Unpack…

I have forever my entire life wanted to write.

I still have the book I wrote in second grade on paper from my Big Chief pad titled, “Amy and Mikey”.  And a chapter book from fourth grade in a spiral notebook called, “Frank the Fish”.  I love books and words and storytelling.  I read all the time.  There are words constantly floating in my head that only sometimes make their way to paper.  And, not surprisingly, my Love Language is ‘words of affirmation’.

But I never thought to pursue it.  I didn’t think it would amount to anything.  Writer?  What is that?  That seems so broad.  That’s not a profession or something people actually do.  What would that even look like?  Who would pay someone to write?  That can’t be a career.

Medicine seemed safer.  There was a natural progression.  College, medical school, residency, career.  People will hire and pay a doctor.  That’s an actual thing.  It has a title to it, Dr. Albertson.  And I treat patients following algorithms all laid out for me.  History, physical, diagnosis, treatment.  This all made a lot more sense to me.

I tucked writing away somewhere in a box.  Occasionally I’d fill a notebook or two of my thoughts and stories, but I kept those hidden somewhere in a drawer and left it at ‘that’s just something I enjoy doing sometimes’.

Do you have something like that?

Something you love to do but have always felt silly ever pursuing?  Something you believe other people might be able to do, but certainly not you?

Have you ever thought of starting now?

If you asked me ten years ago to pursue writing in my spare time I might have dissolved into a puddle on the floor.  Ten years ago I was in residency working 60-80 hours per week and taking overnight call every third or fourth day.  Ten years ago I had two little boys ages 2 and 8 months and I was riddled with guilt because I didn’t see them very often.  I was in a hurry to get everywhere.  Rush to work…rush home to the boys…rush to the zoo after a call night when I should have been sleeping to pretend I’m a stay at home mom.  Ten years ago my husband was about four months away from drug rehab for a second time and everything about our marriage and the family I always pictured was eroding.

There was no room for writing then.

I felt like I was carrying a gigantic load.  Picture me with five or six or more big heavy boxes.  Each box a varying size and labeled with something different like mother, wife, addict husband, work load, body image, self-doubt, emotional baggage.  I walked around all day every day trying to carry it all by myself.  Trying to keep it from toppling over.  Trying to make sure every box was sealed up tight so no one could see the contents.  Every day I walked around with that load completely overwhelmed and exhausted and afraid and alone.

Writing was tucked away in one of those boxes.  It swayed along with the rest of my load.  Just another thing I carried.

I never wanted to tell anyone about it.  It was too embarrassing.  It might make me look bad.  People might judge me.  People might not like me if they knew how hard I was struggling.  People might figure out I actually have no idea what I’m doing most of the time and spend my days just winging it.  Just surviving.  Because when I looked around, no one else seemed to have these problems.  Everyone else seemed to be living their lives.  Happy.  No one else was carrying this gigantic load of boxes like me.  Sure, I knew there were sick people.  And homeless people.  And starving people in Africa.  Yes.  I think that’s part of the reason I just continued to shoulder the load.  It could always be worse.  These weren’t real problems.  But in my sphere.  My friends.  My family.  My coworkers.  These people never seemed to have the same sort of troubles I did.

I just didn’t know.

Two things changed me over time:  Al-anon and practicing medicine.

In Al-anon I learned to set down my boxes.  To open each one carefully and delicately, and quietly share my stories.  I held my broken pieces out for all in the room to see.  And they didn’t gasp in horrified shock or look sorry for me.  In fact, they didn’t change much in expression at all except to smile and nod knowingly.  In Al-anon I mostly heard, “me too.”  I learned how to share the pieces of my life with other people.  I learned they had broken pieces too.  And in Al-anon I learned to pray.  To let Jesus carry my load.

And for me, practicing medicine has never been about the science but about the people.  This is where I learned to love people.  Where I learned to see the beautiful broken pieces in every single person I meet.  People come in to my office and set down their boxes.  They put the contents in my hands for a little while and I hold it gingerly and lovingly.  All the broken and sharp parts, all the parts with frayed edges, all their fear and self-doubt and guilt, all their sickness and loss and pain.  I listen and love them and help where I can.

Like hearing the the sound of a new mother’s desperate voice as her baby delivered, “Is he okay???  Is he okay???” because her first baby five years before had been stillborn.  And how I plopped that precious, squalling baby boy on her chest and proclaimed through my own sobbing tears, “He’s beautiful.  He’s just perfect!”

Like listening as a family shouted their ‘goodbyes’ and ‘I love yous’ and ‘you were the greatest fathers’ and ‘it’s okay to goes’ to their father and grandfather then proclaiming his time of death.

Like sitting there with a grown man’s uncontrollable sobbing because his teen son committed suicide.  Nothing I could do but stay right there with him in his incredible grief.

Or like watching a precious new mother progress from not able to catch her breath in my office to ICU by that afternoon in fulminate heart failure.  Months later celebrating her last day of dialysis then weeping in my office when I learned of her severe stroke several months later.  Loving her through visits to my office in a wheelchair, unable to move much or speak as her baby crawled on her lap and around the floor.  And weeping again as I learned of her passing after we moved to Utah, almost bittersweet relief due to her pain.  I saw her baby a few months back on Facebook, now a little boy.  And I gasped aloud to her, “Look at your little boy!  He’s beautiful!”  I could see her right there in his face.

I have story after story after story.  So many stories of beautiful, bittersweet, brokenness.  Moments when Jesus’s presence was palpable in the room.  When I’m quite sure His hands were moving my own.  I could write about them for days.

What a gift.

Who knew the contents of those boxes could be so beautiful?  Who knew when we share our brokenness with others we come out better on the other side?  We grow and change?  And we are free to love ourselves and others?  Who knew EVERYONE struggles?  And we don’t have to pretend?  Who knew we don’t have to carry it on our own?  Who knew Jesus has been with us all along?  And He wants to shoulder our load?  Who knew we don’t have to be afraid to unpack those boxes?  The broken pieces?  The pain?  And even those little dreams we have just been too afraid to try!

About seven months ago I started this little blog.  And it makes me feel excited and vibrant and alive.  It doesn’t have to be big and grand (I have something like 60 followers on Facebook!).  I don’t have to write a New York Times bestseller.  I just love to write.  And when I share my brokenness and struggles and celebrations and pain it invites others to do the same and suddenly none of us is alone.

I’ll bet you have something too.  Something you’ve wanted to do but always kept tucked away.  Something that gets your heart racing.

My mom began running marathons in her fifties.  My friend Rachel is an amazing entrepreneur.  My friend April became a realtor this year and is selling homes like a boss.  I connected with a friend from high school recently and she’s an ultramarathoner with sponsors.  My mother-in-law went back to school to become a nurse after her last child went to college.

My point is, it’s never too late.  That thing you’ve always wanted to do?  It matters.  That dream is there for a reason.

So what is it?  What do you need to unpack?

Have you always wanted to take a cooking class or sign up for a race or learn photography or become a yoga instructor? Have you been waiting for the right time to go back to school?  Or adopt?  Is there something you’ve kept hidden away because you thought it was silly or small or you always thought there was someone better at it or it was too scary?  Can I just give you permission to take that first step?  To pull that thing you’ve always wanted to do out of the box and share it with the world???

Mine is writing.

I have forever my entire life wanted to write.

Yep, I’m taking writing out of the box.

6 thoughts on “Unpack…

  1. Oh, Mikayla, this is beautiful. I can relate to so much of what you said. The fear of judgment. The worry that what you have to say might not matter. The difficulty of being vulnerable. I am right there with you, girl. But I am so glad you are writing. If it fills a void in your life and makes you feel vibrant and alive, it is worth it. And if (when) others join you for the ride, they will feel of your enthusiasm and be blessed for experiencing your story with you. Thank you for being brave and real. And keep writing!

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  2. Oh, Mikayla, this is beautiful! I can relate to so much of what you said. The fear of judgment. The worry that what you have to say might not matter. The difficulty of being vulnerable. But if writing makes you feel vibrant and alive, that makes it all worth it. If (when) other people join you for the journey, they will be uplifted by your words and strengthened as they experience your story with you. Thank you for being brave and real. And keep writing!

    Like

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