Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Old Poetry

Perhaps in contradiction to my daily quest to give up Perfectionism.... I've been exploring the KonMari Method for organizing the home.

Anyway... I started flipping through old notebooks that I SHOULD throw away, according to MissMari..... And I found this... a zillion little fragments of a poem I was working on that I never fully resolved... but all the little pieces are kind of great.

(read these, accordingly, as fragments and not as one linear piece)

dearest weariest, life 
is much longer than days
and accolades
and ways you fall
and get back up.
life is much bigger than one

dearest weariest darling
this is the edge of time
and all the journeys you have journeyed
gathering up the spices of life and furs and artifacts
of your brilliant search for you
are behind you.

solitary grains of time sand finally trickle 
to an end on a varied youth
world traveler! wild thing! the third meal
demands to be served
the pan in hand says "this is real
life" and the baby says "now me."

Rich Cleopatra, Queen of the East! The sand
of time is heavy in your red wagon
You pull the weight wearily and hold 
this pan.
this pan says third meals are real.
Aristotle says... things that don't matter
to babies.
And queens are only mothers here.

all life is not you and your life
all journeys are not begun and ended in your steps.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shooting for Parental Imperfection

I finally got around to reading "The Gift of Imperfection" by Brene Brown.
You know when it starts to feel like someone is "reading your mail"?.... Here's one of those moments:

"Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. 
Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). 

Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. 
Please. Perform. Perfect. 
Healthy striving is self-focused---How can I improve? 
Perfectionism is other-focused---What will they think?

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. 

Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. 
In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. 

Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It's also all of the dreams that we don't follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others. It's terrifying to risk when you're a perfectionist; your self-worth is on the line."

This was honestly an "Oh Sh*t" moment for me. 

I mean, I know this about myself... but no one has ever said 
WHAT I am, 
WHERE it comes from, 
WHAT IT'S DOING to my life... 
and WHAT I HAVE TO DO to deal deeply with it... all in one place.

But there was an additional layer of "Ah Ha!" that hit me like a ton of bricks... I don't want to feed this nature in my son by raising him as a praise dependent being.

I see the signs of perfectionism in him. 
He won't wear his shoes if they have dirt on them. 
If something is hard, he gets angry and overwhelmed. He will say, "No I can't. It's too hard." 
He get's really agitated if the cookies inside the box are broken or have fallen over from a nice neat row. He looses it when the trains fall off the tracks (literally and proverbially).
If he can't control the whole situation, he is an absolute terror... which means large groups either freak him out (if the attention is on him) or mellow him out (if there is no attention focused on him, because the pressure is off and he can chill.)

I swear I didn't create this monster! It was born. 
There is a way in which perfectionism (the continuum of perfectionism) is who we are. We're born with an innate tolerance or intolerance for irregularity, struggle, disorder, failure, and success. 

But I can feed the monster or leash it by my parenting choices.

Praise for actions feeds perfectionism.

If we're throwing the ball and I'm saying "Good throw! Nice job! Oops, missed." I'm teaching my child that my joy is found in a running commentary on his performance. If I shut up and just enjoy the time and let the good and the bad roll on by (no pun intended), then I teach him that my joy is found in his presence with me, not his performance for me.

If he is struggling and I don't respond until he asks for help, then I teach him that it's ok to struggle... ok to fail. That I'll be there to assist if he wants, but I don't mind if he gets it wrong.

I know he is a perfectionist.
I know he will be motivated and excellent in his life.
I don't need to push him... I need to give him the tools to be gracious with himself, to live without fear of others, to channel his powers for good... for others and himself.

I sounds simple, but it's harder to practice than you'd think.

But... That's the goal.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Depression, My Grumpy Teacher

Earnest prayer doesn't always make it better.
Sometimes it seems to "make it worse."
Truly seeking God's will for your life... well, sometimes that means realizing & embracing that he has a cross he fully intends for you to bear. And when God intends for you to bear a cross, there is no amount of squirming and running that can get you out from under it.

I think my cross is anxiety & depression.
I honestly don't know if I'll ever be free. At least for this season of my life, it is my constant companion. Sometimes it's so quiet that I forget it's there... and then some little stressor (a bad night sleep, a long week, a bad conversation, a highly publicized crime, one too many fits from my babies) and all of a sudden the sneaky voice of depression becomes a wail so loud it drowns everything else out.

I was reading a book written in the 1500s on the subject of prayer.... the author specifically said, "If a sister struggles with 'melancholy' solitary meditation might not be good for her. If someone starts to wilt under this discipline, give them a job and get them active and around people."

I found this SO comforting... because it is yet another example of how depression is not some new fangled issue first world problem. I'm not a wuss. I'm tough as nails because I'm pretty sure this curse would have run a lesser person under the ground by now.

Sometimes I think God is using depression to protect me from myself.
My default mode is "Dream Big! Do Do Do! Go Go Go! Achieve, Accomplish, Create!" But ever since Depression+Anxiety, when I begin to shift into this aggressive gear, I am suddenly crippled by the brokenness in my spirit.
It keeps me low.
It keeps me humble.
It keeps me so small....

Which keeps me focused on my children... cherishing each quiet moment, each stupid game. Or not cherishing the zillionth scream fest, dirty diaper, stolen snack... but being present with it. Not distracted. Engaged. Engaging. Otherwise I'd be a million miles away dreaming up dreams!

It seems like that would be better....

But this is my cross...

And when I pray deeply, the Lord makes it clear that the cross remains heavy on my shoulders.


Today I felt these quiet words slip in and stay: "Because the highest aim of this world is not to make this world more my home. More friendly. More safe. More comfortable for me. The highest aim of this world is to bring me face to face with a reckoning that it is not my home. The world is good, but it is not perfect. It is beautiful, but it is not bliss. It is strong, but it is broken. This is my journey, but it is not my home."

Monday, June 15, 2015

An Open Letter to High Schoolers

You have been fed a lie.

You have been asked to conform to a version of Christianity that more closely resembles Elizabethan Victorianism than anything actually found in the Bible.

You have been pressured, more than any Christian adults, to live a life of religiosity... not of grace. Not under Jesus' love and sacrifice for you, but under your own power.

What does a Christian look like? What are you told?

Don't drink. Don't party. Read your Bible. Every day. Listen to the right music. Go to youth group. Go to church. Tell people about Jesus at school. Go to college to be a witness to the world. Be an example by living above the standards of others. When you want a boyfriend or girlfriend, just be satisfied in Jesus... (what even is that?). And don't get me started on sex.

Christian adults put more pressure on high schoolers to live by the rules than they would ever place on themselves... definitely more pressure than they would place on any other adult they were trying to evangelize/convert/witness to.

Christian adults preach a message of salvation by faith alone... in a grace so big and good that it meets you where you are... not a salvation that says, "Congratulations, now you get to work harder." No. A salvation that says, "You're free."

Except apparently that doesn't apply to people under the age of 18. They need Jesus AND ___, ____, ___.

And then these Christian adults wonder why the high school student goes to college and "looses their faith." They blame the liberal and godless university. They don't realize that they themselves are to blame... for setting up a salvation based on how good you are, how hard you work, how well you follow the rules, how thoroughly you stand higher than the rest.
Does that sound like a relationship to you? Not one you'd want to be in.

You are the youngest brothers and sisters of the faith... so why are you held to the highest standard?

Why do adult Christians show more care for conforming you actions (to a standard higher than even they will adopt), than to shaping your heart with a higher love?

I'm sorry.
Sorry for the pressure.
Sorry for the lie that Jesus needs you to do it all.
Sorry for the picture of a relationship with Jesus that looks like slavery.
Brothers and sisters, he did it all. So. You. Can. Be. Free.

We have made you tired, frustrated, weary of Christ before you ever had a chance to fall in love with him.

Grace is for you too.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

So High Above My Station

The years we give to motherhood are not the ones we have wasted.

These years are not the pause button--the unfortunate interim or interruption--on our more significant life of personal development or professional success.

These years are the peak. Not the valley. The highest of heavenly callings.

My firstborn child was so hard. The first two years of his life were pure struggle for me. They dragged me into dark places and then kicked me while I was down. But towards the end of those two years, I had finally begun to begrudgingly accept my position as God's best wish for me. For me this meant that I stopped struggling and pushing so hard to be "A mom AND _____." I stopped wrestling to pull some other significant roll out of my life as a buffer or accessory to my roll as a mother.

As I began to uncurl my fists on my pride (which wanted me to be MORE than "just" a mom) and surrender, I felt rather proud of myself for this courageous act.

I patted myself on the back for my humility.

Then I heard this song (embedded below)... and one simple line wrecked me.

"You have raised me up so high above my station."

It left me sobbing in the parking lot of Whole Foods with the goodness of truth.

My highest "sacrifice" is merely a yielding to God's best Birthday Present.

And when we really understand that (even though it may take many struggles and many years before we do) we will learn to cherish the difficulty with a weird sweetness... a sweetness that is not manufactured or willed up or at all trite or trivializing of the pain. It is merely a Something Stronger that consumes weak-heartedness like an amoeba that eats germs for lunch. Then pain does not make us shrivel; it causes us to flourish... even in the living moment while we may being curling up to cry. Even in that moment of broken heartedness, there is a life/light/lightness that suffuses the heart in the middle of struggle.

You leave the roll of victim behind and become a beautiful wounded healer.


I've taken a few days off from writing and thinking so that I could read and listen.

It is difficult to have your brain in a posture/position of listening while also thinking/talking. I often need to power down my thinker and acquire wisdom... then spend several weeks writing and thinking it all through.

This week has yielded an abundance of riches through listening. One thought--in the crowd of good truths--is emerging victorious... so I'll start there:

Motherhood is the new Monasticism.

Thomas Merton says, "The monk is a Christian who has responded to a special call from God, and has withdrawn from the more active concerns of a worldly life." It strikes me that you make a similar intentional commitment when you choose to dedicate your life to bearing and raising your children.

I could have given myself to so many other endeavors. I could have done work that would have earned me an identity ("This is Blair. She's a designer."), praise and affirmation from others ("I saw your project. You do good work."), an easily recognizable and quantifiable sense of success, a public and visible legacy built and measured by output, creation, and connections.

Instead, I've been called (with many of my other sisters in the world) into an invisible life of endless servanthood. (I can't say I chose it... it chose my and dragged me down kicking and screaming.) I've been given the task of doing the lowest work by the world's/society's math: Wiping butts, cooking meals, cleaning toilets, kneeling to scrub floors, waking in the night to tend patients who are virtually the equivalent of angry quadriplegics who don't speak English. And charged to do it all with a sense of thankfulness, compassion, and deep love. Every day. Every night. Without a break... ever. "On call" 100% of the time without ever a moment that you can--with full confidence--expect privacy, quiet, or relief from responsibility.

Is there any other job out there with such a high set of demands?
Is there any other job which requires all of you in this way?
Is there any other job which, though it asks so much, gives back so little?

We cannot view motherhood as a job... or we will quit.  We must view it as a calling. God has called us out of the world (with its measures for success and it's metrics for merit) and into the silent trenches of service.

Considering that, is there any other job that more fully resembles a monastic life than that of Motherhood?

So, ask yourself... What dignifies, enriches, and empowers the monastic calling?

Prayer. A life of prayer. The "prayer of the heart."

This too transforms, dignifies, and radically empowers the calling of motherhood. This lowest, highest, position.

When I understand my position as a calling, my life becomes an act of prayer at the highest order... an act of surrender to God.

I'll close with this quote for you to ponder today:

"If is it true that the deepest prayer at its nub is a perpetual surrender to God, then all meditation and specific acts of prayer might be seen as preparations and purifications to ready us for this never-ending yielding." -- Contemplative Prayer, forward by Douglas V. Steere.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Let It Go

UUGH!  I needed this today....

It's always when you're genuinely pissed off, indignant, insulted, annoyed... when you want to explain yourself, spell it out, let the other person know just how wrong they are.... that's when this becomes the unwanted (BUT DEEPLY NEEDED) reality.

Let it go...

Release the feelings...

Stop rehearsing what you'd say if given the chance... (This is the hardest for me! I love to defend myself and explain my position.)

Rest in peace...

Exercise a kind and tender heart...

Forgive the wrongs done or thought or said about you.

So hard. But being obedient to this discipline feels better than the good feeling of righteous indignation. (And, let's be real, righteous indignation feels good!)

The science of malice shows the negative effect it has on our bodies. Holding stress. The build up of aggressive hormone response. Tension in the shoulders and jaw. Rising blood pressure.

Let it go. It's good for you.