Come on in. Take a seat. Let’s chat. Can I get you a nice cup of tea for this fall day? Perhaps some Forever Nuts, Chocolate Mint, or Pumkin Chai? I can ice it for you too – whatever you fancy.
Can I just say how good it is to be able to spend some time with you! I’ve been hoping to talk to you about something I’ve been struggling with for years. You see, life hasn’t been exactly neat and tidy for me. Then again, it’s never wrapped up nicely for anyone. Even the most privileged of people are faced with constant challenges.
But because of many unfortunate events and very unfair moments, I came to know about sadness even as a very young girl. And just like any other body part, it has grown with me over the years. For a brief period of time I was able to exhale, thinking that sadness and anxiety were far behind me. As I entered into adulthood, depression would make appearances during hard times. While dealing with the struggles of school, work, and especially relationships, this friendly foe would greet me with such miserable comfort. And only because he was familiar, one who had always been there throughout the many bad times.
And then, just past a quarter of a century, I was determined to find purpose, to find my passions and pursue them. In this journey I was empowered, strengthened, and inspired. Depression would still stop by for visits, but I wouldn’t keep company for too long. Determined and focused, I would yell at him to get out because I really didn’t have time for him; didn’t he know I had more important things to focus on?!
But over the last three years, life suddenly became a little less clear. The passions I was so confident I was called to pursue were now being ruffled and blurred. Wait, what’s happening?! Can I just have a moment to think this through? I’m at a crossroads, unsure of myself or which road to follow for that matter. Being older, the weight of it all was starting to wear me out. In the decades of fighting, I thought I had defeated this enemy.
Now being more mature, he’s decided to take very clever approaches to pursuing me. Showing up without any warning, he forces me to dance with him in public. Knowing full well that the smile, grace, and composure I maintain on the outside while dressed up in my most beautiful gown are only so that nobody else will be alarmed – so as to say, “Don’t worry! Everything’s wonderful and under control.” But he’s well aware of the ‘fakeness’ as he feels my hands tremble and sees the battle that I’m struggling to fight from within.
His appearances are seemingly random, though I’m starting to sense a pattern. In hopes of greatest impact, he dances with me during my moments of celebration … even during the smallest wins.
Take last month, for example. On a particular day, I had several people approach me separately praising the blog. One person explained that she had been quite busy over the summer but had intended to sit down and cozy up with Dots & Lace by reading through all of the posts in one sitting. She was adamant about it and was clearly telling me that it was a priority for her. I was tickled by her comments – that someone valued what I had to say so much that they were going to invest a considerable amount of time soaking it all in.
Shortly after that another person approached me and gushed, “Good work, Quest. I’m really loving your blog!” I was taken aback. I would never have expected this person to take a first look, let alone many. I got the impression though that she had been following each post as it made its way into the public. Wow! I know I’ve said this before but I really do find it shocking that even one person dedicatedly reads these posts. I was elated – on cloud 9. Filled up with so much hope, I set out to basque in the 45 minute walk home. I had a skip in my step and a huge smile on my face. I felt like I could go home and write a million posts.
Not even by the time I reached the first traffic light, did I hear an inner voice barking. “Pffft that’s only two people.” “Who do you think you are?! You’re nothing. You’re incapable.” “Quest, nobody really cares. Those words were merely an exchange of pleasantries. Don’t even bother. It’s not worth it. Just pack in the blog and forget about it.”
How could, in merely a few footsteps, my hope be diminished like that? I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my friendly foe was forcing me into another dance; seizing a wonderful opportunity to make me fall because he knew the height from which I’d be falling and how much more it would hurt. I hurriedly got myself home, locked myself in my room, buried myself under the duvet, and didn’t wake up until the next afternoon.
Or how about last week. In the almost one year that I’ve been without a job and pursuing fUNemployment, I got called in for my first interview. This was epic!! I had less than a day’s notice so I spent the little time I had preparing for the meeting. I was so excited to talk to someone about a work opportunity that I barely slept.
In spite of me being very tired and dealing with a fire alarm (yes – a full on building evacuation just as as the interview was about to start) I approached the meeting like a discussion and I actually enjoyed it. I suspect the panel also enjoyed chatting with me too because when I left I checked the time and realized that we had been meeting for an hour and half, though it didn’t feel like it at all. Again, I thought I’d walk home to take in the beautiful weather and think about the interview. I was delighted at how much I learned and got to share during that meeting and felt very hopeful. I concluded that even if I didn’t get that job, I felt encouraged by that meeting. Fortunately, I got to busy myself at an event that evening and even took some time to privately celebrate for the accomplishment I achieved just that morning by getting myself a smile cookie. I went to bed completely exhausted but with a brazen smile on my face.
The next day when I had some time to settle and think things through, I saw him in the distance. “Oh no, he’s spotted me! Not now … things were so good!” Before I had a chance to brace myself he was already there, forcing me to dance with him yet again. Whispering into my ear while smiling, “You’re not good enough. They don’t want you. Just watch – they’re not going to even call you back.” But I’d grown tired of this. I wanted to scream out “no!” and fight with every ounce of me.
Sweetheart, I can tell by the slight nods that some of what I’ve been saying has been resonating with you. I know you’re already aware that anxiety and depression affects nearly 1 in 5 people. And I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in these feelings. In fact, this enemy of ours has even been trying to discourage me from talking to you about all of this. He’s afraid that you’d be bold enough to mention that you’ve also been his victim in some form because he knows that silence is the only way he can keep his grip on us. He’s well aware of the strength and courage that can be had in numbers.
Though I’ve been talking a lot of this enemy of ours, I don’t want to give him too much credit. Sure, he springs up on me and has the tendency to make me come unglued most times, but I’m not not completely helpless. Deep within me, in an area that not even he can reach I have the irrevocable desire to fight. I may often be deflated but I refuse to be defeated. Even if by the the very nails of my fingers, I scrape on to the promises and hope I know I have. Promises of an amazing future and of hope written and signed in a contract by someone who always makes good on his promises. And you know, you have access to these promises too!
Dear friend, I want to encourage you. In fact, let us encourage each other. You might be asking me just what I mean by encouraging each other. You know ….
verb en·cour·age \in-ˈkər-ij\
To embolden, strengthen, and assure. To inspire with courage, spirit, confidence, or hope. [Antonyms – depress, sadden; weaken; intimidate]
So lovely, I want to embolden you by sharing something that I personally have found encouraging:
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. There’s far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.… Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.If god gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving …. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.*
And since we can be honest with one another, I want to tell you that even though I know of lovely quotes and scriptures like these, which most of the time are very encouraging, sometimes I still need strength to get through. Fortunately, I have a best friend that is easily able to tell when something isn’t quite right. Like that time when I told him that I was going to get a “combo #3” – which really means ketchup chips, a bag of candy, and a slushee from the 7-11 close by.
He’s learned over the years to recognize that as comfort food during really stressful times. Even better, for those times that I just want to isolate myself from everyone, his simple response is always, “Okay, no worries. If you think of a way that I can help just let me know. I love you.” Simple words yet so powerful because they come with the understanding that sometimes I just need space to figure things out and that I have someone who’s seriously in love with me, on call, and ready to walk it through with me if and when I’m ready.
I hope that you have a friend in your life who can strengthen you like this. Who can remind you of what you’re really made of in spite of what the loud, negative inside chatter is telling you. And if you don’t have a friend like this I just want you to know that, “If you think of a way that I might be able to help just let me know. I love you. “
And if you’re anything like me, inbetween moments of emboldenment and strengthening, you need some assurance too. Something that will speak louder than that inside voice and drown out the noise. Over these past three years, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing small love notes to myself. On the bottom of my toiletry bottles I write the date and a short note of encouragement. When I finish using the product, I instinctively know to check the bottom of the bottle. And every time I check, I end up reading a message that I had long forgotten but that is relevant and full of hope.
It’s incredible how these “love notes” pop up just when I need them. They make me stop and wonder. They encourage me to reflect back on the progress I’ve made. They inspire me to keep dreaming. Go on, try it too. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how it works out. Even better if you can get someone you know well to write the love notes for you. And just as good if you can find messages like this one by Liz Turner – you bet I’ll be framing this one and reciting it each morning:
Dear friend, I just want to let you know that I love you and appreciate you. I want to assure you that you’re awesome and capable of doing great things. And yes, it will work out because, after all, when has it ever not worked out? There is so much hope in our lives and I only hope that we continue to see it and keep our eyes on it.
I just want you to know that I’m going to be thinking of you and praying for you with joyful expectancy. Yes, you! And please remember me too. We’re going to fight with everything in us and we will conquer this! And then we’ll shout our joys from the mountaintops so that we can encourage others to continue in their journey. We can do this!