I have been inspired to share my journey so I will start from the beginning on my other website. Please follow me if you want to learn about my story: one of hope, healing and my daily journey with depression and anxiety. My hope is to give the best way I know how-through writing. Through my writing, I hope to connect with others who are or know someone like me and to remind you all (and myself) that we are not alone.
Preston came into my life the summer of 1998, the summer I turned fourteen. I was kind of caught between childhood and adulthood at that point. I couldn’t decided what I wanted more, to stay young or join the ranks of my friends who seemed to embrace young adulthood carelessly. So I had a foot in both doors. I was about to get a job at Culver’s, I began thinking about college and boys. I worked rigidly, diligently, at my academics and music. I was perpetually unhappy. But I believed, as long I was doing what teenagers did, I would be okay.
What made me really happy was forgetting all the demands and “shoulds”. Reading a good book, taking a bath, coloring, playing with my baby cousins or little neighbors, doing a jigsaw puzzle. Cuddling next to my mom in her bed and talking. Holding my dad’s hand. Or climbing the tree in my backyard just to see what I could see. Those were the happy times. When I could just be a little kid. But, of course, I rarely felt happy for long doing those things because I was fourteen and teenagers just didn’t do those things.
We were sitting in the minivan waiting for Mom and Dad. Greg, Tim and me. Nate decided he wasn’t coming to Illinois with us for our mini “family reunion.” He was trying to save money for college, so he decided to stay back and work. Mom and Dad left the house, chatting playfully. My mom, especially, had eyes full of wonder and a carefree expression on her face as she climbed in next to Dad.
Seeing Mom like that right before a road trip was not typical. But I didn’t analyze it too much, just enjoyed her strange but pleasant mood. I was looking forward to seeing my extended family, especially playing with my little cousins. Summers were great. I was away from the pressures of school friends and living up to all the “shoulds” I placed on myself.
When we pulled into my grandparents’ long windy black driveway after the three-hour drive, I noticed my elegant grandmother wandering around the yard with a little black dot hopping up and down wildly behind her. Everywhere she went the little dot followed. As we got closer to the scene, the dot turned into a small puppy. My heart rate quickened. It all made sense. Mom wanted to surprise us because her parents had gotten a puppy and she knew how much I loved dogs! Her good mood made sense now! I don’t remember what my brothers said, but I blurted out, “You didn’t tell us Grammy and Papa got a dog!” It barely registered when my mom, trying to suppress a smile, stated matter-of-factly, “That’s your dog.” We were climbing out of the car then, running toward the puppy. Before long, I was holding the little three-pound Yorkshire terrier as he nipped at my nose and licked my cheek. It felt like heaven.
I still didn’t understand. There’s no way Dad would let us take this little guy home, I thought. He was the reason I still didn’t have my puppy, my mom would always say. She and I would dream together, sometimes, scouring the newspaper ads for puppies for sale. We would talk about the different type of dogs we’d want to have and come up with names for our “dream dogs.” Mom would often tell me about her childhood dog, a Sheltie named Corky. I could tell she longed for a puppy as much as I did.
As the day went on, I discovered more and more details and things started falling into place. The puppy was bred by mom’s brother Uncle Bud’s two yorkies. My parents had been in touch with Uncle Bud for several months. That explained the frequent phone calls back and forth between Dad and Uncle Bud over the last several months. My parents had told Uncle Bud to pick out the runt to be theirs and to call him “Preston.” Preston was the name of the small town in Washington State where the four of us kids were born, a town dear to my parents’ heart. It turned out that the runt outgrew another puppy, Uncle Bud named “Hercules.” Uncle Bud got mixed up and began calling Hercules “Preston.” He discovered his mistake and told my parents. They decided it didn’t really matter, so the new runt became “Preston Hercules Bettger,” our dog.
When we walked into our house back in Wisconsin later that day, I still felt like I was living in a cloud. I carried little Preston up the stairs (he was too little and uncoordinated to climb them) and set him down on the carpet where he immediately began scouring his new territory. Entering the kitchen, I now saw why my parents had been late getting in the car that morning, exiting the house with masked grins and jovial moods. On the kitchen table lay a dog bowl, treats, a few colorful toys, and a books on how to train Yorkie puppies. On the floor sat a bag of puppy food, a comfortable looking dog bed and a tiny kennel. I imagined my mom, in her creative, fun nature, laying everything out, the way a chef might lay out a creative, colorful gourmet meal. The reality that I had a dog was beginning to set in.
I don’t remember much, except for pure joy. I must have hugged my parents again and again and thanked them profusely. My mom said, “It was your dad. He finally gave in.” To this day, I don’t really know how my mom talked him into it.
Life with Preston was like adding a never-before-seen color to my life. I didn’t realize how much fun and adventure a four-legged creature could bring to my life. I had always wanted a dog, but it seemed like a far off dream the older I got. I was head over heals in love with our puppy. My parents and brothers loved him too, but I began to think Preston and I shared a special bond. I found myself thinking about him all the time when I was at work or at some church event. I couldn’t wait to see his little wiggly body and feel his soft kisses on my nose. When school started in the fall, Preston was what I looked forward to most throughout the day.
Preston was my link to home and childhood, to silliness, to playfulness. To not wanting the world to change. He helped me stay sane because, with this little creature, I could tune out all my worries. I could focus on his cuteness, his beady eyes, the silky hair that fell over one ear and eye, the other ear perked up, how his little back half moved with excitement when you walked in the door. The look and feel of his impossibly silky metallic and mahogany fur. How it felt to have him jump up and try to lick/bite my nose. How his warm four-pound body felt cuddled on my lap. How it felt to take him on a walk and have strangers or neighbors comment on his cuteness.
I used to be so at home on these pages.
Now I feel like a stranger wherever I go.
I could really come alive,
words were the only way to quench my thirst, sometimes
but often gushing, streaming
life-giving water for my deadness, a current
so straight and true I could always connect
anything that once seemed wayward, meaningless.
I would just feel whole, purged of the stains
of Haphazard emotions and Disastrous thoughts
Even now I am not free.
This writing is jilted
I always have to force myself to this page
Because I don’t want to face this pain
Not pain of the actual writing
But the catapulting piercing and raging pains of judgment
The judgements of this writing and of my soul behind it
Trying to scramble together any small thing I know about myself
I am so lost when I’m not broken
Because when I AM broken (again)
no one sees me as that anymore including myself
No more excuses for me.
Write the dead words
Pick up the pierce pulsating head
Move your weary body
Choose from your plethora of skills to combat that anxiety
Don’t ever let that negative thought win the battle
You can take the pain
You will push through this migraine
You will find a soft place to lay your head
A quiet haven for your restless mind
If you just look hard enough
I wish I could just forget, forget how to fight
So I could give myself a break for once
Sometimes I feel so trapped in my today, yesterday
Well, a lot has been going on with me since I got back from sailing. Or not. It would appear that not a lot is going on externally. But, wow, have things been changing internally. I wish I could be free to tell you all about it. But alas, no matter how private I make a blog, I still would not be okay just letting it all hang out. So if we have a relationship and you really want to know the deep dark depths of my soul, I will tell you. But you have to be willing to hear it. And there are probably only a hand select few that are…
Anyway, I can talk about some things. It’s so interesting how life stands still yet is crazy busy at the same time. Soon I will leave the standstill for the crazy busy. It is my last Friday before I start teaching again. I have enjoyed this summer so much. As I have stated before, I try to challenge myself each summer (e.g. the retreat I went on).
The sailing trip, although not super authentic (since we only put the sail up one out of three days) was still ultra hard for me and great experience. The main thing I hated endured liked was that I was surrounded by people in a rather confined space (the cabin of the 35 foot sail boat). I liked it because it caused me to really suffer, but in the end, I was better for it. The cabin was so tiny you would walk forward and be brushed on the left side by the table and on the right side by the bench. I was to sleep way in the front of the boat, the bow, next to my friend Linda. The two “beds” made a V. It was a little tight but rather cozy.
I liked being alone in the cabin. I noticed my heart rate was down and I was so much freer and lighthearted (this is typical for me-having limited space and feeling trapped especially when people are around is a huge contributor of my anxiety) . One day everyone was sitting on deck finishing lunch and I was below deck, listening to the extroverts gleefully chat away. People would hand me condiments, dishes, trash, whatever from above and I would gladly throw it, stow it, wash it, whatever. I was happy as a lark in that kitchenette corner of that mini cabin. I guess this alone time was me getting my “fix” so that I would be geared up for the next challenge.
One of those challenges occurred on the first day, when Captain Joan informed me that I would be helping put up the sail. Internally, I was dismayed, thinking, what kind of vacation is this? I thought I would just be sitting around letting everyone else do the work. But, of course, the good hearted person that I am, I agreed. Helping with the sail forced me to walk around on a jerky boat with no hand holds. Since I am not the most balanced person, I prepared myself for the worst: falling over board. The worst would be the feeling of falling and the cold water. But I knew I wouldn’t die and I had dry clothes on board so that was so reassuring. I was also in charge of doing the ropes when we “parked” the boat at each port. Captain Joan was a calm, patient and insightful teacher! She said I did a great job so that was encouraging. Plus, I never fell overboard. What a relief!
I liked touring the islands. Stockton Island was beautiful; it seems so unreal with all the spectacular flora and fauna that has now been preserved for over 30 years. I enjoyed some time away from the group and, as I hiked, I realized: as long as I am not lost (and fully prepared for hunger, thirst, bugs, bears, etc.) I LOVE THE WOODS! Especially being alone and being a part of something as untainted as this island: bright green moss, waving branches, scrambling critters, chattering birds, and the marvelous gray expanse of Lake Superior. Sadly, it was a gray day…
But we finally had sunshine the last two days (including my birthday!) The sky was spectacular! Probably out of all things in nature, I love sky and clouds the most! I could stare at a sky all day if my conscience would allow it. So it was an amazing birthday present.
Being with the group was great too. I especially like one-on-one conversations, so I tried to seek each person out and get to know him or her individually. It was kinda challenging! But I did learn about each person.
However, after (and maybe a little during) the trip, I said to myself, I will probably never do that again (that is, go on a boat for that many days with a bunch of people I don’t know), and I realized that’s okay! It was a great experience and I’m so glad I did it!
Since then, I’ve also done a couple other things that are challenging, such as being more involved in a new church I’ve been attending, agreeing to be the solo musician for a close friend’s wedding, making time for friends and family, writing (A LOT).
The biggest challenge was yesterday when I went to my first ever Ultimate Frisbee game. Yes, to play. Luckily I had a friend come with me. Other than that I knew NO ONE. (It is a Facebook group I am a “member” of). I am not very talented when it comes to sports, but I’ve always liked Frisbee. It was worse than I expected. Everyone was so phenomenal. As we began to toss the disc around, my heart and thoughts were racing. I proceeded to make a total fool of myself because I have horrible performance anxiety. It didn’t help that almost everyone was a guy. What a great way to make a good impression, I thought, as I wobbled and whipped the Frisbee in all directions at one point hitting a little four-year-old (the son of one of the guys) in the head.
Yes, I know. Totally humiliating. My stomach is flopping as I remember it. I tried not to compare myself with everyone including the four-year-old who was a whiz at Frisbee. Instead, each time I attempted to throw the disc (not pretty), I kept telling myself, “Take it like a man” (i.e. don’t let them know you’re embarrassed) and reminding myself that God loved me and my worth did not depend on my Frisbee skills. But when we eventually started playing the game, it was much better and I enjoyed myself. And everyone was really friendly. (I would not have been so friendly and understanding to myself if I were one of them.) Luckily, most of the cute guys came later and they never saw how horrible I actually was. Ha ha.
Anyway, it might sound harmless, but to me it really was a big deal that I went because it demonstrated I can face my fears! And I never want to let fear get in the way of what I want to do, mainly have fun, enjoy life and build relationships with others.
Soon I will be starting my fourth school year (in this job) and my seventh year as a teacher! Wow, I can’t believe it! I can’t wait to see what other challenges lie in store for me! But for now, I’ll just sit and enjoy the chattering, fluttering chickadees, woodpeckers, sparrows and cardinals; watch my journal pages ripple in the wind; hear my calming wind chimes; feel the breeze soothe my skin; hear how it rushes through the leaves. Aah, another heavenly moment of summer.
I am about to embark on a new adventure. I have always challenged myself to do things that scare me. That’s one good thing about me. I don’t let my incessant fears and worries keep from doing (too many) things. Today I am “killing three birds with one stone.” As I’ve told people when explaining why this trip is exctiing and a big step for me.
The three “stones” are
1) It is a writing retreat. A goal of mine has been to go on a writing retrreat of some sort.
2) We are going to the Apostle Islands. I’ve always wanted to visit there. I’ve heard it’s beautiful! I love traveling in general, but when it has to do with water and sunshine (hopefully), I am even more interested!
3) We are going sailing! Doing something I’ve never done before is a goal I have for each summer (and winter)! For about a year now, I have thought sailing sounded fun. I feel safe knowing we are going with a trained Skipper.
Besides, my three goals I am fulfilling, I am also excited to get to know the “crew” better. They are members of my writing group I wrote about before. There are six of us going ranging in age from 29 (me) to 72! I am excited to be challenged by them (I am always challenged by being in groups) and learning from their wisdom. Plus, we are all writers, musicians, artists, so have so many things in common. Finally, I am looking forward to growing personally in my faith in Christ and his power (especially through creation), through my writing and through my time of fellowship in an exotic environment.
I’m finally learning that God wants me to have joy and to enjoy my time on Earth. It’s been a slow realization but one I’ve started opening up to especially these last few years, since He helped kick depression out of my life. So here I go! I’ll let you know what I’ve learned. I have a feeling that something amazing will happen and I may not realize it for many weeks, months, years?? afterwards. God is such an awesome God and continues to work in every little (and big) moment in my life, whether I realize it or not. The great thing is that lately, I have been more in tune to Him and how he is working and how He has always been a steady presence in my life.
I am hanging out with Mom in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I am on Spring Break, but how would you guess because it is a beautifully snowy day. We have gotten about 9 inches of snow. Earlier Dad left for work and Mom and I enjoyed trudging through the fluffy white to wipe off my car and pull it into the cavernous garage. Luckily they live in an apartment, so there is no worry about shoveling.
Right now I want to focus on the moment. Maybe it will help me get out of this funk of irritability. I wanted to hang out and spend time together (with Mom) so I am trying to fight against my anti-social tendencies.
I am enjoying lemon, ginger tea and Josh Groban. And the sound of keys clicking. I am grateful for the zinginess and tanginess of this tea. Hot (temperature wise) for my frozen fingers (what’s new during the winters of the Midwest), and spicy hot, a hotness none other than ginger can provide. The best of all, it hits my stomach in a comforting way with no added nuisance of heart-stopping, anxiety-inducing caffeine for my sensitive nerves.
I am grateful for Josh Groban’s phenomenally comforting voice. While his older music is as familiar to me as a beloved pair of well-worn socks or as common and delightful as a loved one’s laugh, I am relishing in his newest album my mom just turned on. Each vibrating tone is a new gift to caress my senses. I don’t think there is any other voice in the world quite like his. I wouldn’t be surprised if the angels in heaven sounded like a thousand Josh Grobans all harmonizing sweetly and perfectly; I don’t think there would be anything besides his tenor that could better blind me from the annoying, disturbing and stressful thoughts that constantly crash against each other inside my head. Maybe a hot bath in the dead of icy winter or piece of dark Ghirardelli after a particularly agonizing day at work. But probably not. Josh Groban’s incredibly rich timbre surpasses most things that bring me joy in life.
I hope you are able to find comfort in the smallest things (and biggest things) of life today!
This is for “Christians” who doubt. This is for those with runaway, self-condemning, constantly turning, bubbling, distorting minds that won’t shut up and cannot rest. Please know you are not alone. You are loved and no matter how much you doubt, you are loved! Hang on to Hope. Hope is something my soul never forgets no matter how many times my brain tries to deceive it.
Soft and floaty
My world is nice
Like a cushion
Shielding me from unpleasantries
Noises are distant
But I am within.
Questions there but fuzzier
But deception is tastier
And fire less dangerous
My vices are my friends
And I can’t stop
Wanting what I can’t have:
What’s only in my fantasies
I always know I’ll be let down
When the high ends
This foreign thing in me.
I know it and other things
Bring me to this place
A place where my will is taunted
And bad turns into good
And all reason has fled
Maybe it’s harmless
And I blow everything out of proportion
Maybe, probably. In some ways.
But this substance in me, I know,
Is just another example of what I do:
Yearn for what will leave me
Even now my drug is leaving
And I’m going to be empty
But if I could just stay in
Why can’t I taste and see and know
What will never leave me yearning?
Because my will is strong
And human is what’s in my veins
And little experience with
Clarity, stability and
Leads me to a place
Somewhere I’m sure to
And I’ll always keep going:
Reaching to fill my cup
But the liquid never stops
Because it cannot quench
Experience and life has told me:
There’s nothing to be sure of
In this world.
No matter how true and stable and constant
He’s supposed to be.
I’m human and I have my doubts.
Sure, sometimes I’m strong
And hold on, stay on top of the water.
I do see truth and beauty and life
More than I have ever before
But I sometimes question:
Is it necessary
To believe He is the Christ
When everything contradicts itself?
And Truth seems inabsolute
When people you trust
Suddenly confuse you
And you realize you can trust
When your healing can be
The result of fifty things
Not necessarily the True Thing
What is Christ anyway?
And I I’ve beat my head into
Fifty thousand walls
Trying to know if He really cares
Or if I’m just making it up,
Just acting like I believe…
When will it end?
I feel like, if I’m so desperate
And for Him to reveal His
To speak loudly so I will have
So I’m not constantly questioning
Or what’s right and wrong,
And if it take a PhD to understand His Word
Or non-Christians are more
Near and dear to me than so many “Christ-followers”
And if I long to be free of “Christianity”
And rigidity and guilt
And to KNOW freedom
From my torment, doubt and never-ending questions…
IF IF IF
Should I just give up…?
Is holding me
Because my soul clings
Someone I can barely see
Who I know is my TRUTH
And is some THING that
Goes beyond any fucked up
Shallow thing I was ever taught in any Sunday school
Class or youth group or church sermon
Or (well-meaning yet misinformed) “Christian” mentor or relative
This THING is someone who I can see glimpses of,
My soul belongs to,
But somehow I cannot attach the name Jesus to,
Because sometimes that name
Is ash in my mouth
Because I’ve heard it so much
I just wish it was precious and new and wholesome again
Like a drop of water
In a thousand miles of desert
Or a new color that’s never been seen
That’s how I want to see and know and experience
That’s supposedly my Lover and Creator
Who can fill me more than this lovely wine
Or heart-pounding, life-giving caffeine
But I’ve let deception in
And every human eye on me (supposedly)
Is more important than the eye
Of the one who sees only ME
Because he sees ME
As his precious daughter
As if I was the only heir
To his throne and the only one he could use
To accomplish His beautiful purpose…
That’s the ONE for whom my soul longs
Has always longed
The child in me has always known
But who most days I
As a fantasy, a figment of my imagination
Someone some crazy people
Just made up
My mind turned this lovely I AM
Into someone I NO LONGER
Trusted and the Man God
Into a GHOST, a vapor
Or even worse
So as much as I long for the simple life and this
Something is always there
Telling me of my Stupidity
To actually believe He exists
And His Father deserves my praise…
That I will always be longing for more…
Because I can TRUST no one
(just look at church
and the confusing so-called “Word” he supposedly gave us)
LORD if you are who You say You are
I plead with You (as always)
To make Yourself known to me in a way
I’ve never experienced
I want to hear You
Like “they” always talk about
So I can KNOW FINALLY and be FREED of all
The questions and doubts and SELF
Please, I beg of You
As always, my heart is open,
I’m on my knees
But my will is weak
And I’ll keep turning the other way…
But somehow I get up and
Come back to You or
Who I think You are,
Who I long for You to be
And maybe it’s You who is
There to pick me up
Will I ever be sure?
Or will it always be the same questions?
Are you my God?
And is Your Son really
My Savior or is it just something we all believe to
Try to make sense of our selves
Our lives our sin
(written January 15, 2012)