Category Archives: family

Pity Party

We all go there sometimes, with or without hats, streamers, and blow horns. We may have been invited by a disappointment, or we may not even know how we ended up there in the first place, hog-tied and teary eyed. Pity parties are the parties that everyone has gone to at least once. And if you have only attended once, count yourself especially special. We have a million things that make us happy. We have things in our lives that make our hearts smile, people in our lives that are there when everyone else goes to their own pity party and ignores the invite to ours. That’s okay.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less of a friend any more than it means we’re any less of a friend when we can’t step out of our own muck to join in theirs. Which is why reflection, during times of joy, is particularly useful and powerful for all of us. If thinking about what we don’t have can get us into our own pity-party, then maybe thinking about what we do have can get us into our own celebration of gratitude – which is typically much healthier, not to mention good for our spirits.

I spent too much time over the holidays indulging in my own pity party. I even pulled others in, and blocked some out completely. It’s easy for the guilt-ridden part of me to focus on that, to drown in my own stupid selfishness. But now that I’m done with that party and my sunshine has shone its rays across the horizon of life again, I find that I have no interest in going back. Sure, the raccoon bagged red eyes were a beautiful site. The hunched over zombie crawl of going through the motions has its haunting attraction. But maybe it was a little ungrateful and self-indulgent of me to be that version of myself. I don’t have Cancer. I have two amazing kids. I have some of the sweetest friendships, a man who loves me even through my obnoxious moments, and a dog who revolves her days around the comings and goings of her two-legged mommy. Sure, I’ve experienced lots of death & heartbreak. I’m 40.

Still, I have 100 New Years Resolutions, and only one year to make it happen. 365 days of self-pity-free openness to life. That should cover all 100 resolutions. I’m so far from perfect, and I’m not so rose-colored as to think that I won’t struggle with this mission. But like anything else worthwhile and life-changing, I’m taking it one day at a time. My wish is that everyone takes time this year to reflect on the good, take inventory of the blessings, to reach out to those who struggle more than ourselves, and journey toward that ever-changing silver lining. Pity parties after all are so 2016. 2017 is about JOYful gratitude.

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40

The leaves are falling already,

Their colors never had the chance

To change.

Like loved ones taken

Too young.

Or the last bloom of summer.

Those who say they have

No regrets haven’t lived, or are good liars.

Because no one ever got it right

Every time.

The shadows tell their story too,

Moving ever-so-slowly across the rock walls;

Cold, giant, and underwhelmingly welcoming.

They’re sneaky – those shadows.

We want to climb & capture them,

But they are only ghosts.

And ghosts never change either.

Nor do they have regrets.

At the middle of life,

And I have my color,

And time – 

For now.

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.

Letter to an Ex X

Dear X,

If I had known what I know now, we wouldn’t have gotten married. We wouldn’t have had an amazing child together. I wouldn’t have stopped trusting so openly and without cause. I wouldn’t have been carrying around baggage. I wouldn’t question myself on every single decision. It’s likely that I wouldn’t have sold the family business. I wouldn’t question my mind.

But it happened. You conned me. You fooled me, my mom, my family, and your step-son. When it comes down to it, you felt unworthy. You started using more routinely. Because, I believe you were already using. You decided that you couldn’t do it without superhuman characteristics. So you sold your soul, and your wife, your ‘sons’, your dreams, for something that made you feel so good at the time.

I have a hard time understanding, because I haven’t been there. I won’t even take antibiotics. But I have been addicted to things. I ‘needed’ cigarettes for many years, and diet coke, and sugar. So that makes me just as ‘bad’, even though I manage to hold a job, pay my bills, pay for our child’s holidays, birthdays, school functions, soccer, karate, church functions, and playdates.

I have accepted that you will never be a part of anything financial in our child’s life. That you will forever disappoint him because you cannot test clean. I’ve watched every episode of Intervention. So has my boyfriend. We have talked in great length and depth about how we will never unburden ourselves or Ethan from this massive web of destruction you have casted upon our lives. I have had nightmares about what you are doing to destroy your life, and how that affects our son. He loves you, but he accepts that you are not here. You cannot be there for yourself, let alone him.

You talk as though everything wrong you have ever done is in the past, yet you have zero proof that you are any closer to that next milestone of where you ‘should’ be. You have clued me into how you cheated on your lab tests. How you used until 3 days prior, and then switched to suboxone – the very drug that now, people are getting hooked on. The very drug that could kill someone like me. I didn’t deserve this, but no one that lives through the cleaning up of an addict does. Why should I be immune?

I shouldn’t. That’s the truth. It was God’s plan for me, and God will continue to see me through. Losing our home, my car, your job, your income, your support, is not the worst of it. In truth, the worst of all of this rests in something much deeper.

Our child has learned that he can only depend upon one of us. Now, he is happy to lean on anyone else. This creates the gang-mentality that I will likely have to always combat. I always dreamed of having the family I didn’t have. That will likley never happen because of the environment your addiction has created within our lives. But as a Christian, I am supposed to forgive you, accept you, and turn the other cheek. And this is the worst part. I hate myself for not being able to do any of that.

You have ruined my life. You have ruined our child’s life. Instead of starting from the bottom and working our way up, I am forced to start in the trenches. Our son is 8. Your addiction, you say, began when I was 5 months pregnant. You are repeating what you knew. I am a workaholic, repeating what she knew.

You had a horrible childhood. Your parents both had serious issues, and were heavily medicated. They spent most of your childhood unemployed because of it. Guess who gets lost in the shuffle?

I refuse to disappoint our child. He deserves a family who shows him love, who teaches him how to love unconditionally. I may not be able to reconcile what you have done, but I can work to improve the future of our child. And while I may have spent the bulk of my life believing that I don’t deserve more, I believe that I absolutely do.

So my plea to you is this – please work on you. With everything you are, and everything you ever wanted, work on you. Make strides in that direction. Go to meetings. Make valuable friendships, based on trust and clean living. Pray. Listen to what God has to offer. Earn a living. Be a grown-up. Show our child what it’s like to be a man.

We will take your recovery seriously when you do the same. When you’re finished with the lies, the manipulation, and the fiction. Our son wants his dad back. You told him the truth. Now live the promise. I refuse to assist in the lying, in the promises, in the fairytale. The work is yours to do. Whether you do it or not, our child will feel loved, with or without you. It’s your call. I cannot do it for you, and I cannot help you anymore.

If anyone out there is contemplating destroying their lives, consider this. When you were a child, you had those lucid, beautiful moments. You will continue to experience those, but not if you are leaning on substances. Those are lies. BE YOU. Naked. Truthful. Genuine. And vulnerable. Beauty is found in solace and serenity. Not in substance.

Solitary Contentment

Do I enjoy alone time? Absolutely! I always have. I can remember as a young child, sitting in my room, listening to albums & playing paper dolls for hours on end. On some days, the only reason I left my room was to eat. Truth be told, If I had been blessed with a real working kitchen in my room (at least with a microwave, fridge, and pantry), my mom and dad probably would’ve entirely forgotten me!

While mom was busy taking care of my dad, I was busy amusing myself. Not that she didn’t do her part of the raising, but the ‘entertaining’ part was up to me, especially after dad’s kidneys failed.

As only children, most of us learn at a young age how to self-entertain, self-console, maybe even become self-aware, and have a strong sense of self-love. Maybe that’s why we (as a species;) come across as so self-absorbed. In reality, most onlies that I know are actually so self-aware that we can become rather lost in our own thoughts and appear to not care what others are feeling or thinking at all. BUT also in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us truly want to understand others, but we’re too afraid of putting ourselves out there, which is really what it takes to form healthy relationships.

As onlies, we don’t always know how to relate to others or how to reach out and ask others for help. When we feel as though our worlds are crumbling, many of us turn inward, to the only person we can fully rely upon; ourselves. That’s not to say that people with siblings aren’t the same way at times, but I would say that onlies have nailed the whole solitary confinement thing….to a fault.

I remember when my boyfriend (also an only) and I started dating. We fervently read every article and blog we could find on ‘only’ couples… ‘only’ to find discouragement and disappointment. Most opinions and stories erred on the side of either ‘don’t do it’ or ‘it never works out’. After almost two years together, I think we would both agree that this is not true. Like any other relationship between any two people, effort has to be made, people cannot take one another for granted, and compromise and full communication should be practiced daily.

In fact, I would say that the most difficult factor in an only dating an only is that we are so fiercely wired to turn inward when we don’t know how to react to an emotion that we choose instead to bottle up the hurt. While my boyfriend and I rarely fight, I can honestly say that any and all of the disagreements we’ve had have resulted from one thing; a lack of communication.

Lesson… in progress…

Still, communication takes lots and lots of effort from both people. Leaning on each other when we’re accustomed to sucking it up solo is the first step. While that feels a bit awkward and out of our neat little boxes, it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as I had expected. I think this is monumental and essential for all couples, but especially for relationships involving two onlies.

While one only can understand another only better than anyone, we also tend to have the same passive aggressive tendencies, and let things go on far longer than we should. It’s far easier and less confrontational to shove those small disagreements under a rug than to sweep them out into the open and work through the kinks. Unfortunately, as we all know, if you gather enough small things together they collectively become a very huge thing. That huge conflict under the rug becomes a major obstacle over which neither of us can avoid tripping.  And because we really ARE two separate people, with two separate pasts and two separate loads of dirty laundry baggage, we’re not always going to completely understand. And that’s okay.

We all come at these relationships with our own muddled perceptions, and whether we’re onlies or otherwise, it takes oodles of communication, effort, and determination to build a strong healthy relationship. But above and beyond everything else that takes effort in this world, love is worth every last bit of blood, sweat, and tears. After all, we may have come into this world alone, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to live a lonely life. Like my good friend Michelle always says (and I couldn’t agree more), there really is a ‘lid for every pot’.

Why Worry?

My mamaw was like many downhome Southern grandmothers who had been raised poor and gone through lots of unspeakable hardships. She worried. Constantly. And about everything.

The sun could be shining, everyone employed, everyone healthy, garden growing, food in the pantry and fridge. Everything could be perfect in our family, but she would seek out someone – a cousin of a friend’s sister’s aunt – and worry about her sad diagnosis at the doctor.

This isn’t to say that she was a ‘negative’ person. Not at all. We would pull over on the side of the road in late spring to pluck daisies and black-eyed Susan’s and make bouquets for neighbors. I can’t remember a single night spent with her that I wouldn’t awaken to the sounds of her singing a beautiful gospel song while she fixed up her famous sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

She was so positive in fact, that I can’t see a sunrise, a sunset, or a butterfly without feeling her presence even though she died over 4 years ago.

We’ve all heard it said that ‘worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength’. For the most part, this is true. Like anything else in life, too much worry is bad. But what is worry in the first place but sympathy or empathy ignited by a genuine love of others or self?

Worry in and of itself is not bad because it fills today with a reason to pray, to talk with God, to think about what is on your heart and ask for God’s hand in your life. Should that be the only time we pray? No way! We should always give praise and thanks. But when we come to God as vulnerable, flawed humans asking for help, we are coming to God as naked and raw as the day we were born. This is when we get to experience true closeness to God.

However, like most things in life, we don’t need to dwell in the land of worry for too long. My contention is that worry gets us started in prayer, and that is wonderful, but by the end of the prayer, we should completely give it to God. We do this with sins, with gratitude, with bad memories, but sometimes we surrender to worry and live there forever. This lifestyle spits in the face of Christ. It’s like saying ‘I don’t like what you’ve done with my life, and I’m going to make you suffer through me for the rest of my days’. We’ve all known people like this, right?

Let’s not be that person. Let’s NOT spit in the face of Christ. But let’s do worry. Just a little. A little worry goes a long way in prayer. Just don’t live there! It’s like a houseguest or a vacation – while small doses are appreciated, long stays are overkill. Don’t let worry control you, rather let it guide you gently to prayer.

 

As for me…

This month, it will be four years that I’ve been the only adult in my home. That’s the longest I’ve ever been ‘head of household’. Ever. Right now, as I’m interviewing for jobs, there is on consistent theme going on in my conversations. I am Robin. I am the sidekick. I am not Batman. I may be at home, but I don’t want to be full-time, all the time, day-in and day-out Batman. I just don’t have it in me to be the happy boss lady. My mom was the boss. I was the minion. And maybe I wasn’t okay with that until she passed away, until I HAD to be Batman and was forced out of my sidekick flip-flops and into my superhero boots. Still, that has been my epiphany. Some people are born leaders, and admittedly, I always thought I was one of those. Maybe in a way, I still think I am – on an emotional intelligence level but NOT on a business level. 

I am the girl who will give everything away if it’s up to her, and no one is telling her to do otherwise. I am the girl who understands people’s hardships a little too well, and will cave in to their sob stories. And guess what? I don’t want to change a thing. I could’ve become hardened by now. By the grace of God, I haven’t. Have I grown wiser? Yes. At least I hope so. Have I stopped caring so much what others think? Yes. That sort of ended with the passing of my mom. So what’s a girl with sidekick talent and no live-in superhero to do? 

Wait for it.

That’s all. Don’t dive in. Don’t rush things. Just wait until his time is right. Can I get an Amen?!

After two divorces, the absolute LAST thing I want in my life is a husband who is NOT ready to be married, or be committed, or say ‘forever’. Robin is Batman’s sidekick because he respects his superhero and his superhero is respectable and committed as well. Robin didn’t just start following Batman around one day in hope’s that maybe…just maybe he would be accepted. There’s is a mutual friendship, and a mutual commitment. That’s how it should be. That’s how a marriage should be as well.

I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that Robin could handle his household just fine without Batman. He could pay bills, do laundry, handle the kids’ fighting, keep the yard tidy, shop for the groceries, get the mail – he could do all of that perfectly fine without Batman. Batman could do all of that without Robin. 

But no man (or woman) was created to be ‘a rock’ as Simon and Garfunkel would say. We were made for each other, in our own time, when we’re both ready. Because while both Batman and Robin are perfectly fine alone, together they save the world.

We will also save the world, in our own little way. Until then, we have daydreams and roadtrips. We have weekends and long talks. We have time to savor. Time together, until we have all the time we are given  and we are ready to fly as one. 

The branch and the tree

We’ve all heard that rusty old adage about the branch not falling far from the tree, but most of us were made from two trees. When you look deep inside yourself, do you see more of your mom or your dad? When you look on the surface of yourself, the physical traits, maybe the ‘you’ that you reveal to the outside world, do you see mama tree or papa tree? For whatever reason, during my morning meditation, my mind got stuck in this fascination, so much so that I started seeing everyone in my with their own bodies and their parents’ faces. It should be say that my mind is supposed to be clear for meditation and I take no drugs whatsoever.;)

My dad was the ‘people’ person of my parents. My mom also was a people person, but on a quieter less severe scale. Dad would do just about anything to make people laugh and he always wanted to rescue people & lift them up, even if sometimes there situations were much to heavy & they weren’t helping themselves. ‘That sounds a whole lot like me’ I think (outloud). And it does! Those are wonderful traits that can also be terrible traits when you allow yourself to fall too deeply into other peoples’ pits. Take that pit as a pun, if you want. As it is, I have completely and unintentionally duplicated my dad’s ‘good samaritan’ side, so much so that it almost destroyed me on numerous occasions. It turns out that dad’s ‘coat off his back’ looked better on him than on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am Christian. I strive to be like Jesus every day, but I am trying to be more like the man and less like his shoes. Shoes always end up falling apart.

My mom was the ‘strong’ person of my parents. She was the spirit that held our family together. She was my ‘little voice’, and the reason I made so many of the right choices I’ve made in my life. Don’t get me wrong. My mom was extremely generous too. She would let people come back and work for the company more times than I would’ve ever thought to. She had more confidence than she ever let on, but sometimes her pride would fail her. She trusted until you gave her a reason not to, and she believed that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. She was one of the least judgemental people I ever knew and she believed that everyone should have a fighting chance at success. I like to think that I follow in her foot steps. I like to think I landed close to her tree too.

I honestly feel that most of our branches that have fallen close to both of our trees. We got through life, get buried with burden, survive and bloom and grow. That’s how life goes. Some of us were blessed with two amazing parents, whether they remained together or not.

I was blessed in that sense. While my dad was just on this eart for 44 years, and mom for 64, they squeezed more love into their short lives than I can fully comprehend, which is why I am happy that this branch did not fall far from her trees, that I can still see the forest, and that growth is forever possible even after older trees die out.

Changes

Changes. Nothing moves forward without them. No one gets uncomfortable without them. Everything stays the same without them. We are human. We are not equipped to stay the same, but we’re also ill-equipped when it comes to instigating our own changes.

A new pair of shoes has to be ‘worked in’ before they can ever become anything close to resembling those favorite comfortable shoes. When we move, we are faced with working out a whole new routine; the best route to the grocery store, how to avoid school zones, the nearest gas station, the nearest church, new neighbors, new schools, new teachers, new postman.

It feels like starting over. WE are now the strangers, the freshman, the low man on the totem pole. When we change careers, the same thing happens again. We are now the one in training instead of being the trainer. We have to follow others until we work ourselves into a new routine. We, who once lead, now are shadows, learning our way but leaning on everyone around us. There is a sense of vulnerability, of humility, that kicks in & takes over our thinking.

But while some change is forced on us by loved ones or circumstances (i.e. getting laid off, divorced, a death in the family), lots of change is pre-meditated and intended, even initiated by the changer. Those changes are fun. We don’t tend to change careers unless we are unhappy, and we don’t tend to ask for a divorce if we are content and happy with our current spouse. If we liked where we were, we wouldn’t choose to leave.

For many of us, those conditions have to decline to the level of deplorable before we even flinch. Why? Because change takes more energy than we have to muster when we’re so miserable where we are. One of my favorite things about being human and having free will? Having the opportunity and the freedom to wait for the right time to make changes.

You hear people say that there is really ‘no right time’ for anything, be it getting married, having babies, changing careers, deciding to live a healthier lifestyle, whatever. I disagree. The right time is exactly at that moment of your day, your week, your month, in the middle of the night, where it hits you and you know that you truly are FED up with that area of your life. In THAT moment it really doesn’t matter that you don’t have enough savings yet, or that you may hurt someone else’s feelings in the process. When it’s time, you will know, and in that moment, you will relish in the freedom of free will and know that, because it’s time, everything will work out in the end. And whether you end up where you want or not, you can at least say that you did your part. You took the path with your full heart. There can be no regrets.