I turned on the faucet and waited for the water to heat up. After a few seconds I got in and let the liquid warmth soak into my hair and relax my taut muscles. It would have felt wonderful had I not carried such an awful weight that evening. It was pulling from the inside, from my throat down through my chest and into the pit of my stomach. Sitting in the tub with the water running all over my face I gave in to the feelings inside of me. I cried. I sobbed long and hard. A voice kept ringing in my ears, I am nothing; I am nobody.
For several years I had experienced these episodes. I really felt that I had no reason for this profound sadness, yet it surfaced so often. One moment I could be very happy and the next, my heart would turn to lead. Seemingly, I would cry for no reason at all. I tried so hard to discover the reason. I told myself, I have a home and I’m not starving. I have family and friends who love me. All in all, I’m a very fortunate person. Yet despite these positive thoughts, time and again I sank into a deep sadness.
I married my husband, Nathan, in August of 1995. He certainly got a package deal when he picked me! Not only did he get the sweet little Missy that he loved so much, but he also got all baggage I carried along with me. All the monsters inside the massive trunk I dragged behind me were somewhat muffled and stuffed during our courtship They would peak out from time to time, trying to stretch a limb or two. But for the most part I shoved the lid closed.
Wedding bells rang, the honeymoon came and went, and there I was, a new bride fresh off the boat from Boston. My new role as pastor’s wife included introductions to endless numbers of people. I clung to Nathan, overwhelmed at meeting so many strangers. My husband was in the limelight while I, his little ornamental wife, stood at his side. Sit pretty, smile, and you’ll be fine, I told myself. My nothingness grew. I was even more conscious of it with a husband who was so talented and happy. He had a spark for life that I envied. I honestly tried to fix the problem of my nothingness. Certainly all I needed was just better self-control! An excerpt from my personal journal shows the questions that continuously flew around in my head:
12/7/95. I suppose I should wipe the last of my infantile tears and get moving. What do I do? I already help Nathan with what he does. I really, however, haven’t done much with my situation. Sitting idle day in and day out isn’t really my idea of a Sitting idle day in and day out isn’t my picture of living a productive life. A slow turtle passing unnoticed under the nose of society. I feel like I’ve buried my talents. The worst thing is, I don’t even know what those talents are!
You see, I didn’t have a job, so when Nathan went off to work I stayed home, bored to no end. For some reason, I didn’t have the motivation to go out on my own and explore the Bay Area, my new home. I felt threatened by all the newness that surrounded me. It wasn’t long until the monsters started banging the trunk from the inside. They banged harder and harder until they finally broke free. I flew into fits of rage, jealousy, and envy. I squawked and quibbled over the tiniest things. Nathan was confounded!
And then—Arlene Taylor invited us to attend The Brain Program seminar. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to go. I truly didn’t! My sister was planning to fly in from Boston that same weekend and I was anxious to spend the time with her. However, Arlene convinced Sallie to attend, as well (but she got snowed in on the East Coast and couldn’t get here after all). So there I sat in the seminar, next to Nathan, folder in hand, and not having the slightest clue of the impact this weekend would make on my life.
Information and revelations jumped out at each session. I was dumbfounded by all there was to learn about the brain. I lay awake at night processing the data and applying it to the questions that whirled in my mind. As I look back, I have no doubt that this fateful weekend was the major pivotal point in my life. Understanding brain function and where I fit into this grand puzzle, was the catalyst for change.
Change didn’t come overnight, however. As a matter of fact, it came slowly. A year went by as I mulled over all the information. My trunk had been jostled during that weekend and it was then that I came to realize that I didn’t have to drag the heavy thing along anymore. Nevertheless, I also knew that, on my own, I didn’t have the needed tools that would enable me to dump the contents. As I continued battling with labile emotions, fearing I might snuff Nathan’s spark for life, I finally decided to do some family-of-origin work. Lorna Lawrence helped me to reach back into my formative years, to delve into my trunk and stare those ugly monsters in the eyes. The work wasn’t easy, but, oh, the rewards were so great. Little by little, one by one, I threw out each monster shouting you don’t own me anymore!
My trunkemptied out slowly. It’s now the size of a purse. I call it my comical purse because I can laugh at what’s inside. I’m eagerly working toward the day when I can toss it away, as well. Now that I don’t have the massive weight dragging me down, I’m discovering a great big wonderful world with so much to see and do. There’s nothing more liberating than knowing who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you are headed.
It sounds so simplistic, but for me, the process was life changing. And have I discovered talents!
On one occasion when it finally dawned on me that I truly enjoyed writing, I literally screamed for joy: I can do it! I really can do it! There’s so much in me that I didn’t know existed, so many interests, that this lifetime seems too short to develop them all. I feel like I can fly! I have gladly traded my previous unexplained moments of sadness for joy and exhilaration.
My relationship with Nathan is much more fun, too. My self-worth no longer hinges on him because now I have identified a unique personality that I claim as my own. I no longer feel like a mouse hiding behind its protector. I can stand alone. We have a friendship; two very individual people who have chosen to share a lifetime together. I can now genuinely encourage him in his endeavors and become genuinely excited over his accomplishments.
There is such a difference between surviving and thriving. Surviving is like gasping for air in a closed, stale room. Thriving is like inhaling long, deep breaths of life-giving air in a meadow of wild flowers. Each breath is sweeter and more refreshing than the last one.
Once you’ve experienced thriving, there’s no turning back. Yes, at last I know what it means to really live!