Packing vs. Processing

The last couple of weeks have been spent doing little spurts of packing as we prepare to leave. Before that I had been doing a lot of internal processing. I’ve been going to counseling since the beginning of the year. My counselor mentioned to me the first time that she met with me that it was not just John who was going through discernment, but that I was also going through a period of self-discernment. John’s discernment was very intentional and included a committee of people that had chosen to walk alongside him, so it was easy for me to ignore the depth of the internal discovery that was happening in me. Even after she pointed out that self-discovery process, I still thought of it more in terms of external practicalities, like figuring out my passions and how that fit into how I spent my day, what kind of job I would get, what my long term goals were. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that it went much deeper than that.

It hit when I noticed the internal chaos raging in my brain. Without completely realizing it, the faith shift I was experiencing was digging deep into my inner self. Self-discovery suddenly meant rediscovering the true me, both how what I’ve always known about myself relates to my new worldview, but also digging into the depths of the hidden me, the me that I haven’t wanted to look at because it didn’t seem to fit into the conservative evangelical box I made for myself. As I opened locked doors, and tore down internal walls, things came tumbling out in a heap. My old coping mechanisms were set aside as I re-evaluated what lay behind them. I started dealing with obsessive thoughts that I’ve been mostly able to avoid the last few years. I started dealing with more grief related to Emma. I started questioning assumptions that I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. And all this added up to a pretty messy me. It was good work, work that needed to be done, but it was scary and hard and so so much.

packing2For awhile I did process some of it. It’s not going to be a quick thing, that’s for sure. But then there was a day about two weeks ago when as I sat in choir practice listening to the voices raised in song and contemplating that I was going to miss being a part of choir, some of the sadness of leaving hit. It’s been predominantly an emotion of excitement surrounding this move, so I haven’t really felt much sadness, even though I intellectually recognize that it is sad. I knew the emotion of sadness would start to filter in eventually and when it did, it brought with it a whole new level of stress. I suddenly inexplicably started mentally listing all the things that I still had to do before I left. As the stress started climbing, my ability to handle the internal processes I had started began to dwindle. I have intentionally put aside the internal unpacking and reorganization process in favor of the practical need to organize and pack the physical objects of my house.

Right now we are living with a fairly high level of stress and it is hard. At the beginning of this week I had a near panic attack, something that hasn’t happened in 3 1/2 years. It is uncomfortable to me, but I do see an end in sight, at least an end to some of the things that are adding to our stress. As some of them end, others will begin, and eventually the internal chaos will start to make itself known again. Perhaps as I physically unpack my belongings at the end of the summer I can return to the process of unpacking those closets of the mind and reconfiguring them in a way that is not so cluttered. But for now, I need to learn to live in the unknown and chaos of both my external and internal environment.


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