Evictions and invitations

After I wrote my last post I have been using, “I’m just going to dance,” as a mantra.  It’s been quite useful, but because life is what it is, it’s been a struggle to keep dancing. Just wanted to reality check that.  I’m still repeating, still working to do it.  I do feel like I’ve risen to a new level in this process I’m working in but, as I keep learning, progress does not equal comfort. 

I’ve been through a meaningful clean-out this week.  I passed on most of River’s baby items to people who could use them.  As someone who waited a long time to have a child (“long time” qualified as such by nothing but my own expectations) and is now facing the possibility that I might not have any more children, this was emotional.  I also sold my longtime companion car (read here if you missed the tribute).  It was time for the car to go and I felt ready, but the experience of selling a car on Craigslist was a little harrowing.  Nothing bad happened but I felt extremely vulnerable, standing under a streetlight in the otherwise dark, holding River, while three grown men examined my car and then haggled with me over the price.  It’s an experience I never anticipated having and I hope to not repeat.

All of this moving-on business has prompted me to think about evictions. 

IMG_2976

This was taken on my 12th birthday, right before we started 7th grade.  The first day of junior high is definitely an eviction from life, right?!?

When I was about 11 years old, a big shift happened in my family.  Around this time my grandpa was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  His prognosis was poor.  I was young so I don’t understand everything that played into this, but I know it broke something open in mom. She began spending long periods of time in her room, in bed, with the door closed.  When I came home from school, I was met with a serious expression and relative silence.  Before this time there had always been pleasant chatter and busy flow of housework, homework, errands and dinner prep. 

Glennon Doyle described this kind of experience as an eviction from your life.  It’s a point in time in which something changes in a way that makes it impossible to return to your previous existence.  Effectively you cannot go home.  You cannot return to your previous way of living because something fundamental inside or outside of you has changed.

I think my mom would identify this time period as one of her life evictions.  It was my first.  It was the first time I remember understanding that life was bigger than my childhood problems.  That the adults in my life were facing things that were bigger and more complex than I could understand.  I searched for a way to make sense of it and my role within it.  This is when I started to worry about getting good grades.  I started thinking about college.  I started to TRY to get along with my sisters.  I started to believe that if I could be and do enough good, I could control my life and, to some degree, the lives of those around me.

HPIM1016

21-year-old me at my first visit to NIH.  (They have computers at every bedside for patient use!)  Look at the expression on my face — eviction.

Eviction #2 happened about ten years later.  I was 20 years old when I got married.  Five months after the wedding, I had a septoplasty and turbinate reduction surgery. This was to help me breathe better but was mostly in response to recurrent, severe headaches that had been going on for years.  It was an outpatient procedure but I spent the entire day in the recovery room.  My blood pressure became very elevated during surgery and it took hours to bring it down.  The surgeon advised me get this checked out by my primary care doctor.  I was a BYU student at the time so I went to student health and told the doctor what had happened.  Thankfully she took it seriously.  She began ordering tests to evaluate my cardiovascular and endocrine function.  After a bunch of tests and a misread CT scan that was thankfully given a second look, a tumor was found in the back of my abdominal cavity behind my pancreas. 

I had an incredibly invasive surgery to remove the tumor, followed by another incredibly invasive surgery four months later.  This was my second eviction.  I dealt with this in a similar way to my first.  I put my head down and went to work.  I looked for things I could control to take care of the things I couldn’t.  I went on like this for 11 years. 

IMG_20151107_174319387I was 31 when I became pregnant with R.  I waited a long time to have a child and I was so excited to be pregnant and bring this little human into existence.  I don’t think it matters what you circumstances are, having a child is an eviction from your life!  It’s something you can’t adequately prepare for, no matter what.  Having R was the best kind of eviction.  Holding my sweet boy, feeling the incredible love I felt for him and believing that God’s love for him was even more perfect than mine—that was the impetus for me.  That’s when I started to believe that God loved me and he wanted something more for me than my self-mandated, contrived existence. 

This is when I realized I couldn’t continue—I couldn’t fulfill the measure of my creation, within my marriage.  This marked the most meaningful eviction to that point.  That’s the thing about evictions.  They are uncomfortable.  They are supposed to be.  During the past two years, there have been several times when I have longed to go home.  To return to some feeling of normalcy in life.  But whenever I think about this, I try to picture what that would look like and where it would be.  And I realize, it doesn’t exist anymore.  I cannot go home.  Like those whose homes were destroyed in the terrible fires in California this past week, I could return to the lot and I would find a field of charred and scattered debris.  What was there before, only exists in my memory.

This is where the invitation comes in.  An eviction always comes with an invitation.  An invitation to rebuild, to grow, to expand, to understand, to let go, to reach.  These are invitations that I would ignore without the preceding abrupt eviction.  Life in the status quo, however comfortable or uncomfortable, is familiar and it is so hard to let go of the familiar.  I don’t think God provides these evictions.  The world and life and biology are chaotic and complicated enough to ensure that we will find our necessary breaking points.  But God is always the inviter.  God is the one that invites us to turn shit into gold.  It is up to us to accept the invitation—to “trust the inviter,” as Glennon suggests.

When have you felt this eviction/invitation?   

Today my invitation is, not to wait for the downhill stretch, but to get comfortable in the climb.  To stay open.  To love.  Namaste.

4 thoughts on “Evictions and invitations

  1. ANN says:

    Oh man, I’ve had a lot of these this year and I hate the feeling of knowing I can never go back to some of those “homes.” It’s a feeling of real grief! But the hope for an invitation is a great thing to keep in mind – thanks for that.

    • Michelle Whipple says:

      It’s a powerful metaphor and it reminds me to keep going. There is not back, only forward. I remember when I realized this with my psych patients. I had so many people who said, “I just want to feel like my old self again.” I don’t think the old self exists!

  2. Eddie says:

    Love you. Great metaphor. It rings true with me.

    Why do some of these bad things happen? This was one of my questions going into General conference. The answer, because this is mortality.( I forgot who said it.)

    Something I say to myself sometimes, “God created this world and it runs on the laws he sets forth.” One of those laws is entropy. “Put simply, entropy is a measure of disorder, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all closed systems tend to maximize entropy. Reversing this ever increasing tendency toward disorder requires the input of energy.”

    We live in mortality and entropy is a reality.

    So we have these evictions you talk about.

    “I don’t think God provides these evictions. The world and life and biology are chaotic and complicated enough to ensure that we will find our necessary breaking points.”

    <—I feel this way too.

    But what I love is what you say at the end about the invitation. This is how I truly believe God works in our lives. He is there knocking, he says "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…" and let me make your shit into gold. ; )

    I love you. Thanks for giving me a place to express ideas. I think about you and ask myself, "I love Michelle, how can I show my love to her from far away?" So the obvious answer is to read you blog and support you there. Yet, I read your words and find in trying to support you, I am able to heal myself…… any way, more rambling … big hug

    • Michelle Whipple says:

      Haha! I think about entropy all of the time! It’s hard not to when you have little kids but I see it everywhere. I actually wrote a poem (not a very good one) about entropy a couple of months ago. Totally agree. Xoxo

Shine some light my way. Tell me your thoughts!