Monday, August 26, 2013

When Life Goes in Circles...

It was a bit of a roller coaster around here beginning with my first postpartum meltdown last December and ending with the final day of my teaching contract in May. I needed a quiet summer to decompress and catch up on over nine months of inadequate sleep.

Once again, I am in a good place within myself. My occasional backslide (usually through the winter months) is discouraging, and last year was particularly difficult with the added effects of PPD. It often makes me feel as though I’m caught in an endless cycle of ups and downs, triumphs and trials, successes and struggles.

But aren’t we all?

For some, it’s financial or marital turmoil. For others, it’s a personal battle with health, weight, or addiction. For many, it’s a true chemical imbalance, enhanced by situational factors, internal stressors, weather patterns, and seasonal changes.

Two steps forward, one step back… or many steps back, as it sometimes feels.

In my discouraging times, I exacerbate my own issues with self-criticism. I tell myself that I must not be this deeply spiritual person or that my trust in God is clearly fake. I wonder if reading about spiritual growth, listening to motivational speakers, watching TED talks, deep breathing and prayer are all for naught - because peaceful people aren’t supposed to experience these radical shifts, these doubts, these occasional backslides.


Karen Armstrong - a former Catholic nun turned spiritual teacher and religious tolerance leader - wrote a book called The Spiral Staircase, which is currently sitting on my endless list of someday reads. I added it to the list when I heard an interview where she described the concept of the title, and my shame and discouragement over the darker moments in my life were instantly comforted.

She said: When we’re on a spiral staircase, we may feel like we’re walking in circles, but all the time we’re going up.

I love it.

It’s easy to feel like life takes us in circles. Some days we’ve got it all together, other days we’re falling apart. Some days we are overwhelmed with gratitude and good, other days the good gets lost in the shuffle and we’re just plain overwhelmed. Sometimes we’re head-over-heels in love, other times we raving mad. Then we use those not-so-great moments to question whether we’ve really come very far at all in achieving the goal, kicking the habit, finding peace, forgiving, or letting go.

But what if the circles we experience in life are not simply laps we run on a flat surface, but an upward spiral through which we are constantly ascending toward something greater?

Brookfield Zoo
While my summer wasn't exactly quiet (because nothing is quiet with little kids around), it was full of fun family outings and few serious responsibilities. We took trips to Brookfield Zoo, Wisconsin Dells, and Lake of the Ozarks. We danced at weddings and sipped coffee on our patio. I started a weekly Bible study – just me and one of my closest friends on the tailgate of her car facing the sunrise and talking about life, love, and faith. I read four new books, started running again, took up meditation, and broke my caffeine addiction. 

I am well.

And content.

And growing in ways that would not be possible without the struggles that sometimes make me feel like I'm going in circles... until I look back and see that I've actually been going up all along.

"It's not about how fast I get there. 
It's not about what's waiting on the other side.
It's the climb." 

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