We are a culture of moving forward.  When tragedy strikes, you ask for prayers and nights out and oversized glasses of wine.  You sob and wail and girl, you let that mascara run.  But then, after the shockwave hits, you want to be that person who picks herself up and dusts herself off, bopping and smiling into the future.  You don’t want to be that number who shows up on caller ID and people think “Oh no.  There she goes again with the same sob story.  Move on, already.”

But you can’t.  You need to repeat the hurt and say the same lines over again and hear words of affirmation.  You are strong.  It will be okay.  This too shall pass. It may take months of re-living the same hurt over and over again just to purge it from your system.  It just takes as long as it takes, and not one day less.

The bottom line is that you are strong.  You are healing.  Your future is bright.  But all of a sudden out of freaking nowhere you catch yourself moving backwards, or spinning in circles, and dwelling on some stupid tiny detail over and over.  You just want to crawl in a hole and hide, or put on a good face and shut the hell up.   And yet deep down, you know you need to get the ugly out.

Get it out, friend.  Pick a few very close confidants and a therapist you trust and just keep repeating yourself.  It’s 2 steps forward, 1.75 steps back.  But you’re still moving forward.  It’s just slower than you expected.  Like the tortoise, one day you’ll cross that finish line and not have a clue how you made it so far.

Setbacks are discouraging.  You want to think you’re tough and all that pain is helping establish perseverance. And yet we all relapse.  We have moments that we need to vent and monopolize the conversation and suck the energy out of a phone call.  There are times we just need to relive the hurt and lock ourselves in our closets for three minutes for a best friend to tell us we are going to be okay.  I recently had such a conversation.  It went like this:

“Talk to me,” my friend said. We’re so over hellos these days, because when I call at dinner time there must be a problem.

“Oh man.  The kids’ show is almost over and they need to get in the bath and I’m such a wreck,” I say before inhaling a large anguish-filled breath.  “The pain, it just won’t stop.” I don’t wait for an answer, like respectful people do.  I just launch into a tirade and wait for words of affirmation to come out like a vending machine on the other end.  Which is completely selfish.  And so totally vain.  And yet I need it like a drug fix so I long ago quit apologizing.  Because if the tables were turned I would do the same for her.

“You are strong,” she says.  “And you will get through this.”  And she means it.  She tells me I deserve more than I actually do, and that I’m more incredible that I actually am, and that God’s got this, and I nod and wipe my face and smile through the tears when my son comes busting in the closet.  I sing a bath song and we hold hands and I somehow make it through the next three hours with a half-smile on my face.  It’s a victory when I walk into the kitchen after the kids are down.  I’m miraculously still alive.

Everyone has setbacks.  I’m told they are normal, albeit annoying as hell, but each time they are a tiny bit easier to get over and I can rebound a little faster.  And in the end, I think I am developing perseverance.  I think God is working in the silence.  But being refined by His fire is hot, and it sometimes hurts, and it’s never easy.

Stay in the heat.  Grit your teeth and read the Word and keep burning.  Talk to God when he doesn’t seem to be listening. Because someday the impurities will be gone, and God will restore, and you’ll find yourself thankful for the process. Like down-on-your knees-in-praise thankful. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

Setbacks happen.  Keep moving forward.


Sad beauty

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12 Responses to Setbacks

  1. Kimberly says:

    This too shall pass, friend. And I have no doubt, you are every good thing your friend says about you.

  2. Thankyou, Amanda, because I can’t seem to “get over it” either, not the way other people do. and I’m starting to believe that feeling the pain, rather than burying it in the back yard, IS the healing and that there’s far more pain really living than we want to admit. And sometimes pain is the way in which we’re recreated, reborn, and there’s pain and fear and loss in that too. Who am I now and how do I find a way of being in the world that honors that now that I’ve been so changed?
    Thanks – I enjoy reading your posts because you have a truly unique voice.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. Wanting to withdraw, needing not to, getting out and finding safe places to talk or just be present, pressing on. Yep, yep, yep. I’m with you.

  4. Linda Stoll says:

    Amanda – this is so good. I put on my counselors’s hat and can only say ‘yes.’ To acknowledging that these emotions are what’s true about me right now. They are real, they are valid, they are mine, they make sense. I’ve just gotta figure out what I want to do with them.

    The fact is that we’re all needy in some way, sooner or later. Like a great big huge abyss. And there’s no way that our friends and family can fill that hole, soothe that pain on the deepest level. We only drain them dry with our endless sagas of woe.

    I love the fact that we can go to our Creator with all the raw ugliness of our pain. Over and over again until the healing comes. ‘Cause in the end, He’s the only One who can possibly meet all the neediness that is ours. And then somehow do something with all the pain, redeem it, use it somehow …

  5. Love this one, Amanda. Especially this sentence; it’s so true: It just takes as long as it takes, and not one day less. In these cases, friends are priceless.

  6. Julie Brandimarte says:

    I knew you could do it. We we are going through two very different things but the setbacks are the same and they do suck!
    I sometimes wish I could just wear a shirt describing my “issues” just to get it out and talk about it. It does seem to help each time I hear it and say it out loud. Stay strong. You ARE amazing. God loves you and I am so glad to know you and love you too!

  7. There is no way that I can put into words in the comment box all that I want to say about how much this speaks to me today. Simply stated this is me. Or I am you. Or I can relate is an understatement. And it’s a good thing I don’t live in Texas….or there might be a crying at a restaurant in my future 🙂 and oversized glasses of wine.

    Thank you for eloquently speaking into setbacks and hurt and gut punches. May you grow stronger daily. You inspire with your strength and perseverance. I love all of your words here, but then again I always do.


  8. raeann says:

    I seriously, selfishly think that every time I need something, I can come here & god will speak to me thru you. So, so selfish.

    I have no idea what you are going thru, but I’m in the midst of a setback right now, too. The sniveling ‘why me?’ ‘why won’t it go away?’ ‘I thought I was doing so well’. “are you truly there god?’ The trying to stay brave when I just feel like curling up fetal style.

    Thank you for witnessing to us all. I reheheheeeeeaaallyy needed to read this today.

    Thinking of you & sending up a prayer for you that you keep moving forward.

  9. Dropping in with a quick amen before running out the door to meet a friend. And you want to know why I’m running off to meet her? Because there’s no quick fix to these hard things in life. And for weeks, no, months, we’ve been exchanging polite smiles in church, hoping beyond hope that things have gotten better for the other. But we’re each facing long, slow climbs with no certain promise that all will end well this side of eternity. So we’re going to get together, pour out our hearts, listen to each others’ stories once again and, somewhere in the midst of all of it, cling to the truth that God is powerful. And good.

  10. Lisa Deeves says:

    Amanda, I don’t know you, but when I read your posts, I sure feel like I do. I appreciate your honesty and sharing. What comes from heart is always heard by the heart.

  11. Lisa Deeves says:

    Amanda! I don’t know you, but whenever I read your post, I sure feel like I do. I appreciate your honesty, and believe that pain shared is halved, just as a joy shared is doubled.

    What comes from the heart is always heard by the heart. There is no greater calling than to touch another’s heart. Thank you for laying your hand so gently on mine and making it stronger.

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