Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vulnerability & Progress

It is not easy for me to open up about the things I struggle with. It never has been. I don't think it has much to do with pride or pretenses; I actually have a desire to be vulnerable and known because I realize that everyone is struggling and striving just like I am, and that we can learn so much from each other and really grow in tenderness for one another when we share our griefs/weaknesses. But it is terribly difficult for me to hand over my struggles to other people because a) I don't want to burden anyone with the weight of my problems and b) sometimes we aren't very sensitive in the way we receive each other's vulnerability. In light of this, I am always conflicted in tough times, wanting to be authentic, but feeling hesitant about the implications. So I mostly carry my grief/struggles quietly, preferring to work through them privately. And that is largely fine, except for the fact that sometimes when people can't easily detect sadness and struggle, they assume that you have it made, that you are living a life of gumdrops and daffodils. And sometimes they even resent you for it, and think you are out of touch with heartache. I wish this wasn't the case. I wish there could be more love for everyone, no matter how wretched or wonderful their life appeared. Most times appearances indicate so very little about what is actually going on. This is a truth I am trying to press deep down into my heart, something I really want to live by.

I got a very kind e.mail from a friend last week; her empathy and concern meant so much to me. In my response to her, I explained some of what I've been feeling over the past few months. Thought I'd post an excerpt here:

i don't mean to be mysterious on my blog :) the past few months were tough for me for reasons i'm not even sure i could put into words. it was a combination of things, for sure, and not easy to pin down, (i'm still trying to piece it together in retrospect,) but the baby-longing was a big part of it. i felt withdrawn and blue a lot. especially in march -- it got bad. there were several days over about a two week period where i would put a movie on for lily every morning and get back in bed. i just didn't want to do the day. i've never really felt that before, so it was strange and kind of scary, actually. i was afraid i was going to sink into an awful depression. it's really hard for me to be forthcoming about my struggles, i always just feel like everyone is dealing with enough of their own problems and i don't want to burden them with mine. plus, i kept feeling like i ought to be able to pull myself out of my funk (and i felt guilty for being in a funk in the first place because i have a very blessed life). so i tried to put on a brave face in public (and a vague face on the blog) -- which felt insincere and contrived, because it was. but again...i just had a hard time being real about how much i was struggling. and also, it was kind of cyclical -- some days i would feel pretty good and mostly happy and i would think, "ok...things are getting better, nothing to worry about" but then the sadness would settle in again and the cycle would begin again.

So...there is that. A bit of retrospective illumination. I still feel sort of afraid that those hollow, apathetic feelings will come back. But I also feel like I am more prepared to deal with them and not let them steal my sparkle. I don't know how to say what I'm about to say without sounding canned and trite, but I don't care. I honestly feel thankful for everything I have felt and continue to feel. I am growing. I am learning. I am an advocate of choosing happiness, finding joy and acting rather than being acted upon. I feel thankful for the chance to do those things, even while there are disappointments and discouragements to confront.

The other thing about suffering is that it teaches us so much about compassion and empathy. A few weeks ago I was visiting with the mother of one of my good friends. After we had visited for quite a while she said, "You look good, Em, and it seems like you're doing really well, are you? Are you doing ok?" And I said, "Yes. We're doing really well. I'd really love to have another baby, but other than that...we're doing so well." And she looked at me so knowingly and her eyes filled with tears and she hugged me and said, "I know. I know you would. And I know that pain. You'd never guess it, but I know that longing and there is just nothing like it and it's so hard to understand unless you've been there."
Her empathy was so comforting and validating. Later that night I thought, all of the longing she felt, all of that pain was so helpful to me today. She couldn't have been so comforting and understanding if she hadn't ached and mourned.

I re-read this quote tonight and loved it:
It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. . . . it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.
-Vance Havner

Not sure how to wrap this up...other than to say that my heart feels full of thanks and new understanding. And If I go back to bed tomorrow morning it won't be because I'm depressed, it'll be because I stayed up way too late scratching down these thoughts :) Thankfully, Henry doesn't have school tomorrow; I couldn't be happier about that! We're going to sleep in, stay in our pajamas as long as we want and hopefully do some organizing around here. I have some projects in mind, but we've got to get things in order before I can get started :)


  1. Oh, Em, these are such beautiful thoughts. So very tender and real and relatable. I love you so much.

  2. That quotation is beautiful.

    I have had really down times as well, and at one point I really felt like the Lord wanted me to open up to some people, but when I did, it backfired in a way that caused me to be even more withdrawn and private than before. I feel like it's taken me two years to get over and in that time, my blog has lost its real connection to me. I wish I could find that again so my blog could bring some valuable connections. I wish that my language blunder blog ( would make some revenue so I could stay home. In fact, I feel like my life is dominated by wishes to have at least some of the things that one would consider "successful." At least I've finally found a job, even if it's hard to be there every day.

    Anyway, I didn't mean to ramble. It's hard to open up. And I've been trying to figure out healthier ways to deal with my stress. I even wrote a church talk on it (which you can read here: Best of luck to you!

  3. Thanks for staying up late to write. I love this post. I've had very similar thoughts. Life is so HARD right now. I feel like I'm getting the most intense emotional/mental workout of my life. But then I remember that everything is preparation for something...I can't imagine it getting harder, but maybe when I have a rock hard emotional/mental body the trials that are ahead won't feel so hard.

    At least that's what I tell myself.

    PS I think you would LOVE The Gifts of Vulnerability. It's so good.

    PPS I want a baby too! Oh, that hurts... My uterus feels so so empty.

  4. Em, how I miss you! Your "realness" is something that I've always loved & admired about you (among so many other things). Love you!

  5. I never ever ever feel like your blog posts are contrived or ingenuine (um, I think I just made up a new word?!)
    I love you for sharing your heart. Mine hurt when I read this post. I keep thinking about this next baby you will have (some day soon, I hope) and how infinitely loved he/she will be especially because of the aching and longing you have felt for so long.

  6. Oh, my goodness, it is so very painful to not have the babies you want. Especially since it is such a righteous desire (and commandment)! Grieving and feeling the loss of babies and children and love and memories and the size/kind of family that might not be (in this lifetime) but are so intensely wished for can definitely knock a person off her feet & put her in a funk. Love the Vance Havner quote - I've never heard it before. From: someone who somehow got here through pinterest and relates a little to your sadness (having gone through over a decade's worth of infertility treatments, miscarriage, & turmoil). Cherish your little ones - they are darling! :)