My Sepia World

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I figure there is a whole science involving color.  I’ve heard how yellows and oranges and reds tend to cause hunger.  I know some greens and blues induce calm and well-being for me personally.  Back when I was experiencing unwellness of mind, I discovered this by happenstance.  We took the kids to the children’s museum.  There was one interactive exhibit that entailed transparent tablets of acrylic in a wide variety of colors.  The kids could do different things with them.  They could build things, or look at certain things to see how it changed the colors of what they saw, or use two different colored ones to do that three-dimensional effect.  When I was in that state I was in back then, high stress, depression, high anxiety, nerves always torn up, any atmosphere of noise and chaos, such as that in an echoing room full of excited kids, was extremely hard for me to tolerate.  I was having a moment that I felt very aware of the intensity of those feelings, when I just happened to put one of the green slabs of acrylic up to my eyes and looked at everything through it.  It was very similar to how I used to feel when I was swimming lap after lap in the pool at the Y. I experienced what felt like a huge dialing-down of the incoming stimuli, and a sense of calm compared to seconds before.  It was awesome.  I wanted to steal that piece of green acrylic and tape it to my eyes.

It is one of many little experiences in the life of this HSP (highly sensitive person) that stand out in my memory.  Phenomena that probably everyone experiences but very few notice.  I think that is why science geeks get so excited about stuff like studying the effects of color on mood.  The people who are science-wired are generally the least intuitive.  Therefore everything has to be established by replicable steps and facts. They never have experiences like that, so they have to get there their own way through experiments in a lab. Poor linear minded science geeks!  All that rationality gives me indigestion.

The rest of us take most of it on faith and prefer to enjoy the “magic” of not having a scientific explanation for every little thing.

I write about what the experience of this life in this world, is like for me, personally.  I can’t write fiction.  Literally.  All I can write about is what is real.  I love to read fiction, but can’t conceive it.  People tend to admire and wonder at how genuine and real I am, but it is not a choice I made.  I just am that way. Don’t know how to be any other way.  It’s how God made me.  When I talk about myself I do so knowing I’m kind of a curiosity to a some folks. In a freak show kind of way. Ha!

I didn’t always know that about myself, even though I have been told all my life, “there’s something different about you”.  Sometimes people have used the word “special” and I definitely don’t see myself that way, and always deflect with my usual comment: “yeah, special like them that rides the short bus”.  It’s an old Mark Lowery line from one of his comedy bits.  But it’s how I feel a lot of the time, actually.  And that is coming from someone who knows that the kids who ride on “short buses” are a superior species, not an inferior one.  They are usually the ones who truly love unconditionally, who forgive freely, who delight in everything in the way that a little child does who is discovering his own toes for the first time.  I can only aspire to be that pure of heart.

Living with depression for me, was like living in a world with no color.   Since I have come out of decades of depression, I can’t get enough of color!  I have a real love-hate relationship with my own physical body.  Always have.  As Christians we are to be cautious of the flesh, but also, there is an aspect of our actual bodies, the fact that God made it as our shell for containing our soul and interacting with a physical world, that demands appreciation for our own body as a gift, and also the fact it is the Lord’s temple and dwelling place among man, the body of a Christian.  So there is an automatic sort of conflict-of-interests.  On the one hand, we are to be good stewards, on the other hand, the flesh is an actual enemy.  As a woman, it’s sooooo much more complicated than even that.

How is a Christian supposed to reconcile those things?  Women have huge hurdles when it comes to our bodies, because of the conditions of the society we live in, and this fallen world, and the objectification of us.

The years of difficulty I wrote about in the last entry, (marriage years) and the experiences I wrote about in my autobiography, all tally together to have wrought havoc in this area of my life.  The awkward task of growing from girl to woman, the shame and trauma that surrounded that in my 20’s, then the emotional trauma after having survived all of that, when I married my husband only to have the M.I.L. from you-know-where…! Recipe for body image issues and emotions getting mixed up with seeking comfort in food.  How does a mother-in-law effect one’s body image?  Sounds like a huge leap, but when you already have a history of it, and certain ways of coping, when your husband’s mother spent a lifetime emasculating the man who became your husband, when your M.I.L. furthermore is like a third party in what God created to be a “party-of-two-become one”, trust me, the two are not as unrelatable as they might seem.

Not going to go into the psychobabble.  I operate from the principle that all our problems are indeed rooted in the problem of “fallen-ness”.  I would rather say that than “because of sin” which, though accurate, can misconstrue things by virtue of the fact there are individual sins and there is also a state of being which we call sin.  Bad things are not “caused by sin” in the same way punishment or the concept of “Karma” work.  But rather more in the way that consequences follow certain actions by the law of physics.  Drop an egg and because of gravity, the egg will hit the floor, and because of the design of the shell, the egg will break. The fact of the matter is, women are created to be intuitive and more “open concept” internally as a rule, whereas men are more concrete, and compartmentalized.  I say this while acknowledging this is a generalization and there are exceptions to the rule, and it’s all on a sort of spectrum to boot.  For men, one thing has nothing to do with the other, while for women every thing has something to do with everything else.  Things in one area of life, effect the other areas.  We were designed that way for a reason.  As caregivers and guardians, we have to consider the big picture and can’t lose sight of one thing while focusing on the other.  The world can’t function that way.  At the same time, there has to be some brain cells free to concentrate fully on specifics, those designated brain cells are mostly found in the male brain, or lets just say a greater proportion of them are.

As for me, I’d fall on the extreme end of the female side of the spectrum, being extremely intuitive, and practically devoid of inner “compartments”.  But that is not to say that I don’t have some sectors that are partitioned off.  I actually discovered just how true this is, recently when I started processing some of my anger that I have had over some things.  It’s like discovering a hidden room in a house.  And finding it full of bees.  My blood pressure was off the charts for a few days.  No kidding.  It has come down now. Don’t worry.(Mom!)

But in marriage, we give all we have.  One partner is always compensating for the other in some way, and vice versa.  That’s why God ordained the whole “it is not good for man to be alone” concept and came up with the idea of a helpmeet.

In concept, that makes perfect sense.  In the actual playing out, however, it’s not necessarily so clean and neat and painless.  I have been compensating in our marriage for something that was a condition of his upbringing, and he truly could not help how he was brought up.  He couldn’t even see the problem for a long time.  I spent a lot of years feeling a lot of anger, which I put behind that partition I mentioned, for the sake of peace in the marriage, but it was anger at him for something he was not aware of or to the degree he was aware, he was powerless in it.  It was a conditioned (learned) powerlessness, and he is now getting set free from it, but a perceived powerlessness is every bit as paralyzing as a real one. Unfortunately.  Until one learns the difference.

I have been told more than once that the habits and compensatory actions we learn in order to survive or thrive in our formative years, which “work” in our family of origin, but then cause problems in our “family of choice” later on, will often flame out spectacularly when we get about to middle age.  Why then?  I figure it is because before then, you are so busy building a life, paying the bills, corralling a family, putting out fires, that you really just don’t have an opportunity  to be troubled by or to analyze the friction they cause. It’s only around that empty-nest season when things slow down, that the sum total of the damage starts to show.  When it happens we often call it a midlife crisis.  When it happens we feel like the wheels suddenly come off and we are positively dumbstruck as to why or what the heck is happening “all of a sudden”.  But it’s actually not sudden, rather it’s merely insidious.  Which is much worse!

So, yeah.  That’s kind of where I’ve been hanging out this year.  But I can say this, it’s been extremely mild, compared to how these things often go in these cases.  We’re talking that divorce that ends a thirty-five year marriage, or some similarly devastating individual self-destruction that leaves others baffled and wounded by the fallout.  Compared to that, this is a walk in the park.  A blighted park in a slum with broken bottles and rusted monkey bars, perhaps, but still, a walk in a park.

What’s a little temporary colorblindness, compared to that kind of thing?  If everyone in the world took their troubles and put them in a pile, and God said, okay, now in exchange for your “thorn in the flesh” go to the pile and choose something else you’d rather have to cope with”, most people would gladly take their own problem right back up.  There’s always someone worse-off than you are.  These cliches become cliches because they are accurate.  The devil you know, and all that jazz.  The bottom line is, God promised to make a way for us to bear whatever we are called upon to bear.  And often we bring that thing upon ourselves anyway.  Which in no way makes bearing the consequences any easier.  But it does demonstrate God’s compassion and understanding, that He does make a way for us to bear even the consequences of our own bad decisions, as well as the consequences of others which we had no culpability in.

I find the statement “it is what it is” a very handy one.  I apply it often.  Because the truth is, that very often the only influence or power we have in a lot of situations, is the power to accept it and determine to be okay with it come hell or high water, even when we don’t like it.

My life lost all color during years I was kicking against the pricks.  Pricks are prods that are designed to make the ox go the direction the driver needs them to go.  We are to be in the yoke with Jesus.  We are to take His yoke upon us, and learn of Him, and He will give rest to our souls.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Does that parable make sense to you?  Do you know that the stronger ox bears the biggest brunt of the load?  It’s a principle or law.  As a strong adult, when your ten year old helps you move a heavy object, you are quite aware you are bearing most of the load, are you not?  It’s the same thing.  When we are in the yoke with Jesus, when we do the heavy lifting together with Him, He is doing most of the work.  We still gripe at how heavy our burdens are.  Sometimes it’s because we aren’t in the yoke at all.  Other times we’re just being spoiled brats.

The good news is, for me color is coming back into my life.  I’m not living in that sepia world anymore.  The truth sets people free.  The Lord has finally deemed it the proper time to enable my husband to see things as they are, about his upbringing, and about how it has effected our marriage, how it has effected him, and how it has effected me.  It was a painful “surgery” and the recovery period is far from over, and only really just beginning.

For a good while, I was wearing a lot of color as a tactic meant to create the illusion of there being color in me.  If I couldn’t have it in me, it seemed that having it on me was the next best thing or closest I could get.  People would see the color and maybe not notice the pallor underneath.  Where I had faded out to nothing.  When things were really bad in my life when I was in my twenties, I wore black and navy all the time.  It would have seemed akin to blasphemy to wear color when my spirit and soul were in solitary confinement.

Now I can’t get enough color in my house or my wardrobe.  I can see it again, and appreciate it, and I am like a starving woman and color is food and water.  Words are not enough.  I have to express myself in word pictures these days.  I ran out of words two or three crises ago.

These days as my husband reclaims the things his upbringing kept bound and inaccessible, it is like watching a flower bloom.  I am happy for him.  He is looking forward to things now, which neither of us have had the pleasure of doing for so long.  He has prayed for my healing and for me to have energy and vitality again, for so long.  I have been so happy just to have some quality of life that I frankly  can hardly justify hoping for more, much less asking for more. And being that I am still kind of decimated, I also can’t conceive of the energy to have or do this “more” even if it became an option.  No matter that he is an eyewitness to what this life has taken out of me, and no matter how much I may share about how it feels, how it has been for me, only God Himself will ever know, other than me, the cost and the sum of what I have lost, what in some cases has been stolen from me. I know a day is coming when I will be whole again, vital and full of life.  That’s enough for me.  I have mourned and let go of those things in the here and now, because I believe that the Apostle Paul has the right idea, learning to be content no matter what your circumstances, is the best way.  Anything the Lord wants to restore or gift to me in the remainder of my days on this Earth, will be pure bonus.  Icing on my fruitcake, lol.

It is enough knowing He has been faithful through it all.  That is why God allows us to hurt. It’s the whole point.   I am so, soooo grateful that I have an eternity of color to look forward to.  Probably colors up there that don’t even exist or if they do, we are too limited creatures to perceive them.  Let the heathen keep believing heaven is floating on clouds playing harps and singing hymns.  Heaven is gonna be fun! Learning, working, everything that is good about this life, only much, much more! No tears, no pain.  That’s already promised!

Hot diggity and Praise the Lord!   (How can we not?!?)

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What’s in YOUR future?

Next entry: Mommas Who Love Too Much