Easter two years ago marked a very low point for me. I felt abandoned, lonely, and more isolated than I ever had (which is saying a lot, because even though I have been blessed with some incredible friends, I’ve also spent most of my life feeling like I don’t quite fit anywhere).
The months before COVID lockdown had been among the most painful and challenging I’ve ever experienced, and I struggled to hope, to find a way through what felt like an endless series of next-shoe-dropping blows. Then COVID hit, and any resiliency or strength or endurance left was annihilated. I couldn’t see a reason to endure, couldn’t imagine ever feeling whole or loved, couldn’t conceive of a future good enough to be worth enduring the bleak “meanwhile” to reach.
I thought about dying all the time. I didn’t want to die but I also didn’t see a reason to keep fighting through the loneliness and bad memories and anguish, betrayals and lies. I wanted that all to be over, and death seemed like the only way that would ever happen. I remember sitting at my kitchen table on Easter night, sobbing in the dark, believing I would never be purged of the people and events that haunted me and the deep sense of self-loathing, failure, futility, and despair that I always carried.
There isn’t one specific moment, incident, or person I can name as a turning point. There isn’t one concrete reason I didn’t kill myself. I thought about it constantly, and mentally at least, I was closer than I’ve ever been. I knew if I acted on those thoughts, there would be no coming back this time. But I couldn’t imagine having a life worth coming back to either.
I subsequently made a lot of major changes, many that look questionable from the outside (and I know this because some people close to me have questioned them, and people who don’t know me well tend to give a politely puzzled expression when I summarize). Most of the changes weren’t in the directions I planned to go or the routes I would have chosen. But.
Here I am.
In early 2022 I was given a chance to write reflectively on the word “hope,” and I realized that without thinking about it, without analyzing it or even being aware of it happening, I had begun to enjoy my life and to look forward to the future. And now I can’t remember the last time I felt lonely. I wake up most days excited to go to work; my hours are filled with activity, contact with a variety of people, some aggravation and stress and drama, but a lot of laughter and fun and hugs (and roses!), too. I feel needed and valued at my job, and more than that, I belong.
I’m gaining valuable insights into myself that will guide my next career steps, whenever it’s time to take them (aka I actually like most human beings and, contrary to the bulk of my working life, am not well-suited to 10+-hour days in front of a computer). I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with someone who is remarkably kind and insightful and thoughtful, and I’m so grateful for the chance to know him. And I’ve been playing with the handbell choir at my new church, which is something I thought I would never be able to do again after what happened in Georgia.
Which brings me full circle to Easter. This morning I got up at an insanely early hour, headed downtown to this magnificent 150-year-old building in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain peak, and rang my joyful little heart out.
I have good memories of Easter choir and handbells at my church in high school, but there was an element of sheer fun about this morning that I don’t remember ever experiencing in a church setting. I felt so welcomed and embraced and happy. Jubilant, even. And the music was incredible — from the harpsichord accompanying the Hallelujah! chorus to the soprano soloist to the string quintet and our own very challenging but also exhilarating performance.
Looking out at the white banners and the Easter lilies, I thought about resurrection — not only Christ’s, but new life, transformation, finally becoming the butterfly rather than being indefinitely trapped in the cocoon or not surviving the struggle to emerge. I thought about walking through fire and experiencing the searing pain of imperfections being burned away, and eventually reaching the other side as someone new. Scarred but, at last, whole. Capable of loving and of being loved.
And then the pastor pronounced the final benediction, reciting the words of the same Gaelic blessing that I played over and over during those dark days of COVID lockdown, seeking something to hold onto. Deep peace to you.
Deep peace indeed. And hope at last vindicated. And gratitude and joy that I survived to experience this season of my life.
Easter blessings to you, my friends.