Dear You: No One Gets Left Behind

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Dear you,

Life can be hard.

Actually, let’s be real: Sometimes, life can be hard as hell.

We go through things that leave us in tears by the end of the day (if we even make it to the end of the day before the tears start falling). We go through things that draw out anger we didn’t know we were capable of. Some situations leave us more bitter than we ever thought possible.

But honestly? Some things just hurt unimaginably, straight down to our bones. And all we can think to ask is, “Why me?”

“Why do I have to go through this?”

“Why do I have to be in this dark place?”

“Why do I have to hurt so badly?”

I’m not going to be that person who says, “There’s a reason for it,” because I refuse to trivialize your pain or confusion with a cliché. I know that’s literally the last thing you want to hear when you’re going through some of the most painful moments of your life. But here’s what I do believe, more than just about anything:

We’re not meant to leave people behind.

Here’s the thing: While there may not necessarily be a “reason” for what we go through, it also doesn’t have to be for nothing. Sometimes we’re going to walk through darkness. Sometimes it feels like we’re right smack in the middle of the woods, nowhere close to any hope of a trail, surrounded by trees, trees, and more trees. No map, no GPS signal, no signs that even point to a way out of this. It’s terrifying – paralyzing, even.

But when the tragedy is over, when the storm has passed, when the healing begins, we come out the other side of those trees. And if anything, once we reach the other side, we’re able to show people that light never truly goes away. The sunlight streams through the trees during the day, even if its just a sliver. The stars and moon shine at night, doing all they can to give some semblance of light. And if the ones we love are still stumbling through their own wilderness, then I don’t believe we should just let them keep stumbling – maybe we’re meant to be the lights that help guide them through to the other side. If they’re not able to see the sun or the stars or the moon, then at least they’ll be able to see us.

When you’ve been through darkness, you learn to appreciate things that shine. And if we choose to let it, I think going through the things we do gives us a special sort of passion to make sure others know they’re not alone in their darkness. We may not be able to walk the path for them, but we can walk beside them. When they get tired, we can be there with the water and the food and the pillow. If they’re ready give up, if they want to just sit in the middle of the woods and not get back up, we can assure them that the darkness isn’t going to last forever. That they’re not alone in this. And then, we can remind them what they’re made of.

Once we’ve been through our own wilderness, we’re able to say, “Hey, you’ve got this. The clearing is right up ahead – I promise. It might be one heck of a walk, and you’re probably going to run into some branches and thorns and downed trees and unsteady ground, but it’s there. You’ve got to keep going, but you’ll make it.”

Honestly, maybe that’s one of the most crucial points of life: Meeting others at their bottom, at their worst moments, and reminding them of who they are and where they’re going. Of holding their hands as they stand. And if they’re not able to stand on their own, maybe we can help pull them to their feet.

And if you’re currently going through one of life’s off-the-trail moments, let me be the first to say: The buddy system works wonders. Seriously. If you’ve got someone who’s willing to help you navigate through those trees, let them. The woods shouldn’t be traveled alone. ❤

Dear You: We See You

Dear you,

We see you. Some days, that’s all you need to hear.

You need to know that your existence matters – that you’re not just straight-up invisible. Because there are some moments when you walk down the street, or down the hallway, or into a room, and you wonder exactly that: you wonder if people even see you. If your presence means anything at all. And I get it. Sometimes, it feels like people have become so focused on their own problems that they forget to look – really look – at the people they’re passing.

And it’s not necessarily on purpose. It’s not always this sinister, malicious thing they’re trying to do. Really, we’re all guilty of it from time to time. It’s just that the world is so cluttered and clustered and there’s so much stuff grabbing and begging for our attention that we simply don’t realize there’s someone standing in front of us, silently screaming for us to ask – honestly ask – “How are you?” and wait for the answer.

We crave to know that we matter. We all do. A simple “How are you?” could make all the difference in someone’s world today.

And you may be tired of being strong. You may be tired of putting on a brave face and going out into the world, smiling. Of pretending like everything is okay while inside, you’re screaming and aching to tell anyone who’ll listen that no, you’re not okay. That you don’t know how much longer you can keep this up.

So if you’re looking for someone to say it’s okay to be honest, then I want you to listen closely:

It’s okay.

I’m not saying that you should walk around with your head down 24/7, because darling, you deserve to hold that head high. What I am saying is that it’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to admit that no, you’re not okay. And when you confess that you may need a little extra help and grace at the moment, chances are you’ll find someone else who’s been through the same thing. Honestly, I don’t think you realize how many people out there absolutely get it.

So. We see you. And you matter.

You matter so much.

Dear You: The Muddy Middle

Dear you,

We’ve got to have a talk. And today, we’re gonna talk about grace.

You beat yourself up way too much, and far too often. And if you’re anything like me, there are some days when your head feels like the world’s most miserable highlight reel of things you wish you could forget.

You yelled at your kids.

You snapped at your best friend.

You missed that deadline.

The only thing missing from that moment of road rage was your head spinning, and you’re seriously contemplating calling in a priest or two.

Or maybe it’s much more than that. Maybe you’ve spent the past year – or even years – in a place you know you just weren’t supposed to be. Maybe you should’ve removed yourself from a story that wasn’t yours a long, long time ago. And all you feel is regret, regret, regret.

No, we can’t take words back. No, we can’t rewind and play out a situation differently. No, we can’t necessarily reclaim lost time. But what we can do is claim the time we have from here on out, and give ourselves a healthy dose of grace to go along with it.

See, here’s how I picture grace:

You’re sitting in the waiting room of the Emergency Department. You’re beat up and bleeding all over the chair and you’re in paralyzing agony, and the nurse keeps coming to the door while calling your name, telling you to come on back. No, you may not be in perfect condition afterward and it may not fix all your problems, but at least you’ll be on the road to healing, you know? It’s a step in the right direction.

But you keep saying, “Nah, I’ll be okay. Take the next person. I’ll wait. I screwed up and deserve all this, anyway.” But the thing is that, the longer you wait, the longer you sit there and let the wounds worsen, the more agonizing the pain becomes. The more energy you lose. It drains you.

Don’t let yourself die in the waiting room when help is calling your name. Give yourself some grace, and if others are trying to extend it, accept it. And don’t ever let yourself believe that you don’t deserve good things. You deserve every good thing this world has to offer, including that grace.

Stop trying to convince yourself that your mistakes define you. Stop trying to convince yourself that you don’t deserve the good things, the special things, the pure things. Stop believing that that thing in the back of your mind, that thing you can’t let go of, is what names you.

It doesn’t.

Here’s the thing: I think we’ve fallen so in love with before and after pictures of life that we forget to acknowledge the strength that pushed us through the middle. The middle is muddy and feels impossible at times, but good gracious, I’m so thankful for everything the mud teaches. And I’m thankful for the friends who look at you while you’re covered in that mud and remind you that you’re not done, and that it’s not over. I’m not sure there’s anything more special than that person who sees you at your lowest, who sees you when you feel like you’re drowning in the muck, and still smiles and says, “I know you can do it. I know what you’re made of.”

When the time comes to accept the grace, take it. When the time comes to be the grace-giver – and at some point, it will – be the one who says, “I know you can still do it.”

If you’re still breathing, there’s still time. Claim that time. And make the best of it.

Dear You: 5 Years Later

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Hi friends! I’m Michelle.

I’m so happy you’re visiting. Dear You is equal parts a heart-to-heart and a safe space – a place to be open and honest and candid about the tough moments, and a place to celebrate the amazing ones. A place full of words we crave to hear, whether life is wearing us down or has us feeling unstoppable.

So. Now that we’ve got the “open and honest” bit out of the way, let’s jump right in.

For me, May 2017 marked five years since the night depression almost won. And I say “won” because let’s be real: depression is a fight; in fact, it’s a straight-up battle that so many people fight in their heads on a daily basis. I’m not sure you know true exhaustion until you’ve waged a war inside your head before you’ve had your first cup of coffee of the day.

I could talk about the moments that led up to that night, or I could tell you how that day started like any other day, or I could even go into detail about what happened. But honestly, this post isn’t for that. Because I want to stress another word choice I used earlier:

Depression almost won.

Almost.

In the past five years, life has been non-stop, it seems. Between changes and transitions, moves and upheavals, it’s amazing how much can happen in that time span. But I have a few lessons that I’m taking away from that time, and with that, I’m going to kick off Dear You with something that seemed (somewhat selfishly) fitting.

So.

Dear You,

If you’re reading this, you made it. Despite the worst days, the worst moments, the worst obstacles of your life – you made it. You’re here, and you’re breathing, and your heart is beating, and that in itself is worthy of celebration.

I would say that I’m writing from the other side of those days and those obstacles, and I probably would have said that a couple years ago, but if I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that you shouldn’t write your story too soon. So while I hesitate to say that I’m officially on the “other side,” I will say that I’ve got a thing or two that will hopefully give you a little bit of hope.

  • You’re going to walk through fire. Life doesn’t hold back for anyone, and depression and anxiety most certainly do not discriminate. So you’re going to walk through the fire, and you’re going to be scarred. But those scars are proof that you survived, and that counts for a whole heck of a lot.
  • When you go through crisis, look at the ones who are still standing beside you. Cherish them. And love them fiercely.
  • Storms are going to come. Lightning is going to strike. And the thing about lightning is that when it strikes, there is no going back to normal. When a storm demolishes your foundation and everything you thought you knew, you’re going to have to rebuild. You’re going to have to find a new normal. And while that’s scary (read: terrifying), keep in mind that it’s also an opportunity to build the life you’re meant to live.
  • Find what makes your soul happy. Cling to those things.
  • Tell people you love them. Often.
  • Keep in mind that you can’t force people to fight giants that they refuse to acknowledge. Meaning: If someone isn’t ready to face something, you can’t make them.
  • Many of your most honest prayers will come from the floor – when you feel like life has literally knocked you onto your backside and all you can do is sit. As painful as those moments are, embrace them – that’s when you learn the most about who you are, and what you want, and what you really, truly need.
  • And above all else: Be a safe place for people. Be someone they can trust. Guard their secrets and protect their hearts just as carefully as they’ve protected yours.

 

xoxo,

Michelle