Growing up is hard.
Starting a Tuesday morning with meeting over breakfast. I ate two fried eggs while conversing with Chris. Puffing myself up, lots to do. In October, right around the corner, we’ve got our annual gala. The Anchor House building is progressing, and not to mention I’m a graduate student. An hour earlier I’d sat down to speak with Jesus. Prayer started and ended, so I left and felt as if I was never there.
Despite breakfast, my heart is at last night, on the couch with a plate full of cookies and the wine I’d guzzled down. Television blaring, in hopes to distract the feeling of mayhem. I’m lost somewhere in budgets, leading a ministry, bills, sickness, controversy, burdens, fundraising, planning and a lifestyle of responsibility.
I drift back, at the table using my fork to feed the eggs into my mouth.
Surely these will be enough to hold me over until lunch.
Got to rush off, we’ve got a meeting to attend.
A few hours later, I’m the new owner of a throbbing headache. My bright idea: I’ll just ignore the pain, it will probably go away, so I rush to my graduate class. Sitting down, behind my desk, I hear my professor speak. Her words become soft murmurs, eyes start to blur as a hazy torment hovers in and out, testing my vision.
My forehead is pounding.
I’m so ready to leave.
Please, just let this class end.
I want to leave.
Finally class is dismissed.
And dismissed early, it felt like grace.
I walk to my car and drive home.
Don’t know how but,
I’m home and still the holder of this terrible headache.
On yoga mat. I lay. I breathe, in and out. The discomfort feels unique but familiar.
I keep breathing. My jaw is tightly clinched, I deepen my breath and I feel my jaw relax sightly. I choose to engage the pain, I laid in complete stillness for hours. Big tears fell and I heard Jesus’ voice whisper, I will take care of you. My heart leapt at the care, stability spoken within that phrase. As I journaled my experience, I noticed my words: “headache” slowly turned into scripting the word “heartache.” And nouns such as “car” became the word “care.” I wrote a poem to organize and navigate where I am.
Cause I’m not big enough yet
When, when did I grow up
Or am I?
I want to be held
To still have one
Can I be brave to say
I’m not feeling so grown up
Or am I?
Mangle to mangle
An alligator by his high tooth
Yet I’m tangled in webs
of fishing line
Out to the boat without bait
Now I’ve got
Proud owner of
Or is this
Meant to be squished between the palms
Of a tender
Or am I?
I learned through my trauma sensitive yoga training with David Emerson that our bodies hold our stories. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline are activated during initial trauma and reactivated when triggered. Left with no place to travel, the chemicals stagnate in on our bodies cellular level. I’m fascinated that our chemistry resonates to the make up of our life narrative and in fact changes with healing. A simple headache is my body speaking, telling me to grieve. Inviting me not ignore but enter into the pain. Heartache is only quenched as we let ourselves and others be present in the suffering.
I grabbed my phone and texted a friend. A shot to slowly shift down my pride. I’m so sick of hiding to pretend I’m keeping it together. At my footstool of heartache I found an entry into conversations, vulnerability and community.
I admitted to feeling orphaned to an audience of more than Jesus and my journal, I admitted to holding back every fear and hope for being seen.
I’d tinkered with self sufficiency and found it to be a false substance that insnares self-admiration and pulls me to hide behind the veil of success. God designed our souls to be held and known. Relationships heal.
Sunday at church, I sat beside that friend. The moment of triumph came as we worshiped side by side. She knows my story and struggle and reached out her hand to join in mine. It was that moment I realized I’m not alone anymore and nor did I want to be. My heart felt safe as I saw fear leaving, a sense of home resonated. This scripture comes to mind, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68) and indeed this is a beautiful truth.
Anna Smith is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restore One, where she works diligently on their chief project, The Anchor House. The Anchor House will be the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.