16 January 2016

Confessions of a Semi-Absent Friend (It's Not You. It's Me.)

As you know, 2015 was a a really difficult year for me.

The holidays (from Halloween, clear 'til the New Year) were especially hard, and I really struggled to capture the spirit of joy that usually comes so easily for me. For the first time, I experienced the seasonal depression that hits so many during the holidays. And though I tried to keep up the cheerful attitude I'm generally known for, I'll admit that I spent many hours hiding in quiet corners to cry so I wouldn't bring anyone else at the party down.

But the thing is, I don't think I was really fooling anyone. Though I tried to keep up a carefully-cultivated mask, though I wore a plastered-on smile and forced a chipper tone into my voice when answering the unavoidable "how are you?"-type questions, I know my recent aloofness has caused some hurt feelings.

And I want to apologize for being a semi-absent friend.

"When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most." This quote by Elder Robert D. Hales has become my mantra in recent months. I've had to remind myself daily that I'm not a bad person just because I have to say no to things I've said yes to in the past. Still, I've been saying "no" so much more than I want to. And I've heard enough quiet murmurings to know that some of my friends and family are starting to think they aren't in my "what matters most" category.

So at the risk of sounding like I'm having a prolonged pity party, I wanted to explain why I've been absent lately. Why I'm not on Twitter or Facebook or this blog cheering your successes and mourning your losses with you. Why I've not attended so many social engagements, even when I said I'd really try to be there. Why I'm no longer the one jumping to volunteer when I see a friend in need, even when I desperately want to be there for you. And why I might quietly slip away from a conversation just when you start thinking that everything is back to normal.

It's not you. I promise.

It's me.

And I know that's the world's most unhelpful cliche, but it's the total and honest truth.

I want you to know that I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I'm not sinking into a deep depression or wallowing in a pool of self-pity and resentment. And even though I might break down in uncontrollable fits of private sobs more often than I want to admit these days, I really will be okay. And I'm getting better, but it will take some time to replenish my natural well.

As you know, I'm a certified optimist. I can find the good in any situation, the positive spin on even the most negative circumstances. And even though circumstances have been HARD for the past eight months, I can see so many wonderful blessings that have come from our struggles. And truly, even though I don't know how I have the strength to get out of bed some days, the Lord has blessed me with the strength to keep putting one foot in front of another, and we've found a way to do all of the truly essential things.

But here's the thing: Things are more difficult right now than they've ever been. And although I can still look at each and every trial and find the good hidden there, I'm exhausted. I simply don't have the energy to project that positive spin for an audience.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to go home again. Work has come to a screeching halt on our house, as we wait for reports from the structural engineer (so that the rebuild can be done safely and securely, and we don't accidentally end up with nothing more than a pile of rubbish where our home used to be). We have no more money to pay for work to continue. The funds we've raised, the loan we were able to acquire, and the small amount we had in our savings have all gone to pay for the mold removal. We're hoping to be able to get a new loan to refinance our house and be able to pay for the rebuilding, but the bank can't process the paperwork until they have the report, and we won't know if we even qualify for the loan until they process that paperwork.

And yes, I know that I have been so richly blessed in so many ways. I'm still beyond overwhelmed by the generosity you showed in our gofundme campaign. And yes, I have faith that somehow, in some way, things will work out.

I don't know how.

And to be honest, I'm terrified. And feeling more than a little bit lost. But the natural optimist in me keeps pointing out the blessings, and that keeps me from collapsing under the weight of it all.

The thing is, my little cup of gratitude, overflowing as it may be, isn't big enough to fill my well right now. And I just don't have enough optimism to share.

So when you ask me for an update on my house, and the only news I've had to report for months is that work has stopped and I don't know when or if we'll be able to afford the next step ... Or when you ask me if I'm going to make cookies for everyone in the neighborhood this year (as I used to do every year at Christmas), just hours after I was crying in the grocery store because I wasn't sure I'd have enough money to feed my family that week ... Or when you invite my children to join you for an afternoon of fun and it's only $10 per person, but that's $40 more than I have in the budget ...

Yes, I will still see the blessings there. I will still see the silver linings in every cloud and the rainbows shining after every storm.

I will be excruciatingly grateful for the most amazing contractors in the world, who have gone out of their way to personally let me know that I'm not alone, and that they will do everything in their power to make sure we WILL find a way to rebuild our home.

I will blink back a few tears of joy over the fact that everything on my grocery list was on sale and each item carried extra gas reward bonus points
 enough to allow me to fill my tank for only fourteen cents per gallon.

I will thank the Lord that you love my children enough to want to include them in the fun times, and that you recognize how desperately we need some fun right now.

But I don't always have the energy to keep smiling.

I don't even have the strength to explain to you that you didn't make me cry, and that I didn't mean to burst into a sobbing mess just because you showed me the beautiful kitchen you just finished remodeling.

And I'm struggling so hard just to keep my own head above water that even though I see you struggling too, and I desperately want to lift you, I know that we'll both go under if you're relying on me.

But I'm not really absent. I'm still here, quietly cheering for you on the sidelines. I pray for you. I think  of you.

And little by little, I'm filling my well. One tiny drop at a time. Until someday soon, I hope, I'll be ready to step out of the shadows and reflect the sunshine I see in our lives every single day.

Please be patient with me until then.

And please know that I love you.