Last night I ran across this passage by Brene Brown:
Shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection. Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion, and connection. If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story. — The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 46.
So, in the interests of owning my story and rejecting shame, I’m writing this post. Because tonight I feel sad, angry, and disconnected, and the shame is lapping closely around the edges of my soul.
In college, I went to a butterfly house for the first time. What I remember most vividly from the experience — and what I wrote about afterward when I described the visit for the campus newspaper — were the dead butterflies littering the floor around the emergence box: beautiful, perfectly shaped creatures who had failed to soar for no apparent reason; others with torn wings; others whose wings hadn’t fully formed. Those remnants created a mosaic of glittering dust and brilliant color and shattered edges.
I had never before considered that not every butterfly emerges alive from its cocoon, that the struggle to metamorphose takes a sometimes lethal toll.
Tonight I feel like one of those butterflies. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this transformation.
Tonight faith feels like a mind game I play with myself to pretend like the ugly realities of my life aren’t so ugly.
I’ve written that I stopped cutting. Today brought a hard wakeup call that, without conscious intention or awareness, I’ve traveled perilously far down another destructive path. I understand why, but identifying the motives doesn’t address the real issues. I need to arrest this thing now, before the consequences become severe, but the fight feels overwhelming. I don’t know whether it’s worth it.
I don’t know what the point is of fighting through.
The externals of my life haven’t changed, and although I have hoped — and believed God has promised — that they will, so far I see no tangible signs of that. I’m caught in lethargy, unsure which direction to go. This life feels too small, a cocoon that no longer fits but is fighting to keep me trapped. It’s not an existence that feels worth the struggle — and I say that not in a suicidal sense but in an “I believe there has to be something better, but where is it, and how do I get there from here?” way.
Because I have to get there. Here is not a place I can stand staying for much longer.
I feel so alone right now, so isolated. I yearn for community, for family, for connection. And I am terrified to seek those things. Terrified of rejection, of never being enough, of that genteel velvet curtain of disapproving silence that lets me know that I have once again failed to be or do whatever it was I needed to be or do in order to be deemed worthy. (I know God finds me worthy. I do. But once in awhile, it would be helpful to get some unsolicited affirmation from other humans.)
Today I have reached out to several people I love, people who I know love me and who I feel blessed to have in my life. I appreciate them for understanding me and for caring — but no one has had the words of hope and encouragement that my soul needs to hear today. Every conversation, in fact, left me feeling worse than I had before. And I say this not to throw shade at my friends but to underscore how shitty today has been. Maybe there’s nothing they can say that would help; they don’t know the future, and they can’t change the things I hate about my life.
It feels like even God is mocking me. At my gym, there’s a basket of Bible verses by the door, and on the way out tonight, I grabbed this one:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12
I read it in the car and started bawling. (If you’re thinking that’s a familiar theme, yes: This season has been baptized with tears.) Because DUH. That’s my lived reality today, and what I needed from the Bible was hope, not a reminder of how much my life sucks and how trapped I feel and how heartsick I am over all this waiting with no tangible results.
If my dreams are butterflies, my life is the floor surrounding that emergence box: torn beauty, jagged edges, lifeless wings.
This season of limbo and waiting feels like it’s going to stretch on forever. My relationship with God often feels like the most real, most important aspect of my life, the crux that gives meaning to everything else. But tonight I’m wondering whether it’s anything but a cosmic mind game. I have written down what I long to believe are God’s promises, and so far not only have none of them come to fulfillment, there is zero sign that any of them will. This doesn’t mean they won’t. It does mean that I’m questioning whether my faith is an illusion, whether what I perceive as God’s voice is really just my own dreams and desires talking over everything else, whether my faith is just an opiate keeping me too passive and lethargic to seek anything better.
I want to write about God, hope, love, faith. I want to write about these topics in ways that encourage and sustain and comfort other people. But this is the flip side of my faith: the doubt, the despair, the sickness unto death, the dark night of the soul. And the only way I can be authentic, the only way I can own my story, is to share its fullness: the loss and struggle and grief and anguish. That, I think, is the only way I earn the right to talk about the love, the hope, the faith, the blessings.
But oh, I long for the love and the hope and the faith and the blessings. Because right now these wings feel like they’re being ripped apart, and this cocoon feels like it will never release me, no matter how hard I fight to escape.