Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Compartmentalizing


Over the past few years my life has been full of a lot of pain. I would say more so than anytime previous to now. I've been pretty honest about our struggles,. I have already shared about the move, my depression my other family members depression and then a child of mine was hit by a car and my son's drug use and entering Teen Challenge. My husband doesn't have a job currently which is somewhat a result of the previously mentioned family stressors.  Tough stuff for sure.

I am currently in the midst of a pain that is deep and heart wrenching. When I think about it and look at my own family and even things I see on facebook, I know I am not alone.  That's not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about something God has taught me over the past two years; Pain is inevitable.

I've also learned that amidst great pain, there can be joy. That is very different from depression. If someone is depressed, it's hard to find joy in anything. I feel that's important to mention because I know what that feels like and how the dark gray of depression can hinder our ability to see the joy and color in life.

Something can hurt us deeply and yet we can be happy. I call it 'compartmentalizing emotions'. I literally envision the old school library card catalogs that have ironically become a treasured antique collectable.  In my mind's eye I see myself opening one drawer and for that moment concentrating on just one emotion. When I need to I close that drawer and open another.  It's a form of coping or perhaps even survival.

 In one area of my life, there is great beauty and in another area there is great pain. It's been important for me to learn because with six children, there is always a lot going on. I need to be able to put that which is painful in a compartment, to be dealt with, but also to not hinder my ability to celebrate the good things in life.

When I am with one child I try very hard to be present with them and where they are at emotionally.  For whatever amount of time I can, I try to be just that child's mom because they deserve my time and attention.  I love laughing with my kids, listening to their hopes and dreams and celebrating their accomplishments.  I love hearing about what happened at work and school.  I also love when they tell me what they are struggling with, what hurts them and what is just plain hard for them.  I like to send them encouraging texts, e mails, blog posts and Bible verses.  I like to talk to God about my kids because I know he thinks they are even more awesome than I do because He created them!

I struggle a little bit more when I'm with my husband to keep the compartments of the children closed and solely focus on him and on our relationship.  I know how incredibly important it is for us to close all of the painful, stressful compartments and have fun together.  It's something I work on getting better and better at.

The first time I can remember consciously compartmentalizing is from my Junior year in college.  My grandma was in a hospice home and she was dying.  One of my best friends had recently found out she was pregnant and was going to get married in a few days.  We went to a Christian college and there were only a few of us who knew the situation.  We were suppose to go dress shopping, but my grandmother was dying.  I thought about what I should do and realized that I needed to support my friend.  I had loved my grandmother well and my mom was with her,  I needed to love my friend well at that moment.  We stopped at the hospice home where I spent some time saying good-bye to grandma while my friends waited in the lobby.  She was in a coma and very close to death so I knew this would be the last time I saw her here on earth,  After that we headed out shopping for wedding dresses.  I chose not to put a damper on my friend's special day so I put my pain in a compartment to be dealt with later.  We did have a good day and I hope that my friend remembers it as such.

Life is a lot like that day in college.  My best day could be my sisters worst day.  That doesn't mean I have to minimize my happiness at all.  It just means that I need to be sure to show compassion and to look beyond myself.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens."

Right now we are in a unfamiliar season.  We are doing many of the things that follow in those next verses.  We are mourning, we are searching for a new job for my husband, we are tearing down old habits, we are silently waiting for God's direction and we are loving one another.

Even though we are in a difficult season, there is still so much joy to be found.  My husband is home with me during the day.  He gets to spend lots of time with the kids.  He has completed an abundance of things on my honey-do list.  He is not rushing, he's able to rest which is something he needs very much.  There is laughter, family meal time, movie marathons and no deadlines to be met.

My love tank is overflowing because one of my love languages is time and we have had so much time together!  How can it be that pain and joy, love and uncertainty and fear and comfort can marry together and be ok?

Maybe it's because as the waves of pain, fear and uncertainty hit us we let ourselves feel them for a time and then we close that compartment and then open the compartments of joy, love and comfort. Then we realize this is a blessed season that we would not have chosen but are finding good fruit coming from it. Who would have thought?

None of this would be possible without our faith in Jesus and his absolute love for us.  We've spent a lot of time praying.  What does that look like?  Sometimes it's "Jesus help us".  Sometimes it's like "Hey God, it's me again. I don't have the words to say how I feel but you know me and you know what I need."  Other times it's me having a long conversation saying what I'm feeling both good, bad and ugly because God is real and He loves me just as I am and He wants to hear my heart, not necessarily beautiful flowing words.  I talk to him respectfully but real, you know?  He's my best friend.

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” 
― Philip Yancey