For Someone I Love

Someone dear to me requested a blog post this morning.  I think she wanted something funny, like a rant to say, "Poop on the world!" You know, that kind of thing.  And I could do a rant.  I've been wanting to do one about cliche phrase for a long time.  It would go a little something like this:

When life gives you lemons throw them at all your breakables.
or
Stick a fork in it--literally! (Long time readers of my blog know I don't use that word lightly)
or
When push comes to shove, fight dirty.
or
There is light at the end of the tunnel, but you're probably dead if you see it.
or
My bark is actually smaller than my bite.

I could seriously go on and on.  And that would be a fun blog post, but I decided to post something serious.  Those of you who had fun with the first part can turn back now, or go enter my contest to win a free signed book in the next post, or leave me a comment telling me a cliche phrase you hate and how you would change it.  This next part is long.  And it's serious.  And it's personal.  I only feel I can post it now because it's about something that is quite definitely in my past.  And it's something the person who this blog post is for helped me through. This is not advice or me telling anyone else what to do.  I'm not trying to say just do this and everything will be okay.  I hate it when people say "just" (another rant for another day).  This is simply my own personal journey to healing.

Love you, You-Know-Who.  

The Empty Doll


For the last little while I haven’t been able to shake an image from my mind. It’s a strange picture, not that I’m a stranger to the strange, but this time it’s personal, a self portrait of sorts. In my mind’s eye I see a version of my face painted in thin, skilled brush strokes on the upper portion of a Russian nesting doll. From the outside I notice that I look like any other nesting doll, brightly colored with floral patterns in smooth, flowing brushstrokes around my face and along the lower portion of my rounded wooden body. I’m not too old, my paint is still shiny with only a few small chips and a bit of dust and dirt on my outer layer. For the most part I think you could say my doll has been well cared for.  To any passerby or casual observer it would seem that nothing is amiss. But when I look at my shell in the proverbial self-portrait, I know something that most others don’t. For though the seam in my middle is thin and barely visible now that it has been tightly shut, not too long ago it came apart, spilling all of the interior pieces and mini me’s on the floor. Since that time I’ve been slowly picking them up again, and discovering that some have been lost, damaged and even discarded in the process. The result is a fact that has been staring me in the face for a while now, but it’s a fact that I’ve been trying to resist: I’m not the same person I was a few months ago, and try as I will to pretend that I am to the outside world and even myself, I can’t deny there is an emptiness that didn’t exist before, and it’s left a hollow feeling in my chest.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Not a person has lived on this earth without passing through sorrow. Yet, I also know that despite the shared human experience each individual’s pain is unique. I’m not ashamed to say that for quite a long while I’ve been focusing on my pain. The only thing that seemed to give me any relief from the void I felt where I had been broken, were mindless and often pointless distractions, distractions that seemed preferable to the questions that filled my mind in their absence. Questions like, what am I supposed to do with a broken doll? Or, How can I ever get back to who I was before? And, Am I worth anything to anyone this way? I’ve felt angry and sad and resentful, feelings which all led to the biggest question of all, Why? What is the purpose of suffering? At times over the past weeks I’ve been truly contemplative, but often my question have been desperate, angry and hopeless, and though I tried to fool myself into thinking they were inquiries, I knew often they were rhetorical , more statements of bitterness than anything else, and I couldn’t see how things were ever going to get better. But then something unexpected happened while I was sitting in church, only half listening to the speaker one Sunday. As I often did, I again went through my many questions, when a single thought came to my mind. You choose what fills the void. That one sentence changed me or at least it changed my perspective. Suddenly I could see what had happened as a fork in the road and a potential turning point in my life.

I believe we all have some sort of metaphorical container that represents who we are and we fill it up day by day with activities and beliefs and priorities. When life runs smoothly it’s easy to get full on what is frivolous or temporary, amusements, social events, shopping, television, things that don’t require as much effort and seem to make us happy. Then something happens that turns our world upside down and we watch as all the things we filled our lives with fall out on the table or floor. We see it all laid out clearly and for some reason it no longer seems as appealing. But we know the emptiness isn’t right either. A vessel’s purpose is to hold something inside otherwise it is susceptible to mold and dust and cobwebs or any number of opportunistic inhabitants. So we stare at the components of our life, realizing some of them are rotten, broken or maybe just outdated and we have to decide what to do with them. Do we pick up the pieces of the life we once knew, put the same objects back in that were there before? If they are broken do we replace them with light fillers, more tv or video games, more socializing, more internet, and other sources of entertainment, only to have our lives become less solid, less stable, easier to topple, until the cycle starts over again. Only the next time we get knocked over the pieces on the table or floor seem more bleak, less varied, less fulfilling. Or do we take our blank space, that feels like an unbearable trial and see it for what it really is, an opportunity, a new start, a chance to fill up with something solid and lasting.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago and after the services were completed the estate needed to be taken care of. I was given the opportunity to request a few items that were meaningful remembrances to me. I looked around her room and thought of the graceful and refined woman she was. For every outfit she owned there were coordinating shoes and purses. She was always very elegant and polished when she went out. So I choose a fancy clutch, it was gathered pink silk with a small, tailored bow across the top. Then on an impulse I looked inside to see if she had left anything in its folds. Nothing spectacular met my eyes, in fact the contents of the purse were quite ordinary, a handful of wintergreen mints and a folded cloth handkerchief, yet both were meaningful to me. They reminded me of all the times she’d snuck those very same mints to me while sitting next to her at church. Then while I sat enjoying my treat she’d roll up her handkerchief in her special grandma way and turn it into a baby doll for me to hold. Much like the elegant purse she was beautiful on the outside, but what really mattered was what she chose to put inside, devotion to her family, her faith, her principles and unconditional love.

My personal vessel has been knocked over recently. I realize some of what it contained is unsalvageable. It will never be the same again. It would be impossible to expect that it could. I’ve spent time denying that fact, while I passively let sorrow, anger and fear seep into all my empty spaces. But I know now that my heart was not the only thing broken in my recent fall. So were many of my habits and my old way of life. All around us there are examples of demolition for the purpose of rebuilding. A forest must pass through fire for seeds to be released and regrowth to begin. Muscles are broken down by exercise so they can be rebuilt stronger. I have a chance to rebuild now, to make my life better than it was before. Faith, family, friends, service, hard work, and so many other things can take up the space that seemed like an irreparable hole. But first I have to see my experience for what it really is, a chance to deliberately choose what will fill up my life.

14 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and emotional post. I'm so sorry about whatever you are going through. I'm so happy you are looking to rebuild your life and fill that empty void though. It's hard and it's tough, but if you work at it and try to make your life happier, it does happen. Not overnight, but in time. I think everyone has been there, and believe me it takes a while to feel whole again, but you can do it.
    If you ever need anything, even thought we've never really "met" please let me know. I will keep you in my prayers.
    You have a beautiful way with words. I just thought I'd tell you. You were definitely born to be a writer. **Hugs**

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  2. Loved this post--full of honest beauty. It's encouraging to hear another's experience with the truth that God isn't content to leave us alone. He wants us to grow and be filled up with goodness. Sometimes that involves some shaking up to remove the junk taking up space so that goodness has space in our lives. Blessings to you as the refilling and rebuilding progresses.

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  3. "...to love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence" (Sydney Smith). I love you, Candi. To me, this post is perfection. xo

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  4. I loved how you pointed out that some forests naturally need forest fires - I think it is very true that God uses demolition on our lives to rebuild something wonderful. I'm so glad you have that attitude. I'm so glad that not only have continued to write through this hard time, but you've been so wonderful about encouraging me to keep writing too.

    I love your quirky sense of humor too! Putting an evil twist on platitudes! Here's one I'd like to twist:

    Love is blind, but the neighbors ain't, at least not until I get to them.

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  5. Chantele,
    Thank you for your encouraging words. I do feel quite well and mostly whole. I'm just feeling for someone I love and sometimes that brings back memories.

    Laurel,
    You just said exactly what I feel. Thank you for summing it all up so beautifully.

    Laiele,
    That's a beautiful quote. I am truly one of the happiest people around by that standard. When times are tough I am lifted up by the love of those closest to me. Love you!

    Margo,
    That's hilarious! And scary. :)

    Writing can be such a sanity saver in tough times. I don't know what I would do without the ability to get my feelings out in written-word form.

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  6. This is a beautiful post, Candice. You've used your vast talent to write something meaningful, poignant, and lovely. It's the perfect gift to give a friend in need. I'm sure whoever that person is will feel better after reading this.

    You are amazing. :) I'm so glad to be your friend.

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  7. You have such a beautiful way of putting things. I bet your journal reads like a literary masterpiece with complicated metaphors. Mine just says things like, "I was sad today."

    My doll was toppled a couple of years ago, and that time of my life becomes a reference point for all other times in my life. But I think even after that...I still forget, and I place things in my vessel that fill but aren't lasting. Thank you for sharing, and I'm glad you're my friend.

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  8. Hugs to your friend too. :) She is very lucky to have you as a friend.

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  9. What a lovely and honest post. It sounds like you are on the mend after a deep sorrow and that is a sometimes bittersweet season to be in. You have learned some things and you are different because of what you have seen and experienced.
    Blessings on you as you look at your new choices and where they will lead you.

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  10. Thank you. Your writing is beautiful, but your message was a gift. I really needed to hear it.

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  11. "I'm the gardner here and I know what I want you to be" THe Lords Prunning hand can hurt but in the end we are more beautiful than we ever thought a person like us could be.

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  12. This is a beautiful post, and I want you to know that just like your grandma, you are beautiful inside and out. Thanks for reminding us how our choices fill our lives. You're an amazing friend. Love you, lady! *hugs*

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  13. I'm sorry I just got around to this post. What a gorgeous, and heart-rending, post. I don't know what brought you so low, but I'm so happy to hear it gave you light to see you have a choice.

    May you be blessed as you bless others.

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  14. This is my best friend, people. She's so deep and stuff. Now you know why I keep her around. :) I love you.

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