Dear Weary Heart...
Updated: Mar 17, 2018
Life can be brutal.
Failures. Heartbreaks. Confusion. Relationship woes. Setbacks. Loneliness. The list goes on and on and on.
This afternoon, I was in the middle of writing another blog post when I had to stop. It's not that it wasn't good or anything (I'll definitely publish it later), but it just wasn't working. I was distracted. My heart wasn't in it – and when you're heart's not in it, it just feels like a bunch of useless fluff.
Fluff is everywhere. I've read it, you've read it, and it might make you feel good, but it doesn't get down to the nitty gritty. It's like the difference between making small talk with a stranger versus baring your soul to your closest friend: the former is a surface-level nicety, while the latter opens up some honest heart moments. I obviously can't bare my soul here (this isn't a personal journal, praise the Lord), but for the sake of processing through life, I'd like to cut the fluff and write something that I know helps me to think clearer and I hope helps others to do so as well.
So here's the blog post for today: "Dear Weary Heart..."
I started a habit a little while ago that I turn to in the middle of what I'll call, uh...for the sake of the children....poopy weeks. It's quickly climbed the ranks of tools that I use to combat all forms of frustration, confusion, exhaustion, you name it.
I write myself a letter.
I don't go through the hassle of mailing it to myself, but I do take the time to write it as I would if I were going to in fact stick it in the postbox and send it off to a close friend. I'll address it to myself, write the date, and sign it. I don't know what the magic behind it is, but what I think it does is it helps me remove myself from the current situation, activate the positive/uplifting portion of my brain, and speak encouragement into my own life. It also allows me to forgo all the bull....uh, fluff...because I know the only person reading will be me.
Sometimes it's long, sometimes it's just a post-it note with a few short sentences. Sometimes it's filled with words of encouragement, and sometimes it's filled with challenging thoughts. Sometimes I sign it as "Your Friend," and other times I'll sign it as if Jesus himself were writing it to me (this sounds sacrilegious and you definitely have to be careful with this, but when the statements you are making to yourself are backed by Scripture, it's simply a way of personalizing God's promises for you).
Earlier this week, I wrote myself the following letter while munching on that cookie and peppermint tea I wrote about in my "Crowding the Plate" post (again, another point for this snack combo contributing to mental breakthroughs). It's obviously been highly edited and redacted, but the relief and mental clarity that it provided me over the past few days has been tremendous.
Some parts are cheesy and ra-ra. Trust me, I know. Remember that I didn't write this for anyone but myself. My hope is that if you find yourself in a difficult situation, then you'll find letter-writing as a tool you can use to help provide some respite.
So brace yourself...
"You've had a rough go. I know this. I feel your pain. You've been anxious, your heart has been torn, your thoughts have been setting new speed records. You're worried about today, next week, next month, this year, and even years and years from now. You're afraid this heavy blanket of heartache and anxiety is never going to lift, and you've been frantically searching for a miracle...or just something that will give you some comfort for the moment.
[Cut two very personal paragraphs out here]
"Well here's the deal, bro. I'll shoot straight. You've been on this boat before. You've lived through hell on earth and you're still around to tell the tale. You've been to the edge; you've looked into the inky blackness of despair; you've been inches from giving up on life when it felt impossible to go on. But at the end of the day, you held on. You survived.
"You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. Unbelievably stronger. People might see your anxiety as a weakness, a flaw, and something you should be ashamed of and try to hide. I'm telling you that it has only made you stronger; maybe even stronger than most other people your age. You've spent more time searching, grappling, and wrestling with your heart than most people will ever do in a lifetime. You know what it means to be in pain, and this suffering you face gives you an incredible gift that allows you to grieve with those who are hurting, relate to their pain, weep alongside them, and offer sincere words of encouragement, hope, and comfort.
[Cut another personal paragraph]
"No matter where you go, your character – who you are – is what is attractive to others. The amount of adventures you have or places you travel doesn't mean a thing. People spend their whole lives traveling and looking for these great experiences, but at the end of the day, their character hasn't changed. They come back with another notch on their belt and a new photo that they doctor up for the whole world to see. Character is built and refined through struggle and hardship...not fun trips, easy relationships, or rosy memories. Don't think that because you're here and someone is there, your life has stalled. Developing character takes heart-work, and even if you think your heart is broken and unlovable, know you've got a heart of gold that you wouldn't have had if life had been easy. People have told you you're different. Why don't you believe them?
"So please stop being so hard on yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others. You've made it. You're making it. You're like a fighter who got hit with a brutal right hook in the first round of a nine round bout. You hit the mat, but you didn't stay down. Give yourself the damn credit already. I know you're frustrated that your fight hasn't been easier. You look around and see everyone else looking like everything is all put together. But remember the rules: you're not allowed to fight outside of your weight class. If you're in this particular fight, then you have what it takes to win. You've been given a harder fight only because God knows that you are capable of handling it.
"And guess what? You've been knocked around, but you're winning. You're weathering the blows, learning more about your opponent, and discovering that you can do this.
"So start throwing some fu....lller punches. Fight back. Hitting the mat sucks, but now you know how to get up and keep going. You learned how to keep fighting. Now put the ba...ker down. Live your life like only you can. Wear your black eye and busted nose with a sense of pride. You're not done yet, so go for it hard.
"God made you. He loves you. Nothing surprises Him. You don't know the future, but He does, and He has promised to never allow you to face more than you are capable of dealing with. What's more, the battle for your life has already been won. Life can be a bi...cyclist, but you're already a winner. When your fight is finally over, you'll be with Him forever. So make the most of your life. God put you in it. Now live it.
If the cheesiness was too much, well, I'm not going to apologize because this letter wasn't written for you. [Insert fat smile here]. Again, my hope is that if you are finding yourself in a difficult spot in life and you're not getting any encouragement from elsewhere, then you will do the hard work of writing yourself a letter that addresses your specific situation.
Looking at mine, it's clear that I was wrestling with anxiety, low self-esteem, and feeling like I'm missing opportunities in my life. Even typing that last sentence out helps me throw on the brakes and think, "Whoah, wait a second, do I really believe that? Why do I feel that way?"
The letter you write helps you to see the encouragement that you need. When you're feeling down and out, you often can't pinpoint exactly what's causing it. Seeing the specific encouragements you need helps you to challenge the negative thoughts that are behind them.
That might not make any sense, but I'm rolling with it.
The least you can do is try it for yourself.
Write yourself a letter.
Be generous, open, and honest. Focus on the good and write it down as if you were telling your best friend about their positive traits.
Life can be brutal, but the beautiful part about it is that we can choose how to respond.