Here’s a beautiful picture of paint.
I realize it relates to my book, The Middle, none. But I’ve also come to know that I’m a lover of words and paint. You’ll always get some form of that from me around here. The other thing I realize is this: however small, or large, this little book of stories is making an impact. I want to say thank you, here, in the place where you first followed along in my stories, where I will honor the unfolding of all of our stories. I hope you’ll go watch some of the videos on Instagram…would love to hear from you there!
Approval by Fire
“I don’t feel like this is okay.”
I said it and lowered my head in shame. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I wanted to plead my case and make everyone see just how wrong this was. How betrayed I felt. How broken this was making me.
I was sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room, the day after Christmas. My husband was going on and on about the things wrong with us, the things I was doing to unravel our marriage, and everyone was listening, talking, trying to diagnose, trying to fix it. They were all trying to help, really.
And whatever it was intended to be, it felt mostly like I was on trial, for the things I’d done and not done. For the ways I should be making this right. And somehow, with no intention from everyone around me, I felt that the burden was on me alone to carry. That this weight would not be lifted from us unless I shouldered it myself.
I remember sitting on that couch, quietly crying, in the home I loved, and thinking, “This will never end the way I want it to. This will never change. I will always feel what happened here, and the days before, and nothing will ever be different. Unless I pretend that it is. Unless I carry it all.”
This was not my first or thirtieth conversation centered around what was wrong. Around the diagnosis. And it would not be my last.
For a time, I lived on this way. I pretended as much as I could. I tried to fake shouldering the burden of our disintegrating marriage, and telling myself that I was bad for not knowing how to get out of this whole. I clung to the stamp of good wife, and good mom, and excellent compromiser.
I clung desperately to the love of good.
I wanted so badly for everyone outside of my marriage to see what I was talking about. To see I was trying, and it wasn’t all my fault; that I hadn’t had some mid-life crisis and decided to run from all the right things. That something was just wrong. To somehow transport them into my body, so they could feel what I felt, weep with me when I wept alone in my car, to avoid going inside, and so they could sense the numbness beginning to spread within.
So they could feel me slowly dying.
So they could approve.
But the truth is this. The hard truth my family and I had to face in the coming years of healing: It was never okay for anyone else to hold such a place in my life that I felt beholden to the deep need to help them feel okay about me, my marriage or the ending of it, my life, or myself.
I wanted them to. But they were going to have to meet me halfway.
I was one of the lucky ones. They eventually did. We found each other in the place of healing and understanding, over time and through the active loving of one another.
It was and never will be only my burden to carry.
It will never be only for you.
The approval of the ones we love is a privilege. Not a requirement. The approval I needed most was going to have to come from within.
In the places where we find truth. Where we find acceptance. Where we find forgiveness. Where we find our own souls telling us what is right, and what we will allow. Where we find our next step.
It took me another eight months to find the outlying sliver of the soul place. The place that eventually gave me the courage to kick approval to the curb and to try to love myself, while everything burned around me.
There was a fire inside me. It was burning slow and low and hot. The fire never flamed. The embers glowed and flickered, but they remained tame while I was in the pretending.
I was going through the motions of topside living, and topside saving of all the things, and the fire was low and quiet.
But it was there.
And somehow, some way in the pretending, the fire began to awaken.
It came to rise up in the form of a few people who loved me.
It came to rise up during what I can only now describe as a spiritual awakening.
And the more I was loved with no expectation, the more I was loved just because I was me, human and warts and all…the more the fire was stoked.
The sparks caught.
And the flames consumed the stamps, and the love of good, and the guilt and the shame until all that was left was me.
Looking nowhere for approval. Looking nowhere for a stamp. Looking nowhere but inward.
Next Chapter: Here, With You Coming Tomorrow