I grew up wishing my life was different, almost every day of my childhood.
For years, the faces of my stuffed animals and dolls were my closest confidants, my most intimate companions bearing the weight of my grief wrapped around them. My feather pillow soaked with tears wooed me to sleep as I begged God for my Mother’s happiness.
There was evidence He was hearing my prayers, not illustrated by a change in the circumstances of her alcoholism, but in fragments of hope extended like a life raft, when despair threatened to drown the limits of my perspective.
The smell of fresh mowed grass trailing through spring’s open window, a gentle breeze blowing the curtains of my bedroom like skirts gracefully twirling on the dance floor, sun casting ambient light over shelves of books and trinkets, making them new all over again. Awakening from a nap to the fragrance of lemon Pledge; hints of longing for a clean slate, a fresh start, through the strokes of her dust cloth over wood.
These smells still remind me of hope.
Inhaling the fragrance of His goodness in sacramental oils of a Catholic mass remind me of routine weekend visits tucked between my grandparents on a hard pew in the early years of my adolescence. They wanted me there and I knew it.
On many days since, I’ve thought about taking my own life, though I knew I would never actually do it. If you were honest, perhaps you might admit to a fleeting moment or recurring thought of ending it all too. A time when you couldn’t bear the difference between life as you know it and the one you envision. The contrast so vivid pulling a spoon to your lips feels unbearable.
But then again, maybe you don’t carry the burden of the unkindness like so many of us do. Of not knowing how to love yourself.
I know, it feels more comfortable to earn love. But grace doesn’t have rules like that. It’s just there for your acceptance, a reception without any checklists or hoops to jump through.
You are loved for who you are, not for what you do.
I know this. Now I believe it.
I’ve heard stories of those looking for the nearest window ledge or bridge . . . and worse. Read the statistics about boys versus girls — for every 100 females between age 15-19 who commit suicide, there are 549 males with them.* It’s startling isn’t it? This kind of reality, how we are raising a generation of kids that don’t know how to truly love themselves; cultivating a culture of hollow loneliness that is now an epidemic.
Trying to earn love by the way you look or what you achieve eventually leads to empty desperation. And believing you are the only one who feels that way – even more painful and untrue.
I’ve also heard stories about plans with a ledge or a bottle of pills being providentially thwarted. In most cases, it’s come from a simple text, a phone call, someone stopping to ask where the Coke machine is located in the building, a middle of the night cry from a child’s bedroom. All interruptions with the message: I need you, you matter to me.
You know why I haven’t done it, given up and quit? I believe in Hope. And hope is something you aren’t born with, it’s learned through adversity.
People ask me the same question often – How did you turn out the way you did – meaning how did I overcome my circumstances and not let my circumstances overcome me.
I conquer despair not by making sense of my circumstances but believing in God’s plans for my future. Not trying harder, but letting go. I wake up to the smell of fresh cut grass with the realization that my expectations about life aren’t what matter, but what life expects from me matters most.
Two of my favorite people sitting in the pew saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. And my husband carries on their legacy.
Perhaps you’ll be the person interrupting someone’s fatal plans in search of a Coke machine somewhere new. I pray so.
And if you’re struggling with hopelessness, I want you to know you matter, the world needs you. I don’t have to know you intimately to know that is true because God hasn’t changed his mind about either of us. He has purpose and destiny blowing a gentle breeze through your open window, Light settles over old things and makes them new.
Hope, it carries you into the future when you can’t stand on your own.
In October, I’m hosting a series based on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown where I plan to unpack what loving yourself looks like practically. We’ll be diving into the deep end of wholehearted living. Join me for Redemptions Beauty Book Club and here in the comments?
*stats from Masterminds & Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman