Leaving Home (Part Two)
Why do I find it so hard to write on this blog? Because I have a real issue with Pride and Reputation. I want to always be able to say the right thing, the right way. I don’t just want to put words on a page, I want to be able to capture as perfectly as possible the thoughts I’m thinking and the way I’m feeling, and, most importantly, to capture the purpose and principles behind whatever is going on at the time. So if I can’t make head nor tail of what’s going on, or find words to describe the process of what’s happening in my life, I can’t write about it. Because if I just waffled on a page then it wouldn’t be saying the right thing in the right way and it would come back to my central issue – people won’t like what I’ve just written and this will affect my Pride and my Reputation.
In this last couple of years I have written dozens of posts that never got finished because I’ve been in such a crazy state of flux, not being sure of so many things, and constantly doubting myself and my feelings. When life is in emergency mode, there is an unshakable confidence in what needs to happen, when and how, and there is little room for self-doubt. But in this long season, that seems to me like it will never end, there just seems to be more change, grief that keeps morphing into new forms but never actually going away, opportunities that present themselves then slip out of my fingers before I had chance to grasp them, and a huge monumental lack of confidence in, well, everything.
Tiredness is a really big thing. It has become my body’s self-defence mode for everything. Too much to think about it? Sleep. Difficult decision to make? Sleep. Worried about how to reply in the right way to the message I’ve just received? Sleep. It is really unnerving to be tired all the time. It makes it difficult to plan things because I can’t measure things in time availability anymore, it’s all to do with energy instead. I cannot predict in advance how much energy I will have on a certain day, so I have to make decisions with caution, always considering what my back-up plan will be. How far will I be able to drive in one stint? If I know I’m out all evening, will I be able to nap in the afternoon beforehand? How early will I have to set my alarm in the morning to be able to do all the things I’m too tired to complete tonight? And the biggest one: if you’re always planning everything expecting to be tired, is that why you’re tired and is it all in your head you big wuss?
Making huge decisions about the future in the middle of this tiredness has been very difficult. As a family, our previous decisions were always made with optimism: expecting that life was going to get easier, that we just needed to push past whatever stage we were in, and things would soon get their own momentum and gloriously take off into something wonderful. Everything was worth the hard slog of the present because the future held such incredible potential. Oh, I loved making decisions that way! It generated its own natural energy and helped me to do things way beyond my natural capacity. But now I have to make decisions that are always limited by my current status. If I put us in a place beyond my capability, there is no one but me who can find the hidden strength and resource to make things work. So I have to think small and slow instead of large and unrealistic. I have to think like a normal person after years of being married to limitless possibilities.
So these two versions of me – the present and the past – have been at war while trying to work out where to go next. Do I go to a church where the leadership is already covered by a large team of people and just rest and be part of the body or do I go back into church leadership and use my experience to be involved in planning and building new things? Do I go somewhere really familiar where people have known me a long time or do I go somewhere new where the area is unknown and meet a whole bunch of new people? Do I play it safe and risk letting the pioneering part of my personality die, or do I hope that this current season of exhaustion will disappear once I get back on the saddle again?
For over a year, those two sides of the coin were represented by two different churches and I didn’t know which one I should be a part of. Let’s call the first one – the familiar one – Church A, and the one that felt like a wildcard option Church B. I had to make the decision before I moved as it would completely determine where I bought the new house. For me, church is my community and now I have teenagers I need it to be as easy as possible for them to access everything going on without depending on my availability to get them where they need to be.
As I said in my last post, I would have loved some kind of heavenly visitation that showed me what to do. Just as I thought I was beginning to come out of the fog of indecision, the closure of Home Church made my exhaustion and optimism for the future even worse. But I knew that if I didn’t take a risk and go for the option that the old me would’ve taken, I would always have berated myself for playing it safe. So I chose Church B, and hoped that once the weight of indecision was gone, I would begin to feel peace about it.
Unfortunately the opposite happened. My anxiety increased and my health got worse. I went to friends I’d known for a long time and asked them to pray for this fear that was trying to hold me back, and found that even though I was struggling to hear from God, He seemed to use them to ask me questions and bring me insights at just the right time. But it wasn’t confirming the decision I’d made, just the opposite.
Then within a week, two things happened. Firstly, I got an offer on my house in Morecambe, and on the same day, every house that I’d been watching on Right Move near Church B came off the market. I couldn’t get an appointment in that area or the next one over to see a four-bedroomed house that fit my criteria and my budget. And that week, some incredible houses appeared on the market near Church A that were perfect. Secondly, circumstances changed massively at Church B. Situations that I’d been waiting to see resolved all year took an unexpected turn, and it was absolutely clear that it was no longer the right place for me.
Here’s the thing though – I was so mad about it. If that had happened a few months earlier, I would have been so glad that I’d had such a definitive answer to the prayers I’d been praying. But I felt like I was receiving the answer too late. I had told the kids that’s where we were going, I had allowed myself to get emotionally attached to it, and – oh my pride! – I now had to make a u-turn on a decision I’d just made public. I had to go back on my word, I had to let people down, and all of this would have an effect on (of course the most important thing in the whole world): my Pride and my Reputation.
Now the great weight of leaving one church in crisis earlier this year was doubled. How had I somehow managed to do it again? How, when my intention was to build up and help, did I feel like everything I touched at the moment was doomed to crumble?
And so the unravelling of the mind has gone on and on. Once emotions begin to spiral like this, there is no stopping them. I have been on a mental journey into everything I’ve ever done in the past that hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would. My memories have skipped over the positive and alighted on every project I started and didn’t finish, on every person I have disappointed in some way, on all the opportunities I didn’t take, on every mistake and selfish moment, on good intentions that were riddled with excuses and weren’t brought to completion.
And this of course is crippling. There is no excitement to start something new, only anxiety about all the things that are likely to go wrong. Every opportunity to start something new seems like standing at the bottom of a mountain before climbing it, staring up into a large cloud wondering at what point the exhaustion will stop me and if I’ll be irretrievably stuck when it does. From sewing projects to phone calls to blog posts to decorating – all these small things – it’s just easier not to start them at all than to find the strength to push through the self-doubt that will come shortly after beginning them.
And all this is happening surrounded by a backdrop that is absolutely incredible. I have the house. I found the most perfect home for us, a house that felt like it was mine from the moment I walked into it. It has the right amount of space for us – enough that we can spread out in it, without it feeling overwhelming to maintain. We have our own garden, for the first time that the kids can remember, and we are within walking distance of shops, school and the train station, and we are so close to church. And it is full of light. Even though it has been winter in the few weeks that we’ve lived in it so far, every time the sun comes from behind the clouds, the house is flooded with light, and that is so good for my soul.
I am still in awe that I managed to do it, to pack up and disassemble the whole house after ten years of living in one place, and to get it all here and to put it all together again. I had to fight through the worst anxiety and until moving day itself, I couldn’t actually accept it was really happening. I kept expecting something else to come and snatch it away from me unexpectedly. I felt in shock (but the good kind thankfully) for the first few days, staring at each room as if I was in a dream. And I am part of a church that is passionate and vibrant, full of energy and optimism, with people who have known me a long time and love me well. I know I am positioned well for what I need next – an inner rebuilding and a fresh perspective. I just have to wait now for what is surrounding me on the outside to begin seeping into the broken wasteland that is on inside and bringing life and growth back again. I don’t know how long that will take and I don’t know how long I can keep putting off living at base camp, but I do feel like writing this imperfect post and wounding my Pride and Reputation just a little bit more may have got me a teensy bit further on.