The Community Chalice

I have social anxiety. 

Not the disorder or anything that official. It’s just any time I do something social, then I have anxiety. 

I think that some of this comes from my childhood. As a child, I missed nothing. Though people tried to keep their pain from me, they could not see it was pointless. The same went for judgements, inferences, the way adults spoke in undertones about other people. 

I understood it all, but without the filter, the lens of maturity. 

Now, even as an adult, I hear their whispers each time I walk into a room. 

Did you see that she isn’t wearing makeup? How did she gain so much weight? I hear she tried to commit suicide. Well, I heard it was because her son is mentally retarded. No, I think it was because of their finances. You know, they once went through foreclosure. 

I’m a juicy piece of gossip, for sure. The truth is that those conversations may or may not be happening. Maybe they are just other people’s thoughts or maybe they are just my thoughts about other people’s thoughts. 

Here’s the thing. 

Its hard enough to manage my own thoughts, let alone trying to figure out those of other people. I’ll take the cup that is mine and pass on the communal chalice. 

My thoughts. 

I don’t have to believe them. I can step away from them and discern what is beneficial and what is not. 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover a way forward that doesn’t include recalling all of my past failures and faux pas. Maybe I’ll have the courage to embrace new thoughts. Thoughts of how I am loved, how my story has meaning and purpose, how my vulnerability can set others free. 

Candidly,

Ash

Waiting on the Rewards

I’ve come to notice that my satisfaction with the day is directly proportionate to the amount of time I spend writing. On days when the two-year-old is grumpy and needs extra affection and time? I feel less satisfied, because my writing takes a back seat. I become frustrated, because the one thing that I wanted to do in my day was cancelled, put on hold. 

I don’t like to put myself on hold. Maybe that’s a good thing. 

At the same time, I’m assuaged with a deep sense of guilt. Shouldn’t loving on my soon-to-be preschooler be enough or at least joy-filling? 

It’s not. 

It’s exhausting. Mothering is hard work.  They say it; they tell you it will be hard. They don’t do it justice. I can’t do it justice here – there are no words. 

Its rewarding, motherhood is. One of the other things they tell you. What they don’t say is when it will be rewarding. I’m still waiting. 

Sure, I have moments that are rewarding, sacredly sweet, but they don’t really compare to the amount of effort I’ve put in so far. Maybe the reward is grandchildren. Grandparents say its the most amazing thing, but I can’t vouch for the experience. 

While I’m waiting on that giant reward for all this mothering, I intend to give myself something to hold the peace in my life. That gift is writing. I hope that you find a gift to give yourself too – whether you are a mother or not. You deserve it.  

Candidly, 

Ash

Victory through Depression

Victory over depression. Those were the words that triggered me. 

You see, I tried that for a really long time – to rise up, to fight. 

But there are some battles that can’t be won through fighting. My victory over depression doesn’t look like life going back to normal. My victory looks like everything changing.

Depression taught me. It taught me to listen, to surrender. It taught me to appreciate the unknown, value the  hidden. 

From the moment I entered therapy, I was counseled that my depression was a mystery – not a battle, not a problem, not a crucifix. 

It has felt like a crucifix. It has felt like a problem. It has felt like a battle. 

It has always been a mystery, a mystery I value. 

When someone says “victory over depression”, I must shake my head negatively and say – 

Victory through depression. 

Candidly, 

Ash

Waiting to Exhale

I think sometimes life is like tugging on a rope. So many things to do, so many places to be – responsibility. 

I grip the rope too hard. All of the freaking time, I grip too hard. The rope burns my hands, scarring them for days to come. How do I pull without holding so hard?

I think the key is breathing while doing. Breathing at each interlude. Breathing in the heat of the moment. 

Exhale. A word said to me over and over in therapy. I hold my  breath and it only makes the tension worse. Breathe in strength. Breathe out exhaustion, frustration, ire. 

Breathe out. 

That is the key. 

Candidly, 

Ash

Through the Fog

The fog has rolled in, thick and grey and obscuring. It reminds me of looking at the future. You think you see something in the distance, but then its gone from your sight, only to flash closer again in a few minutes. In the fog, light refracts and it can be misleading, causing collisions and near misses. This is what it is like to count on something for the future, only to have it hit you head on when you least expect it or miss you completely. 

My future and questions about it have been on my mind constantly. Each time, I have to remember the fog, obscuring my long view. When I remember to stop scanning the distance desperately, then I am finally able to see what is in front of me. The tree with brilliant red and orange leaves reminds me that this season is not forever. The muddy ground fills me with the sense that the earth is absorbing all of the rain and will sprout grasses soon enough. The rain is all of the troubles I face, the muddy ground my soul absorbing the lessons to be learned. 

The Bible says that every day has enough trouble of its own. There is no need to dwell on the future. (Matthew 6:34) Even better, I like the words of Eckhart Tolle. “You create a good future by creating a good present.” Focusing on the distance in the fog is useless. It is the present that teaches us, preparing us for the future. 

Carpe Diem. 

Candidly, 

Ash

Laying Claim

Afraid of wanting.

That’s where I am at today. To want something is to face disappointment head on. I think that is sometimes why I don’t admit to myself that I want things.

I want things to be more meaningful. I want to write my truth. I want to write fiction. I want the is in my head to manifest into actual things.

I want so badly to be free.

I am afraid that these things will never manifest. Yet, it all starts with today. What do I do today to set myself free? Do I sit down and write or say that children running around prevented me? Do I let there be excuses? Do I see the meaning in the little things?

Because all of it is there. All of it is possible.

If only I claim it.

Candidly,

Ash

Letting Go…

Evan paces constantly, picking up items and throwing them down in random spots. He doesn’t play. He just moves from one spot to the next bringing items back and forth. Along the way, he’ll fidget with them, trying to feel the textures.

At least, that is what it looks like he is doing.

Anymore, I’ve stopped wondering if there is more too it. Anymore, I am just weary of the constant movement. Just. Sit. Still. Please.

It’s frustrating – to watch him do nothing but this pacing. It reminds me that he’s abnormal, different, other. I have tried in the past to be fascinated with his otherness, to see his differences with rose-colored glasses. Then, an awareness came to me – I’m looking for something that isn’t there.

Cognitive delay.

I have fought with people over this. I have insisted he knows everything we say, that he is smart. Then, I watch as my husband asks him to pick up a toy and he picks up a blanket. I watch as he paces and I wonder how long have I been clinging to something that isn’t there.

I think the difficulty of autism is the unknown. It truly is possible that Evan is smart. It truly is possible that he has cognitive delay. Depending on the definition of smart, he might have or be both.

Then, I realize as I watch him pace that I am doing the same thing as him. Re-walking the same threads of thought, a pacing of the mind.

But I don’t have to.

I am the consciousness that listens to my thoughts – and lets them go. I let go of the unknown. I let go of whether he is or isn’t smart, whether he knows what i am saying.

As I let go, I am set free.

If only he could be too.

Candidly,

Ash