Growing up the youngest of three children I was expected to make life better for others, to figure out what they needed and whatever I did…to not cause any trouble. I was one of those kids who wanted to please others and definitely come through in ways that were heroic. My first job as teen was a lifeguard. There were many opportunities to upright children who lost their footing as their parents looked on in panic. I was the responsible one…everyone could rely on me…I started to live life in “rescue” mode. My lifeguard duties continued throughout my 20’s and 30’s as I taught thousands of children to swim and remained accountable for their personal safety.
Ironically those life saving skills shifted as I matured and I became more sophisticated in using them. I was still out there coming through for others and figuring “it” out for them but at age 17 I was blindside in discovering I did not have it all figured out as I thought. It happened in a moment of my father saying to me, “Mary Jane, you are going to be big and fat if you continue to eat like that. There are a lot of big women on my side of the family and you are going to be one of them.” How did that happen? My focus was so much on pleasing others that I completely missed the transformation of my body. It was not pleasing…
Some things very essential were lost to me on that day and it is taking a lifetime to restore them. A cloud of dread entered my heart as I began to navigate a world where I could so quickly slip from being admired and accepted. My efforts doubled to regain my footing in a world that no longer felt safe. I felt scrutinized and judged. A heaviness grew in my heart that felt tight…I was trapped in a body that had betrayed my efforts to be perfect. I became a prisoner in my own body and I tumbled into the isolation of addiction with an eating disorder
I wish I could say all of that is in the past but the reality is I have found I am still living life on duty. It is costly and exhausting. Yet in looking back I can see why it happened. This is helpful because it really solidifies how I desire to live today and tomorrow.
So today is more about releasing…breathing…restoring…the beauty and the loveliness of my heart. It is a transformation that has been unfolding for several years now as I have, by the grace of God, found my way out of addiction. Some days are better than others but recently there have been circumstances where I’ve found myself doubling back to rescue and be on duty out for others.
My husband, John, is the first to notice. I haven’t made it easy for him to move toward me when I get in this mode…it is risky and he knows it… he moves anyway. His words to me 3 months ago were, “Mary, I want you to go off duty. You are carrying too much. I am losing you. I want you to breathe freely again.” Those words frightened me…I felt vulnerable…I felt at loose ends. To do what he was asking felt selfish and unkind. I felt more expendable than others. Yet my heart was warming to the idea. I felt the “weight of the world” released from my shoulders. I was given permission to enjoy the kindness of his heart for me…he noticed too as my countenance relaxed and released the tension my body was holding. I was no longer holding my breath.
John and I have cut loose. We are dancing, biking, eating, drinking…he is enjoying an occasional cigar…we are most definitely off duty. Our hope is to remember the goodness of this time and to continue to release us to one another.
Today, I wonder what you are holding? What needs to be released for you to live freely again? Where do you need to take some deep breaths? My heart is for you…I don’t want you to give up…He doesn’t either. Psalm 146:7 says,” The Lord sets the prisoners free.” Yes, indeed.
Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.