The Longest Year – What We Learned in Our First Year of Marriage, According to Tim

So it’s Tim coming at you again, live and in stereo (well, screen).  Our world has once again been rocked.  Almost immediately after finishing my last post, our world began to rock again.  Let me just say that last weekend ended up being one of the worst ever in the history of our little Horvatich family.  

After going to dinner last Saturday to enjoy an evening out and toasting to moving forward, we got up the next morning as usual and prepared to attend church.  We had decided that we would attend the Summit Waterford campus (as opposed to the church campus we normally attend), which has special meaning for Lindsey since that is where she started her relationship with Summit Church.  We heard a powerful sermon by Kailey Newkirk on a very difficult subject.  Lindsey had to disappear a couple to times to use the restroom since she was still dealing with aspects of our loss, but we didn’t think much of it.  I was excited for our after church activities because they would include looking at the new apartment complex that we want to move to and looking at the house the I had been going gaga over on the internet.  

So in the early afternoon, we drove down to the Hunter’s Creek area and visited the apartment complex and fell in love.  This is the place we plan on moving.  It is exactly what we need during this transition period while before we buy a home.  We left the apartment and drove down the street to the new housing development to see “the house”.   We sat down and talked to the sales guy for a few, explaining what we were looking for, learning all about he builder (and I do mean ALL… the dude wanted us to know the history, philosophy and brand of toothpaste that everyone in the company used. Ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight.)  During that time, Lindsey got up to use the bathroom a couple times.  As we finally began to walk around the house, she kept having to run to the bathroom and I was thinking, “Well, I guess the Chinese food from last night has decided to visit.”  I COULD NOT have been more wrong.  The next 5 hours would be some of the most difficult and devastating we have yet to experience in our marriage.

Let me start this off by saying that marriage and pregnancy are NOT for wusses.  And those who go into either lightly are kidding themselves – and probably the reason the divorce rate is as high as it is.  Lindsey finally told me that we needed to go home, there was something wrong.  We got into the car and she immediately leaned the seat back.  She was in pain.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  Did she have gas?  Was she stuffed up?  I couldn’t have been more removed from what was happening.  Lindsey was having contractions.  Yes, those contractions.  Full on labor contractions.  WHAT?!?!?!?  I thought the baby was gone, that it had been lost the day before.  In my lack of knowledge, I didn’t understand that what had happened the day before was only a precursor.  We get home and I was still confused.  I just did not understand.  What is this pain she is having and what the hell can I do about it?  Luckily, during this time when Lindsey was laying bed writhing in pain and crying, a dear friend of ours texted to give us an update on how she was doing.  She had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl a couple days before.  Lindsey couldn’t talk so I immediately began to ask questions.  This friend had also gone through very difficult miscarriages herself, and the image of our friend almost dying from her experience went straight to the forefront of my mind.  Would our year of struggle lead to this?  Was I losing my wife, the woman for whom I had waited 44 years?  Our friend began to advise me on what we should do next.  We moved Lindsey to the bathtub hoping the warm water would ease her pain.  This is also when I learned what was really happening.  Lindsey was going through labor, but not the kind that anyone wants.  Her body needed to remove the non-living tissue from her body and the only way forward was to push it out. 

This took another 3 hours.  My wife endured contractions every 30-60 seconds.  Once again, I could do nothing.  I called the on-call doctor at our OB office and she made me feel like a stupid idiot.  (Tip for all the doctors out there: generally if someone is calling you seeking emergency help, it most likely means they are going through something they have never experienced, so please have a little compassion and don’t make an uneducated husband who already feels helpless feel even more stupid because he doesn’t understand or know what is going on.)  What the hell could I do?  

I did the only thing that I could.  I grabbed a chair and sat it next to the tub and held Lindsey’s hand for 3 hours while she did what she needed to do.  I don’t say that to toot my own horn or think that I am something special. I say it because I want to relay the extent of my helplessness.  The ONLY thing I could do was hold her hand and the entire time I prayed.  “Please take this from her.  Please help her to relax.  Please let us NEVER experience this again.”

Eventually, it was all over.  Or so I thought.  The reality was that this was just the beginning of a process that is still ongoing and will continue over the next weeks and months.  The physical side of the miscarriage is done and Lindsey is healing and not suffering any side effects, but now the emotional healing has to begin.  This is another area where I can only scratch the surface in understanding.  I am still learning in this process. 

We entered the week in what I felt was a bit of a somber, but normal mindset for us.  For context: My employment situation has been a bit in flux over the last couple months.  Since losing my job last July, I have done a contract stint with The Mouse himself which we had hoped would convert to a full-time position, only to find out they would be entering a hiring freeze and cutting me lose at the end of the contract.  I then did a few freelance gigs, which is not uncommon since I am a Motion Graphic Designer (if you are not sure what that means, you may visit www.timhorvatichjr.com).  We needed more steady income, so I took a retail job at a popular toy store that sells colorful building blocks, which meant eight hour shifts of standing on concrete while surrounded by screaming children…and adults. I would leave many days feeling like I had been at a rock concert because my ears would be ringing and my body would be in so much pain.  Lindsey kept Aleve and back rubs ready to help ease the physical pain, not to mention my bruised ego.

After three months of retail, a dear friend of mine offered me a position at her production company doing motion graphics.  This was great because it got me out of my $10-an-hour-physical-beatdown and put me back in the world of doing what I love and in my career field.  It would not be an ideal solution in the long term as far as providing for my family, but my friend would get a heavily experienced motion graphic designer, and I would be back in my field and working with some of my favorite people on the planet.  We both knew going into it that this was a temporary thing.  Little did we know how temporary.

Two weeks into the new job I received a message from my old boss with The Magic Mouse.  Did I have time to talk?  Sure!  I wonder what this would be about.  So Lindsey and I thought, “Ok, maybe he has some freelance gigs available.”  Once again, I COULD NOT have been more wrong.  My former boss wanted to know if I was interested in returning to work for The Mouse in the same role that I had been in as a contractor.  However, I would not be returning as a contractor, but a full-time cast member with benefits.  WHAT?!?!?!?  All I could think was, “This is my dream job and dream company and they are calling me?!?!” So they began their recruitment process which ended with an official offer this past Friday – an offer that has blown our minds!

Almost one year since the roughest year of our life began, we are walking out of the fog and into the light.  While we know that tough times will still happen, and money doesn’t solve life’s problems, we have survived twelve months of being kicked down WAY more often than feeling lifted up. We have faced two rounds of unemployment, a flea infestation, financial crisis, depression, anxiety, a first pregnancy, and a miscarriage, in addition to all of the normal struggles and conflicts that come with being newly married.

So what are we taking away from all of this as we approach our one year anniversary?  I think the number one thing is trust.  We really had to learn to trust each other.  We are truly approaching our second year of marriage stronger than we went in, not just as individuals, but as a couple.  We have said that we could not have gotten through the miscarriage had we not been through what we had and built the bond with each other that we did.  More importantly, we have learned to trust in the Lord.  There were countless times when we didn’t know where the next tank of gas was coming from just to get to work, or how were we going to eat that day, or what job was I going to have, or how were we going to survive another week with less than $10 in the bank.  But let me tell you, He had our six. EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Whether it was friends stepping in to offer us this help or a random freelance job for me, help always came.  We would receive a random check in the mail or get a gift card from someone so we could buy food.  EVERY TIME without fail, He provided for us.  It wasn’t in our timing, but it always happened. 

And during this time we did everything to remain faithful, both to each other and to God.  Does that mean we didn’t get angry with or yell at Him (or each other…)? No. I remember screaming at God one night at the top of my lungs asking for help and then not getting any answers.  But as we began to trust more, the light began to creep closer.  My dad would tell me some days, “you know, one day you are going to come out of this and He is going to rain down His blessings you guys, I just know it.”  Let me say that my dad was almost right… He (God) didn’t make it rain, He has backed up massive dump truck and dumped on us.  But in all of this we still want to remember that EVERYTHING that has been given to us is not ours, it is His, and we should NEVER become complacent or take anything for granted.

Going forward, we know that all of this comes not with a price, but with a calling.  We are planning to use our experiences to hopefully help others who may be going through what we did.  We hope that God will lead us to those who need help so that we can do for others what was done for us.  For those who answered His call during our time of need, THANK YOU for being faithful to Him.  My prayer is that He has backed the dump truck on you as well.  If you are currently going though that time of struggle, remain faithful!  Trust that He is there.  He may not answer or He may tell you no at times, but He is there.  You are NOT ALONE!  It won’t be easy, it won’t be fun, in fact there are times it will seem down right cruel, but keep your focus on Him and I guarantee that you WILL come out the other side.  And hopefully He blesses you beyond what you could possibly dream, because He is the God that can take our small dreams and hopes and turn them into something truly incredible and beyond anything we think possible.  He will show up for you, because the truth is, He never left in first place.

Wedding Photo

Photo Credit: Tonya Malay http://tonyamalay.com

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What I Wish I’d Known

Disclaimer: This is a very honest post about a very difficult topic. While I won’t go into every detail of my experience, I will share what this miscarriage was like for my husband and I, and in sharing I will include some details regarding the physical components of what happened in our miscarriage. If you are squeamish about bodily functions, please don’t read further. It’s ok. I get it. My hope is that in sharing some of these details, I am able to help someone else who may be going through this for the first time.

Shared Grief

“Shared Grief” by KarenW

I promise not all of my posts moving forward will be about pregnancy or miscarriage, but this is my reality right now. And, from what I can tell from the 200+ texts, comments, messages, phone calls, and emails I received after my last post, it sounds like this is where a lot of other people are, or have been, in life as well.

I would not wish a miscarriage on my worst enemy. It’s horrible. I know the experience is different for each person, but I haven’t met anyone who said it wasn’t horrific for them. A miscarriage is a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual nightmare. I have talked with people who nearly lost their marriages because of one or multiple lost pregnancies. Each person and each couple is going to experience this tragedy differently, but I am going to try to hit the overall themes of what I have learned, and what I wish I had known before it all started.

Your Healthcare Provider is Essential
When I found out I was pregnant, there was only one person I wanted to see through out the pregnancy. A friend suggested Kate as an OBGYN to me when I moved to Orlando six years ago, and for that I am so incredibly thankful. Kate has walked me through well woman exams, PCOS issues, Hashimoto’s issues, fertility questions, and now a pregnancy and miscarriage. It’s not my place to share her story here, but I will say she is one of the most caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable women I have ever met. She cried and prayed with us and for us when we found out the baby had died, and she has been an incredible support since that moment. I trust her, and know that I don’t need to become an internet troll looking for answers since I am in her care. There is no reason anyone should see a healthcare provider they don’t trust. Shop around. If you are pregnant, you are about to go through one of the most formative events in your life. Find a doctor or midwife who knows their stuff, who is kind, and who is compassionate.

Your Spouse is Essential
I could not have survived the last two weeks without my husband. Tim has been more amazing than any superhero that has ever even invented. Like he said in his post, he has never been around pregnancy or babies, so he had no idea what to expect in this process. He has cried with me, prayed with me, loved me, and lead us so well in this process. When he didn’t know what to do, he would ask for help. If he couldn’t ask me, he would ask someone else. In the middle of the worst part of the miscarriage, he called the emergency on-call doctor and texted a friend of ours who had, unfortunately, also experienced two really scary miscarriages. Tim was strong enough to stay by my side, and humble enough to get help. He witnessed me in the most unflattering state possible, short of a full childbirth. I know it was hard for him. I know he felt totally helpless. I know he may have even been a little grossed out. But he never left my side. I knew I loved and respected my husband before, but damn if I don’t find him the most amazing man in the world now. If you are going through a miscarriage, I hope your spouse is with you 110%. They don’t have to know the answers, they just have to show up and be willing to do really hard things.

Every Body is Different
Ok, here’s where things get personal. Every body is truly unique. No medical professional can tell you exactly what your experience will be like because it is truly different for everyone. I know someone who was the same age and at same stage of pregnancy as I, and she only experienced mild cramping through her miscarriage. My experience was an absolute nightmare, and no one could have prepared me for it. I was offered the options of taking medication to speed up the miscarriage process, having a dilation and curettage (D & C), or letting my body process the miscarriage naturally. Tim and I chose to let the process happen naturally.

We found out that we had lost the baby on a Tuesday. I had already started bleeding at that point. Over the next 2-3 days, I started bleeding more. I had been told to expect that. On Saturday morning, I didn’t feel well and the bleeding had increased, so I went to lie down on our bed. Tim came in to join me and just to talk. I felt a rush of something and when I got up, there was blood on me and on the bed. I went to the restroom and I was horrified. In hindsight, I now know I had passed the sac. I thought it was the baby, so I got in the tub and just started weeping. Tim came in, sat on the side of the tub, and just rubbed my back and let me cry into his lap.

I thought things would slow down after that, but I was wrong. We went to dinner that evening, and I felt a pushing-type-pressure in my lower abdomen. The next morning, we went to church and I had to sit through the service. I was having waves of pain that would come and go. I thought I just needed to lie down, so we went home and I rested for a while. We had planned to go look at an apartment and a house that afternoon, so we went to do that. While we were walking through a model home, I went to the bathroom three times, thinking I had an upset stomach. But nothing helped. The waves of pain were so bad, I could hardly stand up without holding on to something, so I told Tim we needed to go home. I had been taking Motrin as directed by my doctor, but it wasn’t helping at all.

I started having what I can only describe as contractions in the car. They were about 2-3 minutes apart, and excruciatingly painful. Tim got us home as fast as he legally could. By the time he parked the car, I felt like I was going to faint and I needed help to get up the stairs to our apartment. When we got inside I went to the restroom, the bleeding had increased. The waves of pain grew even more intense and closer together. I tried to lie down, but that made it worse. So Tim drew a hot bath (with Lavender Dr. Tiell’s in it, of course) and I remained there for about an hour. At this point, the “contractions” were 30-60 seconds apart and more painful than anything I had ever felt before. Tim called the emergency on-call doctor who said, “Yes, the cramping and bleeding is normal”. CRAMPING MY ASS! I wanted to scream at her that this was no “cramping”. I wanted to die in the tub because I didn’t think I could handle the pain. A friend had suggested I squat if possible, and that did help some. My body naturally responded with long, deep breaths to push through the pain. I screamed, I cried, I begged for it to be over.

My husband sat with me the entire time, and it was not a pretty site. I was sitting in a tub full of warm water, deflated bubbles, and my own filth. I totally lost control of my bodily functions and I felt like something was ripping my body in two. I wanted to go back to a seated position because my arms had gone numb and I was shaking so badly. After more waves of pain, I felt something pass and I knew it was over. The pain stopped immediately and the bleeding slowed significantly.

I felt empty, thirsty, hungry, exhausted, and very weak. Tim helped me clean up and get back to bed. I didn’t know if I could ever move again. He ran out and got us some food and made sure I had plenty of water.

I stayed in bed for the rest of the evening and the majority of the next day. I felt incredibly sore, weak, and just deflated. I could hardly process what had happened emotionally because I was so physically drained.

Take Time and Space to Recover
I don’t like being sick because I don’t like being unproductive. My brain told me I needed to be up and getting things done in the days following the previously described ordeal, but my body was screaming, “LIE DOWN!” I have had to cancel some things and give myself time and space to recover physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I asked a friend to come over that Monday morning so that I wouldn’t be alone all day, stewing in my thoughts and emotions. I am so glad I did because she helped me feel less crazy. She just sat on the couch and talked with me, then prayed, and that is exactly what I needed. I needed to feel somewhat “normal”, whatever that word means. I was still really thirsty and hungry so I made a good breakfast and drank tons of water. I also ended up downing some Powerade Zero because I knew I was dehydrated. I continued to take Motrin for the pain and kept reminding myself that my body needed rest. However you find rest, you must find it in this place. Work can wait. Chores can wait. After physical trauma, your body will demand rest. And you can’t outsmart the body. You may be able to trick it for a while with denial or pain killers, but ultimately the body knows what it needs and it will fight to get whatever that is. Be kind to yourself and allow a recovery process.

It’s OK to Be Afraid
I am still processing the emotional consequences of everything that has happened. What I really want is for God or a medical professional or someone to tell me that this is never going to happen again. But no one can give me that assurance. I am angry, hurt, scared, sad, and so many other things right now. If you ever have to go through this (and I hope you never do), surround yourself with a good support system. Talk to people. Journal. Cry. Scream. Go to a counselor. Do whatever you need to do to move through the scary emotions. You don’t need permission and it doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, if you’re being honest in the process, it won’t be pretty at all. And that is perfectly acceptable. If you are afraid, it’s ok. Like Brene Brown says, “Do it afraid.”

I remember the game Bear Hunt, and it reminds me of what needs to happen in times like this. In pre-school, we played Bear Hunt by going on a scavenger hunt throughout the school while meeting different obstacles along the way. It was my favorite activity because it involved receiving Gummy Bears, which happen to be one of my most favorite treats ever. We would follow large, construction paper cut outs of bear paws that were strategically placed throughout the school and sing:

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt 
(We’re goin’ on a bear hunt) 
We’re going to catch a big one, 
(We’re going to catch a big one,)I’m not scared
(I’m not scared)
What a beautiful day!
(What a beautiful day!)
 
Uh-uh! 
Grass! 
Long wavy grass. 
We can’t go over it. 
We can’t go under it. 
Oh no! 
We’ve got to go through it! 
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!

And the “hunt” would continue with different obstacles such as snow storms, large rivers, you get the idea. You could never go over the obstacle. You could never go under or around the obstacle. You had to go THROUGH it to get to the bear and earn the Gummy Bears.

This is kind of the same thing. Trying to avoid something as tragic as a miscarriage won’t work over time. You can ignore it or go over it or go under it for a while, but will still be there, and the pain won’t subside until you go through it, preferably with someone or some people who are safe, trust-worthy, and empathetic and kind.

Ask for Help
I am so glad I reached out to people when the worst happen. Our friends and family were amazing. No words can take away the pain of the circumstances, and the most helpful responses we received from people were not words, but gestures or just a simple, “I don’t know what to say. I hate you are going through this. I am with you in it.” Some sweet friends sent flowers. My friend Jessi sent me a box of pickle juice popsicles (she just gets me). Maybe you need someone to run and get dinner or pick up some pads or Motrin. You may want to ask your doctor a million questions. That is OK. You don’t have to do any of this alone. In fact, you shouldn’t do it alone!

It’s Ok to Not Be Ok
And it’s ok to talk about it. If you are out and someone says, “Hey! How are things?” it is ok to say “You know, it’s actually a really hard week for me.” Personally, I believe that sometimes “Fine” is the worst four letter word in the English language. I know for me, as well as many others, there is the temptation to just smile through things and hide our pain so that we don’t make other people feel uncomfortable. But you know what? I would prefer to be honest, and I would prefer others to be honest with me. It’s ok to be uncomfortable. I would rather people be up front with me than try to make things copasetic. You don’t have to blog it or share all the details with everyone, but it’s ok to be messy.

 

I knew miscarriages were horrible before two weeks ago, but I had no idea just how horrible or how much one can invade your entire life. It makes sense to me now. If I’ve learned anything from others and from my own experience, I guess it is this: healing is a process, and no two people will walk through this process in the same way. Have compassion for others and for yourself. Don’t “should” yourself through the process and don’t compare your experiences to that of others, or vice versa. There isn’t a manual for this. Take one step at a time, and let others love you in the process.

“Moving Forward”…A Husband’s Experience with Pregnancy and Miscarriage

“Dude, seriously?!?!?  What the H?!?!?  After the past year this is how things are going to roll???”

These were the thoughts that were immediately running through my mind last Tuesday when we heard the words “there is no heartbeat”.  We were having a miscarriage.  

Allow me to back up.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is Tim.  Lindsey said I could write a follow up to her posts from the last week week.  Many times when I write in it is because something that we have talked about has sparked something in me.  I found myself thinking, “what should I write about?  What does she want me to say?”  Her response was simple: “write what you are feeling.”

I guess, let’s start with the pregnancy.  NOBODY ever told me what all was going to be involved in this.  Just a quick history, I am an only child who has NEVER been around babies and has never held a child younger than a year old.  That fateful day that we saw the 2 lines on both sticks, I felt a mix of joy and fear.  The joy came from the fact that we could conceive.  One of the things that we had worried about was whether or not we could, whether because of her health issues or my ability.  I mean, “Cool!”, I thought, “I am not firing blanks!!!”  This fear was a mix of whether or not I was ready to be a dad and, as Lindsey has mentioned, we did not expect to get pregnant right away  The other part of my fear was, “Will I make a good dad?”  Here is a new life, a new life for whom I am responsible.  HOLY CRAP!  As the weeks went by the question of being ready was pretty much rendered mute because it didn’t matter if I was ready, Squirt was on the way.  (Side note, Squirt is the nickname we gave the baby since we did not want to know the gender and we REFUSED to call the baby an “it”.)  

I never really got to wrestle with the question of getting over the fear of being a good dad. But as for my experience during the pregnancy, I would say that it was difficult.  Not knowing anything, I was constantly asking questions and many times feeling kind of stupid.  I had to learn all the things that Lindsey’s body was going through and then stand by and be able to do NOTHING about it.  I was a bystander at this point, an active one, but a bystander nonetheless.  So I began to focus on the things that I could.  What carrier did I want? (For all the dudes, Mission Critical is totally cool.)  What are all the things a baby might need?  Stroller, crib, playpen, changing table and everything else one needs.  These were things for the baby that I could do.  We were going to need a new car (mine is a two-seater and I surely wasn’t going to bring the baby home in Lindsey’s shitbox…Sorry babe, but let’s call a spade a spade.)  We need a bigger place and ultimately a home.  These were the things that I could focus on and in the meantime do what I could do to get a better job.  

But all of it came crashing down on the Tuesday.  Everything else in life was looking up.  I was in a new job.  Lindsey was looking at joining a new private counseling practice.  The fog was beginning to clear.  Why would God give us this incredible joy, only to take it away?

Linds and I had driven separately to the appointment.  I had a job, a job that needed me to show up and do the work for which I was being paid.  Not that I couldn’t have called my friend and said I needed to stay home, but I NEEDED that job for us.  After the appointment, I held Lindsey for a while while standing in the parking lot, both of us letting some of the tears flow, but something still felt off.  I WANTED to shut off.  I didn’t want to feel.  Even as I write this now, I feel a sense of shame.  Should I have stayed with Lindsey?  Should I have gone home and let her continue to cry on my chest or my shoulder?  I did tell her that I wanted her to stay in communication with me through out the day.  I wanted to know she was ok.  I was concerned about what was going to come, i.e. the body’s natural response to removing everything that was now no longer living.  When I got home that night, I had to take another phone call regarding our future that sort of required me to shut down for a little while. At this point, I was jammed pack full of emotions.

In that moment, I made a choice.  I looked back over the year we had experienced.  God had truly had taken care of us.  There were many times when some problem would present itself and we would look at each other completely lost and ask, “How are we were going to solve this?” And poof!, something would come in the mail, someone would call, or something would happen that would allow us to solve the problem in front of us.  And I believe all this happened because we had learned to trust.  Trust each other.  Trust Him.  So I made the choice to trust and I was going to do everything thing that I could to stay on the positive side of things.  I NEEDED TO do this.  Lindsey can tell you that due to her upbringing and other circumstances, she is a bit of a “glass half empty” girl.  I needed to be the half-full-glass for both of us.

But let’s be real for a moment.  I am also the only one who could be in that moment.  Over the last several days, Lindsey has had a constant reminder of our loss as her body has excised all the remnants of the pregnancy with it all coming to a head on Saturday.  At the very worst moment of the miscarriage, I found her in the bath tub sobbing.  I pulled up a chair and just sat there allowing her to rest her head on my lap.  Here again was something I could NOTHING about.  I couldn’t take away the pain.  I couldn’t take away the reminder.  I couldn’t bring Squirt back to life.  I was helpless.  The only thing I could was rub her back.  I will NEVER know what it is like to have a life inside of me and then realize that life has ended.  I will also never know when that life continues and is born, the bond that will happen between my wife and our child.  That is something special that God has given to a woman.  But what I can do is support her and occasionally try to make her laugh.
So what does life look like moving forward for us, you may ask?

Even though this weekend has been a rough one for us and especially for Lindsey, I am proud to say that we are both maintaining a positive outlook on things.  Only the direction and focus have changed.  We firmly believe that we WILL conceive and raise the children that we believe God has for us.  In some ways, this has been a little bit of a blessing, due to the “insurance” we have for Lindsey, this pregnancy was almost not covered.  That would have been a little rough.  We now have to wait to try again.  Our doctor is recommending that we wait at least two months for Lindsey’s body to heal and to help reduce the chance of miscarrying again.  As for our focus, we are now looking at where we want to move while ultimately looking to buy a house.  (I have totally found one that I want, but also want to make sure we put all the ducks in a row at the right time.)  I have been so incredibly proud of Lindsey, because even though this past week has been rough, she is still maintaining her positive attitude.  Lindsey is looking at growing her counseling practice, and I am looking at what He has set up for me job-wise and what that could mean for our next try at having kids.

One thing that I hope happens from these words is that someone reads them and realizes that they are not alone in anything that they do or are going through.  God is always there.  You and I may not see it.  You and I probably won’t understand it.  But as sure as the water is wet, He is there watching our six.  That was one thing that Lindsey and I both agreed on as we sat at dinner Saturday night in Epcot.  After our waiter brought out our drinks, we both held them up and started to throw ideas around as to what we should toast to…new jobs, a fresh start, coming out of the fog, but nothing seemed to fit.  And then it hit me….

“Here’s to moving forward…..”

 

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The Miscarriage Post

These are the words I never, ever wanted to write. But here we are. When I found out we were pregnant, I was sure my next post would be The Pregnancy Post I had written to accompany the immensely creative video announcement Tim has been working on in his head for the last few months. But today, we find ourselves in a very different place.

I don’t like the word “miscarriage”. It seems to imply that someone messed up or did something incorrectly. If I “mis-carry” my groceries, it usually means I dropped them or the handle broke so they fell to the ground. A mother has no active role in a miscarriage unless she is engaged in behaviors that are dangerous to the baby (drugs, alcohol, smoking, MMA fighting, etc). Some miscarriages follow abuse or violence. Most miscarriages come with no reason or blame at all. The term “miscarriage” fails to identify what is actually happening: the death of an unborn child.

Right now, there is a tiny, dead human inside of me and I have no idea what to do with that information. 

I was an estimated eight and a half weeks pregnant when Tim and I went to the doctor for the ultrasound. I had experienced a little bleeding the night before, but that can be normal in pregnancy. We told ourselves that we weren’t going to panic because we would be seeing the doctor first thing the next morning. Tim put his hands on my belly and prayed for a strong heartbeat and a healthy child. 

He repeated this sweet ritual as we prepared to walk into the medical center the next morning. I hate to admit it now, but I knew something was wrong, deep down in my gut. It also didn’t help that the building administrators were testing the fire alarms that morning, and an alarm was piercing our ears the entire time we were being examined. 

We walked back to the examination room, and I prepared to get on the table. I knew something was wrong the moment that the ultrasound image appeared on the screen. I could see it on my ultrasound tech and my doctor’s faces. There was a tiny baby in there, but there was no heart beat and he or she was too small. I saw the tears in Tim’s eyes before I felt my own. A piece of me thought, “Just wait a minute more! He or she will come through!” but I know that is not how it works. 

The baby was there, but he or she was no longer alive. We had lost our first child. 

So many dreams and prayers and hopes came crashing down in that little room with the fire alarm still blaring in the background. We had already become so attached to the tiny fetus in my womb. Dozens of people had been praying with and for us. None of it made sense.

I finally got up and just stood in the exam room in a haze. I wandered around for a moment looking for a tissue and sort of blanked out. Tim gently suggested I put my pants back on so that we could gather our things and go home. 

As we walked out of the office through the waiting room, I realized we were THAT couple now. We were the husband and wife who had walked in at 7:45 am with all the hope in the world and now we were walking out with our red faces covered in tears, fumbling for our sunglasses so we wouldn’t have to look at anyone. 

Tim held me in the parking lot and we cried together. We had driven separately since we had to go in different directions after the appointment, but he was in no rush to leave me to myself. We assured each other we would get through this, and just be in contact for the rest of the day. 

It wasn’t until I called my mom and had to voice what had happened that I completely fell apart. I could barely get the words out when the heaving sobs began. My poor mother had to sit on the phone, 800 miles away, and listen to her baby girl fall apart and there was nothing she could do. I know it must have killed her. I couldn’t see her, but my mom was beautiful in that moment. She was kind, strong, empathetic, and wise. She didn’t try to “fix it”. She didn’t say “At least…”. She listened and cried and hugged me from afar. She was with me in my sorrow. 

I didn’t feel like talking, because I didn’t want to say the truth out loud. My mom and Tim graciously handled letting our close family and friends know what had happened. When my dad called, he was amazing. He was kind and gentle, and so loving. I could tell it hurt him to hear me hurting. I can now only imagine what that feels like as a parent – to feel your child suffer from afar.

I was able to reschedule appointments for the rest of the day so that I could go home and rest. I was experiencing a lot of physical pain in addition to the mental and emotional agony that had already begun to set in. I tried to eat something, but that just made me feel sick. I tried to sleep, but could not rest. I decided to watch Wonder Woman and let the strength and integrity of Diana Prince ooze into me vicariously. I exchanged texts with a dear friend who experienced the loss of a baby not too long ago. She has been my rock, not only in this experience but in many areas of life. 

I finally started reaching out to people who had been praying for us and knew we were going to the doctor that day. I was so scared that someone would come back with the venomous “At least you know you can get pregnant!” but no one did. Everyone who reached out said the one that actually felt the most loving: “There are no words to fill this space.” 

And they were right. Just like in any death or loss or tragedy, there are no words that can fill or heal or fix the pain of loss. Most people fumble to try to find the “right” words only to cause more hurt in their effort to escape the discomfort of pain. But we have amazing friends and family who just sat with us in our grief and pain. And for that, I am so incredibly thankful.

The loss of an unborn child is something I never wanted to experience, yet here we are. I have grieved with so many friends and clients who have been through this as well, and it does not get easier. The pain is physical, mental, and emotional. As I sit at home with bleeding and cramps, waiting for my body to rid itself of the child that I should have been holding this coming December, the lies start to creep in: “What if my body can’t ever carry a child?” “What did I do wrong?” “Does God want me to be a mother?” The fear of trying to get pregnant again is already real, even though we have been advised not to try for a few months in order to let my body heal. 

And I know it is killing Tim to watch me go through so much physical pain. He is doing such a good job caring for me, but at the end of the day he can’t fix it and he can’t take it from me. We just have to sit in this, together. 

I know some people reading this have lost children, maybe even multiple times. Some of you may be pregnant right now and anxious about your little one. Some of you may be in the long journey of infertility and praying for a chance to conceive. Some of you have one or several healthy children and are holding them tightly. Some of you may be completely unaware of fertility and pregnancy and the emotional roller coaster of parenting. Where ever and whoever you are, I encourage you to practice empathy today. If you need some help with that word, go back and watch “Empathy vs. Sympathy” by Brene Brown. This little video is one of the greatest tools out there for teaching us how to love each other well.

Today I am so thankful for all the people in my life who know and practice empathy. I am thankful for friends and family who are willing to sit in this pain with Tim and I. The pain will pass, but the support of others lasts a lifetime. Even in the midst of grief, I am grateful for love.

The Pregnancy Post

Please note: I wrote the following post before we had the chance to announce our pregnancy. Tim never got to do his wildly clever announcement video, but he will one day. I am posting this in tandem with my post on miscarriage because I think it is important to do so, and everything we have felt and experienced is still valid. It is heartbreaking to post this now, given the circumstances, but it is also helpful for me to remember the joy I felt before we knew we had lost the baby. It encourages me to be brave to try again and not be afraid of death. Maybe it will help someone else, too.

In case you haven’t seen my husband’s insanely clever announcement yet, we are pregnant!

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While we have known for a little while now, it is fun and exciting to share the news with everyone we know and love. Having been on the pregnancy sidelines for several years, I must admit I had no idea what this would really feel like. I have walked alongside many friends during their pregnancies, and have heard all of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright terrifying. I have known for a while that every mother and every pregnancy is truly unique, and (just like in every other area of life) comparison is a killer. I thought I would be pretty prepared when my time came and go into things with an open mind and a full heart.

Everything changed the moment I saw those four pink lines (I took two pregnancy tests back to back. I just needed that assurance.) I had my suspicions. For a week or two prior to peeing on those two fateful sticks I had been experiencing nausea, sore breasts, and changes in appetite. This is something Tim and I both wanted, but were not sure we were ready. I know, I know, no one is ever READY, but our current circumstances are still really unpredictable and we are not exactly sitting on a pile baby fund money. We live in a tiny apartment, we have one reliable car, and at the time we found out we were pregnant both of us were only working part time jobs. Neither of us have health insurance. I am a part of a faith-based, cost-sharing network for medical needs. On paper, we are far from ready to be parents. 

The whole reason we even started trying to get pregnant was because we were sure it would take MONTHS, or if it would even be possible to get pregnant at all. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) as well as Hashimoto’s Disease, which both greatly affect my endocrine and reproductive systems. I was convinced, for many solid medical reasons, that my dream of being a mom would be a long time coming. So you can imagine our mutual shock when we saw two positive tests after just one month of trying!

After the first test, I came out of the bathroom with my hands over my mouth and tears in my eyes. I could hardly form the words to tell Tim that it was positive. Tim wanted to be the one to check the results on the second test, and his reaction was nearly the same. We held each other, cried, and prayed. We were completely overwhelmed with so many emotions!

Now, please know I say this with great compassion for those who are and have been trying to get pregnant for any length of time. Just a few months ago I wrote another post about entering the world of infertility and all of my fears, questions, and concerns about what may follow. While I did everything in my power to try to make my body “conception friendly”, I have known the whole time that I am not in control of this process. I changed my diet and lifestyle, started taking prenatal vitamins months ahead of time, and attended to any medical and health issues. None of this however would reverse or eradicate my present medical conditions. I just wanted to do my part. And I know there are MANY, MANY women who are going above and beyond to do the same. 

I can’t tell you why or how we got pregnant as soon as we did. I have been praying for so long that God would entrust me (and then Tim and I) with the gift of children and allow us to conceive. Once we knew we were pregnant, we decided to go ahead and tell our families so that they could pray alongside us for a healthy baby. I know most people wait longer to tell anyone out of fear of miscarriage, but we had a lot of long conversations about this and we decided we wanted our families to be with us to celebrate if things went well, and with us to grieve if something were to go wrong. We also just found it really hard to keep such a big secret! 

As we prepared for our first prenatal appointment, we found ourselves filled with so many thoughts, emotions, questions, cares, concerns, thrills, and fears. We are STILL filled with all of these and more. I am going to let Tim take over soon to share his side of the story. He is already an INCREDIBLE father, and I can’t wait to see him hold our little bundle.

I want to share our story as it unfolds and be honest about our process. Pregnancy is a hot and sometimes taboo topic, and I want to create a space to tell the truth and help relieve some of all that shame that seems to surround families who are having babies. I have incredible friends who have been super honest with me about all aspects of their pregnancies, and I am so thankful for these women. If I can be an encouragement or support to someone else along the way, then I will consider it a very sweet privilege. 

13 More Reasons

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I realize blogging loses its power when I only do it sporadically, but I must confess that there has just been a lot of life going on lately and I have lost the focus to sit down and write, even on a weekly basis. I journal every night, but even that seems like a chore sometimes. I enjoy writing, though, because words carry so much more than vowels and consonants. They hurt and harm, heal and destroy. And today there are a lot of words flowing through my mind.

Tim and I were able to get away for a long weekend in hopes of resting and recuperating from what has been a very lengthy life season of stress and strain. We were looking forward to a few days spent sleeping in and sunning near a big pool. What we got, however, was three and a half days filled with A LOT of rain. We had a beautiful view of the storms, though, so we spent most of our time sleeping, talking, relaxing, and we ended up binge watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why.

Now, to some of you, that may sound like masochism or, at least, insanity. The first season of the show caused so much controversy and many questioned whether it should even be allowed to return. I don’t know what I would have thought about the show had I been a teenager when it was released, but I was a bucket of mixed emotions after seeing it as an adult. Tim and I were so fascinated by it that we hunkered down to see what would happen in season two.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, here is a terribly brief summary: A teenage girl commits suicide but before she does, she records 13 tapes which are distributed to the 13 people to whom the tapes are addressed after the girl’s death. These tapes cause an uproar in the girl’s school and friend circle, and eventually drive her mother mad as everyone tries to figure out what the hell happened, who is on these tapes, and if the stories are true. The allegations on the tapes range from bullying to serial rapes, and eventually the school administration is blamed for not taking action on the school’s bullying and sexual harassment problem.

While season one seems to focus on how inept adults are and how horrible teenagers can be, season two gives a little more credit to the parents and focuses on the consequences of all of the actions shown in season one. Season two also takes a broader look into other issues such as substance abuse and addiction, gun violence, and mental health issues among teens.

I tried to watch this show from several different perspectives. As a woman, I thought the writers did an amazing job of shedding light on the issue of sexual harassment and sexual abuse without painting all men as demonic predators. There are just as many (if not more) kind, compassionate, and respectful men – both young and old – on the show as there are sociopathic creeps. As a non-parent, I tried to watch this show as if I were a parent. Watching the show together lead Tim and I to have many conversations about what we went through as teenagers, how we would want to respond as parents, and what we hope for our future children as they face a really frightening world.

I also had to watch the show through the lens of a mental health professional. While I don’t advocate the graphic nature of the show (one season in episode 13 had me so upset I almost threw up and I had to look away for quite some time), I can tell you this: your kids are already exposed to all of these things. 13 Reasons Why doesn’t address anything that isn’t already happening in schools on a daily basis. And the show writes teenagers well. No matter how many times we, as adults, say “You know you can always come talk to me…”, teenagers don’t know that. None of us develops abstract reasoning until our mid to late teen years. Abstract reasoning, or conceptual reasoning, refers to the ability to analyze information, detect patterns and relationships, and solve problems on a complex, intangible level. This includes being able to formulate theories about the nature of objects and ideas. Most teenagers don’t yet have the ability to say, “If I do this, then the following things will happen” because their brains have not yet fully developed.

So does that mean teenagers are not to be held responsible for their actions? Not at all. It means that parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, educators, administrators, officers of the law, and mentors carry the burden of having really important conversations, even when those conversations are really, really uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many times a teenager has sat in front of me in the counseling office, their parent sitting out in the waiting room, and told me they have no one to talk to about what is happening in his or her life. Their parent or parents may be the nicest people in the world, but the teen doesn’t trust them because they don’t know if they can. A teenager’s trust is hard to earn and even harder to keep. Just like infants, they are not resilient. They are sponges. And they are soaking up every word and action that is being lived out in front of them.

If Tim and I have a daughter one day, and we tell her that she can come and talk to us about anything, but then she sees or hears me mocking Tim or berating him over something silly he did, our daughter will not trust me. If I tell our daughter that she should love her body, but I degrade and hate my own, she won’t trust me. If Tim were to tell our daughter that she needs to always tell the truth, but then she hears him telling a white lie to a family member, she won’t trust him. It doesn’t matter what we TELL her. It matters what we SHOW and LIVE in front of her.

Parents are not the cause of most teenager’s poor choices, but they sure as hell can be a major part of either prevention or the solution moving forward. I don’t blame parents. I recognize that parents carry the burden and the responsibility of raising children who will also be parents one day. I believe that we, as adults, all carry the burden of nurturing the children and teens who are around us in our daily lives.

Right or wrongly portrayed, the entire message behind 13 Reasons Why is simply this: start talking. Talk to kids about sex and guns and rape and drugs and blow jobs and bad grades and bullying and suicide and alcohol and kissing and grinding and cheating and lying and stealing and backstabbing and cigarettes. Tell them your story. Let them know what you went through and how that impacted you. Does that feel terrifying? As adults, we need to be owning our own stories and doing our own work so that we aren’t afraid to talk to kids about what is happening in their lives. They don’t need to know everything, but they need to know enough to know that their parents are human, and that their parents love them no matter what.

Parents, talk to teachers. And vice versa. And talk honestly. Shame is the devil’s playground. Shame doesn’t work, in fact it makes things a whole lot worse. Teenagers need a support team, and not one made of just other teenagers. A group of teenagers is generally going to come to the same irrational conclusion because they are operating on limited information. Their brains and bodies are still developing. They don’t yet have all of the tools necessary to make informed decisions.

The second season of 13 Reasons Why is going to make a lot of people angry, and I get that. I don’t have kids yet, so I can’t tell you whether I would let mine watch the show or not. They probably would anyway, so I would at least sit down and watch it with them if they wanted to see it. Then we could have some conversations. Those conversations would be terribly uncomfortable for all parties involved, but discomfort far outweighs the consequences of being silent in a child’s life.

Maybe “talking about things” wasn’t the way of our parents our their parents, but that needs to change and it is changing. I don’t want my future children to suffer alone because I feel too embarrassed to say hard things. I am sure I will fail at this over and over as a parent, but I want to do the best I can with the tools and resources I have. We don’t have to say the right thing. We just need to start saying something.

Breaking the Silence

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Image: BuzzFeed

Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton, two of this generation’s music greats, recently released a song that is both haunting and deeply moving at the same time. It’s called Say Something (the video version absolutely gives me chills), and it is usually playing in my head. The song comes out at a time when everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has something to say about something. Our world is so chaotic, so broken, and it’s hard not to have an opinion about any of it. The song poses a lot of big questions, but I think the line that has been really bothering me is the lyric “Sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.” This statement unsettled me, because I usually find silence on important topics to be absolutely offensive in its passivity.

Then something changed in me. I woke up one morning about two months ago, and realized I had lost all hope. I felt no joy. I am not trying to be humorous when I say that it felt like dementors had entered my home and stolen everything from me. I thought I would shake this feeling after a day or two, but I couldn’t do it. I started having massive breakdowns once or twice a week. I would find myself bawling and weeping in the shower and shaking uncontrollably. I lost all motivation to do anything. I started having thoughts that I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was exhausted. I felt angry, resentful, ashamed, and bitter all at the same time. I alternated between wanting to lock myself in the bedroom and wanting to get in the car and drive away without telling anyone. And this lasted for about six weeks.

My poor husband was befuddled and tried so hard to help me, lift my spirits, encourage me, and at least make our environment at home better. Nothing he did seemed to make a difference.  While I quickly recognized that I was deep in a depressive episode, I didn’t actually know what to do about it.

As a counselor, I know all of the things to DO to fight depression: Eating healthy, daily exercise, routine, relationships, medication if needed. I was doing most of these things. I had weened myself off of medication after the first of the year since Tim and I knew we wanted to try to get pregnant in the foreseeable future. I carefully planned out the weening process based on what I know about SSRI medications and my own body. Everything seemed to be fine, for a while, until my mind and body took this uncontrollable turn that I could not explain.

I tried to “tough it out”. I am a mental health therapist, for heaven’s sake! I should be able to pull myself out of this! Yet, how many times have clients sat in front of me and said the exact same thing? And how many times have I spent HOURS telling them that depression is not about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”? I had forgotten my own professional wisdom when it came to helping myself.

I realized I needed to get back in a healthy rhythm. I needed to cut out the things that tend to trigger my depressions (certain foods, alcohol, isolation) and add in the things that I know work better for me (exercise, journaling, quiet time at night, and quality one-on-one time with friends). These changes helped a little, but I realized I still needed assistance. I talked to my doctor, and decided to get back on my medication. It was a lower dose, and it turns out the medication that helps me is actually safe for pregnancy, should that happen.

I noticed a measurable difference within a week. I realized that I am someone who is biologically, genetically, and environmentally prone to depression, and I need help to fight it. My body is crazy sensitive to many things, but I had forgotten how sensitive my mind and heart are as well. Even after making some lifestyle changes and starting medication again, I realized that something was still off. I had a hard time pin pointing the source, until I realized how horrible I felt every time I checked social media. I never want to be someone who is constantly attached to my phone, but I had arrived at that place again and it was having a pretty big impact on me.

Every quiet moment, every red light, every lull while standing in a line I was scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and I felt terrible about myself each time. I was comparing and contrasting myself to others and their lives. The images and videos and memes seemed to magnify all of my current fears, insecurities, and personal battles. I also realized that I was talking WAY too much. I was posting all the time, and very little of it was actually meaningful or helpful. I was craving the likes and the follows and the shares. I had developed a very unhealthy relationship with an unrealistic world.

So I cut myself off. I removed all social media from my phone and logged off sites on my computer. In the time that I usually spent saying something online, I started listening by way of reading and absorbing the experiences of others without the ability to respond. I read books, articles, blogs, and listened to podcasts from all different sources. I also spent a lot of time in silence.

I didn’t miss the social media frenzy at all. In fact, within a week I noticed a major difference in my mood and my ability to process and reflect on the world around me. A month later, when I finally logged back on to FaceBook just to see what I had missed, I realized I had not missed much. I only stayed on for about a minute because I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. I have yet to log back into Instagram.

I want to keep listening and I do want to keep writing and sharing. I believe both of these things are important processes for me and for others. But I want to find that healthy balance between saying something and knowing when to say nothing. I had become so consumed with things happening outside of my self and my own sphere of influence that I lost hope in everything. Social media didn’t cause my recent depressive episode. I believe it was a combination of factors including life circumstances, chemical imbalances, and lack of self care that lead to my personal Pit of Despair. But out of this, I have learned that I need to fight for certain things like quiet time, healthy habits, medical care, and rest in order to be my best self. I also need to fight to let go of the things that are harmful to me, no matter how mainstream they may be.

I hope that in talking about it, someone else will realize they don’t have to white knuckle their way through depression either. I think it’s worth saying something if my missteps and experiences can help someone else get out of their pit as well.

So let’s talk about it.

Guns, Gays, and Women

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Y’all, I need to make a confession. I am SO. TIRED. OF. PEOPLE.

Allow me to clarify: I am really tired of ignorant people. (And people who refuse to use turn signals, but that is a whole different issue.) I don’t mean ignorant as a judgmental term, but in its original definition as an adjective: “Ignorant: lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular.” I am not just tired, but also finding myself becoming very angry with total strangers and I am not sure what to do with these raging waves of emotion.

In my three-and-a-half decades on this earth, I have had the privilege of meeting and knowing people from so many different walks of life. I have lived on three coasts and in The South in my lifetime, so I have been exposed to different cultures, religions, practices, and languages just in our own country. I grew up in a middle-class, Christian, private school bubble in Memphis, Tennessee so I am thankful for experiences that have pushed me far out of my comfort zone and helped me see the world from other people’s perspectives. My experiences and diverse relationships have taught me how to empathize, not just sympathize, with people who don’t look, think, feel, or live like I do.

All that said, I can still be pretty judgmental. Over the last few weeks, I have found myself growing increasingly impatient with people who are, well, ignorant. Sometimes ignorance is chosen. Sometimes ignorance is learned. Oftentimes, ignorance comes with limited life experience and a general lack of awareness. Wherever it comes from, I can honestly say that I struggle to empathize with ignorant people.

Unfortunately, my struggle usually shows up as anger. I have taken several days off from FaceBook scrolling since the horrific shooting at Parkland High School in Miami. I just can’t handle all of the petty arguments and verbal attacks online. There shouldn’t even be a “gun debate”. Most of these issues could actually be addressed and solved with common sense. I will never change the law or politics of guns with my personal beliefs, but I can be a compassionate, responsible citizen who takes responsibility for myself and my family in the future. I don’t need to verbally assault a stranger online because their personal beliefs differ from mine. I need to clean up my own side of the street.

And then there’s the ongoing heated conversation over women’s rights, equality, and sexual safety in multiple settings. I can’t help but notice that if each and every human being treated each and every other human being the way he or she would want to be treated, we wouldn’t even be having these conversations. We don’t need harsher laws or more attorneys to prevent sexual assault or unequal pay. We need people to start treating people like people and quit acting like asses.

My anger reached a whole new level this week when I encountered a truly ignorant woman who, I believe, had no idea that the things coming out of her mouth were utterly hateful. When I encountered this woman, we were in a public place and had never met before. Shortly after introducing herself, she started talking loudly about her experience at a public event where “the gays were out”. She proceeded to describe a transgendered man who offended her with his very presence. She could not BELIEVE that man would DARE invade her space with his very existence. Then she started to tell me about her lesbian neighbors who would “get better” if they “just knew Jesus”.

That was it. I snapped. I don’t tolerate hatred well, but I experience a visceral, physical pain and rage when people who claim to be Christians spew hatred towards other people. Before this woman could finish her rant, I interrupted with as much decency as I could muster. “Some of my dearest friends and family members are gay. They are incredible people, and many of them love Jesus. I love these people.”

I had hoped this would end our conversation, but she wanted to continue arguing, saying that if she could just change the people around her, they would be better. I walked away, and let her continue talking to herself. I knew that if I stayed, I would say or do something just as hateful as the venom oozing from her mouth.

I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “LADY, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! YOU ARE THE ONE CREATING SO MUCH HATE THAT SOME 500 MILLION PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW JESUS! YOU SHOULD HAVE YOUR MOUTH SEWN SHUT UNTIL YOU DEAL WITH YOUR OWN BLACK HEART!” I also wanted to punch her. But I didn’t say or do these things.

Because then I would have been just like her. Just like the neo-nazis. Just like the racists and the homophobes and the sexists and the misogynists and the two-faced politicians and the hypocrites and the liars and the extremist-anythings. I risk becoming so angry in my hatred of hatred that I am always one breath away from becoming hate myself. Hatred almost always stems from the fear and ignorance of that which is not understood.  Most of us fear the unknown and the unfamiliar. And in that place of fear, hatred is usually born.

I learned a several years ago that anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is a response to a deeper emotion of the soul – usually hurt, betrayal, or fear. It is easier to shout obscentities at someone than to confront them and say “You are hurting me”. It takes more vulnerability to confess hurt than it does to attack in anger. In that moment, faced with a the woman who said such horrible things, I felt hurt and afraid, so I got angry. My heart hurt for the people I love who experience hatred and injustice and judgment on a daily basis. I felt fear in the presence of someone who claims to believe one thing but speaks and acts in complete opposition of that belief system.

Before I could connect to my hurt and fear, I channeled anger and could feel my body temperature rise and my fists clench before I could take a breath and remind myself that hurt people hurt people, and this woman has obviously been hurt before.

I don’t know if I will ever encounter this woman again. I definitely think I need some time to cool down in order to approach her in a way that is more loving, courageous, and kind. My prayer is that one day, I will be able to sit down and have a conversation with her, or anyone like her. I hope to listen and learn what happened in her story that made her so afraid of people who are different than she is. I hope I can embody empathy and compassion for someone who struggles to see the world from a different perspective.

My hatred towards hatred is showing me how much anger and resentment I still carry in my own heart. If I am called to love every person I come in contact with, then I am called to love this woman. I don’t know how to do that right now, but I want to learn. I want to see her the way I see my friends in jail and prison. I may not agree with some of their choices, but I can still love them for who and where they are in life, and engage in dignified conversation when we reach an impasse in understanding.

When it comes to guns, gays, women’s issues, and other hot-topic debates, I continue to remind myself of the Serenity Prayer (often repeated in recovery and Twelve Step groups):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Lord, please grant me the wisdom to know the difference, and the compassion to love all of Your children.

The Hustle

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One cool Georgia evening while sitting on a porch with a deamy view, a dear friend challenged all of my deepest fears. “Lindsey, I want you to give up the hustle.” My bold friend’s statement came on the coat tails of me listing all the ways I was planning to contribute to my husband’s and my income deficit due to job loss (my husband is a superhero and is working multiple part time jobs). I would pick up more clients, become a certified dog walker, and pick up a few shifts at a local resale boutique. As I said these things, I could feel the pride and panic well up from my gut into my chest. Pride, because I have always valued my own resourcefulness and won’t-be-defeatedness. Panic, because I realized I was doing what I swore I wouldn’t do ever again. I was hustling.

I’ve always been a hustler. Some people call it grit or resolve or cleverness. My grandmother calls me “so smart” when I manage to cook a full meal, which always angers me because that sets the bar for intelligence so low and I’m capable of so much MORE. But I know the truth. I’m a hustler. Never satisfied with the unanswered questions of what sits before me, I hustle to get what I “need”, or to be more honest, what I want.

I recently started reading “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Nequist and was immediately confronted by my Hustling Comeback. I have avoided this book for a long time because so many people were reading it. In my ever confrontational “Eightness” (Enneagram reference), I don’t like to read what everyone else is reading because I want to challenge the status quo. I don’t read Oprah’s book list and I don’t check the New York Times for bestsellers because I like to form my own opinions and find my own must-reads. Do you see a pattern here?

I’m stubborn as crap. Even as I read the book’s foreword by Brene Brown (one of my heroes), I thought “Oh good! Someone finally wrote a book for all those preoccupied prideful perfectionists in my hometown who don’t know what vulnerability even means because they are so obsessed with perfection.”

I will now accept the Life Time Achievement Award for Hypocrisy.

Neiquist had me at the opening Mary Oliver poem. My heart soared and sank into my butt all at the same time. I was about to be called to the carpet and I was excited and terrified.

I so closely related to each of the following words that I questioned whether Niequist had been reading my journal: “I learned a long time ago that if I hustle fast enough, the emptiness will never catch up with me. First I outran it by traveling and dancing and drinking two-for-one whiskey sours at Calypso on State Street in Santa Barbara. Then I outran it by lining up writing deadlines like train tracks and clicking over them one by one. Then I outran it by running laps around my living room, picking up toys and folding blankets, as recently as yesterday.”

Hustling is running. I can’t physically run quickly to save my own life, but I can sprint marathons away from my own feelings in order to achieve a moment of relief. I’m a hustler and I need to change my game.

A few years ago, when I was working in jail, a fellow team member told me his story and shared some incredible life wisdom. After telling me about his years as a drug dealer and his own stints in jail, he shared the one thing he tells men who are about to be released back into the community after incarceration: Keep your hustle; change your game.

What most people don’t realize is that drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes are incredibly intelligent. They have to start and manage a business, market themselves, handle large quantities of cash, decipher who is trustworthy, and maintain a certain lifestyle all while avoiding the law. They are shrewd, cunning, and charming. They are the ultimate entrepreneurs. They have mastered the art of the hustle and continue their hustle behind iron doors. If Darwin was right and the world will only be survived by the fittest, I promise you these hustlers will be the last ones standing.

This is where I relate to my friends in jail and prison. The only difference between my hustle and theirs is that mine is legal. It looks cleaner. I fit in with the rest of the middle and upper class hustlers who are trading relationships and life for the perfect lifestyle. It’s gross, really. Most days I would choose to have a spotless kitchen over napping on the sofa with my husband, not  because I want to but because I feel like I truly can’t read unless the dishwasher is empty. How messed up is that???

The Hustle has become my drug because I use it to avoid reality. Just like any other drug, I find comfort and relief in my ability to disconnect from the world around when I’m tired of feeling. Niequist says it far better than I am able to do so:

“You can make a drug—a way to anesthetize yourself—out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while—that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you.”

I have become so talented at drugging myself with the mundane that I can completely avoid the people and beauty of life around me. At least in my twenties I used actual drugs – booze, weed, sex, pills. Now I drug myself with toilet scrubbing and side jobs and reading about another natural remedy that will surely cure my autoimmune disease. Now I just make my drug use look better because the habits are more “acceptable”.

So what do I do with my hustle? How do I keep my cleverness and resourcefulness but use them to change my game?

Again I will borrow some wisdom from my drug dealer and prostitute friends. I can work hard, be smart and live passionately for a better cause. I can get creative about actually opening an office to provide mental health therapy to people who can’t afford it. I can be passionate about my quiet time with my Creator each morning in hopes of better knowing Him as well as myself. I can be fiercely dedicated to spending quality time with my husband and leave the kitchen a mess of the laundry undone or say NO to that $20 side gig. I can have that friend over and make a cheap taco dinner in an unvacuumed apartment just so we may have some quality time talking and praying for each other.

I can fight to be present in my own story. That’s my new hustle.

For the Slut Shamers

slut shaming

Since writing about My Date with a Stripper, I have continued to hang out with my friend, “Grace”, and have learned a lot about her world. Usually we just talk on the phone, text, FaceTime, drive around, get coffee, or peruse the shelves of Ross Dress for Less, but last weekend I wanted to step into her world a little more. After debating where to go and what to do one afternoon, she suggested we go to a local beach hangout near her house. I love the beach, and I love to be anywhere near the beach, so I was in. I thought sitting down for a while would give us more time to talk as opposed to going to a movie, so it seemed like a win-win situation.

Let’s just say I had no idea what I was getting into. As soon as we pulled up near the restaurant, she suggested I park behind a nearby strip club because parking would be free. Since I was driving my husband’s car, and I wasn’t so sure about the idea, I opted for a perfect on-street spot that was free and convenient. As soon as we got out of the car and started crossing the street, I noticed total strangers just looked at Grace differently. It was frightening, actually. Where as I am used to being ignored or smiled at politely, she was stared down by men in a butcher-shop-cut-of-meat kind of way, and scowled at by women whom she’s never met. I have never seen anything like it.

As we walked into the restaurant, the male staff members looked her up and down with weird smirks on their faces and women rolled their eyes. The only seating available was bar seating, as people were coming in from a beautiful beach day (the first of the season), so we pulled up two chairs. Within seconds, two middle-aged men were standing behind us, awkwardly staring at my friend and attempting to start conversation. I looked at them with the obvious “Do I know you?” face. She just ignored them. We very clearly did not know either of these men, yet they wouldn’t go away. All of the servers were female, and it took 20 minutes to get one of them to take our order. They wouldn’t even look at us, and when they did I caught some eye-rolls before they turned the opposite direction.

shaming

Now, I will say this. Grace can be a little brash. Actually, she can be pretty rude. It’s usually a defense mechanism, but that doesn’t make it ok to be rude to people. When she snapped at a server for not paying attention to us, I told her that I tend to get a way better response from people when I am nice to them on the front end. We agreed to disagree, for now. I guess it’s hard to be friendly when you are slut shamed every time you walk in a room.

When we were finally able to order our tacos and side salads, I couldn’t help but notice that men, whom neither of us had ever met, were just sort swarming around us, like vultures hovering over a dead carcass. I promise you they weren’t there for me. In fact, I seemed to be invisible. Grace paid them no attention, but these men just wouldn’t go away. I kept giving them the “May I help you?” face a la BonQuiQui, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Everyone around us was making a judgment call based on how Grace looked. I thought she looked adorable. She was wearing leggings, running shoes, a workout top, and had her hair in a high pony tail. She was wearing way more clothes than the women who were walking in and out of the restaurant in string bikinis. Her finger nails have been replaced with “glitter talons” (my name for them), but other than that nothing really stood out to me. Somehow, though, every person who looked our way seemed to know what she does for a living, and it horrified me how people were treating her.

We walked towards the stage to hear the band and she was stopped by a table full of guys. They wanted to know who she was and what she was doing that night. Y’all, that has never happened to me in my life. (Ok, maybe once in my twenties when I was acting a fool.) Grace got a little flirty, and the guys were completely mesmerized by everything thing she did and said. They paid no attention to me. One guy finally asked if I was her homegirl, and laughed out loud when Grace said, “Yea she is!” They probably thought I was her bouncer or something.

Grace had no problem telling these guys that she and I met in jail and had become friends. I struck up a conversation with one of the guys who was very full of himself and ready to put on a show. I asked him where he was from, how he got to Florida, and what his story was. I finally felt comfortable enough to ask him what made him talk to Grace and call us over. He said he knew she was a stripper. I assumed he must have seen her dance somewhere, but he said no. He just knew. He said that it’s the woman’s job to “set the tone” when she walks into a room. I asked him if he realized he was treating my friend like a piece of meat. He said she “put that out there” with her “aura”. I called BS. No one wants to be treated like a slut, so what gives him the right to do that?

He said it’s all on the girl. He just responds to what she “puts out there”. I told him it sounds like he is controlled by women. He agreed. He said it was the woman’s job to “put out there” how she wants to be treated.

Now, I just have to confess that in this moment I wanted to kick this guy where it hurts most. It actually took every bit of self control I possess to not engage in a physical altercation. I took a deep breath, though, and remembered his story. And then I challenged him by saying, “What if you decided to treat all women with dignity, regardless of what they put out there?”

He stared at me blankly, then shook his head and said, “Nah. You just gotta understand, this is just how men are. This is what we do.”

I left that interaction so angry and discouraged. I have been married to an amazing man for 8 months and have almost forgotten how bad it was when I was out and single and in the bar scene. I have forgotten that guys used to grab my butt or worse with no invitation. I have forgotten how horrible people treat each other. I have forgotten how rare it is for the average guy or girl in a bar to treat each other with dignity.

My heart has hurt this this conversation. I live in a bubble where people either treat each other well, or just don’t talk about how they really think and feel. I have forgotten just how broken we all are and how we see others and their worth. Y’all, we have to be having different conversations with people. Just telling people to “do better” isn’t working and it isn’t going to work. Silence isn’t going to work.

Most of us treat people they way we have been treated or been taught to treat others. A young man who was raised by his buddies and the internet is not going to treat a woman with dignity. The waitress who judged my friend based on her appearance is obviously harboring some feeling and opinions towards other women. The middle aged men who were creeping around Grace have formed some sort of belief about young, single women.

No amount of shaming or blaming is going to change how people treat each other. We need to be in relationships that change others as well as ourselves. We need to have conversations that change hearts, not just behaviors.

Something needs to change, or I am going to end up in a bar fight.