This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.
I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.
Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.
I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”
Or maybe I shouldn’t.
I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).
I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.
Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!
I know you’re tired and grumpy. I know you are frustrated with yourself. I know you want so badly to do better, to complete more tasks, to be more organized, to eat better, to be stronger and healthier.
I know you want to run out into the world screaming obscenities. I know you want to connect with other humans on a deeper level, to spend quality time with real friends, and to run away and hide at the same time.
I know you’re thinking, last week was so good, why does this week suck so bad? Why can’t I stay on track? Why can’t I keep up the pace? Everyone else seems to be able to do so much and here I am grumbling. You feel lazy and “out of sorts.”
I know you don’t want to hear this but you are enough right where you are. Your house is clean enough. Your family and friends love you just the way you are. You honor your commitments. You love people unconditionally. You do your best.
Life is a big series of cycles, ups and downs that keep things interesting. Imagine how boring it would be if every day you got up and felt the same way? Even joy starts to get depressing if its all you ever experience!
The kids are distracting you. Embrace them. They’re teenagers. They’ll be gone soon, just like the exhausting babies, the disruptive and messy kids, and anxious and annoying preteens they used to be and that you miss so much when you see those old pictures.
The weather has changed, and you can’t go outside and do the thing you were doing last week. Notice and enjoy it. Remember last month when you sat there crying for cooler weather?
You’re feeling blue and less than productive. Look at the amazing week you had earlier this month and the not so productive one you had before that. It’ll come back. It always does.
Don’t ruin today worrying about tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. Find something positive to focus on. Or, even better, make the conscious decision to enjoy the moment instead. Grab a cup of tea, your book, and find a place to hide for a bit. Sing along with those crazy teens practicing guitar in the middle of the living room where you were trying to vacuum. Write out some words of encouragement to yourself and post it. Forget dinner and order a pizza. Harass your husband to go for a walk, even though it’s cold. And be thankful for what you have, who you have, and what you can do.
Take care of yourself, love. I love you, every messy, tired, pissy, and confused piece of you.
This has been one of those weeks. One of those “What in the freaking world am I doing?” kind of weeks. Yesterday was a kicker so I’ll share it with you. Scrolling through my Medium stats, looking at old articles, I’m thinking, “You know, I think I’ll make files on my computer of my articles by subject. It might make them easier to shuffle through and find what I’m looking for.” I lose things. They’re just filed by date right now, like journal entries. Sometimes I randomly open a file and read one wonder if I should edit it and repost.
So there I am, scrolling down all the “not distributed” and “0 views – 0 reads” when I see “6K views – 3.2K reads.” What? Hold the phone! I look at the title, “What’s the difference between a porn star and a prostitute?” I open it up and read it. Oh yes, I remember that. I was listening to a podcaster talk about putting a camera in a brothel and suddenly it’s legal because…well…they’re making a porn film. I had to write about that and I did. I never received a like or a clap, but lots of people read it. Weird. Weirder still that a paragraph I put little thought into and posted on a whim got so much attention (and no feedback) and the posts I spend hours on and pour my heart and soul into…well…my family reads those.
That’s when I started to wonder why in the hell I actually bother writing any of this. But you know why I do? Because I want to. It helps me remember what I have read. I feel like I’m writing my life story as it happens. Yep, maybe it’s boring to the rest of the world, like the rest of my life is, but I like my life. I feel like I’ve made choices that make me happy. I’ve done the things that matter to me. I’ve raised my kids. I’ve loved and cared for my husband. I’ve honored my parents the best way I know how. And maybe I’ve made a few friends along the way.
Yes, there’s nothing to see here. Just an ordinary person, moving along through an ordinary life. On with the show.
Thing I learned: I’m honestly not a people person in real life. I think I am. I want to be. But I’m not. I like superficial relationships with lots of space, hence the reason I’m so fascinated with social media. Sorry to disappoint the world but it’s who I am.
Thing I’m reading: An amazing book on reading like a writer by Francine Prose. I think it’s hilarious that her last name is Prose and she is writing it. The book is interesting. She talks about noticing all the things that I never do, all the things you’re supposed to learn about reading literature in college. I read books because I love the stories or I want the information. I pull out tidbits and I’m well aware that I’m leaving a lot of meat on the bone. I don’t need it. The book is making my novel reading list longer and longer, which is a nice bonus!
Thing I heard: My son recording his music. That makes me happy, hearing him work on songs and record them, even though he won’t let me share.
Thing I want to do: Run away into the wilderness, never to be seen again! Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m too insecure and addicted to feedback from others for my existence to actually do it. I need you, dear reader, Facebook friend, and Instagram follower. I’ll be here begging for attention for years to come!
Picture of the week: The screenshot of the Medium anomaly that has added to my list of “WTF?” things in the world. This will continue to amaze me. It’s kind of like framing my first dollar, even though I earned it by conning a fool.
The desert in the summer can feel like a snowstorm that barricades you inside your house and forbids your exit for days at a time. There’s nowhere to escape to, at least nowhere outside. The sanctuary of an air-conditioned house, car, or movie theater all seem like fine alternatives to most, but what if you desperately crave to be outdoors? Early in the morning, before the sun completely rises, or late in the evening after it sets, are the only times one can feasibly be outdoors and even then, it’s still so hot. It’s oppressive after awhile and she dreams of hooking up the trailer and driving north until the weather is more to her liking.
Staring out at the desert landscape, she wonders…this would be a good time of year to read more. Then it starts…yeah…read more and write more…waste more time. Great.
It’s that feeling again. The one that scares the crap out of me. The one that I know scares the crap out of anyone I express it to. It’s like drowning, you want to reach out for help, but then…maybe you should just let yourself drown. You’re worthless anyway.
I write in my journal on these days. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it only relieves the pain for a few moments, like taking ibuprofen for a headache that’s not just a headache.
When I was younger, the feeling used to last for weeks, sometimes a month. Now…it’s usually a day or two before I’m climbing back out of the basement of my soul, shaking my head and wondering what happened. I read the previous days journals filled with angry scribbles and marvel at it. Who was that woman? I worry about those entries. What if my family found them and realized how sick I really am? What if I scared them with my darkness? What if I inadvertently influenced them into thinking they may have inherited this from me?
There are times when I sit with my phone in my hand. What if I just texted someone? What if I just said, “Hey friend. I’m feeling like a miserably worthless piece of crap. I’m a big fake. Nothing I do matters. And if anyone found out who I really am, they’d walk away forever (and rightly so) and warn everyone else to run the other way when they see me. I’m afraid of myself at the moment. And I need something. I’m not sure what that is. Can you help?”
Can you imaging getting that text? What would you do? Send platitudes of reassurance?
“You’re not. You’re wonderful. We all love you.”
“Have you considered getting professional help?”
“I’m worried about you.”
All of which only make the feeling worse. Now I’ve shared the misery. That’s how wonderful I am!
You know what does seem to help? Confirmation. In these moments, I crave just one person that is strong enough to throw the ball back when I lob it at them.
“Yeah…life can really suck. What’s the point of any of this shit? Let’s go get a drink!” Knowing I can be the ugliest me to someone and it doesn’t make them sad or want to run in the other direction? Priceless!
This time the feeling took me quite suddenly after weeks of positivity. There were so many productive days in a row, weeks even, and then so many wonderful people experiences to go along with it. Then one morning…bam…a text before I wanted one, a positive comment on Facebook…and I’m headed down the rabbit hole with Alice, looking for trouble.
Weird the things that trigger it.
Years of struggle have taught me one important point. It is not logical. It has no rhyme or reason. It is not reality. That realization is what has seriously quickened my turnarounds the last few years. I have reminders everywhere.
“Depression Lies To You” on a paper bracelet I wore for a few weeks years ago, sits on my bathroom counter.
“Watch for the fork in the road.” On a Post-It note above my computer.
“Look at actions not words.” Watching the acts, not the words people use usually makes me happy.
This time I will add “It’s all temporary.” And “Take a deep breath and wait for it to pass over you.”
“A scene change is needed,” I think as I wash the dishes after lunch. Staring out at the bright sky and hot sand outside my window, “But where?” I glance at the thermometer. “107” it reads. Sigh. I need to be outside! Suddenly it dawns on me and my heart brightens just a bit.
“Hey babe?” I holler into the bedroom office as I grab a towel for my hands and head back there. Why do I do that? I know he can’t hear me.
“Sweetness, what time will you be done working?”
“Half an hour or so. Why?”
“Maybe we should drive up to the mountain and take a hike as the sun starts to set. It would be cooler and then we could get something to eat together before we head back. A date!”
He looks up from his laptop, his boots up on the table turned work desk. “I had planned on kegging my beer after work so that it’s ready for the party on Saturday.”
Sinking heart again. “Oh yeah!” I say brightly. “Well, maybe tomorrow.” And I go back to the dishes.
As I’m drying off the last plate and wiping down the kitchen sink, there he is, “When did you want to go? Maybe I can hurry and finish?”
Ahh, my sweet love. He’s always trying to make me happy, which sometimes makes me feel worse, but not this time. An hour later, water bottles in hand, a few nut bars in a bag, and we’re driving across the desert in the direction of the moutains.
“Babe. I have something to scary to say that I need to say out loud, but promise me you won’t be scared or sad. I’m ok. It’s just something I need to voice.”
“I think I understand why people with severe depression kill themselves. I can feel it. I feel worthless, like everyone around me would be much better off without me.”
I get the look, the worried one, the one that makes me not want to share the feeling, to keep it inside where it rots and festers and gets worse every day until I explode in anger and frustration about something completely unrelated. Why would I torture the ones I love with this feeling? Better to just sit with it and hope I suddenly die somehow. Then no one needs to worry about how to fix it. But this time, I keep talking. If I can’t share my burden with this man, the man that has loved and supported me for the last twenty years in ways I cannot possibly explain, then there is no hope.
“I know it’s an irrational feeling. I know it’s in my head. I know the reality is far different. I sit with it and look at it from every angle. I have no idea what triggers it but I’ve learned what helps me stop it. Sometimes I write and that helps. Burn those journals when I die, by the way. Or maybe I’ll write a disclaimer on the top of the box!
“The truth is that I what I really want, what I think will really help, is to say it out loud. I want to be able to say all the ugliest things, the things that scare me, the stupid, angry, nasty things I feel about myself at those moments, and have someone just say, ‘I can understand that and I love you anyway.’
“I don’t want you to fix it. I don’t want you to worry. I don’t want sympathy or ‘No, hun, that’s just not true.’ I want agreement, acknowledgement that these feelings exists and that they suck.”
We talked and laughed all the way up the mountain, an hour’s drive of open communication and joy, punctuated by me trying not to get car sick on the winding mountain road. By the time we started walking, I was already feeling so much better. At the top of mountain, standing on a rock overlooking the valley, I took a deep breath. “This is what I needed. Just to speak it out of me. Walk in the sun. And be surrounded by trees. And you.”
It was the change in scenery, the acceptance and love of one of my favorite people, and some exercise that stopped the downward spiral this time. I know next time it may not work, but I know something will and know who I can grab when I need help.
For you out there, depression sucks ass. I love you. I know it sucks. Let’s go yell from the top of a mountain, “This too shall pass.” Even when Gandalf says none shall.
I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?
Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!
I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!
Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.
And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.
I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.
It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.
Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.
In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.
Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.
But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.
I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!
It’s dark and I feel something small and light jump up onto the bed, a mew or two and then paws walking up the length of me, a sniff in my face, and a gentle push against my shoulder. I roll over and pull the covers over my face. He mews again, walks up onto my side and nests between my arm and side.
Just as I’m about to fall back asleep, he gets up, walks over my head and mews again. That’s Abe’s way of telling me it’s time to get up. 4:15 a.m. Sometimes he lets me sleep until 4:30. I’m not sure why I need to be up with him at this hour, but he’s relentless.
As I pull the covers off and swing my legs over the side of the bed, he leaps off the bed and strolls into the bathroom. I follow.
Today is the big day. The holiday my family has been looking forward to for months. I cleaned up the house extra all week, went shopping for party supplies, pre-cooked the meatballs, potatoes, and cake yesterday. Everything is ready. But I’m not, at least not mentally ready.
I started dreading the day earlier in the week but tried to set the feeling aside. I always feel this way before people come over. It’s just anxiety, I tell myself. It will pass as soon as people start to show up. But the feeling builds all week and I have yet to learn to let it wash over me and fade away.
I remind myself that I love having people over. I love cleaning the house, getting food ready, inviting everyone over, and seeing everyone arrive. I love going from one end of the house to the other, talking with friends at the pool table, jumping into the kitchen and bringing out more food, watching my friends’ kids pull out all the games and toys from the shelf behind the couch. I even love cleaning up after the party the next day!
So why do I get more and more nervous as the date approaches? Why is that I wake up the day of the event, dreading the next twelve hours? I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what might make me feel this way, but I’ve come up with nothing other than I might be a bit on the crazy side, slightly unstable shall we say.
I follow my cat as he leads me through the kitchen to his food bowl, meowing and looking back to be sure I’m there, as if it needs to be filled but jumps up and eats happily once we’re there…together. I grumble and get a drink of water and a hot cup of coffee, grab my book off the counter and head to the couch. My husband, who’s been up for an hour already (I swear the man barely sleeps), greets me as I come in, “Ready for the big day?”
“Maybe. Or maybe no one will show up and we can just eat meatballs in peace.”
“Maybe! But I doubt it. At least three people have confirmed they will be here.”
My anxiety peaks here. It’s where I start to wonder, why do I even bother trying to keep friends? It seems that everyone is always too busy to visit. Everyone is wrapped up in something so important that they can’t make time to play. Or is it just me? I think I’ve had two or three invites to parties in the last ten years. It’s strange to me. Hosting parties is the fun part of life to me and it seems no one else wants to do it, and they rarely want to make the time to go to any either. Or, again, maybe it’s me.
Ugg. This sucks. I if I would only stop inviting people over, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. I tell myself I only need to get through the next twelve hours and then I’ll somehow never fall for this “Let’s have a party!” thing again. Why do I do this to myself?
Because I love it. Because once people start to arrive, I’m having the time of my life. I’ve learned over the years that my feelings aren’t trustworthy; anxiety lies to me on a daily basis. It tells me that no one likes me, that they don’t really want to be around me, that they have far more important things to do than come over and play with me. I know this isn’t true. In reality, I’ve experienced the opposite too many times to count.
I sink down into my spot on the couch and sip my coffee as Abe jumps up, rubs against my arm, curls into a ball beside me, and goes to sleep. Why couldn’t we do that in my bed?! Stupid cat.
I’ve got everything prepped and ready to go and my “day of the party” to-do list is very short, so I have plenty of time to relax this morning. I open my book and settle in to read for a few hours before the sun comes up.
The party doesn’t start until 2pm but I’m ready at noon, so my husband and I shoot some pool and have a couple of beers on our own. I love hanging out with that guy. If he were the only friend I had, I’d still be happy. We don’t always have a lot in common, but we do have this; we both love each other very much and want the other to be happy. Even if no one came to the party, between us and our teenagers, we’re enough. I decide right then to stop the downward spiral. Fuck this, poor me attitude!
After a couple games, I look at my watch 1pm. I can’t believe it’s only been an hour. My son arrives with the strawberries he promised from the Farmer’s Market, so I head back to the kitchen to clean them up and arrange them on the cake. My other son shows up with his girlfriend a few minutes later. He’s brought Red Vines and Rice Krispie Treats, party staples since he was a kid. When your kids start recreating things from their childhood, you know you’ve done well.
Before I knew it people began to show up and I relax into the “hostess with the mostess.” It wasn’t the biggest turn out we’ve had, but it was certainly fun. It was just what I needed, a small gathering of friends, eating, drinking, and playing games. Once everyone was gone, I sat on the couch and sighed.
“See?” my husband said. “You always pull it off as if you were born for it.”
Every year I say I’ll invite people over more often and every year I start to do just that. Then I get discouraged or overwhelmed and let it slide. Then winter comes and we get busy with other things. Here we are in Spring again. The weather is getting nicer and we aren’t as busy with the kids as we used to be. Will I start to open up the house again? We’ll see. I need to recover from this one first!
Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism.
I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.
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To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.
Mother’s Day Dedication
I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.
I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me, but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.
I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.
So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be life changing. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out-stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.
As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it which terrified me. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!
I typically attended Sunday services alone. My husband usually picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and couldn’t sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option, but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of early parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.
My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.
It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.
We had joined households with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.
This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still makes me smile to think of her proud face that day.
My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?
The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents in the parking lot and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.
Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.
The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play up close, with his ears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak, I noticed all the other mothers in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first, he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.
The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt next to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.
The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.
We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.
Looking back now, years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I believe I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it together.
No one to blame when it all turns to shit, right?!
But then it’s worked before. And usually gets the best results because I know my own heart, strength, and situation, best.
But…being responsible for my own actions just sucks sometimes.
How do you guys like listening to me talk to myself?”
My morning Facebook post, one line at a time. The first line was the post. Each following line was a comment as I thought of them over the course of an hour. I typically don’t post things like this. They are cryptic. People don’t know the situation I’m talking about and usually think I’m talking about them…which reminds me of song…
I try to limit my personal posts to what’s happening at our house and what I find interesting. You know, posts about what the kids are going (which are fewer and fewer since they are becoming grown and on their own), awesome things I find in the yard or around town, and cool articles and podcasts. Things people would be interested in. Things that might bring my friends to know me better, as if we are interacting in person instead of online. But then I thought, why wouldn’t my friends be interested in what I’m thinking? And I’ve been thinking a lot lately! So here it is. Use it if you like.
I won’t go into the details of who and what. I’ll just say that he hurt me with his words, but I know he lashed out because he’s hurting too. I had a part in why he’s lashing out. Much like when one of my kids has been pushed to the limit and lashes out in anger, I want to help. He’s a friend, a fellow traveler. But I also know that people need their space when they are hurting. They also need to know someone loves them and is waiting to love them more, but they need to be alone in their feelings until they reach out for help.
He said his piece, probably in frustration and anger. I tried to express my feelings of interest and friendship better. And now I have to leave it at that.
If you love someone, set them free. Right? But, to tell you the truth, I’m not very good at that. I loath so much to be misunderstood or to be on someone’s shit list that I push to have my heart known and sometimes that comes off as desparate or fake.
I do love every one of my online friends. It’s why I have them there. And I’ll always be there for any friend that reaches out, regardless of how many years it’s been or what has happened between us.