I was one angry kid growing up. I was “that kid” in school who a classmate would look at or would touch me and I would fly off the handle. I had high emotions about everything. One time at my christian school, I kicked a hydraulic door so hard that the door and its closer detached from each other. There are many other things I did to others, and possessions, in the heat of an anger fit. This was during a time when no one knew what to do with kids who had impulse control problems and my parents did the best that they could. But I was a lot. In addition to the fact that they had 3 other kids, sometimes more when we were fostering.
So, often, what I was told to do was go to my room, beat up my bed mattress, and come out to join the family when I had composed myself. Like I said, I do have grace for my parents with all that they were dealing with, but that also started a rewiring of my brain very young. As I grew up, when I couldn’t act out in high school, college, and later on in life, I mastered the art of masking my feelings, stuffing them, and always putting on a happy face. Later on in life, I perfected the “art” of passive aggressiveness, which worked “great” for me because I always had the last word. It took me a long time to change that about myself.
Real change happened for me probably in the last 15 years in this aspect. Pete and I worked really hard on dealing with stressful situations better than we had in the past, pushing each other to talk about things, not avoid them, and definitely not go to sleep (my number one mode of avoidance.)
I say all of this to say that we all have our lives figured out, if this happens, life will be great…but we all have and will run into roadblocks. Several weeks ago, when I came up to this road closure sign, which meant that I couldn’t go to the spot where I feel closest to God and Pete, I had a choice. At first, I was angry and I thought that everything in my life would only get better if I were able to just get to that spot. That day, though, I chose to not let that happening affect how my day went. I went to another of our spots, off the beaten path and on a dirt road, of course, to spend my time with God and Pete.
Since then, I’ve driven to both sides of the closure several times. The most recent time I went back, I made a decision to find a new spot and spent time with God and Pete. The lesson for all of us, including me, is that we have a choice when we encounter roadblocks. Sometimes these roadblocks come about because of our decisions and sometimes because of the decisions of others. Sometimes, it’s just that “life sucks and I didn’t want things to happen that way.”
But, at that moment, we have a choice. First of all, my encouragement is to deal with the emotions you have in that moment. Don’t stuff or ignore them as they will always come up, affecting your mental health, physical health, emotional health, and/or spiritual health. Spend the time you need with those emotions. Go on an angry run, cry, scream, journal, or whatever works for you to deal with your emotions, do it. I give myself a timeframe for that then schedule out the rest of my day to not give them any more time than I need to.
My second encouragement is to pivot. One amazing thing about God is that He can do His work with or without us. Once we choose to do His will, with every choice, we work in tandem with God and He’s amazing to show up for us. He listens, acknowledges and validates the emotions we have but patiently encourages us to make good choices, to do His will in it.
Here are some pictures from my most recent visit to “our mountain.”
This spot was just as beautiful. It helped me feel just as close to Pete and God and I’m blessed because I decided to not let the roadblock have the last word.
Another important point is that every roadblock has a great amount of pressure. I’ve had people say that they’ve not spoken to me about their [roadblock] because of my [roadblock] and while I appreciate people’s sensitivity to mine, that doesn’t lessen the power that their roadblock has to hurt or bless their life. It doesn’t minimize how big and overwhelming that roadblock is to the person experiencing it. God knows that any roadblock can become a hindrance for someone following Him and that there are big emotions attached to them. He shows up for it all. He doesn’t leave or forsake us. He already knows what we are thinking, so we might as well yell, talk, scream, or cry with Him to work through our emotions. He’s so good like that.
Someone I recently met asked me where God has been through the almost 4 months since Pete died. At first, I said that He’s been close to me, right at my side. After a second, I corrected myself as I wanted to more accurately express how it’s been. He has literally carried me by grabbing me from under my armpits, like in Chicago Fire or 9-1-1, to safety. He has also walked through the fire with me. I recently was at a retreat that I attended before Pete passed away and someone reminded me how I said that I wanted to choose to not be mad at God if Pete died. I hadn’t remembered saying that until another attendee from last year confirmed it. I never once yelled at God for taking Pete from me. I never once yelled at God for how the past two years went down. I yelled at God, in my despair and heartache, but not that He was “doing that to me.”
As always, we are so grateful for the ways you all keep showing up for us, whether it’s financial, emotional, just checking in on us via message, text, or a call. All of these efforts to be God’s hands and feet, in such a big time facing this big roadblock of life without Pete, are seen and appreciated. I have given myself grace and acknowledged that, even though I have a friend at the ready to write thank you notes, I don’t remember who did what around that time and that you all would give me grace in that as well. Because that’s just how you are. You know that I’m doing the best that I can, that our family appreciated every expression of love and care towards, and that we are beyond words grateful.