Lessons Learned During a Mid-Life Crisis

“If you deny your story, you deny not only yourself…
but you deny the very Author Who is writing your redemptive epic.”
– Ann Voskamp

FYI: This post is not going to be about our family planning. You’re free to check back at a later date, or you can stay and learn more about the woman behind the blog — a woman who, emotionally-speaking, is coming out of a really, really dark place. Don’t hide your surprise. Believe me — this is just as shocking to you as it was recently to me. This post isn’t really for you as much as it is for me, but you’re free to listen to me process. I’m warning you; it’s going to take a while.

No one wants to admit they’re having a mid-life crisis, especially me. [I say “mid-life,” because even though I’m only 27, let’s face it — I most likely am in the middle of my life, if not the latter part. As I’ve always told you, transplant wasn’t a cure. Though I refuse to be a slave to statistics, and wholeheartedly believe my God can have me live 100+ years if He so wills, having a shorter life-span is still very much most likely my reality. I had to acknowledge that fact a long, long time ago. In fact, daily embracing my mortality is a huge part of my personality and the driving force behind my transparency.]

There is nothing fun or sexy about saying you’re emotionally in crisis, especially when you live your life as openly and positively as I live mine. No, I would say that someone with my personality admitting such a thing is one of the scariest things they’ll ever do; as one who “let’s it all hang out,” it takes the concept of being “vulnerable” to a level they weren’t even aware existed. That’s why I almost saved myself the embarrassment and just went on my merry, blogging way. More so, that’s why it took me so long to admit to myself I was (and had been for a long time) struggling, let alone to anyone else.

After all, I am a “the glass is always half full (and usually brimming over)” kind of person. No matter how many trials I endure, I have made a conscious decision to be always pressing forward in Jesus’ name, in championing His sovereignty and goodness amidst human suffering to anyone who will listen; that message is my calling and my song. If I didn’t believe that concept down to the very marrow of my bones, I wouldn’t have wasted my time, tears and energy (spiritually, physically and emotionally) writing two books and starting a non-profit ministry around that idea. I would have done anything but endure everything that came with getting that all done. If I didn’t believe the Lord made it very clear from the moment that the idea of surrogacy was brought to us (before I had the slightest idea of the twists and turns of life ahead) that I was to be painstakingly transparent with all of you about the excruciating year that has been me 2013, I never would have. I don’t know about you, but re-living my worst nightmare (and then remembering it was actually my reality) by writing almost two-dozen blog posts with a box of tissues beside me every time isn’t really my idea of ‘fun.’  Had I been a “normal” person, I wouldn’t have ever subjected myself to such emotional trauma. But I did, time and time again. 

I did because, no matter how hard you try, how much you let yourself get distracted, how many times you run, how much you want to deny it, don’t like it, or want anything but it, you can’t outrun God and His calling on your life. You just can’t — me included.

You also can’t run from your humanity or the humanity of others.
You can try. I did. I can promise you, though, it’ll catch up.
If you’re not ready, it won’t just catch up; it’ll trample you.

In the process, this head-on collision with human nature (yours and that of others) will leave a gaping wound on your heart that only Jesus and time can heal. I speak from experience — lots of it here recently, actually. My realization of my deep, emotional wounds didn’t happen overnight – hardly so. It was a slow, very painful process. It was only after the recent, final blow that I finally realized I had been unconsciously, but dangerously, “running with the bulls” for a long, long time. I wasn’t just emotionally injured but instead bleeding profusely and far from healthy. After years of running through the streets exposed, my pulse was thready and my body was broken.

After finally admitting I had been feeling tired and battered for oh, so long, I began to acknowledge my “sickness” to a few and seek out why I felt like I was suffocating. To be honest, for several days, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to be left alone. I was no longer full of positivity and hope. I was instead full of brokenness and despair. I had nothing left to give. My body was physically tired from crying a sea of tears caused by an attitude of “just keep swimming” after years of deep disappointment, numerous serious trials and wounds caused by relational betrayal and misunderstanding.

I had hit my limit. I was officially done.

Once I dried my tears, I began to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how much I wanted to believe otherwise, my joy was gone, long gone. I began to come to terms with the fact that the person I saw staring back at me in the mirror wasn’t someone I recognized. Instead of a woman full of hope and joy, instead I saw someone who bore deep, deep wounds from not only a very difficult life but a difficult life lived wide-open.

If you think I’m honest on my blog, you should meet me in real life.  I not only write, but also walk around, with my heart on my sleeve. I genuinely adore people and can feel extremely real, very deep connections (and the emotions that come with said connection) to people I hardly know, let alone the people to whom I am close. To say I’m “relational” is an understatement. I thrive off of interaction with people. I’m the furthest thing from an introvert you can get. Human interaction for me is like a hit of the best drug for an addict. I can never get enough.

Because I know our life is but a vapor, and have a constant dialogue within about that fact, I sincerely love pouring into the lives of others and being open (even to the point of it being unhealthy for me) with them about my life so that they, too, feel safe to be open about their struggles, fears, failures, etc. I happily spend hours a day investing in others. I easily give people the benefit of the doubt and can’t hold a grudge more than an hour, if that. I admittedly have a really hard time understanding passiveness, let alone passive-aggressiveness. I don’t play emotional games. I don’t have hidden, ulterior motives when dealing with people, and find the actions of those that do appalling, sad and confusing all at the same time. My motto in life has always been, “what you see is what you get” – always without question.

Thankfully, the Lord gave me a spouse who appreciates this way of living. Most importantly, he values, believes in and protects my tender heart. Though he is much more introverted, private and less relational than I am (opposites do attract), he is is just as much a lover of living transparently as I am. We are both far from perfect, but one this is for certain: We say what we mean, and we mean what we say – the first time, all the time. We don’t wonder what the other is thinking or feeling; we know because we share it all– the good and the bad. We live life completely wide-open with each other every second we’re together. We aren’t afraid of disagreeing with each other, having a confrontation or embracing raw emotions, even if they involve hurt caused by the other.  In fact, for us, dealing head-on with those things are quite normal and highly accepted. Why? Well, because as we learned especially this past year, our love for each other (and others) is strong enough to handle the truth, even when the truth is hard to say or to hear. It’s been often said you never have to worry about where you stand with the Paynes. I am proud of that fact. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except for our staunch commitment to honesty, my husband and I vastly differ in how we relate to the human race. Though he’s completely honest with everyone, he’s only transparent with a few. Like me, he’s far from passive, and will answer anything (and I mean anything) you ask him. Unlike me, though, he doesn’t trust just anyone with his heart. He’s cautious and guarded. He makes you earn his trust, his time, and his heart, instead of giving it out generously; once you earn it, though, he’s as loyal as they come. He doesn’t live his life exposed for all to see. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve but instead gives it to those whom he trusts to protect it. Simply put, like most people, he gives his heart to few and far between; he doesn’t live life wide-open.

Wide-open. That’s how I’ve lived my life since I was 18 and faced with my pending death. 9 years of refusing to go back to putting on the mask and being a part of a facade for which we were never meant. To combat that lie, I ended up going the opposite-but just-as-unhealthy way and conforming to a mindset that says you bear all, and give all, to everyone, no matter the cost or what little emotionally-speaking you get back in return. Christ has called us to live “selflessly,” after all.

9 years of no-holds-barred, not-worried-about-self-preservation wide openness. 9 years of, at least in a way, relational unhealthiness that involved me giving myself so deeply, so genuinely to so many without a second thought. Unknowingly to me until recently, this mindset I thought was so life-giving and Christ-like was instead toxic and exhausting for a human who could benefit from some self-preservation, and relational reciprocation, now and then. 

For years, though it was never my intention, I played the relational harlot. I gave myself away too easily and too deeply to far too many people. I didn’t think that showing all my cards to anyone and everyone was a bad thing, let alone a harmful thing. I didn’t think the fact that I admittedly asked for, and consequently oftentimes got, nothing (or little) back from my relationships was going to have consequences; just as long as I was being “selfless,” that was all that mattered to me. After years of loving and giving so deeply to far more than who returned the favor, and being (whether intentionally or not) misunderstood and used by many of them in return, I was left jaded, confused, and broken. I was left to deal with the mess, that because of my own doing, was my battered heart.

Through it all, I’m learning to allow Jesus to mend my heart and move more toward a happy, relational medium. I’m learning to emotionally take care of myself.

Even though it feels so wrong to even say that, let alone do it, I’m learning self-preservation, at least in a way, is Godly and good. In return, though I extensively invest in fewer people, instead of being emptied, I’m left full of joy and life. I’m left far from bitter but instead better. I’m left to pave a path in a different and foreign, more guarded, yet healthier direction.

I’m left to make a conscious decision to still live as authentically as I always have (and always will) but not as transparently as I – and everyone else – have become accustomed.

[Side note: This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging, so don’t worry!] I’m left to daily choose to not become hardhearted but also not to whore my whole heart out to anyone who breathes. In return, I’m left with more time and emotional energy to love with reckless abandon those who, like my husband, value and protect my tender heart.

Instead of wondering why I feel so empty when I’ve given to the point of exhaustion, I’m left to show more wisdom and pursue “wide-open” relationships with people who don’t question my heart and desire to reciprocate the transparency I’ve always so easily given. Moreover, because I’ve consciously preserved myself and not expended myself (even if sincerely) to the point of emotional depletion, I’m left with more emotional energy to “love” the masses from a healthier distance without unintentionally needing anything from them. It’s a win-win, people.

I’m learning how priceless my marriage is and how much my husband means to me and deserves my undivided attention. I’m learning relationships where both parties, whether in a marriage or a friendship, are being mutually transparent and giving are precious and few and far between. When you find them, though, they are a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. Most importantly, I’m left with a peace I haven’t had in a very, very long time. I’m left feeling redeemed and new again. 

Thank you, Father, for continually redeeming me.

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2 Comments

Filed under grace, Life, Purpose, Sanctification

2 responses to “Lessons Learned During a Mid-Life Crisis

  1. Your heart is trustworthy but not every one is trustworthy with your heart – it’s a hard lesson to learn when you are an open, trusting type of person. I’m so glad you’ve decided to practice a little self-preservation. (((Hugs))))

  2. Julie

    Thanks once again for sharing your journey, Amber. Lots of food for thought there…

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