{reflecting on the past year and turning 46}

I have come far. I have run hard. I feel strong.

I am proud of my learning to harness perseverance and need. Twenty seven pounds ago, I hated myself and today I feel lithe and strong.  All this, accomplished with an iron will, though a little obsessively neurotic at times.  I know, I am strong. And this is good, this self-love, for one who loathed herself for most of her life.

But I know there is more — to know, to learn, more to my life.  I am always pressing life for more and this dissatisfaction, while frustrating at times,  is  also who I am.  I accept it.  

I have been running, strong.  But perhaps away from or around, not through Jesus and the community of believers I am a part of these days. Even as I join — leaning into community, giving myself away, so that I see pieces and part of me all over the place.  In words and images, in relationships — all good things, still I have held something important back.

“I am not in love with the church” she said. And as I read this offering, words from a deeply thoughtful writer whom I read trembling with her conviction, every time.  Her words, like good writers do, carve into my heart.  I was undone by them, slayed.  Broken by her words, I had to acknowledge its truth.

In me.

For I have tried so hard to love, prayed for it even.  Known how right it is to love the bride of Christ, the church.

But I avoid her, even as I am the butt of pastors jokes about introverts on a Sunday morning. Oh how I hate the “greet perfect strangers” time of the church week.  Yes, I resent it, but really deep down this isn’t about being shy.  I don’t love the Bride of Christ.

I look down, avoid eye contact, trying not to see her.

I am shaken by my stone cold heart.

He said, love others as you love yourself. And these words fell on a heart that was running, afraid to love.

I’ve come far, run hard and strong toward God– I love Him and He fills me.  He gathers up all my fear, the anxious heart that grips me strong, that is not allowing change to come into me.

I am strong but I am weak.  He longs for me to step closer, sit longer, open up, be.  Allow the eucharist to transform me in the quiet of space that I

don’t fill, don’t control, where I don’t speak.

Let God transform.

“You’re running on your own strength,”  the Holy One whispered to me, over and over this week.  And I know that I am.  Admitting it is a small, sweet release of pressure that has built up as I got strong.  I was even frightened by my strength.

“Lay down ego and pride and the feelings of being not good enough.

Lay down your mind that swirls, a windstorm of thoughts that never stop, making you feel slightly crazy all the time. 

Lay down the hopes, the dreams, the plans.

Lay down control, learn from me. 

Lay down desire for powerful influence.

Lay down comparison that kills joy and everything good, that makes your mouth taste bitter.

Lay down fear that frequently cripples.

Lay down the need to be seen as smart.

Lay down,

kneel

acknowledge the ugliness inside you.”

Hear me: YOU ARE PERFECT.

Stop

running on your own strength.  

Let me be your refuge and strength.

Surrender to the Cross

ever and always being in a state of

becoming.”

And so, I am learning this.  I’ll admit the thought of letting go frightens me but I long to truly love God, myself and my neighbor, as we’re commanded, so much so that this becomes a sweet surrender.

And it is to be daily.

The Second Half of my Life, Indeed.

Happy Birthday to me.  

Crossroads

by Joyce Sutphen
The second half of my life will be black to the white rind of the old and fading moon. The second half of my life will be water over the cracked floor of these desert years. I will land on my feet this time, knowing at least two languages and who my friends are. I will dress for the occasion, and my hair shall be whatever color I please. Everyone will go on celebrating the old birthday, counting the years as usual, but I will count myself new from this inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift, past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder, asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road. The second half of my life will be wide-eyed, fingers shifting through fine sands, arms loose at my sides, wandering feet. There will be new dreams every night, and the drapes will never be closed. I will toss my string of keys into a deep well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice breaking up on the river, rain soaking the fields, a hand held out, a fire, and smoke going upward, always up.

I’m 42 Today and Considering My Life

At 42, I am ...

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

I am 42 today and considering my life.   I was born in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on this day in 1966. I am the 2nd daughter of missionary parents. I spent the first eight years of my life there in PNG. It was a wonderful beginning. The middle was kind of rough, but it is improving every day!  Perhaps it is kind of silly to ask “Who am I?” at my age, but today this is what I did.

— Melody

I AM

  • I am a step-mother and a mother, hopelessly lost some days because I wasn’t parented that well. I have no Compass.
  • I soak up ideas and solutions from others, mostly my friends, my sisters, because I am afraid I will “mess up” my children. (Yes, the way I was messed up.)
  • I am fearful and insecure; in my core believing that I am a screw-up, a loser, a horrible friend, and an even worse mother. The voices in my head say I am the worst in-law, daughter, sister or friend anyone could want (except I don’t nag or bother, rather the other end of the spectrum. I simply act like others aren’t there.)
  • I am an alcoholic and a child of an alcoholic and this affects every single thought and decision that I make.
  • I am a writer, a thinker, a philosopher.
  • I make things like photographs, and gardens, and poems, and that makes me happy.  I love to share these things with others.
  • I am spiritual, preferring old thoughts and music to anything contemporary or new.  I am not religious, or even very faithful. But I do believe in Jesus. And I try very hard! Perhaps that is my problem …. I try. I don’t understand Grace, not really.  So on those days when my unbelief overwhelms, I entertain thoughts that can be desperate and decidedly unfaithful.
  • I do not let go …. I want and I need to be in control at all times, about everything, in every way. When I am not, I feel I have failed.  Losing control personally, emotionally, mentally is one of my worst crimes.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I am not all bad.
  • I am thoughtful. I am usually open and honest with others, when asked.
  • I take risks and try new things.
  • I love competition! Sports (watching), playing certain games, setting personal goals. But I’m afraid I get too into it, and at times it’s not so pretty.
  • A long time ago, when I worked full-time, I was a visionary, a pioneer, a competent person, a leader. I was loyal and capable. I accomplished a lot.  Surely, I am still those things.
  • I embrace and actually love cultures other than my own, soaking up the ideas, art, food, and music through books, travel and most of all friendship with those who are unlike me.
  • I usually help others as I see their needs.
  • I cook well, even better than well. I am a great cook.  My family & friends are well fed.
  • I organize & prioritize my children’s lives well, putting their needs first,  advocating and challenging others about my children’s needs.
  • I encourage others.  (At least when I am not selfishly thinking about myself.)
  • I want some day to know myself well enough that I can speak out, act, embrace, find and give all that live has to offer!  I want some day to be able to laugh, and cry, and feel the spectrum of emotions found on that damn feeling wheel!

What might you not know about me?

I’m addicted to coffee. Seriously it’s a physical and psychological thing and if I don’t have it, I might just come unhinged.  Of course being an alcoholic, I don’t drink.  But I do smoke and I know it’s a slow form of suicide. I don’t do it lightly (almost every cigarette comes with lucid acknowledgment of the consequence.) but I definitely cannot quit at this time.  I love to exercise and eat well, but I don’t (usually.)  I play music every day; all kinds and it is life-giving.  I am diagnosed with major depressive disorder, which means in layman’s terms:  I have a propensity for melancholia and if I don’t manage it, it will come back. At its worst this type of depression is like drowning in your worst nightmare, a stinking, dark hellish place to reside. Where truth becomes lies, and lies truth. You are incapable of doing, feeling, thinking, reading, sometimes even breathing.  Thankfully I’ve been depression-free for almost two years.  [I may regret saying this, but you have an open invitation to ask me if I am exercising & eating,because these are the first disciplines to go. Also, if you haven’t seen me in a while, it can be a bad sign because I begin to isolate.]

Depression, alcoholism, insecurity, damage, they are not my complete story, my story is just starting.

I believe God brought into my life the perfect person for me; he loves me by asking hard questions, telling me the truth about myself which usually means “good stuff” but sometimes even hard truths. He encourages my passions and interests, supports them as well, which is no small thing in this financial climate.  He is a warrior on my behalf and I love him more than I have shown him or will ever be capable of showing.

People have described me as aloof and private, which I am but mostly because I am shy and those demons of insecurity are playing out in my head more often than I would like to admit.

I am creative, intuitive, capable, kind, thoughtful, deep, at times extremely selfish & critical of others, but mostly about my ideas and my time.

My critical spirit, my insecurities, can and do hurt those I love and it is one of my deepest regrets; an Achilles heal.

I am passionate and always reading & thinking about things that are important to me, but I often fail at finishing and carrying them out. Books lay around unread, photographs unprinted, my book of poetry sits unfinished, and commitments become a burden, as I selfishly move on to something new.

I need community, long for it, work to develop it, but most times I fall short through my own weaknesses and broken heart.  You can be confident that I want to know you, be in your life, especially if I have told you, but my stupid S**T keeps me entangled at times.

All in all, I would say I am a good person.

As I learn what it means to be a child of an alcoholic I can acknowledge that I am still growing up, even at 42; still learning and discovering who I am and how I want to live.  I am slowing waking up – from a life-draining, sad, lonely, scared and cold childhood.  All in all, I am blessed beyond belief – with great love, friendship, abundance, talents and so much more.  I acknowledge that, even while I ache with the painful knowledge that I cannot fully embrace my life – yet – due to all of the above.  The most important thing people may not know about me is that HOPE is the central thing of importance in my life.  If I have even a tiny inkling of hope – a belief, a dream or something to hope for, I can put all of this aside. (Okay, not totally of course.)

Although this list isn’t complete, (how could a perfectionist “complete” a list) it is all true, as I know myself, today on my forty-second birthday, 2008.  Thanks for being a friend, getting involved in my messy life. Keep hanging in there, because I believe it’s on an upward curve and I am hopeful about the future.  It is simply a record of my thoughts, and perhaps will give you a glimpse at the ME I let very few in to see. You do not, should not, feel an obligation to reply.

September 24, 2008

Melody Hanson