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Sunday, August 17, 2008


*image courtesy of flickr

In the final days of my mission in Italy I wrote a letter to myself. Basically it included advice to myself about how to return home, back to my old life, without turning back into my old self. I wanted the experiences I'd had to have a lasting effect on my life. I wanted to hang onto the things I had learned, I wanted to be a different person than I was when I had left home. I knew it would be hard, though, when nobody at home knew exactly what I'd experienced in that year and a half. I knew it would be easy to fall back into being the same person I was before I left.

Well, I came home and the adjustment was hard. I felt like a foreigner. I opened up with certain people who seemed genuinely interested in hearing about experiences from my mission. But, even then there was so much more that I felt just couldn't be communicated with words alone. I couldn't look at photos of my mission for the first six months without crying. I really felt like I was in a state of crisis, only nobody knew because I kept it all inside and put on my "happy face." Then, one day I decided to do something drastic with my hair (it was bad!)... and then I felt like it would have been more effective and less painful to wear a sign around my neck - "I'm in a crisis."

I was trying so hard to be "normal" again. I wanted to get back to a normal life. I wanted to function like a normal person. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to feel like who I was on the outside was the same as who I was on the inside, or how I felt on the inside. But, because there was so much going on inside my heart that I didn't understand myself, I didn't know how to act. I didn't know anymore what "normal" even meant.

While those feelings about returning home from Italy aren't *exactly* how I feel right now, I've realized that some of the feelings are very similar.

I feel like this experience has been sort of an accelerated course in humility, in faith, in patience, in pain, in heartache, in grieving. I've never been much of an over-achiever. I've always been happy to just do the bare minimum to get by. So, this accelerated course has not been easy.

I feel like a foreigner... even moreso than I did when I first arrived in Italy. I feel like I am completely unable to even attempt to make sense to myself or others what foreign things my heart is experiencing. I feel like my heart and my mind are in constant conflict. My mind tells me everything is going to be okay. But, as quoted in Steel Magnolias, "I wish somebody would explain it to my heart."

I'm trying to get back to a "normal" life, but I don't know what that means anymore. I want to be true to myself. I want to be honest with how I feel. But, the truth is that I'm completely confused by all that I feel. The fact that pain and peace constantly co-exist in my heart in the exact same moment doesn't make sense to me. But, they do. I feel like I should paint my face like one of those mimes where half of the face is painted happy and the other half is painted sad. Then, everyone would be as confused as I am about how I'm doing.

I want to soak up all the lessons I can learn from this, because I want to become a better person than I was before, but also because I don't want to go down this road again.

So, maybe it's already obvious... but I'm going to admit it outloud - I'm completely faking my way through this period right now, because that's all I know how to do. I feel like I'm having to re-learn the basics... even having to remind myself to breathe sometimes.

I know I'll eventually get back into a "normal" life, but it won't ever be whatever "normal" was before July 16th. I guess I'm in the process of reinventing "normal" for my own life... and I get the feeling it's going to take some time.

(And, if I mention to any of you that I'm thinking of changing my hairstyle in the midst of all of this, please convince me to wait at least a few more months... I really don't need a hair crisis like I had before.)


Amy said...

I went through a significant personal crisis a few years ago, and I also struggled to recreate my "normal" setpoint.
I was so lost that I remember actually sitting down at my table and saying outloud, "My name is Amy. I am Amy. What do I like to do?"
Then I preceeded to make a list of things that I liked to do. It had 6 things on it, and they were things like "rollarblading" and "listening to live acoustic music" and "going to Borders."
Then I made a goal to do each of the things I liked at least once in the next two weeks.
I know it sounds totally stupid--because it kind of was. I didn't tell anyone about it because I was too embarrassed. But I did the things on my list, which gave me a few chances to feel like I was actually myself for a half of a second.

I'm not saying that's what you should do. I really don't like to give advice. I just wanted to point out that teeny-tiny baby steps helped me find myself and feel a little bit normal during a pretty tough time.

Megan--I feel so sad for you. I just wish I could wave my hand and change your entire situation.

If all you can do to survive right now is fake it, then fake it.

And if there's anything I can do for you, please let me know. Seriously, my email is

Kelly said...

I remember when you got home from your mission. I remember that you weren't the Megan I remembered. It kind of scared seemed sad to be home and very serious! Ultra serious! Like you'd forgotten how to laugh. You kind of have that feeling about you again - although not exactly the same.

And I'm sure your hormones are playing a nice, weird role in all this as hormones often do. Just to, you know, mix things up and make emotions even more confusing!

Nina told me once, a few months after Sean died, that she felt like everyone had moved on and that she was the only one still grieving. She felt like no one wanted to grieve with her. And now, today, I know there are still days where her grief suddenly hits her and it's 10 years ago and her heart is breaking all over again. I don't think you can ever be "normal" again. I think you're right that you have to create a new normal.

I have always, always, admired you. And you continue to impress me as you "fake" your way through this period of your life. :-) I hope that someday I can "fake" my way half so well as you.

Heffalump said...

Sometimes faking it is the best thing to do. Just do what you have to do to survive, and eventually maybe that crushing weight in your heart will ease, or at least you will get used to breathing around it.
They say that time heals all wounds, but I think that really, time just passes and we get used to the pain until we feel normal again.
I admire your honesty and strength.

Allred Mom said...

You are so incredibly awesome! Your honesty with yourself and your feelings is so amazing. You are truly following the Savior in remembering that everyting is "line upon line, precept on precept" A day at a time is all you can do, and sometimes it may be a minute at a time.
Love ya lots, Rachel

brossettelewis said...

I'm so sorry. I wish life could fast forward for you. (still learning but a little farther down the road and closer to normal). I'm sorry you are hurting. I pray you continue to find peace with your daughters.

Andrea said...

I too am trying to find the "normal" life again. Everything you wrote in this post is exactly how I'm feeling. Thank you so much for putting words to my feelings and thoughts. You are absolutely amazing.

Kim said...

Even though our experiences are not the same...the thought that we need to remind ourselves to breathe is SO intense for me. You know we lost our baby six months ago, and now we are having some real trials with adoption right now. I just want to hide under a rock...and never come out. I am feeling the need to remind myself to breathe once again. Love you to pieces, and maybe a new do is just what you need?!