Around week 3, people started asking, “Have you hit your wall yet?” I would give them a huge smile and say, “Wall? What wall? What’s a wall?”
Week 5 was when I discovered…THE WALL. For the first half of the week, it was like I couldn’t go any further. I was constantly on edge. Everything irritated me. I couldn’t stand for people to touch me. I always felt like I was about to scream at someone or something. My jr. staffer was a shy 14-year-old that everyone mistook as a camper, who sort of followed my group around like a lost puppy. The only time he gave any indication of being alive was when my boys would deliberately do something I had told them not to do, at which he would laugh and high-5 them.
Here are some snippets from my journal at the end of day 2: “I’m getting impatient with people.” “I feel myself getting tense and shutting people out because I’m overwhelmed.” “I want to scream.” “Why are my nerves so on edge lately?” “I just want to scream.”
I found myself reverting back to my defense mechanism of blocking everyone else out and trying to be in control and deal with things on my own. One night I had a good long talk with Kendall and Nasser where they got to see the less-than-together side of me. You see, I don’t mind people seeing the broken and imperfect parts of me, as long as I make the choice to show them. But this was unintentional and pretty much just embarrassing. Kendall said he’d noticed that I had some sort of “sophisticated and cleverly disguised defense mechanism” that I was putting up to block everyone out. So I was sitting there at the picnic table rambling on about things that have happened in my past to explain why I was putting these walls up, and then feeling awkward and trying to apologize and amend the situation while just digging the hole deeper, and I finally concluded awkwardly, “I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up. I let go of this a long time ago, and I thought this part of me was gone.” Kendall responded insightfully, “I think you’ve chopped down the tree, but you haven’t let God into the most sensitive areas of your life to dig up the roots.” What he said really resonated with me, but honestly what made the biggest difference was just that he and Nasser were so accepting of me even when they saw a vulnerable and insecure part of me that even I didn’t want to accept.
No, my week did not magically become amazing because of that. But it was a growing experience, and I learned more about working through my emotions instead of pretending like they weren’t there. Because Nasser and Kendall saw me as important enough to validate my feelings, no matter how complicated or misguided, I realized that it’s okay to give voice to my own feelings and accept my own weakness. And that ended up being one of the major life lessons I learned this summer.
On Wednesday afternoon I was in charge of extended care, and while the kids were playing volleyball, one of the kid’s moms and I sat on the ground talking and watching one of the little girls make a sand castle. I had met her briefly earlier in the week — her son had this super awesome cookie monster shirt that said “Keep calm and eat cookies”, and I kind of fell in love with it, which she thought was funny. So we were just sitting there talking about life and camp and relationships, and it was so great just to have a real conversation after another difficult day. On Friday after closing celebration when all of the parents came to pick up their kids, she came to find me and gave me a hug and a small gift bag. When I opened it later, there was a “keep calm and eat cookies” shirt and a sweet encouraging note.
As for kid stories, well, I guess the week was fairly uneventful. I did have this obnoxious little punk named Jake who was quite the handful, and who totally stole my heart for some reason that I can’t explain. But it was one of those weeks that I guess I had to have to complete my camp experience. God had a reason for each of these 8 weeks, and the lessons that He taught me in the brokenness of week 5 just prepared my heart for the incredible things He had planned for week 6. Tune in next time for youth camp and the Navy Babies!