Continued from Date with Destiny – Part I and Date with Destiny Part II.
The rain cascaded in tiny rivulets down the century-old old window panes. She stood there with her head pressed against the cold glass. A pretty 7 year old girl with straight, blond hair. Her watery blue eyes fixed on the winding road past the long lane to the house. With a sharp pang of worry in her tummy, she imagined the worst. Mom was late again and these were the days before cell phones. As the moments inched by, the knot in her tummy grew tighter and larger. “Where was she?” “What if there was an accident?” The storm was getting bad. As the worry grew, it never occurred to her to tell someone about her fears. There was a safety in the secret. She could pretend she was strong. The imaginings in her mind were hers to protect.
Soon after, it was time to move from the hundred year old farm house where she played in the mud, pretended in the barn, and swung a million miles on the swingset. Oh, the memories of picking dandelions in a snowy summer field of fluff. Her favorite was the swinging, though. As the cool breeze caressed her skin, she sang. Songs from classic musicals like Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and The Music Man. On the swing with the songs on her lips, she was free…
And now she was moving from the deep country to a new town. It would be a fresh start in a new school. She thought a lot about the move. As a quiet and shy girl, how would she make friends? 5th grade is an awkward time, anyway. But she would be strong. She wouldn’t show her fear.
She loved her new home with it’s many outbuildings for exploring and large trees for leaf piles and cool summer shade. New friends were made and a bus bully was found. The quiet girl tried to shrink each time she got on the bus. Tried to become invisible by burying her nose in a book as she sat on that bus seat, but bullies prey on such children as these. The endless taunts made her turn ever more inward. Each morning as she waited for the bus, that same old knot in her core grew. Sometimes it seemed like a permanent feeling in her body. And once again, it never occurred to her to tell anyone. So, she began to wield control over the things that she COULD control. Things like her grades, and being the boss of her sisters, and any other thing that felt like she was strong and capable. Anything to quiet the worried voice in her head.
That voice told her that the world was a dangerous place sometimes. Out of the blue she would think the worst about everything. Her mom had Alzheimer because she always forgot her keys and her dad was going to die because he had to take high blood pressure meds. The voice was terribly creative and would soon grow much stronger.
Has worry been part of your life, too? It’s tough, but necessary to look back on the past and explore how old thoughts, behaviors, and patterns impact life’s journey. Mine would eventually lead to a physical and emotional breakdown at the age of 37, yet I’m finding that the darkness is finally setting me free.
Continued from Date with Destiny – Part I.
Please read Part I first.
I am proud to come from a line of hard working, stoic German farmers whose family motto was work hard, play hard. My problem is that I have the work hard thing down cold. Play hard…not so much. I once heard a cousin describe this tendency as Overdrive. That word resonated so much with me that it became a prominent theme of my journey.
This is how Overdrive looks in my life…The idea of mediocrity screams FAILURE. There’s no such thing as giving up, just work harder to overcome any issues that crop up. Oh, by the way, asking for help equals giving up. Emotions are held deep inside because, frankly, they are awkward and don’t move me any closer to the goal. The norm is to become so obsessed with the achievement du jour that many other important aspects of life suffer. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or hobby. Overdrive does not discriminate. Long hours, laser focus, nothing less than perfect will do. One of my therapists calls it Too Much Activity combined with Perfectionism. I call it Overdrive.
Here’s the thing about Overdrive. The world loves it. It yields feel-good things like praise, promotion, and all kinds of success. Once you have a reputation for Overdrive, people want you on their team. You become the “go-to” girl, admired, respected, and celebrated. And after you experience that kind of recognition, you start chasing the high again and again.
Yes, perfectionism and overdrive are drugs. Just as addictive as popping pills or chugging drink, Overdrive becomes a way to numb the pain and fill the void. Except like drugs or alcohol, the high never lasts. Overdrive addiction is dangerous. Very dangerous. It does not carry the stigma of other addictions. You don’t try to keep it a secret. In fact the world just keeps offering more. More opportunities, more requests, more favors, more, more, more. And you are striving, and perfecting, and controlling, and consenting. You are building a kingdom that cannot stand. The weight of it will eventually crush you. And this is the irony of it all. My kingdom would indeed fall, but then the quest for true freedom would begin.
The Date with Destiny Series unveils the story of my seemingly charmed life resulting in a physical and emotional breakdown. It is coming, indeed. But before my world falls apart, there is a past to explore. Where was this Overdrive born? When was the seed planted? I have a few theories. Stay tuned for those in the next chapter of the Date with Destiny Series: Roots.
If I made a different decision, could I have avoided it all? Avoided the pain? Avoided the breakdown? Avoided the trauma? I ask that question of myself many times. For a myriad of reasons, I am confident the answer is no. Perhaps I could have staved it off for a time, but my landslide was coming. It had to come. My date with destiny had arrived.
The time was early fall 2014. I sat in a meeting at the girls’ school. I am part of the marketing team, a volunteer group of staff and parents who advise on ways to promote the school internally and externally. We had a problem on our hands. No one had volunteered to chair the school’s annual auction. Held in the spring each year, the auction is the primary fundraiser for the school. It is a big deal. The event raises anywhere from $80,000-$100,000 and a large portion of that income is included as a line item on the budget. Without an auction, we were in trouble.
At this time of the year, the planning should have been picking up steam, but without a chair person, we had nothing. And the clock was ticking. That’s when the little voice in my head piped up, You could do that, Laura. You could chair the auction. I admit that the idea was equally intriguing and frightening. Ironically, I distinctly remembered sitting at the auction the previous year and thinking, I’m so glad I have nothing to do with the planning of this event! It is a complex deal with as many logistics and moving parts as a political campaign. And yet, there was this part of me that suddenly wanted to take on the challenge.
The achiever/perfectionist/people-pleaser in me was quickly giddy with the potential of leading such a huge endeavor. I could take this on and do it as it had never been done before. The soft-spoken voice of reason, on the other hand, had a few concerns. I knew my husband, Justin, likely would not be on board. I had taken on too much responsibility in the past, and it always put a strain on our relationship. But for every yield sign that cropped up, a creative idea also sparked in my mind. In fact, it was as if the creative portion of my brain was lit up with flood lights. Without any effort at all, a theme came to me, Mission Possible. I could already see the James Bond imagery reflected in artwork and other visuals. Your mission, if you should choose to accept…from there the ideas just kept flowing. Almost too quickly for me to keep up. If ideas were coming THIS freely, it had to mean I was meant to take this on…right?!?
I initially pitched the idea to Justin as a team effort. He can rock a spreadsheet like nobody I know. Without a doubt, he would be an excellent co-pilot. The problem was, he didn’t bite. Justin had recently started a new job that involved international travel. Lots of it – being gone for three weeks at a time, several times a year. The girls and I had survived his first two trips the previous spring and summer. While we missed him terribly, we had held our own and made the best of it with special treats like the girls sleeping in my bed and dinners of popcorn and ice cream. Justin knew his limits and co-chairing an auction with me definitely did not fit within them. He knows me well enough to realize that it didn’t fit for me, either. But frankly, I just didn’t care. The challenge of being responsible for something as big as the school auction had taken hold of my ego and wasn’t about to let go. The voice of reason didn’t stand a chance.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the next marketing team meeting telling them about my idea for a theme, exciting new possibilities, and volunteering to chair the auction for one year. I don’t know what made me so emphatic about telling them it was for one year only, but the team was just so relieved that someone was crazy enough to volunteer, they didn’t care. Crisis averted, or so I believed…my husband wasn’t happy about my decision, but he also knew that when I make up my mind about something, I’m like a steamroller with no brakes.
The commitment was made. The die was cast. The fun was about to begin.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
I took my love and took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down
Next in the Series…Overdrive: Part II – the story leading to my emotional and physical breakdown. Little did I know that my world was about to be turned on its axis, and I would find myself bruised and broken in a way I never dreamed possible.
I remember it well. Just over a year ago I was driving the girls to school. The sun was shining and my heart was full. I had never felt better or happier. A song came on the radio, and these words swirled in my head and my heart…
Make me broken, so I can be healed… Make me empty, so I can be filled…
I remember having a secret thought, My life has been so easy. I am so blessed. Will I ever be broken?
I remember it vividly because it was such a shocking thought. Almost like I was daring the fates. As though I had been cheated from some strange, beautiful pain. I was feeling so good, so capable, and so in control of my life that my psyche was foolishly saying bring it on. The haunting song painted brokenness as poetic. And my romantic soul didn’t want to miss out. How arrogant. And how very naive.
Because, of course, I WAS broken. Very broken, indeed. I was so skilled at hiding my brokenness that I didn’t even know I had it. 37 years of pretending and shoving my pain and brokenness into the deep recesses of my soul was about to be Just. Too. Much. I did not know I was on an inevitable, steep, downhill journey to more suffering than I dared dream possible. My rose-colored glasses would soon shatter. My carefully crafted persona would falter. I would fail, breakdown, face my hurts, habits, hang-ups, and remove my mask for the very first time. Little did I know that the words of this lovely song were an eerie foreshadow of what was to come.
And yet. In that moment, I was oblivious to the monster that lay in wait. My monster. My fear. My sin. Me. I sang with a happy heart and dreamed of what it would be like to be so broken…
I’m praying for the words to share what happens next in the story! Check back with me, soon.