Sunday, September 18, 2016

Risk Yourself

“Risk honesty and awareness.”
That was the end of a sentence I read this morning. It was the beginning of a clarity of vision as refreshing as an Autumn breeze after a Savannah summer.
This morning at breakfast I asked my husband what he wanted to do. (We’re struggling with church choices. Feeling split. Tired. Cramped.) In his typical strong passive way he said, “I can go either way.”
Something moved in my heart for him right then.
For once it wasn’t frustration. “Oh would you just decide!”
Or annoyance. “You always dump the choice on me!”
There was no hopelessness. “I married a man who doesn’t give a shit.”
It was tenderness. Real love. No sneaky judgement.
In this moment of silver clarity, I saw the sweep of his story. The baby brother. The youngest twin of a charming sister who bends the world around her story. The little guy. The easy going one. The roll he fulfilled. The safety in letting other louder, pushier, picker people go on with their bad selves. Judging from behind. And I said, “I know you can go either way. Your strength has always been in your adaptability. From the very beginning of your story you were the one who could deal with it. But… don’t just submit to something that works this time. Look deeply. Think honestly. Then choose what grows your soul. Do it for us. Catch as much soul sun as possible and bloom! So that you can be nourished and strong and lead us well. So that you can let me rest in your shade.”
Risk… Risk knowing what you want. Risk understanding what your heart needs to be strong. Risk honesty. Risk awareness. Risk saying, “This. Not that. For me. Because when I am strong, we are stronger.”
This is a powerful call. A dangerous mission. For all of us.
When we know what we need, we risk conflicting with what someone else needs. When we say, “No” we risk collision with someone else’s “Yes.” When we choose, we risk being wrong. It is much safer to say, “Whatever.”
But where does “Whatever” lead us? Really? Calm waters grow dark things. Could it be that when we abandon the work of Risking Honesty and Awareness we consign ourselves to living in a manufactured shell of disingenuousness that doesn’t allow us to grow whole, healthy, straight, strong? The alternative to risking a true knowledge of what Jesus created in our true hearts is to adapt to easy things, like old shoes, that are not a true fit for our souls… because it’s harder to put on a life that fits and supports. Becoming hunched and shriveled from lack of space and light.
Or we could say, “I need… I choose… I feel… I hope… I dream… I pray… I love… I hate… I risk…”
Risk… Risk stretching your arms, your thoughts, your will into even the dark places of your own heart. Open the windows and look inside. There are monsters there. Have no doubt. But there are also treasures. I’m sure. Do it for all of us. When you’re strong, we’re stronger.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Heal an Anxious Heart

My body has officially called it quits.
Nausea. Back spasms. Jaw stiffness. Trouble swallowing. Nerve pain. 
This is what it looks like when my nervous system says, "I warned you with the racing heart thing and you didn't listen. Well now I've had enough! If you don't hide me and protect me from all the unsafe and hurtful things and the angry people, I (your body) WILL kill you, muff fluffer. Yes I will." It's been a stressful month, and apparently this is the line in the sand.
Ya'll... there are lots of stressed out people in the world, but if you legitimately struggle with ANXIETY (and by that I mean, no matter how positive you feel, how deep your faith, how hopeful your outlook, or how centered your mind, your body rebells and is convinced you're going to die if you don't stop EVERYTHING), then it is hard to navigate hard stuff. And hard people. With more hard stuff on top. Like, legit. Really hard. 
While our nation is reeling... the sad truth is, the layers of hurt haven't stopped in the other corners of our lives. It's just one more thing on top of an already teetering pile. Our cities are still in turmoil, our communities are still limping, our churches are still failing, our marriages are still laboring, our children are still difficult, our jobs are still heavy and our bank accounts light... our hearts are tired... and sometimes it's all too much. Sometimes our Feels just get maxed out. Especially those of us who Feel Everything So Deeply. 
So, if your feet are strongly planted and your heart is brave, if you want to do something to heal our hurt nation but feel limited... hug someone with anxiety. A long hug. Not with an awkward back pat. Tell them, "It's ok. We're going to be ok." 
You can't heal the whole world, but it's beautiful how a little love can heal a heart. 
And what beautiful things can a healed heart do?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hiding. Honesty. And Kids. Oh My.

As I creep up on 30, I'm finding that I can't hide my weaknesses like I used to. And I'm kind of mad about it.

I never liked exercise... but I didn't have to because I had a lean, athletic figure. Now I have a borderline-dumpy mom bod that I can't shake. A year and a half after Baby #2, my Fat Pants are just my Pants Pants. Because I don't exercise. Because it requires getting so many humans fully dressed... I just... so many...

I never liked tidying up... but I didn't have to. I would set everything PRECISELY RIGHT... staged... and then not mess it up. One area would be allocated to mess (bedroom). Clean zones stayed clean. Messy zone was hidden behind a door. Boom. Perfect system for the person who hates to tidy and also hates mess. Take that KonMari!  But now. Small children. That's all. Small children. Everything is a wreck. And I still dislike constant tidying. So... you see where I'm going with this...

I've always managed stress by losing myself in work... good work that I love. There is no greater peace than getting utterly swept away in a project, a hunt, a quest, a story. There is purpose, clarity, intention, focus, excitement, possibility. All the perfect things. There's nothing more secure than blocking everything out except the chess-like mental chain of "what is the next move in this?" Everything is crystalline in that brain space. I used to be able to hide the oddness of this obsessive tendency by blaming school. I could say no to everything else because I had to study, write, read. That made me a good student. What kind of an adult does it make me? Frustrated. Because Small Children. And weird. Because Social Life.

I'm a bit of an obsessive eater... I can either Not Eat. Or I can Eat. And I mean EAT. Once I put the first bit in my mouth... I keep putting bits in. Pre-Kids I controlled this tendency with a very severe food schedule (and by loosing myself in work... you see a pattern, yes?). Now I serve three meals a day + snack + extra meal for picky eater + emergency park snacks stuffed in my purse + late night meal for nigh-shift husband + shoveling my food into my mouth standing over the trash can so I can't remember if I ate at all... Or, in other words, Small Children.

Small Children.  They stripped away my carefully constructed defenses against my own weak and weird self.

And all my friends are going through the same thing by degrees.... which is scary.

The closer we get to 30, the more it becomes clear: We can't hide our weaknesses any more. We're admitting we're alcoholics, sex addicts, hoarders, misers, depressive, anxious, angry, fat, food-obsessed, drug-dependent, moody, or neurotic. All around me! The perfection screen is dropping. Our foibles are no longer the charming personality quirks of the bright and the beautiful. They are morphing into the ugly scars and limps of yet another failure to grow up to be perfect. Yet another disappointing outcome, a little over a decade after a glowingly hopeful high school graduation speech. We are becoming our Fathers and Mothers. We are becoming their friends. We are the older and more inglorious.

And we can't hide our weaknesses any more. To ourselves or others.

And when I'm honest, I don't want to.

Honesty is where true growth happens.
Honesty is where true grace lives.
Honesty is where real relationships begin to sink roots.
Honesty is the tender ground where we deal with our own infections and tenderly knit our hearts together where they've been bleeding for too long.
Honesty is ugly. But it's not lying. It's not hiding. It's not smiling away shame.

So, honestly, Thank You Small Children... You were what it took for me to face myself.

Thank you for showing me what really matters. People.
Thank you for telling me that my "big squishy jiggly belly is so soft and cozy"... You are teaching me what true beauty is. And it's not a size 2.
Thank you for frustrating my best intentions to create a perfect exterior. You have taken down my sneaky walls of fear and shame and invited all kinds of grace and connection in.
Thank you for pushing me to my limits and way past them. You've let me say "I am weak. And I am strong." and really know what that means.

Thank you for making me see myself clearly and know myself better. It's not always pretty, but it's mine... and I'm going to live it. 25 lbs over my ideal weight. But thankful.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Freedom in the Middle of the Fray... and Other Things I Thought This Morning

There's this cool stillness in the morning... when you can hear the delivery trucks on Victory Drive and the air isn't sticky. You haven't even written your To Do list, so you haven't even thought about how much to worry. Failing to cross things the list off isn't even a possibility yet. Everything is still and new and you haven't f;ed anything up yet.

There's this ritual where you make the coffee. Counting scoops in your head. And it has just begun to bubble with that perfect smell that promises new life... but it hasn't gone cold or bitter from the 6th reheating in the microwave. So basically all is right with the world.

There's clarity and possibility and tranquility and second chances.... and then everyone wakes up.

There's this thing called Life. It isn't full of peace and devoid of mess.

It isn't free of war or short on ass holes.

It isn't bliss. It's just not. Bliss is single life... when you're 10.

But this is our ridiculous, tumultuous place.

Everything was charming... and then you woke up.

Your shit storm isn't even an actual shit storm. It's called Having a Pulse. Welcome home.

AND HOLLA!!! There's so much freedom in recognizing that mess doesn't equal wrong. That tumult doesn't signal failure.

There's freedom in knowing that conflict doesn't tell us that relationship has failed, but that relationships are happening.

There's joy and hope in believing that disagreement doesn't mean we've failed to harmonize, but that we care about getting there...

There's blessing in believing that unsteady knees don't indicate that you're too weak to walk, but remind you that you've been struggling and busting it on a difficult climb.

There's this super power that we can all have... called grace. There are these eyes that look at mess without judgement, but also not lacking in aspirational hope.

..... Quiet mornings remind me of two things:
1) That our beings were made for peace.
2) And that peace is so not real life... but the longing for it IS.

I'm reminded that crazy is not an alien experience. It's the texture of life. We should be at home here... but also we will always be homeless in it.

Something better calls to us with a deep seated longing to "put it right." We are peace seekers.... (yes, even the war-like uber-conservatives and the whiney uber-liberals!) We want to put it right and have harmony. We believe that's our true home. We want to live in the peace of the cool early morning. But we can't run from the fight. If peace is our home, the struggle is our true journey.

Quiet mornings call to me...
Don't grieve the reality of the journey. Don't loath the impending waking up of the Minions. The struggle matters. The struggle is not a failure to have the goal, but a persistent belief that there is a goal and that we will get there.
Don't give up on the true promise of Better. Don't disbelieve in the hope of peace.
Rest for a moment, warrior. Then get back in the fray.
Take heart. I have overcome.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dear Emotional, You Have Great Worth

This is going to be a very rough sketch. A little sea of ideas I've been chewing on. Not very prettily or pithily composed... But there.


It's not a very useful thing to be, is it?

Not very high on the productivity chart. Not economically advantageous. Not a quality greatly sought after by employers. Not an attribute particularly coveted by the PTA... or by future spouses (man, I just love the way you sobbed in a puddle on the floor and felt doubtful about everything. That gives me life.... said no one ever.)

I'm emotional. Melancholy. Moody. Overly serious. If I'm smiling on the outside, I promise later on I'm likely to go home and think, "I'm a fraud!" and write poetry. Like a weirdo. My baseline self is just #allthefeels.

Not a day goes by when I don't think a thought somewhere on the range between "Being emotional makes me less awesome" all the way up to "Being emotional makes me such a worthless waste of oxygen."

And, really, I think society would agree with me. I heard a study on the radio that suggested that if we medicated the moods of more people, economic productivity would go up by so and so many billion dollars. The world would like to dispense with #allthefeelings and it would prefer you to make #allthemonies. Which makes sense. I guess.

Unless there is some kind of weird hidden value here that we're missing....
(Do you see where I'm going with this? Walk there with me... just for kicks.)

I just finished reading Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. Vincent was emotional. Moving himself forward by feeling... following that illusive impulse that stirs us toward irrational but beautiful things... feeling deeply every passion and every sorrow... empathizing and emoting and doubting and throwing himself headlong past doubt and into the arms of possible (though improbable) hope. He pursued, with as much force as he could summon, the thing that filled his existence with buoyancy: Painting. He hoped against all hope that he could achieve monetary success to justify his love of art. And when he couldn't... when he couldn't prove to the world, to his family, to himself that the thing he so dearly valued had "value"... he couldn't live in that world any more. He couldn't live feeling that every ounce of his passionate life had been thrown after something that proved, at last, to be worthless in the eyes of everyone else.

I found myself asking a question... Would it have been better for Vincent if he had been less emotional?

If he had been more balanced?
Less passionate?
Less moved by fervor and more rooted in practicality?

If he was only less emotional.
If he was only less of everything he was and more... normal...

He might have gotten a job as an art dealer and paid his own way.
He might have married, as he so wished to do.
He might have had children and lived a happy, healthy life.
He might have had better relations with his family.
He might have painted more...
He might have lived...
...But the paintings would have been dull beige arrangements of pottery and clogs.
...And his life would not have echoed, as it does, across history in haloed Starry Nights of manic yellow and deepest blue.

Artists, dreamers, feelers, hopers, creators. Moody moms that curl up in a corner with a notebook and pen random musings... It's harder to see our worth than it is to see the worth of, say, my super practical and productive husband.
But, Dear #AllTheFeels, your life is not without an intentional space in this earth. It's not. We cannot discount and throw away the value that Feelers bring to the story. The depth they add. The gravity they yield. The sense and sensibility that they splash, like a dash of salt, in the soup.

Salty. Yes, we are! A seasoning added to a society that might otherwise atrophy from lack of that heart wrenched spongey FEELING thing that makes us all puddle mushy and ridiculous. And tired! Being emotional will make you tired! You'll throw yourself into your love with everything you have... and rise to high heights... and then plunge to low lows... and everything will be felt and experienced with a purity akin to Tinker Bell who is too tiny to feel more than one complete emotion at once.

Being EMOTIONAL is a hard job... but somebody has to do it.
Somebody has to be "the masala on the situation", to borrow a Pakistani phrase my good friend taught me. 
Somebody has to be that extreme. That dash of purity and passion. That electric shock of Caring Too Much.

When I'm a ball of emotion (a literal ball... on the bed... somewhere under the blankets and that canopy of Mini 3Musketeers wrappers), I want to not look at myself and think, "You are a waste of a life."

I want to feel my feelings and then rise up, look at myself like I look at Vincent, and say, "You add something to this story."

My husband, god bless him wonderful man that he is, can be a little bit vanilla. It's the complexity of flavor that I bring to our relationship that brings balance to our lives together. He could have married a simpler girl... but he chose a spicy one. It cost him something. It's not the most productive option. But I can see, in our marriage, that I bring some beauty along with my chaos.

I want to look at my place in the world like I look at my place in my marriage... I'm the one who throws the masala on the situation. I'm the one who leans in. I'm the one who revitalizes and challenges and inspires. Who agitates and aggravates and calls us toward life, more life.

Dear Emotional, you are the spice of life.

Don't doubt your worth today. Don't give up fighting because you can't point to dollars and cents to justify the worth of this deep part of your being. You were, after all, knit (a very careful, tedious and intentional process) together in your mother's womb by the Lord. It's not by accident that he constructed you complexly. You are fearfully and wonderfully (sometimes more fearfully... but never less wonderfully) made.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

PS - Since The Day Isn't Done Yet!

Friends... someone let me know that my earlier post "It's Lunch Time and I'm Done" rubbed them the wrong way pretty badly because I didn't put a happy spin on it. 

I understand that. It was glum. No denying. 

So, let me be clear (and hopefully in being clear, I can also bring light to why I write in the first place)...

I write for myself. It helps me work through feelings. That's why I write MORE when I'm struggling and usually just post happy pictures on Facebook when I'm doing fine. 

The reason I share what I write on Facebook is for those of you who need someone to stand up and say, "Yes I have a happy home, healthy kids, safe country, good food, blessed beyond belief... but this day was a DIASTER. It is hard to mom. I just is. No matter what that looks like." 

I splash my weaknesses all over the internets so that the isolated strugglers out there know that they're not alone. 
I "promote" my experience, not because I think my experience is great. Not because I think you should take a lesson from it... but because I don't want anyone experiencing something similar to feel like they're the only one failing hard all alone on the kitchen floor. I feel like it's bigger than me. 

If I have learned anything in the past few years it is that (for me) suffocating a struggle under happy spins will only make it grow. You can't stay in your struggle. You have to work toward bravery and actively pick up your chin. But being honest and leaning into a difficult moment is like diving into cold water. It only hurts for a minute. Then you come up refreshed and you start to swim up stream again. 

If it bothers you (anyone out there) or you think it's stupid that I struggle in the middle of my miraculously good life, believe me, I'm right there with you. 

I'm learning to accept that maybe I'm just weaker than the average person... and not despise myself for that. 
I'm learning to accept my mind isn't as strong. 
That my will can be very weak, my nerves very fragile, my energy very low. 
Yes, I work against those things on many levels, but I continue to be less strong than many others I love and admire. 

I admit that I'm not the steadiest ship in the sea. But I'm still floating. I choose to celebrate that. I think sometimes it's just better to salute the efforts toward strength rather than criticizing the failures. I didn't always think that way... I used to be kind of a judgmental, pious bitch. Now I think just waking up and doing the basics is beautiful! And I think saying "This sucked hard" is beautiful too. Because it's the first step in standing back up.

We're in this together. All different. All the same. Different experiences... same general road. 

Sometimes I'll be strong enough to be hopeful. 
Sometimes I'm going to be a big mope. 

Take what feeds your soul and forget the rest. Because I love you. xoxo

It's Only Lunch Time... and I'm Done

My 3 year old climbed into bed with me at the crack of dawn.
He held up his thumb and pointer finger indicating a very tiny measurement and said, "I leaked in my bed a lil bit."

The little one wakes up and wants to nurse and fondle me. Because I am his property.
The big one is mad because he wants "blue cereal" and "red milk" and I'm too slow for his taste.
I must have slept wrong after feeding the little one at 4 am, because I can't raise my left arm without a blinding flash of white hot pain.

Strip the bed.
Wash the sheets.
Vacuum baking soda out of the mattress... because he leaked a "lil bit" last night too and the waterproof liner is in the wash.

Make everyone breakfast... which I didn't eat... because I can't lose weight. And yesterday I binged because I always feel empty. Not appetite. Hunger. Not need. Want.

Already feeling maxed out, I sat down with my cup of coffee.
One quiet moment before a long day of abuse.

But no.

I have a gravitational force that is very powerful.
I attract all the living bodies in this family.
They orbit me perpetually.
My magnetic pull draws them in... only the nearness of skin to skin will do... or there will be screaming.

In the process of orbiting as close to me as possible, my hot coffee (as yet un-sipped) was dumped into my lap. A scalding reminder that nothing is sacred. That I am owned. That I am a need filler first foremost and forever.

Comfort the scalded baby.
Wash my shirt.
Scrub the rug.
Redress baby... and he pooped.
Re-brew the coffee.
Do the dishes.
And it's lunch time... and the floor is littered... and I'm sweeping and washing pots and where do all these dirty spoons come from? And I'm trying to tally up the budget on the bathroom rennovation, and I feel like rather than being praised for the savings I have studied so long to find, I am being judged for spending money at all... and I feel that my best efforts are not enough...

And then the baby crawls onto the table... lifts a precious family treasure into the air and hurls it off the table... and it shatters.

And I'm sweeping again and mopping... and there is sauce splattered on the wall... and the big boy is behind me whining "Why? What happened? Why?"

And I cry.

I just stop and weep and shudder.
The snot drips down into the pile of dirt and broken ceramics and I'm paralyzed by the paralysis of my life.

Sometimes there is joy. But it is sweet and tender and hard to capture in words.
And sometimes there is this aching sorrow so thick and heavy that only words can swim the soul upward and out of it.

Rescue me...
That's my gasping cry to no one. That's my desperate wish that no one can answer.

I have gone so low.
I have become such a meaningless moment in history.
I am the rug on which the future of the world wipes it's feet.

I have one hope... that the pain in bearing children is not the way it was meant to be... and one day the Lord will redeem my life. If it were not for this hope I would never be able to stand up under this endless, repetitive, mundane, messy, fruitless battering against the rocks of my own futility.

One day I will try and succeed. Try and succeed. Try and succeed.

Until then, Lord store my tears in your bottle...
Let their bitterness remind us, you and I together, of this valley. And the valley will make sweetness sweeter.

Remember me, O God, according to your steadfast love.