Hey, don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best, try everything you can
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away
It just takes some time
Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be alright, alright
My baby girl is getting bigger. It’s unavoidable of course. It started the day she was born and has been progressing with alarming speed ever since. She turned 11 in December. She has started showing small signs of puberty. She gets moody and weepy in a frightening foreshadowing of life with another emotional female in the house. She sometimes resents me, particularly, telling her what to do and/or how to do it. She will be in middle school next fall.
But at the same time, she’s still such a little girl. She’s afraid of everything…the dark, loud noises, tests. She is a total Mommy-and-Daddy’s girl and still loves to please us. She loves to play with her sister and brother and cousins and still can make up fantastic made up stories and games. She’s not really interested in boys and giggles when I try to have “the talk” with her. She refuses to go to bed without Bill and I tucking her in.
She’s totally “In the Middle”, like that song I just quoted by Jimmy Eat World.
It’s a weird place to be for her. She mentioned to me sometime last spring that she’d noticed most of her friends weren’t playing with Barbie dolls any more. What did she buy herself this Christmas with her Target gift card?? Another Barbie. She loves her American Girl and baby dolls still, but most of her friends don’t have those. Most of her friends are starting to be more interested in One Direction (whom she looks on with derision, good girl) and shopping at Justice and playing with their iPod Touch. Sure, she does like to shop. She does like playing on my iPod touch or her DS or my phone or the computer. But those things aren’t first to jump to her mind. I love that last night she and her younger sister were cuddled together in the bottom bunk having a sleepover. I love that she is totally willing to play with her little brother. I love that when she gets together with her closest cousins that they just play and play and play for hours on end and get pretty upset about having to leave one another.
I know these days are numbered and I hate it.
Today there was an “Adventure Barbie” activity at the library. It was a day off of school and it was something you had to sign up for ahead of time. Julia brought home the flyer and pointed it out and was definitely interested in going. You brought your Barbie and did crafts and stuff. The ages were 5-10. I fudged her age. I figured she was close enough. And she really wanted to go.
We get to the library and its clear most of the girls attending are younger. Julia’s Barbie was hidden furtively under her coat. I could see her looking around, checking to see if anyone she knew from school was there. I could tell she was embarrassed. I didn’t say anything. Just stood with her and waited til they went into the activity room and got started. She didn’t relax until she headed in there and got behind closed doors.
She had fun…of course she did. She loves to play Barbies and she loves crafts. She made little wooden furniture for her dolls. She dressed her Barbie in some sort of duct-tape getup. They made little Barbie boats out of empty soda bottles. She had a blast. But as we were heading to the car she said, thoughtfully “I’m pretty sure I was the oldest one in there…”
She’s growing up. I hate it. I hate that it is going to be hard. I hate that there are going to be days when she feels left out. And scared. And lost. And lonely. And maybe she is going to hate herself somedays like I did (do). She is going to realize life is so much harder than it looks like from the eyes of a kid. Maybe she will be mad at me for even bringing her into this crazy world. But she is such a beautiful girl. I am so proud of her. And I know I will be proud of her and will see her through getting her period, her license, her first boyfriend, high school and college and whatever else comes her way as she continues to grow. And I hope she can keep some of that beautiful child full of fun and joy and silliness when everyone around her is serious and hip and cool. I hope she plays with those Barbies for a little bit longer.
Hey, you know they’re all the same
You know you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in
Live right now, yeah, just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else
It just takes some time
Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be alright, alright
I just finished reading “Unbearable Lightness” by Portia de Rossi, the actress from one of my favorite shows ever (Arrested Development) and wife of Ellen DeGeneres. It is the story of her struggles with anorexia and food, the struggle to love herself for who she is. (As a side note, anyone who thinks that gay people just “choose” to be gay or could “choose” to not needs to read any memoirs of an actual gay person. Their struggles to love and accept themselves are heartbreaking.) I picked it up on a whim at the library, it had been faced out on the shelf and looked interesting. But it was fascinating in a horrible kind of way, and it really spoke to me a lot about myself and women in general.
In a nutshell, the story of her anorexia is kind of insane. It’s amazing to me that a person could be as tightly in control of their eating, their exercising, as she–and others who struggle with eating disorders–was. It controlled her, really. It took every waking (and sleeping, even) effort to maintain the self control and discipline it took to get her down to 82 pounds. 82 pounds! As an adult woman! That’s only 12 pounds more than my 11 year old daughter weighs! It wasn’t until her body started failing her that she was forced to receive treatment, and even then for her it was a long, difficult road to recovery.
Obviously, this wasn’t the first time I’ve been exposed to anorexia. Actually, when I was in 5th grade, my best friend Amy was hospitalized for a year at an eating disorder clinic. I remember it came as a complete surprise to me, when she wrote me a letter from there, explaining why she wouldn’t be in 6th grade with me that fall. I can still picture her neat handwriting, even the stationery it was written on as she explained to me what anorexia was and how, at one point, she could count all her ribs. She told me what she was doing in treatment, the meetings she attended, the special shakes she had to drink. It was so confusing to me, as an 11 year old. It initiated a long conversation with my mom. I was so worried about her, and just wanted her to be ok. It was the first time it occurred to me that someone my age could die, and die because of something they were doing to themselves.
But time and aging take their toll on the most secure of us, and while I read this book I realized that, while I may not be as extreme as Portia and others who struggle with eating disorders are, I still have a very unhealthy relationship with food. And I think the majority of us women do. Almost every friend I have or have had…there are always conversations about working out, how much weight we want to lose, how we shouldn’t be eating these fries or that cake. We compare ourselves and critique ourselves and are on a constant quest to improve ourselves, and weight is an easy target. If we just exercise enough, eat less, it should be easy to fix, right?
Even at the wise old age of 40…I look at my muffin top when I button my pants and suck in my belly a little more. I wish I could look like _____(insert sexy celebrity name here). I tell myself that if I can just lose another 5, 10 pounds, I’d be “just right” (whatever that is). I worry that, because I’m getting older, my slowing metabolism will be something I have to constantly fight against to keep from getting doughy. I hate my flat “mom” butt. I hate my fleshy, dimpled abdomen. I hate how my chin looks. I hate I hate I hate.
And I try to control what I eat. I force myself to see how long I can go without eating. I’ve tried in the past to make myself throw up, I can’t do it. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to “be anorexic”. Those thoughts have actually crossed my mind! That is terrible! Of course I don’t happen to have the will power to do those things, so I always end up eating again. Randomly, unhealthily. I’ll be “good” for a while and then revert to weird cycles of not eating, eating healthy, and then just eating crap. I don’t think I have an eating disorder, but I definitely do not have a “healthy” relationship with food, and I would bet that most of my female friends don’t either. I mean, I almost always, always feel guilty for eating something I really want to eat, whether it’s cheesecake or a steak or pasta or whatever. And I try and figure out some way to compensate for it the next day. Skip breakfast, make sure I go for a run…
What if we could just love ourselves the way we are?
What if we could just be free to eat food we wanted and enjoy it without the guilt?
I’m not talking about overeating…that’s another food disorder in itself. I’m just talking about listening to our bodies and trusting that it won’t let us down. It would be so freeing to be able to just eat and not be afraid I won’t fit into my pants. To not even worry about what size my pants are. To be healthy, yes. To be fit, yes. But to not be obsessed with it. Portia calls it “Ordered” eating (as opposed to an eating disorder): “Ordered eating is eating for enjoyment, for health, to sustain life.” What a concept!
I know this is something all my girlfriends have and do struggle with. I read this book thinking I’d read an interesting story. I had no idea it would tell me so much about myself and kind of reveal to me that I have my own “disordered” way of eating and looking at food. Thankfully, I’m not anorexic or bulimic…that doesn’t mean I have a healthy relationship with food. But I’d sure like to. It sounds like life is so much more enjoyable when you do.
I bought a shower curtain.
I know, I know-big deal right? Its not really, not a big deal at all. Since we moved to Maryland, money’s been super tight (what with the house still being on the market and all that goes along with it…) so when we moved into our new house I held off on a lot of items that weren’t absolute necessities. You still feel like money is pouring out of your pockets every time you go to the store, but I was real careful about only buying essentials. New shower curtains fell on the “non-essential” list. I mean, I put up those plastic liners of course, but a pretty, decorative shower curtain is definitely not a have-to-have.
It’s been good, really, thinking more about what I buy. I’ve been so much more intentional when I go grocery shopping, and have clarified a lot of my own wants/needs and been pretty consistent with not splurging, even on something that’s only a few dollars. I used to think “Shoot, it’s only like $3” and throw it in the cart. But three dollar items add up over time, so I’ve tightened things up, and its been good. I’ve thought much more about my stuff and what I can live without. Combine that with working and actually needing those hourly dollars I’m bringing home–“What, that’s worth like, 3 hours of work! No way!”–I’ve been very cognizant of the value of “things.”
None of this to say I can’t WAIT for the house to sell and not have to be so anxious about every penny going out the door. I will be very, very happy on that day.
But last week I bought a shower curtain for our main bathroom. I had some Amazon points so it didn’t really cost much. It’s fabric. It has different colored polka dots. And it makes me happy.
I know, it’s stupid. It’s a shower curtain. But it matches the bathroom perfectly and it makes it look more complete and it’s just more fun than the plain liner sitting there.
I am aware how shallow this sounds.
But every time I walk past or into the bathroom since yesterday it gives me a little pick me up.
Because, contrary to what you’ve always been told, money can buy happiness.
Oh, of course, it’s just temporary happiness. But isn’t all happiness pretty temporary? And I’m aware that people without money can find happiness in their days without new shower curtains or any of the other trappings of a materialistic society such as ours. But I don’t live there. I live in America, I’m not destitute, and my new shower curtain makes me feel happy.
Just like my favorite sweater I bought at Target last year. Or my new Under Armour hoodie. And my favorite pair of jeans that I just had to buy again on ebay because that’s the only place I can find them and they came in the mail and that’s happy. Or the almond honey sugar scrub that I totally do not need but it smells divine and feels really good and makes me feel a little bit pampered when I use it. It makes me happy. Even if its for 30 seconds. And what’s wrong with that? I’ll take all the happy I can get, thank you very much.
My body wash scent is called “A Touch of Happiness.” Frankly, I think that’s a stupid name for a body wash. Not very ambitious. “We’re not going to claim to give you absolute happiness, complete happiness, or eternal happiness. No, no–you can just expect a touch of happiness when you use our body wash!”
But sometimes a touch of happiness is really all you need. And no, I know you don’t have to buy it. Sometimes it can be just seeing that cool hawk that sometimes frequents our backyard, sitting regally up there on the top of that pine tree. Or the way the sunlight comes in the windows of our house in the late afternoon. Or hot, good smelling clean clothes fresh out of the dryer. Those are all happy things that don’t really cost you anything. And if you’ve been having a lousy day or week or year, sometimes it is those little things that help you make it through, even for just a few more minutes.
But sometimes money can buy you that happiness. It can buy a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha for you and a friend. Or a new shower curtain. Or gas so you can go visit your favorite family member far away. Or a pedicure. Those things are happy. And they’re not free. And sometimes you just need one of them to get you through a world with a lot of unhappiness.
But just a touch. No need to go overboard. And of course people do. They suddenly believe that if they just keep getting that touch of happiness overandoverandoverandover again that maybe it’ll keep the unhappiness at bay. This is why we have “Hoarders”. Thankfully I think most of us know that happiness-free or purchased-is only temporary and isn’t going to last. But it’s nice to enjoy it while it’s here.
I guess that’s why we need heaven someday. I’m hoping for more than a touch of happiness in that case. And happiness that won’t need to be replenished. But for now, I will enjoy my shower curtain. And this nice cup of coffee. And my new jeans that came in the mail. And the 4 books I got from the library. Because they make me happy.
I’ve read three amazing blogs about the inauguration today.
This is not going to be one of them:)
If you want to read some really good and profound thoughts about Obama, God, and our nation, read todays posts from Donald Miller, Rachel Held Evans, and Matt Coulter. I will put the links to them at the end of my more shallow thoughts.
This will also not be as long as yesterday so breathe easy.
1) I don’t know how anyone could not be inspired by Barack Obama speaking. He’s good.
2) It was really cool to see all those people there supporting our president. After driving by an insanely offensive, crudely hand-drawn yard sign yesterday where Obama was dropping trou and giving America the finger, it was nice to be reminded that the majority of Americans voted for this man and that not everyone is in despair over what will happen in the next four years. It is also kind of validating (and shallow, I know) to feel like “your team” won. Trust me, I know–the Ravens are also in the Super Bowl so this is a good year for me (Sorry Matt Coulter, it’s been a rough few months for you I know!). I know, I know…ultimately it doesn’t matter but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t care and it didn’t feel good to be on the “winning” side. Now you know, I’m ridiculous. Sorry to burst your bubble.
3) By the same token, I am looking forward to the impending Apocalypse brought on by the Anti-Christ’s election. I was quite disappointed in the Mayan version…maybe this one will be more successful.
4) Beyonce sung the heck out of the National Anthem. Someone tweeted that her performance was “Surprisingly Understated”. Did you really think she was going to show up in a glittery catsuit surrounded by backup dancers and make get all bootylicious on your inaugural behind?
5) Again, that being said–it is a very strange world we live in where Jigga-H.O.V.A-Shawn-Carter-Jay-Z has a seat of honor at the Presidential Inauguration. Don’t get me wrong–I love me some Jay-Z. He’s one of my favorites to run to, especially. But it seems kind of weird that the guy behind “Big Pimpin'” is sitting up there on the dais with the worlds biggest leaders.
6) Sometimes I feel like I must be on a different planet from most conservatives. Our religious freedoms are being taken from us? It’s a war on Christianity? Wait—wasn’t there just a CHRISTIAN GUY saying a CHRISTIAN PRAYER at the swearing in of our country’s leader? How is that a war on Christianity? I for one take Obama at his word when he says he is a Christian. And as Christian myself I appreciate that. But that’s beside the point. You’re telling me its ok to alienate Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists…but God forbid we alienate Christians? I’m sorry but you lost me there.
And that’s all for today folks. For more poignant and well-written thoughts check out these posts:
You’ll be happy to know that this post isn’t going to be the entirely bitter post it started off as in my head this morning. It has a sort of, almost happy ending. The story is still being written but lets just say that as the course of the morning went on, what I was writing in my head took a different turn.
If you know me at all and have paid even the slightest bit of attention to anything I have said over the past couple of years, you have probably noticed that I have been going through a major crisis of faith. “Doubt” doesn’t really even begin to describe it…I was re-reading some Madeleine L’Engle a month or so ago and she used the term “attack of atheism” and I was like “Aha! Yes! That’s it exactly.” It was comforting to know that someone I respect as much as Madeleine L’Engle, someone who’s work has influenced my faith so much, regularly experienced dark times in her life such as the one I am currently embroiled in.
At church this morning we sang a hymn that reminded me of my old church, Emmaus Road, in Laramie. I’d first heard it there, and it was one of my favorites that Tony, our old worship leader, would sing regularly. It got me thinking about Emmaus, and the family and community I had there, and how instrumental the implosion of that community has been on the beating my faith has taken over the last 4 years.
We started going to Emmaus a couple months after we moved to Laramie. I will start out with the caveat that it was not, by any stretch, a perfect church. Bill and I weren’t “in love” with it…there were plenty of things that weren’t our preference, that we may have wished were different, that we would have changed. But in spite of those imperfections (which, is a perfect reflection of reality, isn’t it?) Emmaus was our church home. We kept going back, week after week. There was something about Raul’s very real, very honest preaching, and Tony’s inspired worship, that made us look beyond the quirky things about it and make it “ours”.
Beyond that–it was where we found a group of people who became our Wyoming family…our “Journey Group”, as we called it. Emmaus was real big on community…its certainly a buzzword in churches these days. But really, that’s so much what it was. We pretty quickly settled in to a group of about 8 of us adults who joined our lives together in a very real, very close way. They were the first people to find out I was pregnant with Xavier, Sandra was the first person I talked to after finding out I had kidney disease, Matt and Shelly came straight to our house to tell us they were pregnant with Eli (“You need to talk to so-and-so” became the code word for “they’re pregnant”:)). Shelly and Sandra and Whitney and Vanessa were there, right there in the room, watching me push Xavier out of my body, being there with our family. And as some folks moved on and Tod and Tammy and their family joined us, it was like we were all in this together. Laughing, crying, worrying, being afraid…it was all right there. We did Bible studies or we didn’t, it didn’t really matter. We were all in it together.
And then some things happened…they happen in every church, I suppose, changes, people leaving, moving on. I don’t know if our church’s changes were worse, because they involved the very real and painful challenges that our pastor, Raul was going through, that saw him withdrawing from ministry. But we lost him, the visionary for where Emmaus had set out to go at its start, and then slowly things and people started sloughing off as a result, with the new church being a very different one than the one we’d started out a part of. Yeah, it lost some of those “quirks” that we hadn’t necessarily appreciated. It wasn’t til they were gone that I realized that perhaps those quirks were what made it special in the first place.
And then came the morning that we found out that 2 of our small group members, Matt and Jon, were being let go from their positions with the church. It’s a long story, and everyone had their own interpretations of what really happened. But the bottom line is it was ugly. And it was painful. And the 4 families in our Journey Group found ourselves leaving Emmaus. For??? Not sure what. But we felt like we were in it together, there was solidarity and we believed we were doing the right thing.
You know, many people probably don’t see the value in being a part of a church. There are LOTS of reasons for this. Lots of good, valid reasons. Lots of selfish ones too. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. There was talk that maybe we could start our own home church, or a new church plant. We all tried various churches in town together which is always a ridiculous, awful experience. I never felt at home in any of them. Not even a tiny bit. Where I felt at home was when we were all together, sitting in someone’s living room, or at the park or in Vegas together or wherever, just talking, just sharing life and laughter and some alcohol:) and all that goes along with the mess in between.
But life is a mess. And what used to be a regular time of getting together got harder and harder to maintain. Weeks would go by where we wouldn’t meet, or only part of us could get together. Kids, activities, family, vacations, work, sickness…it seems like there was always one reason or another that we would go days, even weeks without seeing one another. The glue that held us together was not. I know I found myself feeling bitter and resentful…towards the people at our old church, and even towards my closest friends. Lack of fellowship makes room for all sorts of ugliness to creep in, jealousy, comparisons, hurt feelings…you name it. It’s kind of scary if you think about it.
And in the midst of all this, I start having all these doubts…about God, about everything I’d always believed in. Everything seemed to be coming crashing down, nothing seemed certain anymore. I looked at the world around me, I looked at the Bible, and nothing seemed to be jiving with my previous way of thinking. I saw the church with new eyes and I was rather disgusted to be considered “one of them”. Which makes finding a church to go to difficult. I’d be sitting there in a service, with all my doubts and questions and feeling utterly isolated and alone. I would listen to whatever pastor, going on with their sense of certainty and “I have all the answers” and it just left me cold. And I felt like I was surrounded by people who had a certainty about God and faith that I lacked, and that, if I’m being honest-I totally judged them for it. Now, the rare times I’d get together with our closest friends we’d talk and I’d realize I wasn’t alone and I’d feel somewhat better, but those times seemed more and more rare and difficult to capture. I found myself getting more out of a long run on a Sunday morning than a church service. I looked to music, books, people’s blogs to find truth and meaning and reassurance.
I certainly found that, to some extent, but there was also something lacking, that community I think we all need and want. And I was still–AM still–bitter and angry at the people who I see as facilitators of my church family falling apart.
And that’s where I found myself this morning as we started singing that song, that song that reminded me of Emmaus. I was feeling mad and sad and still grieving for that loss. I think one of the reasons I was so hell-bent on getting out of Wyoming was because I knew that my “community” there was largely gone and I wanted to be the one to leave, not to be the one left. You know, break up with them before they break up with you. And that is a yucky, bad, bad feeling to have.
And then I started thinking more–would I have had this crisis of faith if things had remained the same at Emmaus? It’s possible, of course, but I think it would’ve been easier if I’d felt like I had more of a cushion of people to fall back on, to help me through my wrestling. I mean, my friends were there but they also weren’t, if that makes any sense. I needed more consistency than I had, I think. And I think feeling adrift in a church community sense made my questions and doubts feel that much more agonizing without a good place to hash them out.
But as I sat there in church this morning, listening to Mike preach, I realized that a few things have happened since we’ve moved to Maryland. First–we’ve gone to church every week. That hasn’t happened in a few years. Second–I haven’t hated it. There are definitely weeks when I’m not entirely there, most of the time I don’t feel like singing, and sometimes those voices pop up with the cynicism, there in the back of my head. But more often than not I find myself feeling like I’m at least standing on the doorstep of a warm, welcoming place, rather than looking at it from a far, dark hill feeling cold, lonely and judgmental.
And why is this?? It’s because of the people. Because at this church there’s Chris and Janell, who have listened to lots of my rants and know pretty much exactly where I stand on things and I think they like me anyway and I think they might even be on the same page a lot of times. Because there’s Mike and Marypat, who we’ve known a long time, and I have never once not felt warmly welcomed by them. Because of Uncle Bob and Aunt Nell who, while I may not ever reveal to them the depths of my depravity, always seem happy to see me and are so kind to my family and children. And because of Mike, the pastor, who I only actually met today, and yet he has been kinder to me than some people I’ve known for a very long time, and I’m sure its not true but it certainly feels like he’s speaking directly to me most weeks, because the vast majority of his words are hitting me right where I am right now. Which may be a coincidence, or…
Do you spy it? Do you see God in there? Lurking around there in the background like when you see something in your peripheral vision but you just can’t quite catch it, no matter how fast you whip your head around.
I’m not 100% certain. About anything. But I do believe God is still there, showing me he is still there. Not in big dramatic ways, but in small ways that I actually have to pay attention to notice. That I have to take the focus off myself for a half second to see.
I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot. But its like I can see the first little green shoots on the dead tree branches. I spy.
I don’t know about you, but when someone says “mid-life crisis”, I think of an older, balding guy, with a bit of a paunch, who goes out and buys a hot new convertible and starts chasing after the cute secretary at work. Definitely a media-contrived image. I am none of those things.
I think all of us go through a lot of different crises in our lives, at various stages (I know there’s some psychological theory of this, I’m sure of it. Piaget?? No, Erikson, right?), but since I’m pretty much in “mid-life” and definitely having a “crisis”, this is where my head is at right now.
I’m thinking that perhaps the reason many of us struggle when we hit 40 is that we’re not where we thought we’d be, for one thing. When you’re 20 and getting ready to get out of college and start some career, 40 seems so far away. It seems so old and established. It feels like surely you’ll have it all together by that ripe old age.
And then the years fly by and you get to that ripe old age and you’re more confused than ever. I think as we grow, as we age, we realize that life isn’t the black and white picture we think it is when we’re younger and less experienced. Our experiences in the workplace, as parents, spouses, humans show us–or should, anyway–that there are so many shades of grey in that picture, and that the picture of life and the world is far more complex and varied than we had realized. It’s like we are seeing better and more clearly on the one hand, and yet in seeing that we realize that we really can’t see clearly at all. It’s like we get the vision to recognize that our vision sucks.
There’s a line in a Ben Fold’s song that I love…”You get smaller while the world gets big. The more you know, you know you don’t know sh–.” It’s like the more we see, experience and learn the less we actually know. And that’s a pretty disconcerting thing. It shakes your confidence in yourself and your abilities, in the people and the world around you, and, if you believe in God, I daresay it will shake your faith and belief in God too.
Those years between college and 40 fly by faster than you ever imagined. You change in ways you couldn’t have foreseen. All the judgement and criticism you had for other people suddenly reflects back at you, and it’s not always a pretty picture. People around you have started to get sick, maybe cancer or MS or something. People you know actually start dying (if you were lucky enough to have avoided that up to this point). You start to get cracks. Cracks in the foundation of everything you think your life stands on.
Anyone knows that if your home’s foundation has cracks, you’re in trouble. Something needs to be fixed and pronto, or else its all going to come crashing down on you. Some of us are good at fixing those cracks. Some of us just shove some caulk or something in there in hopes that they will just go away. (Did you ever do that at college? Use toothpaste to fill in the holes you’d made in the walls? Cosmetically it worked but…)
I feel like I’ve gone from cracks in the foundation to a major home renovation. Like with the cracks the walls came down all around me and I now have to start over from scratch. With a whole new foundation even.
I’m hoping that the end result will be better than the one before. One of the blogs I follow is titled “Unfinished 1”, and the most recent post there was about how the author is still unfinished, still a work in progress. And will always be a work in progress. Maybe the different crises in our lives are chances for rebuilding, for reframing things and making them stronger and better. So that perhaps the next “earthquake” that comes along won’t shake the walls down entirely.
I’m trusting that the contractor hasn’t taken off mid-renovation. I feel like the foundation is being re-poured, and while it’s certainly not set yet, I’m seeing progress. Small, microscopic progress. This is a project that is going to take a while. And it’ll definitely need repairs and additions along the way. But hopefully it’ll end up being more functional than the original.
That was a really drawn out analogy. It’s probably trite and sucky, but it’s working for me right now and making me feel less crazy. Less crisis-y. More hopeful.
Let me start out by saying I hate the word “humbleness.” Is that even a word? I don’t think it is. The word you’re looking for when you use the jacked up word “humbleness” is humility. You need a dose of humility. You ask God for humility. Don’t use humbleness. It sounds crazy ignorant.
Ok, that wasn’t judgmental at all.
So I’m reading Anne Lamott’s newest book “Help, Thanks, Wow” right now, which may I just say is a beautiful gem of a book. I will definitely be adding it to my permanent collection as it is something I will want to reference. I may actually read through it another time before I shoot it back at the library. Just wonderful. But I had a “Thanks” moment today at work. It was more like a “Holy sh–, THANK YOU.”
You see, I almost dumped a bowl of soup on a woman’s head. Hot soup. Hot creamy mushroom bisque soup.
One of the part time jobs I have currently is as a server at a nice little restaurant in a quaint little downtown-y area where I live. How did I acquire this job you ask? Well, Bill’s cousin is the Assistant Manager. And he’s really nice. And he might have just felt a little bad for me. So he gave me a job. I’ve been working there for about a month and with Christmas and holiday parties and all I haven’t actually taken tables by myself until today.
Now, I’m not totally a stranger to waiting tables…I worked at 2 different restaurants just after college. Which was only about 20 years ago, nearly. But I’m not totally unfamiliar with the job. And hey, my entire life revolves around serving 4 other people, so I’d say I’m well-suited to the task. But it is a little nerve-wracking to be carefully placing food and drink in front of other people. Especially when you’re kind of squeezing around behind one chair to serve another person, trying not to trip over people’s coats and purses that are hanging off the back of their chairs…my hands shake a little bit, I confess. Call it performance anxiety.
So today I’m serving a guy his wrap and cup of soup, leaning over and around the lady sitting next to him. In my other hand is a bowl of mushroom bisque, sitting nicely on a doily on a plate. As I’m leaning, reaching over, of course, my entire body is leaning with me. As I turn my head, I realize the soup in my left hand has slid on its pretty doily to the edge of the plate and the soup inside is starting to slosh over the edge a little bit and the entire works is teetering directly over this woman’s head. I straightened my hand, straightened myself, served the soup to its rightful owner and went on with no one the wiser.
Breathing a very relieved, “THANKS” to God for keeping me from that faux pas. I would have about died. I most certainly would have cried.
As anyone who has been in a job search will tell you, there’s nothing like looking for jobs to make you feel like a totally worthless human being. Since we moved to Maryland 2 months ago, I’ve been in search of some meaningful, part-time job that would use my skills and experience to the best of my ability, all within a mom-friendly schedule.
Instead I have applied for a bunch of jobs that were mediocre, at best, none of which I heard a single peep about once my resume was sent. I got the server position because Chris is very kind and I’ve also been substitute teaching, again because I have connections at the school. Neither job is very consistent, and both come with their lessons in humility. (Subbing will get its own entire post, just wait.)
It is very humbling to be 40 years old, with a college degree and working at a restaurant. With the exception of the owner, I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest one in there (at least, of the people I’ve met.). It helps that everyone thought I was under 30 when I started…they know better now but you can bet your sweet petunias that I’m staying on top of my hair color. Everyone is super nice to me…I appreciate that tremendously. I can’t help but wonder though if people think I’m kind of pathetic in there, like I can’t get anything better.
Well. I can’t.
I fluctuate between being jealous of everyone there for being young and unattached and not having to worry about kids and mortgages and all the trappings of my very traditional life, and being very thankful that I’m not 25 and single and renting and being a hip and non-suburban, non-mom. I go back and forth between enjoying working there (it’s fun and social and everyone’s nice) and feeling rather pathetic and wondering what I’m doing there.
Well, what I’m doing there is trying my darndest to take care of my family. I think what I’ve realized through this is that there’s nothing I am too good for when it comes to taking care of my family. We’re in a position where I need to help out financially. That’s just the reality of our life right now. And if that means waiting tables then that’s what it means. With the kids still needing me around I am limited in what I can reasonably do right now, and this job is perfect time-wise. I’m not making a million dollars, but it’s better than nothing, and every little bit helps, right? Maybe its pathetic to some people, maybe someone would say “You’re better than that”. What am I supposed to do though, sit around waiting for the perfect situation to come along?
The other day I was driving the kids to school and we got stuck behind the trash truck. The guys were hopping off and grabbing the trash and throwing it in. It was cold. It was trash. I just thought about these men, spending the day with our trash, day in, day out, hot and cold weather, rainy and snowy and windy. Getting our trash. Is that what they dreamed about growing up? Probably not. But they are presumably taking care of themselves, taking care of their families by doing a job that most people would disdain.
I’ve seen a lot of posts recently on Facebook that were about panhandlers, or people on welfare, etc. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t poor people out there who are cheaters and liars and lazy and just looking for a handout. There are plenty of wealthy people who would fit that description too. I guess in a roundabout way what I’m getting at in this post is that we need to really be humble about our circumstances. That things could change. That we aren’t too good for a particular job. That we aren’t better than someone else. That we need to keep ourselves grounded and let that affect how we interact with the people around us. Whether we’re a trash collector or a CEO.
Just don’t call it humbleness.