Jul 032014
 

Begin Again

Originally posted February 13, 2013

I wrote this 16 months ago, in the middle of the implosion of my marriage. As I read it today, I felt so proud of this woman I was, this brave woman who kept breathing and showing up. It is so important to stop and look back on your past self and feel awed by her. And- when you are in the middle of the fire- it’s important to stop and consider your future self- who will look back on this difficult time from a safer, fuller place- and who will be awed by your mighty courage. For gathering it all up and using it to get her from there to here.

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This morning feels like starting over, in every brutal and beautiful way.

So after I got the kids off to school, I sat at my kitchen table thinking about other times I’ve started something new. And I looked back at the first post I ever wrote for this blog.

Do you remember, years ago, when folks were writing “25 Things About Me” lists and posting them on Facebook? When I saw that people were doing that, I decided to write my own list. So without really reading anyone else’s lists, I wrote mine during Chase’s nap time and I posted it.

And THEN I read my friend’s lists. And I thought, OH. CRAP.

Because, for example, here was MY #5 –  5. I am a recovering alcoholic and bulimic. 7 years sober…so in many ways I’m actually 7 years old. Sometimes I miss excess booze and food, in the same indescribable way you can miss someone who abused you and repeatedly left you for dead.

And here was my best friend’s #5 – 5. My favorite game is Bunco!

And so I panicked because I realized pretty quickly that I’d done it wrong. That we weren’t supposed to get that personal. And so I tried to delete my list but  I couldn’t. It was already OUT THERE.  So I turned off my computer and vowed to never, ever turn it on again for the rest of my whole entire life.

But of course that night, with one eye open and trembling hands, I did check Facebook. And I saw that my inbox was full.  Full of messages from friends and acquaintances thanking me for putting it all out there. I read people’s stories that they’d written and sent to me well into the night, until my eyes started crossing from exhaustion, actually.

And that night I decided to start writing. I decided that maybe it was something the world needed that I could actually do.

And here we are.

So anyway, I thought today might be the PERFECT day to review and update my “25 Things About Me.”  My old 2008 answers are in bold and my new 2013 answers are in italics.

Thanks for hanging with a sister, friends.

Love,
G

1. I believe in grace because I share my home with proof of its existence.

Still true, but I’ve learned that I share the whole world with proof of grace’s existence. The older I get, the more deeply I understand that every-damn-body is my family. Exhausting, but comforting. 

2. We got rid of our TV service a few months ago. The quiet is strange, but nice.

What the hell was I thinking? I have come to understand that there are things that are bad for me that I love. And no one can make me stop these things because no one is the boss of me. These things include Twizzlers, Diet Coke, chocolate, and trash TV. I know that I should not ingest these things, but at thirty six, I have finally agreed to just be how I am instead of trying, constantly, to be how I should be. About TV- I love it. I LOVE you, TV.  I get lonely, and TV makes me feel less so. And after a long day of thinking and living, I’m so tired. And I need a numbing tool. HGTV, Bravo. . . numbing tools. No thinking required. At the end of the day,  even sitcoms are too hard for me. From the hours of 8:30- 9:30 what I really need is something that requires nothing of me. My TV will be taken from me again out of my cold, dead hands.

3. I have no idea how I survived the first three years of my life without my sister. It seems as impossible as living without lungs.

I can’t even address this one right now. These days, she’s breathing for me.

4. I published a book a while back, and I want to write a second, more personal one. But I’m having trouble getting started, because I’m afraid everything I write will be wrong, or self-serving, or immature.

I did it. I wrote my book. I don’t know if my book is right, but I know it’s not wrong. It’s probably a little self-serving and a little immature.  But it’s also others-serving and mature. Like each and every person –  it’s a lot of things at once. I’m okay with that. I don’t want my book to be perfect, I just want it to be true and hopeful. Like me.

5. I am a recovering alcoholic and bulimic. 7 years sober…so in many ways I’m actually 7 years old. Sometimes I miss excess booze and food, in the same indescribable way you can miss someone who abused you and repeatedly left you for dead.

Eleven years sober. And I don’t miss booze anymore. Actually, maybe a little. Never mind. I still do. 

Food- I’m still healing. Bulimia raises its crazy head every year or so. I panic, screw up, and then start over. It’s okay. I’m okay.

6. I am afraid of my temper like it’s some other person over whom I have no control.

Hm. I’d like to talk more about this anger issue this year. I’m wondering if what I thought was anger might have really been anxiety. Or are they the same thing? Maybe unresolved anger turns into anxiety? I don’t know. I spent some time on a serious anti- anxiety med this year and it was heaven. But then when I went off of it, it was hell. Marianne Williamson says that in all of history, now is not the time for we women to medicate our feelings away. That we are anxious and depressed for a reason, and we need to make changes in our world instead of numbing ourselves. I get that, but I don’t know. I’ve gotta believe that some of what I experience is chemical and not just circumstantial.

 I’m still on an anti-depressant…I’ve tried to live without it and my life doesn’t work. The whole world turns into a Vegas casino…I feel inundated by visual and audio stimulation and I’m just…jumpy and anxious and then really angry. It’s no good. I’m no good. So this one- not sure. I know they say that All You Need Is Love, but I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I need Love and Lexapro.

7. I believe strongly in downsizing, in simplicity. The people I respect most in the world are those who quietly choose to live with less so that others might have more. Unfortunately, I conveniently forget this daily as I drive to the mall to buy more crap. One of my most frequent and fervent prayers is that one day what I do and want will match what I respect and believe.

Um…I don’t know about this one. I agree ideologically but in real life….Well, today I’m heading to IKEA to buy some colorful crap. Crappy times call for a major lowering of one’s self- expectations.

8. I have never, ever, said the word f-a-r-t out loud.

I have. My kids say it so often now that the fart word has lost the power it had on me for the first thirty five years of my life.

Fart.

9. I am an insomniac, and a caffeine/sugar addict, and refuse to admit that they could be related.

I sleep now. I sleep. Without sleeping drugs, for the first time in my life. It’s a miracle to me, actually. I’m still a sugar addict.

10. I am a crappy Christian, which I’m pretty sure is the only honest kind. Nonetheless, I’m deeply in love with Jesus, and I think he’s wild about my crazy self too.

Yup.

11. I would finally rather be kind than cool. But both is the dream.

I’m not sure I care about being cool anymore. I think warm is better. I’m there. I’m warm. Every day I work on keeping a soft heart while developing tough skin. Hard.

12. Craig is the only human being who could have healed me. We are opposites in many ways, but we want and love the exact same things. I have chosen never to stop falling in love with him, and I’m more grateful that he has made the same choice than for anything else. I am also comforted by the fact that he is contractually obligated to love me, and that without me, he could never, ever find his shoes.

Shit. Well, no matter what happens, I consider my marriage a raving success. We’re both in better places, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than we were when we married. Our marriage made the world a better place, because we made three interesting children who I believe will make a difference – who already do, actually. Plus, during the past few months I have learned to forgive like I’ve never had to before, to Warrior On like I’ve never had to before, and I’ve learned what it feels like to offer another human being amazing grace. I’ve received it before, but never offered it. I have now. What an experience.

13. I want to like animals, but I really don’t. At all.

I love animals with every inch of my being. My dogs broke my heart open in this area. We moved to Florida this year because of my health, and I haven’t made any friends yet who live within twenty miles of my new house. So my dogs keep me company. They love me, they snuggle me, they stay with me when I’m sick and they don’t give a damn whether I write well or look good or say the right things. They just need me to show up. I love them. I just breathe them in.

14. I don’t know how to do anything in moderation. Or how to keep an even keel. I am either very high or very low.

My medication is helping a little with this, but I also think I’ll always be high and low. Usually in the same day – sometimes the same moment. Chase calls this happy/sad state of being feeling “sappy.” I’m sappy. It’s okay. A girl can be a little loopy and still move mountains. These days I’m working within my personality instead of constantly fighting against it.

15. I want to do big things for God, like adopting an orphan, but have trouble even doing little things for God, like not being a jerk.

These days, not being a jerk requires every bit of energy a sister has. Not being a jerk IS a big thing.

16. I love classrooms and children. I run a preschool where my students and I practice being patient and kind.

No more teaching for me, but it’s funny – now the whole world seems like a place to practice being patient and kind. And this blog. I feel like this blog is my classroom now. It gives me opportunities every day to be patient and open-minded and listen for the love and pain behind folks’ words.

17. I can’t listen to the first few notes of Amazing Grace without feeling like the wind’s been knocked out of me.

Still love Amazing Grace, but I’m more of a Mumford and Sons girl these days. Every song of theirs feels like a prayer. It’s almost too much for me sometimes . . .listening to them is like looking straight into the sun. It hurts it’s so bright.

18. I want more children, but most days I don’t have enough energy for the three I already have. I think I might want more babies just because I love naming them.

I do NOT want any more children.  GOOD CALL ON THAT ONE, GOD. Naming lasts nine months. Bedtime lasts for-freaking-ever.

19. I am way too confrontational. I’m working hard on offering grace to people, and ridding myself of the belief that everyone should get what he deserves, except for me.

My ego is shrinking and my compassion is growing. This is proof that the past five years have been years well spent. I believe that everyone, everyone deserves grace. It’s all or nothing, grace. Scandalous. 

20. Some mornings Craig and I meet for coffee at the kitchen table before the kids are up, and read the Bible and talk about Jesus. This is my favorite way to start a day.

Confusing to me, this one. I’ll save it for another day.

21. Years ago Craig and I vowed never to brag about ourselves or our kids to anyone other than grandparents. Keeping this promise is harder than it should be. I often find myself thinking about how amazing I am for being so humble, so there you have it.

I honestly can’t even imagine caring about this. I still don’t brag about my kids, but it seems silly to take a “stand” on it. Also, the more “stands” I take, the more life eventually slaps me upside the head and reminds me to stop taking stands and just be kind.

22. Craig thinks I torment myself and others with my tendency to analyze (judge) everyone and everything. To that I say, whatever.

I am learning to let folks be who they are. But I still have a hard time understanding unkindness for unkindness’ sake.

23. I don’t handle criticism well.

I dealt with more criticism this past year than I did in the thirty-six years preceding it, which is saying a lot, since I grew up with Bubba.  I still don’t handle criticism well, meaning that I haven’t yet learned how to keep it from hurting and throwing me into a dirty, bottomless well of self-doubt.

24. I am unable and unwilling to sustain relationships with people who talk but don’t really listen, or with people who boast. I always break up with them, regardless of gender. Again, working on #19.

I’m not sure of this one. I don’t really have a social life anymore. Kids/work/health. That’s about it. It’s okay, I know life is about seasons. I’ll let you know how I’m doing with this one as soon as I spend some real life time with real life people again.

25. I was never truly happy a full day in my life before I met Craig, and since I met him I don’t think I’ve spent a full day unhappy. I find this both pathetic and perfect.

Well, this is no longer true. I’ve spent plenty of days unhappy during the past six months. But I am happy for the girl who wrote this list five years ago. Number 25 makes me smile for her. It’s good to have and remember peaceful seasons in life, because those memories are promises that those seasons will come again. I don’t know if I believe in all happy or all sad anymore. I’m sappy. In more ways than one.

26. NEW ONE FOR 2013!

Life is hard. Not because I am doing it wrong, just because it’s hard. But I know, deep down, that it’s all a gift. Every excruciating experience – each is an invitation to walk deeper into truth, into life. And that’s what’s happening to me today. I’m growing – I can feel it. And I am going to be okay – not because of any decisions I make or don’t make, but because of the grace of God. There is no door I can open that God won’t be standing behind, waiting to usher me through.

Monkees – I am still and I know.

We are all going to be okay. We’ll get through this, and whatever else that comes our way.  Together.

I am not afraid. I was born to do this. –  Joan of Arc



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jul 022014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 2: Authenticity

A guest post by Lisa Mullen

SunIt was going to be amazing.

I had my children’s childhood all planned out so perfectly.

It wasn’t that it would actually be perfect. It’s just that I knew exactly what they needed to create some amazing memories and a beautiful beginning. There would be slumber parties with cousins and trips to Grandma and Papa’s cottage. There would be lots of playing outside and games with all their neighborhood friends. We would play sports for fun, not competitively. I knew they probably wouldn’t be athletes, as we are not. But they would be on soccer teams and we would go hiking all the time.

There would be Bible camp and church friends, youth group and ski trips. We would definitely teach them that the world did not revolve around them and maybe we would live in the city, just as I had. They would be surrounded by racial and socio-economic diversity and what amazing lessons they would learn. They would get good grades and have at least one or two really good school friends. We wouldn’t let them have any electronics but we would use our money to take them on some fantastic family vacations. We would definitely camp out on the east coast and take a 3-week road trip, exploring out west.

Oh man, It was going to be great.

We would hand them a neatly packaged faith because we had been through it all. We knew they would have questions, but we were here to guide and give the answers. Our faith would continue to grow and evolve into something beautiful and we would have a community of like-minded friends to surround our kids, guiding them through this faith process as well.

Wow, they were going to be happy.

I was not stupid. I knew we would have good days and bad. But we would make cookies and talk. We would watch movies and forget about the cares of a hard week. We would find a refuge in each other if the going got tough. There would always be a soft place to fall in our home. No matter what came our way, we had each other.

So, pretty much, I had planned their childhood to look exactly like mine. I took out all the hard parts, wouldn’t want them to have to sludge through that stuff. I had already done that. I knew how to get around it.

You know where I’m going with this.

I know you do.

While there are most certainly elements of these things in our kid’s lives, it’s really nothing like I planned.

Not at all.

You see, apparently your kids inherit not only the good stuff from you, but the bad. The struggles with sadness, the drive to perfection, the completely uncoordinated body and the struggle to fit in. And not everyone else around you is going in your direction. Only one of our siblings had a child, a child who lives hundreds of miles away and is too young to be a playmate. And while you do have some family near you, it’s not the same as being surrounded by everyone. And truthfully, maybe being surrounded by everyone wasn’t such a good idea in the first place.

The city dream was not the family’s dream. The diversity is here in suburbia, but greatly lacking. There are video games and iPods. There is church, but it isn’t the refuge you hoped it would be. Your faith has changed so much, it is slipping through your hands and you just hope your kids catch something. In fact, faith is nothing like you use to believe.

There are bad days. Followed by more bad days. And when you go to pick up your kids from school and it was another bad day, you just explode and then regret everything you say. Then the tears come and the heart breaks.

It’s not what I planned.

But, there is a single thread that is woven through it all. It’s the thread of Love. It’s not a perfect Love, but it’s a committed Love. It’s a Love that says we are in this together. It’s a Love that reminds our kids that they are valuable, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a Love that says I’m sorry after words you regret. It’s a Love that tries again when you weren’t the soft place to fall. It’s a Love that won’t leave, even when there are long strings of hard days. It’s a Love that says I don’t know when the kids ask the hard questions of faith.

And I know that if we take a closer look at my “perfect” childhood, it would reveal some not perfect times. Many of them. It seems we often try to just scratch those out. But that same thread was woven through my own. That Love was there. It was never a question, there was always Love. It seems that is what brings us through.

Life is messy.

Life is beautiful.

Life is often nothing like we planned.

Wherever your life is today, remember- plans change, but Love remains.

You’re gonna have to roll with it.

Skates

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Lisa Mullen is a wife and a mom to three crazy kids, ages 12, 10 and 7. Born and raised in Detroit, she now lives in the heart of Amish country- Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She calls herself an accidental Mennonite with a love for all things contemplative (the silence!)  Running, writing and reading keep her sane. Read more about her on her blog, A City Girl in a Country World and on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jun 302014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 2: Authenticity

A guest post by Jennifer Meer

Full ColorWe are at the kitchen table playing with play dough. The children mold and twist, blissfully unaware that with each passing second my anxiety level is rising. When we started, not but 10 minutes ago, there was red and yellow and green and blue and white. And now it is brown. That blah color brown that play dough always turns whenever you take all those bright shiny colors and mush them together to make one amorphous shade.

I can’t figure out what it is that bothers me so much about this process. I want to blame it on raging obsessive compulsive disorder or an unhealthy inclination to want to control uncontrollable and relatively unimportant things. But it definitely irks me, like the way I feel when Dylan wears the Star Wars pajama top with the Ninjago bottoms. Nothing is crisp or unique or whole. Haphazard. Mismatched. Brown.

I’m thinking about this in the dark outside the pharmacy as I unwrap a Creme Egg and savor its sugary sweetness, pouring its faux yolk down my throat. What a disgusting and amazing invention I think to myself and say out loud to really no one at all. I wonder why I only eat Creme Eggs by myself in the car. And it is probably because I spend a good chunk of the day reminding the kids that too many sweets are bad for them and that candy should be reserved for Halloween and special occasions. Except the real me, the one who only makes special appearances in mommy “off” hours, clearly doesn’t believe that.

I turn the car on and turn the radio up to a volume that makes me feel like I can hear the beat of the music in my heart. Whenever I am alone this is the first thing I do. It makes me feel like I am getting away with something. I am not sure with what. A good and put together mother would never listen to music at volume 52. Which is precisely why I do it. I would tell the kids that we listen to music at a reasonable and soft volume because we don’t want to damage our hearing, we don’t want to wake the baby.

I turn the dial up up up. Katy Perry who I don’t even like that much but she is useful when you want to sing stuff at the top of your lungs just because you can. I feel bright. Fiery. Separate from my kids, my husband, my responsibilities, expectations of what I’m supposed to teach them, how I’m supposed to behave. I feel red. Shiny red. New shiny tub of play dough red. Bright, loud, alive.

But I wonder what is wrong with me that I spend the majority of my day with this part of my personality hidden: the part that likes sweets and loud music and doesn’t always follow all the rules. 99% of the time I’m a hodgepodge of devotion to them, hiding the parts of me that are separate and raw and real and distinct until it is late or I am driving or away. As if I’m ashamed of my real instincts, the real me. As if I think it is somehow bad to feel individual feelings and that to mother them means to hide me. So instead I give them brown.

Suddenly, as a mother, as a person, it hits me what a f**d up lesson that is.

I am teaching them to love some fake version of me. That you should keep hidden the parts of you that don’t mesh and blend. That all of the special and distinct stuff that makes up them should be reserved for “off” hours, because it might not fit neatly into what others expect of you. It’s never just be – be you. Love you. You’re a f-ing rock star. You with your wild hair and you too with your missing front teeth and infectious laugh and a smile that could light up a room.

I want them to feel whole and bright and shiny and unique and alive and have that be okay. Do as I do. Or do whatever you do. But do it in the light so that you feel whole. So that you remember that being you, distinctly you, you that likes and wants and lives separate from the people you love, is something to feel proud of, not hidden. I need to be teaching them, and apparently myself that.

I think about our day together tomorrow. There will be the usual: school and tooth brushing. Homework and manners and the good stuff. Maybe there will also be Meatloaf played in the car slightly louder than usual or is appropriate, Creme Eggs for no reason at all other than that they are the greatest food ever invented.

I will be me in full living color. And I will parent by example, loving them enough to share myself authentically with them rather than morph into them. To love myself separately and distinctly in front of them, not behind closed doors. A mother and a woman. Separate co-existing parts: my real colors, sharp, distinct and in full view.

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Jennifer Meer lives in New England with a wacky, unruly, loud and loving bunch she is proud to call her family. She is a writer and mother of three adorable redheads who frustrate her, amuse her, challenge her, and continue to teach her something new about life every day. You can keep up with her at My Jenn-eration and also find her on Twitter as @JennMeer.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer

 



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest