I met my sweet off-to-college daughter for dinner recently and she tossed out the question, “What’s your happy and crappy?”
Loved that. Just another way to say high and low, but it made me smile. And I loved that it was her idea. And so we both answered. (And then when I was together with my couple-friends, I made them all answer it too.)
But here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve known for quite a while now – as in, many years – that I tend to have a melancholy bent. I’m not known for being happy-happy all the time. Yes, I can laugh hard and long, and I can dance in my kitchen, and I can sing with the windows rolled down in my car, and I am grateful for my life every single day.
But who I really am, for the most part, is introspective. And quiet. And fine with being on my own a good deal of the time, in my house. Or going for a low-key walk. Or sitting on my couch with a book. I don’t lead a big, loud, happy-happy life.
And now, even more so, walking through this season of sadness that I can’t quite shake on my own, telling my doctor that a month into my new medication, I just can’t get my happy back, I am even more acutely aware of my bent towards despondency, that I tend to find this life extraordinarily hard to live sometimes.
And I so struggle with this. Culture with its “life is good” t-shirts and my sweet father whose life motto ever since surviving throat cancer is “every day is a good day” and my sweet husband’s belief that “everything’s going to be okay” can leave me feeling like I’m not trying hard enough, or as if I’m not grateful enough, or too weak, or not cut out to be a human being…or something. (How I wish I could view life like that every day.)
I shared with a close friend recently that as someone who loves and is trying to follow Jesus, I feel shame for being in a depression right now. That my faith isn’t bouncy enough to bounce me back (or more to the point, that I guess I don’t have enough faith to bounce myself back). That my reserves of joy aren’t enough to put a smile on my face and just keep it on there.
And how that must make my faith (or me) look weak, or incompetent, or not enough.
Because, sure, it’s been a tough stretch. But shouldn’t I have just been able to get over all of it? And aren’t I supposed to be joyful all the time? And aren’t I supposed to give my burdens to God? And don’t I believe he’s faithful to take care of me?
So why all the sighing and frowns and worrying and headaches and upset tummies and need for pills??? (Why so downcast, o my soul?)
I told my friend I feel like I’m letting God and the cause down by not being happy on my own. (She said she totally got it, which helped.)
And then I began listening to a new album by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sara Groves, called Floodplain. And she penned these gorgeous lyrics that I have wrapped around myself like a blanket lately.
Late nights, long hours / Questions are drawn like a thin red line / No comfort left over / No safe harbor in sight / Really we don’t need much / Just strength to believe / There’s honey in the rock, there’s more than we see / In these patches of joy / These stretches of sorrow / There’s enough for today / There’ll be enough tomorrow
…in these patches of joy…these stretches of sorrow…
She sings these words as if joy and sorrow hold equal weight and time and space in her life, something that I thought was only poor little me, and something that I thought I had to keep to myself because it made me look incapable, because it maybe even made Jesus look weak. Or not enough for me or what-have-you.
I have been called weak before, when going through my divorce, so perhaps that’s why those thoughts are lingering in the back of my head. And it wasn’t a compliment, as in, you’re so weak, I can see God shining through you. No, it was a slam. As in, you should be stronger…you should be as strong as so-and-so would be right now (read: what’s wrong with you that you’re not?)
But here’s what I know today. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who feels the way I feel. I believe God made me to feel deeply, and when someone feels as deeply as I do, the bouncing back from pain takes a bit longer than the average gal. Some people may not like this about me, but I think I don’t care. Because, when I strip away the fear of letting others down, and I remember that I’m not letting God down (you know, because he just crazy-loves me) and that it’s not my job to care what others think, than all that’s underneath is me really being okay with how I’m wired up. And I truly am. Even in the yuckiest, rawest, crying-est moments, I’d rather see life the way I see life than the way any other person sees life. (Even if it makes life hard to see and take in sometimes.)
I will have both more patches of joy and stretches of sorrow, over and over again, cycling in and out of my life, for the rest of my life. And they will each hit me with varying levels of pain and hope, all intermingled. And as long as I’m bringing them all to Jesus, that’s all I really need to care about.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18
If this holidays are daunting to you this year, as they are again to me, consider ordering your copy of Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal and join me in a private Facebook discussion group during the month of December. (Email me to join the group.)
I, too, have entered into a season of sorrow, pain & I fear, depression. When I thought healing had finally come and I was coming out on the other side & I now have a wonderful man in my life (that wants to marry me!) & thankful for my 3 kids (21, 19 & 14) why am I constantly filled with knots in my stomach, not feeling hopeful, little faith & daily waiting for another bomb to drop? Perhaps the holidays magnify past mistakes, hurts & dreams crushed. Dividing my kids lives up to be “fair”. Seeing pictures of ex-family that I no longer get to see. You see, I do understand you very well. I could have written your blog word for word except you are far better at expressing it!
Thank YOU for always putting into words exactly the thoughts that go thru my head that get all jumbled up but you seem to lay out for me to really look at & try to make sense of. AND Sara Groves is my all time FAV! I’ve seen her in concert several times. So exceptionally talented!
I would love to be part of the December facebook devotion group. Please sign me up!!
Blessings to you!
I’ll need your full name (and if we’re not already friends on Facebook, please send me a request at http://www.facebook.com/elisabethkleinfisher).
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you for having the courage to put your feelings into words.
Thank GOD that He led me to your blog so many months (years??) ago.
Thank you that – because of your talent for translating emotions into words – I feel a bit less alone in my… malaise? Depression for sure. Excessive emotional melting down is what I feel in this season. And feeling, yes!, that I’m letting God down by being sad, hurt, grief-filled….
Having a difficult (characterized by much physical pain) disability… there have been times that God has worked THROUGH my state of pain (and struggle to stay mobile and as active as I can) in wonderful ways… but I feel in this bleak season that I should be doing some ‘pulling myself up by my bootstraps’ and ‘making the best of things’….
Why… I just haven’t given myself permission to BE who I am and feel what I feel. And fighting it just makes it worse, yes?
Thank you for putting into words, and having the courage to post on your blog, that it’s actually ‘ok’ to NOT be that ‘happy-pappy’ person. That we don’t have to try to be someone other than who God made us to be. And that Jesus still loves us with a Crazy Love, even when we don’t reflect joy, when we aren’t filled with positivity.
I am moving forward – I have forward motion! – in my healing and faith walk. Perhaps that is enough. To be working through stuff, even though I’m not ‘done’.
I cannot thank you enough today, Beth.
Your words have had a big impact on me. In a good way.
God BLESS you!
Well, Elizabeth, I think we all go through this – and sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t know why. I appreciate your transparency – again – and know that I give a hearty AMEN to everything you’ve shared. I’m in a new place of freedom, but yet a sad place too. Seems now that everyone is holding their breath in hopes I’ll find a man. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not looking. There is still too much healing I need to do to complicate it with a relationship. But folks don’t get that. And that makes me tempted to focus on the fact that I am alone. Well, I’m not alone. I have a life filled with great relationships! I’m just currently not in a romantic relationship. Since when is that a crime? Why does everyone want me to feel like is is a crime? I’m happy. I’m fulfilled. I’m working hard on areas that need work to be a more healed and healthy whole. I’m chasing after God. That’s enough. Yet, a sadness lingers just beneath the surface that I can’t name. Sigh! Onward and forward with God! That is enough. Much love!!
No, ladies you are NOT letting God down by going through a season/time of depression!. I think it’s as natural to life as joy is. We’ve all been through some serious, VERY serious times with our divorces! You/we are NOT weak!! Feeling guilt about the season/time of depression is NOT from God!! Remember, He loves us and only wants good things for us!
Do you think Jesus was happy all the time? Did He not get frustrated? Did He not have things/life experiences thrust upon Him? Did He not feel times of mental & emotional pain & sorrow? YES, He did and He was Jesus, God’s only Son! So, if He experienced theses things, what makes us think we won’t? Especially give the many life experiences that were & are thrust upon us like our divorces?
I have been walking through a season of depression. It has drawn me closer to God as I am clinging to Him more than ever! He is tenderly taking me into His arms and loving me and ministering to me as only He can! Go ahead and go through this season/time with Him. I promise you are NOT letting Him down!
God bless you, Elisabeth as you have the courage to write honestly about your life. Many times it lets other people, especially me to know that I am not crazy.