I have a sink full of dishes right now, and bedtime is creeping up on me. I could have spent my night doing those dishes, vacuuming, and doing the laundry. However, I spent my night doing absolutely nothing in the house. I sat with a big smile on my face watching my beautiful granddaughter learning. She knows letters, those letters make sounds, and together those sounds and letters make words. She sat with a big smile of her own writing sentence after sentence after sentence. If that is not more important than washing dishes and getting my chores done, I don’t know what is.
Some days we have no choice but tackle the workload, even when sitting and being lazy is nice. The freedom to do nothing is a luxury I probably should not indulge in. There are not enough hours in the day to sit around and do nothing. If the work is ignored, it only piles up and becomes an overwhelming mess. As the mess progresses, I begin to feel that mess inside. When I feel that mess inside, I begin to struggle. It is as though the bigger the mess becomes the smaller I shrink. Eventually, I am nothing but a needle in a haystack, and good luck finding me!
Sometimes tackling one task at a time is the only way the work is completed.
This is the same concept as my mental chore list. There are key topics I must handle in my mind to stay on top of that overwhelming feeling of chaos, especially during the stressful times in life. This current moment is one of those stressful times. Due to the high level of stress, I have been taking time to appreciate the small gifts in the middle of it all. Watching a kindergartner learn to write a sentence is a gift. If I can focus on the good, no matter the level of bad around me, I will find a decent balance.
Mental health is more complex than searching for good in the bad though. It is a delicate walk through a confusing and often terrifying alley. There are unknowns every few steps. The desire to stop and turn back can be stronger than the pull to move forward. The precious comfort of the known and familiar calls out loudly. It tempts even the strongest warrior. Moving toward the shadows can be beyond what we can handle. Therefore, we stop. We stay put. We kneel down and take a breath. If we cannot breathe, if we are gasping more than inhaling deeply, and exhaling slowly, we will lose.
In mental health, losing can be a very serious problem.
Winter is around the corner, December 21st. This past summer I stopped in a very dark alley of my life. I stopped, and I kneeled. I took a very long and deep breath. I am still exhaling today. For the love of myself, the me that I want to be, it was a necessary step to take. I have shut down in many areas, while maintaining others with certain boundaries I erected. I used to build walls around my mind and heart, which is not what I am doing here. I am protecting myself, something I have rarely done in my lifetime. For the incredible ability I now have, I am grateful. It took years to learn the concept of self, not in a selfish way, but in the terms of surviving somewhere other than the margins.
I am sitting in my own world, putting simple letters together. I am forming words of hope, belief, strength, determination, humility, compassion, love, and so many others. The dishes can wait. Anything I have put off and pushed to the side can wait. I matter. Me. I am a human too. I am a precious and loved child of God, and with that faith, I can do all things. Christ will strengthen me. He will tend to barriers and borders of my heart. He will educate me in the disassembling of those protected areas of my mind.
This is how I survive. This is how I live peacefully. I gave myself permission to stop in the alley, no matter the workload ahead. I gave myself permission to shut down to the world while opening up to the Lord. Sometimes the two don’t go hand in hand. Sometimes they fit perfectly together. If I remain in Him, if I stop and let Him lead when the time is right, all the dishes will eventually be done, the vacuuming and laundry, too. For now, it waits.