For me, however, every month is mental health month...actually every day. As we say goodbye to May, I realize that I am all too familiar with goodbyes in my life. I have to admit that I not really pleased or comfortable saying farewell. There is something built in me that would love to fix or repair every broken or dysfunctional relationship. Sadly, there are many folks with whom you just cannot reconcile. And when that happens you must learn the art of self preservation.
Walking away takes great strength, perhaps more strength than staying in what is broken. Silence is a powerful and often unused art form. For in being silent, we actually speak volumes. We are saying we can't or won't tolerate being abused. We are making it known that we have tried every possible angle to restore but when some believe that it's always the other persons fault, how can you reconcile with that? Therefore silence is the only possible means of sending a message.
Glen and I have used this form of communication for years. Not because we set out wanting to cut people from our lives, but because some were impossible to reckon with. It is heart breaking. It's never been a joyful experience. I've sat with Glen as we have cried and prayer over the broken impossible people called family. I am daring to be honest and open because is has shaped and carved our souls and transformed our beings. Have we desired this? NO! But there came a point when we said enough was enough! Just trust me when I say there was enough of a lot of things...words, decisions, actions that ultimately became abusive and destructive to our well being.
And so we said goodbye. We learned that our marriage and our relationships with our children were paramount. This little family of 5 can withstand many storms when we link arms and shut out all that does nothing but tear us down. In the shutting out, we become strong. Within the stability of a small circle of trust, we become each others allies. We defend and strengthen the bonds of real trust.
I remember the unending conversations of advocating for ourselves to family only to have it fall on deaf ears. I remember asking for the phone calls to be returned only to have them turn into years of silence. I remember the cutting and judgmental remarks made over and over until my soul turned to a pile of rubble within me. The tears are not too far removed as I write this. I remember! I will always remember though I have forgiven an infinite number of times, I still remember why I have become silent.
There are moments when I am tempted to break the silence and speak. In the little ways that I have tried this, it has never once worked. The stubborn, obstinate, stiff-necked souls rarely have a bendable will. Only God himself can entice the will to bend. As painful as it is to watch, I am equally unbendable in my silence. Not for the sake of being stubborn but for the sake of preserving peace of mind and a calm lifestyle. War with people only drains us of our daily strength. I have no time for this. Mental illness is a fight that takes a deeper strength than I knew I possessed. And not just for me, but for Glen. When I look at him, I know he is far stronger than what I see. Fighting through depression, sadness, anxiety, mania over and over takes great courage and commitment. Why anyone would not support a man who does this is beyond my comprehension.
But as I write this, please know that all those goodbyes we have said along the way, while it has hurt, it has strengthened our resolve. It has made us like giant oaks. We have put down deeper roots as a couple. We have strengthened the weak arms that we have all felt. We have lifted each other when we felt slammed by the negative stinging words of shame or disgrace. We have resolved that we will fight and stay strong no matter who is against us.
One day the goodbyes will be forgotten. Within my soul, I believe that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And on that day, all the sadness will drain and every painful memory will vanish as if it never existed. That will be wondrous. That is my only hope of restoration.
If you have said goodbye to loved ones or friends, know you are not alone. Maybe we are the only ones. I don't know. But I doubt we are. There are times we feel we have waved goodbye more than we have said hello, but it's not true. It requires turning the head in the forward direction and to quit looking back. Go forward with courage and confidence knowing that if God is for you, who can stand against you?
As I write this, I am reminded of those lovely souls who have slipped alongside of us to cheer us on. They are numerous! With every forward step, those goodbye memories lessen their grip on us. When we let go, we grab the hands outstretched to meet us. Say goodbye as often as you need. Let go of those in the past who drag you down and hold you back. Walk forward with unswerving faith and confidence. That person you just said "bye" to merely allows us to make room for the "good"!