicated, so consumed in each child’s life and making it better, that I found myself mentally, physically and emotionally spent at the end of each day. It was all I could do to eat before passing out and doing it all over again. Why would I allow my job to become so overwhelming? Well, working this much left no space to grieve. No time to wonder what might have been had I gotten pregnant. I was this thriving theatre director; I didn’t need to also be a mom, right? Besides, I didn’t have the time. Did I? It would be too hard to do both, anyway, I was sure. Wasn’t I?
I spent the better part of five years in this cycle: Get up so I can make coffee, drink coffee so I can have the energy to shower, shower so I can get ready, get ready so I can go teach, go teach so I can make it to rehearsal after teaching, make it through rehearsal so I could go home and zone out with a glass of wine in front of the TV before trying to fall asleep with the help of any number of sleep aids, some over the counter, some prescribed (and yes, I include wine in that number). Everything I did each day was a means to an end. Looking back, I now realize I was rarely present, or rarely “awake” during my day. I was so overwhelmed with grief, and at the same time trying so hard to ignore it with my success as a cover, that I often spent my forty five minute lunch break passed out, asleep in my bed at home. I was depressed. Seriously, seriously depressed, and I was living a plastic smile lie.
Okay, let’s fast forward a second to the great, flipping fantastic news: I did become a mom in the midst of all of this. Yahoo! God is so good, you guys, and He blessed my husband and I with this sweet little soul who needed a mom and dad. We were beyond happy to become parents through the miracle of adoption – and I have a lot lot to say about it – but that will come later. Because today, right now, I need to recognize, for myself and for everyone out there who has gone through trauma and loss, that just because your heart’s desire is met, does not necessarily mean your depression ceases to exist, or that the bad habits you accumulated while in that low place just disappear. I was not in a healthy relationship with my job and that spilled over into the relationship I had with my husband, my new son, and with myself – and that’s been the hard truth I’ve had to recognize.
So let’s get back into it and get honest…
If I really wanted to become healthy again, I was going to have to step back from the demands of my job, and if I stepped back from the demands of my job, the world would end… right? That’s how it felt, and that’s how it always feels when we are hiding in addiction from the truth. My truth was that no matter how I tried, how hard I prayed, and how much energy I put into getting pregnant, it wasn’t ever going to happen.
If I was going to cherish the great honor of being a parent, and be present and healthy for my son’s life, I would have to let go of the dream of being pregnant. To do that, I had to get real and quiet with myself. I had to knock on the door of Heaven with all my sadness and anger and call on God to talk some real talk with me. And to do that, I could no longer be addicted to the high demands of my job. Period.
So the question is: Can we face that kind of truth? Sad truth. Hard truth. Truth that makes us ache and squirm and pound the dashboard of our car with our fists. And if we can, can we come back unscathed? We can’t, right? That kind of truth is too severe, that wound too deep, that pain too great. You can’t heal from that, right? Well, for me the answers weren’t right or wrong. It’s not black and white, y’all. I’m here to tell you there is a lot of grey. I know now that it’s possible to move through it, though, and I would. But it would take God drop kicking me out the door of that job and away from my distraction and addiction to begin.
So He kicked, and I pushed.
I didn’t welcome Him, I didn’t want Him to help, and I kicked back, and screamed, and swore I had it all under control. So He came after me with a fierceness only reserved for parents protecting their children, and The King of Kings wouldn’t give up until I was out and free to do the work. The work, come to find out, was and continues to be about trusting Him. Trusting that when I have no idea what’s around the next corner, He’s already painted it gold. Trusting that when I surrender my plans to Him, and really let go, He will catch me, but not only will He catch me, He will then toss me back up so high that even my wildest dreams and desires will be left in the glittery dust. Trusting that His Love never runs out, His protection never relents, and He: God Himself is never separate from me. Me. Little, small, insignificant me. He is always here, arms stretched wide, waiting for me to come running back and to see His beautiful plan for my beautiful life.
Who am I?
This is what I’ve learned: I have been many roles, and in this life I will be many more, but they are all ephemeral. Not only are these identities I create and cling to constantly changing, they could disappear at any moment. It was an honor to be a teacher and theatre director, but just because that title is gone, does not mean I am not valuable. It is with great joy that I hold the title of mom, but if that had never became a reality, my life would still be important, filled with love, and I would still make a difference on this earth.
Who am I? I am a Child of God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am His masterpiece, His treasured possession, and His beloved.
When I am lost, afraid, sad, feeling insecure or inferior, I will cling to this. I am a Child of God. That is the only title I will ever need.
I Am His, and so are you.