Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Being Broken

I’ve been broken.  For a while now.

It didn’t happen all at once.  It happened slowly like the changing of the leaves in the Fall from green to yellow to orange to gone.  If you pay close enough attention, you can see the slight changes, but mostly you just look one day and notice they’ve changed, and then you look again and they’re gone.

That’s what happened to me.  One day I was Me, and then when I looked again, I was a little less Me.  Not wanting to inspect the situation too closely for fear of what I might find, I carried on with the Not Looking until one day there was no escaping the absence of Me. 

If you don’t live near me, or if you don’t know me well enough to see it, you may not even have known.  Maybe you thought my leaves were always an orangy-yellow, or maybe you were mistaken about my having had leaves at all.  But the truth is my leaves were once full and bright and green. 

Until they started dying.

I don’t know how it started.  Our bodies are mysterious things.  People talk about physical pain and emotional distress and mental illness as if there are many separate parts of a person, but the truth is I have only one body, and all the parts of it make up just one Me. 

There has been physical pain in the last few years.  A lot of different kinds and for a lot of different reasons.  They say that chronic pain can lead to depression, but it’s hard for me to trace the exact path that took me from, “The scar tissue on my kidney won’t stop flaring up” or “My painful digestive disorder is incapacitating me” to “I want to hide under my covers for the rest of my life.”  Yet that’s where I ended up.

The thing about being broken is we always want to hide it.  When my leaves were bright and green, I didn’t mind showing them to the world.  I loved being a part of the world.  I participated in it fully, welcomed it, welcomed you.  But when I began to break, I began to hide.  It’s exhausting to try to make those ugly brown dying leaves look green, and let’s face it, who wants to look at brown leaves?  It’s easier just to tuck them away so no one can see.  But it’s in the tucking that the disappearing begins.

At some point I begin to notice that I was spending too much time in my bed.  Too much time in the cozy cocoon of cotton and down.  But I liked it there.  When I was in that safe place of my own making, I could drown out the Voice.  The one that said, “You’re failing everyone.”  Because if I let myself listen, that Voice had a lot to say. 

“You’re not a good mom.  What a lousy example your setting for your children.” 
“You’re not working hard enough at your job.” 
“You’re failing your husband.” 
"You're not praying or reading your Bible. What kind of Christian are you?"
“Your house is falling apart.” 
“You’re failing at everything.”

And that’s not the half of it.  I bet you know the Voice.  Maybe it hasn’t broken you, but I bet you’ve heard it whispering nonetheless.  It’s never content to limit its quiver of arrows to the present either.  As if being a failure right now isn’t bad enough, The Voice likes to fashion arrows from the mistakes and the pain of yesterday and to sharpen their points on fears of tomorrow.

So for quite some time now, I’ve been trying to hide from the Voice.  I’ve hidden in my bed.  I’ve hidden in my house.  I’ve hidden from my family and my friends and from the world because surely if I could hear it, you could hear it, too.  So, instead of trying to make my leaves look all pretty and green and alive, I just let them fall off altogether.

There was a day when I noticed my leaves were gone.  Noticed I was broken.  That was about a year ago.  But it was just too hard to try to put them back.  To grow leaves again is not easy.  To fix the brokenness requires so much doing.  So I stayed broken.

Until recently.  A few months ago I decided that maybe it wasn’t all or nothing.  The idea of trying to put back all my leaves – all my pieces – was just too daunting.  But what if I could find just one?  Just one piece of Me that might still be there?  One green leaf?

So, I made plans.  I don’t mean A Plan.  Not a plan to fix me, but plans with someone to do something.  Because the old Me did things.  Lots of things.  The broken me did nothing.  Just do something, I thought.  

And I did.

And it didn’t kill me.  So I did another thing. 

I’ve been gradually doing more of the Things until I’ve recently begun to remember what my leaves used to look like.  They’re not all back, but the hope of them is.  And that’s almost enough.

I’ve been hesitant to share this because people – not unlike myself – can be so judgmental about depression and brokenness.  But, I decided I didn’t care.  One of my favorite leaves on the old Me was the writer leaf.  It’s been dead for a long time, but maybe this is what I need to write about to bring that leaf back to life.   

Besides, I suspect we’re all a little broken anyway.  If your broken doesn’t strip you bare and leave you hopeless, then praise God and pray for the rest of us.  If it does, then know you’re not alone, and maybe if all of us with no leaves stopped hiding from each other, the broken wouldn’t hurt quite so bad.  Because the comfort we get from hiding in bed in our pajamas or from eating food or not eating food or from self-medicating is that it drowns out The Voice.  But, if we could all speak loudly enough to each other from our brokenness, maybe we could do that, too.


Theresa Garcia Robertson said...

Love love love you and am so grateful for your honesty. You speak to my heart more than you know!


Unknown said...

Beautiful. I love your writing and your message has soo much truth! I am broken too and struggle with similar things.
I will be praying for you. Love you! You are precious, and a daughter of the King.