And here comes 2015

Christmas 2014 is history. Its time to take down the lights and start the move into 2015. The new year with all its unknown. This is the time to look back and see what has been and then plan for what we want the new, fresh and clean year to become. And I just want it to be over and done. I’m tired of looking into the future and seeing a long, lonely road. I don’t want to think or contemplate the future. It’s just more of the same.

2014 was a big year of changes for me. I started a new job with a new company that I really enjoy. (Totally a God thing.) I’ve taken a break from some of my ministry commitments in order to refuel and decide my next steps. My daughter moved into her own place and is establishing her life away from me. I found out that my son is going to be a father in the spring of 2015. Good changes, really. But, it doesn’t mean they were easy changes. And, there are more to come.

I have realized that I cannot look at 2015 in one big view. It’s too overwhelming for me. I have failed before the new year has even begun. I’m not sure how to approach 2015. As hard as I try, I can’t dream about the future. I’ve learned the hard lesson that when dreams die, it hurts. I’m afraid of disappointment (my own and of others) and any more loss. I know that living in fear of loss/pain robs me of many wonderful experiences. I barely held it together during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays this year. I have forgotten how to be content on my own. I have lost the art of being one and only one. I have become too dependent on others and on busyness to keep me distracted from what my life really is. I have to figure it all out, again.

So, for me, 2015 means ONE. I have to relearn being ONE. I have to separate “me” from my children, my friends and my work. I must stop depending on others and learn to stand alone. I have to face 2015 day by day, for this is my life. There is no one else to live it with me or for me.

Psalm 121:1 -2 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (KJV)

Honestly

Can I be honest? There are times when I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Ever. Before you start sending me Suicide Hotline numbers, let me be clear: I’m not thinking about hurting myself. It’s not that I want to die. I just don’t want to live. Not in this reality. I don’t feel this way every day. But on those days when I am over-whelmed with waves of frustration, sadness, desperation and/or (honestly) hopelessness, disappearing from this life sounds really good.

I have a great life from most viewpoints. I have a good job and a nice home. My kids are growing into successful, productive members of society. There are no needs and few wants in my life that are not met. I have friends and encouragers all around me. I was married to my best friend for 18 years. So what’s the deal, right? Right. I ask myself this all the time.

I try not to think too far ahead in my life. My son is working and on his own, building his own life. My daughter just graduated from College and is getting ready to move into her “adult” life. Gracie tells everyone that I am “kicking her out” in June of this year. And I did tell her that realistically, she should have a job and be on her by the summer. But, I’m not kicking her out. I think she needs to grow up. I think we need some space between us. Since her dad’s death, we’ve spent a LOT of time together. Out of necessity and out of habit. I’ve seen Gracie decline invitations because she didn’t want to leave me by myself. It’s time for her to have her own life and for me to have mine. This is when I start to hyperventilate. I hate coming home to an empty house. I’ve shared a home with someone for 28 years. I don’t want to live alone. But, its best for both of us.

With the new changes coming so soon, I’ve considered selling my house and downsizing. An apartment would eliminate some of the responsibilities that cause me so much grief. Someone else would be responsible for leaky pipes, and bad water heaters, and critters in the attic. But, this is the only home my kids have known. It’s the house that Terry and I sought out and bought together. I’m not sure that I ready to leave it. (sigh)

I’m not Rip Van Winkle and I’m definitely not Sleeping Beauty. I can’t sleep for 100 years and avoid the reality of my life. Friends will come and go. I can’t stop the changes that are coming. So, I’ll take a deep breath and face life as it comes. This too shall pass.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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Control

I’m a control freak. I admit it. I want to know where we are going, how long we will be there and what we will be doing before I leave the house. While I don’t hate surprises, I prefer controlling the things around me.

So today, after dreading returning to the office and ending my Christmas vacation, I found myself quite calmed by the routine of work. Following days of almost frantic activity, the spreadsheets and formulas that filled my hours were very comforting. Numbers always add up the same way. They don’t break the rules. They don’t argue or get their feelings hurt. I can line them up and make the numbers tell whatever story I wish. Yes, I’m a control freak.

And that’s why I avoid new people and new situations and sometimes, known people and familiar situations. The risk of the unknown, the uncontrollable, often outweighs the attraction of social interaction. I don’t make phone calls because I begin to imagine the faces of boredom or derision on the other end of the line. I would much rather text as I find it much less intrusive. I love to go to dinner or to a movie or just to get coffee and talk with friends. And, I feel as if I’m being tortured when I’m the one extending the invitation. I’m no longer in control.

Every day is a struggle for control of the circumstances around me. I know there a balance between risk and control. But I often find myself opting for the security of riding the seesaw alone: better to stay on the ground alone rather than fly too high. I know I miss out on some excitement in life. But, I’m safe. And a little boring. You see, I’m a control freak.

Sadness

I’m tired of Sadness. It creeps in and colors everything. Often, Sadness comes with If Only and What If. And together they are brutal. They wait for the first sign of weakness and then leave cleverly placed bruises that cannot be seen but cause great pain.

I’m ready for Sadness to be banished from my life. But, I don’t see it happening. For to banish Sadness, I would have to forget. How do I forget love? How do I forget the best part of me? How do I ignore those years? I’m already forgetting his voice, his laugh, his embrace. How much more can I lose?

I’ll make my peace with Sadness. What If and If Only are not welcome. But Sadness can visit late at night when his cousin Loneliness comes calling. They can bring memories to share and stay for a bit. But they must go back into hiding during the day light hours.

Because, I’m tired of Sadness.

The Middle

What happens when you wake up one day and realize that there’s no way around the fact: You are middle-aged? I know that 20 is the new thirty, blah, blah, blah. When you hit 50, there’s no denying it. You are on the downhill side of life. I’ve known people who hit their 40’s or 50’s and go thru the “middle age crazies”. They dump everything that’s been important: family, job, reputation, stability. The need to be young brings new adventures, new boyfriends/girlfriends, new family units and sometimes new jobs. It’s sad to watch lives implode with the panic that comes with middle age and the need to abandon everything “old”.

But, what happens when middle age hits and you find that you’re done? The kids are raised. Circumstances have ended that important relationship you hoped was forever. The job is just a way to pay bills. The days are just an excuse to get up so you can go back to sleep later. There’s not much left to do. What then? What if you don’t want a new family or new adventures? What if the best thing in the world is to sit safely at home on the couch with a kindred spirit and talk or watch a movie or play separately on your electronic devices? What then? Is it better to dump life before it has the chance to dump you?

There have to be new adventures out there that even the weary middle-aged person can attempt. There must be new joys each day to make the day worth living. There are better things to do than just drift along and wait for life to stop in for a visit. There must be. And, I’m going to find them.

Alone

I tease my siblings that I was quite happy as an only child for 2 years. I liked being alone. It was special.

In college, being alone was rare. Even when I lived in my Own apartment, people came and went at all hours.

As a single adult, life was busy and exciting. Alone time had to be scheduled. There was so much to do that once a month I might get an evening to myself.

My first apartment as a new bride was a small one bedroom. As much as I loved my new husband, I looked forward to Thursday nights when he had to work. I got the whole apartment all to myself and time alone.

Alone time with toddlers was truly a challenge. On more than one occasion, I locked myself in the bathroom as the kids stood outside knocking and begging to get inside. I just needed to be alone.

When my kids hit their teens, my husband and I talked about what we could do with all the time we would have alone. The possibilities were endless.

Being alone terrified me as a new widow. How would I make it? I held tightly to my kids and dreaded the day they too left me. I didn’t want to be alone.

As I look toward the future, being alone is changing still. I will never be completely alone. I trust that God will continue to fill my life with new goals and adventures. My kids and family weave in and out of my daily life. Friends, old and new, come and go and dot the landscape of my life. In the dark of night loneliness still creeps into the room. But, it’s not as scary as it was.

I may even learn to treasure alone time again. Someday.

Fear

I’m not a big roller coaster fan. Or a drop from the sky fan. Or anything that simulates the possibility of falling to my death. I like to keep my feet firmly planted and safe on the ground. Along those same lines, I don’t enjoy horror movies or spook houses. I do not enjoy that “thrill” that comes from fear. I’ll take silly over scary any day!

I have a fear of heights. I don’t sleep during thunder storms. When I hear about a wreck on the freeway or see a fire truck racing off, I call my kids just to be sure they’re ok. I don’t see any reason to put wheels on or under my feet. That’s just preparing to fall. Likewise, ice was meant for tea not sliding around on. I never learned to water ski. No matter how often my dad told me he would come back and get me, I would forget to let go of the rope when I fell. I spent a lot of time coughing up lake water one summer.

But, I think more than anything else, I fear not being “good enough” and thus an imposition. This fear permeates every minute of my day. It’s the reason I avoid making phone calls. What if I interrupt something? It keeps me from meeting people. What if they don’t like me? It keeps me from connecting to others any deeper than a surface level. That way, they’ll never know that I’m inferior in some way. On the flip side, it keeps me safe. I don’t have to worry about being rejected, because I rarely get close enough for it to hurt. This fear of not being good enough keeps the walls up around me. You may be able to see me, but you will have a hard time getting to me.

Grief has a way of demolishing all those walls. It removes the filters because you just don’t care what anyone thinks any more. But, I’ve realized that grief will also build newer walls much faster and they are often thicker. Solitude is safe. Loneliness is a small price to pay to avoid that searing pain, again. But, God did not intend for me to hide away in fear of what might happen.

There are lots of verses about fear. Here are a few:

1. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
2. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matt 10:31 NIV
3. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
4. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Psalm 91:4-8 NLT
5. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7 NLT
There are many, many more. And they help. Until, once again, I begin to believe that I need to measure up to the expectations of the people around me.

I know that Christ died for my sins and I will never be good enough to deserve that. I am blessed by that grace. I accept that. It’s the irrational fears of day to day life that take me to my knees. It’s a daily struggle to let go and trust.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Really? What about you?