Submitting to anything just gives me the willies. And willies are anything that make me feel like spiders are crawling on me or wet hair- that isn't mine- is stuck in between my toes.Read More
I am wide awake.
Keenly aware of the fact that I feel lost. Like driftwood. Churned up by the storms and spit out in a different county, mangled, in a river I’ve never known.
Truth is, it all hit at once.
I’ve walked through seasons of change, seasons of feeling lost before- but they were never so real or so deep as they are now.
I am contemplating who I am. And how does that make any sense? And what am I to do with that? And who do I want to be? Not what do I want to do with my life- though it seems summing it up with a simple answer like that would make this process a lot easier- so not that. But who do I want to be? Who was I made to be? And do I have to be that? Or can I just kind of be that? And who was that person anyways? I mean... the person I was made to be? Am I that person? Or a version of her? What’s left of her? Or is she being completely reinvented?
[I should insert here that I do not have multiple personalities. You know. Just in case you were starting to get concerned.]
These are the things you think you have figured out. You think you know yourself. And I suppose there are loads of well meaning people in the world who live simple lives never contemplating this stuff, never doing anything risky enough to feel lost, never sitting on the couch at 6:01 a.m. staring their demons in the face. But I am not that person.
I am a nearly 31 year old artist, wife and mom who feels like driftwood. Churned up by the storms and spit out in a different county, mangled, in a river I’ve never known.
Being all mangledy-bangledy is a good thing. At least that’s what preachers always say. Storms grow you up. Get rid of all the bad stuff in you. Refine you with their fire and hurricane-in-the-sky powers. You come out refined. And shinier. And stronger. And I agree, this can happen. But what of the in between time? Where you’re mangledy-bangledy.
Sometimes we skip that part. Instead, the image I often get is this: I walk into a trying season in my life as “Jenny” and I come out shortly there after on the other side as a smokin’ hot “Jenny 4.0” who has, somehow, become infinitely more beautiful, happy, mature, rich, and demon-free.
But what of the transformation period? Surely it does not simply occur because the season of hardship is behind you. So poof! Hardships have made you a more rich person.
It's messier than that. It’s a longer journey than the just enduring part. It’s the becoming part that leaves you stranded on the couch, morning after morning, 6:30 a.m. feeling keenly aware that you are in the in between. Not the girl I started out as- nor the better version- but somewhere in between. Trying to find my way home.
So that’s where I have been. Some of you have asked. And that‘s the only answer I can give.
I am in the in between. We are in the in between.
Not in a storm, but not the new shinier 4.0 version of myself either. Just somewhere in between... becoming. And the becoming process sucks. I don’t like change. And I don’t like living in the unknown. And I don’t like feeling so unsettled. Seems like by now I should have it all figured out. But I don’t.
And the truth is- I think that is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. Living in the unknown. The driftwood that’s been spit out three counties over- trying to get my bearings and wondering- what next?
With that being said...
I am working on a new album and writing songs that I’ve always wanted to write. Saying things I’ve always wanted to say. Writing with writers who are challenging me to go places I’ve never gone before with my music.
Ryan is no longer traveling with me. And that is the biggest of changes. He has taken a 8-5 job in Dallas that he loves- he was ready for something new- and yet he still believes in what I do and wants me to follow where it leads. Still, after 11 years of making music together and living side by side, 24 hours a day, traveling the world, there is a loneliness in doing what we have done together for so long, by myself.
We are trying to figure out what that looks like for Addison Road and what that means for our family. For now it means performing on weekends- taking Annie with me sometimes- or leaving her with her grandparents for the weekend so Ryan can recover from the work week. Sometimes Ryan will be with me, but mostly, he is getting used to his new world too- and apparently you working-world-folk live for the weekends. I don’t think Ryan or I had any concept of a “weekend” until the last five months.
We are realizing, that for most of the working world, scheduling a “date” night becomes one of the only ways to ensure that you have any amount of quality time together. Who knew? Who knew that weekends were for laundry, going to the park, and fixing things around the house? Who knew that cooking dinner every single night would almost make eating undesirable? Who knew that getting your clothes starched at the cleaners- every week- could cost so much money (Did I mention that before Ryan took this new job, we didn’t even own an iron or ironing board? We have refused to buy a real board. We got a small fold up board that does absolutely no good. Still, it feels less domesticated and that makes us feel better about owning our very own iron.) Who knew that being a stay at home mom during the weeks would require so much energy, patience, wisdom, and mental stability- which I am severely lacking in?!?
These are the sorts of things you face in the in-between. In the becoming something new. One day you are ready to take on the new world. The next day you are begging for the old world. The next you are simply convinced that you were never convinced of anything in the world to begin with. It is a season marked by the unknown. Curiosity abounds. Excitement fights to shine through. Fear and self-doubt dominate. The kind of self-doubt that hits you over the head at the beginning of puberty, leaving you rattled and insecure and lost and overwhelmed with the possibilities of giving birth to a new person. A new version. If nothing else, the in between seasons are great reminders to hold life lightly. Hang on too tight- to your own version- and you are bound to be heartbroken.
Because there will, inevitably, always be a season of becoming.
Aisle 7 and the Evil Spaghetti
My biggest break down during this season of in-between living was on Aisle 7 at Kroger.
I sat there staring at spaghetti. Some horrible 1980‘s Phil Collins song came on. I stared at the spaghetti longer. Harder. What do I cook for dinner? What do people cook for dinner? I had no idea. Being on tour for two years straight, I hadn’t cooked for my family. Not only had I not cooked, 99% of the time, I didn’t even have a choice over what I would eat. I showed up at a venue and the food was there. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. I didn’t do any of it. I had no idea what to cook for dinner. I didn’t even know where to begin. The spaghetti started calling me names. And before I knew it, all the spaghetti boxes were talking, hovering over me, telling me that I had failed- as a mom, a wife, a musician, a cook- you name it and the spaghetti was screaming it at me.
And right there, on Aisle 7, between noodles and tomato sauce I began to sob and grieve the becoming. The in between.
Like driftwood. Churned up by the storms and spit out in a different county, mangled, in a river I’d never known. I was in the eye of the storm.
God love the old lady who said, “Sweetie are you ok?”
“I just don’t even know what to cook for dinner. I don’t even know what to buy,” I said through sobs- massive sobs- on Aisle 7.
“Well, sweetie, you should just do take-out. Leave the buggy right here. Go get in your car. And do take-out. You do not need to cook a thing tonight. You just leave this buggy right here. It will take care of itself.”
“Ok. Ok. You’re right. Pizza will work won’t it? I just. I just don’t even know what to put on the noodles. You know? I just can’t believe this,” I left the basket in a daze, sobbing, shoulders shaking, Phil Collins singing something about love in the background.
Sometimes you just need the permission to be broken down. To not know what to cook. To leave the buggy, full of perishables, right in the middle of Aisle 7. She was there to give me permission. Permission to be afraid. Permission to cry. Permission to feel lost. Permission to go home- let it fall like rain onto my pillow- and then rise, ready to start over again. And you do start over again. I am starting over again.
Inevitably, the hope and excitement of the unknown shines through the clouds. And eventually, the clouds roll away all together.
So this is me. This is Ryan and I. This is us. We have weathered storms- and found ourselves in a season of complete change. To put a bow on it for you and wrap it up nicely would be to deny that we are walking through the much needed- albeit much dreaded season- of becoming. So I can’t do that. No cliche’ quotes or scripture verses about not worrying or about faith in God’s plan or the future... though it is there, the faith. It is there. But the truth is, we are still living in the uncertainty- and I hate it. I am working through my lostness, and no amount of faith takes away the fear and loneliness that accompanies drifting down a river, trying to find your way home... to your new home. Becoming something different and refined along the way.
A bit of holy fear and loneliness during the becoming is good for my soul- whether I like it or not.
This isn’t about Addison Road. I really believe the songs we are writing for the next Addison Road album are the best we’ve ever written. This isn’t about Ryan and his desire for a new career. This is bigger than a job. Bigger than paychecks or talents and skills.
This is about going from storms- to mangledy bangledy- to coming out on the other side, bottom of the river- looking different than ever before.
This is the in between season. Of growing into my skin. Of redefining. Of growing up. Of becoming.
*Thank you to Paul Allen for encouraging me to write this blog. To Karen Briseno for enduring with me during the silent in-between. And for the rest of you who still come here to share life with me.*
Thats right, I have hijacked Jenny's blog! This is Ryan- Jenny's loving and extremely handsome husband. :) I thought today would be a perfect opportunity to take over the blog because- JENNY TURNS 30 TODAY!!! And what better way to show Jenny how much we love her than by posting embarrassing pictures of her! So enjoy the pictures and wish Jenny a big Happy Birthday! Love, Ryan
Someone close to me is walking through their husband’s first major work related “failure.” You know the feeling of dread that a guy gets before he hears the words “turn your head and cough” or “bend over, you’re going to feel three fingers”? These have nothing on the deep, deep sense of dread, shame, and anger he goes through when failing at his job.
I am not a man, of course, so I cannot tell you what a man goes through with complete certainty.
I only have a dad who has failed and a husband who has failed.
And let me tell you, watching a man that you love- fail- just plain SUCKS.
When I was a little girl my dad and mom moved my sisters and I from small town Mississippi (where all of our family lived), to the bustling, overcrowded, multi-cultural, drug-ridden side of the biggest city I had ever seen with my own eyeballs.
Fort Worth, Texas.
Before we moved my mom was a youth minister and my dad was a police officer. But one day he had an epiphany. My dad, the police officer with anger issues, felt like he heard God tell him to join the clergy. Become a minister. Go to seminary. Change the course of your entire life for MY sake. Incredibly, my dad listened.
My dad put a lot on the line.
He had three little girls: 8,7, and 3 who had only known life around our grandparents, life in a small town, life roaming in the woods and playing under magnolia trees. He wagered all that on a dream. An epiphany from God.
His dad helped us move to Texas and I will always remember my Papaw crying in the Pizza Hut parking lot as he hugged our necks and said good-bye. I had no way of knowing then that my Papaw and Mamaw would never come visit me. That because we were moving to a different state, my grandparents would not make any effort to be a part of my life. Maybe my dad knew the bitterness he was stirring up by leaving his parents behind. Still, he wagered that on a dream.
We moved to the ghetto. They started seminary. And three months later, I turned nine.
I only remember this because for the first time in my life my mom let me buy party favors for my birthday party. I was so excited. I had Lisa Frank bags with Lisa Frank stickers and coloring books and bubbles and candy for everyone who came. And as the minutes ticked away and no one came, I remember my mom wiping tears off her face and quietly slipping the party bags off the table while my dad took the few presents they were able to afford and unwrapped them, divided them up, and re-wrapped them to make it look like there was more there than there actually was. Like maybe I had a friend who had come and brought me a present.
My parents wagered a lot on this dream.
Dad took a job as a security guard at the local hospital to make ends meet. For a while he worked at a half-way house. Mom went on staff at a small church with a pastor who slept around with women in the congregation and stole money from the church. My sisters and I got lice from the neighbor kids and I spent the third grade convinced that, “Mexican men kidnapped little white girls with green eyes who walked home by themselves from school.”
I’m not sure who told me that, but I had never known anything urban or multi-cultural in my life; I was little and I believed it.
I spent an entire year convinced that I would be kidnapped as I walked home from school.
Several years later my parents graduated seminary and my mom found the perfect job at a church that ended up being our home for many, many years.
But my dad found nothing.
Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. He worked jobs he hated to put food on the table. He doubted whether he ever “heard” God in the first place. He lived, for quite some time, in the land of dread, shame, and anger. He had failed. He wagered everything on this dream. On what he thought was a calling from God. He put it all on the line. Uprooting his family. Changing the entire course of his little girl’s lives. Quitting the only career he had ever known and ever been good at to become “a man of the cloth.” And two years after graduating seminary he was bagging newspapers for minimum wage in the basement of a printing plant in downtown Dallas.
I have seen a man fail.
It is brutal. Gut-wrenching. And deeply heart breaking.
To watch someone risk it all and fail is to watch their heart being ripped from their own hands. And to know, that they know, the whole world is watching them fall a part- well, it only adds insult to life-threatening injury.
At least that’s what it feels like.
I would rather be run over by a car, or slowly tortured than to watch my dad or my husband have their confidence and dreams stripped from them.
Take me Lord. Please. I will endure anything. I will voluntarily be tortured. I will work three jobs. I will scrub toilets. I will make a deal with the devil. Anything. Just don’t let a man that I love be humiliated. Don’t let him fail.
Last night, out of no where, Ryan said he would love a Nissan Maxima. Something sporty, but grown up.
“Really, I just so desperately want my own car.”
“What, you don’t love our vibrating 99’ Ford Escort? You don’t want to share a car with me anymore?!? That’s tacky. I want to share an old nasty car with you for the rest of our lives!!!”
I make light of it, but it is a constant reminder of our financial reality. Our failures. I see it in Ryan’s eyes and it kills me. He’s a grown man who has worked his butt off and sacrificed so much, for so many people, for so long. He deserves his own car. Or at least a car that doesn’t vibrate.
Watching a man that you love stare failure in the face is numbing.
So to my friend, who is standing there today, I am so sorry. I have been there.
And here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
- We all fail.
- We all process failure differently.
- Failure, eventually, ultimately, is good.
In light of that...
1. Don’t try and act as if he didn’t really fail. IE: “It’s not your fault, it’s that a**hole boss of yours.” “The test was rigged” “The process was unjust” “Those results can’t be right... you don’t fail.”
Don’t put the pressure on someone you love of being incapable of failure. Trust me, they are actually capable of great failure. And while it feels good and does no harm to have the initial gripe session where you blame and bash the rest of the world, ultimately, the man failed and deep down he needs to be able to come to terms with his own limitations.
No one wants to acknowledge failure. It’s a bitter pill. But I would wager to say, at the same time, most men don’t want a woman in their life (be it mom, friend, sister, wife, lover) who goes around making excuses for them and being angry at the world for the perceived injustices that their male counterpart is experiencing. So after the initial anger and grieving are over, it’s ok to let it sit there. The failure. It’s ok to acknowledge its existence. He failed. It sucks. But he failed. Don’t make excuses for him.
2. Don’t force the process. Every human will process failure differently. Let him process the way he needs to. You don’t need to send out an urgent prayer request if he wants to keep the whole thing quiet and you don’t have to build him up into superhuman status if he just wants to sit and sulk for a while. The worst part of watching someone you love fail is that you simply can’t fix it for them and you have to allow them to muddle through much of the guilt and shame by themselves. Life is not meant to be a singular experience, that is for sure, but there is something about staring your shortcomings in the face- without the rose colored glasses and overprotective presence of a perpetual cheerleader, that causes you to grow.
Somedays dad would come home from bagging papers and he was just angry. I didn’t want him to be and I remember trying to make the spaghetti noodles extra good on those nights so that maybe it would make things better. Better dinner. Better life. But my sixth grade attempts of “fixing” my dad fell miserably short because what he needed was not a fixer, what he needed was the freedom to be mad. You gotta give them space to process their failures without writing it off as “God’s will” “somebody else’s fault” or trying to fix it for them so that they don’t have to face it at all.
The best thing you can do is give them the space they need to process the failure at hand. Let them know you are there for them and you love them unconditionally... then... zip it. Sit on your hands. Tie your ankles together with rope if you must. But don’t dominate his process of facing failures with lame attempts to rescue him.
3. Finally, as you watch the brutal process and long to make things better, take up the cause of HOPE, because eventually, ultimately, failure is good.
Failure is good for the man who lives in prideful arrogance. Failure is good for the man who lacks grace. Failure is good for the man who has lived a charmed life. Failure is good for the man who lacks compassion. Failure is good for the man who believes he can control his own destiny.
Failure is good for the man, woman, boy or girl who longs to know God; because it is only in our brokenness that we realize our need for grace.
Failure is good for the man who desires wisdom. Failure is good for the man who wants to live empathetically. And failure is good for the man who seeks to love others, because failure makes us real. Failure makes us relatable. Failure evens out the playing field. No one is beyond it or above it. Everyone fails.
Failure makes a man fully a man.
Failure is eventually, ultimately good.
I grew up and had lots of birthday parties with lots of friends and lots of presents.
I have more “adopted” grandparents than any kid I’ve ever known, and it has more than made up for the grandparents who chose to take a back seat in my life.
My dad got his dream job after being jobless for nearly three years.
The job was working for Baylor University. He sent my sisters and I to a top-ranked, private college for free. Not one penny of debt. And we have incredible degrees and life experiences that he never dreamed he would be able to give us.
My dad is a pastor now and has been in ministry for over 15 years. He is an incredibly gifted minister who pours into the lives of others and makes a difference in the world around him.
The dream he wagered so many things against came to pass and his failures have became valleys of the past.
Most importantly, my dad walked a way from his failures a new man.
A man of grace. Courage. And perseverance. A man of empathy, humility, and awareness. Aware that he was not perfect, and no one else was for that matter. My dad came out on the other side of his failures a better man...
And I am convinced your husband will as well. He is a good man. And this might be the best thing that has ever happened to him.
Don’t lose hope sweet friend.