Where. To. Begin?

At the beginning of quarantine in March, being completely honest, I wasn’t in a good place.  I was overwhelmed.  Drowning in stress and pressure.

I needed a break.

A break from life.

My parents are snowbirds, and above all else, I knew they needed a break.

The past year has been overwhelming for all of us.  Them, especially.

When my grandma was moved into assisted living in 2016, my dad and his sister never saw eye to eye on the care of my grandma.  But, we dealt with it.  My dad making the tough decisions, being the bad guy.  All to ensure my grandma’s safety.

Responsibility was “shared.”

But over the past year, his sisters involvement declined.

Long story short, she stopped showing up.

So, we stepped up.

Lot’s of things happened.  Her husband fell.  Traumatic things happened.  We realized she wasn’t taking care of herself.  But, despite the desire to help someone, you cannot force someone to care for themselves.

You just can’t.

So when we discussed whether or not my parents would take the much needed few months break, I stepped up.

Willingly.

I took on the normal responsibility that I have for several years, helping collect mail, pay bills.  Adulting stuff.  But then I added in caring for my grandma.

Many times over the winter, I kept reminding myself that I am grateful for the time I have been given to spend with her.  Sometimes, I had to remind myself of that fact repeatedly.  Because, at 96, she isn’t caring for herself at the same level that she has so bravely and fiercely done since her husband died 45 years ago.

And then I had to take care of my brother after he broke his knee.  Which is an even larger complication.  Despite the fact that he and I had barely spoken over the last 8 years…he’s still my brother.  So I took the time off work.  And I was there for him.

Even while going through his surgery, I knew that God was working.  I can’t always say I agreed with or appreciated how He was working.  I still knew he was working.

And then quarantine happened.

Again, overwhelmed and stressed, and in desperate need of a break, I felt relief that I didn’t have to do anything except stay home.

Except, when you’re quarantined with just yourself, and your dog (who is ADORABLE AND AMAZING, but not a very good conversationalist) I found myself alone.  With myself.

There were days, there ARE days, I barely recognize myself.

Who is this person that I have become?

Though I tried to put on a good show most of the time, I started to spiral  Not completely out of control.  But I just haven’t been the person that I have become.  The person I worked so hard to be.

I was breaking down.

Now, before you get too worried…

I truly believe that in the process of breaking down, you lose a part of yourself.  But the key point being, you often lose part of yourself that you didn’t really need to be in the first place.

But let me tell you…even though some of those pieces needed to be lost…it’s TOUGH!!

My parents got home.  And things started feeling like they were on a slightly more even keel.  Except that’s a dangerous place to be.  Because, life happens.

My aunt died.

Plain and simple.  She died.  She refused to take care of herself.  The very last conversation my dad had with her was telling her to reach out.  She needed help.  But instead, she gave in.  And her health, that she had blatantly ignored for far too long, gave up.  She died.

My dad and I handled it.  We are steady.  And we deal with what needs to be dealt with.  And I continued to fall apart.

It hasn’t been easy, at all.  I have felt the absolute most despair of loneliness.

I know, and have known, that I am the caregiver in the family.  I have always known that I would be the one to take care of my parents.  When I moved home 8 years ago, that was a big part of the reason why.

I didn’t expect that to happen immediately.  Though, it did, because…life.

And I certainly didn’t expect to be doing it all alone.

I figured somewhere along the way, God would help a girl out and finally bring me my husband.

He hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t tried to force the issue.  Because, to combat the overwhelming loneliness, I signed up for online dating.  Again.

I met a lot of idiots.

One person, I thought I made a genuine connection with.  But for reasons I still don’t understand, it fell apart.  Pushing me even further into my pit of loneliness and despair.

I feel alone.

Heck…

I AM alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing and wonderful friends and family.  But for the big stuff, it’s just me.  And I’m not saying that trying to have a pity party.  That is the furthest thing from what I want.  It’s just a simple fact.

I am alone.

And while it’s tough to accept that when that is the last thing that I want, the last thing I ever thought I would have to do, I know that I need to accept it.  Learn to deal with it.  And keep moving forward.

I honestly don’t know where this crazy year will take any of us.

But…

From the very beginning, I knew that something good would come from all of this insanity.  I.  Just.  Knew.

I still feel that.

But looking at the last few months, the absolute unbelievable things that have happened.  I still can’t wrap my head around all of it.  I’m not sure it’s possible to right now.

One day, I hope that all of this makes sense.  It is my hope and my faith that all of it will.

But I will also say that this just sucks right now.  All of it.

Ok, I take that back.  Not all of it.  Because, let me tell you what else happened.  I needed to get out of Dodge for a few days.  So…I went to visit my brother.  He and I had conversations that we have needed to have for many years.  Conversations that he certainly wasn’t ready to have before.  But, we finally had them.  And I can’t say that I walked away smiling.  In fact, I may have referred to part of the conversation as the final nail in the coffin that I really am here alone, because he wants no part in helping care for our family.  But actually having the conversation was a step forward for us.

I cannot, nor will I, say that I’m in a great place right now.

But what I can finally say is that I know my worth.  And even though that is a HUGE burden to carry at times, I know my worth.

And that, my friends, is a start.

Life is a Marathon…

…not a sprint.

Running a marathon has turned into a vitally important part of my life.  And not just because the process of running a marathon is what eventually led me to rebuild my relationship with God.  But that’s a story for another time.

Our spiritual walk is a lot like running a marathon.  Maybe you’ve never ran a marathon before…so let me help you out here.  

A marathon is 26.2 miles.  The only distance of a race that can be classified a marathon is 26.2 miles.  That’s a really long dadgum race to run. And a lot can take place during that run.  

Our own spiritual walk can parallel a marathon as well.

Roll with me on this one.

First of all, all of the training, and all of the preparation is something that you must do yourself.  No one can do it for you. In order to be successful, you must do the training yourself. I’m not saying that you can’t have help along the way.  But you must put in the work to receive the reward at the end. And from personal experience, you can put in varying degrees of effort during your training.  But also know, the more you slack during training, the more painful parts of the race will be. Hello, consequences.

At the beginning of the marathon, there is a lot of fanfare, fireworks, music, etc.  Big things are happening! At the moment you cross the start line, there is so much adrenaline pumping through your body that you are positive that you are going to fly through those 26.2 miles!  And in our own spiritual walk, maybe not at the beginning of your walk with God, but maybe even at the beginning of a new chapter with your walk, there is excitement. You feel God like you have never felt Him before.  There is this big new plan for God to guide you through. And you are excited!! This is going to be AWESOME!!!

But then, that second step, though.

For me, running a marathon, my wall has always come very early.  Like, mile 2 early. You’ve heard about this before, right? That brick wall you metaphorically run into, and everything is awful and terrible and there is absolutely no possible way that you can carry on and this is absolutely the dumbest thing you have ever done.  Yeah, I hit that before mile 2. During a 26.2 miles race.

Because, once you get past all of the fanfare at the beginning, reality starts to set in.  Holy guacamole, you are running a really long distance. The spiritual walk can be the same way.  You can wake up one day, not long after you feel this call from God, and the reality of your life completely changing can overwhelm you.  Overwhelm you to the point that you absolutely cannot go on. This is absolutely the dumbest thing you have ever done.

It is at this point that some people just give in.  They quit. It happens all the time.

But what happens if you don’t quit?

You keep moving forward.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other. And you push past that wall.  You realize that yes, you do still have a long way to go. But it’s ok. You. Can.  Do. It.

During the race, there will be times that you run with people.  You talk, and pass the time. And it makes that part of the race a little easier.  Other times, you will feel completely alone. You have no one to talk to. No one to support you.  Or so it feels. So you’re just out there, all alone. Running. There are times where there is a big crowd cheering you on.  Everyone shouting, and cheering and supporting you. Even if they don’t know you. And life is so amazing, you feel like a rock star.  But then you keep moving forward, and the crowd thins out, and there isn’t any cheering. And you definitely don’t feel like a rock star anymore.  

But still, you keep moving forward.  

Mile marker after mile marker after mile marker are now behind you.  

And all of a sudden, there it is.  Mile marker 26. You have .2 miles to go!  

There is a crowd.  And you can see the finish line.  And you can see the people handing out the medals.  And right behind them, oh thank goodness you see the med tent full of ice packs!!  

And just like that.  You just ran a marathon.

Our spiritual walk can be tough at times.  You will meet people along the way that will support you.  And you will also meet people along the way that are going to try to get you to stray away from your goal.  Sometimes you will feel so supported that you just know there is no way that you can fail. Then other times that you feel so alone that you might as well just quit.

Some people are faster than you.  Some people are slower than you. Some are stronger.  Some are weaker. No matter what, you can support people along the way.  

But one thing finally hit me about running a marathon.  You might be running this race by yourself. But you are not running this race alone.  

There are other people on the very same journey that you are on.  It’s going to look different for everyone. But we are all running a race.

Just.  Don’t. Quit.  You got this.