The Lonely Time

I woke up this morning with the feeling that I’m headed into “the lonely time.”

We’ve been here in Colorado Springs for just over two weeks. We quickly settled into our apartment, getting everything unpacked and pictures on the walls in just a couple of days. We’ve been to a church. We’ve been out with our son and his girlfriend. And today I went to a local Moms In Prayer Group – a beautiful ministry of praying for our kids, and a great way to meet other women close to my age.

But having done this thing called “moving” so many times, I know how long it takes to make female friends. Rarely do I find them immediately. And as we all know, relationships take time.

First, there’s the meeting – I have to be in places where other women are. Moms In Prayer, Bible Study, book clubs.

Then there’s the second meeting – maybe a get-to-know-you coffee or lunch date. That’s where I tell everything about me – my kids, my husband, my faith, what I like to do with my time – and they do the same. An information download.

Then, if that second date goes well, there might be a third. Maybe we go to a shopping mall together, or the other person shows me around town. Or we go for a walk in a park. More information download, as we wiggle our way toward intimacy.

At any point in this process, we may decide to just be acquaintances, and so the journey  starts over with someone new.

Once again, I’m doing all the right things. I’m trying to “put myself out there,” be with other women. I’ll join a book club, say “Yes” to lunch dates, maybe find a knitting group, look for a Bible Study that starts after the holidays.

I’ll remind myself regularly that I’m not alone. I have friends who live far away, but they’re still good friends – I’ll make an effort to stay connected to them.

And I have Jesus, “a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).” He’ll never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6b). So I’m never truly alone.

Moving Again

We’re moving to Colorado Springs, CO, in four weeks. I’m so excited!

When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Utah. We fell in love with the wide sky, the craggy mountains, the desert climate. We’ve always said that we’d like to retire to the West.

My husband’s new job allows him to work remotely, so now seems like a good time to relocate. We’ll be near an airport so he can travel when work requires it. We’ll be near the mountains. We’ll enjoy the out-of-doors lifestyle: biking, hiking, camping.

I admit that I feel a little “unqualified” to live in Colorado. I’m not in shape, by any means. And Colorado is known to be a place of fit and healthy people. I weigh more now than I ever have in my life, and I’m embarrassed by that. I’m hoping that I’ll get moving on the trails and paths, and start to lose weight or at least get fit and healthy. (So why didn’t I do that here? In these mountains of the Shenandoah? I have no idea.)

I’m looking forward to being back in the Rocky Mountains. To explore and discover a new city. To make new friends, find a new church, maybe begin a new Fresh Hope group.

I’m nervous, too. Starting over is hard, and it’s all on us to make friends. There are no work companions to get to know, no child’s parents to connect with. Its up to us to “make it happen.” I realize that several of my stressors will be triggered, and I’ll need to be careful to not succumb to depression’s call if it makes an appearance.

My son lives in CO Springs, and I’m excited to be near him. Of course, he’s in his early 20s, so I don’t expect that he’ll necessarily stay in the area – he’s young and adventurous and may decide to explore the country with his job. But it will be fun while it lasts!

I like the look of the apartment complex where we’re going to start out, but I’m looking forward to finding our forever-home. I’m hoping it will be a place where my husband and I can grow old together. I don’t want to move yet again; I really want this to be the last time!

The role of therapists in my life.

from my therapist’s office

My first therapist was Bill, and I saw him a few times when I was in college. I distinctly remember visiting him before I graduated from school. I was moving back home for some surgery, and wanted his help in learning how to navigate old communication patterns. The tools he gave me were very useful as I adjusted from independence to needing help. I was grateful for the techniques I learned, and I think it made my stay at home a smooth one in an otherwise difficult time.

Ted was my next therapist, about 20 years later. I first started with Ted in April 2008. His practice was recommended to me by someone at the church office. I dialed three times and hung up before I finally let the call go through and scheduled the intake appointment.

I remember “clicking” with him almost immediately. Good thing, because I was in desperate need of someone to help me with my jumbled emotions. I was in my mid-40s, we had just moved back to town, and I had expected to pick right up with old friendships and circumstances. But instead, I was feeling incredibly sad and couldn’t shake it. I tried, but was unable to explain to my husband what was wrong. I could only cry. We both agreed that I needed to talk to someone.

So Ted has been with me from the beginning of my depression, which started that summer, and for all the years since. He was with me through the very worst. When I was at my lowest. When I didn’t think I could go on living. Through my hospitalization. He helped me through the trauma and drama of deep depression, during the days when it was overwhelming and suffocating. He helped me navigate through the darkness and slowly back into the light. And he did this several times as I repeated my depression over seven years.

Ted knows me so.well. Maybe even better than I know myself. He can take the words I say and make them make sense. He finds the thread between my random thoughts, puts order to them and gives them back to me. And he’s done this for me for years.

Ted has served as my coach, as my educator, as my mentor, and as my confidant. I didn’t share with him in place of sharing with my husband, but he helped me to formulate my thoughts in a way that my husband could receive them. So that I could say what I wanted my husband to hear, instead of getting lost in my emotions or randomness. He always pointed me back to my husband.

Ted’s a Christian, and he prays for me at our appointments. He helped me sift through the spiritual battle versus the mental illness, and reminded me regularly that Christ is with me in my depression. He was the first one to really help me see Jesus standing alongside me as I struggled to fight for my mental health.

Ted helped me navigate some difficult memories. He worked with me on abandonment fears. He let me sound off about things that made me angry and helped me learn to express anger in a healthy way, instead of squelching it like I used to. He pointed out my faulty thinking, and gave me a different story than the one I was telling myself. He challenged my all-or-nothing thinking. He showed me that I speak to myself in questions, and I “should” on myself a lot.

I remember one time in particular when he really pissed me off. It’s when he pretended to be me. He told me everything I was thinking, including the things I hadn’t said out loud. I was so angry! Or maybe I was just afraid, because I had been vulnerable enough for him to see through me, to know the way I think and how I form my opinions and thoughts, and he nailed it!

I don’t worship him, nor would he ever let me. But I do have a really hard time finding a therapist, because everyone gets held up to the measuring stick of Ted. And they often fall short. It’s not a fair comparison, I know, because they don’t have the years with me like he does. So of course they don’t know me like he knows me, which puts them at a huge disadvantage when I start comparing.

I found a Christian therapist when we moved to Florida, and she was kind and gentle and accepting. I drove 40 miles one way to see her, and it was worth it. She helped me through the grieving process of relocating, and together we navigated a depressive episode with faith in Christ as my healer.

I’ve tried three therapists here – one was a hit for a little over a year. We just “broke up,” as she is moving to her private practice and I’m looking for a Christian counselor.

But I know that I’ll always have Ted. He’s promised me many times that he’ll always “be there” for me, and he always has been. I haven’t needed him as much as I used to – I’ve found these other therapists over the years who have been helpful. But I suspect I will always reach out to Ted in my depressed moments, for just a word of understanding from him to ease me through the darkness again. And he’ll point me back to my husband, and remind me that Christ is with me.

Now that’s a good therapist!

Visiting the kids

I always thought that my children would move away from home, but never considered that “home” might move away from them…even though this happened to me. Oh, how life repeats itself! My parents moved out-of-state during my sophomore year of college. I had no idea then, but am guessing now that it was hard for them to move far from their daughter.

My husband and I moved to FL two years ago during my son’s freshman year of college, then last year we moved to VA. Kids don’t come “home” for their breaks, because this isn’t home to them. They come to visit Mom and Dad for the Christmas holiday – we get to see them for a week or two then.

In the meantime, we travel to visit them. We just got back from a 5-day trip to Colorado Springs, where our son is interning for the summer. We had a great visit, and explored his new temporary home with him, enjoying Garden of the Gods, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a drive along the scenic Arkansas River, and even the Colorado Springs Rodeo Parade in the downtown.

My husband and I lived out West when we were first married, and so we really enjoyed being back in the red rock mountains.  The whole visit was good, but the best part was just being with our son.

from Garden of the Gods
son and husband, along the Arkansas River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

family graduation photo

A couple of months before that, we celebrated my daughter’s college graduation with the entire family. While it was only for a 3-day weekend, we packed it full of fun and memories.

We’ll see our daughter again in a few weeks at the annual camping trip we take with another family – we’ve been camping with them for 27 years now! This will be the first year without our son, and one of their daughters got married last year, so we’ve added to our group. But again, what I’m most looking forward to is seeing our daughter.

Our visits with the kids are not regular, but do seem to be consistently frequent. The couple of weeks at Christmas, plus these visits we can do in between. I wish it were more, but it’s the way it’s supposed to be. We raise our kids to be independent people, and then they go and do that – be independent!

I can’t help but think that if we lived closer, we might drop by more often. For one of my daughter’s shows, or for my son’s concert, or simply to take them to dinner. But we’ve never wanted to be hovering parents, so maybe this is better in the long run.

husband and me at Pikes Peak, CO

My husband and I are learning to be empty-nesters. Everyone told us it would be a challenge, they just didn’t tell us it would take so long to get used to it! But we are learning to enjoy our time together – just us – and the freedom that offers to see and explore what we want to do. So much of our lives has been about the kids – it’s good to get back to us.

But we still miss the kids.

So we’ll pack our family visits full of memories. And we’ll enjoy our kids all we can while we’re with them.

And I thank God for texting and Skype in the meantime. And visits to Colorado and camping. Good times!

Living Here Now

I had another realization this week.

As this year has passed, and I’ve struggled to “settle in” to my new home, I’ve been treating it as a temporary assignment. As if we’re only living here for a year or so, and then moving again (which is what happened with living in Florida – we were there only 15 months).  I’ve been reluctant to commit my emotions to living in Virginia, because I’ve been looking to the future as impending change, and I’ve been looking back with deep longing. I was finally feeling settled in Florida when we moved, and so I’ve been missing it a lot. I’ve compared my day-to-day in Virginia to my days in Florida, and every day came up wanting.

Then a morning devotional grabbed my attention with the story of Lot’s wife; I was challenged to not spend too much time looking back. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with looking back at memories and lessons learned. But to spend time longing for days past is time wasted. We don’t live our lives backwards, and I’ve been keeping myself from moving forward by not fully embracing my current living situation. I’m missing out on what God has for me “now” because I’m focused on “back then.”

Some of this is simply the natural progression of moving and adjusting to a new home. As I’ve said before, this process takes time – a year, at least. And we’ve been a year now in Virginia, so it’s time for these things to be working themselves out. But I realized that I’ve been clinging to the past, and that’s different.

I live here now, in Virginia. And in many ways, I am embracing it: I got a job; I’m slowly making friends; I think we’ve found a church home. We’ve explored the area. The boxes are unpacked. We’ve hosted out-of-town guests.

But I haven’t given my emotions to life here. They’ve been focused in the past.

It’s time for my emotions to catch up with my actions, with my life. I’ve prayed about contentment, but with my emotions stuck in the past, it’s hard to be satisfied. So now I’ll pray that I can embrace my life in Virginia with my whole life – emotions included.

I’m going to live in the now. God gives me today. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:74 (emphasis mine, personalized).