Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cat and mouse.

It has seemed strange to me that some people from my past have been in front of my face and on my mind recently. Not just one or two, from one or two incidents, but multiple people, stirring up all kinds of forgotten feelings and worries and pain. Some of it has been from conversations. Some from social media. Some in my mind, for no apparent reason, just there and not going away. I recognized a connecting thread this morning. This post refers to a specific event, and specific (unnamed) people, but it reaches much further than that into my mind and heart and past. Many people, many events, the same pattern and one answer. Thank God for that.

A few years ago I was disappointed by some people who were very dear to me. The dearness of them made the disappointment particularly painful, and surprising.

I've been thinking of them, and others I've been disappointed by. My mind has been playing a cat and mouse game of chase, one that exists on auto pilot in the recesses of my mind. The question is the mouse “How did I let that happen, and how do I make sure it never happens again? What did I miss?” The answer is elusive and takes up a lot of ambient mental energy. It leads to more questions, usually ones I can't answer without guessing, so it's a time waster. And it is something much more ugly than that. It becomes dehumanizing. I'll explain. 

In my story I have discovered (recently) a theme that goes back into my childhood of believing that people are mostly liars, especially when it comes to caring about me. As long as I am performing a service or being pleasant or maintaining whatever image is wanted I'm “cared for”. Once I stop, the caring stops. And sadly, I have evidence of this in my life. So this isn't about refuting the fact that people disappoint. It is, unfortunately, about what happens to the soul, my soul, in the attempt to not get hurt again.

First I usually am outwardly angry, and inwardly terrified that somehow I made it happen. It's my fault, I'm defective, this wouldn't have happened if I had been more...fill in the blank.Then I chuck all that and say screw them, their loss, if this is who they are I don't want them in my life anyway, I should have known. Which leads me then to the long trek I take down “Why didn't I see it” lane. I thought they really cared. I believed them. I trusted them. I must have cared more than they did, why do I always do that? They are such good liars, and now they are out there fooling more people, someone should stop them.

I make myself crazy going back and forth with these questions and accusations. I don't want to feel victimized again. I want to pick the right people with the right motives every time, so I don't have to feel stupid for “caring more” about the wrong people or getting taken in thinking someone cares about my heart when they care about a service I can render.

And then I don't have to think about whether or not my motives are right with people. I don't have to turn the other cheek, because they will have never gotten to the the first cheek. I don't have to deal with real people, and I don't have to love. Because in the end, that's what got rejected. My love. My imperfect, human, messy love. That's where it hurts.

The cat and mouse stop running around and all the threads of how this and why that and never agains...they go quiet when I say to myself, “I still love them.” Not in the “I'm drumming up goodwill and happy thoughts because I want to get them out of my system and what the heck it's been over 2 years and the holidays are coming so, yeah, love all around, even for those jerks.”


My “I still love them” hits me at the core. It admits that I miss them. I wish I knew if they ever thought of me. I wish I knew if I mattered. I hope good things are happening in their lives. It's the memory of how empty my life felt after our falling out. It takes the wind out of my self contempt, and out of my idolatry of them. Somehow real love does that. It lays me open, and humbles me. The kind of humbling that lets your soul breathe again.

And this is where, in recent days, I've found my feet. I don't have to be ashamed of loving people who may or may not have loved me the way I thought they did. I don't have to worry about whether or not they meant to be deceptive. The questions are irrelevant. Yes, discernment is good, being wise is important, but along with it doesn't have to come skepticism, fear, hatred, self protection, etc. After all, the Bible tells us that Love covers a multitude of sins, and friends, we all have our own multitude. I do. In “protecting” myself I have let myself completely, in turns, dehumanize them, and myself. I worshipped them. I abhorred them. I trusted them. I rejected them.

I also loved them.

And love them.

If I turn it around on them it looks like this. They cared about me. They lied to me. They helped me. They dismissed me. They wanted what I offered, not who I was. They loved who I was.

They loved me.

I do not know if they “love” me. That is uncharted territory, and I won't lie, because this thing I'm doing here is confession. It's the truth I'm mining for, and I don't want to wrap it up with a pretty bow and say “they still love me”. I don't know. I hope so. I don't think I'm being skeptical. I know how ugly endings can taint love until it becomes unrecognizable. I hope that hasn't happened.

What I do know is that there is Love that is pure, and when I find my feet there the ugly parts reveal themselves and start to fall away. I think the more often I can get my feet there the better I'll be able to tell where my wicked heart has been fooling me. I want to learn to live there.

(This post is not a veiled attempt to get anyone's attention. I already had one friend check in and make sure we were good - I don't want anyone worrying about that! The individuals this is about would know if it was about them, and I seriously doubt they read my blog. This is just me, sharing my process and journey, and trying to understand what it means to love and forgive and be human.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Worm. The Moth.

I read a poem this morning. Mary Oliver. I imagine I will meet her one day in Heaven and thank her for speaking my language and offering her soul. 

This poem was called "Great Moth Comes from His Papery Cage".

Maybe you aren't into poetry. That's okay. Just stick with me a minute.

Gone is the worm, that tunnel body. Gone is the mouth that loved 
leaves and tomatoes.                                     
 Gone are the innumerable feet.                                     

He is beautiful now and shivers into the air
as if he has always known how,
who crawled and crawled all summer.
He has wide wings, with a flare at the bottom.
The moon excites him. The heat of the night excites him.

But, where did the dance come from?
Surely not out of a simple winter's sleep.
Surely its more than ambition, this new architecture!
What could it be, that does it?

Let me look closer, and a long time, the next time
I see green blooded worm crawling and curling
hot day after hot day
among the leaves and the smooth, proud tomatoes.

I see my redemptive God in this. I doubt God thinks the worm any less beautiful than the moth, though He knew we would. Imagining how God must feel about the worm, his own creation, is comforting, since I feel so much like one these days. "Crawling and curling hot day after hot day". Not seeming to get very far, needing every bit of every leaf and tomato I can find. 

I have had times of coming out of my "papery cage" as well. I have seen myself transform. Where I depart from the moth is that as far as I know the moth doesn't have a choice. It probably couldn't choose to stay a worm…I don't know. I can though. I choose to be the worm, or to let somehow, miraculously, the hot days of crawling turn into a shivering dance. The choosing is my part. The rest is God's. I cannot give myself wings. I can willingly crawl, and willingly wait as I am given a body better suited to my new and truest nature. 

She asks the question - "What could it be, that does it?" - then leans toward an answer by saying she will look "closer, and a long time" when she sees the worm again. And I resonate - I say yes, it is this inching along that I'm doing.

 This getting up every day, opening my fists every day, getting angry, returning to a kinder, gentler place, getting tired and letting myself rest, feeling small and petty, asking to be made more spacious and generous, feeling grief and letting myself grieve - inch, inch, inch, crawl, curl, hot day after hot day - it is this that is doing it. It happens in the deep, deep places, and in the small, small moments. 

Reading this was a distant reassurance marker for me today. A sign saying - you aren't super far away yet, but head back this way. The small moments and the deep places have been problematic for me lately. They are also usually somewhat unseen. And I feel unseen. Even by myself. Disconnected, lonely. Then the inching along feels like an insult. Like I've been put on an abandoned road by an uninterested, preoccupied God who expects more than I can give and punishes me when I stumble. Who's attitude is "do what I want, or leave me alone". 

I can't tell you how many times I've called God a jerk since we moved here. 

And something happens in that small moment. I clench my teeth and my fists and I replace my loneliness and sadness with rage and disappointment, and I harden. And I curse God for taking away my alcohol when he knew how it would help. And I turn the world inside out and turn even the gentle, kind, healing places into nothing more than things/people I am ashamed of ever needing so much that I deluded myself into believing they were real. 

It is cruel. And I confess it because there are too many of you out there who have been gentle, kind and healing, and you are exquisitely real. Gifts I do not intend to throw away. 

My confession is an inching. An aching, longing inch. I am crawling toward the day my papery cage opens for me again, and I emerge winged with my course set on the moon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anger, Alcohol, and Sheep

One week. It's been a week since my universe got turned upside-down. Even though I prepared for it for 6 months, I am in shock. 

We are living with Bill's sister and her husband, and their two adorable (no, seriously…you don't understand how adorable) little girls. We love them dearly, and have always felt a sweet, easy connection to them. They have been gracious and have plenty of space for us, my boys are thriving and making fast friends of their cousins, and Bill is about to start the best job we could hope for.

And I hate everything.

I hate being with people, I hate being alone too long. (unless I'm sleeping) I hate the heat, I hate the rain, I hate the trees, I hate the flowers, I hate the memories of this place (we lived here for 4 and a half years while Bill went to school). I hate getting out of bed, making my kids food…walking…breathing. Like I said. Everything.

I have found peace in sleeping. So I do that a lot. Then I feel guilty for it. Then I hate it too. 

I am grieving. I was reminded about the stages of grief, and some of the things I could expect from myself and suddenly remembered that I am not a horribly ungrateful, negative, unsupportive person. I'm just grieving. 

Bill asked me today if I knew of anything that would help - if there were absolutely no obstacles. I said going back to Anderson. Not exactly a fair answer. But it's the thing I KNOW would help. I don't know what will help. I don't have a practical answer. I'm trying. 

This is where Alcohol would have entered in full force in the past. I haven't walked through the grief without medicating before, and without things getting much, much darker. I have been living in dread of that darkness, sensing it looming right above me, right next to me, reaching out and brushing me with icy despair. 

I'm finding myself relating most to the denial (shock) and anger stages of grief. I feel sometimes like I don't understand where I am. Like I will wake up at "home" and the unfamiliarity of this place will be because it wasn't real. I often look around and say to myself "What did we just do?" Not in a despairing tone - in a genuine…"what the heck?" tone. 

And then there is the anger. See the "I hate everything" paragraph above. It's so rarely about anything that is actually happening. It emanates from me. It could be, "I hate it when Aiden screams like that", or "I hate that cup", or " when the gentle breeze shook that branch a second ago, I hated that". This is not a pleasant place to be inside myself, nor is it a place I want to invite people. "Hey you, want to come into this really hot, stinky, bug infested place inside my soul?" 

Ironically, that seems to be the answer. And it actually does help a little. 

Right before we moved (um…so like a week ago) we were in a study about sheep in our Sunday School class. The teacher (love her) was taking a look at the significance of the rod and the staff. In a book written by a shepherd he said the staff (the one with the hook on the end) could be used to keep a sheep close, near the shepherd as they walk. Maybe particularly in rough terrain, or unknown territory, where the sheep might be prone to bolt, or wander too far. 

The picture that has created in my mind is something I'm holding on to. It was perfect timing for me to hear that, as I left the pasture I loved and claimed as my own. His rod, and His staff really do comfort me. As I hate everything and try to believe I'll wake up at home, and sleep every chance I get, I can also feel my Shepherd's staff around me, pulling me close, and I'm leaning in. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Screw New Year's

New Year's Day has put me in a distinctly bad mood this year. Not the holiday itself, but all the looking ahead, looking behind stuff. I almost managed to avoid it this year, but today had its way with me.

I bristle a bit at making New Years resolutions because, to be blunt, I don't like doing the same thing as everyone else. This year the thought of making a resolution feels like an insult. Like some ominous voice saying "you aren't working hard enough. you are failing. Do everything better." I have nothing but expletives in response to that voice, and I'll spare you.

And this year, looking behind still fills me with sorrow. Some of it I really thought I was done grieving. Over a year past the loss of my community, and so many friendships I considered to be home - I thought over a year would ease that pain more than it has.

Though maybe some of the pain is new, aggravating the old wounds. Looking ahead, the new year is full of unknowns I wasn't expecting. Out of nowhere a possibility of a new home, new job, school for me, new chapter for us came and made itself known. Like a big dog that comes and lives on your porch. Every time you go outside it follows you. It came and sat in front of us and stared us down, and we knew we had to do something with it. What else do you do? Never go outside again? Except this isn't just the prospect of taking a pet into your family. It would mean moving. To Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I can't seem to find a way to express all the feelings that bombard me at any given moment about this prospect. And I don't think anyone gets it. Or wants to talk about it. Or maybe I don't want to talk about it. But I still want to be asked. Which is unfair because I am sending out an "I don't want to talk about it" vibe. I guess that's because I can't quite decide from one moment to the next if I'm scared sick, or heartbroken over the prospect of leaving such dear friends, or excited about going to school, or relieved that Bill might have a job he loves, or worried that he won't get the job and then what? No matter what else I might be feeling, I feel lonely. I haven't felt this alone in years.

So New Year's feels like a jerk. Like it's mocking me. "Welcome to 2013. You have no idea what's ahead. Good luck with that."

I know I seem bitter. I know it's ugly. I don't want to and I've been doing my best to manage it without talking about it. I've been barely conscious of the unhealthy coping behaviors I have been resorting too, and I guess today I saw it. I've been working all day to uncover the source of my unrest and as I get there, I find the pit of my stomach in a knot of fear. Dread. A hundred questions with no answers, but I will have to figure them out regardless. Where will my kids go to school? How will I explain this move to my 4 year old? Where will we live? Will we make friends? How long will it take? How can I bear to leave these people? Will I be forgotten? Will I matter there? Will I be invisible? Does Tulsa care if me and my family come? How will I get through the really dark times there? How can I be there when Kylee has her first baby? Where will we go to church? Can I stomach another new church? Can I stomach leaving another church? When will I start school? What if I hate it? What if Bill hates his job? What if starting a new job is so stressful for him that I am alone all of the time? What if all of the friends we used to have there don't care about being friends with us now? What if Bill doesn't get the job? What is all this for? Will we ever have roots anywhere? Is it going to be Tulsa? Because I thought it was going to be here.

2013, I have no resolutions for you. I have a prayer. That I will weather the uncertainty with more courage than I have had today. That there will be a lot of kindness, because I need it. That trust in a good God will grow. That I will course correct quickly and with humility. That love will win.