The last year and a half have brought two major, gut wrenching changes to our family. One directly affected me, the other my husband. But both drastically and deeply affected our family. Not one person was spared being deeply affected by the changes. We are all still hurting, reeling, and healing from them. Shame, embarrassment, and deep pain still affects my husband and me.
My sister and I have been reading about the Meyers-Briggs personality types the last few days. I read up about mine, trying to understand myself better. Apparently, I feel things deeply (no surprise for me). My intensely introverted nature (again, no surprise for me, but apparently it’s a surprise for most people who know me) tends to withdraw and retreat when I’m hurting or processing major feelings or changes. And so, I did. Over the last few years, but most especially the last year and a half, I withdrew intensely. I needed to heal emotionally from the sudden change that seemed to destroy what I thought was my identity overnight.
Who am I now?
Repeatedly, I asked my husband this. I was friendless in a new town after a move immediately following the abrupt change. I was alone inside and outside, left to brood this question intensely. In the process, I isolated myself. I stopped calling friends, stopped doing things that were important or interesting to me. I stopped fulfilling myself. And I was sad. Realizing this, I began the slow and painful process of reconnecting. I started calling friends, apologizing for my abrupt absence. I started sewing, writing, physically healing. I started working out at home. But, still, I was physically alone.
Walking into rooms of strangers is incredibly difficult for me. I get stomach aches, dizzy, and tongue-tied. I walk in, and I’m ready to bolt. Run. It’s quite embarrassing. And it’s gotten much worse the last few years. I knew I needed friends, a network. But I also knew the personal sacrifice and pain that would entail. And I chose immediate comfort over temporary sacrifice. But the isolation was too intense. I needed to step out. I knew that. God also knew I couldn’t do it alone.
She’s been calling nearly daily as I focus on myself. She checks on me, hears me move through my feelings, and then leaves me with challenges. She sent me a book to encourage me to start finding my passions again, to start caring for myself. The love I feel through this friendship is indescribable, especially as I move through the resulting pain and effects from the changes the last year. And the Army just sent here a dear family with whom we were stationed at our last post. They live three minutes away. And my Army friend pulled me out of my comfort zone several times in the last few weeks.
This week, my Army friend and I were supposed to meet on post to sign up for the Spouses’ Club. I was grateful I was going to have a familiar face with me so I would be able to follow through. But the afternoon prior, plans changed. She had another obligation and we wouldn’t be able to go together. I totally understood…and decided I wouldn’t go. I convinced myself that it wouldn’t work with my schedule and I didn’t need to sign up for this; I was too timid to do this. Too busy. Too weak. But, I knew I needed this. So, the next afternoon, I drove over to the building, walked in, felt my stomach burning and my head spinning. I knew not a soul in there. I walked over, signed the sheet, and forced myself to walk around the room. I spoke with people (and in the process accidentally signed up for a trunk show I wasn’t interested in doing) and signed up for two clubs.
Yesterday, I met this friend at the YMCA gym. I have never been to a gym. They terrify me. I have no idea what all the machines are for, and there are lots of people there. But, my friend was going to be there. She showed me around a little and together we figured out some of the leg and arm machines. We chatted and worked out. And it felt so good. But then she left. And I was standing in the middle of the gym alone. I had been planning on using the treadmill…but there were people on the treadmills next to the empty one. I stood there feeling small and insignificant. Ignorant. I wanted to run. Leave. Go home where it was safe. I felt so awkward and pained standing there. I wanted to run, but my legs wouldn’t move. I was paralyzed with fear. I was physically and emotionally stuck right there.
New chapter, new season. That’s what I told my Army friend has been my mantra as I lean back into life. New chapter, new season. Change has never been my friend. But, it’s time to lean into the change. Because it can be so beautiful.
New chapter, new season. I took a breath, and forced myself to walk over to the treadmill. I stepped on. Again, I was paralyzed with fear. But I pushed the power button, and I started moving. I turned on my Christian station on Pandora and I started running. I ran for nearly two miles. At one point, I nearly broke down. I did it. I’m doing it. I am moving forward. Slowly, one introverted, aching step at a time, but I’m healing. Connecting. Relearning just who I am. Taking care of myself. The process will be painful, especially here in the beginning. But, already I’ve stepped into a room of strangers and stepped onto a treadmill at the gym. Alone. I did it by myself. I’m stepping out, leaning in. Slowly, I’m learning what this new chapter, what this new season holds. And I think a lot of it will surprise me.
It feels as though winter is letting up, the cold and darkness starting to recede. In the air, I smell the faint smell of new life, new growth. I step out to till the garden, pull out the weeds.