We all have good days and bad days. Generally a bad day starts with sleeping in, or spilling coffee on your favourite tie. You miss the bus or even get hit by a bus. But bad days are generally few and far between.
Today, I am angry. Because my bad days seem to come so often. Outwardly, you might have no idea that I’m having a bad day, because I hide it all so effectively. But inwardly, I’m spiralling downwards and I feel like I’m totally out of control. And I’m terrified of the spiralling, because I’ve been to the bottom of it and the bottom of the spiral is just awful. At the bottom of the spiral, I give up. The fight goes out of me and I start talking to God about how He needs to stop all this, because I can’t fight any more and I would really rather be with Him. But being with him involves doing something pretty drastic.
And I am angry because that paragraph doesn’t even begin to describe how bad days feel.
I had this idea yesterday that I could describe bad days, calmly and evenly, to you, the outside observer. I’m starting to think that this is not going to happen. It is such an intensely personal and painful process that I don’t want to talk about it. So, I’m going to pretend (and probably hope) that no-one will ever read this, and try to describe it anyway.
A bad day can start like any other day. I wake up. I feel stressed instantly because I can hear my neighbour through the wall, snoring or whatever, and if I can hear him then he can hear me. On bad days I think everyone is watching me and listening to me – so he must be tracking my every move. So at first I’m terrified of moving. And then he moves again, and I’m terrified of not moving, because if he gets up and goes to the bathroom and I go at the same time, somehow he will know and feel like I am stalking him. But if I get up first, I might wake him by turning the bathroom fan on and make him angry.
From the outside, this is completely illogical, and even as I write it I can see that. But it’s precisely what I was struggling with this morning.
So I braved it, and now I’m up. I make porridge, because I love porridge, I hear my neighbour walking around and slamming doors. I jump, because the flat moves and because I am terrified of any expression of anger from anyone, ever. Especially me. I try to work out why he might be angry, is it something I did? Did I wake him up? But my alarm didn’t go off today, I just woke up naturally, and I have been pretty much sneaking around in here.
I try to shut down the thoughts but they are gaining strength and power the more I listen to them. So I turn my music on to try and block out the noise from next door, pretend that it’s not there, but then I’m worried that my music is too loud, that this is annoying him. And by now I am in tears, because I hate feeling like this, feeling trapped in my own house. Everything I do is wrong, I am always wrong, and then we come back to here. I hate myself.
So I turn to my journal, and slowly I start to find myself again. I am loved, no matter what the asshole through the wall thinks. He knows nothing of my struggles. Nothing.
I am loved, I am loved by God, with a fierceness and a passion that surpasses all possible understanding. It’s when I lose sight of that, that I struggle. If I keep my eyes on Him, then I start to remember that I don’t hate myself, not so much, not any more. I start to remember that I am worthy, too. I deserve the right to go about my daily life without being terrified of the reaction of somebody else.
And the truth is, he is just as scared of me. If not more so. I had been struggling with him playing loud music late at night, so I gave him Christmas card explaining that I had to work all the holidays and I would really appreciate it if he could keep the noise down so that I could sleep. Now he interpreted this as, he must be silent at all times. Which is pretty much the total opposite of what I meant. I don’t care that he is loud during the day (although I’m really not enjoying the current theme of sudden, loud banging doors). All I want is to not have music pulsing through my flat at 1am when I have to be up at 6am for a stupidly long shift with very sick patients.
I so easily lose all sight of what is actually going on here. I am so terrified of causing offence that I am convinced that I am always in the wrong. It is a very well-worn and well-greased track that I slip in to, and I am fighting every day not to slip down that track.
I have to take a step back and say – wait. There was a misunderstanding. I went to his door to talk to him about it, and he slammed a door in my face. An inner door, so he didn’t even have to open his front door. So I wrote him a very polite and apologetic note, explaining that I had never meant for him to be quiet all the time during the day, but that I did still need it to be quiet after 10 or 11pm, when I was working the next day.
He misinterpreted my words. So I explained. His response to this was his habitual “sorry sorry sorry” and he has decided that he will never have friends around again. To which I really can’t be bothered to respond. He is ignoring the fact that I am only asking him to turn down the music – or just turn off the bass – after a certain time so that I can sleep. He believes that we live in close proximity so I have to accept that “he has a life”. I believe that we live in close proximity, so he needs to show a little respect and turn it down when it gets late. I guess this is more difficult to control when you are drunk.
I refuse to keep having this same argument with him, in large part because he has made promises like this before, and not kept a single one of them.
So, this is what I have learned today. I have to keep talking through this, over and over again. Because my mind is so conditioned into slipping down one track, that as soon as I slip into being relaxed, I slide right to the bottom. To build this new track, in a different direction, I have to keep at it. Keep hacking away at all the growth that is underfoot. And keep using the track, over and over and over again until it is as greased and frequently used as the old destructive track.
And I am so grateful to God for showing me all this. Because there is no doubt in my mind that He is here, beside me, helping me walk through this, sometimes showing me the way, sometimes letting me find the way because I have to do this by myself. But either way, He is always here, and when I come out of the mist of slipping down the wrong track – there He is, with arms open and love overflowing.
He loves me, He loves me, He loves me.
I found the following hymn through the She Reads Truth community – an awesome world-wide bible-reading community, which you can find here; shereadstruth.com
This hymn speaks to me in ways I don’t even fully understand. I come back to it again and again, because the very words fill me with strength and with hope. I have only put the last verse here, as it is my favourite. The emphasis is mine.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, I will not, I WILL NOT, desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake, I’ll never, no never, no NEVER forsake.
How firm a foundation – Robert Keene, 18th Century.