The Bookcase

I’m an avoider. It’s in my DNA. I stuff things down and move on, because there’s never time to dwell on or drown in sadness. This is both my greatest strength and weakness—because life is TOUGH.

I lost my grandparents, who adopted and raised me, at the age of 18 and 20. I grieved in the moment and then placed it on a shelf—my mental bookcase—and moved on. I became detached in college and lost my way for a while. I recovered, and then in the span of a few years, my family experienced a number of tragedies. I lost immediate family members to cancer, drowning, a car accident, a murder-suicide, and my mom to a massive heart attack at forty-seven. I kept allowing myself to grieve only in the moment and quickly pack these losses away. My bookcase became full—there was no room left to stuff things down. Long-bottled-up emotions and grief exploded into my first panic attack and a trip to the ER with what I was certain was a heart attack, even though I was in my early-to-mid twenties. I was married with two small babies, and I was broken—because I never allowed myself to really grieve. I didn’t have time. I had school, then work, and then a family on top of it. There was always too much to do—I never felt like I had the “luxury” to succumb to sadness.

Here’s what I learned. Shoving things down is a temporary solution, because there’s only so much space before you break. Whether you address things in the moment or you wait five years until your bookcase overflows and crashes down on you, you will at some point have to face all of the hard stuff.  I learned to have faith and let go of things beyond my control. I learned that grief becomes heavier the longer you carry it. I learned that forgiveness is a prerequisite to peace. I learned that family isn’t always blood, and blood isn’t always family. I learned that the opinions of others cannot dictate my truth. I learned to fill my bookcase with things that I am thankful for and surround myself with people who bring joy. I learned to focus on all that I have instead of all that’s been lost. I learned to work through the hard stuff instead of avoiding it. I learned to breathe and have faith that no matter the struggle, my God is bigger.

Of course, I still struggle, but that is life. I still feel anxious, sad, or overwhelmed at times. But now I make a conscious effort to choose gratitude over despair, forgiveness over grudges, and faith over worry.  Slowly but surely, I am finding my way.

As seen in Modern Grace Magazine