Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Again, With Feeling

"She tried to escape the pain, but sometimes it's all that's real. There's no excuse for living pain-free. That's the deal." -  Trampled by Turtles, New Orleans

Yesterday marked one of the lamest attempts Cory and I have ever made at going on a date.
It was a catastrophic blend of miscommunication, false assumptions, unrealistic expectations, and Taco Bell.

Cory had texted me while I was in the kitchen sometime late in the morning, my hair hanging wet as I rolled out pie crust, chopped peppers for soup, and shredded zucchini for muffins. Our friends Jasmine and Jose just had their first baby and I had fretted over what to feed them. The longer I'm in this chapter of life, the more my palate changes. Things are just simpler here, or at least they should be.

"Do you want to grab lunch?" the text read.

We had spent a good part of the previous day scrutinizing our squeaky budget, making tweaks, and wondering all over again why there is always, always too much month at the end of our money. I assumed he knew something I didn't know. Maybe he'd found a mistake and corrected it. Maybe he'd been reimbursed for something at work. Maybe he just decided we needed an hour together and knew it wouldn't break us.

I was happy with any of the above, but mostly, I just really wanted a burrito.

I said yes.

Eating out was a luxury in my childhood, usually saved for Sundays. My Dad was a sucker for a good buffet. (I hold the word "good" loosely here.) I learned to navigate the Ponderosa hot bar like a medalist. I served up school cafeteria-grade "nachos" from the Rax buffet and called myself blessed.

Aside from a tiny pizza joint, our one-light town was dry in terms of booze and partially hydrogenated grease. But our church was twenty miles away in a larger city. We tasted the fruits of its industry when we were able. I doused crispy fish fillets in malt vinegar at Long John Silver's. We visited the food court at the mall. Once, we ventured into an actual "sit down and order from a menu" Mexican restaurant, I believe it was to celebrate a milestone as my mom struggled her way through nursing school with three young children, but before we had even ordered, spots drifted into her line of vision and we left in a rush. A migraine. I remember feeling guilty for being mad.

It's an irony now, to have a pantry with plenty and the skills and desire to make it into something beautiful, yet to feel so relieved at the thought of food "grown" in economy-sized tin cans.

Taco Bell, in my humble opinion, is better than a whole lot of things. It's certainly better than nothing. But when we arrived the lobby was full of folks waiting. They sat alone and in pairs, shaking paper cups of ice and caffeine, taking sips, tapping their nails on the tables, looking around in confusion. In a roomful of hungry people, there seemed to be no food.

We left.
We argued in the parking lot.
We went our separate ways.


Earlier this morning I filled out an online community survey asking me how I define "good health," and how I know when I'm not living it. I probably should've answered, "When a mismanaged taco joint breaks me."

I don't want to list out all the stresses presently hurtling our way right now. Too stressful. But I knew the situation was dire when I woke up yesterday still halfway inside a dream where two people I love were dying, the Simon and Garfunkel line, "Hello darkness, my old friend..." playing on a loop in the background.

Times are tough and my little corner of the world feels pretty wild these days.
People keep breaking my heart and I pass the hurt along, an empty platter.

I drove away from Taco Bell fuming. I was mad about money. Mad about marriage. Mad about a friend of ours, who despite having every possible resource for success at his disposal, despite being such a bright spot in our life for the past year, succumbed to his demons in a matter of weeks after his release from jail. "That sure didn't take long," I'd told Cory. "That's exactly what I said," he replied, our words mirror images of a safety net knit from cynicism.

Sometimes our bodies can't muster the empathy required. We can't drum up the appropriate expression of grief and lament. It's easier to be sarcastic and pretend to move on.

Addiction is the scariest thing I know, hands down. It's scarier than Calvin's illness or the medical bills. It's scarier than being wrong. It's scarier than vulnerability. It's scarier than the prophets and the terrifying truth they sling. It's far scarier than writing a book or baking a pie.

I don't understand addiction.

Or do I?

I crossed the street and pulled into the Wendy's drive-thru. "One Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe, one Value french fry..." I wavered. What I really wanted was a Dr. Pepper. It had been so long. It might be poison, but I deserved it and a little wouldn't hurt. I could already feel it bubbling down my throat, an effervescent sugar rush seeping into my sore spots. A reward for enduring the discomfort of being human.

I drove aimlessly for a while, then parked. I stared out the window, my fingers salty and slick. I enjoyed that burger, saving the best bit for last. I took a few sips.

The air around me was restless, 94 degrees with leaves on the sidewalk.
Come September, we start praying for decay.

I listened to the sounds of the life that is mine. I noticed the contrast.
I drove home, finished a couple of projects, and welcomed Ruby and Silas at 3.

I baked peach dumplings.
I plunged my bare feet into a plastic sled filled with ice cold water, a makeshift spa created by Silas because he loves me. We sat there for an hour reading in the shade, glasses of ice water sweating on the patio table. It was bliss. Serenity. Comfort. (Why, then, did the urge to grab my phone keep pulling at me?)

What I have is exactly enough.
This is enough.
This is enough.

In this moment, whichever one it happens to be, there is feeling. There is truth. There is pain sometimes, yes, but hope is always waiting for us to reach out and grab it. Darkness won't swallow me if I don't lay down and die. It has never been my friend.

By 9pm, the house cleared and the kids were in bed.
I found a paper cup half-full of watery Dr. Pepper, walked it outside, and dumped it into one of the mums. Maybe it would take the edge off this Indian summer.

This is life. We fall. We hide behind humor. We give way to skepticism, fearing belief will find us a fraud. We want. We fill ourselves wrongly. We numb. We dodge. We deflect.

We get back up. We reach for help. We feel. We see. We know.

We believe.

Even when we thought we were done.


September is National Recovery Month. I wholeheartedly recommend Coming Clean by Seth Haines. It's a gripping, lyrical account of heartbreak, doubt, discovery, and healing. It's written for each of us caught in the cycle of facing disappointment and trying to trade our pain rather than just learning to hold it for as long as it takes.

This book is a hopeful brother in the trenches for many of our friends in jail and it lives on the stack by my nightstand. Seth has also created some audio readings to give you a glimpse. (You need to catch his drawl so you can read his book rightly.) Find them here

*Amazon affiliate link


  1. Your transparency and ability to be so real has been so helpful in my trials. It is so helpful to know that we aren't alone in our struggles. And even if what I am struggling with is different than what you are, it's still the same. The pain. The heartbreak. The disappointment. I had one of those moments yesterday. I was ugly-crying, to God, as I was driving. And it was just a bad day that felt like one attack after another. I wanted to give up. Not really sure what. I threw my hands up I started to say "I give up..." I thought I would stop there but Spirit led me further to say "I give up TO YOU LORD...I surrender, TO YOU!" And it turned what felt like a hopeless situation into a beautiful moment where I was able to praise Him in my storm. Like you said, we fall. We get back up. God won't let us quit. He always provides whatever we need to sustain us...and keep having just a glimmer of hope, a mustard seed of faith. All we need is community and each other. Even if everything else in our world is falling apart, if we have just one person to walk through it with, or just someone who understands, it makes a world of difference. I love how you always paint that picture of community. And despite what you and your family has going on you always have a smile on your face and are able to focus on the most simple and beautiful things in life. I could go on about how God continued to work in my evening last show me that He is with us and He cares. About everything. LIFE IS HARD. But it's also such a beautiful thing. There's beauty in pain. And I'd rather go through trials and experience the depth of God's love and grace through those times than to live a comfortable life with no pain, yet no supernatural experience or connection with God. (I say that humbly and carefully, bc I don't invite those hard things). Just knowing that God is for us and there is always something to hope for.
    Thank you for being so open Shannan! Xoxo!!!

  2. Please keep writing because I need to know I’m not the only one scared and angry before I’m even fully conscious in the morning.
    God is good. This I know.

  3. I know the pain that you describe and I'm so very sorry to hear about your friend. I pray he/she tries again. You bring us to your place with your words and I'm grateful for the glimpse.

  4. Thank you for sharing so rawly about addition. I watched both of parents battle with it for years, with the kids of addictions that are hard to hide. Didn't matter that we were a private-school-going, suburbia-living family. My dad has overcome, is overcoming, inspiring me to overcome everyday (after nearly a 30 year fight). However, my mother's addictions overcame her six years ago this very month. She knew Jesus, so I like to imagine her as a victor still, just not earth-side. I, too, do not understand addiction, or as you said, perhaps I do. If I have learned anything from watching my parents, it is both the frailty and resiliency of being human, and that human is all any of us are. We are all in need of a each other, of a hand held out, of a hearty cheer on our behalf. Praying for your friend as they battle, praying for you as you fight to believe, and thanking God that He believes when none of us can find that faith. As always, thank you for your true words.

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