A Defining Question

Over the past week or so, my brother has gotten really into our family’s history. My ancestry. Genealogy. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty awesome. We’re talking 16th century London – ancestors who were contemporaries — and practically neighbors – with Shakespeare! But soft…

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But I think it’s really fascinating how all of these DNA tests have broken out on the scene: Ancesty.com, 23 & Me – we all have this deep longing to know where we come from. Who we are. Which, I can tell you right now, no answer to any DNA test is gonna answer that doosey.

I spent a long time trying to answer that question: Who am I? Because recovering from an eating disorder forces you to answer that whether you like it or not. You’ve spent years merely existing as a shell of yourself – gone are your passions, dreams, ideas, personality; stripped away – stolen – by ED. And so when you get out the other side, it’s as though you just were dropped off in the desert on a one-way Greyhound bus. You’re disoriented, and completely lost. And probably smell bad…

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Watching and being with my mom through her recovery from her stroke, I’ve been just floored at how similar the recovery processes are from that standpoint.

Rediscovering and finding out who you are is a daunting and overwhelming task.

But my mom and I shared a heart breaking moment this evening after dinner. It was a bit of a rough day, spirits low, and my mom wept for really the fist time since her stroke happened, December 27. She said, “I’m never going to be the same, am I?”

My heart shattered.

Behind my mom, as she said this, was a giant, wall-sized collage of family photos through the years. And seeing all the goofy and fun photos displayed behind her, depicting all the wonderful and vast facets of her vivacious personality, I couldn’t help but fight back tears, too.

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I realized that that’s what was tugging on my mom’s heart in that moment- she’s trying to find out who she is. Who is she after this horrific event. Now that she’s picking up the pieces, what woman is she left with?

I think one of the biggest traps that we can fall into when we’re trying to answer that is using our accomplishments or accolades or titles to suffice. And looking at my mom, who is grappling with the idea that those defining things about her – right down to her personality – can’t answer that question. At least not right now.

In that moment, holding my mom as she sobbed into my shoulder, I was grateful that she was finally allowing herself to feel since the stroke. But I also prayed in that moment for God to give me the words to say. This was a hurting and scared heart that needed to be affirmed and consoled and validated.

I said, “Mom, I’ll take the woman I see in front of me. How you are in this moment. Every day. You don’t have to try to live up to anything or strive to be anything with me. I’ll take her. Just as she is.”

We didn’t speak many other words after that. Our hearts were heavy as we just swayed in the kitchen, hugging each other for about 10 minutes. It’s as though our spirits were enclosing us in, which I know sounds so out there, but we just held on to each other, because truly, that was all we could do.

Will my mom ever be the woman who talks in funny accents and spontaneously does this or that, going out of her way to make someone’s day, cackling a gut-busting laugh after spouting a funny remark that leaves the room in stitches…we don’t know. I believe so, but that’s in God’s hands.

All I know is that in that moment, I had never felt so close to my mom, ever.

The truth of the matter is that this stroke did change my mom. Sure, maybe some things are more difficult, and could be seen as “negative.” But it changed her in positive ways, too. She is strong. Resilient. Brave. Humble. She has a knowing to her. Almost as though she can see your soul.

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Moments of fear like that are gripping, because they can make you doubt the answer to that soul-defining question, who am I?

Because at the end of the day, every single one of us wants to hear one word to that answer: enough.

If my mom ever asks me that question again, I’ve got a different answer for her. I’m going to look into her beautiful brown eyes, and remind her of the truth that was written by Jesus’s pierced hand:

You are enough.

Recovery, no matter what kind, shape, or form, is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. That’s been the most trying thing to remember here. And every day, my mom blooms more and more. This season is one of rebirth. And I can’t wait to see the beauty that will come (and is coming) from this trial.

Because if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that God makes all things new.

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beautybeyondbones

BBB: Because we're all recovering from something. // For speaking/business inquiries: beautybeyondbones@yahoo.com

245 thoughts on “A Defining Question

  1. After reading all of these “Spot on” remarks from other authors and poets, I have to agree in full with them. The only thing that I can add is to always tell your Mother everyday how much you love her just the way she is. As Christ has loved us – love Unconditionally!

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  2. Good luck with everything. Sounds like quite a trial. Just about everything you write now makes me feel sad. I think I’m going to have to quit reading your blog or go into depression. You leave me wondering if your mother is hinging on death and awaiting resurrection with that last phrase. :*(

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    1. Thanks Dan. Yeah, a bit of a trial, but I’m grateful for the healing that’s taking place. 🙂 she’s doing well, truly. And things are going to be much more upbeat here now. I’m transitioning 🙂 Hugs and love xox

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  3. Your mom (and so many other moms) are amazing stories of perseverance. I pray that she can see the wonderful person that she is. We are blessed by our mothers! Thank you again for the amazing blog. I pray your lent is good and you know how amazing you are too! God bless you!

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  4. Dear Beauty, How blessed your mom is to have a daughter like you who can say, “You are enough.” I can only hope that if I were in your mother’s position, my children would say the same. Praying for you and your mom.

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  5. I drive my poor kid sister nuts. She has mapped our family back to somewhere and sometime in Europe, but I have yet to go look. 🙂 I am glad she has done it though, it will be there for my 2 kids if they are interested.

    I understand a little of what your mom is going through. 8 years ago I had a very minor stroke, and daily I can feel differences and frustrations. Mom’s have to be magnified immensely over mine. You are doing exactly right being there for her, and make sure to point out any and ALL improvements

    “Mom, last week there was NO way you coulda done this!” Its small, but all victories are important. AND just keep loving her! Great post!

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    1. Hi Tony, oh gosh, I’m sorry you can relate on such a personal level. I’m glad you are doing well now! That’s great advice. I always fear being *too* encouraging, and making her feel like I’m patronizing her, but I think you’re right – a little morale booster every now and then is a good thing 🙂 Thanks for stopping gby! big hugs xox

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  6. Thanks for reading my blog posts so regularly! I am long overdue in reading yours… I just wanted to offer my support (spiritually, anyway) for your lloving care of your mother. I have a sister with a brain injury, so a lot of what you are experiencing is so familiar. And heartbreaking. And humbling. Take care of yourself…

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    1. You’re so welcome, Kathy! Thank you so much for your prayers and support. it really means a lot. I’m sorry you can relate on such a personal level. It’s definitely tough. So glad you stopped by! big hugs xox

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  7. Bless you and your mum. I feel touched by your story. We may have different beliefs but what’s important is how we are connected to God. This reminds me of my late father who was paralyzed due to cervical disc injury. That was the time we figured who we are. Our life has changed now, for the better. Thank you for sharing. God speed her recovery. And thank you for stopping by 🙂

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  8. “The truth of the matter is that this stroke did change my mom. Sure, maybe some things are more difficult, and could be seen as “negative.” But it changed her in positive ways, too. She is strong. Resilient. Brave. Humble. She has a knowing to her.”
    I personally agree with you, adversity as a sage once said, brings out the best in us.God also uses adversity to humble us and us give a simpler worldview.

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  9. Hello, who are we? Genealogy, very interesting. I’ve done some from my country in England, mainly potters and miners, making crockery for the world and digging coal, in my immediate lineage. A relative that went down with the Mary Rose battle ship in King Henry V111 time although no proof as yet. Yet most importantly who are we, from Jesus who loves you me and all. Lovely post.

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  10. Who am I? I asked myself the same question when it came to my mental disorders. Only we know who we are, but one thing is for sure… we are not our mental disorders. Excellent post my friend. :O)

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  11. I did not know how much MORE real it could get with this tribulation with your mother but there it is. WOW. If that is not true vulnerability, I do not know what is. It is such a gift for you and your mom to share such a level of rawness and intimacy. To cry together is so powerful. Some of us are not blessed in that way, so hold on to that as long as you can!!

    What is amazing about how God created us is that we are more complex then we can ever know. The stroke of your mother may have altered a few things, but just like after a volcano erupts, beautiful new growth shows up in ways it has not ever before. I believe that for her. I believe that for you.

    You quoted “You Are Enough”!! The author Brene Brown rights about that in her book DARING GREATLY. Such a healing read.

    Thank-you for continuously feeding our hearts with your stories!!

    -JV

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  12. We are enough because He is enough. I am my beloved’s and He is mine. The one thing this world so desperately needs, to be enough. Thank you for this reminder on days I struggle with being enough for all of the grubby little hands pulling on me.

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  13. I am not one to focus on religion alone in times of need or stress. Reading this made me simply appreciate life and the limited time we spend here. Watching movies is also not something I do often but I happened to see the movie entitled “The Legend of Bagger Vance” which conveys a life message. I won’t bore you with the details or the why I liked it but reading your post brought it to mind. Thanks for life appreciating words.

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  14. Beautiful as always! I certainly can understand that feeling of being “enough”. I think for many women and especially mothers, we always think of what we could have done better. I love that reminder that we don’t have to have it all figured out or be doing things perfectly for God to see us as worthy and enough.
    Thank you for your beautiful reminder. You’re mother is very blessed to have you by her side!!

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  15. As ever my comment is far down – partly that’s the change of timezone factor! However, just to say, don’t knock the DNA tests – some of us who have ancestors from many different countries/continents may want to ‘know’ to check stuff, and, because there are heritable diseases which affect certain groups (e.g. Jewish, which is somewhere in some of us) so it’s not about who we are, inwardly, to God, but who we are descended from, physically! Inwardly, to God, that’s ‘who we are’ of course …

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  16. Hi,
    You liked my blog a few times, so I thought I’d come over and say hi!

    I’m also asking myself who I am, as I try to deal with my own mental health issues (mostly depression and OCD). It’s hard. I feel like I’m doing stuff I should have done as an adolescent, but I couldn’t at the time because for various reasons it didn’t feel safe to explore who I was. So now, in my thirties, I’m trying to work out who I am, sort out my career and hopefully get married. It’s quite scary. But I think people can come out of difficulties stronger.

    Recovery, no matter what kind, shape, or form, is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. That’s been the most trying thing to remember here.

    I need to remember this!

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  17. It’s been a long time since I checked in at BBB — probably prior to your .com address, and I was delighted to get a recent like from you. Thank you. I’m glad you’re continuing to write. I looked into the genealogy pursuit years ago and wearied of it. I’m simply who I am. Thanks for visiting Under Western Skies.

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  18. I don’t know anything about eating disorders or stroke recovery. So I am not sure what I am saying is right or wrong.

    I believe your mum had two worries when she wanted to find her identity again:
    1. she felt like she lost a part of her past identity, and now wonder who she is
    2. she maybe worried she wouldn’t be loved as much as before because she wasn’t her old self anymore.

    In my opinion, you perfectly answered to the worry n°2 : “Mom, I’ll take the woman I see in front of me. How you are in this moment. Every day. You don’t have to try to live up to anything or strive to be anything with me. I’ll take her. Just as she is.”. By your words, I guess she understood you loved her no matter the circumstances.

    I don’t think “you are enough” wouldn’t be enough to transmit your feelings to her. It is too short for a person to understand the deep meaning behind these words, especially when she was weeping.

    Even if the past defines what she has become today, acting in the present will help her to define her new identity. I don’t think she has to become the person she was because you will always love her no matter what. Today what is bothering her is to find her identity. It means : what she loves, what she wants to do. It is a personal goal and It will take time. You can tell her you will always support her to find her identity, even if ultimately it is something she has to find by herself. But she will succeed it, just like a student who doesn’t really know what she wants from her life but by living she finds her own way of life. So you can tell your mum maybe the path to find her identity seems obscure for now, but more she walks towards that direction, more the path will become clearer and one day, she will see the light.

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    1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and beautiful response. That’s such a positive and powerful response to her. You’re right, I need to just tell her that I believe in her and that she will see the light. That’s really a hopeful message. Thanks for stopping by! big hugs xox

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  19. Obviously my situation is different from your mother’s, but I have spent a great deal of time over these past months wondering who I was, who I am, and who I will become as I try to heal from my loss. My entire adult life, I have been half of a couple, and to not have that as part of my identity any longer just adds to my sense of being untethered. I’m trying to remember that I, also, am enough and that I can (and will) grow from this. Thank you for continuing to share your story. God Bless

    xoxo
    Cheri

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    1. Hi Cheri, thank you for sharing this. I’m sending you such big hugs. Hang in there my friend. This too shall pass, and you’re right – you ARE enough and you can and will grow from what you’re going through. Sending lots of love xo

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I love you analogy that you put here! “Recovery is not a sprint it’s a marathon. ” for me, I’ve had to recover from not just eating disorders, but PTSD, drug use, cigarette use, alcohol abuse… I could go on. Every day, being free from something like that is a blessing, every moment, every second of freedom from those things is a blessing. Just like in a marathon you have to take each moment and each step in careful stride. keep fighting soldier! Your faith is incredibly inspiring

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  21. This is power, and speaks to healing all the way around. I haven’t struggled with a stroke or ED, however, anything that shakes who you have known, or has changed the trajectory of your life (even if it wasn’t a good one to start), leaves you with the question: who am I. Some people never come close to figuring it out.

    We are such multifaceted and layered individuals, there’s no way we will ever truly be able to answer that question until the end of our journey – and even then, who we are will merely transform again. Sometimes, I get who am I confused with what is my purpose. They are similar yet distinctly different and just because you answer one question doesn’t mean the other is answered either.

    We can only determine in our hearts that where we are and who we are at present is not ALL that we are.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. You’re right, that is a question that we all have to figure out at one point or another. And it true, those are similar very distinct. I’ve never really thought about that before, but it’s right on! Thanks for this great food for thought 🙂 big hugs xox

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Awe, what a beautiful love story you paint with your Mom. Not to mention the encouragement it brings me, as I work through some health issues with my own Mom. Thanks for being so open. Prayers for you and your Mom!

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  23. Hi BBB,

    Great perspective. God allows broken to get people closer. Do you know that Casting Crowns song, “Broken Together”? It is about marriage, but it would be the same here, too. Keep on sharing.

    In Christ,

    Gary On Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 3:58 PM BeautyBeyondBones wrote:

    > beautybeyondbones posted: “Over the past week or so, my brother has gotten > really into our family’s history. My ancestry. Genealogy. And I’m not gonna > lie, it’s pretty awesome. We’re talking 16th century London – ancestors who > were contemporaries — and practically neighbors – with” >

    Like

  24. Hi Caralyn,

    I know I’m so delayed with my comment here; I was elsewhere and all over the place. I still feel I must say something to you. 🙂

    You wrote what you said to your mom: “Mom, I’ll take the woman I see in front of me. How you are in this moment. Every day. You don’t have to try to live up to anything or strive to be anything with me. I’ll take her. Just as she is.” Even before that, I was holding back tears. I just couldn’t.

    You have such wisdom… and I hope you apply it to yourself also. You are so right. I think that the reason we even get confused about who we are is because we try so hard to be what others expect or want us to be. We get stuck in trying to be other than who we are. This also makes us think/believe that we are not enough. You said it, too; we are enough.

    This is a really touching post for me. I don’t even know why. Perhaps it’s for the mere fact that you have wrote the truth. There are many of us, I think, who get lost and/or confused because we are not who we are, not because we don’t know but because we allow others to dictate who we are.

    Despite the negative, and there are, and sometimes I think that God shouldn’t be so tough for us to see things clearly and/or to learn, there is a purpose to your mom’s stroke. I still hope that she recovers fully. Miracles happen. For now, at least, you are listening hard to what God is telling you. You are strong for sharing this. You are strong enough to fulfill your “mission” on this portion of your life story.

    Much love and hugs to you, dear friend. God bless you, your mom and your family.

    Anne
    xxx

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    1. Oh my gosh, Anne, I am just blown away by your encouragement here. thank you so much. Gosh, I am seriously so touched. I think you’re right – God is going to work all this together for good and we’re going to see the blessings that come out of it. I definitely believe in miracles. Truly, and i believe that I’m in the middle of one right now. My mom is going to get “better.” Every day she regaining her memory more and more. it is so beautiful to watch God at work. Thanks for stopping gby. I hope that everything is well with you! big hugs xox

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I can’t even begin to imagine the depth of emotion between you and your mom in the moment you described. I can’t even begin to imagine what you have been going through these past few months and what you are still going through. It must be so hard to stay in the present with all the uncertainty of what lies ahead, both for your mom and for you.

    Often, I try to remember that love isn’t just a feeling, it’s an action. It’s a choice. But you are actually LIVING that choice by choosing your mom, just as she is, and declaring that she is enough. Your writing about this experience with your mom is PROFOUND. It is so easy to dismiss myself and everyone around me, to find flaws even in the people that I treasure the most. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your pain and so much of your personal struggle. Your insights are a deep well of wisdom.

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    1. Thank you again, Lulu. Yeah, it’s been a bit of a rough few months, but strangely, I am thankful for the time we’ve had to reconnect in such a special way. Yeah, lots of challenges for sure. That is such great perspective. yes, it is an action. I have to remember that during hard moments 🙂 Thank you for the incredibly kind encouragement and support. You are a blessing to me. Big big big hugs xoxoxox

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are such a blessing to me, too! I think it is a sign of wisdom and maturity that you are able to see God’s grace even in the most difficult situations. His grace is always there, but I have trouble seeing it. It gets a little bit easier with practice, but the closer a situation strikes to one of my “raw nerves,” my real, closely guarded vulnerabilities, the harder it is. Sending hugs back! xoxo 😊

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  26. This post really reasonated with me. For one, I have one of those DNA tests sitting on my counter waiting for me to send it out. But also as someone adjusting to the trauma of my husbands illness and death. And if he had survived, he wouldn’t have been the same. Sometimes I think we all have our scars and we have to make the decision to let it destroy us or rise above it.

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    1. Thanks again Kerry. I’m so glad this resonated with you. My heart breaks to hear about your husband. I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t know why we have to endure those hardships. Gosh. Know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending all my love xox

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  27. Perhaps, dear, dear lady, the answer really is, “Who do you say that I am?” Perhaps the answer is that which creates a moment of love so strong and intimate that nothing can assail us? I love this account. You have plucked a heartstring for sure.

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      1. Not only that, but it gives us a great question to present to those who you develop relationships with. It’s a Trinity right? Who do you say that I am? Who do I say or feel that I am? And, ideally, who does He – who sets the bar – say that I am? And, equally as ideal, the answer should feel that all three be closely aligned, Ñ’est pas?

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  28. Your writing reminds me of an Abba song, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”! Lol…
    You are far too young to write with so much wisdom. I enjoy that you poignant stories make me review the details of my experience and share them as answers. For that, you are a treasure. Take good care. God bless you richly.

    Like

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