October 25, 2017

Setting Timers and Leaning In

Her text message came when I was sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's office.  The phones were ringing and the floor was cold and I was was wondering why I had to fill out my personal information for the eighteenth time.  My body was writhing with anxiety and dread and I thought a time or three about walking out the door and not going through with this appointment.  All of those feelings and emotions were mounting when I saw the tiny envelope on my phone with her name on it.

I ran into so-and-so and found out we were all mutual friends and thought I'd check in say hello.  How is your new job? How are you?

My heart began to ache and I pushed back tears that were begging to be cried.  Wanting to be both honest and vague, I replied that I was in a hard season in many different places and that I was currently at the doctor and hopeful about getting some care.  Her reply was kind and gracious, because she had always been those things.  I know it seems like a lifetime since we've been close friends, but if you ever need anything I'm here.

"Jennifer?"  The nurse called my name and my phone went back into my purse.  It was time to get on the scale and take my blood pressure and I could feel shame enveloping me about the current state of my body and overall health.  In the midst of my appointment, my thoughts went back to my friend and her words.  Memories of our closeness and sweet friendship and how she had been such a steady  place of encouragement and truth for me flooded my mind.  The sorrowful memories of our church split, our disagreement and conflict, and our precious friendship that fell apart and faded away, was a tangible place of pain.  What felt like a lifetime to her, somehow felt like only yesterday to me.

Instead of deleting the messages, I saved them on my phone knowing I needed to sit with sadness and allow for more tears in this place that is still a source of deep loss and grief for me.  One quiet Sunday morning while I sipped coffee out of my favorite mug, hands holding on to comfort, I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes and opened up our text messages from that day.  Tears came easily and they weren't the quiet kind that softly roll down your cheeks.  They were wet and messy, accompanied by snot and sobs and a small pile of tissues.  It's been over two years and I wondered if it would ever stop hurting this badly. Would I ever stop missing her?  Would I ever stop regretting all of the words I wish I would have said back then about how much she had meant to me?

My phone timer went off and I breathed deeply.  I wiped my eyes and blew my nose again and deleted the text messages. 

Lately, I've purposed to make space to lean in to painful places and to give myself actual time to feel and cry.  Setting a timer is helpful because not only is there an ending to sitting with pain and sadness, but my body is learning that it can make it through those hard feelings without the need to self-harm or emotionally check out to life.  It might seem like a bizarre practice, but it is a necessary kindness for my heart.

How do you lean in to pain?

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