Mar 012010
 

Welcome back, friends.

I’ve receive many messages recently from readers confessing their feelings of anger and jealousy, and their guilt that these feelings are “un-Monkee like.” I’d like to talk about that today.

If these relentless feelings of anger, jealousy, and fear are Un-Monkee like, then I’m no Monkee. Because I experience those feelings every single day. I have tried to avoid them for years with absolutely no effect, and based on your emails it seems that many of you are in the same boat. My guess is that we will always have these yucky feelings …because Monkees are human, which is a funny thing to say.

Here’s the hopeful news. I don’t think a Monkee is a Monkee because she doesn’t have jerky, self righteous feelings. I think a Monkee is a Monkee because she examines those feelings and herself before acting on them. A Monkee is a Monkee because she takes some time to think and breathe before adding more messiness to the world.

The difference between jerkiness and unjerkiness for me is time. When I feel self righteous and I react immediately, I always, always, hurt others or myself. But when I wait, when I give God some time to work on my heart before responding, something magical happens in that space. I become a better version of myself. And then I can respond confidently and kindly. Better, more neatly, truer. With less mess to clean up later.

I learned two of my favorite prayers, “help” and “thank you,” from Anne Lamotte. My third favorite prayer is the one I pull out of my pocket when I’m stuck in an angry, resentful, self righteous place. It’s the one I pray when I feel my heart tighten and my eyes narrow and my mind close…the one I pray when I catch myself villianizing another human being…or plotting to make like Scooby Doo and publicly expose someone for the dirty scoundrel I’ve decided she is. That prayer is this: Fine. Come in.” I usually say this to God through clenched teeth while making fists, furrowing my eyebrows and stomping. But He accepts the half-hearted invitation into my icky- clenchy place. He comes in and rearranges things and unclenches me a little and eventually I am able to breathe again and see other people and myself more clearly.

I started learning about this time and space phenomena from my wise friend Amy, the co-author of my teaching book. She and I worked together, closely and tiredly, for years on that book. We survived marathon writing sessions and deadlines and differences in visions and opinions and never once had a conflict that wasn’t resolved swiftly, maturely and completely. Here’s why. Every time I did or said something annoying or offensive or aggressive, Amy would cock her head and say gently, “You know, I’m going to take some time to process through that, and I’ll get back to you.” And then the conversation would be over. Amy would NOT fight with me. This confused me greatly. I used to think…GOOD LORD Just say what you think, say what you feel! What the heck is there to process? Eventually, of course, I realized that Amy was a genius.

Jesus used Amy’s strategy, too, you know. He was human, so he experienced all of the same yucky emotions we do. When I read the gospels I notice how many times Jesus leaves his friends and goes off by himself to pray. I imagine that before walking away, Jesus said to some annoying disciple, “You know…I’m going to take some time to process through that, and I’ll get back to you.” Then he walked into the forest with his fists clenched muttering Fine. Come in. Jesus didn’t have a problem with righteous anger. But he certainly didn’t have a lot of patience for the self- righteous kind. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. (Not really, but that’s what I tell myself when I’m feeling self righteous.) The good news is that time helps me distinguish between the two. My self righteous anger tends to fade with time and prayer and perspective, but the righteous kind strengthens. For example, when I’m mad at my friend for a perceived slight and I wait, it usually fades. But when I’m mad at the world for allowing children to die of malnutrition, there’s no fading. Sometimes it’s important not to be bothered about the wrong things so we have the time and energy to be bothered about the right things.

Monkees have the same feelings, the same internal responses, as everyone else…Monkees just know that the time it takes to slide on a pair of Perspectacles is usually time well spent. Monkees know that sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want now, which is war, to get what we ultimately want, which is peace. We Monkees give ourselves the time and space we need to create a wise response. Because our knee jerk reactions are not the real Us. The real Us is a bit wiser. And wisdom is slow. Which is why the only advice I ever, ever give a friend when she’s in conflict with another human being is: “Do what you need to do, and I’ll support you. Just consider waiting 24 hours before doing it.” Because everybody’s got God in ‘em, which means people generally know what to do. They just need time to know.

There is always a right way to say what we need to say and a wrong way to say it. There is a way that will invite more light and reconciliation and a way that will invite more darkness and polarization.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A hero is no braver than the average person, but he is brave five minutes longer.” I would suggest that a Monkee is no kinder or wiser than the average person, but she is quiet five minutes longer.

Have a great day Sweet Monkees.

Love, G


Mar 032010
 

Last weekend, Chase and I were grocery shopping in the produce section and he was having a blast weighing each new bag of vegetables I collected. I handed him a bag of tomatoes and he walked over to the scale and waited patiently in line. As I watched, an elderly man walked up behind Chase, scowled at him for a moment, and stepped in front of him, bumping Chase out of the way. Chase looked shocked and scared. I left my cart and walked over to Chase, stood by him and said loudly, “Are you all right honey? I saw what that man did to you. That was very, very wrong and rude.” Chase said nothing, the Grumpy Old man said nothing. Chase and I held hands and waited.

When the man was finished weighing his bag, he turned around quickly and all of his onions spilled out of his bag and on to the dirty floor. The three of us froze for a moment. Then Chase looked up at me and I motioned toward the floor. Chase and I got down on our hands and knees and started collecting onions while the old man grouchily and grudgingly accepted them from our hands and put them back into his bag. After Chase and I retrieved the last onion, the old man walked away. Chase and I did too, and we didn’t discuss the event until we got back in the car.

On the drive home, Chase said through tears, “Mommy, I’ve had a frustrating day. That man cut right in front of me and that was wrong. And we had to help him pick up his onions! Why did we do that? That didn’t make any sense.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Chase, that man was acting horribly wasn’t he? He seemed to have a very angry heart. I’m so sorry that happened to you. But if we didn’t help him with his onions, do you think we would have made his heart softer or angrier?”

Angrier, Chase said.

“Since we did help him, do you think that might have made his heart softer?”

“Maybe,” Chase said.

“But you know what, Chase? I understand how you feel. I didn’t want to help that man with his onions. You know what I wanted to do?”

“What?”

“I wanted to kick him really hard in the shin. I was very angry with that man for treating you badly. But sometimes doing what we really want to do, if it’s going to add more anger, isn’t the right thing to do. Even if it feels good at the time. If we wouldn’t have helped that old man, we might have felt good for a second, but then I bet we would have felt really, really yucky about ourselves for a long time. You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love. ”

And then this brilliant smile broke out on Chase’s face that was the smile of a heart recognizing the truth. It was a smile of a promise kept. It was the best smile I have ever seen, on any of my children. It was a smile that said: Oh, I see. Sometimes we actually do what we talk about doing. And this is how it feels.

God, it was a good moment. It may have been my best mommy moment ever.

Thanks, Grumpy Old Onion Man.


Peace,

G




Mar 032010
 


Monkees, meet…. Jennifer M, who sent this essay after I suggested that that the only guest post rule is no writing about me. But as you will learn today, nobody is the boss of Jennifer. She handles her business, this lady. She’s a full time single mom and a full time career woman and when the going gets tough, she keeps laughing and praying. She’s honest and funny and kind and tough and I’m proud to know her.


Jennifer M

(This is actually Jennifer A, not M, but the resemblance is ridiculous.)


I’ve never been one to follow rules, so regarding the “rule” that Momastery set for me about not writing about our creator, well, you can just go to the kitchen, find a fork, and stick it in your eye. Get over it, you can’t tell me what I am not allowed to write about. So there, nani nani boo boo!

I wish I could write like Glennon or Adrianne or Chimmy. I hate and love to write. I love it because it’s my form of therapy, I hate it because I read other people’s stuff and think “Damn, I really should have paid more attention in English class.”

A year ago when a friend of mine finally (let’s call her Gwenin) got on facebook and accepted my friend request (insert silent yippee) I looked through her pictures. There was one picture I think I must have looked at for a good ten minutes. It was the picture of her at her church’s holiday play; the one where she played the Virgin Mary.

In high school I had friends in every group, I didn’t discriminate but I also didn’t do things that weren’t perceived as “cool” and church I thought wasn’t cool. I think I was a senior when I stopped going and became one of those holiday worshipers, you know the one’s that only going for Easter & Christmas.

When I had my daughter I wanted to go back but I was scared. I was a single mom from the time my daughter was 4 months old. I got pregnant with a guy I barely knew. Something I’m not proud of but something I will never regret. I won’t lie, abortion went through my mind, but I was more scared of having an abortion then actually having the baby. He moved in with me and then the tornado hit, or maybe I should say Tsunami because that’s more devastating than a tornado. The man I was with, the father of my daughter was an alcoholic and was a mean one at that. I was scared. There were several times where he wouldn’t come home at night. Several times when he did come home drunk, I learned to stay clear of him until he sobered up. There wasn’t a single night that I didn’t pray, a single night that I didn’t ask, “what do I do?” I was scared for myself, scared for my unborn child, but I stayed, because I was more scared of raising a child by myself.

No one knew what was going on. I couldn’t tell anyone. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Once our daughter was born I hoped and prayed that things would change. Eventually I realized that they wouldn’t. The night he laid his final hand on me, I was holding our baby, and after that, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I felt a strength inside me that I knew was coming from up above. I knew I had to leave (ok, well I didn’t leave because let’s be honest, moving sucks and it was my place first, so I kicked him out), but I did it and I did it knowing that I was going to be a single mom. I was ok with that because I wasn’t going to raise my daughter around violence, and I knew God was ok with my decision, too.

Like I said before, I needed help. Years had past and I continued to pray every night but stayed on the course of being a great holiday worshiper. I got married when my daughter was 4 to a wonderful man who was raised in the church, who went on missions every year building houses on Indian reservations, who came from a great family with great values. When I was 8 months pregnant with our son, he decided to come clean and tell me that he was an alcoholic (he wasn’t a mean drunk though, for which I am truly thankful for). Seriously God, I know you never give us more then we can handle, but I think you have me confused with someone else. My questions once again were why? Why me? How can this be happening AGAIN? I didn’t grow up with parents that drank; I never had alcohol in my fridge and after dealing with my daughter’s father how could I have not seen the signs going on under my own roof? My therapist loves my life. I think I just bought her a new car.

I needed help now more then ever. Once again I was dealing with the fact that I was going to be a single mom. I won’t bore you with the details but we did separate.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to the Catholic Church, I thought for sure there wasn’t a chance that the Catholics would want me, so I started to look at other religions. I even went to Mormon services and I absolutely loved the services. I felt like they accepted my kids behavior and didn’t banish us to the sound proof room off to the side of the church because they had something to say or were crying or laughing or just fidgeting; it didn’t matter because, well Mormons have a lot of kids so they are all used to the noise.

After months of attending the Mormon Church and thinking that it was the right place for us I didn’t join because I thought it wasn’t the “cool” thing to do and plus it would have upset my parents. I’m 33 years old and I still care about what my parents will think.

And then I saw my friend’s picture, the one where she was dressed as the Virgin Mary. Now I assume this is the part where our friend Gwenin should go grab a fork. Go ahead; we’ll wait for you to find a fork. You do have forks in your house, right? Gwenin is one of the reasons I started going back to church and I don’t think she should be embarrassed by knowing this or me telling the rest of the Monkees this. I thought if Gwenin can go to church then it’s obvious that going to church really is the “cool” thing to do.

I did eventually choose to go back to the Catholic Church after many months of talking and praying and finding a church where I felt comfortable. And you know what? Those sound proof rooms are kind of a blessing and I don’t mind them so much anymore. I don’t think they are trying to banish us because our kids are loud, I think they just want everyone to be able to hear the message and I am thankful that I can still hear the service in those sound proof rooms and my kids can still be kids.

I do struggle with all the rules of the Catholic Church; I still have my own beliefs and I will teach those beliefs to my children. I will teach them that love is love no matter what. I know that God would never ever turn His back on me because I don’t fully agree with the way the Bible is translated. God made me with a strong will and I think that was for a good reason, although my Mom would tell you I’m just being stubborn.

I feel so grateful and honored to be a part of this group of Monkees. It reminds me of the online group I joined when I first got pregnant with my daughter. It was a group of women from around the world who were all due to have babies in March of 2002. We lost some ladies through the years but there are still seventeen of us who have remained faithful to the friendships created almost nine years ago. They are my sisters and the best friends I could ever have and I have only had the chance to meet one of them in person. To have that bond with a bunch of women over the internet is an incredible feeling and such a blessing. I’m glad to see that I have found and belong to another group that seems to be headed in the same direction.

Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

*******************


Mothers are warriors and Jennifer is proof.

Jennifer had these bumper stickers made for us, so that we could vehicularly declare our Monkee intentions to the world.



Aren’t they amazing? I love how they say “I” am trying not to be a jerk instead of our usual “We” are trying not to be jerks because honestly, I usually feel like the only one in my car trying very hard, and so I don’t think my kids should get any credit.

The stickers cost $4 and Jennifer has Paypal, for convenience. If you’d like one, email her at niffiee43(at)yahoo(dot)com.



**ALSO** Jennifer and I are giving away two free stickers! Tomorrow morning we will randomly choose one new follower and one commenter from today to win a free sticker! Come out and play, Monkees!

Have a great day, sisters.

G and J





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