Does this ever happen to you? I lay awake at night with my brain flitting through all the pieces of my life that are up in the air right now, alternating from mild worry and tentative possibilities to out-and-out panic. I toss and turn, finally fall into a fitful sleep, and then start the day with a vague sense of dread and a headache. Recently, I found myself trapped in this cycle for a few weeks.
To be fair, I have a lot going on at the moment. Steve and I are launching our oldest, Adrienne, into university. I am so proud of her… and also worried: Will she be safe in a new environment far from home? We homeschooled K-12; did I do the ultimate job preparing her? We got the first tuition bill already and holy Moses, those zeros! Will we adjust to the new rhythm without her— just my son at home, no other females to keep me company? Speaking of Addison, is he too introverted for his own good? Could I be doing more in homeschooling to help him appreciate social opportunities? My husband is orchestrating a community project, investing a load of unpaid hours. It’s brutal to watch such a kind, patient man receive criticism from a few brash, uninformed people. I’m also working this summer on something emotionally intense, at a local organization for human trafficking survivors. And then there’s The Big One that is a struggle to even write: my father is sick. We’re not close. My upbringing was simply calamitous. Nevertheless, he still matters to me. No family is ever ready enough.
Before too long, I was exhausted by this fear and worry constantly heating up in my brain. It was as problematic as trying to power through the flu. I remained in this cycle of turmoil because I labeled it grief, inevitable and unavoidable. In my experience, when grief turns on it spiderwebs to all the other places that still hurt. I replayed all the mistakes I’ve ever made as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a neighbor, a Christian. What if I were more thoughtful, tried harder, and negotiated with more grace? If only I were a stronger, more capable Melissa. I said to myself, “The present status is probably because I am not enough.” I’m a faulted person and I have so much to answer for and dig out from under. This process was one of self-incrimination and, as Brene Brown calls it, shame spiraling.