I Am a Survivor

I hate calling myself a survivor.

I get why it’s important psychologically to name both your experience and your pain, and to state the outcome – because something resilient in me allowed me to handle what should have ended me, and I need to remember that.

But I don’t like the way the label messes with my head.

I’d much rather say, “I survived ____________.” It’s in the past. It’s a true thing that happened, but it’s done now.

But maybe saying I’m a survivor is really more accurate, because as much as we like to think of our pain and trauma as being in the past, our wounds and scars define so much of our lives. They are all too often the lenses through which we engage the world around us.

At almost 30, I’m just now realizing that the coping mechanisms I learned as a child have greatly affected my emotional equilibrium as an adult.

Even having lived in a stable, protected environment for years, even though I no longer look over my should incessantly (both literally and figuratively) or feel the need to double check every little thing I do against some invisible rubric to make sure all my bases are covered, I can’t ditch the need to be prepared. For everything.

You see, there is this epic sense of responsibility built into me. A responsibility to handle things well now, so I never have to deal with that again. Self-care becomes inconsequential because if I don’t keep my world safe, keep all these balls I’m juggling in perfect sync, then there won’t be a self to care for anyway. And I’m compelled forward by this sense that, at any moment, the bottom might drop out, and it would be my fault. And should I let my world crumble, what does that say about me? Maybe it says that I haven’t come as far as I thought I had, maybe I’m not entirely a whole person yet.

So I maintain this pace of rushing and striving, perfecting my balancing act. Never admitting defeat, and never taking time to rest. And I feel like I’m emotionally squinting at the world, afraid to open my eyes fully, lest I actually see what is there. And this type of forward, always-future-planning living has a way of stripping the joy from the present, of never allowing you to drink in all the beauty around you.

And yet, Psalm 36:7-9…

How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.

I am not my own safe place. I do not create my own safe place. My God, my Abba is my Refuge, the One to whom I run always, the One who fills me when I simply am not enough, don’t have enough, can’t be enough anymore.  And He can open my eyes fully to see Him, His glory, His goodness in everything.

And all of a sudden it doesn’t matter how well I juggle, or secure, or shore up, or maintain, or make do. Because He is enough. Always.