Peace on the Horizon

My wonderful, amazing husband shared this with me not too long ago and I told him I would love to be able to share it on my blog, so he wrote it up. I hope you all find it as thought-provoking and inspiring as I did.

It’s interesting how images and photographs can sometimes convey so much more than is apparent at first glance.  I have a series of three photographs hanging in my office.  They were taken by a very talented friend of mine, Alli McPhail (@alli_eliz on Instagram), and are of Lake Michigan, a place with significant meaning to me.  The photographs are stunning!  The angle of shot, the moments captured, the framing and color; it all comes together so beautifully.  Although I appreciate the quality of those photographs, it is the symbolism of their contents that immediately grasped my attention and drove my desire to display them.

All three photographs are of the water.  Yep, just water.

The first image shows the gentle ebb and flow found on the surface of the water.  Gradual lulls and slow drops with subtle ripples fill the frame.  To me, this symbolizes day-to-day life with its slight ups and downs that gently rock and sway.  The high moments offer a broader glimpse of the good in life, while the lows bring things closer and into focus.  It is in these moments we live most of our lives.  Not the super highs and triumphant joys we can (and hopefully) experience, nor the very difficult struggles we go through.  Just the normalcy of an overall peaceful and content existence.  We aren’t knocked around, there’s no fear or danger, just a movement in which we find peace and happiness in sync with the waves.  In these times, it is easier to go about our lives.  It is easier to appreciate the joys we have.  It is easier to work through difficult emotions, slight conflicts, and disappointments.  It is easier to be strong for others.  In these moments, we feel at peace and recognize our worth.

The second image shows a different moment in the water.  The gentle ebb and flow of a wave is being displaced by a crashing, tumultuous one that will completely rock the surface of the water.  The two are at odds, pitted against each other in a beautifully captured moment.  The peace of the gentle wave can still be seen, but the viewer knows it is fleeting and will soon be destroyed by the overwhelming crash of the raging one.  To me, this is an image I know all too well.  In me lives this moment far too often.  Two sides of me fight over unbearable conflicts and disparaging situations.  My gentle days are often disrupted in this brutal manner by situations and circumstances in my life which are both in and out of my control.  I find myself at war; logic versus emotion, the past versus the present, desires versus needs, perception versus reality.  This photo displays the warring parts of me in breathtaking beauty.  In these times, it is much more difficult to see beyond the wave crashing upon us.  It is much more difficult to focus on joy, on peace, on value and worth.  Big crashing moments overtake us, causing fear, causing intensity, causing worry and doubt as they become all we feel and see.  In these moments, I struggle to get through them, desperately seeking the gentle waves while finding it difficult to believe I deserve the peace it would bring.  More often than not, my only course of action is to try and hold on, let it crash upon me, and wait it out while hoping it doesn’t leave irreparable wreckage behind.  I find myself struggling to keep my emotions in check, struggle to see beyond the immediate heartache and difficulty, and struggle to even do the things which can bring me peace once again.

I will admit there have been times where I barely, barely held on.  Where waiting it out seemed an impossible task.  Where the crashing, tumultuous wave seemed too great to ever find peace in its wake.  But it does pass.  Even writing that seems difficult to believe, but I know it to be true.  When nothing is causing water to have waves, the water will settle and be completely at peace.  I believe our lives are meant to be at peace.  I believe our default setting is to be at peace.  Fighting through those dark moments and holding on to a broader perspective can help us see past the moments which thrash us about.  Holding on, even to a rocking boat, can help us get through it.

This brings me to the third photograph.  A photo of water stretching out before me and going much further than I am able to see.  In the foreground of this photo are those gentle waves, but some of the highs are higher than others and some of the lows lower than hoped for.  In the foreground, one can see clearly the broken surface of the water with its many ripples, shaping moments and variety.  Moving our eyes up towards the horizon, however, the water appears to gradually smooth out until it becomes a flat, straight line separating water and sky.  From this distance, we cannot see the ebb and flow, the highs and lows, the crashing waves and tumultuous moments.  From this distance, the water appears to be completely at peace.  The further the distance, the more peaceful the water appears.

To me, this image is all about perspective.  When difficult things are fresh and up close to me, the waves seem greater than those in which I’m able to distance myself.  When I have time to ponder, to heal, or to work things out, the difficult times are pushed away and become smooth.  This may be done through physically distancing myself from the situation at times, or by allowing time and realistic thinking to smooth out my reactions.  Over distance and time, moments of difficulty in life can be displaced by the broader perspective of peace which overlays our lives.  Negative self-talk dissipates, worst-case scenario thinking dissolves, and the warring sides within me come to peace.  When I’m able to broaden my perspective, I’m able to find peace.

Some may live in one photo more than the other ones.  Many are blessed to live in the first image most of their lives, while others find themselves tossed about in the second photo for much of theirs.  Every experience, much like every wave, can be different and beautiful and scary and peaceful and heartbreaking and joyous.  But, especially if we buoy each other, the size or intensity of the waves won’t crush us.  We can all find peace on the horizon.

Real Identity Theft

A few days ago I was looking through an old journal and came across an entry from about a month after my daughter was born.

“Who I am lies dormant in words that are packed away beneath stacks of notebooks. I am forgotten, unknown poems, unable to bring them back to life inside of me. If anyone should ask where I am, this is where I’d tell them to look.”

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I had forgotten just how much postpartum depression steals your identity from you. It is the truest form of real, actual identity theft. Some women get it back after a month, a few months, a year. I didn’t begin to start feeling like myself again for three years. And even then, there were parts of my self that never came back. I lost so much.

After reading this journal entry, remembering, pondering, I realized what a good place I’m in right now. I know who I am again. I have a sense of self, and I can be that self. And I like who I am. I feel strong, confident, independent, though able to admit when I need help and ask for it, and I’m happy. Life isn’t without its struggles, and sometimes I get down, feel disappointed, am sad. But I am still me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to get through those hard times without letting them consume me.

Is There a Point?

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Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point in continuing to do this – to do anything, really, I guess. What’s the point of any of it? I try so hard, yet I never seem to be able to move forward in life. This road I’m on is full of speed bumps of disappointment, u-turns of mistakes and crashes of hurt. How do you keep going when you see nothing but fog and darkness ahead?

 

The Way My Mind Works

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I hate doing things wrong, and I hate disappointing people. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. Yes, the picture above is an accurate depiction of what my house looks like most of the time! I do, however, like certain things done in a certain way, and I like them done right. I have often been that mother who corrects her kids’ grammar, though I’m trying harder not to because no one likes to be corrected. I don’t like to be corrected—because if I am, it means I’ve done something wrong or I’ve disappointed someone, and that causes my own feeling of disappointment and guilt.

Classic example—yesterday I made a mistake at work. I did something wrong. It wasn’t entirely my fault. My boss could have communicated better, sooner, exactly what she wanted or meant, but as her employee I have a job to do, and I’m supposed to do it the right way. I felt terrible when I discovered my mistake. Like knife-in-the-gut terrible. I tried telling myself it was an honest mistake, that it wasn’t really my fault, but the lies didn’t work. I continued to obsess about it, to feel bad about, to think about what I should have done differently, and wondered what my boss must be thinking of me. That one is the worst—to go over all of the things she could be thinking about me and what a bad employee I am. In reality, she’s probably not. She probably understands it was just a mistake because she’s a really great person, but . . . what if? What if she regrets hiring me? What if she is disappointed in me? What if she despises me? How could I have done something so stupid and wrong? These are the thoughts that plague my mind when I don’t do a job the right way.