Something to look foward to

I had an epiphany yesterday: I have very little that I am looking forward to.

This is a rude realization – it reeks of hopelessness and hints at depression. It leaves me feeling empty and sad.

And I see that it needs to be remedied.

I’m not talking about planning a vacation, or what museums to explore on the weekends. It’s not about looking forward to a trip, even a trip to see my kids.

What I crave is people. Interactions with others. Social relationships. Fellowship, as discussed in today’s sermon, where you give yourself to others, and they give themselves to you. I miss the opportunity to be in ministry, to be in leadership. To serve others. To be with others.

My job is not filling the need I had hoped – to connect with co-workers and to forge relationships. Instead, I work with an individual, do the paperwork, and go home. Very little to no interaction with anyone other than my student. Not what I was looking for in a job.

I could turn my attention to volunteering. Perhaps I should register with the local hospital, and find some hours that fill my days with people.

I am enjoying my Bible Study and look forward to Thursdays,  I also look expectantly to lunch dates, or chiropractic appointments, or anything else that gets me out of the house during the otherwise long days.

I need to find hope in my day-to-day. To have things that make getting out of bed worth it. I admit that I stay in bed many mornings because I have nothing I need to get up for.

What if I joined a gym? Would I look forward to walking on the treadmill, next to others walking too? I know I appreciated and even looked forward to my physical therapy – maybe it would be the same. Maybe I would even make a friend or two.

How can I become more eager to get out of bed to meet with Jesus? My Bible Study helps with that, definitely. I am excited to see what God will teach me. But how do I translate that to daily living? To jumping out of bed so that I can meet with God in my quiet time? Is that enough to bolt me from my bed every morning? I reluctantly admit that it is not, at least not yet. Maybe that is an area where I am growing.

And as I keep saying, these things – relationships – take time.

So I’ll be excited to do my daily Bible Study. I’ll anticipate lunch with a friend. I’ll look into volunteering. And I’ll pray for God to bring me the enthusiasm to get going each day, to expect what and who He has for me.  Perhaps those friendships are coming, and can be something to look forward to!

Unsettled versus contented

I’m not lonely or bored.

Except when I’m lonely or bored.

I wake up and think that I should stay in bed as long as possible, to keep a long day from starting. And I go to bed as early as reasonable, so as to end the long day.

And in the middle, I try to put structure to a day with hours alone while my husband is at work. It’s just me and the cat.

I go to the grocery store. I go to the drug store. I get a haircut. I’ve made appointments for a chiropractor and doctor and psych doc. I plan to join a Bible study that starts in July. I’ve emailed a woman about the local Moms In Prayer group (now on break, but hey, maybe she’ll talk to me anyway). I read. I knit. I do Bible study. I do laundry. I color. I flip TV channels. I call my mom. I call a friend.

I try to do something every day, but I need to add more to my very limited routine. I should be able to get on a treadmill most days per week. Maybe I can alternate it with hiking along the neighborhood walking path, or driving to Shenandoah National Park and hiking there. But it’s difficult to leave the apartment. Inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest…

I say I’ll write, but I’m having a hard time being disciplined about it – whether it’s to blog or work on chapters for a book. Can I even write a book? I’ve been told I have one in me, but getting it “on paper” has me intimidated.

I should write. I should exercise. I should go to a coffee shop and strike up a conversation. I should, but I don’t.

I know I wrote about stuff, and not having my stuff around me. But it seems like if I had my stuff, if I was in a house and not this temporary apartment, I might feel less unsettled. At least I’d have something to do – put everything away. Find a home for all the stuff in the boxes. Or get rid of the stuff in the boxes.

Meet the neighbors. Sit outside on my deck. Sleep in my own bed.

But I don’t want my stuff to be what brings me comfort. I want Jesus to be enough. So I’m trying, through prayer and study, to get there. To let go of being unsettled, and to settle into Him. To draw closer. Even closer. Closer still.

It’s okay to talk to Him all the time, so I do. It’s what He wants anyway. And He welcomes me bringing everything to Him. All of these thoughts of discontent that float through my head. I give Him all of my long days, and ask Him to do something with them, something that is good, something that brings Him glory.

I’ll put aside my unsettled self. I’ll rest in His perfect timing. I’ll tell Him about my day, throughout my day. I’ll trust Him to bring the relationships, the activities. And I’ll try to be content in the present moment.

I want to learn to live Philippians 4:11b-13:

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Playing House

I’ve been here a week. First, we lived in the Residence Inn, then moved to an apartment a few days ago. “It’s like camping,” my husband says. Or playing “house.”

In getting ready to move, I packed up my things – my shorts, my favorite tank tops and some t-shirts and jeans, several pairs of shoes, my travel bathroom supplies, and my pillows. I gathered my Bible and study, my electronics and knitting bag, my Kindle and some coloring pencils and books. I tried to guess what we would need for the next couple of months, and we loaded up the stuff and the kitty and drove from Florida to Virginia. We left our furniture and most of our belongings behind. We hope it won’t be long before our house there sells and we can settle in here.

In the meantime, the kitty and I will spend our days in this two bedroom apartment, while my husband works a few miles away. It’s a nice place, and feels very open and roomy. The furniture is sparse but comfortable.

I plan to use my time to explore the area, try to learn my way around town, and hike in the mountains once a week.  I have little confidence that I will find a ladies’ Bible Study – they often break for the summer. Still I’ll look, maybe starting with churches where we might like to attend. I plan to write regularly – either blogging or personally – and hope to be disciplined about it! I’ll go to the pool, which doesn’t come close to the spa-pool of our old neighborhood, but is still sun and water.

I will try to engage with other people several days a week – at least to say “Hi” to someone besides kitty and husband. This may mean that I grocery shop every day, or find a local coffee shop – something to get out of the apartment and with others so I don’t isolate myself.

With very few of my own things, I feel like this is just pretend. I hate to spend money to buy household supplies I already have, but it’s funny to not have my stuff around me. This feels unfamiliar, even unreal. Like playtime, not my new life.

It causes me to stop and evaluate my relationship to “my things.” Firstly, I can see that I own too much stuff, since I only need what I have now. Secondly, nothing is mine – it all belongs to God, and is only on loan for me to use in the first place. So I’ll use this time, this opportunity, to test what is really important. It’s not stuff. It’s relationships. And the closest ones I have now are God and my husband. I guess that’s where I’ll spend my time and attention. I suspect that’s what God has in mind anyway.

 

Social activity when depressed: an oxymoron

Depression is an isolating illness. It doesn’t involve a crowd.

Withdrawing from others is an indicator of depression. When I’m depressed, I don’t want to be with people, don’t want to do the things I used to enjoy with others. I find it hard to focus, to follow a conversation, or even get a joke. Depression wants me to stay by myself, sitting on my corner of the couch, safe in my cocoon of quiet. It causes me to become self-focused, very inward-gazing. It hinders my social interactions.

I find it hard to go out when I’m depressed, and so I’m intentional about scheduling events in advance that require I venture into public. Perhaps it’s a chiropractor’s appointment. Or Bible Study (which is very hard to attend if my mood is down). I’ve learned to build social activity into my weeks so that I have to be around people, even if it’s just a bunch of strangers in the grocery store.

To attend a planned event with a crowd is more difficult. I am most likely to succeed if I have support, like if my husband goes too. I can’t say “Yes” to attending a wine-tasting party or gala celebration if he’s not there – it’s too hard to put on a smile and make small talk for hours with a bunch of people I don’t know well. It’s hard enough to attend if he’s with me – the power of isolation is very strong and makes me want to say “No” every time we’re invited to any kind of social event. But going without him is more than just not-fun, it’s almost impossible.

I suspect this puts a lot of pressure on him – that I’m dependent on him for my social connections. But his presence gives me courage – I’m more outgoing and smile more easily if I know he’s nearby. The other day, he commented that I’m good with people – I guarantee that I wouldn’t have said hello to that other person, let alone had the encounter at all, if my husband hadn’t been around too.

This isn’t true all the time – only when I’m fighting depression. Usually, I’m right at home in group situations – I can come in and say Hello and introduce myself and smile, all with ease and comfort. I can be interested in the others in the group, draw them out with questions about themselves and engage them for long periods of time. I can lead the discussion or follow the flow of conversation easily, and I enjoy it immensely. When I’m not depressed.

It’s hard to explain this change in me to people who don’t know that I struggle with depression. Or maybe they know – I’ve told them – but they don’t really understand how hard life is when I’m depressed. They might think I’m flaky or just very inconsistent. They might even be offended when I back out of a commitment – this is one reason I don’t say “Yes” in the first place. I don’t always want to explain myself – I often can’t. I don’t want depression to be an excuse, even though it is often the reason.

For those folks who understand depression and my battle with it, I am able to say “No” without much guilt. In fact, I am more likely to attend a group, even in my depressed state, if I know they know I struggle. I can go and be myself and not explain everything. Usually simply saying, “Today is a tough day,” is enough for these friends, and they welcome me to come as I am.

 

Today, I Chose Not To

Today, I chose not to get up early. Lately, I’ve been sleeping in. If I have nothing going on, then I can take my time in getting out of bed. There’s no rush to be anywhere.

Today, I chose not to attend Bible Study. I didn’t feel like putting myself out there, with the smiling face that says everything’s ok, that pretends to be interested in – well – anything. I like the study a lot, but am not connecting with folks. Of course, I have to attend to connect – I know. But some days that takes more energy than I want to expend.

Today, I chose not to go anywhere. I stayed home. This means that most of the day has gone by without me speaking to anyone. I didn’t go to the pool, nor to the workout room. I sat on the lanai this afternoon, and in my spot on the couch most of the rest of the day.

I realize that making these choices could lead me into self-pity and isolation, even down the path toward depression. But instead, today I simply enjoyed the slow pace of the day, the relaxation of studying my Bible on my own, completing a few small projects that needed attention and time, petting the kitty, watching TV.

I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for whatever the next thing is that God has for me. I think I am supposed to be writing, but I keep procrastinating, am feeling intimidated by the project. Then again, if this is what God has given me to do, I know He will equip me completely with what I need to get it done.

I just need to choose to do it.