Monday, March 15, 2010

Where's my Sackcloth and Ashes?

A few months ago I was angry. Well, actually I've been angry most of my adult life, but a few months ago, I was really angry. Like want to blow the place up kind of angry. It would seep out at the most inconvenient times, too. Just cruising along in a conversation and BAM! What the hell did you just say to me?

And frankly, it scared me- because I really did feel like I wanted to blow the place up, or at least make some dramatic changes, like maybe ride off into the sunset, never to return.

And well, nice girls just don't do that sort of thing.

So once again, I hit that point when the pain of staying the same is greater than the fear of making some changes. Not in my external circumstances, but within my own battered and broken heart.

This of course, was not easy. Oh, and did I mention terrifying?

I've spent my life trying to make others happy. Not in a healthy way, either. but in trying to manage everyone else's comfort and serenity- working hard to get that approval and recognition- we couldn't have done it without you, Jen.

I have lived a life that on the outside appeared relatively "successful" by some standards.

So I started telling the truth about my feelings, which was not as easy as it sounds, because I had no idea what they actually were, or where they were coming from. But someone I trusted said, start identifying them and writing them down and that is a good place to start.

I kept trying to tell her, I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. She would just look at me sweetly and say, "oh honey, tell me again about when you were a little girl..." Like redirecting a toddler that insists on climbing up something that isn't age-appropriate, she just kept bringing me back to the real cause of my anger. She kept saying anger is never the first feeling-its a response to something else, something more, well tender, and infinitely more vulnerable. Its the response that follows hurt.

"Well everybody's been hurt, I mean its no big deal right? My hurt is no bigger than your hurt or anybody's hurt, so shouldn't I just be able to get over it?" I asked with some defensiveness.

And then she told me essentially its not a contest, and mine is mine and the only way to get through it is to walk through it- to feel it and grieve and cry and blow your nose a lot. Well that just doesn't sound too appealing to me- my people don't really do that, I tried to tell her with some conviction.

Another guy smarter than me on the topic told me that back in the day people who were in mourning would put on a sackcloth and ashes for a time, so people would recognize their current emotional state and give them some space & respect. We don't do that anymore and instead are encouraged to "get on with it" and "overcome" and for God's sake, don't take any time of work and let your company down or not wear makeup for a day because you have responsibilities and people will look at you like you're defective.

The Dr. will give you a prescription or you can use the old stand-by's of food, drink or other people to numb your pain. It's perfectly understandable, after all. So you get on with it, and never quite heal and walk around with an emotional limp for a long time until finally you realize its not working anymore and you've got to do something about it. That's when the fun starts and you realize you really do need to walk through it to get to the other side and all this avoidance has only made things worse. I found out this is a good time to get some quality support from people who have been there and can be trusted to help you navigate your way through it. Much has been written on the topic, and Anne Lamott has a beautiful chapter on it in her book Travelling Mercies.

The gist of it is that when you open yourself up to the grieving process of whatever in your past needs to be mourned, then you wash away that old junk that's been blocking your heart from pumping all the joy you deserve into your Life, and those around you. God comes in and performs miracles and healing and comforts you in a way I cannot adequately describe, and you will see glimmers of hope that are beyond your wildest dreams.

We're called into freedom, real freedom, and we've been creating in Love, and as a dear friend said to me today, our real life's work is returning to that Love. And it takes as long as it takes, that part's not a contest, either. Last summer I heard Paul Young, author of The Shack, said his mourning took 11 years. What a relief to know that its ok, and that just because mine has taken a long time doesn't mean there's something "wrong" or that I'm not "doing it right."

So my question for you, dear reader is this: is there something in your Life that still needs a time of grieving? Will you be kind and loving to yourself in the same way that you would a friend who was hurting? How have you successfully travelled this road in the past? And most importantly, would you be willing to walk through the experience to get to the other side, if you were absolutely certain there was joy, peace & healing on the other side?

Because of all the Truth in Life, this one is the most certain.


  1. Well said, my friend! God bless you, Diane

  2. love this expression of your journey, Jen. Thank you for sharing it with words that could only have been pieced together by uniquely 'you.' love, Stacey

  3. Jeni, I am speechless,and amazed and so proud of you and what I read on your blog! You have said so much of what I have been feeling my whole life, especially the broken heart, hurting deeply and being so angry that I too could drive off into the sunset and never return! You are a beautiful women, Mom, daughter, friend and a Kings daughter. and so much more! I feel so blessed to meet you and to know you and your lovely daughter alexandra!

    I will follow your blog and hope to read more soon!
    I am so happy you are happy and healing, a path i hope to go down soon. Always can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

    Love and light and peace be upon you....

  4. thanks to all for the kind words and encouragement. xoxo- jeni