Lately, I feel like I did as a child, when I would spin and spin in circles until I fell to the ground with dizziness. As a little girl this was fun. As an adult, not so much. In the past five years I can’t seem to find a single thing that I haven’t examined. Not a single belief about God or life, parenting or politics. My road to acknowledging bitterness started one summer day in my master closet, with tears that would not stop. I was holding onto rules and stuffing down my real feelings about, well, everything. I was strangling my own voice. My judgments were a chokehold on those around me. I was outwardly shining, and inwardly bitter.
My early life was volatile and chaotic. I made deep vows to live my adult life with much more order and control. This philosophy worked for several years before it overgrew its boundaries and began to stifle me in every arena. If there was an area that felt out of control in my growing-up years, I took the opposite tack. My home was messy, so now I will be ultra-clean and organized. I was raised in a charismatic demonstrative denomination, so I will choose one less so. I was building a life in opposition to my childhood. I was bitterly opposed to raising my children as I had been raised. Turns out bitterness and certainty aren’t great starting points.
As years of stifled emotions and true desire began to pop up to the surface, I found that I wasn’t certain about much. I also found that I needed enormous kindness as these younger places surfaced. How could I judge the whole world for not following strict religious rules when I was doing my best just to face each day? It all started to unravel. What would I do when my child needed an antidepressant because the Christian school she attended was asking her to believe things she did not feel were just? I chose to put her in therapy, get her medication, and examine those beliefs. The old me wouldn’t have. I would have had her soldier on. I did have her soldier on, for a long time. I was in the midst of a total shift in perspective. My heart was breaking from real life. My vow to live in control of everything was crumbling.
It has taken each day of the last several years to allow myself space to reconsider things I used to stand on with assurance. I am more loving. I see my own racism and want to fight against it. I am less sure that I’m right about anything. I am more needy of acceptance, generosity of spirit, and of love.
I’m just a human practicing being a fallible mess.
I have more papers on my desk these days. I let my teenagers’ dirty dishes crust over in their rooms. I sit by a particular tree several times a week to take in the stunning beauty of nature. I drink more wine and prepare better food. I walk more. I run around less. I read books that have generous theology, and I read a lot of fiction. I cut flowers from my garden. I am slower. I have to take naps. I don’t look as productive. I am less sure of what I will be able to accomplish each day.
This letting go of rules and beliefs has cost me. It has cost me friendships. It has cost me certainty. It has cost me control. I still have days where I long for the old me. I really got shit done! I wasn’t very likeable, though. Life truly is an uncontrollable mess. My vows couldn’t keep my heart hidden forever. And so, I welcome the reality that I’m falling apart and I am much kinder. Changing mid-life is a gift, not something to resist. I long for an end to bitterness.
Shandee recently risked a move to land in Colorado with her husband and best project partner. She is the mother to her son in college and two daughters in high school. The past few months have been spent mowing down high grass and hacking at dead brush to reveal the beauty of the hills and creek where she lives. She loves a good nap, reading novels, creating beautiful spaces, and offering deep rest to those who are weary. She writes and podcasts with her friend Jill Dyer @ DarlingMom.com where they address what it is to reparent ourselves.