Kitchen Battles

I am crumpled up on my kitchen floor, head in hands, hiding beneath a soundtrack of Fernando Ortega and Bifrost Arts, hoping my kids don’t notice I am weeping,

It’s holy ground, but it feels like falling apart.

I’ve spent the last week running hard to escape these feelings. I’ve been sucked into the social media vortex, posting things that are largely ignored because there’s already so much noise and panic. The louder I yell, the more powerless I feel and the more triggered I get. That familiar feeling of yelling into a wall only fans the flames of the anger simmering underneath all my anxiety. I attribute my dysregulation to current events, but underneath the obvious cause, the current of my past wounds runs deep and strong.

Anger is always the emotion I get to before grief—like a primitive animal, I lash out at those close to me—and the shame grows deeper.  What is wrong with me?

Yesterday I lay on my bed during my boys’ afternoon quiet time and petulantly declared to God that I was angry. I was angry at everything in the world that was wrong, and I was angry that I was suffering again from the same stupid problems.

Haven’t I been through enough? It’s not fair.

I turned on a podcast while cooking dinner—just so I wouldn’t have to hear myself think—and instead of distracting me, it started to pry away at my soul armor. Nora McInerny and “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” were having a conversation about “9 Things”: someone’s story about how far we go to run away from the “thing” we all have that we wish we didn’t have. I listened and wished I didn’t relate quite so much.

My “thing” is called c-PTSD. It’s shrunken to a more manageable size with time and work and the grace of God, but it is still my “thing.”

“Can I please have a different thing?” I ask God. “Isn’t this thing off-limits because we just moved to a new state, and there’s a pandemic, and life already feels overwhelming? Haven’t I dealt with it enough?”

The answer, sadly, is a soft, “No.” Trauma, I have learned, does not disappear simply because it is inconvenient.

As I stand at the kitchen island scribbling thoughts and expletives on a notepad, I remember a tool I’ve used so many times: radical acceptance of what IS. A daring step into reality.

In this case, what IS, sucks. What IS makes me cry so hard that I have to sit down on the floor to not fall over. There’s a reason I avoid feeling the feelings, because the feelings HURT.

It’s never going to suck less that my story is what it is.  But somehow, God is here, and it is holy ground.

My Spotify playlist takes an unexpected turn when it jumps to radio, and I hear Andrew Peterson’s voice singing, “Be Kind to Yourself”:

You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean
And you’re drowning in a deep, dark well
I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice
You would rather be anyone else

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He made your precious heart
Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can’t believe your Father knows best

The world is crumbling, and it has brought all my old fears and insecurities to the surface. I’m carrying my old weapon, but the only thing it’s doing is threatening to annihilate anyone who gets close to my wounded parts.

It is the hardest thing in the world to believe that I’m loved in the midst of all this.

How does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you?
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to Me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

A tiny bit of my armor falls off, and I set down my weapon for just a minute. I still don’t understand, and I am still hurt. Everything still feels like too much, and nothing about the world’s mess has changed. But, like a child exhausted by anger and rebellion, I have given up and submitted to the comfort of my Father’s care.

The reluctant surrender of my control and competence is holy ground. It is terrifying to trust anyone, but I cannot do this alone.

Annelise Roberts is a woman sifting through wreckage for the foundation that still remains. Writing is group therapy for her inner committee. She is more certain of less things than ever before but clings to the hope of truth and beauty. She is the wife of a patient, kind man who loves her persistently, and mother to three small boys who give her motivation to get out of bed each day, and ensure that she never sleeps.