Wallowing

This was me yesterday:

Crying_icecream_eating

My poison of choice was Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream – always an excellent coping mechanism.

Ain’t no party like an Aurora party cuz an Aurora party involves eating an entire pint of ice cream while binge watching Netflix alone in my apartment while wearing a Grumpy Cat T-shirt.

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I know, I know; you’re jealous you weren’t invited. It’s understandable. But don’t take it too personally. These Aurora parties happen in isolation, so no one was invited. Except Ben & Jerry.

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AA

Sweetly Broken – Part II

GoodbyeMy ex-fiance and I kept running into each other all day long – at the crawfish boil, the volleyball courts, in the cafeteria… It was like something out of an Agatha Christie murder mystery novel where all of the characters are trapped in a secluded set, snowed in at a log cabin or marooned on a private island.

My ex and I would inevitably pretend to ignore one another, avoiding eye contact but all the while keenly aware of the other’s presence. It was awful. Just when I reached another valley of desperation, mind spiraling to dark places, I spotted a familiar face: Patricia. Flynn’s ex-girlfriend. Oh, the irony. 

Patricia and I smiled and waved at each other across the meadow and walked toward one another. Still smiling, aware that my ex was watching me, I said to Patricia, “Will you walk and pray with me? I’m having kind of a rough day.”

“Of course!” She looked surprised at my vulnerability but genuinely happy to be there for me. We walked and talked; then found a bench in the warm sun. I told her about my ex; she told me about the pain of watching Flynn with his new girlfriend. We encouraged one another, laughed together, cried together, and prayed over one another, just as I’d done with Grace earlier. I’d known Patricia was beautiful. But before that afternoon, I hadn’t realized what a wise, godly woman she is as well. God truly works in mysterious ways.

As the sun was setting just before the final session of the day, I saw my ex yet again. Patricia had called me over to her table and started to introduce me around to her group. I shook hands with one person after another until I came to my ex, who was sitting in the circle. I played it cool, sticking my hand out to him and saying, “And you are…?”

He looked tired; emotionally drained. He didn’t complete my sentence but said simply, “Hi, Rory.” He reached out and took my hand, shaking it as the others had done.

I moved on to the next person in the circle, smiling broadly and playing the social butterfly I can be when I decide to be. After laughing and cutting up with a few new friends, I walked around the table and put my hand on my ex’s shoulder. “Can we talk for a minute?”

I hadn’t planned on talking to him; in fact, I’d been intentionally avoiding him all day. I had no idea what I was going to say, but after hours of unrest and internal turmoil, I just wanted to face the issue head-on and address the unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

He looked pained and wary about talking with me, but he agreed. “Uhh… we can if you really want to.”

In response, I gestured for him to follow me, and we made our way to the tree line, along the edge of a wooded pathway away from everyone else. Once there, I turned to face him.

“I thought we should just acknowledge that this is awkward,” I began. “I’m uncomfortable, I’m sure you’re uncomfortable… this is just an awkward situation.”

“Yes,” he stated with emphasis, nodding.

“And we’ve been dancing around each other all day,” I added, “So I thought we should just acknowledge that, yes, this is uncomfortable. But I also want you to know that I’m okay. I’m really glad I’m not married to you.”

His change in expression was immediate. “There’s no reason to be mean,” he spat at me.

My eyes widened in surprise. “I wasn’t trying to be mean!” I defended myself as gently as I could. “I was trying to affirm you in your decision not to marry me!”

I paused; then sighed heavily. “This is one of the reasons it’s good we’re not married. I’m a direct communicator, and you’re sensitive. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I was just letting you know that I’m okay, and this doesn’t have to be so awkward. But I’m really doing okay. I’ve been dating someone the past six months –”

He interjected enthusiastically, “Rory, that’s great! That’s what I’ve been praying for!” What? His whole face had lit up with genuine excitement.

“I’ve prayed for you every day since we broke up,” he told me, “I’ve prayed that you would find a man who will love you well and that you’ll get married and have kids…”

“You’ve thought about me every day? You’ve prayed for me every day?” I was shocked. Even as heartbroken as I’ve been, I have not thought about him every day for the past year. And I stopped praying for him a long time ago. It engaged my heart too deeply, and I didn’t think it was healthy to keep that kind of emotional connection to him.

“Yeah,” he admitted sheepishly. “I’ve been kind of a wreck. I know I treated you horribly. I’ve been in a deep depression for the past year. I haven’t dated anyone, and I’m still seeing our old counselor every week.”

Wow. That shouldn’t make me feel better, but it definitely did. The last few prayers I prayed over my ex were for his ruin – financial, emotional, relational, etc. I know that’s not God-honoring at all, but I rationalized to myself that only through his utter brokenness could God truly reach my ex and make him into the man he was created to be. So it was really a loving prayer, right?

I knew my prayers had at least been partially answered when IBM and NOV tanked. My ex is a value investor who doesn’t believe in diversification, so he was only invested in five stocks, two of which were IBM and NOV. He also invests tens of thousands on behalf of his closest friends and family. I’d wondered how that affected their relationships (and hoped for the worst. I know, I’m terrible).

“Why have you been depressed?” I asked as casually as I could. “Was it all guilt… or did you miss me?”

He shrugged and hung his head. “A lot of it was guilt. Honor and pride played into it. I did wrong by you, Rory. But I also missed you. I revisited that decision multiple times a day, every day for a long time. I would have to call my mom all the time to talk back through the decision not to marry you. But it was the right decision. I totally butchered the decision and dragged you through hell for months – I know – but it was the right decision.”

Although I agreed with him that it was the right decision, I only felt that way because of the way he’d treated me near the end. I would have married him. I loved him. And so hearing him say it was the right decision not to marry me caused my heart to twinge, even though I knew it to be true.

“Why did you propose to me?” I asked suddenly. It wasn’t a premeditated question. It just tumbled out in my moment of insecurity.

His looked at me sadly; gently. “Because I loved you. I was in love with you. And you were the first person who ever loved me back. That’s why I proposed to you.”

“Then what happened? I hadn’t planned to get into this, but since we’re talking about it… You said so many horrible things to me those last few months. That I’m so Type A that I would drive you to have an affair. That I’m domineering and no man could lead me. That I’m cold and emotionless. That I’m too much… Even though I’ve moved on from wanting to marry you, those words play on repeat in my head. Did you mean all of them? What was the real reason?”

“Rory, do you really want to get into this?” He sighed and looked away, exacerbated. “You take everything to heart and twist it to see it in a negative light. I don’t know if I should tell you.”

I just looked back at him, waiting.

He sighed again. “Okay, first of all, I was a crazy person. Ignore everything I said during that time. My own parents didn’t recognize me. But what it all came down to is, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m an emotional guy, and I need a woman who is absolutely dripping with empathy. It’s not a knock against you because everyone has empathy on a different scale, and all kinds of personalities end up together, but it was just an incompatibility. There’s nothing wrong with your personality – please hear that! – but we just weren’t compatible.”

I thought we were.

He continued, “I would have seen our incompatibility sooner if not for my issue with lust. I lusted for you, Rory. I’m so embarrassed by it. It’s humiliating. I had a deep-seated sin of lust, and I’m so ashamed by it. And how it blinded me.”

That was hurtful to hear. “So you proposed to me because you wanted to have sex with me?” Although he wasn’t a virgin, I am still waiting even now, and he had claimed to respect and admire that, although his actions didn’t always align with his words.

“No!” he looked hurt and horrified. “I asked you to marry me because I loved you. I just didn’t see our incompatibility until after we were engaged. I felt like you changed.”

“The change in me – the hardening, pulling away, being less empathetic —” I looked pointedly at him, “– was a response to how you were treating me. I sensed your anxiety and emotional withdrawal and was trying to protect myself.”

“I know I wounded you, but you wounded me, too – in a different way. I was afraid to talk to you today because you know me. You may say you don’t know me – that I’m a stranger to you – but you do. You wounded me because you saw deeply into me and spoke truth into my life. And I was afraid you’d speak more truth into me. And the truth is painful. But I’m thankful for it. I learned so much from you. You have no idea.”

That had been my initial prayer when we first broke up. That he would grow and learn and have eyes to see the truth. He had been so blind and walking in darkness. It was an unexpected blessing to learn that he finally heard the words I had been speaking for months. I only wish he had appreciated it sooner and more fully. That he’d had the maturity to recognize that being married to a truth-speaker is a blessing. That much of marriage is encouraging our spouse toward greater Christ-likeness, such that we present them before the Throne of Grace more sanctified than they would have been if not married to us.

We both just looked at each other. And sighed.

“Well, is there anything else? Anything you need to hear from me?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t think there’s anything you could say that would be helpful and not damaging. Because of your rejection, sometimes I don’t believe I’m marriageable or desirable, but there’s not much you can do to change that.”

“Rory, you’re a great girl. You have so much to offer. And you will get married someday. And that man will be a very lucky man.” He looked thoughtful. “I actually say that to our counselor all the time. You have so much to offer a man.”

I smiled sadly; then asked, “Is there anything you need to hear from me? Have I said anything in this conversation to hurt your feelings that I need to retract?”

His brow furrowed. “No, but I need to hear that you forgive me. Will you forgive me, Rory? I know we’ve been over this, but I need to hear you say that you forgive me.” He looked at me with big eyes. Vulnerable. He needed this desperately.

“Of course I forgive you.” I smiled sadly again. I forgave you a long time ago. Many times over. Over and over again. It’s a process. I was glad to help him move toward peace… and I was glad that I was glad.

We stared at each other again. “I don’t know how to end this conversation…” I trailed off.

“Well, we’re going to hug in a minute here…” he began before he, too, trailed off.

“The last time we talked, you said that you wanted to be friends,” I reminded him. “That you’d call me in a year and try to be friends.”

“Yeah, that was ‘pie in the sky’,” he admitted. “It was my way of comforting myself. I didn’t want to lose you completely, so I told myself I was only losing you for a month or a year. But I knew deep down it wasn’t realistic.”

I know it’s best we’re not friends, and I honestly don’t want the angst of him in my life – I’d never wanted him to call a year later – but it still hurt my heart to come to the realization that we were about to say goodbye forever… again.

Two girls walked past us, ranting loudly about something that hadn’t gone the way they wanted. My ex made his classic “uh oh!” face and started making high-pitched “meep”-ing sounds like Beaker from The Muppets.

I burst into laughter, and he looked surprised before his face relaxed into an authentic grin. He chuckled softly. “Oh, Rory, I’ve missed your sense of humor.”

“I’ve missed yours, too.” We smiled at each other for a brief, shining moment where time stood still and we were transported back to another season when we were deeply in love. My eyes started to water unexpectedly, and I blinked back tears.

He saw my tears, and his expression softened as tears welled up in his eyes, too. “Rory…”

I started laughing, embarrassed. “I’m okay,” I waved him off with my hand. “I’m okay. I know you’re not used to seeing emotion from me.”

“No…” he agreed.

“It’s just… I feel like you’re dying to me all over again. I had to grieve the loss of you like the death of a loved one, and now I know I’m saying goodbye again. It’s just… very emotional.”

He took a step toward me and said, “Who knows? Maybe five years from now, you’ll be married – to that guy you’re seeing; maybe he’s ‘The One’ – and maybe I’ll be married, and we can be friends. You never know.”

“Okay,” I smiled at him through my tears.

He closed the distance between us and wrapped me in a hug. We stood for a moment before pulling away and walking in different directions. As we parted, he called softly, “See you later.”

“See you.” …Just maybe not this side of heaven.

Authentically Aurora

Stuff it, Team Happy

April LudgateI wrestle with depression. Not only does this dysfunctional brain chemistry run in my family, but life has handed me some tough rounds over the past few years.

Notice that I chose the words “I wrestle with depression” and not “I suffer from depression.” I am struggling against it. I think being depressed is about as fun as being force-fed horse droppings while hanging upside down in freezing rain. I don’t want to be this way. I am not choosing to sit idly by while depression devours my joy. So I’d appreciate it if Team Happy would cut me some slack.

Some individuals are better equipped than others to sit with people in their sadness. If I open up to someone and their first response is any variation of “There are people much worse off than you,” I am immediately clued in to the fact that they are not emotionally equipped to understand depression. They might be someday, once they have experienced some traumatic loss of their own, but when I’m struggling to maintain an even keel of my own emotions, I don’t also have the emotional energy to help others learn how to deal with me.

Depression can bring with it a component of feeling trapped in your own head and at war with yourself, which can be perceived as a form of self-centeredness, causing the uninitiated to the Dark Night of the Soul to respond with comments like, “Why don’t you just fix your attitude?” Yes, I’ll get right on that. Go-go-gadget-attitude-fixer! What? I’m still depressed? Darn!

I have been accused of being overly self-oriented, but this trite response to my emotional seclusion belittles feelings that I do not know how to control or manage. Comments like this make me feel badly about feeling badly. So stuff it, Team Happy. I already feel badly about feeling badly without your condescension.

Often when people are uncomfortable, they throw out platitudes like, “Just stay positive!” (with the implied accusation that I am failing miserably at something that comes naturally to them). It always amazes me when Team Happy tells me, as if it had never occurred to me before, to “Just smile!” Platitudes don’t cure depression. They trivialize depression.

Here are my Top 10 Favorite (least favorite) Platitudes for all my fellow depressed homies out there:

  1. Fix your attitude.
  2. Happiness is a choice.
  3. It’s all in your head. You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.
  4. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
  5. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  6. I think you want to feel this way.
  7. Cheer up! It’s a beautiful day! Go out and have some fun!
  8. When you’re down on yourself, you’re not much fun to be around.
  9. You have so many things to be thankful for. Why are you depressed?
  10. You can make the choice for or against depression; it’s all in your hands.

Here’s to making the choice not to strangle the next person who tells me to make the choice to be happy.

Authentically Aurora

Hard Truths Spoken In Love

beauty girl cry1. I don’t think you’re happy. I think you keep yourself busy to stay distracted from thinking about your unhappiness.

2. People say both that you’re stoic and overly emotional because you don’t show many of your positive emotions but you show all of your negative emotions. You’re stoic when you’re excited and emotional when you’re upset.

3. You’re not a fit for Corporate America. You’re frustrated, and that’s leaking into every other part of your life.

4. You’re depending on Bryan for your happiness, and he’s undependable.

5. You have a lot going for you, but you don’t appreciate it.

We weren’t guaranteed to be happy this side of heaven. But we are commanded to be joyful.

I am neither.

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Wise and Fun: Not Mutually Exclusive

Zooey_Wise and FunYesterday a friend made a comment to me that absolutely revolutionized the way I think about myself. She pulled me into a conference room because she needed someone to talk through a difficult situation with her. After a hug, some tears and a few distractions (namely regaling her with stories of my love life), she smiled at me and said I was the one she wanted to talk to because “I knew you’d make me laugh.”

I was shocked. My friend didn’t know it at the time, but her statement was a zinger, straight to my heart. But a good zinger. She thought I would make her laugh? She thinks I’m funny? And that’s why I was the one she sought out to comfort her?

My whole life, I have been the one friends come to when they needed a good listener. Throughout grade school and into adult life, I have heard countless stories about young girls’ insecurities, college kids’ fears of the future, ramifications of parents’ divorces, breakup heartaches, anxiety over major life decisions and struggles with suicidal thoughts.

I like hearing people’s stories, even the hard parts – especially the hard parts, because that is where much of life is lived, and it is in the painful seasons of life that we learn the most about who we are, what we value and what really matters in this life. The dark nights of the soul are when our perspective is reset and our priorities are righted. I love being a part of that process because it is when I sense God the most. I am nearest to Him in the valleys of life, whether they are my own or someone else’s.

Zooey seriousI always thought people were drawn to me in those times because they know I’ve lived it; I know the valleys of life, and I can relate to depressive thoughts. I thought people came to me because I am authentic and approachable; I am a good listener. I figured my presence was sought out because I am wise and serious and dependable; stable and grounded and not afraid of the weightiness of heavy situations.

So my friend’s comment to me, startling as it was, reminded me of a statement Bryan made to me recently: “You bring so much to the table. You have so much to offer the world… but it’s not the things you think. The things that are really your strengths are not the things you think of as your strengths.”

Zooey funnyCould it be that people come to me because I’m funny? I put them at ease; distract them; make them laugh? I don’t think of myself as funny. Or even very fun. But I want to be; I’ve always wanted to be “the fun one”. In fact, one of my greatest insecurities has always been that I’m too serious and melancholy. Yes, I’m intelligent and wise beyond my years, but oh how I have longed to be the bubbly, happy-go-lucky, sunshiny, fun girl.

What would it look like if I started to believe that I AM that girl?

People at church think I’m a social butterfly. Dad says I’m a great storyteller. Mom frequently laughs so hard that she cries when she talks to me on the phone. My best friend Ashley tells me all the time that I’m hilarious. This colleague wanted to talk to me about her difficult situation because she knew I’d make her laugh. And I did.

I’ve always known that I can be fun (and funny) at times, but I don’t think of myself as a fun person. My self identity – the narrative I tell myself about who I am – is that I am the serious, melancholy artist and misunderstood genius. And I don’t know why that is. Because I am an infathomably complex young woman with more facets than even I realize.

I AM the fun-loving, adventurous, hilarious friend with a zeal for life. And I hope 2015 is the year that I own that fact.

Authentically Aurora

The Worst Version of Myself

audrey“Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them.” -Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail

Most of the time, I appreciate that Bryan challenges me. But sometimes he takes things too far. He likes playing devil’s advocate just to get me thinking and, often, to better hear and understand my thought process. He finds it interesting when I process externally. I’m pretty sure he has no malicious intent, but sometimes he seems just plain contentious, and I end up feeling like nothing more than a debate partner or, worse, a science experiment.

I’m reading through the bible chronologically again this year. Right now, I’m finishing up the story of Joseph – how he was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife, ended up in prison, was forgotten by Pharaoh’s cupbearer after helping him, but eventually became Egypt’s second in command by God’s provision in God’s perfect timing. I was telling Bryan this afternoon about how much I love Joseph. He is one of my favorite bible characters, and I relate a lot to his story.

“Oh, you realized that about yourself, did you?” I heard Bryan’s smile over the phone.

“You think I’m like Joseph, too?”

Bryan’s answer – indirect as always – was, “Joseph got himself into a lot of bad situations.”

Zing! So you think I get myself into a lot of bad situations? I defended Joseph, “He couldn’t control all of the things that happened to him.”

Bryan interrupted me, as he does sometimes, “He bragged to his brothers about his prophetic dreams that someday they would all bow to him. He went into the house alone where Potiphar’s wife was, knowing full well that she was an aggressive woman who wanted him for herself — ”

My turn to interrupt. “Joseph’s brothers already hated him before he even told them about his dreams. Jacob was a fool to be so obvious about Joseph being his favorite son. And Joseph was just going into the house to do his work when Potiphar’s wife grabbed his cloak. He had no way of knowing she would be alone in there. It was bound to happen eventually. And anyway, God had a hand in everything that happened, because His plan all along was to use Joseph to save Egypt from the coming famine.”

Bryan’s counter: “But Joseph could have gotten to that same end by a far less messy path if he had exercised more wisdom and discretion.”

…I won’t continue to belabor the conversation. Suffice it to say that we didn’t end the phone call on a good note. It was our first full-blown fight. And it was awful.

I cried for a couple of hours before cleaning myself up for evening church. I tend to go to the 5:00pm service at my old church – the one I attended before my broken engagement. As a result, I don’t like socializing with many of the congregants. Most of them don’t know that part of my story, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Those that DO know about it tend to pry. “How’s your heart?” they ask me. You haven’t spoken to me in six months, while I was deep in the pit of depression. What makes you think I would want to share the most intimate concerns of my heart with you when you have proven yourself to be a fair-weather friend?

Introvert5I arrived ten minutes early, so I sat in my car until the church service started, thinking it was safe to walk in unnoticed at that point. Nope. About thirty seconds after I found a spot alone in the back, one of my old acquaintances, Tiffany, came over with her boyfriend – a new addition since we last spoke. “Oh my gosh! How ARE you?! It’s so great to see you! How’s work? How’s life? What’s new?”

So. Many. Questions.

And none that I really felt up to answering. “Work’s okay,” I said simply.

“You like it?!” she asked enthusiastically.

“It pays the bills,” I answered noncommittally, hoping she caught my tone of voice that was obviously not welcoming of further conversation.

“So what’s new? Anything exciting?”

I shrugged. “Not really.”

She tilted her head to the side and put her hand on my shoulder. “How’s your heart?”

Ah, there it is. I couldn’t wait for that question. Let’s see. I’ve been absolutely destroyed emotionally in the last year, first by the man I loved who decided he didn’t want to marry me after all; then by countless so-called friends who either unintentionally said hurtful things or abandoned me altogether. I have walls up higher than you can climb; thicker than you can break through. Do you really think I’ll make myself vulnerable to you after not speaking for so long? Do you really think I’m foolish enough to believe you actually want to hear the answer to your question? No one really wants to know the answer when they ask how you’re doing. They just want you to hurry up and say “fine” so they can get back to talking about themselves and how awesome their life is.

So I told her, “I’d rather not talk about it.” When non-verbals don’t work, I resort to verbals. So much less elegant, but sadly more effective.

After the service, some people invited me to go out for frozen yogurt. I don’t know why; I’m sure I didn’t look very welcoming. I declined as politely as I could and escaped back home to my dark apartment where I made myself hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream to sip on while binge watching Netflix.

Yes, this is my life. I have officially become the worst version of myself.

Authentically Aurora

Goodbye, 2014!

FireworksIf I live a few more hours, I can honestly say that I survived 2014! …barely.  I’m certainly worse for wear, but I am far more healed than I thought I would be at this point. Then again, in the last 48 hours, two different people have told me that they are praying for healing for me on a daily basis. Apparently my emotional wounds are still more obvious than I would like to believe. Nevertheless, I feel more whole this week than I have in a long time.

It’s funny the things that patch our hearts back together – my parents’ dog, for one. I wasn’t an animal person for the first couple decades of my life, but that sweet German shepherd just loves me unconditionally. He is always happy, always cheerful, always loving. And he’s soft and fuzzy and cuddly. He softens my rough edges and makes me kinder and gentler. Love has that effect on the heart of a woman.

And Bryan. He’s good for me. He draws out of me the heart I’ve been given, rather than the heart I choose to show the world in order to protect myself. His eyes cut straight to my soul. Bryan sees me as I am. And he meets me where I am. There is something intensely frightening and intensely comforting about being around a man who is simultaneously so perceptive and so compassionate.

Being with family for Christmas was healing, too. I got to snuggle with my brother while he played video games, just like we used to do as kids. In talking with my dad and hugging my mom, I know that I am loved. I may not always be loved by the ones I would choose for myself, but as 2014 draws to a close, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am loved, and that makes all the difference.

Authentically Aurora