Even If It Shakes – Even If It Changes

I am afraid I have defined myself by my crisis.

I’m good at writing the hard things in my life, the mental illness stories, the angry at church rants, the declarations of rebellion and feminism. I easily find the words to talk about hurt, pain, struggle, and loss. I’m at home when writing about vulnerable, raw things. It’s what I know, where I have lived, and the emotions of it sit near to my skin, easy to show their faces.

Crisis times, these raw and wounded words are not all that I am.

I am much more than the accumulation of my hurts and scars. I am more than raw emotion and anger. I am made of more than mental illness and deep wounds. I want to show up and write from the more that I am. I want you to know me not just in times of crisis, hurt, and struggle, but in my joy, in my adventure, in my laughter, and in my healing.

I fear that the time I have spent and the words I have spilled over the bloody, wounded, crises times of my life has marked, branded, and nitched me into something that is not fully me. I fear that you reading this have come to expect something only raw and visceral from me. I fear that if I don’t keep writing these hard things, these wounds and messy places, that you will stop reading my words and I will become forgotten.

But if I am more than my hurts and my mess, if I am more than crisis and struggle, then is it fair for me to hide the rest of my life from you, even if i fear you won’t embrace the easy things in my life?

Write Happy

I’m probably being melodramatic, but what I say is true.

To put it another way: I don’t want to alienate you, my readers, by sharing beyond the struggle that many of you are in the middle of. Yes in many ways, I am in the midst of the struggles of life too. I don’t think I ever won’t be. But my struggle is not the whole story. I am still afflicted with a bipolar mood disorder, but I am finding help and healing. I am still angry and hurt by church culture, but I am finding healing in ways I didn’t expect. I am still riddled with self doubt, hurt, and uncertainty, but I am learning to show up and embrace myself.

You have come to know me from my writing about the hard things in my life. What happens if I learn to write happy, about the joy of seeing my son grow up? About my beautiful wife and my attempts to be a decent husband? What about if I find myself reconciling with the church? What if I write from the good places? Will you still read? Will it seem like I am out grown the struggles and fears and hurt that you still have, that we bonded over?

Still Showing Up

The truth is I am growing up. I’ve been angry and hurt for so long. I have lived in crisis, scrapping by, for most of my adult life. Things are changing now though, and I want to share the new stories with you without making you feel marginalized or alienated for not being at the place of life I find myself now. It’s not that I have things figured out, at all really. It’s more that I am tired of being defined by my hurt and sorrow and anger, and struggle.

I am more than that.

You are too.

So I will still be honest and raw with my words, but they may not have the sting of hurt and bloody mess to them all the time. Sometimes the most vulnerable thing I can say is admitting the good days I have, the joys I am rediscovering in life, the healing that happens. Sometimes the most vulnerable thing  I can do is to show up in the process as I am growing up into a wholehearted me.

But I am still me, and I will still show up with all my words and feelings and thoughts and joys and fears.

Even if my voice shakes.

Even if my voice changes.

  • troy mc laughlin

    Aaron first and foremost I appreciate you bro. The whole you. I’m also joyed to see some restoration occurring in your life. Often times people are defined by a “condition”, illness etc. unfortunately that not only has permeated culture but it’s also our places of worship. Those in the church, even those in leadership sometimes have acted, treated those the same or even worse than those outside a body of believers. Thanks for sharing this post and some “happy” moments.

  • Jennifer J

    I am so happy for your times of happiness and healing. As a woman who has gone through so much and has finally found some happiness of my own, I think I understand a little. I sort of feel guilty for leaving that part of me behind. For allowing myself to be happpy. To rejoice in my healed marriage when so many around are in pain or going through divorce. I hope that your readers will find encouragement in your changes. I know I do. I will still be here :)

  • matthew o’connell

    Pascal says that at any given moment we are thinking of the past or future. Trying to predict to the future, making plans, or trying to reconcile the past. If we do remain present, it is to accommodate one of these two thoughts. It is when we are fully present, void of the past, anxiety of the future, where we truly live. For me my life hasn’t been pretty, so focusing on the past isn’t pleasant. I haven’t quite honed my future forecasting skills, so I just sit and pick flowers in a field, “this is a pretty color.” Don’t be afraid to sit in a nice field every now and then. It’s good for the soul.

    I reflect on when we had coffee and you said, “I just read an article that says when we remember things, we re-create them every time.” Since we recreate these memories, does that also mean that we have a choice when we remember them? Is it possible to associate our past, with a new meaning? Oh, the power we can have with this! If I could choose to recreate my memory, I would imagine being a super hero my entire life.

    Honestly, who can truly say that we understand ourselves? I mean, honestly, sometimes I am walking through the day and think “did I really just do that?” Not to get too preachy, but I feel it should be noted, God is the only person who truly knows our entire selves. He is also the one holding us in His loving hands of grace, and forgiveness. Which, I am glad He is the only person who knows everything, things could get messy otherwise.

    It says in the bible that God has ordained angels to watch over us. Literally, right now as you are reading, there is a legion of protection over you. Why does He do this? Because He cares about you. You knows the depths of your heart and says “I love you, I know you hurt.” In case no one has told you today, you are loved for exactly the person God made you. Both the good and bad. I often wonder what these angels think while watching me. Do they know my patterns and make bets on what I will do?

    “Hey, I bet a week on earth, that he is going to tell a pun in 1…2…3…”

    I often wonder if I could be diagnosed what it would be. They are constantly adding to the big book of mental illness every day. Most recently, they said if someone dies and you become depressed that you have depression. I want to meet these authors and brainstorm some ideas with them.

    “Hey, I have this friend that just broke his favorite mug and became really sad. Is there a way we can fit that into the list?”

    I struggle with anxiety and for me it is a physiological response. I have a thyroid mutation that makes it nearly impossible to regulate my emotions, so they go into a spiral of anxiety hurricane. I consider my condition the same way I imagine any physiological response. Kind of like pooping, only lasts longer, and more annoying.

    Just realized how long this comment was, but didn’t want to the delete the whole thing :) lol. I look forward reading your posts, books, e-books, and any other words you throw my way. Regardless of what you choose to write, good, bad, ugly, and everything in between, you are loved.

  • Leanne Popkes Sype

    Whether pouring out diatribes or gushing in celebration or simply offering peaceful introspection, if you’re being truthful in expression and words, we will read and come away filled with perspective.

    By offering the up the good within mess, you show how life can be hopeful and restored and forgiven and filled with rays of light within the darkness. Writing the truth from all sides and moods is like piecing together a precious sculpture that’s been shattered– we’ll see the cracks and broken pieces but we’ll be able to recognize and see the beauty of the sculpture as a whole.

    So I encourage you: fear not and show us how you are learning to embrace yourself, show us what joy looks like for you, show us how God is working in you. Be just as vulnerable in your happiness just as you are in anger, fear and doubt because all of it is powerful. :)