I woke up discouraged this morning. Was it because it was just Monday? I don’t think so because, contrary to most people, I actually enjoy Mondays. I used to work just four days a week at the hospital and my day off was Monday so I love Mondays! This morning I woke up, like last Monday though, tired and over it. Sometimes I question God like where are you? Like seven days ago, I almost didn’t get out of bed. The downside of making your own hours is you don’t have to get up. You could just sleep, and get up later that morning or even later that day if you wanted to. And work later. Like last weekend, this past weekend I didn’t take enough time for me… But not like last weekend this past weekend, I experienced an incredibly frustrating turn of events. After we got home last night, Anna and me were both discouraged The difference is how we handled it. In hindsight, we should have taken authority over in! Instead she went to visit with some good friends for an hour. I stayed back. Usually I would go right into cleaning up, unpacking all the days worth of stuff I hauled around for the entire day: big speaker, makeup, hairspray, insulated picnic basket filled with ice packs and leftover waters, drinks, and protein shakes; start some laundry, take out the trash, get my vitamins and running clothes laid out for the morning, etc., etc., etc….
But instead, I collapsed on the bed and attempted to complete a 10-minute guided meditation aimed for having a frustrating day. Usually this works. But after 8 minutes, I decided I was good .. and stopped it. I proceeded to go to the kitchen and eat and eat and eat for 20-30 minutes. I haven’t done this in a while. I try to avoid emotional eating. I even have a “plan in place” to text my sister, niece, or cousin if I’m getting ready to binge eating for encouragement to not do it. But did I follow that plan in place and text them? No. I made a small portion of food. Ate it. Then ate another small portion of food. Ate it. And did this several more times. I knew what I was doing. I was trying to treat my emotional discomfort with something physical. I don’t know when I started doing this. Probably when I was 14 when my parents got divorced and I started dating a guy that was n good. I’m not blaming it on anyone or anything; just saying. I ate 15 pieces of cheese and six pieces of bread (at least it was low fat; right?). While eating, I felt complete emptiness.
I washed my face, resumed to my normal activities of cleaning up, putting things up, etc. etc. and proceeded to my next ritual: laying down, covering my eyes with a folded pillow covering (I don’t know why I just don’t buy a sleep mask), put in my headphones, and go to sleep listening to a guided sleep meditation. Anna came in an hour or so later, woke me up, and gave me more discouraging and worrisome news. I got up, we prayed (although I didn’t feel any sense of relief), and then climbed back into bed and went back to sleep.
It’s really important to go to sleep feeling good. You spend the next eight hours possibly in the same state of consciousness that you were feeling right before you went to sleep. Ever noticed after watching a scary movie and then going to sleep, you have a bad dream? Or having a really happy and fun-filled day, going to sleep – sleeping awesome, having great dreams, and waking up with amazing energy? There is a reason for this. I wish I could have changed my mindset before going to sleep.
I woke up with so many thoughts, coupled with intense empty, low-energy emotions: discouragement, sadness, frustration, fatigue, and hopelessness. Although I’ve recently realized waking up with all kinds of thoughts is actually a gift God gave me, so I can transform those thoughts into words, sentences, paragraphs, blogs … and images, social media posts, and videos to share with people … THIS was not that type of thought. I want to make sure as I approach this more authentic way of living, I am aware of my negative feelings and parallel go-to mechanisms and strategies I execute when feeling discouraged. I’ll be honest, when I started writing this … yet again like so many other times I’ve began a blog … I really thought I was gonna get on here and fuss about Anna. But it’s never about the other person! Because, regardless of what or who you’re aggravated with, it’s never about those external people or circumstances.
Everybody has their own things. I think about my 28-year-old sister-in-law, married to high-ranking Marine brother, how she put her aspirations and dreams to be a nurse on hold as they decided to have children, had two little girls in their early 20s, decided to stop having kids at least for a while, and finding out she was pregnant with twins almost two years ago. She was shocked at first; and even a little scared. How could she possibly be a great mom to four little children? (I’m assuming she was thinking something like this … I know I would have been!). She loves her “little family” and is one of the best moms I’ve ever encountered … but deals with ugly stares and rude comments when out in public with four children under the age of five. Think about it… We live in a world now that does not celebrate women having children in their 20s. Even if they’re married and have a strong family life. No; we celebrate, in today’s American culture, women that work tirelessly and endlessly throughout all of their 20s and 30s only to get to almost 40 years old and realize they forgot to have children, go through grueling amounts of things to their bodies in the form of in vitro and other extremes, to have a child. I’m not saying that’s wrong. I’m just saying.
I think about my mom, who already have four children by the time she was 30. She knew she didn’t want anymore children after that. She had also wanted to be a nurse, but dropped out of college to get married at 19 which was commonplace in the late 70s. After having four kids, she found herself in a different stage of life that she was ready to embrace. Her and my dad were both children’s pastors at a decent sized, prominent church, then the youth pastors. My mom was then promoted to assistant pastor of the church. My dad was not.
My dad always wanted six children. I don’t know where this stemmed from, the specific number six. Maybe because everybody at the church called us The Bridges Bunch, like the Brady Bunch show on TV decades earlies? Or the fact that he was one of six? But my mom was one of 12 and she didn’t want 12 children, or even more than 4 for that matter. My dad talked my mom int having a fifth child. One Christmas morning, when I was around 12, my mom gave my dad a present. This was different. He usually just got presents from us kids: nuts, toboggan hats to keep his bald head warm while he slept at night in the winter, some new t-shirts, and either Andes chocolate mints or chocolate-covered cherries that he would subsequently hide in his closet. My mom gave him a baby bottle with a positive pregnancy test inside. He was so excited. However, within a month my mom had a miscarriage. My mother never had a miscarriage. About a month later we were in Disney World and they apparently conceived my baby sister there (with all us 4 kids in the room next door … why I know this; I don’t know. But I do. We always called her a Disney baby). Our little baby was born 9 months later. And she was “our” little baby. Us kids were 15, 13, 9, and 7. She was our baby doll. She was also the church’s “little baby;” as everyone loved the idea of this new little edition to the “perfect Bridges Bunch.” She was a great prosperity to all of us, my mother included who originally didn’t want more children; and is still all of our “little baby.”
Nonetheless within two years of having her, my mother began having an affair with the senior pastor, broke up the church, broke up two families, and put herself and all of us in a lot of emotional pain. My dad put us through a lot of emotional pain too. I remember him dad calling my 15-year-old self and 17-year-old sister into his study at the house, and telling us what mom had been doing. Apparently, he (or the elders of the church) had hired a private investigator. My dad shut the door to the study and said, “Let me let you listen to this.” I wish I would’ve never heard that phrase: let me let you listen to this. He proceeded to play a recorded phone conversation of my mom and my pastor (whom I regularly babysat for) talking on the phone … but not about church. Should my dad have done that? No. Should my mom have had an emotional affair with somebody? No. (To this day she insists it was not a sexual or physical affair, but rather just emotional. Although some people don’t believe that, I do). Regardless though, it doesn’t matter … we are all just doing our best. It’s really all we can do. And not compared to somebody else. Just compared to ourselves.
That’s why I want to be completely transparent and real with myself as I commit to living authentically. It’s not just about being open regarding me and Anna. Actually, that’s a very minor piece of it. Because I’ve never had an issue with us being together. Anna does. Which is so strange because her family, unlike my family at first, did and has always accepted us. BUT I now am realizing that is her journey. Perception is reality. And her perception is different than mine. I do pray she has complete acceptance and peace about who she is. But I cannot carry that pain for her. I have my own.
The way I have dealt with struggles and disappointments up until now is one of two ways: either completely shut down, put my head in the sand, and check out filling my time with food, TV, or some other substitution OR distraction I immerse every component of me, my life, behaviors, and day-to-day activities into some new “shiny” thing. Buying a house. Working so much overtime that I would get recognized at work. Quickly becoming promoted. Making a lot of money which gave me prestige and the ability to spend thousands and thousands of dollars taking down trees and putting up an expensive fence around my massive back yard, submersing myself into a new nurse educator role, working 60+ hours a week, and attending grad school.
The fear side of myself began to speak loudly this morning: Why are you trying to write and blog? What are you doing? Why are you trying to establish The Shirley Girls brand across social media? You don’t have anything to say? And even if you did, so what? Who cares? You’re just doing it to distract yourself from your real life which is that you hardly any savings, have an 11-year-old car so at some point you will need to buy a new one but how will you be able to do that? You have no one that will help your. You filed for bankruptcy in July, live in an apartment above a barn … an actual barn with actual horses, owe a lot of money to people that you have no idea of how you are ever going to be able to pay them back, even more financial obligations that must be paid for although you don’t have the means to pay for them, getting more hours right now in your day job but are not guaranteed that amount of work as it usually slacks off in the autumn so what are you to do then? What you really should be doing is somehow making yourself be able to get a nursing position…
But I can’t do that. I have to work from home. It’s not an option to be away from Anna. It just isn’t. For her mental well-being and mine. We already went through this years ago and decided, that no matter what, we always had to be together. It’s just a thing. Yeah, it caused me to lose my job and my house but at least we were together. I cannot leave Anna alone ever again. It’s not good for someone to be alone. Anna cannot be left alone.
So then, what to do?
I once heard a spiritual teaching from Dr. Wayne Dyer who said people come up to him all the time and ask what should they be doing with their lives?? His reply is always the same: “Whatever you’re doing right now; that is what you should be doing.” So what I should be doing right now is whatever I’m doing right now. Faith is not about feelings. Although I only met Anna’s dad one time before he passed away at 65 when she was only 25 ; she’s told me countless times about what her dad would tell her when she was feeling discouraged. “Anna, we’re not saved by feelings.” He would then, every day, pray for her happiness. What a great thing to pray over your children: their happiness. This became a common saying, or mantra, for me and Anna early in our relationship. We would tell each other about “No matter what you see, no matter what you hear, no matter what you feel … let’s CHOOSE believe the report of the Lord.” Even as I dictate this out loud, I’m feeling my spirit be renewed and uplifted; what I call the anointing. The Holy Ghost. God. When this happens, often I feel have goosebumps all over my body. I have goosebumps all over my body now.
Whenever Anna is feeling discouraged or down, in addition to praying for her, I tell her to walk over it. Which may sound a bit harsh. But, we cannot go by, or be led or influenced by, feelings.. Everybody needs someone to uplift them when they’re down. Everybody. Particularly the people that are constantly giving of themselves emotionally like Anna does. I’m constantly giving too … to Anna. I do a lot for her. A lot. So I need to be encouraged as well. I’m sure there are lots of wives and mothers, and people of all sorts, whatever their life role is … that also do a lot for other people in their lives. So therefore we all need to be encouraged.
Yesterday we were at the store and I sensed this woman’s spiritual heaviness. God told me to tell her to be encouraged. I didn’t want to tell her. Because unlike Anna, this type of interaction is not natural or comfortable for me. But I walked over my flesh and I did it anyways. She immediately confirmed to me that she had been discouraged and that everything I was telling her was a confirmation. In fact, another person had recently spoken the exact same words of encouragement. Although I didn’t know what was going on with her, by the spirit I knew she needed to be encouraged. So I encouraged her. And guess what? In doing so, I was encouraged. You’re actually doing a ministry, by encouraging me, at this very moment. Because as I talk out loud dictating this blog to you – the reader … I am being encouraged. We all have a ministry. We all have a place. We all have a role to play. So I’m going to adhere to my own advice and sayings and not be moved or shaken by my flesh and not go by feelings. What you’re supposed to be doing is whatever we are doing right now. And what I feel like I should be doing right now is doing my very best at work, and doing everything I can to share mine and Anna’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and philosophies, both uplifting and depressing, through social media and blogging and continuing to learn everything I can about this industry. So that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m also going to change the way I look at things and I know that when I change the way I look at things, the things I look at will change. Did I get everything that I wanted to accomplished over this weekend? No. I wanted to complete the five-hour online course about how to tap into all the functionality of having a WordPress website. Although I didn’t complete the course, I did complete 90% of it. And I will complete the other 10% of it in the next day or two. That’s good. Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change. Today’s a new day. The promise of a new day. Keep doing what you’re doing. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing.