I should be in bed by ten. I should be at the gym. I should be more optimistic and use more restraint and quit drinking full-calorie beer. I have got to cut out the word “I” and perhaps not sit on the floor crying when my three-year-old tells me I’m the worst person ever while sitting in time-out attempting to slam the door closed with his feet. And when I walk out of church because my two kids can’t keep their seats and I glance over to see my daughter humming whilst making a stack of hymnals and my pants don’t fit and I can’t seem to find the energy to even grin and I read about how all these other people are cheerful and in love and snuggling up with hot chocolate and even the television dramas seem saccharine and I’m telling you I want to throw something hard out the window in order to see it shatter.
And then anger bubbles up and the devil whispers in my heart that self-pity’s a salve that will heal, but he’s a damn fool because all he causes is regret in the morning. So I fire up the stove and stir beef stew because at least meat falls apart with enough pressure. The other day I even burned the cornbread, which is the south’s equivalent to cussing out your mother, because no Texan over the age of twelve burns cornbread, but I just muttered to myself, like well that’s just about right.
But friends, a lot can be done with time and distance. I know this because a friend once told me that when we have set-backs, we don’t fall as hard and we don’t fall as deep and the coming back is faster. It’s like our bodies somehow remember before the fall, and are ever striving to return to a peaceful state.
On Thanksgiving, my kids weren’t home. I lay flat in bed for two hours staring at trees out my bedroom window, letting tears fall. I begged God to forgive my lack of faith, and my inability to trust in bigger plans. I regretted my undisciplined, self-centered life. And yet I rose just the same, and with Nordstrom’s holiday bronzer I made my depression look all sparkly, and I shoved myself into skinny jeans and looped my blond hair around a curling iron and lip glossed my way to brunch with friends. And it got better. Mostly because of mimosas and pumpkin pancakes, but let’s not focus on details.
Time and distance. Self-forgiveness and thankfulness, even when your feelings haven’t caught up. These things work. So if you find yourself dragging toward Christmas, unsure why you can’t get motivated, feel something lacking in your life, or better yet you’re just flat-out angry, I feel you. Just forgive yourself for today and free up some space to breathe.
This morning, as I was driving my kids to school, I saw the most amazing sunrise. Clouds swept across the sky like popcorn kernels and the sun spread over them like melted butter. I pulled over on the side of the road and took my children’s hands. Poor things – they’re used to this by now. My daughter just tilts her head to the side, like “Oh how sweet. Mom’s having a moment.” I told them how much I loved them, and how blessed I was to have them for a short while, and I thanked God for the new dawn. And then this Presbyterian put her hand up high in the Chevy Tahoe and veered back on the road repeating the name El Shaddai out loud until we reached the carpool line. My daughter asked if I had some sort of arm-itch issue or whether something was wrong with the rear-view mirror and am I speaking German? I didn’t even know what the words meant except that I sang it in a childhood song, but the name just exploded from my mouth and was just as obvious as incense in a tomb. And then my son asked me if God actually speaks, and I told him not in the same language as we do, but he sure can paint, and he nodded. I watched my kid’s tussled-hair going up and down, up and down, nodding in the car seat and admiring the sky.
So you might need to run. You might need to sleep more, and eat less. But I’ll tell you one thing – you really need to quit listening to the lies that your life is stagnant and all hope is gone. Keep on thanking God, even when you don’t always feel it, because out of nowhere on a Monday on the way to your kid’s school you’ll feel time and distance start to set in, and you’ll crawl slowly back out of the setback hole, stronger than before, and you’ll grin. Because of the absurdity of non-stop Christmas music (we barely escaped November and I’m only halfway through coffee and nobody cares what Mariah Carey wants for Christmas because she has seventeen pairs of red bedazzled stilettos FOR THE LOVE WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED, WOMAN) and the fact that your daughter thought you were speaking German, and the fact that you bought bronzer with the word “holiday” in the title. And because we love an amazing, glorious God who never leaves us abandoned. He throws his might across the sky like a billboard as if to remind us that hope is alive. Our lives are so worthy. No worries, girl, if you burn that cornbread again you can always move to Wisconsin, and surely folks there could stand a bit of pep in the winter.
El Shaddai, the sustainer and the destroyer, the One Almighty. Raise your hands and embrace it. Even if it might embarrass your children. Even if tears run down your face at a sunrise. Because life’s glorious, my dear friends, even on heartbroken Mondays.