If you’re anything like me, then you spend a lot of time thinking about ways to improve yourself. Be less judgemental, more patient. Kinder, wiser, skinnier. Eat less junk, more healthy food. Spend less money. Be more generous. Face it–there’s always some character trait we’d like to dispose of, something more desirable we wish we could add. It’s just part of being human. As a Christian, I recognize “sin” in my life, recognize my inability to completely eradicate it, no matter how hard I try, how many lists I make, how many books I read. It’s always going to be there. I’m going to die wishing I’d done this or that, wishing I’d been more like this, less like that, knowing that there were just some things about myself I could never “fix”. Even if you don’t subscribe to the idea of sin, I think I’d be hard pressed to find a person who was 100% satisfied with everything about themselves, who didn’t recognize that there are dark places inside them that they hope and pray no one ever finds out about, things that they just couldn’t shake in spite of all their best efforts.
The other night I was lying with Xavier as I was putting him to bed, and saying his prayers. I had prayed for him to be “wise and kind and brave and strong”…and I realized that in some ways, I think, we do the same thing with our kids that we do with ourselves, except that where we have given up on ourselves to some extent, we think we have a whole other chance with our kids, a chance to create a more perfect person, perhaps even a more perfect version of ourselves. The self we wish we were.
I know I do that…I try to provide my kids with opportunities that I didn’t have, sports or ballet or whatever. I look at things I don’t like about myself and I focus on those in my discipline of them, the things that I absolutely will not tolerate, the things I lecture them about. I’m sure that in some ways, I think that if I do it just so then they will come out better than me, more whole, less broken, more…worthy perhaps?
It is hard for me to accept grace. Hard for me to believe that God, or anyone else, would love me just as I am, just as he created me, flaws and all. I just can’t (or don’t want to because it’s kind of scary) grab hold of that and own it. So I work really hard to try and be better, and I fail gloriously and constantly. Apparently I can’t even accept it for my own kids though. And yet…I love THEM no matter what. Whether they get sassy with me or are mean to their sister or make terrible dumb mistakes in math or neglect to be kind to someone…I never, EVER stop loving them. They are my life. Why can’t I believe that God would be like that towards me?
Of course, just because I can’t make myself perfect doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue to try and be better. It’s a fine line between giving up and being gracious towards myself and totally giving up and giving in to mediocrity. And with my kids too…it’s not wrong to want them to be better, to not make the same mistakes I did growing up. But I guess recognizing…and somehow teaching them too…that expecting perfection from yourself is only going to lead to many hours of self-flagellation and frustration…that’s the trick, right? Maybe though that’s one of those things…one of those things we will never quite be able to let go of.
Cause if we could do it all ourselves, if we could perfect ourselves…well, what’s the use of God then anyway?
Remember that old Michael W. Smith song? I remember it with a humongous CRINGE…I sang it in my senior talent show in high school with my best friend Ari accompanying me on piano. At the time it seemed so poignant and meaningful…now it seems totally trite and I can’t believe I thought I could sing it! Honestly, I have no idea how I sounded, and perhaps I should be proud of myself for having the nerve to get up in front of God and everyone and sing for crying out loud, but now I look back on my 17 year old self and think “What a doofus!”
As we’ve been getting ready to move from Laramie, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and the friends I have made here. We’ve been here for 7 years, which is the longest I’ve been in one place besides my hometown. That’s kind of crazy, actually, now that I see that in writing. And yet, in thinking about it and looking back on these 7 years, I have been much more careless and thoughtless with my friendships here than any other time in my life.
There’s probably a lot of potential “reasons” for that…one, we didn’t think we’d be here that long. Perhaps I was just arming myself against the inevitable departure. After all, since leaving for college I’d had to say goodbye to LOTS of very, very close friends. It was always hard, and in spite of the “we’ll keep in touch” business, you know it’s just never the same after you leave. Of course now we have Facebook, so it is easier to keep up with people’s lives, but it’s never the same once you go. At least, it hasn’t been for me. I do know some people who have stayed very close with people from their childhood or other times in their lives. Honestly I don’t know how they do it. But it’s emotionally exhausting to constantly be letting go of people who mean something to you. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to avoid that.
Part of it could also be just having 3 kids and the busyness that comes from that. It’s hard to make time for your friends when you’re raising young kids, there’s just so many hours in the day. It is really hard to try and be a good mom, wife, mother, daughter, employee…friendships kind of get tossed to the bottom of the pile. Oh, sure, you hang out with moms at the park or the library, but getting to just go out for coffee or sit and talk without the distraction of your life and family is damned near impossible. There’s always something or someone else clamoring for your attention at this stage of our lives, and friendship seems like an indulgence. Again, there are some people who do this really well (probably those same people who are so jazzed about “dating” their husbands…) but I am not one of them. Maybe it’s just a shortcoming (one of many) on my part.
Of course my own “issues” play a part in it too. I’m insecure, about myself as a woman, a mother, a wife. I feel like I never measure up and I feel like this stage of motherhood…well, it’s again nearly impossible to not compare yourself in some way to the other mothers in your life, close friends or mere acquaintances. You pat yourself on the back when you see another mom screw up, you berate yourself mercilessly when you see another mom do something amazing while you are the one screwing it all up. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction. And it’s terribly damaging to our relationships with other women, and yet we ALL do it. I also definitely struggle with depression at times, especially during the winter months…those long, dreary days when everything seems unbearable anyway. My typical reaction during those times is to clam up, shut down, avoid, and just stew in the blackness of my heart. I don’t want to talk to anyone, don’t want to see anyone, don’t want to DO anything. That’s not exactly a plan for being besties with someone.
And yet, in spite of all this, I have a handful of friends here that it is going to be very hard to leave. Somehow even in spite of me being me, they haven’t abandoned me altogether, so there must be some redeeming qualities about me. They’ve been with me and seen me through some of my ugliest moments (they may not even be aware of it, but believe me, there’s plenty of ugliness to go around). They watched my son be born–literally!! They’ve seen me do the ugly cry face. Listened while I bitched about Laramie and how much I couldn’t wait to get out of Wyoming (yeah, there’s a recipe for making friends.). Heard my struggles with some of the deepest things in my heart. They’ve also listened to the quiet when I avoided them because was in one of those dark, damning places where I didn’t want to be around anyone, didn’t feel worthy of being around anyone. There are a lot of things they don’t know…things I wallowed in during those black times, terrible, nasty thoughts that I hope no one ever knows about, but I’m sure they felt it as I built up those rickety walls around myself that would fall repeatedly in spite of all my continued efforts to build them up.
So I find myself on the verge of leaving, again. It doesn’t feel like I’m “starting over” necessarily, I’m moving to a place where I know a lot of people. There is some excitement about that, but I also know that all those people in Maryland have had their own lives these past 7 years. Sure, I spend time there in the summers and at Christmas, but the other 11 months of the year they have their own activities, their own friends. It’s going to be weird. I’m going to have to meet new moms, deal with all those insecurities on a whole other level. My kids are going to have new friends with new moms and dads that I may love or hate. And presumably, all those new moms and dads already have their group of pals, and my big fear is that there’s not room for one more. I sometimes feel like that even now, because I know my friends here all have friendships that don’t include me in the slightest. (You think you really have outgrown high school?? Not quite.) It’s a daunting task to face, although I know that life will be so busy most of the time that I won’t think about it, but it is something I worry about.
So friends, you know who you are…I’m sorry I’ve been so wretched with handling you these past 7 years or so, or however long I’ve known you. But thanks for putting up with me anyway. We all say we’ll keep in touch, we all say we’ll visit but of course we’re going to say that, it’s not like we’re going to admit that in all likelihood we will send Christmas cards for several years and see pictures of the kids’ on Facebook and one day we’ll all be Grandmas on FB and that’ll be just bizarre. But maybe not…and maybe as I get older and wiser (hasn’t happened yet…) I’ll get better at figuring out this friendship thing. A friend of mine just posted a blog about how much we need community, how we weren’t created to be in isolation (HELLO, that is like the theme of my friends in Laramie…). I know that’s true, I just wish God had made me a little better at fostering it.
P.S…this is not a post to get lots of re-affirming, “Oh you’re so wonderful!” pats on the backs and comments. I’m just fleshing some things out here. I’d rather you not comment at all about ME in particular. Themes that resonate with you or similar experiences or whatever, sure, but I’m really not fishing for compliments.
So it’s almost 10:30 and I’m lying in bed with my brain going about a million miles an hour, which is pretty much what I’ve done every night for the last month and a half and hey now I have this awesome blog so I can get on here and bitch about why I can’t sleep.
They say “Be careful what you wish for!” and I am here to tell you that it’s the God’s Honest Truth.
Anyone who knows me, and I mean ANYone, who knows me even the slightest bit, knows that for the past, oh, 7 years, I have been “wishing” for the opportunity for our family to get back to the east coast. Potential jobs for Bill have come and gone, there were even times we thought, shoot, should we just up and go, job or not? (DUMB but still…at least we didn’t actually do it.) Even as recently as July, I was flopped across my bed at my in-laws house thinking “God, really. Is it SO much to ask to just get us back here? Please??”
And then we get back to Wyoming. And we have a crazy week where we get a dog and the dog makes my son crazy sick and right smack in the middle of restraining a screaming kid for bloodwork and comforting a crying daughter who’s only desire in life is to have a dog that we now have to get rid of because her brother’s allergic to it…comes the out of the blue job offer.
And yet…it wasn’t like “Hey, here’s your dream job Bill! Want it?” or “Hey, here’s an insane amount of money if you’ll take this job!” No, it wasn’t as clear cut as that. Frankly, the only real draw was that it was back east. Specifically, in Baltimore. Honestly the decision to take the job was kind of like Bill and I standing on a cliff looking down at some really murky, muddy water while kids were having asthma attacks and crying all around us and deciding to plug our noses, hold hands, and jump in.
And let me tell you I feel like my life has been Shit City ever since. That’s right. Shit. City.
First we had to put our house on the market. Which is a totally confusing maze of legal bullshit that I can’t believe anyone in their right minds actually understands. I stressed out for like 2 weeks about making the house look just so for the scads of people that would come to see it. Or like the 3 people that came to see it. As weeks have gone by and NOT A SOUL has even inquired about our house, I’ve stopped caring. I don’t pick up every little thing lying around anymore, I don’t bother to make sure the counter’s wiped off before heading out the door. In fact, the house is kind of a disaster, in my opinion. Some things are packed, there’s random piles of boxes all over, things shoved in drawers and under beds, walls half decorated and pretty much everything that made the house “ours” put away somewhere so its just kind of a random, half empty shell. Then HEY we got an offer on our house from our friends–awesome–except they have to sell their house–NOT awesome. It feels like we now have to sell TWO houses. And they’re going through the same phenomenon that we did–interest those first couple days and since then? Nada. I drive around town and honest to God its like when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant and all you see are pregnant ladies everywhere. It seems like every friggin’ block in town has two or three houses for sale that have been for sale for A. LONG. TIME. I’m pretty much convinced that our house just isn’t going to sell. Ever. And then well I don’t know what.
I’m tired of looking up houses online in Maryland. Tired of finding a cute house that is HEY just .30 miles from THE CRAPPIEST SCHOOL EVER. Which there are a plethora of in Maryland, trust me. Or a really cute house that WE COULDN’T AFFORD IN TWO LIFETIMES. Again, plenty of those in MD. Or finding a house in a good neighborhood, good school district, and then seeing it disappear in 2 days because we’re not in a position to do anything about it. I’m tired of thinking about what school the kids might go to or where I can get a part time job because at this point there’s not a damn thing I can do about ANY of it. I’m just ready for Bill to get there and start looking and he can just say “Hey I found a house” and I can say “Great, when can we move in?”
And moving estimates?? Gag city. I’m ready to just dump all our stuff in the alley and start fresh. It can’t be much more expensive, right? And it’s just STUFF. I may just start leaving the doors unlocked and hell, open, and maybe someone will just come in and clean us out and do me a favor.
I’m like living in this la-la limbo land where I’m not really here and not really there. My friends have all given up on me because what’s the point in investing your time in someone who is already halfway out the door. I can’t say that I blame them. I gave up my position on the Board of Directors at the kids’ school so they could get someone in there right away and keep things flowing smoothly but who knows, I may never leave this place, so maybe I should’ve just stayed and given myself something to DO besides troll real estate websites and Greatschools.org. The kids want to do these activities but I’m not sure how long we’ll be there but God we all need SOMEthing to DO so I sign them up knowing very well I may be pissing $50 down the drain but maybe I won’t because well, at this point we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
I’m tired of smiling and saying how excited I am to finally be moving back to Maryland. Because right now I’m not excited. Right now I’m grouchy and testy and it makes me impatient with the kids and impatient with Bill, who’s leaving in like 5 days and I’m all bitchy with him because he wants to tailgate for 8 hours on Saturday which WHO CARES he’s spent the last 7 years working his ass off on football Saturdays so why not but it sounds like a drag to me and so I complain about it and it’s like all my pettiness and horribleness are being blasted to the surface and flung in my face.
And to top it off I’m reading another book about effing Africa which makes me hate myself and my privileged life and feel like a totally worthless human being.
I feel like yeah, I got my wish. But it feels like God is like the Genie and I just used my last wish and because I’m finally “Getting what I always wanted!” I should just suck it up and take all the crap that comes with it because I ain’t getting anymore gifts. No one wants to hear you complain about getting what you want, especially when they all knew that this was what you wanted.
Can you say feeling ALONE??
I guess I’ll go toss and turn some more. Peace out.
“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come.” (from The Wonder Years)
I’ve been thinking about all this growing up and being a grown up for quite some time now. It’s been a year of making difficult “grown up” decisions. I’ve turned 40, which I suppose qualifies me as an official grown up (as if the years of teaching, owning cars and houses, being married and raising kids hasn’t). Today, the anniversary of 9/11 makes me think of the “grown ups” in my life (more on that later). And I think constantly about losing the “grown ups” in my life as I get older and so do they.
I’m not really comfortable with being a grown up. I do not own my 40 years of life experience…I feel like the same dumb kid I was when I was 16. Or even 5 or 10. I have a really excellent memory, and I can easily bring myself back to just about any age and picture everything about myself at that age. And I don’t feel all that much different today. I mean, I know I’ve changed, I’ve grown. I don’t do or say some of the things I said as a child or adolescent or even twenty-something person. I know that I’ve matured but generally I feel like the same person. I let other adults intimidate me, sometimes forgetting that we’re all on, or should be on, a level playing field. Sometimes I even feel kind of like an imposter, like I’ve managed to fool, well, everyone, into thinking I am some sort of responsible adult-type person.
I still need the adults in my life too, the “grown ups”, my parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles. I am extremely jealous of people my age who still have their grandparents in their lives. I am sure they know how lucky they are. I know I was lucky to have them around as long as I did, but they all passed when I was still in that self-centered young adult stage and didn’t appreciate them like I do today, like I would today. Back to 9/11–I was pregnant with Julia and at work when it all started falling apart, and the first person I wanted to talk to was my Dad. I knew somehow if I could hear his voice, that everything would be ok, that I would be ok. It was so reassuring to just talk to him, like I was 7 years old again. As a kid I always hated when he was gone, because I felt like all the bad stuff happened when he was working or out of town. Even as a “wise old bird” (from my birthday party!) I still hold on to that in some way, as foolish as I know it is. When I’m sick, I still want my mom to come and stir the fizz out of my ginger ale and put the sheets on the couch and turn on Mr. Rogers. In spite of all the junk she and I have been through. When I’m with Bill’s parents, I feel so much more calm and at ease, again, like nothing bad can happen because the grown ups are there and they are taking care of everything. I know it’s crazy. I know it’s not true, but it’s like when I drive by a golf course and I get that stupid sense of security that “Well, if people are still taking the time to play golf things can’t be all that bad.” It’s just part of me.
Which is what makes growing up and being a grown up so scary. Life is hard and tough. Julia is desperate to be “a grown up” right now. I don’t want to discourage her and scare her but it’s not all going out for pedicures and getting Starbucks and staying up as late as you want. It’s bills and health scares and making hard decisions about moving or not moving and trying to find a job that suits you and working on your marriage and being scared to death about something happening to your kids. Sometimes I honestly feel guilty for bringing my 3 kids into this world where they are going to have to navigate the minefield of adulthood. I feel like they’re going to come to me some day and be like “Thanks for nothing!”
And then there’s the unavoidable fact that those other grown ups, the ones that make me feel safe and ok in this world, are not going to be around forever. That I am going to be THE grown up and there won’t be a dad to call or a mom to make me soup or in-laws to take care of me. I will have to likely take care of them in some way and then I am going to lose them. I know some friends have had to go through that already. Not many, but I know as we age more and more of us will be dealing with this. It scares the hell out of me. It is my one, desperate prayer most of the time…Not Yet God. Please NOT YET.
This was a stupid post to write while I’m at work. How to explain the teary eyes…I’m really worked up about selling football tickets???
So, that’s what I’m thinking about on this 9/11, a day that a lot of people in America grew up very quickly. And as I read this I feel like I may have written something like this before, but perhaps that’s just because I have a lot of conversations in my head about the same old junk over and over again:) Anyway. I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite authors ever, which makes me think that maybe I’m ok as I am:
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would never be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…to be alive is to be vulnerable.” Madeleine L’Engle
Shady’s back. Tell a friend.
No, it’s not Eminem. But I have known to be Shady, if not Slim.
Ok, enough puns. Yes, yes. I’m starting another blog. I have ranted and raved about blogs. Complained and judged and been generally unhappy with blogging, including my own. There are some really good blogs I follow. http://firstname.lastname@example.org, for one, and Rachel Held Evans. Occasionally someone will link to a blog I enjoy reading. And I’m sure there are many, many blogs out there that are high quality and worth reading. It’s like books–you’ll never get through them all! But most blogs I find to be annoying and trivial.
So…why am I doing this again? Other than the fact that I am annoying and have lots of trivial things to share?
Ha ha. Very funny. I honestly can’t answer that question. For one–a lot of people have told me I’m a good writer. And who doesn’t love a good ego-stroke like THAT? So I’m doing this to please my adoring fans…wait, wait, I see that hand…No, I do believe I can write. Honestly, I read some stuff and I think “They’re making money off of that??? I can SO do better than that!” Which may be prideful of me but since I have yet to start raking in the big bucks for my myriad of deep thoughts I think I’m ok. I also think I need to write. I used to journal like a fiend, ripping of pages and pages of adolescent angst and drama. If only I knew what reality holds for you as an adult, I may have saved my breath. Seriously though, life as an adult is a challenge. I find myself struggling with things I never dreamed of as a 20 year old. These last few years have been really rough on my psyche and my spiritual self. I’ve found myself wanting to write them out, to work them out of my brain and out of myself and I just don’t have the same drive to journal as I once did. I used to think that my journals would be found hundreds of years later by some future society and be a great contribution to the historical study of life in the late 20th century. And then I re-read them as an adult, was summarily appalled and destroyed every last one of them. I’m under no delusions. Cancer is not going to be cured by what I write. No one is going to come to a higher understanding of God because of what I write. I go through the same struggles that millions of others in the modern world do, and billions of others wish they had the luxury to do. So my main reason for writing this is for myself. Because sometimes those words and thoughts get so jumbled up in my head that I can’t think straight and that maybe if I get them out in this stupid blog then it’ll at least be a little less crowded up there.
So I warn you–I honestly don’t care if you read this (LIE. Of course I care. Anyone who says they don’t care what others think of them are big fat liars.). I won’t read your comments (Lie again. I’ll read them and if they’re mean I’ll let them bother me all day long.). I don’t care if you share this with all your friends and thousands of people start to follow me and suddenly someone asks me if I’ll write a book and I make millions of dollars and have speaking engagements and become not as famous as Angelina Jolie but close. No. I don’t care about that at all. (Guess what…?) Also–I will likely offend or bother you at some point. I am a Christian, I am a Democrat, I drink alcohol on occasion (like today. today was an occasion to drink alcohol.) and I think few things are as effective as a well-placed cuss-word. I use a lot of …’s and (parentheses) and ALL CAPS!!! So be warned. But I hope enough of you like me enough that you will take me flaws and all. And if you don’t? Well, who needs you. (WAIT!! I need you! Don’t go! I’ll be good, I promise…)
Honestly and all sarcasm and wine-talk aside (I’ve consumed the better part of a Beringer White Zinfandel this evening, I confess. Wait for it…oh, there you go…some of you are already passing me by in a fit of judgement. I hear your footsteps fading, fading…) I am writing this mostly for me and if others get something out of it, well that is just terrific. I’ve got a whole lot of extra time on my hands lately now that the kids are ALL in school ALL day, and I’m back in the UW ticket office (for the moment…that’s another post) which often means long stretches of free time, so why not do something creative and write, hey? I plan to write when it strikes me, which may mean every day for a while or not for several days or even weeks (Hooray! I hear the collective cheer…). So, if you’re up for it and you’ve got nothing better to do, why not read the random thoughts that run through this crazy brain of mine. Ups and downs and in between.