One word can sum up most of our lives, STRESS. I'm not saying other things like joy, love, faith, adventure, family, friendships, and work don't evoke the word happiness, but the real truth of the matter is this; STRESS is generally a key component to anything good in our lives. Stress, no matter how big or small is life lesson # 2 in my book of truths.
To say stress has had a key role or a front row seat in my life for the last two years is an understatement, especially the last eight months if we are being 100% honest here. I’m a living example of life turned upside down on most any given day. I have never exactly lived by the rules, but this year has been way off the charts even with my own natural ability to find and yes, bring out the bizarre in life. If I stopped and gave you a glimpse through a looking glass of where I saw my life going in January 2014, to say it’s nowhere near those coordinates of Christina’s great big map of bright big beautiful tomorrows, as an old Disney World ride belts out daily, is nowhere close to covering it. Yet, despite all the chaos, ruckus and plain and simple, “what the heck happened here”, I’m pretty happy with where I have landed.
So what does stress do to us? Well, in my case it tore straight through me, tearing me in half literally, and then overturned everything I thought was solid and unmovable. Suddenly parts of my life I felt totally secure in had not only been flipped over, then sideways, but pulled out, sorted through, put on display, re-packaged ,moved any which way but a safe and secure way, and eventually to a place which was anything but easy. Happiness left me, joy seemed distant, hope was lost and my faith was barely clinging onto my finger tips as I hung quite conspicuously from a cliff I never saw coming! Breast cancer hadn’t broken me, nor had my oldest son’s assault and TBI, not even learning at the age of 14 my youngest son was autistic, but the blow which hit me from behind in late February 2014 was my breaking point. By March, I was broken and shattered into a million tiny pieces which then quite promptly melted, scattered and blew away like ash.
For me, this unnamed force came on hard, strong and from a place I struggled to even grasp. In the months leading up to this powerful, heart crushing reveal in my life, I was aware something was off, but like everything else in my life, I felt confident it would pass and the sun would come out tomorrow, just like the Annie song right? Ya, well no, not quite the way things played out, the sun eventually stopped coming out altogether. I had no idea how lost I already was, and then suddenly, I was eye to eye with the deepest, darkest, most horrific pain I had ever faced. Bam! Like nothing else I’d ever known before those moments, pain, stress and my whole view of happiness was gone. There it was…. Deep, dark, vast and cold, just like that, I was descending into my own personal hell. We all deal with stress, the kind which challenges us and then some right? For some of us it’s our health, it may be work, status, financials, marriage, family, friends or a half a dozen other finely wrapped gifts life throws at us. So how do we hold on, come out in one piece, untouched by the kind of life events meant to tear us apart? Well, in my experience, the truth is, we don’t.
We let go, we fall, we change, we lose parts of ourselves we didn’t even know existed. We wrestle with our demons, we find out not just what we’re actually made of, but why we were made that way to begin with. We gain stronger pieces of ourselves and then even in the middle of the descent downward, we find out who we really are, and we begin clawing our way back up to the surface. So how can I say I’m happy with where I’ve landed, well the bottomless pit of stress which tried to destroy me, didn’t and in that absolute horrible process, I found myself, fully. I lost weight, about 55 pounds to be exact, countless inches, I began to see the scared woman I was as a masterpiece, confident, and not ashamed of whom I was. I learned to stand up for myself, I went back to work, found a job I never imagined, and one I actually enjoy at that. I stopped trying to be me and started being me. I saw Christina for who she could be, not who she was in the moment. I found my faith in God restored, even though that meant He and I had and still do have some pretty real and painful conversations. Is my life all roses, unicorns and gum drops, oh heck no! What it is though, is REAL. I’m still discovering myself, and who I want to be when I grow up but I’m not unhappy with who Christina is shaping up to be. The reality is that part of me is still a mystery, but I’m perfectly content in the notion.
We’re only here for a season, it comes down to what we are going to do with this time we are given, and not the time we borrow. My story isn’t so much about what’s broken me, as much as it’s about what that brokenness has created in me. Personal life lesson here in all this; our lives are not so much found in how we get there, pain or happiness, but in how we land.