No One is Alone

Last week was a rough week. We’re struggling. It’s nothing new, but it feels new to say it here so very frequently. Maybe new isn’t the correct word. Maybe “uncomfortable” is the word I am looking for. I am used to handing out my struggles in snippets and side stories, not in full disclosure. This “Candid” blog thing is really different. I mean, I’ve written about my struggles before – that is not new at all. I guess sharing my struggles this frequently is uncomfortable, challenging in a different way.

I have to be honest with myself.

Really, “Candidly Ash” is probably just a message to myself to keep it real and in greater frequency than before.

Back to the struggling…

Friday night my husband and I sat on our bed. The covers have marker spots and spill spots from various children, despite incessant washing. I fingered at a new mark – mascara? Who knows. I said words to him about the futility of life. Running on an empty tank. It honestly reminded me a little bit of that song “Going the Distance” by Cake (follow the link to listen). In the song, a man is racing for a something he yearns for, except the race is actually over and no one is watching. Sometimes we race, not for an audience, but for ourselves and the people we love. No one sees it; no one commends us. On and on we go. That song by Cake is honestly a stellar piece of poetry in my opinion. Too bad they made it a song. Ha!

I’m digressing. Back to the talking to my husband.

Somewhere in the discussion, I talked about waiting for things to get better and that maybe I would just set a deadline and if things weren’t better by then….Well, maybe that would be the time to end it all. You know, suicide. It was silent then, as I buried my face apathetically into a pillow. I couldn’t even cry.

Then, he whispered, “Please don’t leave me.”

And I cried at the sound of his desperate words. I don’t have a date or deadline and I’m not leaving him anytime soon. No plans, no actions. Just thoughts.

Then, after our really solid crying, we moved onto the portion of the evening in which we distract ourselves with TV.

It’s probably my favorite part of the day, because we always watch *something* together. We aren’t really one of those couples who do separate things in the evening. Like we always come back from the ugliness of the day by staring at Netflix. Precious Netflix.

Of course, we decided that since it was the weekend a movie would be good and so we ended up watching a Denzel Washington movie that the XBOX was offering up for free. It was called “The Book of Eli”. I’m not really into spoiling movies for people so here is a one sentence synopsis. A man defends the last copy of the Bible post-apocalypse. Pretty interesting concept and Denzel is, as always, superb.

Later that night, at the 3:00 AM hour, I woke up and on a slight whim decided to read my Bible. I literally read for an hour, just randomly paging to different spots. After coming across multiple spots where the Bible lists genealogies (so annoying) I turned over to Job and read how God decided Satan could basically lambaste Job with suffering. In fact, God even partakes in the lambasting.

Job responds and his friends respond and there is a lot of dramatic monologue by various parties. Of course, Job’s script is the best and some day I vow to make a video just quoting Job, because its fabulously honest and ugly and beautiful. Honestly, it is hard for me to narrow down my favorite parts, but I’ll try.

I would rather be strangled – rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.

Job 7:15-16, NLT

Yeah, I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. I feel that.

I find it extremely comforting and ridiculously morbid that I enjoy reading other people’s suicidal thoughts. Yet, I think that is precisely  what I need and what other people need. It is why I write my own thoughts here.

No one is alone.

I may think I’m the only one running on fumes. I may not want to go on.

But I’m not the only one.



P.S. Songs enter my mind all of the freaking time. When I typed “No one is alone.” I thought of this song from “Into the Woods” and when I wrote “But I’m not the only one” I heard John Lennon singing “Imagine.” I think my brain is just a giant song database, honestly. Ha!


The Magnifying Glass

There are times in life when the ache is surreal. The mind can’t possibly fathom how life could be this way – one thing after another, no stopping or pausing for the heart. Sometimes, these moments seem amplified, because of the grief or the fear that is being carried.

When I became a parent, I never imagined that at nine-years-old my son would not talk or communicate his needs. When I dreamed of the future, there was no non-verbal child riding next to me. Then, slowly, I realized that his words, sentences, phrases, writing or even singing would never happen (though I still hold out desperate hope). Suddenly, every ache, every pain was held under a magnifying glass called autism.

It Happens to Everyone

Like many normal families, we always timed our Chick-fil-a dinner slightly before or after the dinner rush. It was worth it to have the playground to ourselves or just a few others. We had three small ones at that time, all under four-years-old. Having the playground to ourselves was of prime importance and worth every hangry child by which we were accompanied.

We sat in our booth next to the glass windows overlooking the playroom, waiting for our food. He shrieked and cried with the best of wailing. “Please, Lord, let the food come soon!” I prayed, knowing it was the only thing that could make him happy.

Except it didn’t.

He grew louder and more angry by the second, until he started knocking his head against the glass window. I rushed from across the table, blocking his head from hitting the fragile frame, but not before the glass panes bounced and resounded from the force. Everyone was looking at us. The “control-your-child” stares induced my shame.

Like my father and probably his father before him, my husband took him to the car. Once he was calm, he brought our son back into the restaurant, at which point the screaming and crying began again. This time though, he thrust his wrist into his mouth and bit down. The shrieks were louder now, his flailing body in pain. When I finally pulled his arm away it was bleeding profusely in the shape of his own teeth.

We exited the restaurant then.

As we sat in the car, I turned to my husband and said, “I think there is something going on with our son.” Putting the car in reverse and looking over his shoulder, he said, “Yes, I think so.”

Magnify [mag-nuh-fahy] v. to increase the apparent size; attribute too much importance; exaggerate

A simple trip with hangry children, every parent has been there. Everyone has been stared at for one reason or another. The shame and the pain are familiar. Yet, the real sadness of that story isn’t in the familiar tale. The real sadness comes from a lens held up to the scene. This particular magnifying lens helps me to scrutinize the scene like a detective – amplifying the evidence.

This is just one lens.

We all have lenses. Some of mine include depression, anxiety, grief, loneliness. A day off appears to be a colossal waste of time and existence under the lens of depression. A day off plays out as laziness under the lens of anxiety . A day off becomes a day of mourning under the lens of grief . A day off under the lens of loneliness? Solitary confinement.

In life, I want to be careful to step back from my lenses every now and then. At times, I need to be a bystander of my pain, reflecting on it without the distortion of magnification. Only then can I see the pain for what it is. In this way, a demon becomes a teacher, forever becomes a day, and tomorrow a ray of hope.

Let the Pain Move through You

I didn’t know adulthood would be this way.  I didn’t know there would be so much pain, so much less for which to live. Sure, there ARE so many beauties to behold, so many paths to walk, so many dreams to dream. Yet, there are just so many bills and crying children and lots of holding the space for people, for myself.

It’s a challenge – the holding of space. When I dreamed of homeschooling, I followed a lovely mother who had so much knowledge about “teach-moming”. She talked about holding the space like it was a sacred thing. Her idea appealed to me so much that I bought every printable, curriculum, book thingy she could possibly create.

The idea of “holding the space” was that sometimes the small people simply need people to be quiet. They need adults to be calm. They need others to pause. The instinct, when the shrill screaming of a small one rents the atmosphere, is to rush to them and say words, to instruct. I am instantly in their face and fixing/breaking things. I mean to fix things, but most of the time I break things instead. I break small spirits. I crush opportunities for growth and decimate plains of open feeling.

I found this principle, combined with assertiveness and observation, to be the most altering of any parenting technique. When I stopped and held the space, the small people could do all that they needed to do and so could I. The pause, the observance, the stillness allowed them to calm themselves. Sometimes they didn’t, but the holding of space also allowed me to calm myself. I always responded better when I was calm and still do today.

I found the idea of holding space to be similar to holding the note at the end of a song. In choir or band, we would look to the conductor and just hold the note, waiting for her to signal the stop. Similarly, in parenting a climax or crescendo might erupt from the small people and I would be the conductor to whom they were looking. If I cut the note short, then everyone was less satisfied. If I let it resonate, echo and dissipate, then the satisfaction of an ending could occur.

Pain is like a small child too. It needs me to hold the space – to pause, observe, resonate and diminish. It needs the process, the movement, the freedom to be the place where time and meaning great each other. The problem is that I didn’t have enough people holding the space for me while I was growing up. The eruption of pain was a geyser of uncontrollable proportions.


Like a geyser with hot steaming water shooting into the air, my pain shot into the atmosphere spreading its deluge of scalding energy. It makes me imagine the person who discovered geysers. Frantically, they must have sought cover, desperately trying to reshape a world where water poured endlessly from the ground. Water from the ground – mind boggling.

This is the way I viewed pain my whole life, because the space was so rarely held for me. I needed someone to pause and watch, noticing the diminishing of the onslaught of scalding water from the ground. To show me that the geyser would come and go. Pausing to watch the magnificent spectacle was all that I needed. Watching it rise higher and higher, then temper to a small spray easing itself into a trickle that I could touch without being harmed.

This is the process of pain.

I need only let it move through me. Maybe through deep breaths or tears, perhaps pounding pillows or squeezing them tight, stepping into the heat or the cold and closing my eyes, walking the path in a nearby park, standing or dancing in the rain, listening to the music or holding the pregnant pause – these are things pain needs from me. These are the things I need from myself

“Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Allow it to be there. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace.” Eckhart Tolle