My good friends are rolling their eyes right now, because my article’s title is so sacrilegious. Yes, I know it is… keep reading.
I’m 29 years old. I was speaking with a friend this evening about my health, and my life up to this moment, and I told her, “It’s been a long 20s, I’m excited to turn 30 next years.” It’s been a long 20s, I’ve done so much in this decade, It feels like multiple lifetimes.
I turned 20 on a furlough from mission work I was doing in Mexico. What you don’t know is that this furlough took place during the H1N1 epidemic that swept the world, and at that time we didn’t know quite how serious it was. I lived in an apartment that was about 5 kilometers from the Mexican Center for Disease Control. The day before we evacuated from Mexico (because the borders were being closed temporarily) I walked around outside in my Mexico City neighborhood, it was a ghost town. The few individuals who were outdoors with us were wearing medical masks (as were we.) In a city with millions, we were worried to even go outside. Taking that furlough and entering my 20s, getting to meet my first nephew for the first time, getting to see my brothers and one of my sisters… I visited several loved ones during those few weeks. Why? We could have died, and I suddenly realized what mattered to me. Yes yes, we know now that the H1N1 virus isn’t the plague we thought it was… we learned this during my furlough. It felt silly to tell people that this experience left such a big existential impact on me, but it did. It still does. The words I chose to say to my loved ones during those scary hours and days MATTERED.
A few years later, once again around my birthday, I was faced with a dilemma. I’d been running on “have tos” for months, and I was having a mental break down. I needed to get back to my roots and hit some kind of reset button. I left my home in Lubbock for what I thought would be a 3 month “reset button” to work as a youth intern for a Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What I found was authenticity. I realized how much I loved being near my brother, but I also realized that in all of my years in ministry, I had never just made a name for myself. My first year here, I was surrounded by people who didn’t know me, or where I came from, and this made me feel brave. I realized that for about 5 years I was white knuckling my responsibilities, because I wasn’t signing up for the ones I really loved in the first place. I don’t blame my parents or the churches who raised me, it was my own insecurity; I tried with every fiber of my being to be “enough.” Was I submissive enough for a future spouse? Did I authentically connect to the churches I was attending? Was I faithfully planning out my life, or was I looking for the next safest cookie cutter path? I wasn’t having a crisis of faith, I was having a crisis of community. So much inside of me had changed in those 5 years, if I was going to take off the mask it was going to be like reintroducing myself. I look back and I know that my circumstances were God ordained, a safe place to land and release my baggage.
A few years later, I was a mother for the first time, and soon after our niece was living with us for a short time. I did not know what I was doing, I had been a mom for maybe 2 seconds and now I had a toddler as well! I struggled. I want to honor that story, because it was hard for everyone involved… but I didn’t feel like there were many people I could talk to about my fears and failures back then. It was a confusing time. I remember what I learned in the foster training classes, I remember trying to apply things like Love and Logic… but it always boiled down to feeling like I did it wrong. I didn’t understand how deeply that little girl was hurting. I knew, in theory that my words and actions made an enormous impact in this little girls life, but I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. During all of this, there was a baby girl named Gemma who was blissfully unaware, and things with her weren’t complicated. This photo with her was taken by my sister in law, around her first birthday (we were actually in court on her birthday, working on things for her cousin.) How did I not see it? I was not a failure. The world won’t always respond to our efforts favorably… but sometimes it does. I’m so thankful for beautiful moments like these to remind me.
And the last story I will share is my current moment. I’m having seizures (now you get the title, eh?) When people picture seizures I’m sure the initial imagery is that of the collapsing, convulsing kind. That’s not the kind I have, but there are several kinds and I experience a few. The short version of this story is that I have a debilitating genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos syndrome. It’s a collagen disorder; so wherever you find collagen, there you will find disorder. Right now the biggest issues I’m suffering from are cervical instability, migraines, hemiplegia, severe pain and neuropathy… and yes, seizures. Non-collapsing seizures are less dangerous to me, and my kids by association, but they are still concerning. I am 29. I have lived so much life in my three little decades… and now with my true identity intact, I want to hustle. I want to return to school, I want to work, I enjoy working and I enjoy applying myself in that way. My wants, paired with my needs, pose a very valid question… HOW? How do I get from A to B? What is the next smartest thing I can do to help manage my health (first priority), and what next step can I take professionally to not overextend myself?
Seize the moment. My seizures tell me a few things… I need to take them seriously, but also I need to take myself less seriously. I need to live, I need to breathe, I need to try new things, and I need to rest without apology.
You know what gets me through the day? I’m alive, because I have so much to do. At this phase in the game, I don’t feel like a sufferer, I feel like a movement maker. I haven’t even listed all of my health conditions… but I will say, depression is one of them. Do I feel joyful and motivated every single day? absolutely not– actually, HELL NO. My body is a scary place to live, my struggles are mysterious and complicated. It’s a personal hell, complete with trap doors and spontaneous limb dislocations. But you know what? Whoever is running this house of horrors has gone a little overboard, so on my worst days it’s easy to see that it’s a spiritual attack and I’m able to keep my focus. It’s not my worst days that are the hardest, it’s the “in-betweens.” It’s the days where life isn’t impressively hard, and it’s not exceptionally good. It’s just medium. In-between days are when I feel lonely, when I question my sanity or the validity of my illnesses. In-between days are when I get good night sleeps, so maybe I don’t cuddle with my husband as much. In-between days are when I don’t know if I can manage an outing alone with my kids, so I usually end up saying no to socializing. “In- between” is when I forget to seize the day.
Because of this trend I am seeing, I’ve chosen my word for 2019. Are you ready for it?
I’m going to leave you with a song, it feels like the right one for this occasion. What will it take for you to seize the moment?