I don’t know what’s happening Or what to write, the fight so familiar I’m falling, peculiar…
It wasn’t supposed to be this way The day-by-day decline, I prayed Take me back to where I was —or did I? Let’s rewind because I whined and whined of all my woes (Exhaustion writes defeating prose) The failure felt unbearable I tried to care, but answerless I fell deep into the abyss Of Apathy, I tried to flee But finding me, I shoved me down The throat of scattered, drowning lists Who took their fists and pummeled hard And shards of Insufficiency Went flying, “Hopeless!” their decree
The rope pulls tighter ‘round my neck The more I try, the more I wreck So tell me, what’s the point of trying If I feel I’m slowly dying Dreading dawn of each new day Of failure, loathing disarray?
Come closer, soft, a voice I hear Familiar, so I dry my tears Draw nearer, but I fear this wall When I call, are you even there? I just can’t take another fall Can healing be found anywhere?
Disclaimer: I share this part of my journey as a step of faith & boldness for myself, and in the hopes that someone out there will realize they aren’t alone. It is not a cry for help or pity. I am becoming more and more convinced of the power of vulnerability to break down walls of shame and lies and misunderstanding. When you struggle, you are never alone.
Pain. There’s nothing to gain from this game, I complain But still I play, no one to blame But myself, there’s no way I can break And admit that with each passing day I wish for a way out of this, I just can’t stay, because here I’m hopeless… can’t escape, though I wish I could fly Away instead of wondering why I can’t cope with Being alone. I get so high on my self-hatred That I can’t pry my focus off myself To see the pain of someone else. How did I get here?
You walk by, quick hello and a smile Just to let you know that all this while I’ve been fine. I’m sorry, I just can’t tell you my heart is bursting I’m desperate and hurting, nothing’s working And I feel about to explode. My cover’s eroding but still, it’s easier To enter zombie mode, won’t ease this load But I gotta fake it. There’s no mistaking That I don’t take any opportunities to change, I’m awake but I feel like I’m dying. I’m tired of crying alone in my room Tired of convincing myself that I’m trying When I’m not. Tired of saying “I’m great” when I’m really about to break, I can’t wake from this nightmare, What is at stake here?
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say! . . . What, will these hands ne’er be clean?”
These hands—extensions of my deepest pain and fear, marred by its outworking; hands that have caught my falls, balanced textbooks and teenage angst, held loved ones in tight embraces, mastered motions of artistry, clutched this freedom pen—
Why, why are they so stained?
The blood of my faults dries fresh on fingertips, I all the while digging deeper. “Out with imperfection,” I think, a part of me knowing I’ve invented this antagonist—that part somehow locked up and stifled by a more sinister foe.
The blood, it cakes on now, evidence of senseless struggle, sticking between nail and skin. But I can’t stop. The defect remains.
So, blind to the consequences creeping around the corner, I dig. Dig into the illusion of imperfection under control. Dig into mindless mental replays, like that movie you’ve seen 5 times and still can’t tear your eyes away from when it comes on. I dig deep into identity insecurity, searching for what I never lost. I dig, and I retreat into my head, and the eyes of my heart glaze over a bit, the real ones staring back empty if I dare to look.
Head up, breathe deep, brief reprieve… could I be free? —but then, from the corner of my eye, I see it again, unresolved—
Powerless, it seems, to change the course of long-established reactions, I bow my head again. Not in prayer, but in pursuit of the impossible—perfection.
Time seems to stand still in this death-dance with deception but, true to its name, it is a lie. Hours later, I stand present in the world again—wishing I wasn’t—in nauseated awe attempting to cleanse guilt from all the crevices where it could be discovered. Here, again? Is there another way, an escape I’ve been blind to, or am I doomed to this slow destruction by self and its sickeningly impossible standards?
How can I cover up? How can I avoid being seen? How could anyone love me this way?
My body is not a battlefield but it does seem so sometimes, like civil wars waged, casualties high, no victor. My ability to hide is not always as skilled as I suppose, despair leaking out around the rough edges that no makeup could conceal. How long must I suffer by my own hand? Until destruction is complete? What can this body bear? Will these hands lose the power to pursue their calling, support their livelihood, weighed down by the consequences of my sin?
I turn to the only One who seems to have any control over this—but not in humility. WHY DIDN’T YOU HELP ME! I silent-scream into the stale air. Faith seems like an awfully silly thing some days, when the effort of years can feel fruitless. But, deep knowing the only flicker of hope is found here, I choke out, I don’t know how to do this differently. I’ve tried… I’ve prayed… I’ve asked… …I can’t take this seeming silence, this cruel crypticism. Why am I in this place? Why do I feel forsaken?
The answer is surely slow in coming, traveling in a thick fog across the void of years spent in blind disbelief. But oh, it comes, defying the dark despair, slow rhythmic chugging rumbling louder, edges becoming defined little by little, faint beacon of light signaling its almost-emergence from the mist.
And I, I have to be that engine that believes, that thinks she can, I-think-I-can, I-maybe-can latch onto that answer and pull it over impossible hills into my field of vision. Receiving is a verb, and perhaps the more difficult of many actions.
But these hands, I force them open, faith small, shame-stained, vulnerable and empty, and wait for the exchange.
What does it mean? How I feel, all this stuff Call my bluff, and you’re right, Never thought You were enough. I can’t take one more day Of dismay, disarray whenever I pray God… just take it away. My desires, ambitions, selfish prayers, Always there, and the lies— Beady eyes tell you “no one really cares.” Insecurities are on the attack, Life is jumping off the tracks, Can’t fake it, can’t shake it, I just wanna make it Go away. I fight, I pray, But what’s there to say? I choose myself over You. I’m selfish, self-hating, the world’s unrelating, But even when my hope is fading,
I feel You.
In my heart, in the air, I pretend not to care But You’re everywhere— A smile, a word, a touch, a meal. How can I not feel You in the way The sun smiles through the leaves? Glory weaves through everything I choose to ignore. I know, out there, there’s so much more To be had, to be seen, than just this time In between. I press on in the hope That I’ll come out of this, from the abyss I see Your hand reaching down, and I’m done Fighting… a battle that isn’t mine, I cross the line, and maybe this time, I’ll be fine.
The forest – thick with foliage and steeped in the day’s post-rain silence. Dim.
My mind, brimming with worries and “why”s and “why-didn’t-I”s, melding into a general confusion, swirling just below the surface. Blurred.
I step forward.
A lone strand of a spider’s web interrupts my attempts to dig into it all, sticky across my face, frustrating in its ability to defy detachment. I become aware of the bugs, endlessly buzzing in and around every orifice of my face, and the voices that terminate my solitude, growing louder, cutting through nature’s white noise. Distracting.
How is one to move from a difficult place when the darkness refuses to lift?
When confusion reigns and the afflictions find strength in their mind-numbing numbers?
When everything surrounding you competes for your attention, pulls you off the path to where you’re meant to go?
Pat, scripted words can’t answer the throbbing ache of a lonely heart, overwhelmed with sorrows and disillusioned with faith when promises don’t see their manifestation.
What does it take to lift a heavy burden from the chest–one that has grown with you since childhood, impregnated by your own defeatist thoughts, until it birthed into a parasitic beast that sucks away any energy you had to fight it? Surely, to lift this burden would be to kill a part of yourself.
I brush off some ants and sit on a bench boasting “Made from 100% recycled materials.” Sometimes the weight of it all is too great to stand under, when the way is unclear and your prayers seem to hit a wall and disappear into nothingness. Did I know God, once?
“Medication,” they say. “Counseling,” “Inner healing”, they suggest. Then, “Deliverance,” others posit. What if the thing I need to be delivered from is… me? Am I then beyond hope?
Because – no matter where I run to, there I am again.
A soft breeze sends a few stray hairs swirling around my face, a brief reprieve from air so humid that each breath feels labored. I can almost taste freedom sometimes, feel the relief of burdens lifted, if only for a second – the loneliness, despair can be so thick in the air that they nearly suffocate. Great struggle, I’m told, precedes some of the biggest breakthroughs. But how long? If the struggle lasts half a lifetime, is that enough? If I can’t even remember what it feels like to be without it, has it become an inseparable part of who I am?
Sometimes knowing the truth by name alone isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to sense it, experience it, live it to truly know.
And where does Truth live? I’ve come to know it better in the living, breathing, loving ones, embodied in the brave broken, the seasoned encouragers, the facade-cracking friends who remain faithful even so. It lives and grows and multiplies out of those who choose to live vulnerable but hopeful, who remind you of what you know, but you’ve buried deep down inside.
And it lives in me, somewhere.
I shift uncomfortably on the bench, brushing off more ants and tiny flying insects. If Truth is so powerful, so freeing, then what is it that chokes out its memory in my life? What can so shift my gaze as to distract me into an alternate reality that evades my attempts to escape, where everything spirals hopelessly out of my control? Where I isolate in fear from the possibility of judgment, but also from the reach of those who would point me back home?
Maybe it’s true, that the lifting of some burdens requires more of us than we are willing to give. Maybe we do have to suffer a sort of death to detach the thing, the death of pride and control and of a part of us we never needed in the first place. Maybe sometimes we don’t know who we are without it, and we keep trying to make it live in the same place as Truth, when the two are opposed.
And maybe, just maybe, we need something to hide behind, and this is all we know.
Well, there’s no hiding now, and the breeze is growing stronger, and the insects more numerous, and the voices louder, and the time has come to make a choice – sit, cower and hide in misery, or stand and follow the wind and face your burdens and fears?
For all of the times I’ve sat out, for all the years seemingly wasted in isolation and exhaustion and despair, for the lies I’ve believed because I wouldn’t get out of my head to let anyone else tell me different, for the prayers never spoken because I thought they’d change nothing, for the countless times I remained silent when cries for help were burning inside me, and for the silences I never filled with encouragement because I believed I had nothing to give –
I stand. And I shut the mouth of my fear, and I push past the debilitating exhaustion and negative self-beliefs, and I know I’ll have to fight this fight all over again tomorrow but in this moment I am nearer than ever to believing that none of it has been in vain. That maybe I’m about to step into something that redeems the wasted moments and the up-and-down faith life, that far surpasses the years of misery and despair and isolation and pain, that answers some of my cries of “why?”, maybe?
I stand, and I step forward into Nature’s unknown. And I feel nothing besides the crunch of dry leaves under my feet, and a million questions are still parading through my head, but I know it’s different this time, because yeah, there is such a thing as faith that precedes the feeling you want to come (although I’m hoping it doesn’t delay much longer), and that could be living the truth too, and there’s a hope that won’t stop kicking even when you give up on it.
And you know what? I’m not a hypocrite, even if I decide to give up again tomorrow. I might believe it, even, but here’s me preaching to myself:
You are not your feelings. You can fight, and you can fall, and you can get up again, because every decision to fight makes you stronger. And one day soon? You’ll suddenly realize who you’ve been all along, and you’ll rip off that life-sucking parasite and you won’t die, you’ll heal. And things that never made sense will come into focus, and you won’t feel so alone anymore, because you see.
If you fell down yesterday, stand up today. – H.G. Wells