I don't know if you are familiar with the phrase "having a full scale come apart", but it is great, so descriptive. I heard it somewhere months ago, maybe a southern author because it has a very southern feel. Anywho, it is like a melt down but worse. See, a melt down implies a constant slow fade into nothingness - think of a candle melting down. A come apart is that same thing but it is happening with force and velocity - think spontaneous combustion. Well, I had a come apart two Sundays ago. It took me awhile to write about it because I have really been processing the whole thing. What sparked it? Why was it so destructive? What do I do about it?
It was a lovely Sunday morning and I was in high spirits. We has gotten together with the neighbors the night before, the men sat on the neighbor's porch and the ladies sat on our porch. I felt like I had genuinely made friends; like, I really dig these ladies. I am still probably going to be on my best behavior for awhile (you know, no crying jags) lest they decide I am too much, but I felt good about the whole thing. We were getting ready to try a new church, we were actually leaving on time, it was all good. Until it wasn't.
We walked in to this church and it was a large church just like our old church. It seemed like your standard modern church building but I swear to you everywhere I looked the women looked like Stepford Wives. I am not 100% sure there were any men there at all, I only saw the sea of perfect women. Everyone looked fancy, like they were going to the Kentucky Derby but without hats. I swear I checked the website and it said "dress code - come as you are." It said nothing about we like to do it up around here. Y'all, I am not even kidding when I tell you I felt invisible. When I left the house I felt cute and hopeful and full of potential. Suddenly I felt like none of those things.
I realized I was totally judging all these books by their fancy covers, maybe they were Goodwill books just like me. I talked myself off the ledge. For a hot second. Then I got lost trying to drop my kids off in Sunday school. I felt the tears coming but I couldn't stop them. I started whimpering to Jeff that I just wanted to go home, I didn't belong here. Really? It is church, EVERYONE belongs there. So what on earth was the matter with me?
I sat through the service that was a prompt one hour, though it felt like seven. When we picked the kids up, the first thing out of both of their mouths was, "We love it here!" Of course you do. You couldn't love the church from last week that I loved. You know, the one where everyone was wearing jeans and looked like they were hanging on by a thread just like me. Here came the tears again. And then it happened - the come apart.
It was like an explosion. I was sad and angry and certain I was going crazy. I yelled then I sulked. I tried to pull it together but I just couldn't. Could. Not. Then I slept. I think I had exhausted myself with the shear intensity and volume of my emotions.
That was a long awkward day at Casa Mochal. Monday came and I tried to get back in to a groove but I was still just slightly numb. Then Jeff said he thought we made a mistake coming here and that the kids and I should move back while he finished out his contractual year and we would try to find something in Chicago. What!?!? I really thought that was all I wanted but when I was given the option that was the last thing I wanted. I do think we were supposed to come here. I do think God has something for us to do here. I don't want to go back because it will never be the same. Suddenly I was panicking. It was my crazy behavior that had caused this mess. Why couldn't I be normal like other women and just not act like a wounded bear? that day though, I had the luxury of being able to control my emotions and a reasoned conversation ensued. As Jeff and I talked about it, he said that he thought we would be fine eventually but that he was worried about the collateral damage until we got to fine. Like I said before, the ride has to end, but would I survive until we could get back to the safety of the station?
So then I started thinking about what was going on inside my brain. I looked up symptoms of every mental illness I could think of to make sure I didn't have one of those. Turns out I am just crazy, not mentally ill. As I went about my daily life-packing lunches, making breakfast, doing laundry, I pondered my come apart. I sat with it and rolled it around in my mind.
The days were getting brighter. I went shopping with my neighbor and it was super fun. Once you have been to At Home together an unbreakable bond is formed. Even as I started feeling better and better I was thinking about my come apart. After all that pondering, I still couldn't put my finger on what had happened to send me in to such a downward spiral. Then while I was singing in church the next Sunday I realized what my problem was. We were singing a song called Good Good Father and the chorus says "You're a good good father, it's who you are. And I'm loved by you, it's who I am." That's it! Who am I?
I have always struggled with defining myself by my external circumstances. When I worked I would introduce myself and immediately tell you where I worked. Work defined me. When I started staying home I struggled with my new identity because vacuuming did not seem like nearly as cool of an identity marker as my fancy PR agency. Then, over the years I found my purpose in volunteer work at church, in school, wherever they would have me. That became my identity. I was the giver. I actually quite liked that identity - it felt the most authentic to me. I know that I am supposed to find my identity in Christ - the daughter of the king - and on my best days I can totally find that sweet spot. On most normal days though, I can not quite get my tiara on straight enough to rest secure in that. Just telling it like it is. I work to find comfort in that but it is not innate for me, even after 13 years of following Jesus.
So there I sat, trying to figure out who I am. I decided to be super authentic and fess up to the "real" me.
I am an uptight hippy. I am an orderly gypsy. I love rules but sometimes I want to break them. I love Jesus, a lot, and I talk about that. A lot. I yell at my kids more than I wish I did but I also love them more than I ever imagined I would. I love dogs - all dogs. My husband is my rock and if the love I have in my heart could make its way to the surface and show up in my actions we would never have another issue again. Unfortunately, some days the love I have for ironing is what makes its way to the surface and I am not as kind as I want to be. I have thirty pounds to lose but lately I like Mexican food and margaritas more than I like skinny jeans. I am not fancy. Fanciness scares me - I never feel like I am enough in the face of fanciness. When I lived in LA I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn't enough. That is bad for my soul, so I try to avoid it. I love people, even fancy people - they scare me but I love them. My heart gets filled by doing stuff for other people. I don't like brown. I wish I ate more vegetables. I love to watch TV - no really, I love it. I have a tender heart. I talk really loud, especially after the aforementioned margarita.
You see, I want to be myself and be accepted and loved for that so badly that I can feel the sting of tears when I think about it. I wish I didn't care what other people think, but I do.
So that is me. I am a hot mess but I sort of feel like we all are if we are being honest. Or maybe honest isn't the right word, maybe vulnerable is the right word. I am a paradox on many levels and I don't claim to be the same on Tuesday as I was on Saturday. I have some core tenets that I try to stick to but I am a work in progress. The passing of each year changes my perspective on at least one thing. The fluidity of it all is sometimes hard for me. I think as I looked around that church I saw bits and pieces of myself in all those other people but I could not find anyone who was enough like me to make me feel wanted. I somehow came to the conclusion that if no one is like me and I don't have it all together than all these other people MUST ACTUALLY HAVE IT TOGETHER. Holy hotdog, the only thing that scares me more than fancy people is fancy people who have it all together. I just can't!
The thing is after breaking it all down I can totally see the faulty logic. It is like watching a magic trick in slow motion. It is all just smoke and mirrors when you really look in to it. I don't know a single woman in that church but I can say with absolute certainty that at least one of them does NOT have it together. Because really, do any of us have ALL of it together? Nope, I do not believe that we do. I had found the source of my come apart - I was trying to be someone I wasn't and it made me cray cray.
By the way, the church that I was sitting in when I had this revelation was the exact church that had been witness to my come apart the week before. I swear they replaced the whole congregation. No one looked perfect and fancy and mint julepy. They were all wearing jeans and getting their worship on just like me. I am not sure where all those Stepford Wives went. Perhaps all those people were simply reflecting my own identity crisis back at me. What do you think?