Monday, September 30, 2013

Letting go

Most of my life I have suffered from high anxiety. Panic attacks. A gazillion jumbled thoughts rushing in circles in my head. The need to do, do, do. And the desire for order outside of my body to compensate for the disorder I find going on inside.

During this whole journey of cancer, I have found myself having - needing - to let go of things in order to make it through. These are things that I told myself were good things to hold onto. Things, I thought I needed - but turns out I don't.
1. The need for an ordered, clean house.
It is true, I love living in a clean space. There is nothing, hear me, NOTHING, wrong with living in a clean organized space. If I could, I always, always would. But do I need it? No. Am I a bad person or a bad mom with out it? No. 
If people stop by and my house is in shambles, will they judge me or like me less? Maybe. But then, those are the kind of people that I may need to reconsider how close I let them into my life. But the truth is - MOST people are not going to like me less. MOST people are going to be happy to see that my house looks normal, just like their house does. They are going to FEEL less judged by me the next time I go to their house because they know that I am not a super mom. I'm just like every other normal mom and person on the planet. 
We clean when we can. But life goes on here. Lots of life. Sometimes the living needs to take up the time and not the cleaning up after it.

Let it go.

2. My style and appearance.
Some of you might be rolling your eyes at me right now, but for me, this has been an issue. I used to not feel comfortable going out of the house without making sure I had at least a little bit of makeup on, or a cute, trendy outfit, or my hair styled in a way that made me feel confident. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of that! But I literally couldn't go anywhere, without these crutches because of fear of judgment. Did I look too plain, did I look too pretty? Was I too dressed up or too casual? What would people think of me? I don't think I even ever realized that I had these feelings, I just didn't want to leave the house if I wasn't ready. And getting ready took too long, so I just didn't want to leave the house. I know, it sounds crazy - but read the first paragraph of this blog again.
When I was going through the first, poisonous rounds of chemo and my hair all fell out, I didn't have the luxury of hiding away. I still had to go to the hospital every week. I had people coming to bring food. I had life to live, and I did it all in a scarf. My eyebrows and my eyelashes fell out. And I still had to go and do. And live. And it was ok.
I don't need to look a certain way to be accepted.
People still like me when I don't have makeup on and am wearing my workout clothes.
And those same people like me when I'm dressed up all fancy for a date.

Let it go.

3. Talking to strangers.
In the past, I have been scared of people. I have been afraid to speak up and introduce myself. I have felt embarrassed because I can't remember your name or if we have met before. I expect the worst reaction from others, even if I never, ever get the worst. I expect judgment.
This is the third time in a row I have mentioned judgement of other people. Can you see a running theme? It was time I stopped living for what others might think, and start living for what God thinks about me - even though I thought I was doing that the whole time.
I met so many sick and hurting people in the chemo room. There was one day when a woman began having an allergic reaction to some of the meds. She couldn't breath and her face was swelling and turning red. All of the other patients in the room, including me, were looking at her with pity, and with fear that this horrible thing could happen, when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to to pray, pray, pray for her. Not inside my own head from my chemo chair, like I was apt to do, but to get up and drag my intravenous pole with me and touch her. Y'all, I was so scared to do it. But I knew that if I didn't, I would be disobeying GOD because I was scared of His creation. So I did it. I prayed. Out loud, in that chemo room full of people. And you know what? Her swelling went down and she began to breath. And I looked over at the woman in the chair next to mine, across the room and she was crying. The power of God was in that room. 
His power can still move, if I disobey. But then I wouldn't get to see it so clearly. 
Engaging His children is something I want to do well. For His glory.

Let it go.

4. Taking pictures.
I know this sounds like a silly one to let go. And I am not letting it go completely (as you can see.)  I still love taking pictures; I love making little snapshots of art and I love looking at them to remember. But I used to take so many photos, for these reasons: to remember, to exercise creative juices, to illustrate my writing, AND to show others what I was doing and how awesome it is was, and to prove to myself and others that I was living a good and happy life.
There, I said it. I wasn't taking all of my pictures for myself and my family and friends to remember or for art's sake, but to try to appease the judgement I thought I felt from the world to BE something and DO something extraordinary and exciting. 
And I am neither extraordinary nor exciting. I am an ordinary person who sometimes gets to do extraordinary things because of the grace of God, and I am just as boring as everyone else, unless I somehow get to do something that is fun and exciting. I don't have to prove it for people to like me. I don't have to prove it to be a good person. And I don't have to prove it for God to love me.
Letting this one go has been years in the making, not just from going through cancer. I have felt some unease about certain aspects of sharing pictures or thoughts online for a while. I just couldn't put my finger on what it was. 

Let it go.

To sum up those lessons I've learned (or hope that I have learned - He is not through with me yet!) I will leave you with this verse that I love and am only just now being able to understand the depths of, in my own heart: "Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23:24


Becoming Jane said...

Lovely as always. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Janet Coats said...

You have displayed such grace and dignity throughout this entire journey so to be brave enough to share it with all of us is quite admirable. I could never put into words how you have touched me with your words and I have the utmost respect for you Amanda. I hope one day to meet you in person but until I have the pleasure please know that I have you in my daily prayers always and I ask God to continue to use you in such a way that you teach all of us how to carry ourselves with such a powerful and mind boggling strength that we begin to have the feeling that we can defeat anything. YOU my dear one have displayed such a belief and I have come to believe that you actually can. The strength you have teaches us all that good can come from the darkest of days and I thank you for that lesson from the bottom of my heart. May God continue to walk with you every step you take. May your entire family continue to be blessed.

Amanda Conley said...

Thank you, Janet and Jane. I appreciate both of your words and encouragements. :)

Heidi Petak said...

oh my goodness- this is just what I needed to read tonight. thank you, Amanda. I LOVE your quote about us spending our time living- not cleaning up after it. I think I'm going to post that somewhere central in my house! thank you. xoxo

Amanda Conley said...

Thanks, Heidi. :) I'm glad you identify. I think I need to hang that one up in my house too, so I don't forget what my heart knows!

Christine said...

Thanks for your thoughts Amanda. Beautiful words of encouragement that I completely relate too. I always thought you were so real and so uniquely beautiful in so many ways. The way you've expressed your need for the Lord's grace and mercy through your cancer journey has been so inspiring. I should comment more, and I don't have a reason why, but thanks for your words today. :-)

Christine said...

relate to, not too. ugh, I'm a sucker for grammar and being judged by it. Need to let that go too!!!

Amanda Conley said...

Ha! I make those kind of mistakes so often. It is just from trying to type as fast as we think! :)

Amanda Lasley said...

This is SO beautifully eloquent, Amanda, and hits so close to home. It is a great reminder to focus on what matters in life. Though, I think like you, I'm not guilty of being terribly materialistic or trying to keep up with the Joneses, I do worry way too much about the messiness of my house and making sure I don't look like a frumpy mom. Thank you for sharing, and inspiring me to let go of all those less important things that take up so much time in my life. I'm also so glad that you're doing well and are on the road to recovery. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers often. ~Amanda Johnson

Amanda Conley said...

Thank you, Amanda. Thanks for writing, and thank you for your prayers!

Kohana said...

I feel like a broken record, but each of your posts moves me so much, and each one brings me to tears. I think it is because you are sharing truth out of that very intimate place of walking with the Lord through such a tremendous trial. Thank you for sharing your journey, I say yet again.

Amanda Conley said...
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