Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Couldn't Hack It

For years, I wondered why I struggled so much with being in the parish.  It wasn't like our congregations were especially cruel, in fact, they both were nice; pay was fair; and there was a house attached.

It was last year, when I went to work full-time, that I really realized exactly what it was.  PTSD.  Having PTSD was no surprise, I knew that...but I never really had related it to being a pastor's wife.

In most congregations, there are rarely huge crises...but there are little things, especially when a person tends to be someone who doesn't quite fit the mold, does things out of the ordinary, and stinks at some things as well (me, me, and most definitely me).

The gossip would get to me.  The unspoken expectations would drive me crazy.  The conflicts that had happened over silly things.  Often they were things the majority of the congregation didn't know about, but were behind the scenes....And when I found out that there were issues with things I'd done months or years after I could've done something about it...that would have me in tears for days...and always ready for the next shoe to drop.

"Just ignore it," I was told.  "Don't let it bother you," was common advice...and good advice.  But advice I couldn't take.  And I had no idea why.  I could try the power of positive thinking, I could change my perspective...for a little while.

Actually, I'm great at handling huge crises.  I can be brave in the face of turmoil, calm in the storm.  Truly, I am awesome at it.

But growing up in the way I was never the big things that caused the world to turn upside down.  It was little things.  Stupid things.  Things that were only rarely expected, and would probably leave most normal people aghast at the things that would cause incredible turmoil in my family.   Life was about avoiding those times, trying to anticipate those times...survive those times.   Things that often to regular people should never have been a big deal at all.

In the parish, I struggled because I could never turn that off.  As much as I've recovered from it, I can't turn that hyper-alertness that looks for these things.  I can't stop wondering if something is going on that I don't know about.  Working away from home was one of the only ways I could get away from it.  Living in a parsonage especially made me feel very, very vulnerable to impending doom.

In the seven years that I've written about being a pastor's wife, and the fifteen years that I was one, I could never quite put that into words.  In my interaction with seminary and pastors' wives, I have always tried to keep in perspective that whatever my issues were, they weren't necessarily those of others.

And the title is a bit facetious.  I "hacked" it for fifteen years, and God has been gracious and merciful -- blessing me in many ways along the way.  I've had very patient and loving family as well as having been blessed with amazing friends who have supported me and loved me for being Lora, and who weren't usually associated with the stress soup.  They've been my sanity over the years. 

I have no idea what mission work in Papua New Guinea will bring, whether this will be an issue there.  My husband won't be a parish pastor there, but there is a lot of learning to do, learning to relate to other people in completely new ways with a new language and a new culture.  I have been doing a lot of praying.  We've only visited for a little more than a week, yet as I process what I saw there, it seems like it is becoming more home to me than Indiana or our very nice parsonage ever was.  It is strange and freeing that there is the fact that if I can't hack it after giving it a very fair shot, they will pull us out.  But I hope, pray, and desire that I can, because we are needed there, and I have a feeling that it will be very, very good.  Hard, but good.

I know this time that we have had where I have been able to live in a house that isn't a parsonage, sitting in the pews of churches that aren't my husband's...has been very healing.

And you have been important to me, too.  Having you share your experiences, your wisdom, and often, your pain, has been amazing.  I never meant for this to be a pastors' wives site, nor did I ever set about to have a place to be a pastor's wife when almost every moment of my life was trying to escape that fact...but it did become that, and from what has been said by has been a blessing.

I wish you a blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas.