I have heard the expression, “I have arrived!” It was said to announce not a physical arrival to a destination but a metaphorical arrival. I have held dreams of this kind of “arriving” or success. Along the way I learned that,
“Success is not always in the outcome, but in the attempt.”
Hmmmm. Thought provoking, right? Who was the author of this enlightening thought you ask? Well, I can tell you.
Sometime in late 2013, early 2014, I was determined that I would overcome SOMETHING. ANYTHING! I was so tired of being a prisoner to my weaknesses and always talking about the same struggles day in and day out. It felt like finding joy in motherhood, being able to exercise again and having a “faith big enough to move overseas for” were simply goals that I could not reach. My mind told me that these goals were possible for others, just not me. If you have been reading my blog, than you have heard me express my battle with anxiety. At this time in my life, I was in denial that what I was struggling with had anything to do with anxiety. I believed it was truly just a result of my weakness.
Daily I felt that I was failing to achieve any goal I set for myself. I could rehearse all of life’s pains and struggles as if they were still raw and fresh. And I would rehearse them. At least my brain couldn’t stop remembering all those painful experiences and was convincing me that the idea of giving things another try was being a glutton for punishment. I wrestled with tasks as small as encouraging myself to get out of the apartment with two kids solo, to big ideas like just wanting to be a fully functional stay at home mom. Ya know, the kind that managing the home and children comes natural too. The kind without grumbling, no stress… just joy. Because after all, I chose it. And I assumed, if you choose it, you should love it. And be good at it, right? I also battled with questions like, how come I want to be a happy mom, but I can’t? How come I want to exercise, but I can’t? I was a former strength and conditioning coach and now every time I exercised I would end up with severe spasms in my neck and back so debilitating that I could not move for days. So when it came down to choosing between caring for my toddler and baby or giving exercise another shot, the decision was made for me.
Most of all, I asked myself, why can’t I just be fearless? What happened to the girl who studied abroad in Australia? The girl who travelled New Zealand solo? The wife who chose to spend her first wedding anniversary on a medical mission trip to Africa? Now, the mere topic of living overseas brought panic attacks. At the time, I did not know they were panic attacks. I did not know my body was having a physiological reaction to fear. And I did not know that my fears of living overseas were being manipulated by media and body chemistry.
My husband and I worked for a non-profit sports ministry with future hopes of moving and serving overseas. At one point in our journey I decided enough is enough. I was going to wrestle fear by the horns. I was going to say yes. Let’s move to India. Funny how in the movies there is sweat and a punching bag and usually a great soundtrack when a character overcomes something. For me, I just got more back spasms, and actual asthma attacks.
Now before you stop reading and think, this is the most depressing blog ever, hear me. As discouraged as I was, I still wrote the quote that I started out with. “Success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt.” I even shared it in a room full of people during three separate speaking opportunities. And to be honest, the more I told myself, and others, the more hope and life I breathed in and the more lies and discouragement I exhaled. Because the success IS in the attempt. The success is when you keep trying, even when it’s hard and you have failed.
You ARE successful, when you don’t give up on hope.
I used to think success was only when you “arrived” at your goal. For me, I had to look deeper at the goals I was setting for myself. I was setting goals, making expectations for myself that I believed if I just tried hard enough, I could achieve. For example, if I did all of my physical therapy exercises my neck and back would heal. If I strength trained enough the “right way” I would return to the athlete I was. If I prayed hard enough, I wouldn’t be afraid of moving overseas. If I read enough parenting resources, I would feel competent and in control as a mom. I believed I would truly feel success and peace when I reached these resolutions in my life.
Fast forward to today, June 2020. I can exercise now without ending up in spasms! I am still the mom of 3 littles ones that I love dearly but challenge me daily. I moved to India… and I moved back.
I can still remember the day I dreamed about being able to exercise again, like I do now. I can still remember how it felt to dream of one day not being afraid to move overseas, like I did. And I can still feel the ache in my heart over the days that I grieved over not feeling the way I thought a mom or wife should feel. But, I had no idea that “reaching my goals” would happen the way it did. It was not the result of “muscling” through. It was a gradual process of surrender. A process of surrender that brought me to a place of willingness. Willingness to try another way, to see things from a different perspective, to humble myself, and to trust the Lord deeper than I ever had before.
In 2016 I started treating my anxiety with medicine and counseling. The year that followed brought healing, grace, forgiveness and deliverance. One day, I was not afraid to exercise. And after I did, I waited for the spasms. They never came. So I exercised again the next day. No spasms!
It started small. But those small steps were the biggest wins I had ever experienced. I had started going out SOLO on adventures with my 3 kiddos. Joy, redemption and excitement were some of the emotions I experienced that I never thought I would!
And then one day, after a time of serious reflection, I was able to look back on our then 6 years of marriage and say, I think it is time for our family to move overseas. I shared with others how through managing my anxiety, I was able to see life SO much more clearly. It was as if my brain had more space to see all of my memories, not just the painful ones. I felt like I was feeling all the emotions, not just the anxious and stressful ones. And I could see the Lord’s hand over my life, over our lives and I could see the story HE had been weaving the whole time and I wanted to continue to be a part of it! I wish I could share every detail, person, lesson, moment, prayer and guidance that I experienced that all played such a significant role in these victories. It was not just the diagnosis, the medicine and the counseling. It was all of it. The life I had lived, the life I wanted to live and the grace to live it.
I used to think that the day I was “fit” again was going to be the day that “I arrived” at my goal. That the day I moved overseas would be the day that I truly overcame my fears. I know now that “arriving” is like a mirage.
I made it overseas. However, we thought we would live there for at least 3 years but we came back in 9 months. I am exercising again, but I am not and may never be the athlete I once was. I LOVE my kiddos and I am happy to be a stay at home mom and I go on a lot of adventures with them! Sometimes the hardest adventures are the days that we stay home!! At times I still find myself discouraged, and unhappy, but I live more now in the freedom of grace! I do not hold myself to the standard of those illusions I had set out for myself before.
When 9 months into our long-term move overseas ended, and we found ourselves selling all of our furniture and packing up our bags once more, we knew grieving would come but our minds were fixed on the reason for leaving. There were many reasons, but the most pressing reason was Jackson. We knew his hearing loss had progressed even further and now to the point of needing cochlear implants. We knew we needed to get back to the U.S to get the care he needed. We decided to bypass Florida and come straight to upstate NY to be with family. We were in need of support. But of course, as with most plans, we had no idea that our expectations for rushing back to the US to receive care for our son would play out like they did.
Month after month, we waited for doctor’s appointments and answers. Not only did things get more gray in what was to happen for Jackson, but then COVID-19. Every step we took to move forward and make sense of the past few years of our life, to understand what we were supposed to do now, was left unanswered. And the day I realized that we had been living with my parents in upstate NY for the same length of time we lived in India, I felt lost. I could not make sense of it all. I was losing hope that we would ever know how to find the best care for Jackson, where to live, where to work, or even who we were as a family going forward.
I was stuck in a mirage. The mirage that when we arrived back to the US, everything would be OK. That Jackson would get cochlear implants and we would find a home down the street from my parents, the kids would go to school with their cousins, and our family would have all the family support we needed. And the feelings of pain and sorrow from leaving India and ending a dream that was sought after for years would all fade because the reasons that we left would make up for it.
BUT, recognizing the mirage allowed for me to see all the REAL, tangible blessings around us!! Blessings that we would not have experienced if it hadn’t been for this season of unknown. Because of unanswered questions, because of the Coronavirus, because of time, we received support, love, healing, pruning, gut-checking, re-evaluating, and precious moments with family that you wish you could freeze in time.
Life is still messy, but we have finally received some answers and direction. We have found such great care for Jackson back in Florida with his audiologist and the team there that we have decided to move back to Florida. Jackson will be receiving his first cochlear implant maybe as early as September, but we continue to wait for those answers. We are relieved and grateful and feel such peace with this decision. However, it will not become another mirage. Once we “arrive” in Florida, everything won’t be perfect. Life will never be perfect on this side of heaven.
I have my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ. I walk in grace knowing that the success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt. It’s not about the destination but the journey. It’s not about where you are going, but WHO you are walking with. The victory is walking by faith and trusting in HE who is worthy to be trusted, to bring HIM glory and to hope that one day, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21