Category Archives: relationships

Presence

The idea of the gift of presence has been in my heart for the past few weeks, even coming up on last weeks blog. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, my personal desire to pull my past into my present with those who have gifted me with presence. Or, with the passing of the holidays and extended time off, presence seems more easily available over coffee or lunch. Or maybe it’s because amid my introverted nature, I long for deep connection, conversation, and communion. And while I’m not sure the motivation, I am sure about my passionate value of presence.

As I sat down to write, my dog reminded me of the need for presence. Stella is what veterinarians call a “social eater,” meaning she really isn’t interested in regular feeding times but rather eating around when she can remain socially connected to me. It took us quite a bit of time to figure out her routine, as she would willingly forego food for days so long as to stay connected to her humans. The easy solution of letting her free-feed 24/7 has become difficult with the inclusion of a dog food-eating cat into our family. And so, in order to gift her with my presence during eating, she is currently on the floor less than 2 feet from where I sit writing on the couch, happily munching away while I protect her from the cat.

The gift of presence with Stella seems silly and at times inconvenient. I’m sure it has cost me some undue anxiety and concern, alongside the need to rearrange my living situation and daily schedule. It certainly has received it’s fair share of questions and judgments from others. And while I’d like to say, oh that’s just the cost of presence for a picky spoiled dog (fair enough) I think there are plenty of similarities in gifting others with our presence as well. Maybe gifting our family and friends with our presence is just as involved as gifting my “social eater” pup.

So what exactly is presence? I admit that while Stella ate, I continued typing and paid little attention to her. This presence may nearly always work with dogs but often much less so with our friends, our spouses, and our children. Because presence is a feeling and a reality, a way of being and a way of being with the other, it requires some degree of intentionality. For, it’s not only our existence that matters but also the manner in which we do so.

To be present is to be invested in seeing and knowing the other.

Let that sink in because it is not just a nice idea. It is a way of connecting and doing relationship. Seeing and knowing the other means asking the hard questions and leaning in; it’s getting involved when maybe you’d rather not. It’s seeing past outward appearance and glimpsing the heart in love and care. It’s a way of knowing beyond facts and data that requires time and tension, awkwardness and availability.

Hopefully, this idea of seeing and knowing, along with being seen and known, makes your heart stir. It’s scary, it’s risky, and it’s chalk full of vulnerability. It risks exposure and rejection. Presence comes with fear and uncertainty riding shotgun and a desire to steer you away. And yet, it is where shame dies, where belonging begins, and where freedom is found. Presence, being seen and known and seeing and knowing, is at the center of healing, reconciliation, and redemption. It’s meeting the other in the depths and saying I’m with you. It’s reserving judgment and instead offering yourself.

This is, of course, a two-way street, with the gift of presence allowing for movement in the first place. The gift of time and possible inconvenience, of attention and rearranged schedules or priorities, all accompany and preceded seeing and knowing. There is intentionality behind creating space between you and another, be it getting coffee, having date nights, or co-creating homework projects. The true gift of presence never just happens because one must pursue the other, leaning in and learning them, seeing and knowing them through questions and shared experiences.

Biblically speaking, to be known by God is one of greatest gifts of relationship with Him. As Curt Thompson writes in The Soul of Shame, “Paul indicates that being known by God is the signpost that we love him. And to be known necessarily means that we are willing to expose each part of us, especially those parts that feel most hidden and that carry the most shame… In contrast, to be known is necessarily to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to God’s love. It is to be asked questions. To be observed. To be seen.”

This model of vulnerability, of being seen and known, serves as an example of how we thrive relationally. Though counterintuitive to risk betrayal, isolation, and abandonment, only by risking these, are we best connected and free to live fully. From our thriving, we also practice knowing and pursuing, we practice asking, listening, and seeing, and we practice the sometimes inconvenient and often uncomfortable willingness to be present for others.

Presence. The work of getting involved in others lives in a way that meets, encourages, and honors them. It is one thing I hold fast to offering all my clients; the willingness to see the ugly, sit in the dark, and be with. But it’s also the way I live outside the office doors. Having both those who know me well, the good, bad, and ugly, and those who I deeply know and see, isn’t optional for—which is perhaps why I am so passionate about presence.

While you ponder the idea of presence in your life, I encourage you to do so this within the counsel of others. This isn’t an invitation to be seen and known by all, nor a suggestion to extend your presence to those who may not respect you in the process. It is, however, a hope for you to look inward and outward as to how you can offer yourself and your attention fully, with cell phones away, TV off, emails ignored, and others postponed, to the ones in your life that need to be seen, heard, and known, and to those in your life who desire presence with you.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more info on presence, please contact me today.

Holding Expectations with Open Hands

It’s the holiday season. A time of year that can bring with it an array of emotions and memories, hopes and disappointments, joys and longings. It can be hard to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, perhaps for the first time without a loved one lost over the past year to the battles of life. And it’s difficult to enjoy a Norman Rockwall season in the midst of estrangement, pain, or let down. We can all admit, even if we don’t want to, that holidays aren’t always easy.

Society seems too often sell us an idea of holiday spirit—of connection, of laughter, of gathering, of love. Immaculately decorated homes filled with the overflow of conversation. The scent of homemade traditions engaging our senses. The shared cooking, the loud stories, the new dessert, and the fireplace glow—we love this stuff! We connect. We laugh. We gather. We love.

It stirs in us because we were created for these.

Our hearts are moved by the expectation that this idea is what life is supposed to offer us. Reuniting with those who love us, sharing a good meal or two, and giving of time and resources—this is the stuff that moves and soothes the soul. It may be nostalgia, it may be our reality, or it may be a foolish desire, but we tend to become hopeful and expectant during this time of year.

And perhaps it is because this is how it is meant to be with expectations. We feel the mundane of the work week, basketball practice, preparing dinner, and the like. We want more from the days and from life in general. We want those things that make life richer and more enjoyable. We want and even expect happiness and ease, community and the picture-perfect Christmas. Yet few of us rarely get the total package and instead must make due with our family members in jail, our parents divorced, our kids struggling, our spouses angry, and our homes far from the magazine image.

There is so often a tension between what we want and what we have. A tension between the longing and expectation and our acceptance of reality has the potential to leave us with feeling frustrated, hurting, scared, and defeated. And so, too frequently we begin to shield ourselves from the expectations and hopes by simply letting go of them. We shift towards expecting the worst and living muted from anticipation.

However, to be true to ourselves, we must acknowledge and embrace the hope and longing. They are our life line and anchor, pulling us onward and holding us firm to rise once more and fight the good fight. Hope lights the way and expectation can motivate us toward the actions and behaviors that we ourselves become proud of.

It is in finding the balance between gripping expectations of things beyond our control and turning our back altogether on hopes and expectations that true freedom is found. Similar to an analogy I once heard about sand, the tighter we hold our expectations, the quicker they seep through our hands. Rather, we must learn to hold them with open hands, allowing them, and the metaphorical sand, the ability to simply be.

As you and yours head into the coming week of Christmas, I hope you might look at what expectations of the season, of gatherings, of family, of life, and of yourself that you are tightly gripping. I invite you to loosen your fingers while still keeping your palms up, not dismissing hope and expectation altogether. Allow for some space, for the middle to exist, and for the joy of a willing approach—willing to be surprised, willing to take care of your disappointments, willing to attend to your feelings, willing to embrace the small moments—this holiday season.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more by Lindsay, check out her weekly blog. And if this particular piece felt helpful, contact me today!

Feelings: Friend or Foe

There is this phrase that came out a few years ago. I still love it even though it is used all the time now. It’s popularity was helped by the .gif and meme phenomenon. My friends and I use it to refer to songs or stories. My husband describes the popular TV show This Is Us with the phrase as a way of gauging if he is up for watching it or not. And my clients often use it to describe our conversations or in hopes of avoiding other conversations. Simply put, this little phrase shows up everywhere.

All the feels. 

All the feels has become the common way to pluralize our experience and allow it to be more complete. It communicates to others some degree of weightiness impacting us one way or another. It’s the quick joke that can lighten the mood of a heavy conversation. It’s the short quip that conveys the impact of an event. And it’s the phrase that has given us permission to share more emotionally than in the past. With so many feelings, even all the feels, our connections and relationships with feelings surely has changed. Or have they?

Are feelings really any more of a thing we welcome and experience than they were in the past? Or do we still see them as a vulnerability, a weakness, and a burden?

In working on this blog, I googled quotes on feelings. The results were overwhelming and somewhat unapproachable. It seems that every author, every poet, most artists of any sort, not to mention countless therapists, religious figures, and pop culture icons, all have thoughts about feelings. What a funny sentence—thoughts about feelings. Perhaps they are also expressed as feelings about feelings. But more on that at a later time.

No matter what, feelings are a shared and unavoidable phenomenon. Feelings happen as life happens. The argument of which comes first, thoughts or feelings, similar to the chicken or the egg conversation, exists in the therapy world, but that is not the debate of this platform. Here, rather, I invite us to look at our thoughts on feelings. What do you believe about feelings? Are feelings friendly, informative, even helpful? Or are they foolish, stupid, and maybe our foe?

One of my favorite therapy exercises with clients is one in which I process with them their relationship to their emotions; in essence, how do they get along with their feelings. It is often revealing as a question that many have never considered. Yet, we all have a way of relating to our feelings. On any given day I have clients who obey their feelings to a tee, listening to their every whim and worry, and then others who despise their feelings and pretending they don’t have them, bury them into the depths of their core. Some embrace all the feels and some loathe all the feels. I don’t believe any one of these is more “right” than the other, and in fact, they both have their pros and cons. But perhaps even before how we relate to our feelings, we first have to look at some of our thoughts, and feelings, about feelings.

I found a few quotes from folks current and historical that embody so much of what I hear others say about emotions. As you read these, see what internal responses are happening in you. Do you agree or disagree? Are you annoyed or in favor of how these folks articulate the relationship we have with feelings? After reading these quotes, I invite you to pause a moment and think about one belief you have about feelings that impacts and informs the way you interact with them in both yourself and others.

Author, researcher, and Ph.D., Brene Brown states, “All the stuff that keeps you safe from feeling scary emotions? They also keep you from feeling the good emotions. You have to shake those off. You have to become vulnerable.

In his work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde writes, “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.

UCLA psychiatrist and author, Judith Orloff suggests, “How you react emotionally is a choice in any situation.

And Anne Frank penned in her diary,But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.

Most likely your beliefs originated in childhood and/or are based on impactful experiences you’ve had throughout your life. As experiential beings, feelings are vivid and real and can impact us for a lifetime. Biologically speaking, feelings occur in our brainstem, deep in the reptilian part of our brain that is essential to survival—think flight, fight, or freeze.  And one of the fascinating things about this part of our brain, as it relates to feelings, is it has no sense of time. It doesn’t know the threat of a large dog when you are a child apart from the threat of the barista getting your order wrong when you are running late to work. It isn’t meant to give us logical information, it is meant to give us information about survival, threat, values, and the like.

What we do with this information our feelings are communicating, and in a lot of ways, what we were taught about this information, often gives way to our current way of relating to our emotions. We hate them, we love them, we express them, we bury them, we try to turn certain ones off, we avoid others at all costs—this is the way with all the feels. And while I don’t agree with all the above quotes, I think they certainly capture a great deal of the way many of us relate to feelings.

It would take a great deal longer and many more words to fully unpack our relationship with feelings, but I want to leave you thinking about your relationship with them. And I want to propose a possibly new thought. What if emotions aren’t good or bad, friend or foe, but simply just are? They are a part of our experience. They have the potential to protect us or lead us into distress. They can be influenced but our experience of them is not fully in our control. Feelings come and go, they ebb and flow. They desire reaction and yet we have the ability to slow down and respond.

Maybe a hard sell to some, but I find myself on the friendly side of the feelings equation. They are there for a reason, and that reason isn’t our destruction! Life seems less colorful, passionate, and complete when emotions get pushed away. Feelings connect us, they serve us, they motivate us, and they ignite us. And yet, with all parts of our life, feelings must be in balance. They must rarely be given the reigns to completely control our decisions and behaviors. They are not the enemy, but they are also not the king.

I hope to have given you food for thought this blog. We each are continually navigating and working on all our relationships, our personal relationship with feelings included. I conclude with this quote from my beloved author C.S. Lewis, who I believe captures the essence of a balanced approach to allowing feelings a unique place at our table while also a suggesting a specific route in which they are to be engaged.

“The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.”
― C.S. Lewis

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

Let’s talk about your relationship with feelings!

Do Unto Others

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule; it is plastered around elementary schools and rooted into our psyche with the hope of encouraging interactions with one another that honor, respect, and serve. Ideally, if we can just think about how we would like others to view and treat us, then maybe we will do the same to them. It’s a win for everyone and serves as a subtle reminder of general behavior expectations for children, adolescents, and adults.

Yet what if the Golden Rule is also for ourselves and not just how we treat others?

It’s fair to say that a great deal of us want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, encourage us, allow for our mistakes and do-overs, and genuinely think the best of us. We’d like others to be kind to us, to assume we are trying our hardest, and that our intentions are pure. A lot of us fight for this in friendships, workplaces, and marriages and we may eve debate leaving them if we don’t get this sort of treatment. In short, perhaps we want others to treat us the way we wished we treated ourselves.

So what if we did? What if we gave ourselves the grace that is the essence and driving force of the Golden Rule?

I invite you to examine the ways in which you are treating yourself and if they are anything like the ways in which you treat others? Would you say the things to friends that you say to yourself when you make mistakes? Would you call your spouse the name you call yourself when you are disappointed in your abilities? Would you tell your co-workers the things you tell yourself about your work and production?

If your answer is no, never, or no way, that’s a great starting place. Think of the mercy you freely extend to those you love and care for. How can you extend this to yourself? Maybe it’s creating a postcard to reminding you to love and accept yourself. It might be journaling an affirmation a day about something positive you embody. Or, perhaps it is finding just one of your sticky negative self-talk statements and becoming intentional about challenging and changing it over the coming weeks.

And as I offer up this invitation, I am also fully aware that some of us will answer with an emphatic yes. Yes, I would treat others the way I treat myself. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, either way, the heart of the matter is still important. If treating them kindly, then I applaud you and the way you treat yourself and others. If less so, consider asking yourself the following: Are you ok with treating others in ways that you have experienced? Are these interactions with self and others wounding, discouraging, and hurtful or uplifting, encouraging, and merciful? Does it serve you to be demanding of yourself or others? Is it the kind of man or woman you want to be?

Do unto others and do unto yourself.

And so if you desire to treat yourself and/or others differently, I encourage you to start by learning to let go of judgment. Let go of labels and ineffective interpretations and make way for more factual information. Sticking with the facts of what we observe, both inside and outside of ourselves, helps us to see what we are working with and on—in this moment, regarding this situation, and with these circumstances.

It is here, in the light of what is actually happening, be it a success or failure, an accomplishment or mistake, that we can choose how to treat ourselves. You can let go of being this or that and allow yourself to merely experience it instead. You can allow yourself to either separate from your latest performance or become enslaved by it. It is here, in the reatlity of an individual situation, that you can choose to be kind in your thoughts, be gracious in your feelings, and be encouraging in your actions—both to yourself and to others.

Go forth. Do unto others as you’d want to be done to you. And make sure both are in line with the values you hold to and the person you want to be.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Curious about how to live this way? Contact me!

Containing and Keeping Yourself

It is common for folks to discuss the need to protect themselves from unsafe people. Often times, this stretches beyond the physical safety and presents an emotional concern. A roommate, a co-worker, a parent, or partner each have the potential to create lasting wounds. As I hear stories of abuse and abandonment and hurt turned to harm, it is understandable what these folks mean and gives context to what they deem as unsafe.

This painful impact that others have created has the potential to give great understanding to the recipients’ behaviors. In response to the pain we’ve survived, we adapt and change in ways to help us avoid pain in the future. Some folks shut down and withdrawal. Some busy themselves and pursue perfection. Some let loose and let go. There is no one particular right way to react all the time, though some routes are more effective than others. When we are trying to make it, it is important we learn to protect and boundary ourselves from the unsafe people and places of this world.

Typically when we discuss the idea of and need for boundaries, our minds drift to building a fortress of safety around ourselves that no one can penetrate. Our hearts are tucked away from hurt, though we may portray a desire for closeness and present welcoming. We learn to manipulate and orchestrate ways in which to get our needs for relationship met all the while staying in our safe little bubble. And as we deftly avoid pain, our well-intentioned protection can become a way of qualifying our own hurtful behaviors.

It doesn’t start out malicious. Perhaps our boundaries look like leaving a conversation without regard for the other or exploding in anger after being wounded. We justify our reactions, our behavior, and our truth. Our emotions drive us and we create wreckage in our rearview. Our protective lies become our only reality. It might be drinking to numb or fighting to connect, defensiveness to protect or blaming to avoid. Slowly and surely our previously adaptive ways of protecting become swords that wound others. So as we acknowledge the different styles of coping, we also must begin to see boundaries as not only a way to protect us from the world, but also to protect the world from us.

I once heard it said that boundaries are like hula-hoops, one around us to protect and one around us to contain. Protection, we get that. Containment, on the other hand, containment is so equally important and yet so easily overlooked. Containment is our way of taking care of ourselves and not recklessly letting our baggage crash into those around us. Containment is self-soothing, problem-solving, keeping our side of the street clean, living our values, meeting our own needs, showing up in difficult situations, and taking responsibility. Simply, containment is essential.

The idea of containing and keeping one’s self is not based on a belief that we are all dangerous and terribly harmful to one another. Rather, containing and keeping one’s own self, allows for healthy space between us and others, and allows for the best possible solutions to our own problems. When we contain ourselves we know what’s ours to own and what’s not, we can take responsibility for our actions, and we are free to show up as the men and women we desire to be.

Containing myself allows me to be the solution to my problems, and this is the ultimate gift to myself. Keeping means I learn to check in with myself and meet my own needs, especially when others are unable to meet them. Containing gives me the freedom to set boundaries in a way that I am proud of. Keeping myself provides safety because I am able to care for myself in ways perfectly unique to what I need and want. Containing myself prevents my hurt from hurting others. Keeping myself allows me to hold myself together when it feels the world is trying to take from me.

Containing ourself is just as much for the world as for us, as it provides a foundation for own contentment. So how do we contain and keep ourselves?

Perhaps best learned in relationship, containing yourself is often first practiced in the safety and space of trust and bumping up against others who won’t give up or let go. We learn that others are not able to make us ok and yet that doesn’t relate to their care or love for us. We experience their consistency while recognizing they are not picking up our emotional distress. We are encouraged to find new ways to soothe ourselves and create practices that help us be our own best resource.

As we learn to be the answer to our own problems, ultimately, we must tune into ourselves. Containment requires a sense of honesty and knowing one’s self. This looks like mindfully learning and tuning into what we are feeling beneath the outbursts or isolation, saying no to things that we cannot offer free of expectation, asking for what we need, and accepting that others may or may not meet that need. We take ownership of our behavior rather than make excuse. And remembering we are responsible for how we treat others, we handle our pain in order to not injure another.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

 

Learning to Let People Down

It’s been over a month since I’ve written much. Not just a blog, but anything. The last blog was a bit hard and though well-received, it didn’t make life easier. I have been busy and tired. I have had to renegotiate my schedule and stay true to my own boundaries. I have had to sacrifice keeping my word at all costs and release the irrational belief that I have control over what folks think about me and how I impact them.

Ultimately, I have had to learn to let others down for the sake of myself and my sense of well-being.

I typically blog weekly and have multiple blogs in waiting for weeks when life does get chaotic and busy. It helps to eliminate the pressure on myself and allows me a comforting cushion on a self-imposed deadline. I also blog not only for myself but for others who have encouraged me and share my writing. I have folks holding me accountable for taking the risks of putting my thoughts out there, all of which keep me on a schedule.

For the most part, I love this. I find joy in connecting with others through struggle and story. The creativity of saying possibly recycled thoughts in new ways, ways hopefully folks can relate to, has fueled me. I literally have 43 titled and unfinished blogs in waiting because I get ideas after a session or in conversation with a friend or over dinner with my husband and start something I don’t have time to complete. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the regularity. I enjoy the creating. I enjoy the writing.

But life happened and I got behind.

As weeks passed, my computer closed and my will lacking, guilt and shame stated to creep in. The days I typically post a new blog would come and go and my inner voice would whisper words of disappointment. I’m a failure who can’t keep her commitments. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this on. I was probably just lucky folks liked them anyway. Maybe it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. After allI had committed to something and here I was, having only made it a few months.

It wasn’t only here that I found shame creeping in. I also wasn’t able to take on some of the workload I wanted. I had to create gaps for the exhaustion and boundaries for my schedule. I had to say no, often followed by an apology and plea for forgiveness and grace. I passed on commitments or showed up the best I could because in this season that I was struggling to give my all.

Life was forcing me to let others down. Life was forcing me to choose me.

The feelings of guilt and shame and the thoughts that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t hold and do it all pulled on my heart and made choosing me difficult. I tried to push myself while knowing the truth. If I didn’t let go of somethings, it was going to cost me a lot of things. My values would be compromised and I would ultimately be much more distraught with myself.

So I picked me and I made hard decisions. I let things slip and I passed on offers for more this or that. I negotiated responsibilities that others tried to give me. I allowed the space for the feelings and fears, yet kept true to the woman I want to be, the wife I want to be, the counselor I want to be, the daughter I want to be, the friend I want to be, and ultimately the disciple I want to be.

While, I can never truly know if I let others down, my heart says I did. Most people report that I did no such thing; their grace and mercy abounded. I experienced kindness and care from my inner circle and few questions from those impacted. Nothing and no one, other than myself, suggested that anyone was let down by my need to take care of me. I was intentional in how I let others down and perhaps the manner in which I did so helped as well.

Change is tough and learning, like all growth, tends to be uncomfortable, if not down right painful. Learning to let others down, to possibly disappoint family and friends, co-workers and clients, it isn’t easy for a great deal of us. After all I am in the helping profession–I come alongside others and help shoulder their burdens for a season–so it’s reasonably hard to have to limit those I can help. Especially because I love what I do.

However, I am a better woman when I take care of me first. I am a stronger woman when I let go of the fear of letting others down and choose what I need. I am a content woman when I act on my values. I am a healthier woman when I listen to my body, heart, and head. I am an intentional woman when I know what I can and cannot give. I am a grounded woman when I live in balance and mindfully negotiate my priorities. And I am a more complete woman when I learn the beauty of letting others down.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

It is hard to let others down and yet it is so freeing when you allow yourself the grace and space to accept it will happen. To talk more about this journey, contact me today.

When It’s Hard to Hope

I recently had coffee with a good friend and we discussed marriage, travel, ideas for an upcoming talk I have; the normal things between long-standing friends. We laughed about memories and made plans for us and our spouses to get together. I knew we had connected to discuss a recent loss in my life and yet talking about the normal things felt safe. I wasn’t exactly intentionally avoiding, but I wasn’t just letting things out.

And then she asked how I was doing.

Not good, ok, heart-broken, better… they were all the truth. It depended on the hour and who I was with. It depended on the last time I had cried and what I was doing. Sometimes even I didn’t know how I was doing because sometimes life throws you a curveball that you don’t see coming. And while you want to talk about the struggle, sometimes you want to just talk about the other stuff and pretend your world is normal.

The pain that occurs with loss can be overwhelming. You wrestle with your reality throughout the day and perhaps finally come to terms with it only to go to bed and awaken with the pressure to reaccept it once more. The world continues to turn, to celebrate birthdays and baseball games, to gather and go to school and work. No one seems to pause and take note of your grief. And the heartache makes it hard to move forward with hope.

So, what do we do and where do we turn when heartache makes it hard to hope?

In the days following the news I alluded to, I noticed my dueling desires. I wanted to be alone, watch TV, and not face the rising sun and incoming day. This was alongside my longing to connect, to have someone reach out and ask how I was doing, to gaze into friends lives on social media, and constantly check my email and texts. I wanted to exercise, to run, sweat and push myself. I also wanted to stay in bed and not even move so far as to the living room. I wanted to cry and I longed to laugh. I wanted to give up and I was desperate for hope.

And somedays I didn’t know what I wanted or where to turn. But I did know this: Whatever you do, Linds, keep on going. For it was necessary to be together and necessary to be alone. It was important to laugh and important to cry. It was helpful to push myself physically and helpful to give myself grace. And it was essential to continue on, both continuing routine and creating space to pause. Even amid the truth of it being hard to hope, we have to keep going.

And as we keep going and allowing for the different twists and turns our heart takes us on, we turn to God, to friends, and to those who have walked a similar journey. We let others know of the ache and risk being a burden to allow others the gift of caring for us well. Slowly an hour turns into an afternoon and an afternoon into a day and we realize we are still going. We become less annoyed at the morning and more willing to step out and show up. As we hold onto our basic values and practices, share with others, and allow space for feelings, heartbreak slowly gives way for hope to return.

However, hopes return is not without going through the mess, the feels, the ups and downs, and the risks. Hope is a scary thing. Hope has the potential to let us fall and fall hard. Hope has the ability to leave us embarrassed, hurt, lonely, sad, and wrecked. When it’s hard to hope, we may be tempted to throw in the towel, but little is to be gained from giving in and giving up. Hope, even when it’s hard, must return to propel us on onward.

A life without hope is simply no way to live. We have to have hope. And ultimately, when it is hard to hope we must connect. This may be to others and is most fully with God. Hope in things and outcomes, like all hope, has the potential to leave us heartbroken. Yet hope in something bigger than ourselves allows us to get out of our own disappointment and pain to a hope that sustains. We accept we are not alone, we navigate the pain and sorrow, and we show up to answer the question, “how are you doing?” and we make way for hope once more — because hope embodied does not disappoint.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC