I'm normally an open book. A "wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve" kind of girl. I value authenticity, honesty, self-reflection, and an occasional slap-across-the-face-reality check with those I am close to. Criticism (appropriate and well-timed) does not usually discourage me. To prove all of this, I will tell you that I have cellulite, an unhealthy addiction to Diet Coke, and I cuss like a sailor when my kids aren't around (and occasionally when they are). I have harbored grudges like nobody's business and can be jealous, petty, cold, and unloving. I don't celebrate these things, nor do I try to hide them; I simply acknowledge that they exist. And while I try to overcome all of this brokenness, it persists. I'm a broken person in a broken world.
In the past few years, perpetuated by a sort of perfect storm of loss and unexpectedly difficult transitions and flat-out unadulterated heartache, I have forgotten, at my core, who I am. Being an adult, I do not throw tantrums; I just shut down completely. And in the past year and a half it's as if an emotional draw bridge has gone up and most people have been left outside the wall, without an explanation. I have been a cold fortress with high impenetrable walls, but inside, the loneliness is warm and comfortable and easier. It's been a cold, lonely, easy year, without the complications of others.
Through all of this, I've come to understand that sometimes loneliness, self-imposed or otherwise, is necessary.
Walls are designed to give privacy, separation, and a little bit of peace. Sometimes we need those things. We need quiet so that we can hear our own voice apart from the voice of the crowd. We need to listen to that truth so we can follow our own path. I was drowning in noise, in the busy-ness of life, in the voices of others, in a distorted perception of myself, both good and bad, created by those voices. For a season, those walls have shut out the noise. Those walls have allowed me to heal, and to begin to find my way back to the path of love, reciprocity, and joy. I'm back on the path, though wholeness is still a long way off.
At a very low point, when I didn't understand that my walls were instinctual, that they were there for a reason, I asked my husband to help me find a window. I needed to see that there was life outside of the walls; I needed to let the light spill in.
Knowing the depth of where I was and had been, knowing that I couldn't find words for what I was feeling, my sweet husband reminded me of my favorite author, Anne Lamott, who suggests that prayer is often nothing more than saying to God, "help me, help me, help me" and "thank-you, thank-you, thank-you."
And so in my heart, I pray this a lot. I write it in my journal. I say it aloud. I pray it for my children. And it works. It reminds me that in the midst of our deepest pain, there are limbs of gratitude that hold us up, and work to show us that life has a purpose outside of our sometimes wretched selves. And it reminds me that I don't have to be worthy, or special, or even articulate to ask for help. I just have to acknowledge that I can't do it alone. Because though I have felt safe, and warm, and comfortable within the walls I have built, I know that life isn't meant to be lived in isolation.
So, this prayer- simple, unaffected, and foundational- has become my window.
And the light it provides is showing me the way out.